Category Archives: Embargoes

Baseball and Socialism in Cuba

“What is a million dollars worth compared to the love of eight million Cubans?”

  • 3-time Olympic heavyweight boxing champion Teofilo Stevenson, on why he never signed a contract to become a professional boxer

On April 2, 2019, the Cuban Baseball Federation published a list of 34 players between the ages of 17 and 25 who would be eligible to sign with major league teams. A list of players over 25 who would be able to sign was to have been sent in July. This would be virtually the same “posting system” that is used for major league clubs to sign players from Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. This was all made possible by three years of negotiations between the Federation and Major League Baseball that would allow Cubans to play in the majors without defecting.

On April 9 – only 7 days later – the Trump administration nullified it. In response, the Federation tweeted “the agreement with MLB seeks to stop the trafficking of human beings, encourage cooperation and raise the level of baseball. Any contrary idea is false news. Attacks with political motivations against the agreement achieved harm the athletes, their families and the fans.” A senior Trump official said that the accord would have made the players “pawns of the Cuban dictatorship.” The administration has said it won’t change its policy until Cuba stops its support of Venezuela, which is disingenuous as there will always be an excuse to punish Cuba for daring to challenge U.S. hegemony in the Western Hemisphere.

This all harkens back, of course, to the success of the Cuban Revolution on New Year’s Day in 1959, and the subsequent refusal of the U.S. to accept the legitimacy of a government that it didn’t have control of or significant influence over. Thus the total embargo that was imposed on Cuba on February 7, 1962 which made it illegal to export virtually anything to Cuba or to allow American dollars to be spent on the island. This blockade (as Cubans call it) has been in force for 57 years and while it has cost the U.S. economy $1.2 billion, it has had its intended effect on Cuba. With the collapse of the USSR in 1989, the Cuban economy was devastated, but with internal adjustments and increased trade with Europe, it has survived – but just barely.

While the government has continued to provide free education and healthcare and subsidized housing, Cubans still find themselves narrowly getting by. And although baseball remains the beloved national sport, teams have increasingly relied on donations of equipment such as bats, balls, gloves and catchers gear from visiting foreign teams to be able to continue to play games. Almost all of the ballparks are old and falling apart – many were built in the 1970’s – and the cost of lighting them and transporting players across the island have resulted in shortened seasons.

But in the early years of the Revolution, aid from the Soviet Union enabled the government to devote significant resources to the development of sports facilities. Not surprisingly, the Cuban government adopted the Soviet model of athletics, which was based on achieving two desirable outcomes: 1) mass participation in a variety of sports would make for a healthier population; 2) state development of elite athletes for success in international competitions would promote socialism as a desirable economic system. Boxing, volleyball and track and field were seen as important, but baseball – Cuba’s most popular sport – was the centerpiece. And Fidel Castro’s love of baseball was decisive.

Just five days after the rebels took power, Fidel appointed General Felipe Fuerra Matos – one of his 26th of July Movement officers – as director of the new Sports Ministry. As a result, 5,000 baseball players on 240 teams participated in a tournament won by a racially integrated team, which was unusual in Cuba. The creation of INDER – the National Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation – in 1962 made island-wide organized amateur sports possible and established the baseball National Series, a league which in one form or another continues today.

As a socialist who had no love for money, Fidel decreed in 1967 that all sporting events in Cuba would now be free for all to attend, except for international tournaments. This was an integral part of Fidel’s vision: that moral incentives should take precedence over material incentives. In a socialist society, players should participate for love of the game rather than the chance to enrich one’s self at the expense of others, and sports fans should have opportunities to attend events regardless of their ability to pay. This emphasis on the importance of social values over purely individualistic ones was implemented throughout Cuba and Che Guevera’s “Man and Socialism in Cuba” is probably the best expression of this ideology. As a consequence, salaries were essentially the same for all players (and have remained so today).

Initially, they had other jobs and were only part-time ballplayers. But the popularity of baseball was such that amateurs soon became – in reality – “professionals” in that their full-time job was playing baseball. Each team was comprised of players who were born and grew up in the province where the team was located, and except for rare exceptions, they played for only that team throughout their careers. There was no trading from one team to another, as players were seen as human beings, not commodities to be bought and sold in the marketplace. The government established sports academies in each province which would develop youngsters who showed particular promise. From there they would go to the Cuban minor league, and if they continued to progress, to the National Series team in their province.

While the National Series (the Cuban equivalent to the major leagues in North America) ostensibly began play in 1962, it wasn’t until the mid-’60’s that the league had established at least one team in each province. Today there 16 National Series teams: one each for 13 provinces, one for the municipality of Isla de la Juventud, and two for the province of Havana. Each team plays 90 games with the top eight teams qualifying for the playoffs. A three-round playoff concludes with the two surviving teams playing a best-of-seven game series to determine the champion. One unfortunate consequence of players being restricted to their provincial team is that the teams from the two most populous provinces, Havana  and Santiago de Cuba, have traditionally been more successful than the others. In that, Cuban baseball has something in common with Major League Baseball, as a small number of teams like the Yankees and Red Sox tend to have the greatest success, although this is a function of having more money, not larger populations, than the other teams.

But the glory of Cuban baseball has always been its national team. Cuba dominated international tournaments from the 1960’s through the 1990’s, either winning them or finishing second, an amazing record that will never be equaled by any country. This included a winning streak of 159 games in a row. Peter C. Bjarkman, in his fascinating book “Fidel Castro and Baseball – the Untold Story,” asserts that “both the big-league successes of a growing contingent of defectors and Cuba’s surprise victories in the MLB-sponsored World Baseball Classic have demonstrated an undeniable truth: that this league, for much of its run, ranked alongside the Japanese pro leagues and perhaps just below the U.S. majors among the trio of highest-level circuits.” But with the allure of riches only 90 miles away, some of the best players began to brave storms, sharks and greedy human traffickers for the opportunity to play in the North American major leagues.

So, why would Cuban ballplayers want to leave their home? Is it all about the money? Well, yes. There had been players leaving Cuba before 2009, but between 2010 and 2013 four Cuban stars – Aroldis Chapman, Leonys Martin, Yoenis Cespedes and Jose Abreu – defected and were richly rewarded by major league owners. Then the flood started: in 2014 and 2015, almost 150 Cuban players left the island for what they hoped would be big money. But not all of them found what they were looking for: according to Cuban baseball historian Peter C. Bjarkman, “more and more Cuban players were discovering the risks of flight and also realized how they were being used by greedy agents who rarely had their best interests at heart. Some have found their way back home, and a few are even reenergizing their careers in the depleted Cuban circuit.”

It should be noted that there were Cuban superstars who could have defected and signed large contracts, but decided that the adulation of their fellow Cubans was more important than the money they would have been offered. Omar Linares, Orestes Kindelan and Pedro Luis Lazo are three of the greatest Cuban players of all time and who stayed in Cuba for their entire careers. Of the three, Linares is arguably the best player in the history of Cuban baseball. Universally considered to be the best third baseman to never play in the major leagues, Linares had a lifetime batting average of .368, won 4 batting titles and led the league in Runs Batted In 4 times. Peter C. Bjarkman says “Linares repeatedly turned his back on big-league offers and personally chose to cast his lot with the Cuban socialist baseball system he so visibly represented and championed for two full decades.”

So, what are we to make of the Cuban socialist experiment in baseball? The sad truth in 2020 is that Cuban baseball is nowhere near as good as it was before the relatively recent wave of defections. If it is to be judged by the significant number of players who left, one might consider it to be a failure. But the National Series with its socialist orientation persists. Perhaps we should look at more than just individual players, but instead see Cuban baseball in the context of an attempt to change attitudes about how sports should fit in to a vision of a just society. With all its mistakes, bureaucratization and inefficiency, Cuba was able to create a socialist sports system that worked for the vast majority of baseball players and fans throughout the island instead of for the wealthy few.

Economic Epidemic

Dynamic duo:  Same bat virus, same fat profits

From Havana to Helmstedt

The major reason for Cuba’s travel restrictions — always used as grounds for slandering the Cuban state — is the extreme difficulty Cuba has maintaining foreign exchange reserves essential for international trade,  especially since the end of trade-in-kind with the COMECON. Every traveller from Cuba spends pesos that have to be covered by Cuba’s USD or EUR reserves. Since there are already more than enough obstacles imposed by the US embargo, every forex transaction is critical for Cuba’s balance of payments — for its ability to buy what it cannot produce. In fact, those who can still recall crossing from West Berlin to East Berlin will also remember that it was necessary to exchange DM 30 for M 30 for every day one spent in the GDR. This was heavily criticised in the West, especially by travellers who would complain that it was impossible to spend the M 30 in a day since everything was so inexpensive. Of course, the GDR was trying to compensate for the discriminatory exchange rates that made trade with the West a drain on its foreign currency reserves.

While many ordinary visitors complained and the Western media encouraged Germans in the East to complain about the buying power of the GDR mark, the fact is that throughout the world national economies only survived the Bretton Woods regime as long as they maintained currency controls. A major element in the economic warfare waged by the US Empire since 1945 has been to abolish fixed exchange rates. Having rigged the post-war international monetary regime to replace the British pound with the US dollar as the benchmark currency, the International Monetary Fund and World Bank were deployed to stabilise the US dollar with advantage over the old European currencies.

Although officially these were international institutions, they were organised like private corporations. The decisions were to be made by the majority of shares held in the IMF or World Bank. Since the US held the majority of capital in both, it was endowed with the most votes over any Fund or Bank decision. The quasi-currency of the Fund and the Bank was called special drawing rights (SDR). These units of account were based on a weighted value of the underlying “reserve” currencies, mainly the USD. SDRs could be used to resolve balance of payments discrepancies. Members of the IMF were extended SDRs according to the relative strengths of their economy. Based on the SDRs allocated to a country it could draw dollars or another reserve currency in amounts sufficient to pay temporary imbalances between imports and exports, transactions that after WWII were almost all USD business.

As the late Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley once pointed out — when the Bretton Woods agreements were signed most of the countries, like Jamaica, were still colonies or protectorates of some European or North American power. Hence no provision was made for them to even have independent economies or national currencies. As a result most of the world’s population and any of the newly independent countries that did not adopt a version of a Euro-American currency had no way to monetize their economic activity in international trade. They were left entirely dependent upon the USD, GBP, and FF for foreign trade of any kind. In order to limit USD hegemony in Africa, the French invented the CFA-Franc. This African franc tied its former African colonies to France by giving the CFA-franc a favourable exchange rate with French franc, although not parity. Overall, however, the post-war independence movements were all faced with the inherent dependence of their currency systems from the machinations of US and European banks with their control over the two major foreign exchange markets, the City and Wall Street. The exceptions to this regime were the Soviet Union and COMECON as and after 1959 Cuba.

When the US economy faced possible financial collapse toward the end of its war in Vietnam (it had been fairly successful in transferring the costs of the Korean War to the “United Nations”), secret negotiations by the Nixon administration with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had, through their offices within OPEC, saved the USD by abolishing the gold fixing and establishing the USD as the sole currency for the world oil trade. At one fell swoop any country that did not have domestic oil supplies or had to trade oil on the world market was forced to use US dollars. To prove the point the US regime has never hesitated to wage war against any OPEC member that does not comply with this iron rule. Of course, the US is the only country which can issue US dollars and its banks are the only ones who can sell USD denominated debt, directly or indirectly, hence the central role of the Federal Reserve System — the private banking cartel chartered to issue dollars and control US monetary policy. The US regime has also pursued rigorous policies, even if not always entirely successful, to draw all those dollars back into US assets or to permit US entities to acquire foreign assets through the unlimited capacity to generate USD and to monetize private business (while on the other hand prohibiting the monetizing of public debt for social services, infrastructure etc.)

This is the context in which the current economic war with China and to a lesser extent with Russia has to be seen. This economic war entered a new phase with the Wuhan attack.

Lucrative lockdown

Fast-forward: European and US authorities order various degrees of “lockdown” and international travel, even within the EU itself, comes to a virtual halt. Airlines, hotels, and the rest of the travel sector have practically no more than essential business. The transport sector is also substantially restricted. The everyday economy is almost in coronary arrest.

What are the benefits of the general lockdown in the West? Is it really possible that the corona virus was so shocking that the economy as a whole was only an afterthought? Are we to believe that it was merely an oversight on the part of government to contemplate contingencies for epidemics but not for economics? It would be nice to think that Western governments care so much about the health of their citizens but that is rubbish. What is really very important — in fact, it is the only important issue for those who own our governments is MONEY and, of course, the power that goes with it.

What are the immediate consequences of the lockdown in economic terms?

  1. a) restriction of travel by masses of a generally mobile and consuming population (at least in the EU)
  2. b) restriction — soon to reach extinction of a substantial percentage of SMEs
  3. c) obstruction of supply chain transactions, not least of which with China
  4. d) increased unemployment beyond the already deliberately understated figures
  5. e) inevitable price increases, whether scarcity induced or because of added “safety” costs
  6. f) the creation of potential for a layer of corruption and contraband traffic that will not only raise the prices of everyday life but partly criminalise it.

At the same time we have heard more than a few reports of new QE (aka giving trillions to so-called banks). *

In the Western media one finds accusations that China caused the “corona crisis” to benefit from a fall in asset prices (not only stock markets but also for businesses damaged by the lockdown) to buy them up on the cheap. Personally I follow a golden rule when reading Western official statements, whether directly from regime mouthpieces or through their Great Wurlitzer: what they accuse is what they are hiding. It is like that classic scene in many a classroom: the bully slaps another pupil. Pupil slaps back and bully screams. The teacher only sees the return slap and never the first strike. The slapped pupil is punished and the bully rewarded.

