Category Archives: Mike Pence

Impeach the Impeachers

Disclaimer:  The author in no way implicitly or explicitly supports the pretensions of the US regime to commit overt or covert acts of aggression or interference in the internal affairs of other sovereign states by its constitutional or extra-legal institutions whether performed by executive, legislative or judicial institutions or their respective officers, agents or assigns. The accidents by which such violations of customary and explicit (treaty-based) international law are regularly committed by the regime is in the author’s view a matter of joint and several liability. No “branch” of the regime can transfer liability or culpability to another branch whether for convenience or to satisfy its own unique interpretation of international law or the scope of “national interest” under the colour of law.

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Given the aforesaid, the articles of impeachment submitted to the US Senate, as the chamber charged historically with representing the wealthiest in the respective states, by the US House of Representatives, the chamber charged with representing the wealthiest individuals among the population, in the case of the servile president of the United States, charged with representing the combination of unelected covert and overt institutions of the US empire, is first of all proof that the United States of America is represented by some of the most poorly educated and simultaneously pretentiously arrogant people in recorded history.

The first impeachment trial in US history, against President Andrew Johnson, was justified by the fact that a congress dominated by a Republican party intent on enforcing the results of the recently ended US civil war could argue that the serving president failed to execute laws enacted by Congress which, as executive officer, it was his duty to enforce. Despite the prima facie case that President Johnson, undoubtedly sympathetic to the slaveholder regime which had prevailed until 1864, had failed to enforce the laws adopted by Congress at the time, the bill of impeachment failed in the Senate. (It should be noted, however, that even in Andrew Johnson’s impeachment the bill accused him of violating a law which formally had little to do with the latent grounds for impeachment.)

The second impeachment, against President Richard Nixon, alleged after intensive investigation, that he had violated ordinary criminal laws and collaborated in such a way as to hinder prosecutions which ultimately were successful — that is to say by virtue of convictions could be established as crimes in which the Mr Nixon in his capacity as president was clearly complicit. Whether the Senate would have convicted him became a moot question since Mr Nixon resigned (and was subsequently pardoned by the Vice President appointed to replace a Mr Agnew who resigned because of crimes for which he was also later convicted. There were even proper allegations that Mr Nixon acted in pursuance of covert foreign policy objectives to which there was increasing popular political opposition and hence a need for individual sacrifice from among the ruling elite — to which Mr Nixon never actually belonged, and therefore could finally be deemed expendable. Some would say that Nixon was smart enough to know first hand that one could be removed from office by termination with extreme prejudice and therefore chose San Clemente retirement — with later rehabilitation.

The third impeachment, against President William J. Clinton, alleged that he committed crimes in civil matters which had also not yet been conclusively adjudicated. No pretense was made that Mr Clinton committed any felonies which in any way impaired his capacity to conduct the usual vicious policies of US empire. He notoriously ordered the bombing of a pharmaceutical factory in Africa during the proceedings under the pretext that producing locally otherwise expensive drugs was a terrorist act to be punished by  the US. That impeachment failed in the Senate, not only because of the incompetence of those responsible for lodging the action but also because of implicit consensus that sexual offenses are not an exclusive domain of the Executive but constitute a sphere of activity among all branches of the constitutional government of the US.

The fourth impeachment, against President Donald Trump, alleges that he committed crimes which are essentially questions of “good taste” or “manners”. After a tortuous three quarters of Mr Trump’s term, the partisans of the Bush-Clinton enterprise — in which the Clintons have been the junior “white trash” partners — have been unable to find anything substantive with which to charge Mr Trump in which they are not themselves complicit. The bill is most curious because its central accusations are based upon principles which are utterly inconsistent with more than two centuries of constitutional practice.

The core of the complaint — to the extent it is not simply sophomoric — is that President Donald Trump refused to execute the foreign policy of the United States. This is also called the “national interest” in the bill — a recognised euphemism for whatever corporate objectives can be imposed through the regime and what it expropriates from ordinary people both domestically and abroad. This is patently ridiculous. It has become a matter of conventional if not explicit constitutional law that the foreign policy of the United States is the prerogative of the Executive, the President of the United States. While the Constitution states that treaties are to be ratified by the US Senate, there has never been either a constitutional or a statutory basis for the Congress to formulate, let alone execute, foreign policy. At the most it can legislate to restrain or it can refuse funding or it can deny the confirmation of those ambassadors and other plenipotentiaries appointed by the POTUS to facilitate such policy.

One can therefore conclude that even if there were no Republican majority in the Senate — were that chamber to be composed of persons with some semblance of legal education and cognizance of constitutional law and national history — then this allegation in the articles of impeachment would fail on its own without further consideration of the facts. It is simply constitutional nonsense.

The next amusing point is the allegation that President Trump committed acts that were calculated to influence elections not yet held against candidates not yet extant. In contrast Mr Nixon was accused of acts during an election campaign when actual candidates could be deemed to have been harmed. Even if the acts alleged to have been taken by President Trump could have caused harm to another corrupt politician, the fact is that neither the campaign nor the election to which the articles refer have commenced. A potential candidate does not enjoy special protection from examination of his corrupt conduct simply because he might be the nominee of the party most likely to oppose the serving POTUS. One can only interfere in an election that is actually in process. It is ridiculous to assert interference in an election campaign that might not even occur.

Much is made of the special prerogative of the US House of Representatives to initiate impeachment proceedings. The argument presented, however, is actually quite different. The bill of impeachment insists that — like the much criticized grand jury method in Anglo-American law — the House is entitled to deny due process and the rights of the accused. The US Constitution, unlike its progenitor the British Constitution, does not establish parliamentary supremacy. The Executive is constituted as independent and co-equal with the Legislative. Thus the only moderating power — that was conceived by the slave-holding founding fathers — is the third estate, namely the judiciary.

Mr Nixon was charged with obstruction of justice not because he refused to cooperate with the Congress but because he refused the authority of the Judiciary. Then the Congress requested testimony and evidence and failing its delivery by the President or his officers, sought judicial relief. When this was granted Mr Nixon and/ or his officers frustrated judicial process. This constituted a valid charge since the Executive has never been held to be immune from judicial process, per se.

Curiously the inquisitors in the House have never sought judicial relief through the courts. (The Justice Department, to which the FBI also belongs as a subordinate agency, is part of the Executive and not the Judiciary,  a point easily missed by those whose legal system is based on the continental European inquisitorial model.) Is it because they knew that they could not satisfy even the most rudimentary evidentiary rules to establish the probity of their claims? We can only speculate. However, reading the bill of impeachment itself shows that the drafters must have come from either the least literate of the legal staff or perhaps comprised attorneys whose only claim to membership in the profession are exams from some offshore diploma mill.

There are a few questions to ask those who demand the removal of Trump. One of them is whether they are essentially supporting the Vice President, Michael Pence. Strangely we hear nothing about presidential succession from those who claim that removing Mr Trump is the holy mission of all liberals. If the loud and visible Mr Trump were to leave or be removed, then the silent but no doubt equally deadly Mr Pence would assume office. What kind of improvement would that be? Perhaps this is what some less vocal advocates of impeachment really wish — having seen Pence as the man with real POTUS stature but like a Bush practically unelectable — they would now like to remove the man who got the votes and replace him with their man who knows how to play the game. In such a case might it also make sense to keep Mr Trump in office just long enough to get past the elections and then fire him, so to speak? After all it is clear that there is no Democratic alternative capable of uniting the rich, the naive, and those who traditionally only want to vote for the winner. Who really benefits from a Trump conviction?

Of course, there are reasons enough for impeaching any President of the United States and there always will be as long at the chief executive of the US is head of the largest military-industrial warmongering apparatus on the planet. However, those are not the reasons for which any majority in the Congress would deign to impeach.

Impeachment, even under British law — from which the principle derives — has always been a political instrument for partisan purposes. One of the longest impeachment trials in recent British history was that of Warren Hastings who was accused by the Commons and tried before the House of Lords for abuse of power and enrichment as a servant of the British East India Company. Parliament assumed jurisdiction over his actions because the East India Company enjoyed a royal charter. The trial lasted for years and ultimately Hastings was acquitted. His acquittal was not because he had not enriched himself or abused power in India but because sufficient numbers in the Lords understood that Hastings’ governance of India was profitable for enough of them too.

There is no judicial or quasi-judicial remedy for the abuse of power, corruption and viciousness of the US regime whether in Congress assembled, as President elected and inaugurated, or as court sitting. The illusion that a spectacle on the floor of the US Senate will change anything in the way the US regime acts at home or abroad is poor entertainment and degenerate politics.

The capacity of the US media — from “Left” to Right — to absorb the world with this spectacle in which no real crime will ever be mentioned let alone deliberated is obscene. It is difficult not to find US political culture the epitome of pornography but without the least erotic titillation. Or perhaps that is mistaken. In a country that is unable to transcend anything except gender, titillation is both primitive and presidential and the prurient interest extends to all branches of the government so constituted.

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

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

Andean Nations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Southern Cone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Caribbean

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

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

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

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

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

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

Central America and Mexico

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A New Year’s message

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

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

Trump’s Attack against Immigrants Meets Resistance

Photo Credit:  Bill Hackwell

Nearly 800 events took place this weekend across the United States organized by grassroots organizations including religious sectors, community groups, students, labor and many individuals who had had enough of the Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids taking place in working and poor communities against immigrants and Trump’s concentration camps on the border with Mexico.

The protests feel different this time and seem broader; going beyond activists and progressive people to include folks who feel Trump’s actions embarrass the US in front of the world and thousands upon thousands who feel compelled to come out to express their disgust and outrage at the basic inhumanity and injustice of it all. Most of the signs were homemade and many of the signs in the protests referenced previous dark periods in US history where groups of people were put in concentration camps just for their ethnicity and origin including Japanese Americans during World War II, former slaves after the civil war and Native Americans as part of a long campaign of ethnic cleansing.

The recent visit to the camps by a group of democrat congresswomen who finally spoke out about what they saw with their own eyes prompted the corporate media to have to cover the issue and the degree of suffering of thousands of poor immigrants fleeing conditions created by neoliberal policies that originated in the US.

