Category Archives: Human Rights

Assange and the Cowardice of Power

Donald Trump has never heard of WikiLeaks, the publishing organization whose work he repeatedly and unequivocally touted during the 2016 election campaign. “I know nothing about WikiLeaks,” he told reporters after Julian Assange was illegally arrested, after being illegally detained for seven years, in London. “It’s not my thing and I know there is something having to do with Julian Assange.”

Moving past the Trumpian paradox (he knows both “nothing” and “something” about WikiLeaks”), here’s a question for our dear leader: is your own Justice Department “your thing”? Because it was your Justice Department that filed the charges against a man who risked his liberty, and his life, to tell the truth about the most powerful criminal syndicate in the world—the American empire.

Is Trump’s cabinet “his thing”? Was he out golfing when his erstwhile attorney general, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, told the press that arresting Assange was “a priority”? How about when his secretary of state called WikiLeaks “a non-state hostile intelligence service”? Trump’s regime appears to have a remarkable level of interest in an organization about which he knows nothing.

“The weakness of the US charge against Assange is shocking.” That was Edward Snowden’s reaction to the Justice Department’s indictment against Assange. He adds that one of the government’s principal allegations—that Assange attempted to help Manning crack a password in the interest of protecting her identity—has been public knowledge for nearly ten years. Also that Obama, no friend to whistle-blowers, refused to act on it, citing dangers to press freedom.

For those who haven’t read the indictment, please do. It won’t take ten minutes, and it will give you an idea of how far the US government is willing to go to punish those brave enough to expose its sins.

The case against Assange (for now) boils down to this: he allegedly took measures to protect the identity of his source and allegedly encouraged his source to find and pass along more information about American criminality in Iraq and Afghanistan. This, as various journalists have pointed out, is standard journalistic practice. Would Nixon have been nailed by Watergate if Woodward and Bernstein hadn’t repeatedly gone back to their source for further evidence of the president’s malfeasance?

Speaking of Woodward, Snowden reminds us that he (Woodward) “stated publicly he would have advised me to remain in place and act as a mole.” If only Assange had done that—maybe the indictment would carry a little more drama. But all he allegedly did was say, in response to Manning’s claim that she didn’t have any more documents to share, that “curious eyes never run dry in my experience.” The horror!

The allegation that Assange conspired with Manning to gain unauthorized access to a government computer is equally underwhelming and misleading. Manning had authorized access to the secret documents she leaked: what Assange did was try to help her access them from a different username. If successful (it apparently wasn’t), this effort would not have given Manning access to any additional files—it merely would have ensured, or at least enhanced, her anonymity.

FYI: Manning has been locked up in Alexandria, Virginia for more than a month now, spending most of that time in solitary confinement, for refusing to testify against WikiLeaks and Assange in front of a secret grand jury.

Chiming in from her ivory tower, Hillary Clinton joined Democratic and Republican lawmakers in gloating about Assange’s unlawful arrest: “The bottom line is he has to answer for what he has done, at least as it’s been charged.”

We know what he’s been charged with; now let’s recall what he has actually done. Using time-honored journalistic methods, he shone a hard light on crimes routinely committed by the American empire in the name of the American people—crimes that would otherwise have remained concealed behind an iron curtain of government deception and media complicity.

“On the morning of July 12, 2007, two Apache helicopters using 30mm cannon fire killed about a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad. Two children were also wounded. Although some of the men appear to have been armed, the behavior of nearly everyone was relaxed. The US military initially claimed that all the dead were ‘anti-Iraqi forces’ or ‘insurgents.’”

That’s the preface to Collateral Murder, the notorious video published by WikiLeaks showing American troops firing on a group of people standing around in the street. Two of them were Reuters journalists; both of them were killed. “Ha ha ha, I hit ‘em,” one soldier chuckles after the first round of fire. “Oh yeah, look at those dead bastards,” another says, to which another responds, “Nice. Good shootin’.”

The video, more disturbing to your average person than a sterile civilian casualties report, illustrates why the Military Tribunal at Nuremberg named “military aggression,” not genocide, as the “supreme international crime”: because it establishes a context in which murder becomes not only commonplace, but banal. At the end of that road lies Auschwitz.

Crimes like the one depicted in Collateral Murder are facilitated and rendered acceptable by crimes of a much greater magnitude, like Bush’s invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

What Julian Assange did—what Hillary Clinton says “he has to answer for”—is show people the consequences of their governments’ actions, so that maybe one day individuals like Hillary Clinton will be stripped of their impunity and made to answer for what they have done. That is the quintessence of journalism and, according to the United States, an intolerable crime. Behold the cowardice of power.

As for the UK’s role in this charade, while it has long been clear that London is a faithful servant of the American empire, extraditing Assange to the US—whereupon new and more serious charges will almost certainly be leveled against him—would mark a new depth of national disgrace.

At the time of his arrest Assange was reportedly clutching in his hand a book by Gore Vidal. In a 2009 interview with The Independent, an octogenarian Vidal was asked for his thoughts on modern England. “This isn’t a country,” he said, “it’s an American aircraft carrier.” Indeed.

Phoenix in Knightsbridge

(Photo: Screengrab)

If the circumstances surrounding the seizure of Mr Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy in London are correctly viewed, that is compared to appropriately comparable phenomena, then what we have is an audacious daylight act of state terrorism, comparable to the routines developed in Vietnam during the war the US waged against that country. Special forces of the State were deployed to “snatch” a person in violation of any due process or other conventions we are told restrict and regulate the exercise of police and judicial power. The fact that he was seized by people in uniform in broad daylight, does not alter the fact that the chain of events which led Mr Assange to seek asylum from the government of Ecuador and its systematic violation by the British government, is consistent with the lawlessness which now prevails when the State attacks its civilian opponents—the organised lawlessness that was called Phoenix.1 Many readers may well have forgotten how HM Government reacted to an extradition request by the government of Spain, when Augusto Pinochet was whiling on that blessed isle. It has always been unstated policy that asylum is only respected when it serves the designs of the regime. Pinochet was a friend of the regime. Mr Assange is not.

Julian Assange’s case, all nine years of it, can also be seen as a barometer for the policing atmosphere in the Empire. Culminating last year with the election of an army reservist and a general to the Brazilian Executive, the steady suppression of political reform in South America continued unabated while no effort was spared to isolate the Australian heretic. Philip Agee was assigned to Ecuador early in his career. He reported in CIA Diary how long it took then to change the Ecuadorian government, but how it was successful through a combination of bribery and other deceits.2 Getting an Ecuadorian president, who would agree to rescind Mr Assange’s asylum status long enough for Phoenix to fly into the Knightsbridge embassy, was no uncommon feat even if it took time.

Mere mortals are fortunate to plan in days or months, a year at the most. However “the privileged few” know that they are part of an immortal institution for which time is just another resource. It is a serious mistake to measure institutional time and individual time with the same watch.  What was presented as an almost accidental or fortuitous event was, in fact, the result of careful planning and coordination—of organisational intelligence. Organisational intelligence means that the institution created is capable of controlling the behaviour of all involved in a process even without conscious or deliberate commands. Mr Assange was declared an enemy and everyone involved knows how his or her particular work is directed to support the attack on the “enemy”. Those managing the Ecuadorian elections do not need to be told that a president who will revoke the London asylum is needed. Those who are charged with seizing Mr Assange know what they need and can see the opportunities. This is also a key purpose of intelligence coordination and exploitation—to assure that local operations benefit from those conceived globally or executed elsewhere.

Julian Assange was seized openly and in broad daylight to permit the regime to present his seizure as an arrest, rather than a kidnapping. The Press—which flatters its participation in state power by calling itself the Fourth Estate—has an important function. Despite some whining about violation of “freedom of speech” or “of the Press” from all the compatible corners of the Mass Media, the actual reporting serves to distract from the key issue which made Mr Assange’s Wikileaks revolutionary (as opposed to some other apparent disclosures): namely, that unlike Edward Snowden, and more like Philip Agee, Mr Assange rejected the premise that the State has any right to secrecy at all.

This is not only treasonous (if one accepts any duty of allegiance to the sovereign) but also, heretical. It helps to recall that until the Counter-Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church forbade the reading of the canonical texts it called the Holy Bible by anyone not ordained. The Reformation is often trivialised as a few doctrinal changes and the establishment of national churches. However, it took considerable revolt and much violence before ordinary people were allowed to read the works, which ostensibly formed the bedrock of Christendom and Roman Catholic imperial ideology. Wikileaks is fairly compared with the first publications of the canonical texts in the vernacular and their open dissemination without clerical approval or control.

The public performance at the Ecuadorian embassy was designed to give the Press an event—always marketable in itself. There were, no doubt, some of the “privileged few” who would have preferred to send a SEAL Team. However, there is probably a consensus that the executive action against Mr bin Laden was not as successful as intended.3 Staging the invasion of Ecuadorian sovereign territory (by diplomatic convention) with people dressed as police officers and paramilitary forces (none of whose actual organisational affiliation can be stated with certainty) gave the viewers a treat to “reality TV” version of their favourite vigilante/cop show.

However, it was also staged to give the kidnapping the colour of law—although clearly an illegal act. Moreover, it shapes the issue around whether Mr Assange will be treated fairly as a criminal—his criminal status already established by the measures taken to seize him. (Again, recall that Augusto Pinochet was allowed to leave Britain despite a valid British extradition order and he had never requested asylum.) The performance also creates the “legal” position from which the Fourth Estate can reassert itself ritually by claiming that Assange’s seizure was potentially a violation of Press freedom.