If we ask critically what the new QE is supposed to do — is it to protect all these banks from another 2008 failure? No, not really. Instead it is to fill the “banks” with cash for pre-emptive buying following the price crashes so that China can be blocked out of any further investment in the West’s critical sectors.

It is also survival money so that all the defaults and bankruptcies in the SME sector can be written off without damaging the overall profit line.

In other words a) and b) can be directly linked not only to strategic population control objectives, linked also to the now infamous universal vaccination programme, but also to the imposition of currency controls. In Europe, fewer euros will flow to China and in the US obviously the USD flows will be reduced.

  1. c) The disruption of supply chains is mainly an organisational measure. This will reduce the number of channels by which China can trade in the West. In the first stage it will also facilitate the consolidation of the economy in fewer hands so that those supply chains can be better managed from the top.
  2. d) As argued elsewhere, purchasing power has declined steadily over the past thirty to forty years for most of the working population on both sides of the Atlantic. There is a need for a fundamental demographic adjustment. Germany, for instance, has used imported labour since its reestablishment in 1949. First it was a substitution for labour shortages immediately after its defeat by the Soviet Union.  The so-called Economic Miracle — the reconstruction period — in large part funded by orders from the US war machine in Korea — quickly absorbed its available German labour force. Hence it started to suck workers from impoverished Italy and Greece. If the German government is to be believed, then the domestic labour force is too old or too small to meet current demands, hence while domestic workers are under house arrest, the flow of persons displaced by NATO wars; e.g., in Syria, continues uninterrupted. Thus the new generation of industrial and technical labourers at the bottom of the German social hierarchy will not be Turkish but Arabic speaking. There is no reason that they will be able to return to their homes any time soon since NATO is not finished destroying them.

At the same time the crushing of the domestic small and medium-sized sector will — as it always has — have a positive effect by forcing wages down even more. If the virus is really as effective as some claim at killing people aged 60 and above, then the state pension funds will be able to declare surpluses soon, net revenues from immigrants and a sudden decline in beneficiaries. This sounds cynical but the insurance model for social security installed under Bismarck anticipated much shorter lifespans and fewer eligible retirees than today. The government’s plan to raise the retirement age to 70 cannot solve the problem because there are no jobs for these 65+ citizens. Hence they have to live from savings or the dole. Better just let them die.

If there is an economic meltdown in the West, then these assets have to remain denominated in USD/EUR in order to prop up these currencies and preserve the fortunes of dollar/euro/or sterling billionaires.

Now add to this the lockdown and recall the case of CUBA.

The lockdown makes good economic sense from the commanding heights of the Western economy! By more or less crushing the SME sector with its increasing exposure to China; e.g., import of components and finished goods for resale, a substantial foreign exchange gap is closed. China is deprived of these payments. Thus foreign trade with China becomes ever more concentrated in the few cartels that share control over the monetary policies of the FED, Bank of England and ECB.

For normal mortals this is insane.  Why would the West want to crush the lower third of its economy? For years people have been whining about the 1% but otherwise not doing very much about it. In fact, the 1% can live very well without most of the normal economy as long as they have currency stability for their stores of wealth in the world.

Not only travellers, like for Cuba, but much of the real economy, constitute a genuine risk to the monetary system the great Western private banks created in the BoE, in 1913 with the FED, and later with the ECB. The ECB and the euro can be sacrificed as long as the USD and GBP remain world standards.

  1. e) One of the virtues of the system which could emerge as a short-term or medium-term result of the lockdown and its associated policies and practices is the creation of a new class of criminal activity — the real economy. Since it is unlikely that the West can suborn China and together with Russia impossible, the West has an obvious potential as far as I can see that has hardly been mentioned. Perhaps it is worth recalling from mainstream history the narrative of feudalism: the peasants were tied to the land. The aristocracy and royalty fought over land plus the chattel (the people occupying and working the land). Movement from the land was forbidden without permission by the feudal lord (a prohibition also enforced by the Churc; e.g., through the Inquisition). Pursuing a craft or trade was almost only possible in cities, which may or may not have been “free”. The details can be found in most standard history books about this period.

Casino royale and camino real

However, we have almost no peasantry left — something that can be detected in the abysmal quality of food found in countries like Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Great Britain. Instead there are only “free labourers” some of whom imagine they own their homes. Immediately after the collapse of the GDR any traveller could see an explosion in the number of hairdressers and small restaurants or similar personal service enterprises. Much of this business was the desperate attempt to recover earning capacity after West German government and business closed GDR factories and other employing institutions causing an explosion in unemployment that is still vastly understated and concealed by half-hearted social policies. These businesses are vulnerable to taxation and other cost-intensive regulations that are characteristic of modern bureaucratic states like Germany. It is also no wonder that they offer little more than a marginal income that often has to be compensated by some other job or social benefit.

At present that is all very exhausting and frustrating for the vast majority of people in this low-income sector. Yet it is still legal. The first step toward terrorizing the bulk of the soon to be even more under- or unemployed is to restrict or effectively prohibit the personal service sector — for health reasons. Now it is almost impossible to get a haircut or a manicure anywhere because these businesses have been forced to close as part of the policy of “social distancing”. Reality, however, knows no such prohibitions. Those people who have no other means of earning a living except personal services and those who need those services will find a way to meet and transact business.

This is where the spirit of Mr Gates is especially pernicious — but not simply because of some billions more that he may steal. What Mr Gates, as the poster boy, and the whole public health paramilitary/civil affairs regime that is nascent as I write offer us — or may well force upon us — is spiritually and socially akin to the Prohibition regime created by the Volstead Act in the US. Prohibition was introduced ostensibly to control alcohol abuse. However, it failed to get substantial legislative support until people like Henry Ford — then along with Rockefeller one of the world’s richest men — insisted that Prohibition would give them the power to destroy the meeting places of immigrants, especially those from Eastern and Southern Europe where beer and wine were integral to social life. Forbidding alcohol to people who for centuries considered wine and beer part of their diets was a serious attack on their private and family lives. However, since this was a “health” issue the Volstead Act did not violate any constitutional rights. Any place could be closed for serving alcohol of any kind. The meeting venues for almost all immigrants could be shut by armed police wholly within the law.

Although this was a draconian law, it was not really enforceable. In fact, the famous Kennedy political dynasty was only one family whose wealth came from breaking the law. At no time during the period of Prohibition in the US was the ruling class deprived of intoxicating drink. Moreover the covert sale of alcohol, the bribery of police and other officials, the payment of protection money to gangsters, created an entire corporate structure, which survives today although its product range is based mainly on opiates. The illegal and legal drug businesses constitute one of the main pillars of USD supremacy, along with oil and weapons, but that is just a detail here.

The important point here is that the culture of prohibition has clearly mutated into the field of “communicable disease”; i.e., highly infectious viruses. Whether or not Mr Gates and his friends will succeed in their ID2020 scheme — vaccine or subcutaneous identity chips — is certainly a very serious question. But even if this particular model does not get forced under our skin, the struggle in the lower half or third of the population to survive through personal services and hospitality will become a target for the same kind of parasitical class that developed and enriched itself under the Prohibition regime, and in the environment of permanent war (which was what 1984 most nauseatingly described) scarcity and corruption are designer processes — intended to punish and discipline the majority of the population while extracting every bit of surplus from their already meagre incomes. This artificially created illegality will empower a class of people who profit from serving it and have no interest whatsoever in return to normal human relations. The already immanent price increases and due to increased unemployment parallel decline in wages — with the risk that one can be excluded from work or income for “health” reasons — will further enrich those at the top while undermining solidarity downward as people become caught in the net of this policing regime.

Therefore, it is absolutely essential to resist any further imposition of this state of siege. In this matter, I cannot help paraphrasing some otherwise noxious colonial from the 18th century: we must all be sick together, or each of us will be sick separately — in isolation.

There are some people who read George Orwell’s books as prescriptions; after all he spent his last years working for an office in the British “Ministry of Truth”. Then there are those who completely misread his books as attacks on the Soviet Union and communism. However, those who read his books carefully will see that he understood the spirit and actions of his employers very well. Orwell’s fiction is ambivalent, like his entire career and his nonfiction works as well. Perhaps the best way to understand them is as the diaries of a colonial police officer, who knew his duty and no matter how disagreeable did it. That duty was to hold down the hands and feet of the ruled while the rulers emptied their pockets. Orwell knew he was working for gangsters, but he needed the job. That was the price he paid.

AND yes, if Madeleine Albright was ready to see half a million Iraqi children dead for the policies she was appointed to represent, you can bet that some 60 million, dead or enslaved, is also a price the 1%  find worth paying to keep their privilege on this planet intact.

*QE = quantitative easing: a term of financial jargon used by the US Federal Reserve System to denote privileged financial support to the top tier “banks” to prevent them from suffering (or collapsing) under the weight of their own elaborate extractive operations; e.g., debt siphons and gambling rackets. The mechanism involves the quasi-governmental (but actually privately owned and managed) Federal Reserve System purchasing the “bad” or uncollectible debts or gambling chits of these top tier “banks” by issuing Treasury obligations (e.g. so-called T-notes), basically certified claims that these “banks” may then assert against the US government to siphon tax receipts and other public income into their coffers. These claims are negotiable too, meaning they are traded on financial markets and can be used like money to buy non-financial assets.

The Decade of Transformation: Remaking International Relations

The coronavirus pandemic is magnifying the cruelty of US foreign policy. The economic collapse is showing the failure of neoliberalism and how the empire-economy is not working for the people of the world, including the United States.

The US is losing its global dominance as it demonstrates its own incompetence in response to the pandemic and its viciousness in the midst of this crisis. Other countries are showing leadership and solidarity while the US is escalating its attacks.

This is an opportunity to change direction. What seemed impossible in the recent past is now possible. We must seize the opportunity to create change that ensures the necessities of the people are met and the planet is protected. COVID-19 is one immediate crisis, but the climate crisis, nuclear war and economic insecurity all require solidarity between the people of the world.

End Venezuela Sanctions sign on the Venezuela Embassy, from Venezuela Embassy Protectors Collective.

The World Is Turning Against Washington For Undermining Solidarity During The Crisis

No country can fully recover from COVID-19 or the economic collapse unless these crises are resolved for the whole world. Both the economy and pandemic are global and interconnected as are the looming crises of climate chaos and nuclear war. Rather than showing solidarity with other nations in the midst of the crises, the US is escalating economic sanctions and threatening war while undermining a global response to climate and increasing the risks of nuclear war.

Black Alliance for Peace points out: “The brutality and criminality of the colonial/capitalist system of state violence is reflected most graphically by the illegal and immoral policy of sanctions imposed on 39 nations by the U.S. and its Western allies.” Venezuela, Iran and other nations are being denied the ability to import medicines and medical equipment to protect their populations from the COVID-19 pandemic.

On March 23, the UN General Secretary António Guterres called for “an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world” saying nations should “focus together on the true fight of our lives – the #COVID19 pandemic.” Fifty-three countries immediately agreed. Instead of heeding this call, the US has threatened Iran and Venezuela with military attacks and continued the war with Yemen while eliminating the majority of humanitarian assistance to Yemen. These actions were wrong before the pandemic, but in the midst of the pandemic, they are obscene.

China is sending medical supplies and assistance to 89 countries so far as part of its Health Silk Road. It is ignoring US sanctions by sending drugs, test kits, and supplies to Iran and Venezuela. Hard-hit Italy noted that the other EU nations ignored their desperate plea for medical equipment while China responded. China is building positive relationships by providing essential equipment and expertise while the US is trying and failing to get other nations to sign on to a statement blaming COVID-19 on China.

Cuba has sent brigades of doctors and nurses to Italy, as well as Venezuela, Nicaragua, Jamaica, Suriname, and Grenada. Russia has also sent medical supplies to hard-hit countries like Italy. Even Venezuela, suffering from a US economic blockade and threats of a military attack, is sending aid to its neighbors, including Ecuador and Colombia– even though Colombia has joined the US in threatening Venezuela. The US blocked a shipment of coronavirus aid for Cuba from China’s richest man, Jack Ma, including 100,000 face masks and 10 COVID-19 diagnostic kits, along with other supplies.

Europe is starting to break with the United States. The EU finally sent aid to Iran ignoring US sanctions. France, Germany, and Britain have sent medical goods to Iran through INSTEX — a workaround to export goods to Iran that bypasses US sanctions. This development could have major implications for the ability of the US to unilaterally sanction nations as it provides a way for countries to trade without the US’ financial system. Europe, led by Germany, also backed out of war games against Russia, which would have included a practice nuclear attack, due to the COVID-19 virus.

President Rouhani of Iran sent an open letter to the people of the United States saying, “the war on this virus can only be successful if all nations can win this war together, and no affected nation is left behind.” He urged us to change the direction of the US government, writing, “Future generations will judge the American people based on the actions of their government.”

The zig-zagging incompetence of US policy is evident. During the three months when the Trump administration did not take the virus seriously, the Intercept reports the United States allowed exports of medical supplies and equipment. After examining vessel manifests, the Intercept found “medical equipment needed to treat the coronavirus [was] being shipped abroad as recently as March 17.” This has led to a “persistent lack of medical supplies” in the US.