The images seen in recent days have settled into the minds of anyone with any level of consciousness and compassion living in the United States. Children separated from their parents, bodies floating in the Rio Grande trying to reach the North and the openly announced raids by Trump this weekend as a way of terrorizing the immigrant community has motivated hundreds of thousands to protest in a variety of ways.

This movement has created a problem for Trump so on the eve of the ICE raids in cities across the US he sent his equally reactionary Vice President, Mike Pence to the border to assure everyone, through the compliant corporate media, that the conditions at the camps were good while he patted the guards of these concentration camps on the back for a job well done.

Meanwhile, Pro Publica is reporting that the Department of Homeland Security is investigating a disgusting racist and anti-immigrant Facebook page made up of 9,500 current and former border agents. And as if that was not bad enough the Department of Health and Human Services is investigating thousands of allegations of sexual assault on minors who were abused by the very guards in the camps Pence visited.

The hollow words coming from the Trump administration has back-fired and has only served to encourage this weekend’s demonstrations. More actions are planned for next week and are a testimony that from now on people will continue to resist the Trump administration’s racist and anti-human policies toward the immigrant community. Painted as evil, immigrants come to this country to work primarily in the most dangerous and menial jobs to try and give a dignified life to their loved ones. Even if the American Dream is more like a nightmare they will continue to come not because they want to leave their homeland but because their countries have been looted by the U.S.

How Evangelical Christians Risk Setting the Middle East on Fire

The recent arrival of Africa’s most popular televangelist preacher, TB Joshua, to address thousands of foreign pilgrims in Nazareth produced a mix of consternation and anger in the city of Jesus’s childhood.

There was widespread opposition from Nazareth’s political movements, as well as from community groups and church leaders, who called for a boycott of his two rallies. They were joined by the council of muftis, which described the events as “a red line for faith in religious values”.

Joshua’s gatherings, which included public exorcisms, took place in an open-air amphitheatre on a hill above Nazareth that was originally built for papal masses. The site was used by Pope Benedict in 2009.

The Nigerian pastor, who has millions of followers worldwide and calls himself a prophet, aroused local hostility not only because his brand of Christianity strays far from the more traditional doctrines of Middle Eastern churches. He also represents a trend of foreign Christians, driven by apocalyptic readings of the Bible, interfering ever more explicitly in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories – and in ways that directly aid the policies of Israel’s far-right government.

Much-needed tourism boost

Nazareth is the largest of the Palestinian communities in Israel that survived the Nakba, or catastrophe, of 1948, which forced most of the native population out of the bulk of their homeland and replaced it with a Jewish state. Today, one in five Israeli citizens are Palestinian.

The city and its immediate environs include the highest concentration of Palestinian Christians in the region. But it has long suffered from the hostility of Israeli officials, who have starved Nazareth of resources to prevent it from becoming a political, economic or cultural capital for the Palestinian minority.

The city has almost no land for growth or industrial areas to expand its income base, and Israel has tightly constrained its ability to develop a proper tourism industry. Most pilgrims pass through briefly to visit its Basilica of the Annunciation, the site where the angel Gabriel reputedly told Mary she was carrying Jesus.

Nazareth’s municipal officials leapt at the chance to exploit the publicity, and income, provided by Joshua’s visit. The municipality’s longer-term hope is that, if the city can attract even a small proportion of the more than 60 million Christian evangelicals in the US and millions more in Africa and Europe, it will provide an enormous boost to the city’s economy.

Recent figures show evangelical tourism to Israel has been steadily rising, now accounting for about one in seven of all overseas visitors.

Playing with fire

But as the fallout over Joshua’s visit indicates, Nazareth may be playing with fire by encouraging these types of pilgrims to take a greater interest in the region. Most local Christians understand that Joshua’s teachings are not directed at them – and, in fact, are likely to harm them.

The Nigerian pastor chose Nazareth to spread his gospel, but faced vocal opposition from those who believe he is using the city simply as the backdrop to his bigger mission – one that appears entirely indifferent to the plight of Palestinians, whether those living inside Israel in places such as Nazareth, or those under occupation.

Political factions in Nazareth noted Joshua’s “ties to far-right and settlers circles in Israel”. He is reported to have had meetings about opening operations in the Jordan Valley, the reputed site of Jesus’ baptism but also the agricultural backbone of the West Bank. The area is being targeted by the far-right government of Benjamin Netanyahu for settlement expansion and possible annexation, thereby dooming efforts to create a Palestinian state.

A view of Armageddon

During his visits to Israel, Joshua has also enjoyed access to key government figures such as Yariv Levin, a close ally of Netanyahu’s, who has been in charge of two portfolios viewed as critical by the evangelical community: tourism, and the absorption into Israel of new Jewish immigrants from the US and Europe.

Many in the evangelical community, including Joshua, believe it is their duty to encourage Jews to move from their home countries to the Promised Land to bring forward an end-times supposedly prophesied in the Bible.

This is the Rapture, when Jesus returns to build his kingdom on earth and righteous Christians take their place alongside him. Everyone else, including unrepentant Jews, it is implied, will burn in Hell’s eternal fires.

The cliff above the Jezreel Valley where Joshua and his disciples congregated offers views over Tel Megiddo, the modern name of the biblical site of Armageddon, where many evangelicals believe the end of the world will soon happen.

Speeding up the second coming

These Christians are not simply observers of an unfolding divine plan; they are active participants trying to bring the end-times closer.

In fact, the traumas of the Israel-Palestine conflict – the decades of bloodshed, violent colonisation and expulsions of Palestinians – cannot be understood separately from the interference of Western Christian leaders in the Middle East over the past century. In many ways, they engineered the Israel we know today.

The first Zionists, after all, were not Jews, but Christians. A vigorous Christian Zionist movement – known then as “restorationism” – emerged in the early 19th century, predating and heavily influencing its subsequent Jewish counterpart.

The restorationists’ peculiar reading of the Bible meant that they believed the Messiah’s second coming could be accelerated if God’s chosen people, the Jews, returned to the Promised Land after 2,000 years of a supposed exile.

Charles Taze Russell, a US pastor from Pennsylvania, travelled the world from the 1870s onwards imploring Jews to establish a national home for themselves in what was then Palestine. He even produced a plan for how a Jewish state might be created there.

He did so nearly 20 years before the Jewish Viennese journalist Theodor Herzl published his famous book outlining a Jewish state.

The secular Herzl didn’t much care where such a Jewish state was built. But his later followers – deeply aware of the hold of Christian Zionism in western capitals – focused their attention on Palestine, the biblical Promised Land, in the hope of winning powerful allies in Europe and the US.

Rallying cry for Herzl’s followers

Imperial Britain’s support was especially prized. In 1840, Lord Shaftesbury, who was connected through marriage to Lord Palmerston, a later prime minister, published an advert in the London Times urging the return of Jews to Palestine.

Christian Zionism was an important factor influencing the British government in 1917 to issue the Balfour Declaration – effectively a promissory note from Britain that became the blueprint for creating a Jewish state on the ruins of the native population’s homeland.

Writing of the declaration, Israeli historian Tom Segev has observed: “The men who sired it were Christian and Zionist and, in many cases, anti-Semitic.” That was because Christian Zionism took as its premise that Jews should not integrate into their own countries. Rather, they should serve as instruments of God’s will, moving to the Middle East so that Christians could achieve redemption.

Edwin Montagu was the only British cabinet minister to oppose the Balfour Declaration, and he was also its sole Jewish member. He warned – for good reason – that the document would “prove a rallying ground for anti-Semites in every country in the world”.

‘Struggle until the Rapture’

While Jewish Zionists looked to the imperial powerhouse of Britain for sponsorship a century ago, today, their chief patron is the US. The standard-bearers of Christian Zionism have been enjoying growing influence in Washington since the Six-Day War of 1967.

That process has reached its apotheosis under President Donald Trump. He has surrounded himself with a mix of extreme Jewish and Christian Zionists. His ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, and Middle East envoy, Jason Greenblatt, are fervent Jewish supporters of the illegal settlements. But so too, it seems, are key Christians in the White House, such as Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Before he entered government, Pompeo was clear about his evangelical beliefs. Back in 2015, he told a congregation: “It is a never-ending struggle … until the Rapture. Be part of it. Be in the fight.”

This past March, he backed the idea that Trump might have been sent by God to save Israel from threats such as Iran. “I am confident that the Lord is at work here,” he told the Christian Broadcasting Network.

Pence, meanwhile, has said: “My passion for Israel springs from my Christian faith … It’s really the greatest privilege of my life to serve as vice-president to a president who cares so deeply for our most cherished ally.”

Sleeping giant awakens

Trump’s relocation last year of the US embassy to Jerusalem, pre-empting any negotiated settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict, was designed to pander to his Christian Zionist base. Some 80 percent of white evangelicals voted for him in 2016, and he will need their support again in 2020 if he hopes to be re-elected.

Not surprisingly, the new US embassy in Jerusalem was consecrated by two prominent televangelist pastors, John Hagee and Robert Jeffress, known for their fanatical support for Israel – as well as occasional antisemitic outbursts.

More than a decade ago, Hagee, the founder of Christians United for Israel, told delegates at a conference organised by AIPAC, Israel’s main political lobby in Washington: “The sleeping giant of Christian Zionism has awakened. There are 50 million Christians standing up and applauding the state of Israel.”

The Hagee group’s activities include lobbying in Congress for hardline pro-Israel legislation, such as the recent Taylor Force Act that slashes US funding to the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinians’ government-in-waiting. The group is also active in helping to push through legislation at the state and federal levels, penalising anyone who boycotts Israel.

For US evangelicals, and those elsewhere, Israel is increasingly a key issue. A 2015 poll showed some three-quarters believe that developments in Israel were prophesied in the Bible’s Book of Revelation.

Many expect Trump to complete a chain of events set in motion by British officials a century ago – and more and more of them are getting directly involved, in hopes of speeding along that process.

Closer ties to settlers

Israel’s vision of an “ingathering of the exiles” – encouraging Jews from around the world to move to the region under the Law of Return – fits neatly with Christian Zionism’s beliefs in a divine plan for the Middle East.