First of all, there is no such “freedom”. Moreover, what is commonly understood as that “freedom” has rarely ever been exercised by nine-tenths of those who claim to be the “Press”. The Press is only free by Western definition4 to the extent that it can be and is owned (by private capital or agents thereof). Free Press is like “free trade” (a concept originating to defend the free trade in African slaves).

Julian Assange — by refusing to recognize State claims to secrecy — performed a revolutionary act. This is what made his work significant and why he ought to be praised and where possible defended. However, he cannot be defended by people who are not, in some serious sense, revolutionaries or sincere sympathisers. (That may even mean that Mr Assange’s defenders too become targets, if only in the “C” category.) The so-called Press or as the truly vain and vacuous are fond of calling it– the Fourth Estate– are merely calling attention to their role in upholding the regime they ostensibly would criticise. In the West the “journalist” has been marketed as a kind of holy person, when, in fact, the publishing journalist is often a “cleric”, or an advertising hack, or maybe someone who has to produce the “news product” with which the Fourth Estate (the propaganda industry) maintains the Establishment and its control over the system.5

Gerald Horne’s suggestion that the Enlightenment “freedoms” were essentially articulated to create an ideology for white supremacy and private ownership of non-whites goes far toward explaining the contradiction in which these “lefties” find themselves.6 If one really treats information as public domain and denies the State’s right to secrecy (secrecy claimed to protect “interests”) then one strikes at one of the main pillars that supports the ideology of “freedom” for whites and slavery for the rest. The “interests” that the State ostensibly protects are the desire to retain and expand the private property owned by those who own the State. Today one State on this planet claims and defends its national sovereignty, denying all others, as an exclusive and globally enforceable prerogative—it is the sovereignty over the entire “owned” world and no one else has a right to property beyond the white elite by and for whom that State was constituted.

That State includes most of what is called the Press, concentrated as it is in some five global media corporations.

The fact that the Press is a business that trades in data, variously called information, advertising, etc., means that to publish beyond the Press — as Assange did — is to challenge the ownership of information, the propaganda of property, and the privilege of those who serve these institutions calling themselves “journalists”.

There are workers in the Mass Media, in the Press as a whole. Like most of the nuns and monks in the Middle Ages, they are often exploited labour for the benefit of the higher clergy. They are essentially workers. Workers cannot be faulted for defending their livelihood. Like any peasant or factory worker, they earn wages but do not own their product (a relationship protected by the modern intellectual property regime). It may be a tragedy when a strike is defeated and workers are forced to return to labour just to feed themselves and their families. However, it is quite different when one watches out the top floor office window at the strikebreakers in action, waxing sentimentally that one is also a “worker”.

Julian Assange’s seizure, his kidnapping by forces of the State, is not an assault on the Press. The Press is owned and managed by those who comprise that very State. The “freedom” of which Mr Assange is being deprived is his humanity. By suggesting that this is an attack on supposed “freedom of the Press” attention is being distracted (one of the jobs of the Press and its functionaries) from the crimes against humanity upon which the regime has always been based. Wikileaks breached the wall which had allowed “media courtiers” to hide their knowledge of State crimes. It validated the practice of viewing “state secrets” and deciding for oneself what the State was doing. The Press was created to praise and protect those crimes — crimes committed by Business and the State: by the ruling elite, both individually and collectively — through the manipulation of public consciousness.

The significance of Assange’s Wikileaks was that it opposed the prevailing control of information by the PRESS– through its cadres, often also known as “journalists”. Mr Assange’s release of documents and data produced by the State and the corporations for which it works has been an attempt to prove that there is evidence to discredit and condemn State/corporate action — that there is malice aforethought. The principle is not just of one but a preponderance of smoking guns that need not be ignored. Unlike the stars of “investigative journalism” who call their selection and censorship “analysis” and deceive the public with celebrity and confidential sources, Wikileak’s sheer volume of documents can be examined without clerical mediation. This could be called a “Reformation” but not the reformation of Luther or Calvin– instead it has the calibre of Thomas Muentzer. No priests, or “stars” are needed at all. Certainly none are needed to establish the facts of a criminal conspiracy so large as US capitalism.

Unfortunately, Thomas Muentzer was murdered and the Peasant Revolt violently suppressed with the enthusiastic support of Martin Luther — the Great Reformer.7   Luther’s Reformation survived and a new form of state church emerged to compete with Roman Catholicism.

Muentzer’s death did not put an end to peasant revolts. Whatever happens to Julian Assange will surely not end the state of revolt in which the world finds itself now — a revolt against the New Rome on the Potomac. Surely Mr Assange knows that, too. He has given his life in a struggle in which many millions before him have suffered and died. He is not a “journalist” but a revolutionary and a true human being.

  1. Douglas Valentine, The CIA as Organised Crime and The Phoenix Program.
  2. Philip Agee, CIA Diary: Inside the Company.
  3. If one believes the cumulative lies in the official US account of Mr Osama bin Laden, then in May 2011 a group of specially trained killers called Seal Team Six performed an extrajudicial execution (assassination) but failed to recover or retain the corpse- of one Osama bin Laden. The US Navy Sea Air Land (hence SEAL) organisation was created in 1962. Thus the US Navy could deploy “special warfare” assets along with the Army’s “Green Berets” in support of US political and psychological warfare objectives in Southeast Asia. The mystique attached to “special warfare” relies on the deliberate cultivation of America’s supposed “victim” status combined with the regime’s history of terrorising slaves and indigenous using small unit terror tactics. The doctrine of the US regime’s postwar special operations was also heavily influenced by Nazi SS officers recovered from Europe and employed as advisors and trainers with their “Einsatzgruppe” model.
  4. For a discussion of suppressed global debate about the actual content of “press freedom”, see the UNESCO report on the New International Information Order, the so-called McBride Report. Many Voices One World, Report of the International Commission for the Study of Communication Problems (1980). Although initiated by the US delegation, it was condemned by the US and UK because its findings about global media ownership and control highlighted the conflict between Anglo-American media monopolies and the demands of developing countries for a fair treatment of their communication and information needs.
  5. The use of the term “journalist” by persons associated with the Mass Media/Press is problematic to say the least. Not only was professional journalism organised in the late 19th century to establish commercial and ideological control over the writers and investigators (one reason Upton Sinclair considered his The Jungle literature and not “journalism”), but news agencies have long functioned as quasi-espionage organisations; e.g., since its founding in 1851 Reuters provided advance “business” information to various interests among the British elite during European wars. Moreover, the status of journalist has often been given as cover for members of the secret services in the performance of their espionage work. There are obviously writers and broadcasters who pursue their craft for an honest living. They are generally subject to all of the restrictions and prohibitions—explicit and implicit—that any employer imposes on its employees.
  6. Gerald Horne, The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism, The Roots of Slavery, White Supremacy and Capitalism in Seventeenth Century North America and the Caribbean, 2018.
  7. Thomas Muentzer (1489 – 1525) was ordained a secular priest. The Peasant’s Revolt (1524 -25) occurred in Thuringia, Germany. After its bloody suppression, supported by the Augustinian Luther, Muentzer, one of its leaders, was captured, tortured, beheaded, his body impaled and his head mounted on a pole for public display.

Terms of Asylum and Distraction: Moreno’s Assange Problem

Political asylum is an accepted if often ignored right. It is also at the mercy of those interests that grant it.  Ecuador’s repeated insistence on conditioning Julian Assange’s stay in its London abode is tantamount to corroding the idea of asylum to vacuity.  You are granted asylum as a political dissident, but political dissident you shall not be, especially when it comes to exposing the secrets of your landlord.

Assange has ventured to test the onerous limits on his conduct that have been imposed by embassy protocols, taking the matter to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.  His argument has been that the strict rules applied to his stay, entailing a monitoring of visits, control of medical bills, communications, expenses and pet care were a violation of “fundamental rights and freedoms”.  The Commission, as it transpired, did not bite.

The Ecuadorean response was a crowing one, arguing that the state’s treatment of Assange was in accordance with international law, and that their guest’s situation “cannot be extended indefinitely and (Ecuador) expects it to be resolved as soon as possible.”

Ecuador’s Attorney General Íñigo Salvador, summed it up in smug fashion. “The decision was based on the fact that the request filed by Assange did not comply with the requirements of gravity, urgency and irreparable harm provided for in Article 25 of the Rules of Procedure of the IACHR.”  The peculiar twist to this, however, was that such impositions could be justified as protecting, not impairing, Assange’s rights.  “With this decision [by the Commission], the Special Protocol of Visits, Communications and Medical Care remains in force, which guarantees the rights of the asylee.”

Assange has been accused of muddying the stables throughout his stay, but the calls have become more strident over the last eighteen months.  A year of muzzling and limiting Assange’s conduct has become both cruel and comical.  President Lenín Moreno seems to be waiting for the moment where a final stroke of agitation will release him from any sense of restraint.

On Tuesday, that moment might have come. Moreno insisted that Assange had been a serial violator of his terms of asylum. “We should ensure Mr Assange’s life is not at risk but he’s violated the agreement we have with him so many times.”