Now, the US has angered allies by diverting medical supplies to the US. The Washington Post reports that “Berlin expressed outrage over what they said was the diversion to the United States of 200,000 masks that were en route from China, while officials in Brazil and France complained that the United States was outbidding them in the global marketplace for critical medical supplies.” They report the US is also stopping the export of masks to Canada and Latin America.

Even worse, Trump took time from his daily press conference on COVID-19 to escalate threats against Venezuela by sending US naval vessels near Venezuela’s borders. AP reports “The deployment is one of the largest U.S. military operations in the region since the 1989 invasion of Panama … It involves assets like Navy warships, AWACS surveillance aircraft and on-ground special forces seldom seen before in the region.”

This followed a phony indictment of President Maduro and other Venezuelan leaders for alleged narcotrafficking that included a $15 million bounty on Maduro.  President Maduro wrote an open letter to the people of the world that decried the indictment as illegal and part of a US coup attempt writing, “the U.S. government, instead of focusing on policies of global cooperation in health and prevention, has increased unilateral coercive measures, has rejected requests from the international community to lift or make flexible the illegal sanctions that prevent Venezuela from accessing medicines, medical equipment, and food.” The indictment was announced after Venezuela prevented weapons financed by the US from being sent into Venezuela from Colombia for another coup attempt.

Venezuelans in the US who want to fly back to Venezuela to escape the economic and health crises here are not being allowed to charter flights from Florida. The escalation against Venezuela also included the US-controlled IMF blocking a COVID-19 emergency loan to Venezuela. Venezuela has taken aggressive actions to stop the spread of the virus and has been more effective than the US.

The US also shows disregard for its own people, including those in the military, by firing a US Navy Capt. Brett Crozier after he sought help for sailors on the USS Roosevelt aircraft carrier. Crozier wrote his superiors about hundreds of COVID-19 cases and when the letter was leaked, he was fired. As he left the ship, the crew cheered him for standing up for their health and risking his career.  The first government official fired over the virus was one trying to protect people from illness. The US has also directed that reports on COVID-19 in the military be kept secret.

The actions of the US are leading to the reshaping of global leadership.” Patrick Coburn describes COVID-19 as a “Chernobyl moment” and concludes “nobody is today looking to Washington for a solution to the crisis.”

National Security Redefined

The people of the United States have been sold a false definition of national security. The pandemic shows that mass military spending on bombs, weapons, bases, and troops does not provide security. The coronavirus is expected to kill between 100,000 to 240,000 people in the United States if our response goes well and could be more than one million if it is inadequate.  Deaths have already passed 9/11 and Pearl Harbor and could exceed the Vietnam War and World War 1.

We need to redefine national security. David Swanson calls for a real Department of Defense that would prioritize “the twin dangers of nuclear and climate apocalypse, and the accompanying spin-offs like coronavirus.” He points out it would be less expensive to provide financial security and top medical care to everyone on the globe than to fight wars.

Gareth Porter writes, “For decades, the military-industrial-congressional complex has force-fed the American public a warped conception of US national security-focused entirely around perpetuating warfare. The cynical conflation of national security with waging war on designated enemies around the globe effectively stifled public awareness of the clear and present danger posed to its survival by the global pandemic. As a result, Congress was simply not called upon to fund the vitally important equipment that doctors and nurses needed for the Covid-19 crisis.”

The Pentagon was well aware of the threat of a pandemic and anticipated the lack of ventilators, face masks, and hospital beds, according to a 2017 Pentagon plan. Intelligence agencies warned about the threat from influenza viruses for two decades at least and warned about coronaviruses for at least five years. Luciana Borio, director of medical and biodefense preparedness at the National Security Council in May 2018 warned that a flu pandemic was the country’s number one health security threat and that the US was unprepared.

In January 2017, Anthony S. Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said there is “no doubt” Donald Trump will be confronted with a surprise infectious disease outbreak during his presidency. In 2019, HHS organized a month-long simulation involving multiple federal offices that demonstrated the US was seriously unprepared to cope with a pandemic. Despite all of this, the president claimed the virus “surprised the whole world,” and “nobody knew there’d be a pandemic or an epidemic of this proportion.”

The White House created a National Security Council office on pandemics, but in 2018 that was disbanded by Trump. The Trump administration also ignored a pandemic playbook that would have ensured a more effective response. The Strategic National Stockpile has not been maintained for years, as it competes with the military budget, which shoveled $15 trillion into wars. The unreplenished stockpile is one reason the US does not have sufficient ventilators and other necessary equipment. The US is also weakened by the shortcomings of the for-profit health system including the closing of hospitals.

What would actually protect US national security?

First and foremost, the US must cease its drive to be the dominant power in the world and recognize we are part of a community of nations that must cooperate to take on the many crises that will define the 2020s. This means ending military aggression and regime change efforts by respecting the sovereignty and integrity of other countries, large and small. It means ending our occupation of other nations in the form of hundreds of military bases and outposts and ending our support for other occupiers such as Israel until it stops its colonization of Palestine. Instead of international war “games”, we could hold international exercises on disaster responses to save lives. And it means respecting and obeying international law and joining the International Criminal Court. The US must stop behaving with impunity.

Second, the US must scale down the military to what is required for protection, an actual defensive approach rather than being offensive. This means cutting the military budget by at least 50% and converting all production of military equipment, supplies, and weapons into public entities to remove the profit motive that drives conflict around the world. These resources can be used for social uplift instead of causing death in a peace economy.

Third, the US must move quickly to eliminate threats to human extinction. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists reset the Doomsday Clock to 100 seconds to “midnight,” putting the world closer to destruction than at any point since the clock was created in 1947. As Alice Slater writes, we have a virus of nuclear proliferation as nuclear arms control agreements collapse. The US is spending more than a trillion dollars to upgrade nuclear weapons while placing ‘low-yield’ nuclear weapons on submarines.

It’s not only superpowers that are engaged in a nuclear arms race, countries like North Korea, which is threatened by the US, and allies like Germany and Saudi Arabia believe they need their own nuclear weapons. The US must commit to the rapid disarmament of all nuclear weapons in cooperation with other nuclear nations and disband the Space Force, which violates the treaty that makes space a global commons.

While COVID-19 is almost certainly a zoonotic disease, David Swanson points out at least some diseases, such as Lyme Disease and Anthrax, have been spread by military labs. Germ warfare is a criminal enterprise and so labs disguised as being for our defense but that create bioweapons need to be closed.

Foreign policy includes trade, which has been designed for corporate profit since NAFTA. The coronavirus collapse shows corporate trade creates weak supply lines. It also hollowed out US manufacturing for cheap labor in Mexico, China, and other nations, creating economic insecurity and leaving us ill-prepared for a crisis. Trade must be remade into fair trade that serves the people and planet, supports industry at home, ends factory farming and creates a balance with nature that will help prevent future animal-based viruses.

A new foreign policy must also confront the climate crisis. This is a global challenge and nations of the world must work together to confront it. The US has been playing a counterproductive role by building fossil fuel infrastructure, becoming a leading oil and gas producer, and holding back global climate treaties. Next week, in our series on “The Decade of Transformation,” we will focus on the environment.

The Time Is Now to Remake US Foreign Policy

The global economic collapse and COVID-19 pandemic are causing widespread suffering and death but will result in change. What that change looks like, positive or negative, is up to us. We must create the new normal that provides for the necessities of the people and protection of the planet. The world must unite in solidarity to confront not only COVID-19 but other crises too.

We applaud countries that are beginning to stand up to US sanctions and work around the US financial system to help countries like Iran and Venezuela. These are positive steps to end US hegemony. We agree with President Rouhani of Iran, it is our responsibility to remake the government so it reflects the best of us.

An immediate step is to end US sanctions. Join us in the Sanctions Kill campaign where the coalition will be organizing webinars and other events to end illegal unilateral coercive measures. There will be an international week of action against imperialism and sanctions from May 25 to 31. We will need to be especially creative to build an effective campaign with tactics that work in this time of physical distancing.

We must also take action now to stop the war on Venezuela. Join the webinar with Carlos Ron, vice foreign minister of Venezuela on Monday night at 6:00 pm Eastern.  Click here for information. Sign onto this demand that the US drop its charges against President Maduro and other Venezuelan officials who have been falsely charged with narco-trafficking. We must be ready to mobilize quickly if the US moves to attack Venezuela, or Iran or any country for that matter while the government believes we are distracted by the pandemic.

We are living in a time of crisis and that can be unnerving. But we have the power to get through this if we mobilize together with a clear vision of the world we wish to create and show our solidarity with each other through our actions. We are one human community  and we need each other to get through the rough times ahead.

Five Years After Obama’s Cuba Opening, Cubans Are Reeling From the “Trump Effect”

CODEPINK Cuba Delegation in Havana

December 17, 2019, Havana, Cuba:  Gloria Minor had been preparing her AirBnB in Havana for years, investing every penny her sister sent her from Miami in repairing and refurbishing her apartment.  With President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro re-establishing relations five years ago, Minor was sure the expected flood of U.S. visitors would make her business flourish. It did—until Donald Trump came along. Now her business is down 50 percent. “I feel like the bride who prepared everything for the wedding, but the groom ran away and stiffed me,” she said. Our CODEPINK 50-person delegation to Cuba, staying in private homes, is hearing similar stories over and over again.

While the U.S. sanctions imposed on Cuba following the 1959 revolution can only be lifted by Congress, Obama had used his executive power to renew diplomatic relations and relax restrictions on travel and trade. The Obamas visited the island to great fanfare, and Cubans were jubilant with the anticipated economic boon. The government opened new hotels and upgraded airports and sea ports, gearing up for a “tsunami” of American visitors coming on newly authorized commercial flights and cruise ships.

The Obama opening coincided with a new Cuban policy of allowing Cubans to leave their low-paid state jobs and obtain licenses to start their own small businesses. Hundreds of thousands became entrepreneurs, many catering to tourists so that they could earn hard currency. Cuba became the fastest growing site for AirBnB. Others invested their life savings, or borrowed money from relatives abroad, to open small restaurants in their homes called paladares.

Donald Trump came in like a bull in a china shop, rolling back Obama’s openings and imposing new punitive measures. While his administration justifies the rollback by citing Cuban human rights violations and Cuba’s support for the Venezuela government, a more likely explanation is that Trump is catering to the conservative Cuban-Americans in Florida, a state that could be decisive in the 2020 election.

Individual travel is now restricted to certain permitted categories. Cruise ships are prohibited from docking in Cuban ports. Commercial flights from the U.S. to Cuban cities other than Havana are banned. The Trump administration has sanctioned nearly 200 Cuban government-run companies and hotels, as well as any company or vessel involved with shipping Venezuelan oil to Cuba. Tougher U.S. sanctions against Cuba have led international banks to avoid transactions involving the island.

In April, Trump also activated Title III of the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, which allows Americans to sue U.S. and international companies profiting from property that was nationalized or confiscated after Cuba’s 1959 Revolution. Previously, every administration had waived this provision, knowing the chaos it would cause. The companies now being sued range from American Airlines to the Spanish Melia Hotel chain. Between Helms-Burton lawsuits and increased U.S. enforcement of sanctions, prospective overseas investors have put plans on hold.

The Trump administration has also targeted another key source of income for Cuba—the doctors it sends to work overseas in poor rural areas that are in dire need of healthcare. The program is a voluntary one for the doctors, but the Cuban government keeps the majority of the salaries paid by the host country, investing the money in Cuba’s education and health care systems. The Trump administration has ferociously attacked this program, encouraging doctors to defect and pushing U.S.-friendly governments not to contract them. When Brazil and Bolivia switched to right wing governments, they immediately expelled the Cuban doctors, severely cutting into Cuba’s revenues.

Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said the Trump administration does not conceal its intention, which is to “suffocate Cuba economically and to increase damage, scarcities and hardships on our people.”

Indeed, Trump’s policies are making life harder for Cuba’s 10 million people. “The ‘Trump effect’ has touched every aspect of our lives,” high school teacher Roberta Mejia told me. “Transportation is devastated, as we are functioning on a fraction of the oil we used to have. There is less food and medicines; the hospitals are experiencing all kinds of shortages. And psychologically, we are feeling a tremendous sense of uncertainty, since we don’t know if things will get worse. Our only hope is that the American people will vote for a new president.”

Cubans are angry, resentful and most of all, defiant. “We’ve lived with one form or another of U.S. sanctions since 1960,” a university professor Teresa Oroza told our delegation. “The current crisis is not nearly as severe as the crisis of the 1990s when the Soviet Union collapsed, leaving us with horrible shortages of food, gasoline—everything. It was a nightmare but we lived through it. This, too, shall pass.”

One way to show support for the Cuban people is by traveling to Cuba. While the Trump administration has restricted travel, it is still quite easy to go under the category called “support for the Cuban people.” This requires an itinerary that allows for “meaningful interaction with the Cuban people,” in the majority of cases put together by an approved travel agency, organization or university. For more information, contact gro.knipedocnull@ofni.

The Freedom of the Cuban Five Will Never be Reversed

Celebration upon the release of the Cuban Five in Washington DC (Photo by Bill Hackwell)

Five years ago tomorrow, in near disbelief, we watched on television as the Cuban Five were released from US prisons and flown home after a 16 year struggle. Leading up there had been some signs that their freedom was being negotiated by the Obama Administration but out of a healthy distrust of the US government we didn’t accept it as reality until we actually saw them arrive in Havana, out of handcuffs, and into the arms of their families.