The efforts of extremist Jewish settlers to colonise the West Bank, the bulk of any future Palestinian state, also chimes with Christian Zionists’ understanding of the West Bank as the “biblical heartland”, an area Jews must possess before Jesus returns.

For these reasons, evangelicals are developing ever-closer ties with Israeli Jewish religious extremists, especially in the settlements. Recent initiatives have included online and face-to-face Bible studies programmes run by Orthodox Jews, often settlers, targeted specifically at evangelical Christians. The tutorials are designed to bolster the settlers’ narrative, as well as demonising Muslims and, by extension, Palestinians.

The most popular course offered by Root Source, one such venture, is titled “Islam – Insights and Deceptions”. It uses the Old and New Testaments to make the case that Islam “is extremely dangerous”.

A few months ago, Haaretz, Israel’s leading liberal newspaper, published an investigation into the growing flow of evangelical volunteers and money into the West Bank’s illegal settlements – the chief obstacle to achieving a two-state solution.

One US organisation alone, Hayovel, has brought more than 1,700 Christian volunteers over the past 10 years to help in a settlement close to Nablus, in the heart of the West Bank.

Evangelical money pours in

An increasing number of similar initiatives have been aided by new rules introduced last year by the Israeli government to pay Christian Zionist groups such as Hayovel to advocate abroad for the settlements.

It is much harder to know exactly how much evangelical money is pouring into the settlements, because of a lack of transparency regarding US donations made by churches and charities. But the Haaretz investigation estimates that over the past decade, as much as $65m has flowed in.

Ariel, a settler town sitting in the very centre of the West Bank, received $8m for a sports centre from John Hagee Ministries a decade ago. Another evangelical outfit, J H Israel, has spent $2m there on a national leadership centre.

Other Christian charities that have historically funded projects inside Israel are reported to be increasingly considering assisting the settlements too.

Should a Trump peace plan – touted for publication later this year – back annexation of parts of the West Bank, as is widely expected, it would likely unleash a new and even greater wave of evangelical money into the settlements.

Immune to reason

This is precisely the problem for Palestinians, and the wider Middle East. Christian Zionists are meddling yet again, whether they be government officials, church leaders or their congregations. Evangelical influence is to be found from the US and Brazil to Europe, Africa and Southeast Asia.

Western governments typically have more practical and pressing concerns than realising biblical prophecy to justify divide-and-rule policies in the Middle East. Chiefly, they want control over the region’s oil resources, and can secure it only by projecting military power there to prevent rival nations from gaining a foothold.

But the uncritical support of tens of millions of Christians around the world, whose passion for Israel is immune to reason, makes the job of these governments selling wars and resource grabs all the easier.

Both Israel and the West have benefited from cultivating an image of a plucky Jewish state surrounded by barbaric Arabs and Muslims determined to destroy it. As a result, Israel has enjoyed ever greater integration into a Western power bloc, while Western governments have been offered easy pretexts either to interfere in the region directly or delegate such interference to Israel.

The payoff for Israel has been unstinting support from the US and Europe, as it oppresses and drives the Palestinians off their lands.

With an evangelical base behind him, Trump has no need to offer plausible arguments before he acts. He can move the US embassy to Jerusalem, or approve the annexation of the West Bank, or attack Iran.

Standing against Israel’s enemies

Seen this way, any enemy Israel claims to have – whether the Palestinians or Iran – automatically becomes the sworn enemy of tens of millions of evangelical Christians.

Netanyahu understands the growing importance of this uncritical overseas lobby as his and Israel’s standing drops precipitously among liberal US Jews, appalled by the rightward lurch of successive governments.

In 2017, Netanyahu told a crowd of evangelicals in Washington: “When I say we have no greater friends than Christian supporters of Israel, I know you’ve always stood with us.”

For Palestinians, this is bad news. Most of these evangelicals, such as T B Joshua, are largely indifferent or hostile to the fate of the Palestinians – even Palestinian Christians, such as those in Nazareth.

A recent editorial in Haaretz noted that Netanyahu and his officials were now “endeavoring to make evangelicals – who support Israel’s hawkish rejectionism regarding the Palestinians – the sole foundation of American support for Israel.”

The truth is that these Christian Zionists view the region through a single, exclusive prism: whatever aids the imminent arrival of the Messiah is welcomed. The only issue is how soon God’s “chosen people” will congregate in the Promised Land.

If the Palestinians stand in Israel’s way, these tens of millions of foreign Christians will be quite happy to see the native population driven out once again – as they were in 1948 and 1967.

• Previously published in Middle East Eye

The Treasury Department and Moves Towards War on Iran

As Patrick Cockburn has observed in a recent Counterpunch column, “At the end of the day, the US Treasury is a more powerful instrument of foreign policy than the Pentagon for all its aircraft carriers and drones.” He refers, of course, to the success of U.S. sanctions on Iran and secondary sanctions on any corporations conducting trade with Iran. These have cut Iranian oil exports in half. They are, in fact, a form of undeclared warfare designed to inflict pain on the Iranian people, such that they rise up against the mullahs and topple the regime.

Cockburn notes that the European Union, while earnestly striving to sustain the Iran Deal by developing normal trade relations with Japan, has been thwarted by the U.S. Treasury Department.  The U.S. is demanding in effect that all nations including China and Russia join with it in torturing Iran until it capitulates to U.S. demands and U.S.-Israeli-Saudi plans for a reconfigured Middle East.

The arrogance of Trump, Mike Pompeo and John Bolton as they bark their demands, not only to the Iranians but to everyone, disgusts the world. It invites angry protests, from the European Commission to the Chinese foreign ministry. It is a clear violation of the principles of free trade and the sovereign rights of nations. It is the ultimate U.S. attack, because its target is the entire world.

If you are a foe and you trade with Iran, we punish you.

If you are a friend and you trade with Iran, we punish you.

All must obey the U.S.A. as it strives to hurt Iran. All must become complicit in the deliberate destruction of the Iranian economy, while the U.S. openly advertises plans to send 120,000 troops to the region to intimidate Iran.

Trump’s almost equally moronic presidential predecessor George W. Bush once declared, “You’re either for us, or against us.” He referred to the original War on Terror as waged mostly in Afghanistan, which received general approval from governments world-wide. (The Iraq War was another matter; even key allies were not “for” the U.S. and were briefly vilified as “enemies.”)

The current administration says, “You’re either on board our project of regime change in Iran, and willing to forgo lucrative investment opportunities in that country, or you’re against us. And if you’re against us, we will not allow you to operate in the U.S. marketplace or finance your operations using U.S. banks.”

In the history of U.S. arrogance, this is a peak. I struggle to find any historical parallel, in which a country not only announced its intention to destroy a regime—by organizing an international economic boycott enforced through its banks—but demanded universal compliance in its efforts.

It is not only damaging economically. It is insulting. As the world becomes increasingly multipolar, and the U.S. position in it steadily declines, it throws down the gauntlet. Pompeo’s gate-crashing appearance at the last EU meet (on Iran) says it all. The uninvited and un-respected U.S. Secretary of State barged uninvited into a meeting to demand from an unsympathetic audience cooperation in its regime-change effort. All he achieved apparently was to convince the Europeans that the U.S. is pushing to another Iraq-style war based on lies. (Surely any European diplomat is aware of the character of John Bolton, and is appalled that the moron-president would choose such a thug as his national security advisor.)

The mustachioed monster lusts for war on Iran, with probable backing from Apocalypse Mike, the bible-toting secretary of state, and Boeing exec turned acting war secretary Patrick Shanahan. Can Trump, despite his declared opposition to overseas military adventures, resist their arguments for war?

The media is widely reporting that statements from top-ranking British officers in Iraq and elsewhere that there has been no acceleration of a threat from Iran, contradicting Bolton’s sensationalistic claims. Their “unusual” statements contradicting U.S. State Department bullshit indicate a high level of tension even between the U.S. and U.K. on the Iran question. This suggests the threat of a U.S. strike is receding; you wouldn’t think they’d proceed without even London’s support. But on the other hand the U.S. is evacuating non-essential personnel from Iraq, suggesting it wants to whisk them out of harm’s way before some immanent action in that country.

There is a madman in power, who controls both the Pentagon and the Treasury Department. He is pressing less for war than for capitulation under economic torture. But he does not understand the Shiite passion for self-sacrifice. The Iranian people are not so stupid as to think that, whatever pocketbook misery the U.S. inflicts on their country, they are better off submitting (again) to U.S. imperialism. The Iranian people have positive feelings for the people of this country, in part due to the history of academic exchanges: the Iranian Foreign Minister studied at San Francisco State University and University of Denver. But they view the U.S. government with contempt (as we all should).

So as Trump tightens the screws, and the Europeans prove incapable of holding up their end of the deal due to U.S. sabotage, the Iranians will stubbornly hold out, praying for regime change in the U.S. while the murderous Netanyahu and Prince MsB trade high-fives about how swimmingly this is all going.

Venezuela: Amnesty International in Service of Empire

Uncle Sam has a problem in his South American “backyard” with those uppity Venezuelans who insisted on democratically electing Nicolás Maduro as their president instead of by-passing the electoral process and installing the unelected US asset Juan Guaidó. No matter, Amnesty International has come to the rescue with a full-throated defense of US imperialism:

Faced with grave human rights violations, shortages of medicines and food and generalized violence in Venezuela, there is an urgent hunger for justice. The crimes against humanity probably committed by the authorities must not go unpunished.

— Erika Guevara-Rosas, America’s director at Amnesty International

Amnesty International fails in its broadside to put its claims against the Maduro government in the context of a concerted regime-change campaign, which amounts to war, by the bully from the north. The US is waging an illegal war against Venezuela and Amnesty International’s broadside leaves out this inconvenient fact, egregiously even omitting any mention of sanctions.