The Ecuadorean president, in pained tones, claimed that “photos of my bedroom, what I eat and how my wife and daughters and friends dance” had been doing the buzzing rounds on social media.  While Moreno did not explicitly accuse Assange of being behind that spray of material, the accusing voice was unmistakable.  The Vice President Otto Sonnenholzner confirmed it, loudly proclaiming that what WikiLeaks had done was “repugnant”.  The Minister for Foreign Affairs, José Valencia, focused on Assange’s means of communication, arguing that he had been biting the hand that had fed him.

The office of the President has also made a formal, if risible, complaint to Joseph Cannataci, the special rapporteur for the right to privacy based at the UN Human Rights Council, accusing WikiLeaks and other “possible authors” of disseminating private photos and personal information obtained from Moreno’s own computers, tablets and a miscellany of devices.  Cannataci’s good offices are being used, in turn, to deal with claims by WikiLeaks that Ecuador is spying on him.  The dark face continues.

The entire show of puffed indignation seemed an enormous distraction.  Last week, the Ecuadorean National Assembly passed a resolution calling for a corruption probe into Moreno’s affairs regarding the INA Papers.  The INA Investment Corp of Panama fame specialises in minimising (dare one say evading?) tax, and it took a publication by digital news platform La Fuente on February 19 to suggest a link between Moreno, his family and the company.  From that particular haven, it is alleged, ample funds were used from an offshore account to make an assortment of payments covering gifts, furniture purchases, and an apartment in Spain.

In the words of an official statement, “With 74 votes, the National Assembly approved a resolution that requires the Inspection Commission to carry out an analysis of the publication dated Feb. 19, 2018, in a digital platform called ‘The Offshore Labyrinth Of The Presidential Circle.’”

A close reading of the resolution hardly suggests that Moreno is going to be in much trouble; the focus, as María José Carrión of Moreno’s own party, Alianza Pais, has explained, will involve “an analysis of this journalistic publication.  It won’t be an investigation, as it’s not possible for the President to be summoned because the law is clear and for that to happen it must be within the framework of a political trial, which is not the case.”

Fidel Narváez, former consul at the Ecuador embassy in London, has a working and plausible hypothesis: the entire spectacle is being engineered to throw the curious and vigilant off the scent, one that is becoming rather piquant.  Not a single document connected with the INA Papers matter has ever been personally leaked or published by Assange or WikiLeaks.  The Assembly, he charges, has become a place of ludicrous activity in attempting to investigate Assange in the name of protecting “national interests”.

While the increasingly crotchety approach from the Moreno government suggests an imminent decision on his fate, Assange has not been left without some legal ammunition.  The Inter-American Court of Human Rights, in a ruling issued on May 30 last year, made it clear that Assange should not only be released but granted safe passage to Ecuador as part of the right to asylum.  The advisory opinion considered the right to seek and receive asylum in a foreign country pursuant to the American Convention on Human Rights (Article 22(7)) and Article XXVII of the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man.

The protection against refoulement, in which a person’s life, integrity, security and/or liberty might be at risk, was held to bind States extraterritorially “whenever authorities exercise their authority or effective control over such persons, as may happen in legations, and that, by their own nature, may be in the territory of another State with that State’s consent and authorization.”  But Moreno, and his colleagues are a desperate bunch, and their latest efforts suggest that scapegoating Assange and readying him for the fall might offer some measure of therapeutic relief, however brief.

“The Essence of Being Palestinian”: What the Great March of Return is Really About

The aims of the Great March of Return protests, which began in Gaza on March 30, 2018 are to put an end to the suffocating Israeli siege and implementing the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees who were expelled from their homes and towns in historic Palestine 70 years earlier.

But there is much more to the March of Return than a few demands, especially bearing in mind the high human cost associated with it.

According to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, over 250 people have been killed and 6,500 wounded, including children, medics and journalists.

Aside from the disproportionately covered ‘flaming kites’ and youth symbolically cutting through the metal fences that have besieged them for many years, the March has been largely non-violent. Despite this, Israel has killed and maimed protesters with impunity.

A UN human rights commission of inquiry found last month that Israel may have committed war crimes against protesters, resulting in the killing of 189 Palestinians within the period March 30 and December 31, 2018.

The inquiry found “reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli snipers shot at children, medics and journalists, even though they were clearly recognizable as such,” the investigators concluded as reported by BBC online.

Many in the media, however, still do not understand what the Great March of Return really means for Palestinians.

A cynically titled report in the Washington Post attempted to offer an answer. The article, “Gazans have paid in blood for a year of protests. Now many wonder what it was for,” selectively quoted wounded Palestinians who, supposedly, feel that their sacrifices were in vain.

Aside from providing the Israeli military with a platform to blame the Hamas Movement for the year-long march, the long report ended with these two quotes:

The March of Return “achieved nothing,” according to one injured Palestinian.

“The only thing I can find is that it made people pay attention,” said another.

If the Washington Post paid attention, it would have realized that the mood among Palestinians is neither cynical nor despairing.

The Post should have wondered: if the march ‘achieved nothing’, why were Gazans still protesting, and the popular and inclusive nature of the March has not been compromised?

“The Right of Return is more than a political position,” said Sabreen al-Najjar, the mother of young Palestinian medic, Razan, who, on June 1, 2018, was fatally shot by the Israeli army while trying to help wounded Palestinian protesters. It is “more than a principle: wrapped up in it, and reflected in literature and art and music, is the essence of what it means to be Palestinian. It is in our blood.”

Indeed, what is the ‘Great March of Return’ but a people attempting to reclaim their role, and be recognized and heard in the struggle for the liberation of Palestine?

What is largely missing from the discussion on Gaza is the collective psychology behind this kind of mobilization, and why it is essential for hundreds of thousands of besieged people to rediscover their power and understand their true position, not as hapless victims, but as agents of change in their society.

The narrow reading, or the misrepresentation of the March of Return, speaks volumes about the overall underestimation of the role of the Palestinian people in their struggle for freedom, justice and national liberation, extending for a century.

The story of Palestine is the story of the Palestinian people, for they are the victims of oppression and the main channel of resistance, starting with the Nakba – the creation of Israel on the ruins of Palestinian towns and villages in 1948. Had Palestinians not resisted, their story would have concluded then, and they, too, would have disappeared.

Those who admonish Palestinian resistance or, like the Post, fail to understand the underlying value of popular movement and sacrifices, have little understanding of the psychological ramifications of resistance – the sense of collective empowerment and hope which spreads amongst the people. In his introduction to Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth, Jean-Paul Sartre describes resistance, as it was passionately vindicated by Fanon, as a process through which “a man is re-creating himself.”

For 70 years, Palestinians have embarked on that journey of the re-creation of the self. They have resisted, and their resistance in all of its forms has molded a sense of collective unity, despite the numerous divisions that were erected amongst the people.

The March of Return is the latest manifestation of the ongoing Palestinian resistance.

It is obvious that elitist interpretations of Palestine have failed – Oslo proved a worthless exercise in empty clichés, aimed at sustaining American political dominance in Palestine as well as in the rest of the Middle East.

But the signing of the Oslo Accord in 1993 shattered the relative cohesiveness of the Palestinian discourse, thus weakening and dividing the Palestinian people.

In the Israeli Zionist narrative, Palestinians are depicted as drifting lunatics, an inconvenience that hinders the path of progress – a description that regularly defined the relationship between every western colonial power and the colonized, resisting natives.

Within some Israeli political and academic circles, Palestinians merely ‘existed’ to be ‘cleansed’, to make room for a different, more deserving people. From the Zionist perspective, the ‘existence’ of the natives is meant to be temporary. “We must expel Arabs and take their place,” wrote Israel’s founding father, David Ben Gurion.

Assigning the roles of dislocated, disinherited and nomadic to the Palestinian people, without consideration for the ethical and political implications of such a perception, has erroneously presented Palestinians as a docile and submissive collective.

Hence, it is imperative that we develop a clearer understanding of the layered meanings behind the Great March of Return. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza did not risk life and limb over the last year simply because they required urgent medicine and food supplies.

Palestinians did so because they understand their centrality in their struggle. Their protests are a collective statement, a cry for justice, an ultimate reclamation of their narrative as a people – still standing, still powerful and still hopeful after 70 years of Nakba, 50 years of military occupation and 12 years of unrelenting siege.

How Israel is Working to Remove Palestinians from Jerusalem

The 350,000 Palestinian inhabitants of occupied East Jerusalem are caught between a rock and hard place, as Israel works ever harder to remove them from the holy city in which they were born, analysts and residents warn.

That process, they say, has only accelerated in the wake of US President Donald Trump’s decision a year ago to relocate the American embassy to Jerusalem, effectively endorsing the city as Israel’s exclusive capital.

“Israel wants Palestinians in Jerusalem to understand that they are trapped, that they are being strangled, in the hope they will conclude that life is better outside the city,” said Amneh Badran, a politics professor at Jerusalem’s Al Quds university.

Since Israel seized the eastern part of Jerusalem in 1967 and then illegally annexed it in 1981, it has intentionally left the status of its Palestinian population unresolved.

Israeli officials have made Palestinians there “permanent residents,” though, in practice, their residency is easily revoked. According to Israel’s own figures, more than 14,500 Palestinians have been expelled from the city of their birth since 1967, often compelling their families to join them in exile.

Further, Israel finished its concrete wall slicing through East Jerusalem three years ago, cutting some 140,000 Palestinian residents off from the rest of the city.

A raft of well-documented policies – including house demolitions, a chronic shortage of classrooms, lack of public services, municipal underfunding, land seizures, home evictions by Jewish settlers, denial of family unification, and police and settler violence – have intensified over the years.