As intelligence officers the Cuban 5 had been assigned to come to the US to monitor the activities of right wing anti-Cuba terrorist groups operating with impunity in Southern Florida in the early 1990’s. They came without weapons with their only intention being to defend the Cuban people against terrorist attacks of various natures that since the Revolution in 1959 was responsible for the deaths of close to 3,500 Cubans.

On September 12, 1998, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González, Rene González, Ramón Labañino and Gerardo Hernández were arrested and thrown into solitary confinement in a Miami Federal Prison and for the next 18 months they had no contact of any kind. The intention of the US was to wear them down, break them and get them to renounce the revolution.

The guards would remind them constantly that they were forgotten and no one even knew they were there. But as Gerardo Hernandez, who was serving two life sentences plus 15 years, explained to Resumen Latinoamericano, that it was there in June of 2001 when the struggle, which would turn into a worldwide movement, began.

When Fidel acknowledged us and said publicly ‘Volverán!’ (they will return), it was from that moment on when we knew they could not defeat us, that the struggle would be long and hard, as the Commander warned, but that we would return to the homeland. Only someone with his far sighted vision could assure such a thing to the world, at a time when all the hatred and desires for revenge of the empire were turned against us. That’s how big Fidel was. That’s why the return of the Five was his victory, and we were able to celebrate it with him.

While Fidel provided the spark that started this extraordinary struggle it was the Cuban people, collectively viewing the Five as their own sons, who mobilized as a nation; never wavering. And it was their families, particularly the women, with remarkable strength and dignified courage, who travelled the world to explain that this was a case of simple justice and the right of a nation to defend itself and to co-exist in peace. The Cuban Five were unique political prisoners who enjoyed the support of an entire country inspiring thousands of solidarity activists to join a movement demanding their release. In the beginning it was a few committees and individuals but coinciding with the advent of social media and the internet it grew into a connected international campaign made up of hundreds of solidarity groups in the majority of countries and also actors, artists, lawyers, workers, students, academics, writers and faith-based organizations. During those years there were few US embassies or consulates  that were spared regular protests calling for the freedom of the Cuban Five and for three consecutive years people from different states and countries gathered for a week of activities in Washington DC to demand their freedom including protesting in front of the White House.

Gerardo explained how this support was never lost on the Five.

We never forget that if today we have the good fortune of so much happiness, we owe it to the efforts of compañeros and compañeras from Cuba and the world that for many years fought for our liberation. This was also their victory, and there is not a day that goes by in which we do not remember it.

Five years have gone by, and these men who gave the best years of their lives, not for money or fame but for love of their country, something the US government will never understand, are in the process of integrating into society. As Gerardo told us:

We always dreamt of someday returning to our homeland and contributing together with all our people to the construction of that society to which we all aspire to. Since we have been back we have been contributing our modest efforts, side by side with all Cubans, in the different tasks assigned to us. Personally I feel very happy as Vice Dean of the Higher Institute of International Relations Raul Roa Garcia in Havana, where our diplomats are trained.

The freedom of the Cuban 5 was an integral key in the steps made by Obama towards normalization of relations with Cuba that he carried out through negotiations with the Cuban government.

Since Trump came to office he has reversed most of Obama’s gestures towards the Island by the odd illusory and transitory privilege, the Executive Order. But Trump didn’t stop there. He has used one Executive Order after another to tighten the blockade that has gone on now for over 60 years. It seems like every morning the Cuban people wake to find yet another bolt of punishment, based on unfounded pretext, coming their way from the oval office.

While the Cubans constantly express their willingness to dialogue with the US in an atmosphere of mutual respect they will not bend to the threats and arrogant behavior.

And one thing is for sure, no Executive Order can be issued that would reverse the return of the Five Cuban Heroes to their homeland.

2019 Latin America in Review: Year of the Revolt of the Dispossessed

A year ago, John Bolton, Trump’s short-lived national security advisor, invoked the 1823 Monroe Doctrine making explicit what has long been painfully implicit: the dominions south of the Rio Grande are the empire’s “backyard.” Yet 2019 was a year best characterized as the revolt of the dispossessed for a better world against the barbarism of neoliberalism. As Rafael Correa points out, Latin America today is in dispute. What follows is a briefing on this crossroads.

Andean Nations

Venezuela, the leader for regional integration and 21st century socialism, continued to be ground zero in the clash between the empire and those nations pursuing post-neoliberal alternatives and a multipolar world.

On the evening of January 22, trained US security asset and head of the suspended Venezuelan National Assembly Juan Guaidó received a call from US Vice President Pence, giving Guaidó the green light to declare himself president of Venezuela. The next day, Guaidó proclaimed his presidency on a Caracas street corner. Within minutes Trump recognized the self-appointment, later followed by some fifty US allies. Still most nations in the world did not recognize Guaidó, and the United Nations continues to recognize Maduro as the constitutional president of Venezuela.

Guaidó called for harsher US sanctions on his own people and even the US “military option.”  Gone was the pretext that sanctions targeted only the government. The former US Ambassador to Venezuela William Brownfield  boasted that these measures “would have an impact on everyone… to accelerate the collapse.” From President Barack Obama’s sanctions in 2015, Trump progressively ratcheted up the pain to the current blockade. This illegal collective punishment had already caused over 40,000 deaths by the beginning of the year according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), in a war by economic means, denying the Venezuelan people vital food and medicine.

Yet Guaidó failed to come to power. His publicity stunt on February 23 to bring “humanitarian aid” from Colombia fizzled. To make things worse, envoys of Guaidó in Colombia were caught embezzling some of the very funds slated for humanitarian assistance. Soon after this debacle, a staged coup on April 30 by Guaidó and a few military officers on an overpass in eastern Caracas aborted. In November, Guaidó made an even more pathetic coup attempt. His ability to garner support atrophied, drawing the ire even of some hardline opposition who formerly backed him, while the Maduro government continued to rally substantial popular demonstrations and signed a peaceful coexistence agreement with some moderate opposition parties in September.

Despite attempts by Washington to incite ruptures within the Venezuelan security forces, the “civic-military union” built by Chavez and continued under Maduro held firm, and the ranks of the militias continue to grow. And despite heavy lobbying by the Trump administration, Venezuela was voted onto the UN Human Rights Council on October 27.

In a bid to compensate for the diminished stature of the anti-Venezuela Lima Group,  on December 3, Colombia convened a summit for the activation of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR) against Venezuela, to ratchet up sanctions even further and keep the military option on the table. By the end of 2019, even the Wall Street Journal conceded, “Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro, once thought ripe for ouster, looks firmly in place.”

In Washington, North American solidarity activists defended the Venezuelan embassy from being taken over by Guaidó collaborators (April – May 2019). With the permission of the Venezuelan government and pursuant to international law, the Embassy Protectors held out for 37 days until expelled by the Secret Service. The four last defenders – Margaret Flowers, Kevin Zeese, Adrienne Pine, David Paul – will go to trial, facing possible stiff penalties. On October 25, journalist Max Blumenthal was also arrested and charged (subsequently dropped), as the US government cracks down on dissent both at home and abroad.

Colombia is the chief regional US client state, distinguished by being the largest recipient of US military aid in the hemisphere. Hillary Clinton called Plan Colombia a model for Latin America. Yet this model leads the world in extra-judicial killings of journalists, union leaders, and environmentalists. Meanwhile, Colombia continues to be the planet’s largest supplier of illicit cocaine.

A 2016 peace agreement saw the guerrilla FARC lay down their arms, but the government has honored the agreement mainly in the breach. Death squad activity continued in 2019, targeting former FARC militants. A faction of the FARC returned to the guerrilla path.

In a sign of growing disaffection with the hardline right-wing influence of former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe and his protégé and current President Iván Duque, the far right suffered significant losses in the October regional and municipal elections. Left-leaning Claudia López became the first woman and first lesbian to be mayor of the capital city of Bogotá. By year-end, Colombia experienced massive general strikes opposed to government austerity policies dictated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Bolivia. Evo Morales was the first indigenous president of this largely indigenous country. Under the 14 years of his Movement for Socialism party (MAS), Bolivia had the highest economic growth rate and the greatest poverty reduction in the Western Hemisphere. Bolivia became a world champion for indigenous and poor people, aligning with the progressive governments of Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.

Morales was fairly re-elected president on October 20. Because the US-backed candidate lost, the US called his election “fraudulent.” A compliant Organization of American States (OAS) disseminated misleading information on the validity of the election. Thus, the stage was set for the November 10 coup, when Morales was forced to “resign” by the military.

Thirteen US members of Congress sent a “dear colleague” letter condemning the “Administration’s support for [the] military-backed regime and silence on violent repression [which] contributes to spiraling crisis.” This letter stands in stark contrast to the close association of key figures behind the coup with allies in Washington, the OAS Secretary General’s embrace of coup leader Luis Fernando Camacho, and the endorsement of the coup by the right-wing neighbors. President Trump “applauded” the Bolivian military despite its well documented systematic  violations of human rights.

The self-proclaimed President Jeanine Áñez smeared indigenous communities as “satanic” in tweets, later deleted. Morales is now in exile, and the indigenous and other poor continue to protest in the face of lethal, racist repression.  At this writing, Morales, the MAS, and most of the popular sectors have agreed to new elections but efforts are underway by backers of the de facto government to disqualify the MAS from participating in an eventual election.

Ecuador. Speaking of reversals, Ecuador’s President Lenín Moreno took the prize. Moreno had served as vice president in a previous leftist government headed by Rafael Correa, who had campaigned for Moreno. Upon assuming the presidency in 2017, Moreno inexplicably and unexpectedly betrayed the platform, the voters, and the party that put him in office. He jailed his vice president and later other leaders of his former party and put out an arrest warrant for Correa, who is now in exile. On April 11, Moreno handed Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who had been in asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, to the British police.

Moreno withdrew Ecuador from ALBA, the leftist regional organization of Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and some Caribbean nations. Last January, he recognized the US puppet Guaidó as president of Venezuela. By mid-year, Moreno gave the US an airbase on the Galápagos.

Moreno forgave some $4.5 billion in fines and debt by major corporations and oligarchs and then papered it over by an IMF loan. With the loan came austerity measures, el paquetazo, including removing fuel subsidies. The mass protest of the dispossessed, led by the indigenous CONAIE organization, was so overwhelming that Moreno was temporarily forced to flee the capital city of Quito and rescind some elements of the paquetazo. Moreno continues to push IMF stipulated austerity measures, while repressing his former party’s elected representatives.

Peru is in crisis, wracked with corruption scandals. In April 2019, former President Alan García shot himself as the police were preparing to arrest him for corruption, while fellow former President Alberto Fujimori is in jail on corruption accusations and human rights violations.  Former President Alejandro Toledo also faces corruption accusations and is fighting against extradition from the US. Pedro Pablo Kuczynski was the last directly elected president of Peru. Formerly a US citizen and an IMF and World Bank official, he was forced to resign for corruption in March 2018 shortly before he was slated to host a meeting of the anti-Venezuela Lima Group to expose Venezuela for corruption.

Ever since, the presidency of Peru has been disputed. The current moderate-right President Martín Vízcarra dissolved the congress; the congress controlled by the far-right Keiko Fujimori (free after a year in detention for corruption) impeached the executive, although Vízcarra recovered the presidency. In the context of this dog fight among the elites have been massive anti-corruption mobilizations from below.

The Southern Cone

Brazil. New Year 2019 marked the inauguration of Jair Bolsonaro as president of Brazil. The election of hard-right Bolsonaro – called the “Trump of Brazil” by friends and foes alike – was a major reversal from the previous left-leaning Workers Party governments.

Brazil has by far the biggest economy in Latin America and the eighth in the world and is part of the BRICS bloc including Russia, India, China, and South Africa. With a sycophant of Trump heading Brazil, both hemispheric and world geopolitics suffer the loss of a countervailing element to US hegemony. Brazil voted with the US and Israel for continuing the US blockade on Cuba and against 187 other UN members.

Former left-leaning President Lula da Silva would have easily beaten Bolsonaro, if the polls were any indication, but corrupt judge Sergio Moro sent Lula to prison on evidenceless charges. The judge was rewarded by ironically being made minister of justice in the new Bolsonaro government. Similarly, Dilma Rousseff, who was Lula’s left-leaning successor as president of Brazil, had been deposed on a technicality by the right-leaning congress in what amounted to a parliamentary coup in 2016.

An international campaign to free Lula finally succeeded in November, but far too late for him to run against Bolsonaro. Lula is free and fighting now, but could be incarcerated again.

Bolsonaro went about dismantling social welfare measures, firing government workers, and rewarding multinational corporations, while the Amazon burned. Predictably the popular sectors arose leading to an uncertain political situation in Brazil.

Chile. The Chilean people launched a general strike against austerity with slogans such as “neoliberalism was born in Chile and will die here.” Reacting to the “privatization of everything,” the uprising this fall has been truly from the grassroots with the established political parties sprinting to catch up with the popular revolt of the dispossessed.

Over a million protestors have taken to the streets in a country with a population of only 19 million. Many have remained there for weeks despite severe repression by the state, leaving numerous killed by live ammunition and rubber bullets. According to official state data, more than 8,000  have been jailed, almost 3,000 injured, and over 200 suffered ocular damage. Hundreds of  lawsuits for police brutality have been filed, including sexual abuses. The right-wing billionaire President Sebastián Piñera suspended some constitutional rights, declaring a “state of emergency” in a country still under the constitution created by the dictator Pinochet.