As human rights activist Chuck Kaufman of the Alliance for Global Justice noted about Amnesty International (AI): “They don’t seem to even care about their credibility anymore.” A more credible and honest account of what is unfolding in Venezuela, than the hatchet job presented in AI’s May 14th Venezuela: Crimes against humanity require a vigorous response from the international justice system, would have also noted along with the alleged transgressions of the Maduro government:

  • Grave human rights violations. Economists Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University recently reported that US sanctions on Venezuela are responsible for tens of thousands of deaths. This is the price being exacted on Venezuela, with a prediction for worse to come, for the regime change that AI is implicitly promoting.
  • Shortages of medicines and food. Since 2015, when US President Obama first instituted them, the US has been imposing ever more crippling illegal sanctions on Venezuela expressly to create misery for the population in the hope that it would then turn against their own democratically elected government. The sanctions are specifically designed to suffocate the economy so that Venezuela cannot address its problems. The US government boasts about the impacts of sanctions. Playing the good cop to the US role as bad cop, AI laments the very conditions they are tacitly promoting in asking for ever increasing “punishments.” New US sanctions on Venezuela were imposed on May 10th.
  • Generalized violence. The US government has repeatedly and unapologetically threatened military intervention in Venezuela if the elected government doesn’t abdicate. Short of attacking militarily, the US has waged war against Venezuela by economic and diplomatic means, not to mention low-intensity warfare such as cyber attacks. The extreme right wing opposition has called for the extra-legal overthrow of the government and has eschewed electoral means for effecting political change. AI is correct in noting that since 2017 new violence has been inflicted on the Venezuelan people but fails to note the role of the opposition in provoking that violence with their guarimbas and other actions. Meanwhile Guaidó, whose popular support in Venezuela is bottoming out, is reported sending his envoy to meet with the US Southern Command to “coordinate.”

How is it possible that an organization purporting to stand for human rights and global justice can so blithely ignore facts that do not fit into their narrative and so obsequiously parrot the Trump-Pompeo-Bolton-Abrams talking points? Why would AI go so far as to meet with the self-appointed Guaidó and then within days issue a report condemning the Maduro government, without also investigating the other side in the conflict?

Unfortunately, this is not the first time AI has shown an imperial bias as it has regarding US-backed regime-change projects in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Nicaragua.

Objectively deconstructing the many allegations (e.g., “more than 8,000 extrajudicial executions by the security forces”) made against Venezuela in the AI broadside and its accompanying report remains to be done. Unfortunately, the Empire has a surfeit of resources to churn out propaganda compared to the ability to counter it by genuine humanitarian groups. AI alone has an annual budget of over $300 million. According to sources cited by Wikipedia, AI receives grants from the US State Department, the European Commission, and other governments along with the Rockefeller Foundation.

To conclude, AI’s broadside calls for justice about as often as it calls for punishment with the subtext that punishment of the Empire’s victims is justice. Were AI truly concerned about justice, rather than justifying another US regime-change operation, they would champion the following:

  • Ending the unilateral sanctions by the US on Venezuela, which are illegal under the charters of the United Nations and the Organization of American States.
  • Supporting dialogue between the elected government and the opposition as has been promoted by Mexico, Uruguay, Pope Francis, and most recently by Norway.
  • Condemning regime-change activities and interference in Venezuela’s internal affairs and actively rejecting the US government’s aggressive stance as articulated by US VP Pence: “This is no time for dialogue. This is time for action.”
  • Respecting the sovereignty of Venezuela and restoring normal diplomatic relations between the US and Venezuela.

Trump: From China to Iran to Venezuela, Threats and Sanctions Everywhere

As of May 10, Mr. Trump has arbitrarily increased tariffs on Chinese goods imported into the US, worth about 200 billion dollars, from 10% to 25%. It is an action without any foundation. An action that makes no sense at all, as China can and will retaliate – and retaliate much stronger than what the impact of the US’s new “sanctions” may bear – because these arbitrary tariffs are nothing else but sanctions. Illegality of such foreign interference aside, there is hardly any serious economist in this world who would favor tariffs in international trade among “adults” anywhere and for any reason, and, of course, least as a punishment for a nation. All that such sanctions do is pushing a partner away. In this case it’s not just any partner; China is a key trading partner of the United States.

The new tariffs will hardly harm the American consumer. There are huge profit margins by US middlemen and importers of Chinese goods. They are competing with each other within the US  and the consumer may not even notice a thing. However, the US economy will likely suffer, especially from Chinese retaliatory actions.

A spoiled child, what Trump is, doesn’t get his way – and goes into a tantrum, not quite knowing what he is doing, and knowing even less what he may expect in return. Mr. Trump, himself, has not only reached a level of incompetence and ignorance which is scary – but he has also surrounded himself with inept, preposterous people, like, Pence, Bolton, Pompeo – who, it appears, have no other means left than running around the world amok, dishing out threats left and right and spending billions on moving aircraft carriers around the globe to make sure people are afraid of the great-great United States of America.

Back to trading with China. China has a million ways (almost) to retaliate. China can devalue her currency vis-à-vis the dollar, or China can dump some of their almost 3 trillion dollars-worth of reserves on the money market – just take a wild guess about what that would do to the hegemony of the dollar which is already in dire straits – with ever more countries departing from the use of dollars for international trade.

And just hypothetically, China could stop altogether exporting all that Walmart junk that American consumers love so much just for a while. Or China could stop making iPhones for the US market. Guess what kind of an uproar that would trigger in the US?  Or China could, of course, levy herself high tariffs on US imports, or stop US imports altogether. China being part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) – actually the co-founder of it – has many alternatives to cover her demand. No need to depend on the west.

Let’s not forget, the SCO which also counts as its members, Russia, India, Pakistan, most of Central Asia, and Iran poised to become a full-fledged member, covers about half of the world population and a third of the world’s economic output, or GDP. No need to look to the west for ‘survival’ – those times are long gone.

But more importantly, what all this looks like to me is the desperate thrashing around of a dying beast, or in this case a dying empire.

We have the US and Venezuela – threats after threats after threats – Maduro must go, or more sanctions. Indeed, according to a study by the Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR), these horrifying, totally illegal sanctions or blockages of imports, most of them already paid for by Venezuela, have killed some 40,000 people in Venezuela. Of course, Washington doesn’t care about legality and killing, also typical for a fading mighty power – no respect for law and order, no respect for human rights and human lives. One only has to see what type of psychopaths are occupying the tasks of “Foreign Minister” and of “National Security Advisor” or of Vice President, for that matter – they are all sick, but very sick and dangerous people.

Well, in Venezuela “regime change” didn’t work out – so far. Pompeo has been clearly told off by Mr. Lavrov during their recent get-together in Helsinki,  and China is in the same line of supporting the government of Nicolas Maduro.

Next – Iran. Attacking Iran has been a dream of Bolton’s ever since the US 2003 “Shock and Awe” invasion of Iraq. Bolton and Pompeo are of the same revolting kind: They want wars, conflicts, or if they don’t get wars, they want to sow fear, they enjoy seeing people scared. They want suffering. Now they didn’t succeed – at least so far – with Venezuela, let’s try Iran. Pompeo – “Iran has done irregular things” – not saying what in particular he means – so Iran has to be punished, with yet more sanctions. And any argument is good.

The entire world knows, including the Vienna-based UN Economic Energy Commission, and has acknowledged umpteen times that Iran has fully adhered to the conditions of the Nuclear Deal from which the US exited a year ago. Of course, no secret here either, this at the demand of Trump’s Big Friend Bibi Netanyahu. The European Union vassals may actually turn for their own business interests, not for political ethics, but pure and simple self-interest – towards respecting the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or Nuclear Deal. China and Russia are already holding on to the Deal, and they are not impressed by Washington’s threats. So, there is very little Trump and his minions can do, other than saber rattling.

Therefore, the nefarious Pence-Pompeo-Bolton trio must invent another warning: Iran or any proxy of Iran shall attack an ally of the US, and Iran will be devastated. In fact, they consider the Houthis in Yemen who fight for their sheer survival against the US-UK-France – and NATO supported Saudis, as a proxy for Iran. So, the US could start bombing Iran already today. Why don’t they?

Maybe they are afraid – afraid Iran could lock down the Strait of Hormuz, where 60% of US oil imports have to sail through. What a disaster that would be, not just for the US but also for the rest of the world. Oil prices could skyrocket. Would Washington want to risk a war over their irrationality? Maybe, Mr. Halfwit Trump might, but I doubt that his deep-dark state handlers would. They know what’s at stake for them and the world. But they let Trump play his games a bit longer.

Moving the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, loaded with war planes, close to Iranian waters costs hundreds of millions or billions. Just to enhance a threat. A show-off. Bolton and Pompeo will entertain their sadism, enjoying seeing scared people. But the cost of war doesn’t matter – it’s just more debt, and as we know, the US never, but never pays back its debt.

Next, or simultaneously, is China. The trade war with China that started last year, then had a respite to the point of the recent joint negotiations and suddenly the Trumpians are veering off again. They must smash China, wanting to appear superior. But why? The world knows that the US is no longer superior by a long shot, and haven’t been for the last couple of years, when China surpassed the US in economic strength, measured by PPP – Purchasing Power Parity – which is the only parity or exchange rate that has any real meaning.

Guess what!  All these three cases have one common denominator: The dollar as a chief instrument for world hegemony. Venezuela and Iran have stopped using the dollar for their hydrocarbon and other international trading, already some years ago. And so did China and Russia. China’s strong currency, the Yuan, is rapidly taking over the US-dollar’s reserve position in the world. Sanctioning China with insane tariffs is supposed to weaken the Yuan; but it won’t.

All of these three countries, China, Iran and Venezuela are threatening the US dollar’s world hegemony and without that the US economy is dead, literally. The dollar is based on thin air, and on fraud.  The dollar system used around the globe is nothing but a huge, a very big and monstrous Ponzi-scheme, that one day must be coming crashing down.

That’s what’s at stake. New FED Board member, Herman Cain, for example, is pledging for a new gold standard. But none of these last resort US measure will work, not a new gold standard, not a trade and tariff war, and not threats of wars and destruction and “regime change”. The nations around the world know what’s going on, they know the US is in her last breath; though they don’t quite dare saying so, but they know it, and are waiting for the downfall to continue. The world is waiting for the grand fiesta, dancing in the streets, when the empire disappears or becomes utterly irrelevant.