At the same time, Israel has denied the Palestinian Authority, a supposed government-in-waiting in the West Bank, any role in East Jerusalem, leaving the city’s Palestinians even more isolated and weak.

All of these factors are designed to pressure Palestinians to leave, usually to areas outside the wall or to nearby West Bank cities like Ramallah or Bethlehem.

“In Jerusalem, Israel’s overriding aim is at its most transparent: to take control of the land but without its Palestinian inhabitants,” said Daoud Alg’ol, a researcher on Jerusalem.

Like others, Mr Alg’ol noted that Israel had stepped up its ‘Judaisation’ policies in Jerusalem since the US relocated its embassy. “Israel is working more quickly, more confidently and more intensively because it believes Trump has given his blessing,” he said.

Demographic concerns dominated Israel’s thinking from the moment it occupied East Jerusalem in 1967, and subordinated it to the control of Jewish officials in West Jerusalem – in what Israel termed its newly “united capital”.

City boundaries were expanded eastwards to attach additional Palestinian lands to Jerusalem and then fill in the empty spaces with a ring of large Jewish settlements, said Aviv Tartasky, a researcher with Ir Amim, an organisation that campaigns for equal rights in Jerusalem.

The goal, he added, was to shore up a permanent three-quarters Jewish majority – to ensure Palestinians could not stake a claim to the city and to allay Israeli fears that one day the Palestinians might gain control of the municipality through elections.

Israel has nonetheless faced a shrinking Jewish majority because of higher Palestinian birth rates. Today, Palestinians comprise about 40 per cent of the total population of this artificially enlarged Jerusalem.

Israel has therefore been aggressively pursuing a twin-pronged approach, according to analysts.

On one side, wide-ranging discriminatory policies – that harm Palestinians and favour Jewish settlers – have been designed to erode Palestinians’ connection to Jerusalem, encouraging them to leave. And, on the other, revocation of residency rights and the gradual redrawing of municipal boundaries have forcibly placed Palestinians outside the city – in what some experts term a “silent transfer” or administrative ethnic cleansing.

Israel’s efforts to disconnect Palestinians from Jerusalem are most visibly expressed in the change of Arabic script on road signs. The city’s Arabic name, Al Quds (the Holy), has been gradually replaced by the Israeli name, Urshalim, transliterated into Arabic.

The lack of services and municipal funding and high unemployment mean that three-quarters of Palestinians in East Jerusalem live below the poverty line. That compares to only 15 per cent for Israeli Jews nationally.

Despite these abysmal figures, the municipality has provided four social services offices in the city for Palestinians, compared to 19 for Israeli Jews.

Only half of Palestinian residents are provided with access to the water grid. There are similar deficiencies in postal services, road infrastructure, pavements and cultural centres.

Meanwhile, human rights groups have noted that East Jerusalem lacks at least 2,000 classrooms for Palestinian children, and that the condition of 43 per cent of existing rooms is inadequate. A third of pupils fail to complete basic schooling.

But the biggest pressure on Palestinian residents has been inflicted through grossly discriminatory planning rules, said Mr Tartasky.

In the areas outside the wall, Palestinians have been abandoned by the municipality – and receive no services or policing at all.

Israel’s long-term aim, said Mr Tartasky, had been exposed in a leak of private comments made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2015. He had proposed revoking the residency of the 140,000 Palestinians outside the wall.

“At the moment, the government is discussing putting these residents under the responsibility of the army,” Mr Tartasky said.

That would make them equivalent to Palestinians living in Israeli-controlled areas of the West Bank and sever their last connections to Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, on the inner side of the wall, Palestinian neighbourhoods have been tightly constrained, with much of the land declared either “scenic areas” or national parks, in which construction is illegal, or reserved for Jewish settlements. The inevitable result has been extreme overcrowding.

In addition, Israel has denied most Palestinian neighbourhoods’ masterplans, making it all but impossible to get building permits.

“The advantage for Israel is that planning regulations don’t look brutal – in fact, they can be presented as simple law enforcement,” said Mr Tartasky. “But if you have no place to live in Jerusalem, in the end you’ll have to move out of the city.”

An estimated 20,000 houses – about 40 per cent of the city’s Palestinian housing stock – are illegal and under threat of demolition. More than 800 homes, some housing several families, have been razed since 2004.

As well as the large purpose-built Jewish settlements located on Palestinian land in East Jerusalem, several thousand extremist settlers have taken over properties inside Palestinian neighbourhoods, often with the backing of the Israeli courts.

Mr Tartasky noted that Israel has been accelerating legal efforts to evict Palestinians from their homes over the past year, with close to 200 families in and around the Old City currently facing court battles.

When settlers move in following such evictions, Ms Badran said, the character of the Palestinian neighbourhoods rapidly changes.

“The settlers arrive, and then so do the police, the army, private security guards and municipal inspectors. The settlers have a machine behind them whose role is to make life as uncomfortable as possible for Palestinians. The message is: ‘You either accept your subjugation or leave’.”

In Silwan, where settler groups have established a touristic archaeological park in the midst of a densely populated Palestinian community just outside the Old City walls, life has been especially tough.

Mr Alg’ol, who lives in Silwan, noted that fortified settler compounds had been established throughout the area, many dozens more Palestinian families were facing evictions, excavations were taking place under Palestinian homes, closed-circuit TV watched residents 24 hours a day, and the security services were a constant presence. Many hundreds of children had been arrested in recent years, usually accused of stone throwing.

Israel’s newest move is the announcement of a cable car to bring tourists from West Jerusalem through Palestinian neighbourhoods like Silwan to the holy sites of the Old City.

Mr Tartasky said touristic initiatives had become another planning weapon against Palestinians. “These projects, from the cable car to a series of promenades, are ways to connect one settlement to the next, bisecting Palestinian space. They strengthen the settlements and break apart Palestinian neighbourhoods.”

Mr Alg’ol’s family was one of many in Silwan that had been told their lands were being confiscated for the cable car and a new police station.

“They want to turn our community into an archaeological Disneyland,” he said. “And we are in the way. They plan to keep going until we are all removed.”

First published in The National

La Rinconada: The Devil’s Paradise

La Rinconada, 5,000 to 5,400m above sea level, corrugated iron shacks, glued to the hills of the surrounding mountains, home to some 50,000 to 70,000 mining inhabitants and competing mafia mobs that control them.  La Rinconada, in the Peruvian Andes, the world’s highest, chaotic, poisonous and illegal goldmines, some 210 km northeast of Puno, a 4-hour drive by car over partially paved, albeit potholed roads. La Rinconada, near the just barely more civilized mining town of Ananea (about 4,700 m above sea level), is also considered one of the most horrific places on earth: a crime gang-run city, spreading through a valley and up the surrounding hills, no running water, no sewerage, no electricity grid. La Rinconada looks and smells like a wide-open garbage dump, infested by a slowly meandering yellowish-brownish mercury-contaminated brew – tailings from illegal goldmining – what used to be a pristine mountain lake.

The thin, oxygen-poor air is loaded with mercury vapor that slowly penetrates people’s lungs, affecting over time the nervous system, memory, body motor, leading often to paralysis and early death. Average life expectancy of a mine worker is 30-35 years, about half of Peruvian’s average life expectancy.

Life has no value. People are killed for carrying a rock that may contain some tiny veins of gold. Bodies are often just thrown on to garbage heaps to rot. Occasionally a body is found and then buried right on the garbage dump. It’s not unusual to find a grave right in the midst of a field of trash.

Human rights do not exist in Rinconada. Child work is common place. And so is child prostitution, women and drug trafficking. Time off is a life of drunkenness and drug deliria. Life is worthless. See also Andre Vltchek’s essay – “Welcome to Hell: The Peruvian Mining City of La Rinconada”.

Small boys are used to work in underground mining galleries, where adults hardly fit. When the galleries collapse and a child – or several – dies – nobody cares. Many are not even identified. Most likely they are not missed. They are children of non-parents, like in non-humans, those that run this hellish mining industry, and those who send their children there to help them make a living. No love, no ethics, no respect for anything but the legendary gold nugget, for greed and necessity. No mercy. That’s La Rinconada.

Miners come “voluntarily”. Nobody forces them. Most are poor and jobless. They come for necessity. Some are just greedy  -– the never-dying ‘Gold Rausch’ attracts them. The dream of getting rich in the goldmine makes them accept the most horrendous working and living conditions: surviving in an open dump-ground of everything, garbage, toxic heavy metals, wading in mercury-polluted tailings, thin air, contaminated by poisonous vapors, no heating, most of the year sub-freezing temperatures –trash and debris everywhere. But the miners don’t complain. Some bring their wives, few bring also their kids. it’s their choice. Some stay ‘temporarily’ only, 6 months, 12 months, 2 years. For some the dream of hitting the riches never dies; they stay until they die. – They know they will be abused, enslaved. They know they can take it or leave it.

Miners work for usually long hours and are working during 29 days for free. On the 30th day they may keep whatever they take out of the ground, amounting on average to about 800 to 1,000 Soles per month (US$250 – $320). Sometimes day 30 brings nothing. Sometimes some rocks with traces of gold. All are hoping for a gold nugget. This type of mining wage is not unique to Peru. Bolivia and other Andean countries that are open to the most environmentally and socially destructive industry – mining – apply similar systems. The illusion to hit it BIG by finding the legendary ‘gold rock’ is a passion; it is obsessive. And if and when a miner does find a treasure to keep, he is vulnerable of being robbed, even killed, body discarded – another miner gone missing. Or not. Just disappeared. Maybe in a garbage dump. They are endless in Rinconada. They reflect the character of Rinconada. Refuse, waste, stench and death.