Argentina. After right-wing President Mauricio Macri imposed textbook perfect neoliberal economic reforms, the Argentine economy spectacularly and predictably failed with rampant inflation, food shortages, currency free-fall, and capital flight. Even the middle class protested in the streets in enormous uprisings of the dispossessed.

On October 27, the center-left ticket of Alberto Fernández as president and Cristina Fernández as VP won and announced Argentina will leave the regional anti-Venezuela Lima Group. They will also have to deal with Macri’s record breaking $50.1 billion IMF loan, saddling the people with austerity measures in a country that is broke and again at the edge of default.

Uruguay. The ruling left-center Frente Amplio’s candidate, Daniel Martínez, won in the first round of Uruguay’s presidential elections on October 27, but by a too narrow margin to avoid a runoff election. He faced a united right-wing in the November 24 runoff against Luis Lacalle Pou, which ended his party’s 15-year rule.

The Caribbean

Cuba. The US embargo of Cuba, initiated  by US President Kennedy and now a blockade (el bloqueo), along with covert regime-change operations and occupation of Guantánamo have continued in an unbroken policy of aggression through Democratic and Republican administrations alike. Most recently Trump resurrected Title III of the Clinton-era Helms-Burton Act to intensify the blockade. The Cuban people show no sign of capitulating.

Cubans welcomed a new president, as Miguel Díaz-Canel succeeded Raúl Castro. On April 10, they ratified a new constitution, after an extensive consultative process, engaging some 9 million people, 780,000 suggestions, 9,600 proposals, and 133,000 citizen meetings.

Puerto Rico and Cuba were the spoils of the first imperialist war, the 1898 Spanish-American War. Unlike free Cuba, Puerto Rico is still a neglected colonial possession of the US. And that political fact has never been clearer with Puerto Rico still not fully recovered from Hurricane María and still not governing itself to solve its own problems.

Puerto Rico experienced mass protests and a general strike in 2019. Governor Ricardo A. Rosselló was forced to resign on July 22. Puerto Rican liberation hero Oscar López Rivera observed: “Even before the governor announced his resignation, the fact is that he was not governing Puerto Rico.”

Haiti. After the harsh 29-year US-backed Duvalier dictatorships and the subsequent “military transition,” a brief flourishing of democracy ended in Haiti when the US brazenly kidnapped President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and flew him into exile in 2004. Since then, a series of dubiously elected presidents – some literally installed and all propped up by the US – have produced human rights and social welfare conditions worse than under the dictatorships.

Billions in relief after the 2010 earthquake and in Petrocaribe funds from Venezuela have largely “disappeared” into the pockets of corrupt politicians. In response, the ever-restive Haitian populace has yet intensified the uprising of the dispossessed throughout the country. The newly formed Patriotic Forum united 62 social movements, who call not only for the resignation of President Jovenel Moïse, but a complete dismantling of the “system of exclusion” and for a new republic of justice, transparency, and participation. They demanded chavire chodyè a (overturn the cauldron).

Central America and Mexico

Honduras. The designation of Honduras as a narco-state is supported by the October 18  conviction in US federal court of President Juan Orlando Hernández’s (JOH) brother Tony for cocaine smuggling.  JOH, the latest of a line of corrupt presidents since the 2009 US-backed coup, is identified as co-conspirator by the prosecutors. Testimony in the US court revealed that the notorious Mexican drug lord known as El Chapo gave JOH $1 million to help him rig the presidential election in 2013.

The US continued to prop up the tottering JOH regime staggering in the face of huge waves of popular protests including a prolonged national strike this summer. And those not opposing the government in the streets headed for asylum in the US, fleeing from gang violence and government malfeasance.

Guatemala. Right-wing comedian Jimmy Morales became president of Guatemala in August. In response to the revolt of dispossessed against his neoliberal rule, he declared a state of siege in five departments. Tens of thousands marched on Guatemala City, including the indigenous Xinkas, while many more Guatemalans fled the violence and everyday oppression seeking asylum at the US border.

The wounds of the US-backed genocidal dirty war of the 1980s against the largely indigenous population, taking some 200,000 lives, have not been healed but continue to be reinforced by harsh neoliberal measures and a regime of impunity fueling the exodus to the north. While lamenting the plight of these migrants, the corporate press in the US failed to recognize the made-in-America causes of their evacuation.

El Salvador. Likewise, El Salvador, another former victim of the US-backed dirty wars, added to the stream of Honduran and Guatemalan migrants seeking asylum in the US from the conditions created in large part by the country of their intended refuge.

Businessman Nayib Bukele, formerly associated with the left FMLN party and now turned right, was elected under the banner of the right-wing GANA party. He assumed the presidency on June 1, replacing Salvador Sánchez Ceren of the FMLN. Bukele has fallen in line with Washington’s drive to curtail emigration from the Northern Triangle countries (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador) and has reversed his nation’s foreign policy to accord with the Lima Group’s drive for regime change in Venezuela.

Nicaragua. 2019 was a year of hopeful recovery in Nicaragua, healing from successfully repulsing a US-backed coup the previous year. The domestic perpetrators were granted amnesty by leftist President Daniel Ortega, and social welfare indices were again on the ascent. Although the poorest country in Central America, Nicaraguans were for the most part not fleeing for the US but were rebuilding their homeland.

Mexico is the second largest economy in Latin American and the eleventh in the world. After decades of right-wing rule, left-of-center Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) assumed the presidency last December and his new MORENA party swept local and regional offices with the expectation that corruption, inequality, and other long festering economic injustices would be addressed. AMLO dissented from the anti-Venezuelan Lima Group and instituted a series of progressive domestic reforms.

Trump forced AMLO to contain the Central American immigrants massing on the US southern border or face tariff increases and other measures that would wreck the Mexican economy. As nineteenth century Mexican President Porfirio Díaz famously lamented: “Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States.”

A New Year’s message

2019 has not been an entirely bullish year for US imperialism, notwithstanding the hard turns to the right in Brazil, Bolivia, and Ecuador.  Powerful winds against neoliberalism are gusting in Brazil, Ecuador, Chile, Peru, Argentina, Haiti, Honduras, Guatemala, and even in the US “Commonwealth” of Puerto Rico. Regime-change operations failed in Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua. US-preferred candidates suffered losses in Mexico, Colombia, and Bolivia (later reversed by a coup). And the hegemon is challenged in its own “backyard” by the increased influence of Russia and especially China, now the second largest trading partner with Latin America and the Caribbean.

Recently Cuban President Díaz-Canel addressed the 120-state Non-aligned Movement (a third of which are sanctioned by Washington) with this perceptive thought for a multi-polar world: “There are more of us. Let us do more.”

The 2019 UN Vote Against the US Blockade of Cuba


The United States government does not have the least moral authority to criticize Cuba or anyone else in the area of ​​human rights. We reject the repeated manipulation of this issue for political purposes and the double standards that characterize its use.

— Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, November 7, 2019 at United Nations General Assembly

On November 7, 2019, for the 28th year in a row, the entire United Nations General Assembly, gathered in one room, voted overwhelmingly against “the Economic, Commercial, and Financial Embargo Imposed on Cuba by the United States.” The final tally was 187 in favor, 3 opposed (Brazil, Israel, US), 2 abstentions (Colombia, Ukraine), 1 not voting (Moldova).

Several points should be noted about these holdouts to the overwhelming consensus of the world’s constituted governments that the ultra-powerful nation-state of the United States (population over 300 million) of America should cease and desist its decades-long shameful, arrogant bullying of socialist Cuba (population less than 12 million). Speaker after speaker, to this observer, barely repressed their contempt for Washington’s  slanders of Cuba. All fully understand that Cuba is a classic and model example, among many in this Hemisphere since the end of the 19th Century, of being on the receiving end of unrelenting Yankee imperialist aggression, under a crass cover of flowery bullshit demagogy about “human rights” and “freedom.” As speaker after speaker declaimed from the General Assembly rostrum, “28 years is Enough!”

First, let us note that while the crisis-ridden Brazilian government of Jair Bolsonaro may have added the NO vote of Brazil to those of the United States and Israel, Bolsonaro is not Brazil. There is not the slightest doubt that the public opinion of the Brazilian working class, youth, and population as a whole (likely including the “professional” diplomatic staff in New York and in the Brazilian Foreign Ministry), solidly rejects as an abomination the vote dictated by Bolsonaro and solidarizes with Cuba.

Israel – and the right-wing coalition government of Benjamin Netanyahu just-hanging-on to power – is, of course, politically and militarily dependent on the United States and votes accordingly. (Netanyahu’s government abstained when the US government under Barack Obama also did so in 2016.) Interestingly, however, Israel and Cuba, which have not restored diplomatic relations cut after the 1973 Middle East War, have for many years now, carried out, by all accounts, normal and even friendly bilateral trade with each other, as well as extensive people-to-people travel exchanges with no restrictions.

Finally, while fully 50 separate speakers addressed the 2-day General Assembly meeting from the rostrum or from their seats – representing their member states directly or speaking for major constituted blocs recognized by the UN – Israel, Brazil, Colombia, Ukraine, and the elusive Moldova chose not to speak at all and defend their “point of view” whatever that might be other than jerking their knee towards the United States government and the Trump Administration.

Even regimes installed directly or indirectly by US military force such as Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, could not stomach being identified with Trump’s Washington against Cuba. Again, as for well over a decade, Washington’s EU and NATO allies voted for the Resolution presented by Cuba.  As did both North and South Korea and even Iran and US close ally Saudi Arabia.

Why the UN Vote Matters

The annual Resolution does not have any enforcement authority or mechanisms, is generally ignored or relegated to a back-pages note in the US capitalist media, and can be even characterized as politically toothless. Still, from Cuba’s vantage point, the annual Resolution is an important material and political factor in the defense of Cuba’s socialist revolution, and registers an objective marker in the relationship of political forces in the world and is a material factor in the political limitations on direct US aggression and the permanent world pressure to crush the blockade in all its forms once and for all in world public opinion. It can fairly be said that the US blockade of Cuba is universally hated around the world, including by many millions in the United States who increasingly know some or much of the truth about Cuba, including many tens of thousands from licensed and unlicensed travel to the beautiful island.

Above all, every year it is revolutionary, socialist Cuba that holds the moral high ground in world politics, worth all the nuclear weapons in Washington’s arsenal, on this world stage. The revolutionary diplomats at Cuba’s Mission to the United Nations give great importance to this annual vote. And every year dozens of Cuba solidarity activists, mostly from the New York-New Jersey area, take seats in the 4th Floor Visitors Gallery to respectfully observe the annual event.

2018 Ruse Not Repeated

Last year in 2018 the United States carried out an elaborate diversionary ruse to dilute the political impact of the Resolution in the form of a series of amendments attacking Cuba over this or that “human rights” nonsense. These fell completely flat as the EU and every other force voting for the Cuban-sponsored Resolution, refused to take the bait and Washington’s political isolation and humiliation was only deepened, as they appeared unprepared and blindsided.

There was some mystery as to whether Trump’s UN flunkies would put themselves through the same wringer again in 2019, but at the end of the day the US representative, recruited by Donald Trump from giving commentary on a conservative cable TV news oligopoly, simply took the floor in turn after the previous 40 speakers had blasted US anti-Cuba policy, gave a subdued, lame 3-minute litany (“I promise not to speak too long.”), and promptly sat down. Perhaps the highlight of her time was a snarky reference to Cuba’s solidarity with the “former Maduro regime” in Venezuela. A few moments later she was followed on the rostrum by the present Maduro regime’s Foreign Minister.

The US approach was simply let’s just get it over with! This points to the genuine political consternation and isolation that is the political reality faced by the Trump Administration that is accelerating since the debacle of its Venezuela “regime-change” policy which culminated in the failure of the April 30, 2019 US-directed right-wing military coup. I will return to this decisive point in assessing the significance of the 2019 UN Cuba vote.

Too Much Pressure

On Day 1, November 6, there were 31 separate presentations. The first seven from recognized UN blocs: the accredited delegate from Palestine speaking for “the Group of 77 plus China;” the delegate from Tunisia for the “African Group;” Azerbaijan’s representative spoke for the “Non-Aligned Movement,” Grenada’s representative for the “Caribbean Community;” Singapore’s for the Association of South East Asian Nations;” and Uganda for the “Organization of Islamic Cooperation.”

Trump’s envoys were reportedly pressuring nation-states in Latin America and the Caribbean to side with them against Cuba but, observing the several hours of discussion, it was clear to me that Hemispheric states and governments were, if anything, going out of the way to register in clear and direct language their sharp opposition to US anti-Cuba policy. Argentina, Costa Rica, and Uruguay rushed to get their statement of support for the Resolution on the record.

Nearly every individual member of the “Caribbean Community” also took the rostrum – Grenada; St. Vincent and the Grenadines; Suriname; Belize; Guyana; St. Kitts and Nevis; Jamaica; Trinidad and Tobago; Antigua and Barbuda and spoke eloquently and with some passion and sharpness about their solidarity with Cuba, all citing Cuba’s internationalist medical, educational, and sports solidarity misiones. It is very clear that the US blockade of Cuba, in addition to the moral and political outrage it engenders, has a deleterious economic impact on Caribbean-wide economic integration and agricultural and industrial development and exchange for the entire Caribbean.