• First published in New Eastern Outlook (NEO)

Cuba Defies the Threats from Trump with Hundreds of Thousands in the Street

Plaza of the Revolution (Photo by Bill Hackwell)

Considering the level of belligerence and hostility coming from the empire of the North one might expect that the powerful May Day march through the Plaza of the Revolution might take on a defensive military overtone. But Cuba is never that way and instead they show their resolution and defiance cloaked within their humanity.

Just as the sun started to rise the march to celebrate the International Day of the Workers began and behind the banner that read Unity, Commitment and Victory were not soldiers with weapons but waves of doctors, soldiers in white, who had recently been expelled from Brazil by the right wing government of Bolsonaro leaving vast areas of Brazil without medical professionals. Vibrant demonstrations also marked the occasion in all 15 provinces of Cuba and the Isle of Youth.

No one really talks about the numbers here but it took almost 2 hours for the marchers that filled the wide Paseo Avenue to pass the towering statue of Jose Marti. This year’s theme featured thousands of people who work in medical services and medical research along with contingents from medical universities like the Latin American School of Medicine that is the largest medical university in the world.

Organized by the Confederation of Cuban Workers (CTC), thousands of trade unionists representing 103 unions from 87 countries participated. Hundreds of solidarity activists were there including 300 who are attending the 14th May Day Brigade at the Julio Mella Camp in Caimito. The largest delegation in the camp this year comes from the United States.

The US: Maintaining Hegemony through Protectionism and Threats

Today, at the CTC trade union meeting at the Palace of the Conventions, Ana Teresita Gonzalez Fraga, Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister, explained to the assembled supporters of Latin American unity and sovereignty that we were in a complex period where US Imperialism was trying to hold on to its international hegemony through all out protectionism, the advancement of the Monroe Doctrine, the threat of war, political lies and the use of unconventional warfare against legitimate governments. As she was speaking the first lawsuits from Title III of the Helms Burton Act were being filed in Federal Court in Miami against Carnaval Cruise Lines for its use of the docks in Havana harbor. Title III is a unique measure of acquiring the rights to regain former property that Cubans who fled the revolution in 1959 by somehow magically turning it into US property because those Cubans later became US citizens. This legal stretch had been shelved by previous administrations from the pressure of European allies who will be affected. Also going into effect today is Title IV that prohibits entry into U.S territory people being sued under Title III.

It remains to be seen how deep the new sanctions that the Trump administration will be until they are written into law. In 2018 over 1 million Americans, including Cuban Americans, visited Cuba and in the vicious minds of Trump, Pompeo, Bolton and Pence this type of family and human interaction has to end, to squeeze even harder on an economy that has been blockaded since 1962 for being an disobedient colony and positive example to the world. Trump says he will limit family visits and remittances to $1000 every 3 months that will primarily affect small private enterprises.

Even before the laws are in effect intimidation is already taking place. In the Miami airport, after passing normal security checks passports were being re-checked at the gate and before Cuban Americans could board the plane to Havana their carry-on bags were being opened and searched by Federal Police while a police dog was aggressively checking everyone as they walked down to the plane. What else could this be but to create a chilling effect on Cuban travel?

The Charade of Guaido Fails Again

The failure of the amateurish coup attack on April 30th in Caracas only strengthened the forces of Chavismo in Venezuela according to the Venezuelan ambassador to Cuba, Adan Chavez, at the CTC meeting today, “The attacks on the Bolivarian Revolution started on day one but one thing we know now is that we will never again be a US colony. Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez made it possible to achieve victories that will not regress.” The coup that didn’t happen was built up in the corporate media but it has now fizzled out of the airwaves and the reality of installing Guaido, their selected president is evaporating and that is starting to sink in on Wall Street and their impatience is starting to show. Yesterday Forbes, the Capitalist’s Tool, begrudged, “We are not making money…We are all waiting for the catalyst that leads to change in Venezuela. Maduro has outlasted all expectations. He’s entrenched in Caracas.”

John Bolton; how low can you go?

John Bolton, the criminal architect of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, that directly led to the death of a million Iraqis and the displacement of millions more, has come up with the latest attack to include both Cuba and Venezuela. Along with claiming that Venezuela has been colonized by Cuba he is also repeating the cynical and outrageous claim that the Cuba-Venezuela cooperative agreement that provides 20,000 Cuban medical professionals to every province, in cities and rural areas of Venezuela are in actuality Cuban soldiers and security forces. That is something they would do, as they have in 177 countries, with more than 800,000 soldiers on 800 bases. Trump is picking up the lie saying it over and over so that the US public will hear it so much that…well, it must be true. This far-fetched whooper of a lie is to justify the threats and tightening of all sorts of sanctions on both countries. The shackling of Venezuela is a key component of the US strategy in the destroying of Cuba, but as was on display here in Havana, in Caracas and in the defense of the integrity of the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, the resistance is a force they have to reckon with.

Cuba Defies the Threats from Trump with Hundreds of Thousands in the Street

Plaza of the Revolution (Photo by Bill Hackwell)

Considering the level of belligerence and hostility coming from the empire of the North one might expect that the powerful May Day march through the Plaza of the Revolution might take on a defensive military overtone. But Cuba is never that way and instead they show their resolution and defiance cloaked within their humanity.

Just as the sun started to rise the march to celebrate the International Day of the Workers began and behind the banner that read Unity, Commitment and Victory were not soldiers with weapons but waves of doctors, soldiers in white, who had recently been expelled from Brazil by the right wing government of Bolsonaro leaving vast areas of Brazil without medical professionals. Vibrant demonstrations also marked the occasion in all 15 provinces of Cuba and the Isle of Youth.

No one really talks about the numbers here but it took almost 2 hours for the marchers that filled the wide Paseo Avenue to pass the towering statue of Jose Marti. This year’s theme featured thousands of people who work in medical services and medical research along with contingents from medical universities like the Latin American School of Medicine that is the largest medical university in the world.

Organized by the Confederation of Cuban Workers (CTC), thousands of trade unionists representing 103 unions from 87 countries participated. Hundreds of solidarity activists were there including 300 who are attending the 14th May Day Brigade at the Julio Mella Camp in Caimito. The largest delegation in the camp this year comes from the United States.

The US: Maintaining Hegemony through Protectionism and Threats

Today, at the CTC trade union meeting at the Palace of the Conventions, Ana Teresita Gonzalez Fraga, Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister, explained to the assembled supporters of Latin American unity and sovereignty that we were in a complex period where US Imperialism was trying to hold on to its international hegemony through all out protectionism, the advancement of the Monroe Doctrine, the threat of war, political lies and the use of unconventional warfare against legitimate governments. As she was speaking the first lawsuits from Title III of the Helms Burton Act were being filed in Federal Court in Miami against Carnaval Cruise Lines for its use of the docks in Havana harbor. Title III is a unique measure of acquiring the rights to regain former property that Cubans who fled the revolution in 1959 by somehow magically turning it into US property because those Cubans later became US citizens. This legal stretch had been shelved by previous administrations from the pressure of European allies who will be affected. Also going into effect today is Title IV that prohibits entry into U.S territory people being sued under Title III.

It remains to be seen how deep the new sanctions that the Trump administration will be until they are written into law. In 2018 over 1 million Americans, including Cuban Americans, visited Cuba and in the vicious minds of Trump, Pompeo, Bolton and Pence this type of family and human interaction has to end, to squeeze even harder on an economy that has been blockaded since 1962 for being an disobedient colony and positive example to the world. Trump says he will limit family visits and remittances to $1000 every 3 months that will primarily affect small private enterprises.

Even before the laws are in effect intimidation is already taking place. In the Miami airport, after passing normal security checks passports were being re-checked at the gate and before Cuban Americans could board the plane to Havana their carry-on bags were being opened and searched by Federal Police while a police dog was aggressively checking everyone as they walked down to the plane. What else could this be but to create a chilling effect on Cuban travel?

The Charade of Guaido Fails Again

The failure of the amateurish coup attack on April 30th in Caracas only strengthened the forces of Chavismo in Venezuela according to the Venezuelan ambassador to Cuba, Adan Chavez, at the CTC meeting today, “The attacks on the Bolivarian Revolution started on day one but one thing we know now is that we will never again be a US colony. Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez made it possible to achieve victories that will not regress.” The coup that didn’t happen was built up in the corporate media but it has now fizzled out of the airwaves and the reality of installing Guaido, their selected president is evaporating and that is starting to sink in on Wall Street and their impatience is starting to show. Yesterday Forbes, the Capitalist’s Tool, begrudged, “We are not making money…We are all waiting for the catalyst that leads to change in Venezuela. Maduro has outlasted all expectations. He’s entrenched in Caracas.”

John Bolton; how low can you go?

John Bolton, the criminal architect of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, that directly led to the death of a million Iraqis and the displacement of millions more, has come up with the latest attack to include both Cuba and Venezuela. Along with claiming that Venezuela has been colonized by Cuba he is also repeating the cynical and outrageous claim that the Cuba-Venezuela cooperative agreement that provides 20,000 Cuban medical professionals to every province, in cities and rural areas of Venezuela are in actuality Cuban soldiers and security forces. That is something they would do, as they have in 177 countries, with more than 800,000 soldiers on 800 bases. Trump is picking up the lie saying it over and over so that the US public will hear it so much that…well, it must be true. This far-fetched whooper of a lie is to justify the threats and tightening of all sorts of sanctions on both countries. The shackling of Venezuela is a key component of the US strategy in the destroying of Cuba, but as was on display here in Havana, in Caracas and in the defense of the integrity of the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, the resistance is a force they have to reckon with.

Venezuela Diary: January 24 to February 23, 2019

Below is a diary, edited slightly for style and clarity, directly from Facebook posts of mine from January 24, 2019 through the culminating day — for now — of Saturday, February 23, 2019 when the US propaganda whirlwind and concerted campaign caught up with the political realities on the ground. Although I have not been a regular user of Facebook, resisting the entreaties of friends, in this period I found it a compelling vehicle to follow, speak out, and get feedback on the Trump Administration-led drive for a military coup and the accompanying propaganda build-up.