Nobody cares – or not enough to investigate the death, the missing. It’s the name of the game. Miners come by their free will. They are not coerced. They enslave themselves, in the vane hope to get rich. Instead, they intoxicate themselves from mercury fumes, from a totally poisonous environment, daily exposure to heavy metals. Their nervous system slowly but surely fails them. Memory loss; brain damage, muscular dystrophy, collapsing lungs, paralysis, early death. For many, it’s a dream gone dead. That’s what poverty does; it kills while dreaming of a better world.

Rinconada – mafia rules. Police work in connivance. Murders and assassinations are of the order. Prostitution, alcohol and drug abuse is rampant. Nobody cares. It’s survival of the fittest and often survival succumbs to hardship, misery and yet hope for a better life.

These criminal organizations are all local, meaning from the vicinity, Puno, Juliaca and thereabouts. No foreign mining companies are allowed. They, huge world (in)famous gold and precious metals corporations, are waiting ‘downstream’ to buy the blood-ware, without identity, without origins. So that nobody can trace them to the crime.

Women generally do not work in the mines. Superstition. They bring bad luck. They make the gold veins disappear. They distract the men. The mines are masculine. Only men are allowed to work them. The mountains may get jealous, and who knows what jealousy is capable of doing. Women have other chores: collecting loose rocks that may contain some remnants of gold; they clean, prepare food, mind the household, children, if a family is unwise enough to bring their offspring to this hellhole – and, they are “taking care of the men”, in more ways than one.

La Rinconada – one of the most horrible places on earth. Hardly known to the rest of the world. Most people in Lima, the capital of Peru, have no idea that Rinconada exists, and if they have heard the name, they associate it with a lush country club in the elite district of “La Molina” of Lima. They don’t know what it also stands for – The Devil’s Paradise.

What Rinconada produces is “blood gold”, akin to blood diamonds, blood emeralds in other parts of the world.

Who buys this gold?

Large corporations. One of them is the Swiss registered Metalor, one of the world’s largest gold foundries. Annually, about 3,000 to 3,500 tons of gold are mined across the globe. Switzerland refines about 70% to 80% of all the gold in the world. An estimated 20% to 30% of it is considered ‘blood gold’ – gold that stems from illicit mining practices, child labor, environmental and social destructions, land theft, corruption – like from Rinconada.

As of now, Switzerland, the host of the globe’s largest mining corporations and gold foundries does not want to know the origin of the gold – possibly the environmentally and socially most destructive precious metal. Switzerland does not impose a code of ethics on the corporations that enjoy the Swiss tax-haven. The Swiss Government pretends that these mining corporations have their own codes of conduct, and the Swiss authorities trust that they adhere to their own standards of ethics. What an easy way out!

When challenged with evidence to the contrary; i.e., Rinconada, or Espinar (also Peru), where Glencore beats up defenseless indigenous women, because they attempt to protect their properties and water from Glencore’s illegal confiscation with the corrupt help of the local Peruvian authorities – the Swiss authorities close their eyes to open crimes of their corporations and if pressed, they simply say, “if we are too harsh with them, they will leave Switzerland” and  “if they are doing something illegal, they are responsible to their host country”, apparently ignoring that corruption buys everything in most of these “host countries”.

That’s the level of ethics one of the richest and reputedly most noble countries of the universe applies to keep her corporations happy. Naturally, Switzerland is also the only OECD member that allows her parliamentarians to sit in as many corporate Boards of Directors as they wish. Imagine!  A totally legalized conflict of interest. And nobody says ‘beep’. The Swiss populace just accepts this blunt aberration. Most of them don’t even know it exists. They live comfortably and well, and don’t care much about Human Rights abusing corporations, and less so that their Parliament is a humongous built-in corporate and banking lobby. In this environment of white-collar illicit behavior, corporations like Metalor and Glencore flourish.

A recently launched people’s referendum propagating ‘Responsible Mining’, was undermined in the Swiss Parliament by the ‘built-in’ mining lobby. It is common practice that Parliament, as well as the Swiss Executive, give their votum before the public vote on a referendum, another unfair practice, as it influences the voters’ final decision.

In the meantime, the Government of Peru accuses the Swiss foundry Metalor of financing and buying tons of gold from suspicious sources in Peru, meaning illicit gold – or ‘blood gold’. Metalor is also investigated for participating in organized crime and money laundering from illicit gold deals (Ojo Público, Peru, 14 March 2019):

“The Metalor Group was the exclusive importer of gold from illegal mining, sold or shipped by Minerales del Sur SRL (Minersur) in the period from 2001 to 2018 in the amount of more than US$ 3.5 billion. Metalor is headquartered in the Canton of Neuchatel, Switzerland.”

Metalor is also being investigated for financing Minersur’s purchasing and sales transactions of gold from illegal sources. One of these illegal sources is La Rinconada. Other illegal sources stem from gold-digging in Peru’s Madre de Dios Amazon Region, where thousands of hectares of rainforest are being raided and devastated by mafia-type organizations, similar to the ones in Rinconada. Metalor denies the accusation, saying they only deal with reputable mining corporations. The case is wide open and the stench of illegality that has been permeating Metalor for many years is as sickening as Rinconada itself.

What is it about gold that makes it destroy the environment, precious fresh water resources, the human spirit, sowing conflict among entire societies, abolishing their social fabric and bringing death to countless millions for centuries in exploited and abused regions of the globe? The real industrial value of gold is only about 15% to 20% of its speculative market value. But the gold fever is such that banks invented ‘paper gold’, meaning that Mr. and Mrs. Anybody can buy gold without ever seeing the gold bar. The bank simply issues a certificate, an IOU for a certain amount of gold which, in theory, could be exchanged for the real thing at any time Madame Anybody would like to keep her gold bar in her personal household vault. Not so easy. There is more than 100 times more paper gold floating around than real gold is available on the market. If everybody would like to exchange their paper gold into real gold, the banking system would collapse, or would just simply fail to deliver.

Case in point was Germany. By tradition Germany had about 1,200 tons of gold, worth about US$ 50 billion, deposited in the FED in New York. In 2013, when the Germans awareness that their gold is being stored outside of German borders resulted in a public outcry, the Bundesbank wanted to withdraw and repatriate all of their foreign stored gold by 2020, but the FED said no, they could not deliver. The gold was simply not available. Was the FED using the German gold and the gold of so many other countries deposited in the FED’s treasuries for speculation – rent seeking with somebody else’s assets?

Blood and crime are intimately linked to gold, it seems. Our western monetary system was for a long time backed by gold. Today, western moneys are fiat money, not even backed by gold, just hot air. But the Russian ruble and the Chinese yuan are backed by gold, as well as by their respective economies.  Who knows? As a last-ditch effort to save the US-dollar and the western fiat money pyramid from collapsing, the west may again revert to some kind of gold standard, a man-made folly, when, in fact, the only real value reflected in a county’s monetary system is its economy.

Back to La Rinconada, Metalor and Switzerland, home of more than two thirds of the world’s gold refining, how much of the reserve gold in the coffers of countries around the world is “blood gold”?  How many people, children and eventually entire generations have to live in misery, their health degenerating from exposure to heavy metals and eventually leading to early and painful death, until human consciousness is able to stop the gold craze? Closing down hellholes like Rinconada and Madre de Dios mafia-run, all-destructive gold mines?  And hundreds more of similarly devastating type mines around the world. Perhaps when the value of gold becomes what it ought to be — its industrial value, and nothing more and nothing less — humanity becomes richer by the values of human decency and respect for each other.

La Rinconada: The Devil’s Paradise

La Rinconada, 5,000 to 5,400m above sea level, corrugated iron shacks, glued to the hills of the surrounding mountains, home to some 50,000 to 70,000 mining inhabitants and competing mafia mobs that control them.  La Rinconada, in the Peruvian Andes, the world’s highest, chaotic, poisonous and illegal goldmines, some 210 km northeast of Puno, a 4-hour drive by car over partially paved, albeit potholed roads. La Rinconada, near the just barely more civilized mining town of Ananea (about 4,700 m above sea level), is also considered one of the most horrific places on earth: a crime gang-run city, spreading through a valley and up the surrounding hills, no running water, no sewerage, no electricity grid. La Rinconada looks and smells like a wide-open garbage dump, infested by a slowly meandering yellowish-brownish mercury-contaminated brew – tailings from illegal goldmining – what used to be a pristine mountain lake.

The thin, oxygen-poor air is loaded with mercury vapor that slowly penetrates people’s lungs, affecting over time the nervous system, memory, body motor, leading often to paralysis and early death. Average life expectancy of a mine worker is 30-35 years, about half of Peruvian’s average life expectancy.

Life has no value. People are killed for carrying a rock that may contain some tiny veins of gold. Bodies are often just thrown on to garbage heaps to rot. Occasionally a body is found and then buried right on the garbage dump. It’s not unusual to find a grave right in the midst of a field of trash.

Human rights do not exist in Rinconada. Child work is common place. And so is child prostitution, women and drug trafficking. Time off is a life of drunkenness and drug deliria. Life is worthless. See also Andre Vltchek’s essay – “Welcome to Hell: The Peruvian Mining City of La Rinconada”.