Sharp Tone, Growing Exasperation

Having attended these discussions and votes, and written about them several times, I can say that my impression this year was that the diplomatic language was a little less diplomatic, that the tone was more than a little sharper from many African and Caribbean states, and more exasperated from others. Many noted the “regression” from their hopes and illusions after Barack Obama in his second term led a retreat of US policy: freed the remaining Cuban Five political prisoners and heroes; restored Washington-Havana diplomatic relations; loosened travel restrictions and air travel; and OK’d Cruise Ship stops.

The tone this year – and I think it was V.I. Lenin who said, “Tone equals politics” – ranged from “deep concern” to “unconscionable” and “appalling” as all lined up to “categorically condemn” the “illegal character” of US policy which should be “consigned to the trash heap.” There was less mincing of mealy-mothed words among the diplomatic gentlemen and gentleladies. Vietnam’s representative spoke “as a country that suffered 19 years of US sanctions…we are in solidarity with the brotherly people of Cuba…we demand the policy be reversed!” The representative from St. Vincent and the Grenadines spoke of her country’s “unwavering support and solidarity with the revolutionary Cuban government; we decry this affront to the indomitable Cuban people.” The Chinese representative like many speakers listed the recent, escalating measures implemented by Trump and said, in the end, “bullying will only hurt the bully.” Gabon spoke sharply of the “nefarious” blockade. Speakers vied over who could use the most condemning or disdainful phrase to register their solidarity with Cuba. (And let us not forget this is communist Cuba led by conscious revolutionary Marxists and Leninists, the political children of Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and a generation of revolutionary women and men who were combatants and fighters for socialist revolution in the Americas.)

The speaker from Belize spoke of the “unbreakable friendship” with Cuba and Cuba’s “magnanimous” support in the fields of health and education “where we have needs and Cuba has strengths.” North Korea called the blockade a “crime against humanity”. South Africa’s representative demanded “End this Injustice! We demand that all of it be scrapped!” The Namibian delegate gave a heartfelt presentation citing Cuba’s “significant contribution to African liberation and the defeat of apartheid and “winning the independence of my country.” Speaker after speaker spoke in praise of Cuban and world revolutionary leader Fidel Castro. (This included a couple of places where if you praised Fidel or tried to promote his politics you’d likely end up in the slammer.)

As is the case each year militant statements of solidarity came from Bolivia, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.

Shifts in Hemispheric Politics and the Blockade

While this represents a remarkable continuity and consensus in the so-called international community, it also registers significant new developments in the long struggle to, once and for all, eradicate the US economic and political war against Cuba. The anti-blockade and anti-US government tone, rhetoric, exasperation, and contempt for the ongoing US aggression was more pronounced, more bitter, and perhaps more conducive to action and deeds from past statements for the record. Events in Latin America and the Caribbean, from Haiti to Chile, are accelerating and intensifying every burning political issue and the “Cuba Question” and the US economic and political war and sanctions has been central and volcanic for decades.

Since the last vote in 2018, and in particular over the last six months in Latin America and the Caribbean, momentous historic political developments have shifted the relationship of class and political forces in the Hemisphere to the detriment of the Donald Trump White House and the US bourgeoisie it serves (in its own peculiar style that worries more than a few in the US ruling class) and in favor of the Cuban revolutionary government and the Hemispheric working class, including inside the United States, where the class struggle is notably heating up. (It is said that the number of strikes in the US today is higher than at any time since the 1980s.)

New Political Dynamics as 2019 Closes

Washington began 2019 with blood in its mouth, full of itself, and living in its bubble of lies to the point where it believed its own bullshit. Trump and his minions were apparently convinced that quick work could and would be made of the sovereign, elected government of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela in the midst of the devastating capitalist economic contraction in that country, greatly multiplied by the collapse in oil commodity prices, mounting US sanctions; and the concurrent economic sabotage in cahoots with the Venezuelan bourgeoisie, which still controls wholesale and retail distribution networks, and much else in the Venezuelan “mixed economy.”

With Maduro disposed of, to the likes of John Bolton, Elliot Abrams, and Marco Rubio, the path would then be clear: Forward to the extermination of socialist Cuba!

Alas for Trump and his gang by the time of the humiliating fiasco of the failed coup that was definitively registered on April 30, 2019, it was obvious that the Maduro-PSUV government was actually being considerable strengthened. This is among the many unintended consequences of the flop of Trump’s anti-Venezuela crusade. These consequences are now continuing to unfold. As the virulently anti-Cuba and anti-Venezuela Miami Herald put it in a deliciously demoralized headline “South America’s wretched month has been great for one man: Venezuela’s Maduro.” The article goes on to quote a Venezuelan “businessman and political pundit,” who laments, “I think people [that is, the Venezuelan capitalists and their allies] here are resigned. They feel like Maduro has survived. And now the world is distracted with the protests in Chile, Ecuador, Haiti – so many other countries.”

From 1992 to 2019: History of the Vote

In 1992, Cuba was reeling from the economic cataclysm of the “Special Period,” when its economy contracted virtually overnight by 35% following the collapse of the Soviet Union and its allied so-called “socialist camp.” Its revolutionary diplomats in New York City at the United Nations took advantage of an inadvertent lapse in the attentiveness of US UN personnel – who, in any case were cooling the champagne in anticipation of socialist Cuba’s imminent implosion and evaporation under deepening US sanctions and stepped-up US-based terrorist attacks – to slip onto the General Assembly agenda the first Resolution “Opposing the Economic, Commercial, and Financial Embargo Imposed by the United States Against Cuba.” Precedent established, and unable to be blocked by US veto. Every year since then for now 28 years now, Washington has been utterly isolated in this annual vote in the General Assembly.

In the November 2016 UN Vote, the US delegation (with Israel in tow – actually abstained in the vote against itself, making the vote formally unanimous. That was in the week before Donald Trump’s narrow electoral triumph over the hapless Hillary Clinton.

That had capped a process which had unfolded from December 2014 when the Barack Obama Administration, in the second half of its second term, began a retreat that partially overturned the bipartisan ruling-class consensus against Cuba. That consensus had lasted from the end of the Dwight Eisenhower Administration in 1959-60 through December 2014. In a dizzying few months Obama, with the public support of Hillary Clinton (who had been battered on Cuba at successive Organization of American States “Summits” from 2008-2012) Secretary of State John Kerry, and Vice-President Joe Biden, released the remaining Cuban Five heroes, engineered Cuba’s removal from the State Department’s notorious list of “nations supporting terrorism,” established formal diplomatic relations with Embassies in Washington, DC and Havana, and loosened existing travel restrictions without abolishing them. The overall “embargo” mandated since the 1996 Helms-Burton Law signed by then-president W. Clinton remained in place.

Trump has steadily reversed, incrementally and with accumulation, much of the limited Obama measures without abrogating formal diplomatic relations or ending all loopholes or even direct flights from US airports to Cuban cities.(Commercial flights to cities other than Havana have been canceled but Charter Flights remain possible.) Trump used the pretext of perturbing reports of “sonic attacks” or some other mysterious ailments supposedly afflicting US and Canadian diplomats at the beginning of his term to cut back drastically the significant people-to-people exchanges that were proving very popular with US and Cuban citizens, separated families, trade unionists, creative artists, doctors and scientists, and so on.

Virtual Coup in Venezuela

The situation changed when the disastrous economic crisis in Venezuela by the end of 2018 led Trump and his team to think the time had come to choreograph a right-wing military coup in Venezuela with the hapless Juan Guaido installed as President. This team of Pence-Pompeo-Bolton and the dusted-off war criminal Elliot Abrams displayed an uncommon skill combining unsavoriness with incompetence with Senator Marco Rubio on the ground with “humanitarian” trucks on the Venezuelan-Colombian border!

For the first 2 months of 2019 they organized a virtual coup that turned out to be 50% bullshit and 50% fantasy. This was fully backed by the Democratic Party Capitol Hill leadership and their lackeys in the capitalist media who went into full Yankee imperialist mode! All their obsession with and contempt for Donald Trump was cast aside to join him in the love fest for – let’s hear the drum roll!!! – Juan Guaido and our bipartisan love for Venezuelan and Latin American democracy and human rights! Hear, Hear!

Mass May Day 2019 mobilizations in Caracas defending national sovereignty against the US-led virtual coup.

Following the late-February 2019 debacle on the Venezuelan-Colombian and Venezuelan-Brazilian borders, Trump and his gang doubled down and organized a virtual coup that was supposed to culminate on May Day with Maduro hopping on the last flight to Jose Marti International Airport in Havana and Juan Guaido installed in Miraflores. Instead the mobilized Venezuelan working class dominated the streets on May Day, Nicolas Maduro’s political position was greatly strengthened in the working class, in the population, and in the Venezuelan Army with his stalwart defense of national sovereignty. The army officer corps was deeply insulted by Trump and Pompeo who though they could throw around some dirty US money to buy off Venezuelan patriots who Washington had previously slandered as drug dealers and worse! For Trump – and you can be sure he was enraged at his minions for the humiliation — the virtual coup became a humiliating reality check. What to do?

Trump and Pompeo quickly pivoted to blaming revolutionary Cuba for their own debacle. (Bolton was also soon sent packing.) Cuba was accused of having 20,000 soldiers and spooks in the country and that was why Maduro was still in office and not living the life in a Cuban ocean resort! Cuba actually has 20,000 medical personnel and educators, and sports trainers in Venezuela.

This, among other things is an egregious insult to the Venezuelan Army and neighborhood-based organized militias that mobilized continuously to defend national sovereignty culminating in the defeat of the virtual coup.

Cuban Doctors in Venezuela

The anti-Cuba measures since then have been coming fast and steady, US- and world public opinion be damned! Cuban-Major League Baseball Deal – annulled. Cruse Ship stops in Cuba (very popular with US citizens, and Cuban small business owners, and a growing source of foreign exchange for Cuban health care and education) — cancelled. “People-to-People” Exchange – eliminated. Then there was the new Trump first that even the solidly anti-Cuban Administrations of William Clinton and George W. Bush wouldn’t do. That is, ending the waiver of Title III of the blockading Helms-Burton Act signed into law by Clinton in 1996. The way is now open for frivolous lawsuits in US courts over property legally nationalized by the revolutionary Cuban government between 1959-1961. At the time, that is over 60 years ago, Washington – which utterly dominated the socially oppressive and brutally unequal Cuban economy – rejected offers of fair compensation to affected companies. Companies based in other countries settled without much difficulty.

Instead the John F. Kennedy Administration was committed to a CIA-directed mercenary invasion of Cuba in April 1961 and, when that failed panned a direct US invasion that was only averted with the settlement of the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962.

We are now seeing the accelerating consequences of Trump and company’s Venezuelan fiasco in the rapid shift in – to use bloated academic jargon – the political paradigm in Latin America and the Caribbean from the uprisings in Haiti and Chile to the return of the Peronist party in Argentina and even the freeing of Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva on November 8 in Brazil. It seems certain that the so-called Lima Group stitched together to prop up Juan Guaido cannot have too many more days on this planet. This shift takes place amidst ongoing assaults on the working class under the whip of the International Monetary Fund and the concentrated summits of world capital.

This then was the background for this year’s vote.

2020 approaches with Donald Trump’s Washington on its heels in Latin America.

Pink Tide Against US Domination Rising Again In Latin America

(Photo from Dissent Magazine)

Once again, the left is rising in Latin America as people revolt against authoritarian regimes, many of whom were put in place by US-supported coups. These regimes have taken International Monetary Fund (IMF) loans and are under the thumb of international finance, which is against the interests of people.After the embattled President of Ecuador claimed that President Nicolas Maduro was the cause of the massive protests against him, Maduro made clear what was occurring in Latin America, saying:

We have two models: the IMF model which privatizes everything and takes away the people’s rights to health, education and work; and the humanist-progressive model which is emerging in Latin America and has the Bolivarian Revolution at the forefront.

Maduro’s clear understanding of the conflict is why it has been so important for the US to remove him. His success in defeating ongoing US coup attempts is a model guiding Latin America to a future independent of US domination.

Ecuadorians celebrate the repeal of Decree 883 (From Twitter)

Ecuador in Rebellion Against IMF and the US Puppet Moreno

On October 4, Moreno proclaimed the end of a 40-year policy of fuel and petrol subsidies, which had traditionally benefited his country’s working-class population. He also announced a 20 percent decrease in the salary of public employees and initiated plans to privatize pensions. He removed workplace and job security safeguards. Decree 883, known as ‘The Package’, was a series of neoliberal policies demanded by the IMF in return for a $4.2 billion dollar loan. It was preceded by policies for the wealthy including reducing their taxes.

The IMF loan was part of Moreno serving as a puppet and bowing to multiple US demands. Ecuador promised to settle a long dispute with Chevron whose oil drilling and pipelines have polluted the country. Tens of billions of dollars in restitution from Chevron are at stake but Moreno said he is willing to give them up. In fact, the IMF loan is strange in that it was dependent on Ecuador paying external debt obligations; i.e., it was not new funds for Ecuador but new debt to subsidize paying back Wall Street.

In making the announcement, Moreno called the people “Zánganos,” or Drone Bees leading to the uprising of the Drone Bees. The mass protests were called by the Popular Front, a group of unions, and the Unified Workers Federation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE). Students and social movements joined protests throughout the nation in Loja, Guayaquil, Cuenca, Ambato, and Riobamba, among other cites as well as Quito, the capital. Moreno claimed without any evidence that the uprising was financed by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and Correa.