Trump and bipartisan Washington have been forced into a political climb-down for now, leaving the Duque and Bolsonaro governments, not to speak of Juan Guaidó, twisting in the wind. Unfortunately, this only slows down Washington’s efforts at regime change. These are fueled by the Venezuelan capitalist economic and financial crisis which is set to deepen considerably with new US sanctions and US seizures of Venezuela’s significant assets in the United States. Venezuela and the United States have broken off diplomatic relations, with Washington recognizing its client Guaidó as the sovereign Venezuelan government.

The month chronicled here is nevertheless a marker not only for Venezuela, but also for the coming period of intensifying social and class polarization and struggles across the Americas, including inside the United States.

*****

January 24

The Donald Trump White House, amid all its other domestic and international crises, is mounting a concerted effort to overthrow the Venezuelan sovereign government. This is Washington’s greatest regime-change effort since the 2002-04 failed coup and the oil bosses and bureaucrats “strike” period.

This takes place amid a devastating economic crisis in Venezuela stemming from a collapse in oil and raw-materials commodity prices in world capitalist markets and US-backed economic sabotage by Venezuela’s capitalist class and large landowners. Trump, Vice-President Pence, and National Security Advisor John Bolton are working with the rightist regime of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil and other conservative governments in Latin America to delegitimize and overturn the Nicolas Maduro government. The mass generation of migrants and refugees are disrupting and deepening social and political crises in a number of Latin American governments already reeling from mounting economic and financial crises and political polarization.

These anti-Venezuela policies, despite the otherwise highly contentious polarization of US electoral politics, have broad bipartisan support in both big-business parties in the US. The big-business press in the US has painted a broad canvas of half-truths and disinformation that distorts Venezuelan reality, hoping to create favorable conditions for stepped-up Washington subversion and direct intervention. This effort aims to draft Latin American governments as servile covers and lackeys for Yankee intervention.

Who says there’s never any “bipartisan” agreement in Washington! They all agree on trying to overturn the sovereign Venezuelan government. How to do it, however, is another question. Let’s see how “radical” and courageous Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is when and if she takes a position on the bipartisan assault on Venezuelan sovereignty. Pretty disgusting segment about Venezuela on Chris Hayes’s MSNBC cable show tonight. Towing the Washington line. No mention of any of the massive mobilizations in defense of the Venezuelan government. Some anxiety was expressed about the consequences of US escalation. Barely repressed anger at Mexico for not joining the lynch mob!

January 27, 2019

Any overt US aggression against Venezuela will open up a Hemispheric Pandoras Box of incalculable, unintended consequences for Trump-Bolton-Abrams-Pompeo-Pence, backed, with some anxiety, by 90% of the Democrats in Congress.

The Trump White House and State Department are overplaying a weak political hand. I suspect we will soon see fissures and splits within the bullshit united front of conservative and reactionary LA governments that are lining up as shameless lackeys of Washington.

January 29, 2019

In Venezuela we are seeing the unfolding of a “virtual coup,” that is, Washington – and, so far, it is solidly bipartisan –  is working hard, with full RAH-RAH-RAH from the media oligopolies, to flood the zone with full-throttle propaganda and hope and pray that it becomes the reality. Do they actually believe their bullshit? Some do, some don’t. But the actual reality on the ground is that counter-mobilizations are mounting and there is no dynamic that is about to put Guaidó in power. There is no path right now for Trump and his forward team of Pence, Pompeo, Bolton, and Abrams to carry out military aggression against Venezuela (or Cuba) through either the UN or the OAS. They have the political cover, for now, of an eclectic gang of elected reactionary and conservative governments, but how solid will that be through an actual, overt Yankee aggression, which you can be certain will lead to fierce Venezuelan resistance and a political explosion across the Americas, including in the United States.

12:12 PM

From CNN:

Guaidó also said he had spoken with Donald Trump a number of times…when asked about a possible military option in Venezuela, Guaidó said the US president had told him all options were on the table.

So here you have this guy coordinating with Trump and, you can be sure, all the others (Pence-Pompeo-Bolton-Abrams) on the mechanics, tactics, political viability, etc. for a direct Yankee aggression. And he held up a picture of Simon Bolivar at his “inauguration”!!

5:06 PM

It’s not helpful to view events unfolding in Venezuela and Washington through the subjective prism of one’s “optimism” or “pessimism,” regarding the capacities or limits of the Maduro-PSUV government. Rather we must try to be objective and grasp the class relationship of forces – from within and between both sides. Clearly Washington is openly moving to create the political conditions for an overt act of military aggression, that is, some sort of strike or assault. Can this be avoided through organizing a successful military coup from inside the country? But, if not, and the Venezuelan military and top officer corps and soldiers defend the Maduro government, then any direct US military strike (in coordination with the Colombian military at least logistically) means a clash with the Venezuelan military. It is necessary to try and think through what the political consequences of that will be – in the Americas and in the world.

Morally this a first-class imperialist monstrosity, but as someone who lived through and struggled against the Reagan-era bipartisan US government crimes and lies…What else is new?

January 30

When controlled forces are set in motion, uncontrolled forces are also unleashed.

— Frederick Engels

Because the Trump White House, Bolsonaro’s already-off-to-a-difficult-start government in Brazil, the Duque regime in Colombia (already trying to distance itself from Bolton’s “note-pad” provocation about US troops in the country) and their lackeys in the Canadian and EU governments have not created the political (or logistical) conditions for a US-led invasion or a US-organized direct military assault, they are striving hard to do so through a ubiquitous, but IMO, pretty crude and non-resonating, propaganda and even psychological warfare effort.

Canadian imperialism and the EU capitalist bloc have put aside for the moment their fierce trade and tariff battles and wide-ranging “geopolitical” clashes (Iran, climate change) to present a touching display of advanced capitalist unity for “democracy” and “human rights” in Venezuela, that is, in Marxist translation: a campaign to bring into power a reliable and pliable neocolonial dependency in Venezuela (which BTW has a lot of oil!). Of course, within them and between them, they have large tactical and political differences on what to do next in Venezuela or what comes after they do what they don’t yet agree to do.

It seems as if the Maduro government is taking some serious steps to politically burst the Guaidó balloon. Every day shows Guaidó to be a stooge and front for Trump and his four little piggies  (Pence-Bolton-Pompeo-Abrams) in particular and Washington in general. He is openly coordinating with them as he doesn’t even bother to hide. The situation is demanding radical economic, financial, social, and political measures to defend the nation’s sovereignty and the rights and space for the working class.

February 3

Just finished a very “party-line” article in today’s New York Times which painted an egregiously one-sided account of yesterday’s mass mobilizations of the opposition in Venezuela, while relegating to an afterthought or footnote the mass counter-mobilizations in defense of national sovereignty  and against Yankee intervention. Guaidó has openly sided with Trump’s offensive and the Times interviews at the opposition mobilization (which remain confined to affluent neighborhoods) portray a clamoring for deliverance by the US government and military by any means necessary, preferably a military coup. No one should doubt for a nanosecond that this would not lead to massacres of workers and socialists. Very democratically carried out, of course!

I maintain that the class-political relationship of forces remains far short of what is needed to carry out a military coup (although you can be sure US agents are seriously on the ground in Venezuela, Colombia, and Brazil working overtime on logistics, bribery, and every means of subversion in their considerable arsenal to facilitate a coup) let alone a direct US-Colombian-Brazilian military strike or assault.

The reports and videos I’m reading and seeing point to growing mobilizations on the side of the Maduro government and a definite diplomatic muddle, especially in the Americas and the UN, that has slowed down and created political obstacles to a Trump-Bolton war drive, which Trump is fulminating over with a weak political hand in the US and internationally.

I think the most likely scenario is a short-term political semi-debacle for Washington. But again this poses sharply the need for radical financial, economic, and social measures to stop and reverse the economic depression in Venezuela.

February 4

Reading the New York Times page 1 long article by Ernesto Londono (whose articles and editorials in the Times several years ago were influential in the shift and retreat, under Obama, to freeing the remaining Cuban 5 revolutionaries, restoring Washington-Havana diplomatic relations, and removing Cuba from the bullshit terrorism list) on Juan Guaidó, it struck me that if propaganda alone could change the course of events and history, then this article would do the trick.

For all the shilling and pumping and polishing, Londono cannot simply write Guaidó into the Miraflores Palace.

The operative part of the fawning piece – a day-in-the-life of the dashing young “democratic” “anti-authoritarian” “right-man-for-the-right-moment” who is about to take a call from none other than…wait for the drum role…Justin Trudeau…how thrilling! – is this more sobering passage:

Oil sanctions imposed by the United States last week will soon strangle the country’s already-devastated economy, which will likely cause shortages of fuel and make food and medicine even more scarce.

Bracing for the destabilizing effects of the sanctions, Mr. Guaidó and his allies in the international community said they intended to start pumping humanitarian aid into the country this week. Doing so would undermine Mr. Maduro, who recently scoffed at the prospect by saying ‘We’re not a nation of beggars.”

Mr. Guaidó and his allies see the coming week, and the arrival of aid, as a potential make-or-break moment for a movement that has stirred hope for millions of Venezuelans, but has yet to take steps that meaningfully improve their lives.

Like I said, if spin and propaganda alone were enough to catapult Guaidó into power, then articles like this would suffice.

There is a particularly ominous paragraph in Londono’s dispatch that points to the extremely high stakes at hand for the workers’ movement and socialist-minded Venezuelans – consciously many, many millions of people – if Washington and its Venezuelan lackeys drive through a military coup or, through a US-led invasion, install a pro-Washington regime:

Even if the armed forces were to throw their weight behind Mr. Guaidó, which would almost certainly spell the end of Mr. Maduro’s reign, Mr. Guaidó said he was worried about the actions of the paramilitary forces that would likely to stay loyal to Mr. Maduro.

‘We cannot allow that to proliferate,’ he said, drawing a parallel with the struggle neighboring Colombia has faced from guerrilla and paramilitary groups over the years. ‘It could portend very serious consequences, even in the short term.’