Small boys are used to work in underground mining galleries, where adults hardly fit. When the galleries collapse and a child – or several – dies – nobody cares. Many are not even identified. Most likely they are not missed. They are children of non-parents, like in non-humans, those that run this hellish mining industry, and those who send their children there to help them make a living. No love, no ethics, no respect for anything but the legendary gold nugget, for greed and necessity. No mercy. That’s La Rinconada.

Miners come “voluntarily”. Nobody forces them. Most are poor and jobless. They come for necessity. Some are just greedy  -– the never-dying ‘Gold Rausch’ attracts them. The dream of getting rich in the goldmine makes them accept the most horrendous working and living conditions: surviving in an open dump-ground of everything, garbage, toxic heavy metals, wading in mercury-polluted tailings, thin air, contaminated by poisonous vapors, no heating, most of the year sub-freezing temperatures –trash and debris everywhere. But the miners don’t complain. Some bring their wives, few bring also their kids. it’s their choice. Some stay ‘temporarily’ only, 6 months, 12 months, 2 years. For some the dream of hitting the riches never dies; they stay until they die. – They know they will be abused, enslaved. They know they can take it or leave it.

Miners work for usually long hours and are working during 29 days for free. On the 30th day they may keep whatever they take out of the ground, amounting on average to about 800 to 1,000 Soles per month (US$250 – $320). Sometimes day 30 brings nothing. Sometimes some rocks with traces of gold. All are hoping for a gold nugget. This type of mining wage is not unique to Peru. Bolivia and other Andean countries that are open to the most environmentally and socially destructive industry – mining – apply similar systems. The illusion to hit it BIG by finding the legendary ‘gold rock’ is a passion; it is obsessive. And if and when a miner does find a treasure to keep, he is vulnerable of being robbed, even killed, body discarded – another miner gone missing. Or not. Just disappeared. Maybe in a garbage dump. They are endless in Rinconada. They reflect the character of Rinconada. Refuse, waste, stench and death.

Nobody cares – or not enough to investigate the death, the missing. It’s the name of the game. Miners come by their free will. They are not coerced. They enslave themselves, in the vane hope to get rich. Instead, they intoxicate themselves from mercury fumes, from a totally poisonous environment, daily exposure to heavy metals. Their nervous system slowly but surely fails them. Memory loss; brain damage, muscular dystrophy, collapsing lungs, paralysis, early death. For many, it’s a dream gone dead. That’s what poverty does; it kills while dreaming of a better world.

Rinconada – mafia rules. Police work in connivance. Murders and assassinations are of the order. Prostitution, alcohol and drug abuse is rampant. Nobody cares. It’s survival of the fittest and often survival succumbs to hardship, misery and yet hope for a better life.

These criminal organizations are all local, meaning from the vicinity, Puno, Juliaca and thereabouts. No foreign mining companies are allowed. They, huge world (in)famous gold and precious metals corporations, are waiting ‘downstream’ to buy the blood-ware, without identity, without origins. So that nobody can trace them to the crime.

Women generally do not work in the mines. Superstition. They bring bad luck. They make the gold veins disappear. They distract the men. The mines are masculine. Only men are allowed to work them. The mountains may get jealous, and who knows what jealousy is capable of doing. Women have other chores: collecting loose rocks that may contain some remnants of gold; they clean, prepare food, mind the household, children, if a family is unwise enough to bring their offspring to this hellhole – and, they are “taking care of the men”, in more ways than one.

La Rinconada – one of the most horrible places on earth. Hardly known to the rest of the world. Most people in Lima, the capital of Peru, have no idea that Rinconada exists, and if they have heard the name, they associate it with a lush country club in the elite district of “La Molina” of Lima. They don’t know what it also stands for – The Devil’s Paradise.

What Rinconada produces is “blood gold”, akin to blood diamonds, blood emeralds in other parts of the world.

Who buys this gold?

Large corporations. One of them is the Swiss registered Metalor, one of the world’s largest gold foundries. Annually, about 3,000 to 3,500 tons of gold are mined across the globe. Switzerland refines about 70% to 80% of all the gold in the world. An estimated 20% to 30% of it is considered ‘blood gold’ – gold that stems from illicit mining practices, child labor, environmental and social destructions, land theft, corruption – like from Rinconada.

As of now, Switzerland, the host of the globe’s largest mining corporations and gold foundries does not want to know the origin of the gold – possibly the environmentally and socially most destructive precious metal. Switzerland does not impose a code of ethics on the corporations that enjoy the Swiss tax-haven. The Swiss Government pretends that these mining corporations have their own codes of conduct, and the Swiss authorities trust that they adhere to their own standards of ethics. What an easy way out!

When challenged with evidence to the contrary; i.e., Rinconada, or Espinar (also Peru), where Glencore beats up defenseless indigenous women, because they attempt to protect their properties and water from Glencore’s illegal confiscation with the corrupt help of the local Peruvian authorities – the Swiss authorities close their eyes to open crimes of their corporations and if pressed, they simply say, “if we are too harsh with them, they will leave Switzerland” and  “if they are doing something illegal, they are responsible to their host country”, apparently ignoring that corruption buys everything in most of these “host countries”.

That’s the level of ethics one of the richest and reputedly most noble countries of the universe applies to keep her corporations happy. Naturally, Switzerland is also the only OECD member that allows her parliamentarians to sit in as many corporate Boards of Directors as they wish. Imagine!  A totally legalized conflict of interest. And nobody says ‘beep’. The Swiss populace just accepts this blunt aberration. Most of them don’t even know it exists. They live comfortably and well, and don’t care much about Human Rights abusing corporations, and less so that their Parliament is a humongous built-in corporate and banking lobby. In this environment of white-collar illicit behavior, corporations like Metalor and Glencore flourish.

A recently launched people’s referendum propagating ‘Responsible Mining’, was undermined in the Swiss Parliament by the ‘built-in’ mining lobby. It is common practice that Parliament, as well as the Swiss Executive, give their votum before the public vote on a referendum, another unfair practice, as it influences the voters’ final decision.

In the meantime, the Government of Peru accuses the Swiss foundry Metalor of financing and buying tons of gold from suspicious sources in Peru, meaning illicit gold – or ‘blood gold’. Metalor is also investigated for participating in organized crime and money laundering from illicit gold deals (Ojo Público, Peru, 14 March 2019):

“The Metalor Group was the exclusive importer of gold from illegal mining, sold or shipped by Minerales del Sur SRL (Minersur) in the period from 2001 to 2018 in the amount of more than US$ 3.5 billion. Metalor is headquartered in the Canton of Neuchatel, Switzerland.”

Metalor is also being investigated for financing Minersur’s purchasing and sales transactions of gold from illegal sources. One of these illegal sources is La Rinconada. Other illegal sources stem from gold-digging in Peru’s Madre de Dios Amazon Region, where thousands of hectares of rainforest are being raided and devastated by mafia-type organizations, similar to the ones in Rinconada. Metalor denies the accusation, saying they only deal with reputable mining corporations. The case is wide open and the stench of illegality that has been permeating Metalor for many years is as sickening as Rinconada itself.

What is it about gold that makes it destroy the environment, precious fresh water resources, the human spirit, sowing conflict among entire societies, abolishing their social fabric and bringing death to countless millions for centuries in exploited and abused regions of the globe? The real industrial value of gold is only about 15% to 20% of its speculative market value. But the gold fever is such that banks invented ‘paper gold’, meaning that Mr. and Mrs. Anybody can buy gold without ever seeing the gold bar. The bank simply issues a certificate, an IOU for a certain amount of gold which, in theory, could be exchanged for the real thing at any time Madame Anybody would like to keep her gold bar in her personal household vault. Not so easy. There is more than 100 times more paper gold floating around than real gold is available on the market. If everybody would like to exchange their paper gold into real gold, the banking system would collapse, or would just simply fail to deliver.

Case in point was Germany. By tradition Germany had about 1,200 tons of gold, worth about US$ 50 billion, deposited in the FED in New York. In 2013, when the Germans awareness that their gold is being stored outside of German borders resulted in a public outcry, the Bundesbank wanted to withdraw and repatriate all of their foreign stored gold by 2020, but the FED said no, they could not deliver. The gold was simply not available. Was the FED using the German gold and the gold of so many other countries deposited in the FED’s treasuries for speculation – rent seeking with somebody else’s assets?

Blood and crime are intimately linked to gold, it seems. Our western monetary system was for a long time backed by gold. Today, western moneys are fiat money, not even backed by gold, just hot air. But the Russian ruble and the Chinese yuan are backed by gold, as well as by their respective economies.  Who knows? As a last-ditch effort to save the US-dollar and the western fiat money pyramid from collapsing, the west may again revert to some kind of gold standard, a man-made folly, when, in fact, the only real value reflected in a county’s monetary system is its economy.

Back to La Rinconada, Metalor and Switzerland, home of more than two thirds of the world’s gold refining, how much of the reserve gold in the coffers of countries around the world is “blood gold”?  How many people, children and eventually entire generations have to live in misery, their health degenerating from exposure to heavy metals and eventually leading to early and painful death, until human consciousness is able to stop the gold craze? Closing down hellholes like Rinconada and Madre de Dios mafia-run, all-destructive gold mines?  And hundreds more of similarly devastating type mines around the world. Perhaps when the value of gold becomes what it ought to be — its industrial value, and nothing more and nothing less — humanity becomes richer by the values of human decency and respect for each other.