Protests in Ecuador were relentless with no end in sight. They grew when 20,000 indigenous people marched into Quito. Police responded with violence, tear gas, and mass arrests. An October 4 video circulated on social media showed nonviolent protesters killed in the street by the police as well as other police violence. On October 5, Moreno declared a 60-day state of Emergency. Sometimes police had to retreat in the face of mass protests. On October 7, Moreno fled the capital to hide in the Navy base 260 miles away in the conservative stronghold of Guayaquil.

As we wrote this newsletter, unrest in Ecuador was escalating. On Saturday, the nation was put on military lockdown. Law enforcement attacked protesters with pellets and tear gas in the immediate vicinity of the  National Assembly. By Sunday, Moreno decreed a 3:00 pm curfew, which people defied. Then, facing an emergency session in the National Assembly, Moreno backed down. Protesters celebrated when Moreno’s government announced that Decree 883 had been repealed after eleven days of popular mobilizations.

Peter Koenig describes a root cause of the problems:

Since January 2000, Ecuador’s economy is 100% dollarized, compliments of the IMF (entirely controlled by the US Treasury, by force of an absolute veto). The other two fully dollarized Latin American countries are El Salvador and Panama.

The US and IMF used the economic crises of the 1990s to dollarize Ecuador’s economy and gain full control over the nation’s riches as Ecuador is the second-largest oil economy in South America. This led to unaffordable goods for Ecuadorians, social unrest and a series of unstable governments until President Correa, who served from 2007 to 17, was elected.

A Center for Economic and Policy Research 2017 report found under Correa Ecuador did well with an average annual GDP growth of 1.5%  compared to 0.6% average for the previous 26 years; a decline of 38% in poverty with extreme poverty reduced by 47%; and a decline in inequality with the Gini coefficient falling substantially. Correa doubled social spending from 4.3% in 2006 to 8.6% in 2016; tripling education spending from 0.7% to 2.1%; and, increasing public investments from 4% of GDP in 2006 to 10% in 2016.

Correa served two terms. A third term would have required a constitutional amendment. Rather than running, Correa endorsed Lenin Moreno who had served as his vice president from 2007-13. He was expected to continue Correa’s policies but instead reversed them.

Moreno was unpopular before announcing ‘The Package’ due to structural poverty increasing from 23.1 percent in June 2017 to 25.5 percent in June 2019 with projections of 30 percent by the end of the year. Injustices like the imprisonment of the popular former Vice President Jorge Glas on dubious charges and his continuous political witch hunt against Rafael Correa and other leaders of the Citizens’ Revolution Party added to his unpopularity. In addition, he has been engulfed in a personal corruption crisis involving an offshore Shell corporation INA, which cast Moreno’s presidency in doubt.

Moreno’s forcible and illegal ejection of Julian Assange from the London embassy in return for payoffs from the US and UK resulted in a national strike in Ecuador in July. This, along with the arrest of Ola Bini, who is being prosecuted falsely as a conspirator with Wikileaks, was unpopular with Ecuadorians.

Will repeal of ‘The Package’ end the protests and the threat to Moreno’s presidency? As we write, the answer to these questions are unclear. The people won a major victory, but the Moreno/IMF infection remains.

Rally in Argentina (By Enfoque Rojo)

Latin Americans Rising Against the Right and US Domination

Latin American countries are rejecting neoliberalism and US domination using multiple strategies to achieve change.

This month the deepening anti-capitalist movement in Bolivia is set to strengthen with the probable re-election of Evo Morales on October 20. Argentina is expected to remove right-wing President Mauricio Macri on October 27 and replace him with Alberto Fernandez. And, Mexico put in place its first progressive, left-of-center government with the election of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) on July 1, 2018. Elections are also upcoming in Uruguay on October 27 and in Peru in January. Venezuela may have National Assembly elections in January as well.

Bolivia’s Evo Morales has a 13-point lead in polls as his governing party Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) looks to re-election for a third Morales term that will last until 2025. Morales has 38.8 percent, just 1.2 percent short of the 40 percent required for a first-round victory in the upcoming elections. The survey also indicated majority support for the nationalization of gas and strategic industries, 51 percent say that public ownership is positive for the economy. On social programs, 61.7 percent say they are essential for providing dignity to those of low incomes.

Morales has launched a large reforestation plan and put in place a model healthcare program. He is under attack from the United States and segments of Bolivia. Morales leads an independent, sovereign Bolivia that has rejected US dominance, decolonized and displaced neoliberalism. A recent color revolution attempt by the wealthy, with the support of the US and western powers, failed.

Argentina’s first round of voting on August 11 resulted in Fernandez, running with former president Cristina Kirchner, finishing 15 percent ahead of Macri. The surprising landslide brought into question Macri’s ability to govern between now and the election. As a result, the IMF put a $5.4 billion dollar loan on hold part of the $56.3 billion stand-by agreement signed in mid-2018. Fernandez opposed the loan, which required sharp budget cuts affecting public services at a time of increasing poverty.

Under Macri, the economy has gone into crisis with poverty increasing to a record 36.4 percent, a recession accompanied by a 47 percent inflation rate in 2018 and an inflation rate of 25.1 percent during the first seven months of this year. Argentina’s unemployment is at the highest level in 14 years. Poverty was at 19.7 percent when Kirchner left office in 2015. Fernandez has put forward an anti-hunger plan, not dependent on the IMF. Three weeks before the election, thousands of people rallied in Buenos Aires as the Workers Left Front sent a message of opposition to neoliberalism and austerity to the two major political parties.

In Mexico, AMLO won a landslide 53 percent of the vote on July 31 ending decades of right-wing rule. People were fed up with the corruption, impunity, and violence — decades of loss of rights, pillaging and destruction of the nation’s wealth and public enterprises. At his inauguration, AMLO decried 36 years of neoliberalism and public and private corruption, promised a “peaceful and radical” transition with “indigenous people as its priority,” in a government “for the good of all, first the poor.” His fight against neoliberalism is challenged by NAFTA II (or the USMCA), as AMLO is careful not to confront Trump on this. On border policy, AMLO offered migrants home in Mexico and urged investment in Central America.

The Zapatistas have conflicted with AMLO over the exploitation of resources and the use of the military in policing, demanding its autonomy based on indigenous principles but he has sought diplomacy with them. AMLO has also faced massive strikes of tens of thousands of autoworkers, workers at US companies in Mexico and wildcat strikes at the border. AMLO has been a counterweight to US aggression in Latin America standing with Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba.

Peru is in the midst of a crisis. President Martin Vizcarra who came into office after a corruption scandal removed his predecessor, dissolved the Congress, a move supported by the left, because it is controlled by far-right politician Keiko Fujimori and was preventing Vizcarra’s anti-corruption campaign. Congress ignored the president’s order and voted to remove him from office instead. The vice president resigned rather than take over and Vizcarra remains in office with the support of the military. He has now called for new congressional elections to be held on January 26. Vizcarra is a conservative battling the oligarchic right. The left, which has been divided, is coalescing around the Popular National Assembly and allying with social movements. The movements want an end to neoliberal policies, a Constituent Assembly to draft a new Constitution and to break with Washington’s domination.

In Central America, Honduras has been in revolt against the coup government of Juan Orlando Hernandez (JOH), which for ten years has put in place neoliberalism, repression, and violence. Protests have been ongoing since his coup and fraudulent re-election. This summer, protests intensified with a national strike over austerity and privatization measures required by an IMF loan, leading to a 66-day uprising.  The US has trained Honduran police to use repressive measures in an attempt to stop the protests, but their actions feed more protests.

Many have fled Honduras in caravans to escape the corruption and violence. Now, a coalition of civil groups is urging the president’s departure over a scandal ignited by accusations of large-scale drug trafficking to the United States being litigated against the president’s brother Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernandez. In the trial, several witnesses have declared JOH’s campaign was financed with drug money, and that he took millions in bribes from various Mexican drug lords, including the infamous Joaquin “El-Chapo” Guzman. The Liberal Party joined in calling for his resignation and protests have intensified. The trial may be the end of this cocaine-fueled presidency.

Brazil’s election of Bolsonaro has been marred by scandal now that the corruption of Operation Car Wash has been exposed. Private conversations between the prosecutors and then-judge Sergio Moro, now Super Minister of Justice, show that former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was the “victim of a conspiracy” to prevent him from running against Bolsonaro.  In the secret exchanges, Moro admitted that the corruption case was designed to frame him. Lula has said the US is behind the conspiracy.

Calls to free Lula are increasing and the Supreme Court will be reviewing the case. Lula is demanding his record be cleared and refused a panicked offer from prosecutors that he be freed from jail and put under house arrest. Bolsonaro is also under attack for the Amazon fires, for an increase in police killings, for genocide against the Indigenous and for attacks on public education. Former President Michel Temer acknowledged that the impeachment of former president Dilma Rousseff, the Worker’s Party leader, was a coup d’etat.

Nicaragua survived a 2018 US coup attempt and the revolution continues to thrive after 40 years of independence from US domination after US-backed dictator Anastasio Somoza fled. People were very confused about what happened in the 2018 coup attempt as media misinformation was prevalent. A group of us joined and produced a reader to help people understand the reality of Nicaragua. Peace is coming back to Nicaragua, even though continued pressure from the US is expected in the form of new illegal sanctions.

Venezuela, which we have reported on intensively for years, has also survived ongoing coup attempts that continue to escalate in the post-John Bolton era of the Trump administration most recently with a threat of war through the Organization of American States (OAS). They are prepared for a military attack and have created new alliances to overcome the US economic war. This week, Russia announced it was investing $16.5 billion in Venezuela by the end of 2019.

Russia has provided anti-missile defense systems, is keeping Navy ships in Venezuela to deter a US blockade and has helped gather intelligence on US actions. With their help, Venezuela has uncovered terrorist plots coming from Colombia and involving US-puppet Juan Guiado’s team. Guaido has faltered and failed time and again, and now is being investigated for ties to Colombian drug traffickers and corruption.

The non-aligned movement of 120 nations met in Caracas this summer and expressed support for Venezuelan sovereignty.  Venezuela has been a lynchpin for left movements in Latin America. When oil prices were high, it shared its wealth not only with poorest Venezuelans but with other countries seeking to challenge US and oligarch domination. Even in the midst of an escalating economic war with the United States, they continue to provide housing, food, and essentials to their people.

Protesters in Haiti (Twitter)

Caribbean Resistance

In the Caribbean, Cuba is challenged by the US economic war but continues its revolution. Mass protests in Haiti threaten the survival of the government and Puerto Rico’s revolt removed a governor.

Cuba, despite the increasing US economic war, continues to be a bulwark against US imperialism, standing with governments like Venezuela and Nicaragua when they are under attack. Cuba completed a successful transition to a new president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, and voted on a new constitution developed using a participatory process involving 9 million people through 133,000 citizen meetings. The constitution includes “universal and free health, education, sports and recreation, culture and respect for human dignity.” Cuba is currently facing major economic challenges as the US is blocking their access to oil. Russia and Venezuela are helping Cuba overcome this oil blockade.

Haiti has been in protest since April calling for an end to neoliberal US domination and the resignation of Jovenel Moise. The president has not spoken in public since the beginning of this latest round of protests and this week he named a commission of seven politicians to lead discussions for a solution to end the crisis.

In Puerto Rico, a colony of the United States, massive protests led to Governor Ricardo A. Rosselló resigning on July 22, 2019. People also want the corrupt legislature cleaned out, the Fiscal Control Board, created by Obama, ended and the debt to be audited. Former political prisoner, Luis Rosa, said three things are needed: “decolonization, an end to our colonial status through a constitutional assembly; health care, free for all Puerto Rican citizens; and free public education up through the university level.”

Stephen Sefton wrote a country-by-country review of Latin America and the Caribbean in June describing the decline of the United States in the region and how changes were coming to many nations. He predicted that we are seeing “the last throw of the dice for the US to retain its accustomed power and influence against the relentless fundamental drive for emancipation by the region’s impoverished majority.”

Rafael Correa said: “Neoliberalism is what failed, not socialism of the 21st century, on the contrary, socialism of the 21st century is what has us firmly on our feet, withstanding all of these difficulties.” This hemisphere is a key battleground in the conflict between neoliberalism v Socialism and US dominance v. independence. People are demanding democracy from the bottom up and a fair economy that meets their needs.

Venezuela and Iran in the Crosshairs of Murderers Inc.

Imagine just for a moment, the World would stand up in unison, sick and tired of the aggressive killer arrogance of the United States and her vassals – and their joint war-force called NATO – and this World, our World, what’s left of it when you deduct Washington and its Brussels allies, would at once block every shipment of everything destined for the ports of the United States of America; every sea port, airport and road port. Hermetically. Nothing would enter. Nothing, no food, no medicine, no electronics, no cars – no nothing. And nothing could leave. No exports, no petrol, no grains, no meat, no pharmaceuticals and foremost, no weapons. Nothing.

And now, take your mind a step further – and imagine the same – exactly the same, a total and full blockage of Israel – nothing would enter, no food, no fuel, no medication, no machinery and especially no weapons – and nothing would leave; a full and total blockage.