Clearly Washington and Guaidó anticipate that a serious bloodletting will be necessary. The social and class forces that would post-coup hold unfettered “executive” power in Venezuela have been thirsting for revenge for the limits placed on their class prerogatives by the hated Chavistas for 20 years. And once these things get rolling the dynamic is unstoppable for a definite period while the blood of the workers and the oppressed flows freely; e.g., China 1927, Spain 1938, Indonesia 1964, Chile 1973 and so on.

February 6

As push comes to shove in Venezuela, the inability of Trump and his team on point – Pence, Pompeo, Bolton, and Abrams – to force the collapse of the Maduro government through propaganda and the forging of a (very shaky) united front of the most developed capitalist states (the former lords of a once-colonized world) is apparent.

A military coup greased with copious amounts of Yankee cash has not materialized so far. Recent pro-Yankee, pro-military coup mobilizations in Venezuela have been smaller and more confined to affluent neighborhoods. Counter-mobilizations are growing and appeals to national sovereignty are resonating.

The exposure of open coordination between Guaidó and the Trump White House is shaking up Latin American politics and class polarization in Venezuela.

Of course, the point now for Washington is to “turn the screws” and “make the economy howl” (as Nixon and Kissinger put it in the period leading to the 1973 coup in Chile). And to dangle “humanitarian aid” as a cover for military intervention in the service of a military coup that would necessarily be exceedingly bloody and brutal.

The Maduro government has inconveniently refused to capitulate and even accurately pointed out that direct US (with or without Colombian partnership) military intervention will meet military and popular resistance and a potential “Vietnam in Latin America.”

Therefore, we are starting to see a shift in the tone in leading bourgeois mouthpieces such as the New York Times towards the “negotiations” track as a way to achieve their goal of replacing Maduro with a more reliable and pliable government in place in Venezuela. They seem to think this can clear the obstacles to profitable investments and ramping up production in a privatized and capitalized oil industry there. And be a new base, with Brazil, Colombia (and Argentina if Macri holds on) to carry out a continental neoliberal anti-working class austerity assault and bury the “Left Keynesian” legacy of the so-called “pink tide.” Military threats are always “on the table” as a permanent factor in bipartisan Washington’s political goal of consolidating its political and economic position in Latin America, Central America, and the Caribbean after a period of political retreat.

Anyway…that is what Trump and almost all Democratic elected officials want. What they will get is class struggle, the rise of continental national liberation consciousness, and social revolution.

More and more Washington and the big-business media lapdogs are trying to frame the situation in terms of “geopolitical” lineups and intrigue and the narrative of the benevolent “democratic West” against demonic Russia, authoritarian China, Iran, Turkey, and, let’s never forget the “source of the problem” (as Reagan’s Pompeo-Bolton, one Alexander Haig, put in in the 1980s when Washington grappled with a revolutionary upsurge in Central America) revolutionary and socialist Cuba. This is a cover, a framing they are more comfortable with. They are, as Ho Chi Minh put it, “throwing dust in your eyes.”

February 10

I have to say that this anti-Venezuela operation is one of the most poorly rolled out and tactically inept coup attempts in memory. Guaidó has (rather stupidly on his part I think) brazenly identified himself with Trump and is openly coordinating with Yankee power. He even says he is considering “authorizing” US military intervention. This does not help him inside Venezuela or in Latin America.

Already one unintended consequence seems to be giving a boost to militant workers and Chavista cadres in economically devastated barrios to defend national sovereignty and counter-mobilize. Pompeo, Bolton, and Abrams evidently thought that by now they would have split the Venezuelan army and won decisive elements to commit to the violent movement of troops to seize Miraflores and arrest or kill Maduro. That didn’t happen. Perhaps they thought the barrage of sophistry and one-sided propaganda would cause the Maduro government to melt down and surrender. That also hasn’t happened.

It seems apparent that whatever momentum Washington was manufacturing has now slowed down, although they did put together a shaky front of Latin American conservative governments, Trudeau in Canada,, and some European governments together to endorse helicoptering Guaidó, a protégé of the violent, coup veteran Leopoldo Lopez, into power. They are left with tightening sanctions to the point of forcing real hunger and starvation or an actual invasion. The first would be a political disaster and I don’t think they are ready for the second.

The Venezuelan working class must now use this time to get production and distribution going. Food production must be increased. Real land reform would point to this imperative.

February 13

I understand Trump and Colombian President Duque are meeting today. I imagine accompanying meetings with Pence, Pompeo, Bolton, and Abrams will take place. I’d sure like to be a bug on those walls.

Their discussions will undoubtedly lead to some public bombast against Venezuela and Cuba, but in reality they have to manage a shift and retreat flowing from facts such as Maduro’s survival, the strength of working-class counter-mobilizations, the fiasco of their “humanitarian aid” campaign which is viewed disdainfully by UN bodies, and the growing jitteriness of their NATO allies who voluntarily were strong-armed all aboard the Yankee Intervention Express against sovereign Venezuela. I would also add the modest but growing protests in the US and worldwide. These would mushroom if there were an overt move of US aggression with a coup attempt.

February 14

Today’s New York Times has a piece on what is shaping up as an unfolding US political debacle around the so-called “humanitarian aid” supposedly waiting “delivery” at a Colombian-Venezuelan border. Despite the Times  reporter’s best effort to spin around the obvious, it’s clear that this was not working  politically for Washington, Guaidó, or the right-wing Duque government in Colombia. They can’t seem to find any reputable NGO-charity to collaborate with them. The International Red Cross, the UN, and the Catholic Church charity Caritas are all declining to be identified with the US political campaign under the State Department’s Agency for International Development. Actually they all feel rather insulted by it. “We will not be participating in what is, for us, not humanitarian aid,” stated Colombia’s International Red Cross spokesperson.

The Times reports:

[The opposition’s] goal was to bring the supplies into Venezuela, forcing a confrontation with Mr. Maduro, who has refused to help. This would cast Mr. Maduro in a bad light, opposition leaders said, and display their ability to set up a government-like relief system in a nation where the crumbling economy has left many starving, sick, and without access to medicine.

But there was no dramatic confrontation.

Instead Mr. Maduro’s administration erected a crude, but effective blockade across the border bridge with Colombia. The move brought the relief effort to a halt, and left the opposition and its leader, Juan Guaidó, at a standstill, aware that each passing day dampens its considerable momentum toward winning the trust of Venezuelans and the recognition of other governments. A delay could also mean reverting back to the status quo, in which Mr. Maduro retains control.

Every day it becomes clearer that Trump’s Washington gang, with Pelosi’s backing, has run into political and logistical obstacles that is creating – only some, and only for now!) time and space for the Maduro government and Venezuelan working-class fighters to begin to take the offensive politically against coup supporters and, more importantly, to implement the radical measures to contain and reverse the economic, food, and medicine crises.

Imperialism will be unrelenting even as it is forced to reel itself back some.

February 17

When it comes to Venezuela coverage in the New York Times and the entirety of the national media oligopolies, one must develop skills of “reading between the lines.” Whatever useful facts that are there have to be extracted carefully like gold from river sand.

Today’s Times piece is put on page 13 and is focused on the “humanitarian aid” scheme that is, as the author Ernesto Londono puts it, the “cornerstone of the quest to oust President Nicolas Maduro.” The article registers, in its smarmy way, the mounting political crisis of US policy under Trump (backed by Nancy Pelosi).

It seems evident that this “cornerstone,” actually the spearhead to create the political and logistical conditions for direct military aggression as a necessary lever for a military coup, is not working out so well so far. In fact, it has the makings of a political debacle. (That is BTW why the article is on page 13; you can be certain it would be front page if the overall campaign were advancing more smoothly.)

So the Times now has to rationalize this deteriorating political reality on the ground, that is: 1. The Maduro government has not surrendered to the US-led campaign to murder it and put in a pro-US neocolonial regime headed by Guaidó; 2. The Venezuelan army in general, and the officer corps in particular, have not moved to coordinate with Washington and Bogota to take power in a coup (a coup that would necessarily be an exceedingly bloody affair, that would immediately have to carry out massive repression). In fact, the Venezuelan army is on high alert and mobilizing at key crossings along the Colombian border to counter US-Colombian provocations.

Anyone who thinks this Keystone Cops effort at violent regime change can be successfully implemented in Venezuela relying on psychological warfare; over-the-top propaganda overflowing with world-class hypocrisy; or photo ops and unctuous words of concern from a US government that humiliates and brutalizes refugees and children fleeing US-propped up gangster regimes in Honduras and Guatemala, has no grip on the realities of Venezuelan and Latin American politics for the last 20 years.

So how does the Times explain this self-made unfolding political crisis facing the Trump Administration and the foolish lackeys they have dragged behind them – from the Lima Group to the shameful posture of Trudeau and Freeland in Canada, the hanging-on-by-its-fingernails Tory government in the UK, the hated Macron government in France, and other EU governments and NATO allies who have touchingly put aside their clashes over trade and tariffs, climate change, and relations with Iran to “unite” and gang up on Venezuela.

I don’t think this is going to end well politically for any of them.

The “chief reason” Londono reports for the failure to oust Maduro in a military coup “is the enormous amount of money the country’s more than 2,000 generals stand to lose in a post-Maduro era,’ Adm. Craig S. Faller, the head of the United States Southern Command, said in an interview.”

Faller is in Rio de Janiero in Brazil meeting and coordinating regime-change efforts with his “counterparts” from the Jair Bolsonaro regime.

The Times then allows Faller to assert and repeat old US slanders that predate Trump that, “There are a lot of generals and a lot of leaders on Maduro’s illicit payroll through illicit drug trafficking, money laundering, and any number of businesses in the oil industry. Maduro has bought their loyalty.”

Furthermore, “The United States military has concluded that more than 1,000 Cuban military and intelligence advisers, working with the Russian government, have been instrumental in keeping the top echelons of the Venezuelan military loyal to Maduro,” Faller pulls out of his hat.

Now we know for sure that Washington and its agents on the ground have endless amounts of cash, privileges, condos in Miami, and all manner of blandishments to buy off and corrupt these generals that are supposedly already mired in drug trafficking, money laundering, and private profit-taking from oil and other businesses. Does the Maduro government, dealing with economic depression, have deeper pockets to buy “loyalty” than the US government, its vast intelligence apparatus flush with cash, or private US capital drooling at the prospect of the good-old-days before Chavez, especially in oil.