Wealth Concentration Drives a New Global Imperialism

Regime changes in Iraq and Libya, Syria’s war, Venezuela’s crisis, sanctions on Cuba, Iran, Russia, and North Korea are reflections of a new global imperialism imposed by a core of capitalist nations in support of trillions of dollars of concentrated investment wealth. This new world order of mass capital has become a totalitarian empire of inequality and repression.

The global 1%, comprised of over 36-million millionaires and 2,400 billionaires, employ their excess capital with investment management firms like BlackRock and J.P Morgan Chase. The top seventeen of these trillion-dollar investment management firms controlled $41.1 trillion dollars in 2017. These firms are all directly invested in each other and managed by only 199 people who decide how and where global capital will be invested. Their biggest problem is they have more capital than there are safe investment opportunities, which leads to risky speculative investments, increased war spending, privatization of the public domain, and pressures to open new capital investment opportunities through political regime changes.

Power elites in support of capital investment are collectively embedded in a system of mandatory growth. Failure for capital to achieve continuing expansion leads to economic stagnation, which can result in depression, bank failures, currency collapses, and mass unemployment.  Capitalism is an economic system that inevitably adjusts itself via contractions, recessions, and depressions. Power elites are entrapped in a web of enforced growth that requires ongoing global management and the formation of new and ever expanding capital investment opportunities. This forced expansion becomes a worldwide manifest destiny that seeks total capital domination in all regions of the earth and beyond.

Sixty percent of the core 199 global power elite managers are from the US, with people from twenty capitalist nations rounding out the balance. These power elite managers and associated one percenters take active part in global policy groups and governments. They serve as advisors to the IMF, World Trade Organization, World Bank, International Bank of Settlements, Federal Reserve Board, G-7 and the G-20. Most attend the World Economic Forum. Global power elites engage actively on private international policy councils such as the Council of Thirty, Trilateral Commission, and the Atlantic Council. Many of the US global elites are members of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Business Roundtable in the US. The most important issue for these power elites is protecting capital investment, insuring debt collection, and building opportunities for further returns.

The global power elite are aware of their existence as a numerical minority in the vast sea of impoverished humanity. Roughly 80% of the world’s population lives on less than ten dollars a day and half live on less than three dollars a day. Concentrated global capital becomes the binding institutional alignment that brings transnational capitalists into a centralized global imperialism facilitated by world economic/trade institutions and protected by the US/NATO military empire. This concentration of wealth leads to a crisis of humanity, whereby poverty, war, starvation, mass alienation, media propaganda, and environmental devastation have reached levels that threaten humanity’s future.

The idea of independent self-ruling nation-states has long been held sacrosanct in traditional liberal capitalist economies. However, globalization has placed a new set of demands on capitalism that requires transnational mechanisms to support continued capital growth that is increasingly beyond the boundaries of individual states. The financial crisis of 2008 was an acknowledgement of the global system of capital under threat. These threats encourage the abandonment of nation-state rights altogether and the formation of a global imperialism that reflects new world order requirements for protecting transnational capital.

Institutions within capitalist countries including government ministries, defense forces, intelligence agencies, judiciary, universities and representative bodies, recognize to varying degrees that the overriding demands of transnational capital spill beyond the boundaries of nation-states.  The resulting worldwide reach motivates a new form of global imperialism that is evident by coalitions of core capitalist nations engaged in past and present regime change efforts via sanctions, covert actions, co-options, and war with non-cooperating nations—Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea and Russia.

The attempted coup in Venezuela shows the alignment of transnational capital-supporting states in recognizing the elite forces that oppose Maduro’s socialist presidency. A new global imperialism is at work here, whereby Venezuela’s sovereignty is openly undermined by a capital imperial world order that seeks not just control of Venezuela’s oil, but a full opportunity for widespread investments through a new regime.

The widespread corporate media negation of the democratically elected president of Venezuela demonstrates that these media are owned and controlled by ideologists for the global power elite. Corporate media today is highly concentrated and fully international. Their primary goal is the promotion of product sales and pro-capitalist propaganda through the psychological control of human desires, emotions, beliefs, fears, and values. Corporate media does this by manipulating feelings and cognitions of human beings worldwide, and by promoting entertainment as a distraction to global inequality.

Recognizing global imperialism as a manifestation of concentrated wealth, managed by a few hundred people, is of utmost importance for democratic humanitarian activists.  We must stand on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and challenge global imperialism and its fascist governments, media propaganda, and empire armies.

Would railing at a Labour Saudi Lobby be Racist?

Owen Jones has made a short video discussing Labour’s crisis over anti-semitism. There are some good elements to it, not least the warning against conspiratorial thinking, and an admission, admittedly a fairly limited one, that the Labour leadership should not be accused of being anti-semitic (and implicitly that the party is not “institutionally anti-semitic”.)

Sadly, however, there is little more to recommend. This is another example of how Jones has failed to grasp the larger issues involved, and how he views the anti-semitism issue through an astoundingly narrow lens – one that refuses to depart from a simplistic identity politics.

Given that Jones is supposed to be one of the very few prominent voices of support for Corbyn in the media, this is depressing indeed. And it is why I have taken the time to analyse a couple of the most glaring flaws in the video.

First, Jones makes a telling analogy, and one that highlights his confusion.

He objects to Labour members raising the issue of Israel when Jewish comrades want to talk about anti-semitism by noting that no one would think it acceptable to deflect the conversation to Saudi Arabia if Muslims sought to talk about Islamophobia.

However, Jones ignores a very serious difference between these two examples. The fact is that there is a very strong and vocal pro-Israel lobby in the Labour party – not least the Jewish Labour Movement, the sister organisation of the Israeli Labour party, and Labour Friends of Israel, which includes 80 MPs.

Imagine for a moment – if you can – what it would mean were the voice of Muslims in the party to be represented chiefly by a Labour Friends of Saudi Arabia and a Saudi Labour Movement.

How would ordinary members respond to these Saudi-affiliated Labour MPs and this pro-Saudi lobby vigorously defending and promoting Saudi Arabia in the party? Indeed, how would they feel about criticism of Riyadh being termed “Islamophobia”, and a section of Muslim Labour members, supported by a group of prominent non-Muslim MPs, complaining that criticism of Saudi Arabia amounted to an attack on their identity as Muslims?

Human rights abusers

Demands to respect their identification with Saudi Arabia would, I suspect, hold little sway with most Labour members. Members would rightly expect to be able to criticise not only Saudi Arabia, but also others in the party who openly supported Riyadh and lobbied on its behalf. And it is fair to assume they would object in very strong terms were they accused of Islamophobia for doing so.

Before I get told that any comparison between Israel and Saudi Arabia is anti-semitic (and I am sure I will), let me remind readers it was Jones, not me, who introduced this analogy. Nonetheless, I think it is clear that such a comparison is valid.

The fact is that both states are massive human rights abusers. Saudi Arabia’s head-chopping, women-oppressing theocracy is an abhorrent state; but so too is Israel’s anachronistic colonial-settler state, built on the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and a decades-long belligerent occupation. Both are shameful examples of the trampling of human rights to promote an extreme ideology that confuses politics and religion.

So Jones’ comparison is actually far more useful and revealing than he presumably realises.

Racism towards Palestinians

Labour’s real-life lobby groups are not only fanatically pro-Israel, they are also deeply hostile to Corbyn – and have been since he was elected leader. The reason is obvious. They oppose him not because he is anti-semitic (at least Jones concedes that much in Corbyn’s favour) but because he is genuinely anti-racist – that is, he is against all forms of racism.

They oppose him because he has been a long-time critic of Israel for its undeniable oppression of, and racism towards, Palestinians.

The Saudi Arabia comparison would again be telling. Were a Saudi Arabia lobby to vocally denounce Corbyn as Islamophobic for rejecting human rights abuses by Riyadh, domestically and in Yemen, Labour members would rightly come to Corbyn’s defence and highlight the cynical exploitation of Islamophobia to shield Saudi Arabia from criticism.

But the Labour lobby’s support for Israel is not theoretical. Despite their claims, most of these lobbyists are not supporting – at least in practice – efforts to realise a two-state solution, as Corbyn does. Their actions, if not always their words, support the far-right government of Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu, and the systematic crimes his government commits against Palestinians.

They identify so fully with Israel that they would rather oust Corbyn – or even, it seems, destroy the Labour party – than let him reach power. In other words, they would rather override the democratic will of party members than risk Corbyn shifting Britain away from its unwavering support for the Netanyahu government, or a government of army generals if it takes his place after April’s election.

Plot against Corbyn

To state this is not to indulge in some kind of conspiratorial thinking, as Jones implies. We know that pro-Israel lobbyists in Labour like the Jewish Labour Movement and Labour Friends of Israel have been plotting to rid Labour of Corbyn to protect a Netanyahu-led Israel.

How do we know? Because an undercover reporter from Al Jazeera spent months secretly filming the efforts of these lobby groups to damage Corbyn in collusion with an Israeli agent, Shai Masot, working out of the Israeli embassy in London.

It is significant that, like the rest of the British media, Jones, who comments so much on the supposed anti-semitism “crisis” in Labour, rarely, if ever, refers to the resulting documentary, The Lobby.

One can understand why. It deeply damages his thesis, and suggests what he denies: that groups like the Jewish Labour Movement and Labour Friends of Israel are conflating anti-Zionism with anti-semitism precisely to weaponise anti-semitism – to make it politically useful to them.