This would, of course, be totally illegal; illegal and unacceptable, by any international law, by the standards of the UN Charter, by the Human Rights Laws and Directives, by any ethical values of human morals. Wouldn’t it?  Yet, this is exactly what these countries are doing, have been doing for decades, sanctioning to strangle and murder entire populations into death or submission. The US with Cuba; Israel with Palestine. And the coercion and strangulation go on, unabated.

The longest embargo — illegal, inhuman and outright criminal — Washington imposed on Cuba 60 years. Because Cuba has chosen socialism as her form of state and government. Cuba survived and will never give in to the tyrant of the north.

Now the US is expanding her palette of killing by impunity to dominate and subjugate nation after nation which they do not consider bending sufficiently to the dictate of their masters. Venezuela has been targeted for two decades, ever since former President Hugo Chavez was democratically elected in 1998; and Iran, ever since the US-imposed Shah was deposed in 1979, exactly 40 years ago by Iran’s Islamic Revolution. Both Venezuela and Iran are rich in natural resources, especially hydrocarbons but also in gold, rare earths and other precious metals and stones.

Contrary to what one would like to imagine, international world bodies, like the United Nations and her sister and associated organizations remain just about silent. When a high-level official utters some benign criticism of the US or Israel it flairs up for a moment in the ‘news’, then it disappears again, as if it never happened. And indeed, nothing happens. They – the US and Israel – go on with their crimes in impunity.

The latest is an open declaration of economic warfare by Washington, a total embargo on Venezuela; the embargo is now being turned into a naval blockade. Similar steps are to be taken for Iran. That literally means that no merchandise, no matter how vital for survival, like food and medication, is allowed into Venezuela. Three days ago, the US seized, totally illegally, a cargo ship attempting to deliver food and medication to Venezuela in the Panama Canal, territory which the US does not own or control anymore.

The ship was carrying soy cakes, from which Venezuela was to produce food. Never mind, that the cargoes are fully paid for by Venezuela. And this seems to be just the beginning. Vessels leaving Venezuela with petrol deliveries to client countries are also targeted for blockage, thus confiscating, or rather stealing, Venezuela’s main source of income on which she intends to survive and feed and provide health care for her people. This, in addition to the more than 130 billion dollars total Venezuelan assets confiscated – stolen – by the US worldwide.

And nobody says beep. Almost. Yes, there are some collective protests by countries in solidarity – like key members of the Sao Paulo Forum, as well as more than 60 members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM – total 120 members) that have become especially active in recent years in defense of Venezuela within the United Nations. Protests and protest declarations also take place by ALBA members, a Latin American trade alliance (ALBA — Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America — (11 members: Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Dominica, Ecuador, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, Grenada and the Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis).

But most interesting are the hypocrites, those who write and scream that Venezuelans are starving to death, that the Maduro government neglects its people, yet these accusers-in-falsehood, let the US and her vassals strangle Venezuela and steal her foreign assets, including foreign reserves and gold, food and medical imports, they are saying zilch, nada, nothing. Just watching.

To top it all off, the Human Rights Commissioner, Madame Michelle Bachelet, Hypocrite-in-chief, who recently visited Venezuela, at the invitation of President Nicolas Maduro, on a Human Rights mission, and who delivered a devastating report about Venezuela’s HR, full of lies, half-truths and outright omissions, not mentioning with one word the US inspired coup attempts, the US-funded opposition and its bloody atrocities perpetrated on the Chavista population, and the strangulating and starving by the US and US-dictated European sanctions, Madame Bachelet now came forward condemning the naval blockade. Great. But she did not stand up against the deadly embargo by the US and the European Union.  What credibility remains for the Human Rights Commission?  The world can see it.  It’s all bought, coerced into submission, like so many other UN agencies by the Murderers Inc.

If we are not careful, they are soon going to rule the globe. Thanks god, for Russia and China, which are also subjects of US-EU sanctioning and targeted for take-over. But they are a tiny little bit too big and too strong for this sort of games by the decaying US empire and her obedient rats on the sinking ship.

Similarly, the European Union, despots as they have been for hundreds of years as colonialists in Africa, Asia and Latin America – and continue in a modern colonial role through economic control of much of Africa, this very EU has been sanctioning Venezuela for years on the orders of Washington, naturally, who else?  Now they condemn the naval blockade, but continue their routine sanctions regime.

According to a study carried out by the Washington DC based Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), under guidance of Mark Weisbrot, CEPR co-director and Jeffrey Sachs, economics professor, Director, Center for Sustainable Development, Columbia University, New York, US and EU sanctions have cost some 40,000 Venezuelan lives. This mainly since August 2017, when Washington escalated its unilateral coercive measures against Venezuela and her state oil company, PDVSA, cutting them off international financial markets.

Yes, the world would have plenty of reasons to stand up and dish out similar naval and air blockades against the US and Israel. Just as a teaser to begin with, and if that doesn’t send a strong enough wake-up message, perhaps such embargoes should be considered on a longer-term indefinite scale. It’s illegal. But we are living in a world where international laws don’t count, where laws are made, as we go, by the self-declared hegemon, the US of A, and her symbiotic Middle East ally, Israel. So, why not nudge the legal, moral and ethical order back into balance?

Rising Resistance And Solidarity In The Americas

“If there isn’t justice for the people, there won’t be peace for the governor.” Protesters in Old San Juan on Tuesday call for the resignation of Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who has vowed to remain in office (Thais Llorca/EFE/Zuma Press)

This weekend marks the 40th anniversary of the Sandanista Revolution in Nicaragua. Hundreds of thousands of people celebrated in the streets of Managua Friday night. This past week, mass protests erupted in Puerto Rico over long term corruption and subversion of democracy. A general strike is planned for Monday.

This week is the 25th Sao Paulo Forum, a meeting of left political parties and social movements, in Caracas, Venezuela. We participated in a Sao Paulo Forum of Washington, DC in preparation for the upcoming meeting. A delegation of Venezuelan Embassy Protectors is traveling to Caracas to participate in it.

Latin America has a long history of resistance to US domination and solidarity with social movements in the United States. This resistance and solidarity is critical to our success in the United States if we are to stop the machine and create a new world.

40th anniversary of Sandanista Revolution in Nicaragua (By Ben Norton, Twitter)

Resisting US Coup Attempts and Building the Good Life

Forty years ago, the Sandanista Front for National Liberation, named after Augusto Sandino, a revolutionary in the 1920s and 30s, ousted the US-backed dictator, Anastasia Somoza, from the country. This day, now called the National Day of Happiness, is celebrated every year. Check out The Grayzone Project’s Twitter feed for videos of the celebrations.

Under the leadership of the Junta of National Reconstruction, which included the future leader and president Daniel Ortega, Nicaraguans took action to provide healthcare, education, eradicate illiteracy, build roads and energy infrastructure, provide land and develop food sovereignty. They greatly reduced both economic and gender inequality.

Nicaraguans enjoyed a stable life until an attempted coup to remove President Ortega, backed by the United States, in mid-2018. Similar to pro-coup protests in Venezuela, there were blockades built by violent coup-supporters who attacked and brutally killed 198 police officers, Sandanistas and bystanders. That coup attempt was stopped despite the media lies designed to confuse the public. A year later, the truth continues to emerge but peace prevails once again. An excellent book, Live From Nicaragua: Uprising or a Coup, A Reader, breaks through the false narratives of the attempted coup and gives information helpful to understanding the situation in Nicaragua.

A delegation from Veterans for Peace is visiting Nicaragua for the anniversary. We look forward to their reports. We attended a celebration at the Nicaraguan Embassy in Washington, DC hosted by Ambassador Francisco Campbell. He described current efforts in Nicaragua to bring truth and reconciliation to reunite a country divided by US interference and the coup attempt.

Nicaragua is a member of the United States’ “Troika of Tyranny,” which includes Cuba and Venezuela. These are three Latin American countries that have broken from US domination and continue to be punished for expressing their self-determination.

Cuba has been experiencing a blockade since 1958, which has driven the country to develop a resistance economy without reliance on foreign goods. Although the blockades have hurt their economy and restricted access to necessities, such as medications, Cubans have better health outcomes than people in the United States due to their well-designed universal healthcare system.

Venezuela continues to resist the current US-led coup attempt, even though the United States is taking it to new extremes. This past week, USAID, a regime change institution, announced the Trump administration is going to use almost $42 million designated for aid to Central America to pay for salaries and supplies for the right-wing opposition led by the self-declared president, Juan Guaido. The corruption of Guaido’s people continues to be exposed. Two more members of Guaido’s team were arrested for trying to sell stolen weapons.

Will Mexico be next? Arturo Sanchez Jimenez outlines what he sees as the early stages of a right-wing coup targeting the new president, AMLO.

Join the People’s Mobilization to Stop the US War Machine and Save the Planet this September in New York City. Learn more here.

Protest in Puerto Rico calling for Governor to resign (by Juan Carlos Dávila)

Resistance is Growing in Latin America

Ecuador was making great strides in meeting its population’s needs under President Rafael Correa, but that is being reversed by the current president, Lenin Moreno. Moreno is known worldwide for ending Julian Assange’s asylum and allowing police into the London Embassy to arrest him, but his actions against the Ecuadorian peoples has been similarly harsh. Moreno campaigned on continuing Correa’s programs but has done the opposite. In this interview, Andres Arauz, a member of Correa’s economic team, explains Ecuador’s neoliberal turn under Moreno.

Ecuadorians launched a five-day general strike last Monday to protest “handing over Ecuador to US imperialism.” Among their complaints were Ecuador imposing austerity after receiving a loan from the International Monetary Fund, a US military base proposed in the Galapagos Islands and the imprisonment of Julian Assange.

Mass protests have also erupted in Puerto Rico. Hundreds of thousands of people, many who have never protested before, are taking the streets in San Juan and throughout Puerto Rico. They are facing police repression with tear gas and pepper spray. On Monday, they are holding a general strike.

The protests began when hundreds of pages of chat logs between Governor Ricardo Rosello and other officials were released. They contained derogatory statements and disrespect for the thousands who died after Hurricane Maria. Protesters are calling for the Governor to resign. Other government officials included in the chats have already resigned.

Although the chats were the proverbial “last straw,” according to Miguel Diaz-Cruz, a Puerto Rican doctoral student, the protests are the result of “five centuries of uninterrupted imperialism, free-market disaster capitalism, an imposed dictatorial fiscal control board controlled by the very same people that bankrupted the island, and a storm of the century which was fueled by climate change.”

We spoke with Puerto Rican lawyer, Natasha Bannan, who has participated in the protests, on Clearing the FOG. The episode will be published on Monday. She goes into depth on the problems Puerto Ricans are facing, describes what it will take to start the process of resolving them and explains how activists can be supportive.

The 40th anniversary of the Sandanista Revolution is celebrated in Washington, DC with Americans from many countries at the Nicaraguan Embassy (Popular Resistance)

Why Resistance and Solidarity Matter to Activists in the United States

People in the United States often refer to themselves as “Americans.” Sadly, this is not done in the spirit that all people in the Americas, South, and North, are Americans. Instead, we in the US are taught to see the other Americans as different from us. This is part of US hegemony and the Monroe Doctrine that views Latin America as “our backyard.” It’s why people in the US, USians, accept unilateral coercive economic measures, exploitative trade deals and violent coups that harm other Americans.

All Americans are victims of US actions that destabilize and exploit American territories. We probably don’t think about it that way very much, but what hurts our neighbors hurts us. Blockades mean that USians can’t benefit from medical breakthroughs in Cuba or inexpensive oil programs from Venezuela. Exploitative trade deals mean US jobs are moved South of the border to Mexico, Honduras, Haiti and other countries where wages are lower and there are fewer worker protections.

In the United States, we are also victims of the US Empire. The Empire Economy consumes over 60% of federal discretionary spending on the military. This means less money for necessary programs to provide healthcare, education, housing, and food. The massive US weapons and military industry mean new “customers” must always be found for the products they make, which fuels wars abroad that add to global insecurity and destruction and militarization of our communities at home where the “others” are black and brown people, the poor and homeless. The US military is the largest institutional user of fossil fuels and a major polluter, driving the climate crisis and environmental contamination.

If we are to overcome the US Empire, it will take all of us together. This is one reason why solidarity between all Americans is essential. We in the United States have much to learn from our American brothers and sisters who have been targets of imperialism for centuries. We also have much to learn about the ways countries like Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela are working to reduce inequality, meet basic needs and provide a better quality of life for their peoples.

Events like the Sao Paulo Forum are opportunities to come together, get to know and learn from each other. A delegation from the Embassy Protective Collective will attend the Sao Paulo Forum this week in Venezuela. We cannot attend because of our ongoing prosecution by the Trump administration for staying in the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, DC, but we are sending Vanessa Beck, a representative from Popular Resistance who will bring a message of solidarity. Vanessa is also a leader of Black Alliance for Peace.

We also attended the Sao Paulo Forum in Washington, DC where we agreed to ten resolutions of solidarity that will be brought to the Forum in Venezuela. At the DC Forum, the Embassy Protection Collective was presented with a powerful painting by the indigenous Salvadoran artist, William Berry. Dan Kovalik donated copies of his new book, The Plot to Overthrow Venezuela, which were sold at the forum to raise funds for the Embassy Protectors Defense Committee.

Learn more about the Embassy Protectors Defense Committee at DefendEmbassyProtectors.org and how you can participate to support the collective’s defense against malicious US prosecution.

Resistance is rising. We can join together in that resistance with acts of solidarity to stop the US war machine and create a new world.