These obvious rationalizations are really pathetic. If Washington and its regional lackeys make the decision to provoke some incident at the border under the pretext of delivering aid to “starving” Venezuelan people, then I hope at least some “advisers” are telling the Trump “team” that the Venezuelan army and working people will fight and fight hard. Washington will learn again that it is easier to start a war than to escape its political consequences and get out of it.

February 18

February 23 is set up as the day Guaidó has promised to “deliver” the phony “humanitarian aid” across Venezuela’s sovereign borders by land and sea. We also know from Cuban and other reports that the US government is moving military forces around the region and, in any case, Washington already has military bases inside Colombia. So we will see on Saturday, February 23 how much of the “line” between provocation and actual military aggression will be crossed….

February 19

Trump gave an extremely bellicose and threatening speech in Miami yesterday as part of the propaganda buildup to this Saturday’s Yankee-Guaidó promise to “deliver” the “humanitarian aid” that is the cover and spearhead for military provocation aimed at setting in motion a dynamic leading to the collapse of the Maduro-PSUV government. The speech ratcheted up considerably direct threats against revolutionary Cuba.

The speech doubled down on the Trump-Bolton “strategy” that seems to think it can just huff-and-puff and scare the Venezuelan government and working people into surrender. But today’s New York Times article makes clear that for all the threats and bluster, particularly aimed at the Venezuelan military officer corps, the political obstacles to translating this stunt into actual regime change and a military coup, are, if anything, deepening.

The Times piece sums up the Trump gang’s “logic:”

If Mr. Maduro’s stranglehold on the food and medicine supply can be broken, and he can be shown to have lost control of the border, his legitimacy as the country’s president will weaken, the reasoning goes. If the military can be convinced to not stand between the Venezuelan population and the humanitarian aid, he may fall.

Trump has no partners for this border stunt among legitimate humanitarian aid organizations such as the International Red Cross or UN bodies.

The Times piece continues:

On the Venezuelan side, the government has amassed soldiers, militiamen, armored vehicles, and even missiles. On the Colombian side sit news camera crews and trucks full of supplies. Richard Branson, the British billionaire, has invited a lineup of Latin American musicians to perform an aid concert on Friday night.

The Trump-led “strategy” has boxed Washington into a political corner where they must either push forward and carry out reckless military adventurism or manage a climb-down and retreat that gives the Maduro-PSUV government time and space to organize genuine international aid and supplies (which is already happening); further isolate Washington politically in Latin America where anti-Yankee intervention actions are starting. Political pressure is bound to increase on the “Lima Group” governments collaborating with Washington.

At any rate, bloodcurdling speeches against “socialism” and promises to create a Hemisphere “free of socialism” to the Gusano International in Miami will not do the trick!

February 21

Important piece in today’s Financial Times. Propaganda slant and buzzwords aside, it shows that military and popular resistance to Yankee-led provocations on the border is being organized, mobilized, and deployed on the ground (and on the seas).

On this 54th Anniversary of his assassination:

Long Live the Memory, Ideas, and Example of Brother Malcolm X!

February 22 9:00 AM

The countdown is beginning for the Saturday weekend political confrontation between Washington and its allies, including the pro-imperialist opposition inside Venezuela, and the Venezuelan government and its allies. Events are unfolding concretely in real time. What is shaping up is bound to be a turning point not only in Venezuela but across the Caribbean, Central America, and Latin America. The direction and dynamics of bipartisan US policy – and its suppressed fissure lines within and between Democrats and Republicans – is being posed sharply with these events and what happens this weekend on the ground.

From today’s Washington Post:

Maduro on Thursday ordered the closure of the border with Brazil and weighed sealing the border with Colombia…as his government scrambled to respond to the planned Saturday operation. Venezuela’s National Institute of Civil Aviation issued an order grounding private jet traffic nationwide. Commercial flights were still operating, though Air France said it would cancel flights to Caracas through Monday, given the heightened tensions.

US bellicose threats are mounting. Admiral Craig Faller, head of the US Southern Command blustered, “This message is for the Venezuelan military: You will ultimately be responsible for your actions. Do the right thing. Save your country and your people.”

Faller was just repeating Trump’s arrogant threats to the Venezuelan officer corps and did so after meeting with the leader of Colombia’s armed forces. Meanwhile, the conservative Colombian government appears to be trying to distance themselves from US military intervention to facilitate a military coup. And there is just no way Washington can carry such a scheme off without the intimate coordination of Colombia and Brazil. This is a big problem for Trump and Pelosi’s Washington.

Another big problem politically is the opposition of credible large-scale international humanitarian aid organizations to the US State Department’s shameful provocation obviously tied to regime change.

From the Washington Post:

“In an apparent bid to counter international criticism of turning away the aid – provided by the United States and other countries advocating for Maduro’s ouster – Maduro’s vice president Delcy Rodriguez, said the government on Thursday a list of medicines the country needed for ‘humanitarian assistance.’ Maduro also announced that 7.5 tons of medical supplies had arrived Thursday from Russia and the Pan American Health Organization.”

Additionally, I’ve read that China is also part of the real humanitarian aid effort with many more tons in the pipelines. Cuba is, of course, strongly involved in the overall effort. All of this aid will be handled by legitimate aid organizations who are on the ground inside Venezuela.

10:51 AM

Just saw a hopelessly one-sided report on CNN shamelessly parroting the US propaganda line on Venezuela under the cover of crocodile tears over the reality that the Maduro government seems to have effectively countered the Yankee moves over the “delivery” of the State Department’s “humanitarian aid.”

These mouthpieces of US imperialism would have us believe that the US government that expedited mass murder, starvation, and cholera for civilians in Yemen; that brutalizes refugees from Central America that are seeking humanitarian and political asylum as they flee US-backed and sustained gangster neocolonial states; that has supported every blood-soaked tyranny in the Americas since before I was born (and I’m an old man!)…that THIS TIME they really care.

11:17 AM

The Trump State Department’s bogus humanitarian aid of supposedly “$20 million” contrasts with the devastating effects of the latest US sanctions and seizures of Venezuelan assets that will dwarf many times over the alleged $20 million. It reminds me of a recurrent tactic of Cocaine King Pablo Escobar who would dedicate a hospital somewhere out of his huge drug trafficking profits to show what a great humanitarian and philanthropist he was! I wonder if he had a wing or two set aside for drug addicts.

10:53 PM

The Trump State Department has dispatched veteran war criminal Elliot Abrams to the Colombian border to “support the delivery of humanitarian aid to some of the most vulnerable people in Venezuela in response to Interim President Guaido’s request.” The Washington Post writes: “Abrams spoke to a crowd near the border Friday, promising that the Maduro government would eventually fall.” (my emphasis)

The Post also quoted a veteran US Latin American diplomat who worried about the Trump gangs “impatience.” She said, “It isn’t happening fast enough for them, there aren’t enough defections…”

“Eventually” sounds like Abrams is conceding that it will not be anytime soon. Abrams may end up as Wile E. Coyote (for those too young to remember the Road Runner cartoon reference look it up on YouTube).

Here we go!

Saturday, February 23

First conclusions from Saturday’s clashes:

The Colombian army did not accompany the US State Department “humanitarian aid” across the border and thereby avoided clashes with the Venezuelan army. Of course, they have allowed the whole Yankee circus to be staged from their territory. The same for the Brazilian army.

The political failure of the US border exercise supervised by “commanders” Rubio and Abrams on the ground was deepened by their inability to get backing or collaboration from any reputable international aid groups. They got denounced instead.

From the February 23 New York Times: “Getting the aid in would be a symbolic victory and signal Mr. Maduro’s loosening grip on power.” They expected Maduro to surrender. Now they will settle for a “loosening grip.”

“Despite a handful of defections, the country’s National Guard has so far not deserted Mr. Maduro en masse as the opposition had hoped.” They hoped?!

In an online update the Times later reported:

As the day progressed, some of the humanitarian aid pierced Mr. Maduro’s blockade – one truck got through on a remote section of the border with Brazil – but most of it did not. And although a few members of the security forces defected, Mr. Guaido’s hope [there’s that eternally springing hope again] that the armed forces would step aside and even join his flag-waving supporters did not come to pass.

How utterly pathetic! One truck got through on a remote section of the border with Brazil!! That should become very interesting when the vehicle runs low on gas.

This is political humiliation and logistical fiasco. Clearly the Duque and Bolsonaro governments are nowhere near ready to use their armies to accompany Guaidó’s US-backed staged adventurism on the borders.

And, leaving this debacle in the hands of Rubio and Abrams, Trump is heading off to the beautiful city of Hanoi, capital of a unified, independent Vietnam, for a much anticipated meeting with North Korean (DPRK) leader Kim Jong Un. The only way he can bring anything – in terms of actual nuclear weapons dismantling – that he can present-spin as a personal “victory” from the DPRK would be to ease US sanctions (and maybe sign a formal peace treaty to great fanfare legally ending the Korean War). Trump is being pressured to do so by both Koreas as well as China. It is what the North has said all along must happen for them to “denuclearize.” But the idea that while all of this is going on, with huge international stakes, he is going to be able to rely on Colombia, Brazil, and Juan Guaidó to go to WAR against a mobilizing Venezuelan army and popular militia forces just does not compute at this point.

This particular imperialist campaign to put in power a neocolonial government that will crush the Chavistas, break with revolutionary, socialist Cuba, and open up the oil industry to US and private capital – the most serious effort since 2002-04 – has failed and if you read this morning’s Times clearly the momentum and dynamics has shifted away from Trump and his agents and lackeys. For now.

Guaido is now stewing in Colombia. Trump is headed to Hanoi. Pence is meeting with Duque to assess the debacle. Rubio and Abrams are in command of a few truck parks. And Maduro is addressing mass anti-coup mobilizations and is likely to be politically rewarded.

Time and space have been gained by the PSUV government to get genuine humanitarian aid flowing on a mass scale – which has begun – and, concurrently, to carry out radical and decisive social and economic measures to stem and reverse the economic crisis and the deepening effects of US sanctions and seizures of Venezuelan state assets in the United States.