The documentary suggests that Labour’s problem isn’t so much anti-semitic tropes on the “hard left” as it is anti-Corbyn scheming among die-hard supporters of Israel.

Blair’s Great Game for Oil

Second, Jones wilfully ignores the wider political dimension to the anti-semitism furore in Labour.

He assumes, without any evidence, that “moderates” like former leader Tony Blair and current deputy leader Tom Watson care more about anti-semitism and racism than do Jeremy Corbyn and Chris Williamson, the MP who was recently suspended for publicly defending the party and its members against charges that anti-semitism in Labour was endemic.

(We will draw a veil over the problem that, disgracefully, Jones backed the suspension of Williamson, even though in the video Jones effectively echoes him by denying that the party suffers from institutional anti-semitism.)

Jones bases his assumption on zero evidence. Or rather he ignores the massive evidence suggesting that both Blair and Watson have a much weaker commitment to anti-racism than Corbyn and Williamson.

Blair waged an illegal war in Iraq that probably led to the preventable deaths of more than a million Iraqis, and turned many millions more into refugees. He acted as though these human beings were simply pawns on a chessboard that could be shuffled around in the Great Game for Oil played by himself and US President George W Bush.

Also, Blair has been fabulously remunerated by Saudi Arabia for working as a consultant to the head-chopping regime, one that has funded a militant Islamic extremism across the Middle East, destabilising the region and contributing to countless more deaths.

As for Labour’s deputy leader, consider these recent observations from veteran party member Graham Bash:

Watson is extremely unconcerned when it comes to racism against black people and Muslims. He went along with all New Labour’s anti-terrorism and Prevent measures. He also abstained on Theresa May’s 2014 Immigration Act which introduced the ‘hostile environment policy’ which led to the deportation of hundreds of black people.

Class privilege

Neither of these men has the authority to lecture the Labour leadership, or its members, on any kind of racism.

What is undeniable is that these Labour “moderates”, who represent the centrist impulses of the parliamentary party and have the sympathetic ear of the liberal corporate media, viscerally hate Corbyn. They regard his mildly socialist programme as a threat to the economic and social order that privileges them.

If it is now clear that we are in a class struggle, how is the multi-millionaire Blair, who owns a clutch of palatial homes, possibly on the right side of that struggle?

Similarly, the problem is less that Dame Margaret Hodge is a hardcore Zionist than that she is a hardcore supporter of capitalism – along with many other Labour MPs. Hodge enjoys the fortune of her family’s business empire, and married into even more money. Like most of the Labour parliamentary party, she has no understanding of the difficulties endured by austerity-hit Britain.

It is the very privileges enjoyed by most Labour MPs that make them unlikely champions for any serious redistribution of wealth.

Defending capitalism

It is also why a growing section of a supposedly socialist Labour party are trying to extend the meaning of an already weaponised anti-semitism into ever-more fanciful, and apparently self-sabotaging, realms.

Anti-semitism has rapidly gone from meaning hatred or fear of Jews, to opposition to Israel, to antipathy to capitalism, as starkly illustrated by another “moderate” Labour MP, Siobhan McDonagh. As Jones notes, she recently told Radio 4:

It’s very much part of their [Corbyn supporters’] politics, of hard left politics, to be against capitalists and to see Jewish people as the financiers of capital. Ergo you are anti-Jewish people.

That line of argument has been emerging – unremarked – for some time from within parts of the Labour party, and it is proof in itself that many so-called “moderates” have been weaponising anti-semitism – not to protect Jews but to protect their class privilege.

What we see in Labour is a pincer movement utilising anti-semitism to try to fatally wound Corbyn and the movement behind him. Some oppose him because Israel is their issue, some because maintenance of the neoliberal order is their issue. Both groups, it seems, fear any change to the status quo, and have discovered the accusation of anti-semitism is a winning card.

But real socialists, recognising that western economies and the planet’s climate are moving closer to meltdown, know that change has to be a political priority – and an urgent one. For Labour party members, those who uphold either the right of Israel to be a racist oppressor state or the right of capitalism to destroy the planet stand in the way of efforts to prevent humankind from hurtling over the cliff edge.

Jones and other fairweather allies of a Corbyn-led Labour refuse to consider any of this when they agree to prioritise an anti-semitism “crisis” manufactured by the very opponents of a renewed socialist programme they say they support.

It is long past time for Jones to take off his blinkers and see what is happening to the Labour party.

Presstitutes Turn Blind Eye to UN Report on Venezuela

Don’t you think something is fishy when the presstitutes orchestrate a fake news “humanitarian crisis” in Venezuela, but totally ignore the real humanitarian crises in Yemen and Gaza?

Don’t you think something is really very rotten when the expert, Alfred Mauricer de Zayas, sent by the UN to Venezuela to evaluate the situation finds no interest by any Western media or any Western government in his report?

Don’t you think it is a bit much for Washington to steal $21 billion of Venezuela’s money, impose sanctions in an effort to destabilize the country and to drive the Venezuelan government to its knees, blame Venezuelan socialism (essentially nationalization of the oil company) for bringing “starvation to the people,” and offer a measly $21 million in “humanitarian aid.”

As the United States is completely devoid of any print or TV media, it falls upon internet media such as this website to perform the missing function of honest journalism.

As for the alleged starvation and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, Zayas has this to say:

The December 2017 and March 2018 reports of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) list food crises in 37 countries. “The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is not among them.”

“In 2017, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela requested medical aid from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the plea was rejected, because Venezuela ‘is still a high-income country … and as such is not eligible’.”

The “crisis” in Venezuela “cannot be compared with the humanitarian crises in Gaza, Yemen, Libya, the Syrian Arab Republic, Iraq, Haiti, Mali, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Somalia, or Myanmar, among others.”

Alfred Maurice de Zayas expresses concern about the level of polarization and disinformation that surrounds every narrative about Venezuela. In paragraph 42 of his report he notes: “A disquieting media campaign seeks to force observers into a preconceived view that there is a ‘humanitarian crisis’ in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. An independent expert must be wary of hyperbole, bearing in mind that ‘humanitarian crisis’ is a terminus technicus that can be misused as a pretext for military intervention.”

In order to discredit selected governments, failures in the field of human rights are maximized so as to make violent overthrow more palatable. Human rights are being “weaponized” against rivals.

In paragraph 37 of his report, de Zayas says:

Modern-day economic sanctions and blockades are comparable with medieval sieges of towns with the intention of forcing them to surrender. Twenty-first century sanctions attempt to bring not just a town, but sovereign countries to their knees. A difference, perhaps, is that twenty-first century sanctions are accompanied by the manipulation of public opinion through ‘fake news’, aggressive public relations and a pseudo-human rights rhetoric so as to give the impression that a human rights ‘end’ justifies the criminal means. There is not only a horizontal juridical world order governed by the Charter of the United Nations and principles of sovereign equality, but also a vertical world order reflecting the hierarchy of a geopolitical system that links dominant States with the rest of the world according to military and economic power. It is the latter, geopolitical system that generates geopolitical crimes, hitherto in total impunity.

He expresses concern about the level of polarization and disinformation that surrounds every narrative about Venezuela. “A disquieting media campaign seeks to force observers into a preconceived view that there is a ‘humanitarian crisis’ in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. An independent expert must be wary of hyperbole, bearing in mind that ‘humanitarian crisis’ is a terminus technicus that can be misused as a pretext for military intervention.”

In order to discredit selected governments, failures in the field of human rights are maximized so as to make violent overthrow more palatable. Human rights are being ‘weaponized’ against rivals.

A political solution is blocked because “certain countries [the US] do not want to see a peaceful solution to the Venezuelan conflict and prefer to prolong the suffering of the people of that country, with the expectation that the situation will reach the threshold of a humanitarian crisis and provoke a military intervention to impose a regime change.”

Washington’s attack on Venezuela is in violation of established international law. “The principles of non-intervention and non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign States belong to customary international law and have been reaffirmed in General Assembly resolutions, notably 2625 (XXV) and 3314 (XXIX), and in the 1993 Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. Article 32 of the Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States, adopted by the General Assembly in 1974, stipulates that no State may use or encourage the use of economic, political or any other type of measures to coerce another State in order to obtain from it the subordination of the exercise of its sovereign rights.” Chapter 4, article 19, of the Charter of the OAS stipulates that “No State or group of States has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other State. The foregoing principle prohibits not only armed force but also any other form of interference or attempted threat against the personality of the State or against its political, economic, and cultural elements.”

Zayas reports that an atmosphere of intimidation accompanied the mission, attempting to pressure him into a predetermined matrix. He received letters from American-financed NGOs asking him not to proceed on his own, dictating to him the report he should write. Prior to his arrival in Venezuela, a propaganda campaign was launched against him on Facebook and Twitter questioning his integrity and accusing him of bias.

As Washington’s sanctions and currency manipulations constitute geopolitical crimes, Zayas asks what reparations are due to the victims of sanctions. He recommends that the International Criminal Court investigate Washington’s coercive measures that can cause death from malnutrition and lack of medicines and medical equipment.

Despite being the first UN official to visit and report from Venezuela in 21 years, Mr de Zayas said his research into the causes of the country’s economic crisis has so far largely been ignored by the UN and the media, and caused little debate within the Human Rights Council.

He believes his report has been ignored because it goes against the popular narrative that Venezuela needs regime change.

Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world and an abundance of other natural resources including gold, bauxite and coltan. But under the Maduro government they’re not accessible to US and transnational corporations.