Archive | February 24th, 2014

Greeks look to strip immunity from neo-Nazi lawmakers

NOVANEWS

GoldenDawn

All 18 MPs from Golden Dawn could face charges if parliament grants prosecutors’ wish

Ed note—now, in the interest of heading off any and all screeching and kvetching on the part of those intellectually-numb WNs who will inevitably fill the comments section of TUT with the obligatory HOW DARE YOU…GOLDEN DAWN IS NOT NEO-NAZI…WHAT KIND OF WEBSITE RELIES ON JEWISH INFORMATION IN DEFAMING A GROUP LIKE GOLDEN DAWN WITH THE ACCUSATION OF BEING NEO NAZI??!!’ we will merely quote Nikolaos Michaloliakos, the group’s leader in an article published by the Greek newspaper Iefimerida–

“We are the faithful soldiers of the National Socialist idea and 42 years later, with our thought and soul given to the last great battle, with our thought and soul given to the black and red banners, with our thought and soul given to the memory of our great Leader, we raise our right hand up, we salute the Sun and with the courage, that is compelled by our military honor and our National Socialist duty we shout full of passion, faith to the future and our visions: HEIL HITLER!”

Times of Israel

Greek prosecutors asked parliament to remove from immunity nine additional lawmakers from the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party.

If parliament grants Thursday’s request, all 18 of the party’s lawmakers in the 300-member parliament will face charges, part of Greece’s widespread crackdown on a party that prosecutors describe as a criminal organization.

Among the nine lawmakers who already have lost immunity is party leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos, who has been jailed since October.

Prosecutors also told parliament they intended to file additional charges against the original nine, including for possession of firearms and ammunition.

The crackdown on Golden Dawn followed widespread outrage and protests in Greece in the wake of the Sept. 18 killing of anti-fascist rapper Killah P by a suspected Golden Dawn member.

The request filed by prosecutors described Golden Dawn “a vertically structured organization that operates along military lines and which is inspired by the ideals of national socialism with clear references to [Adolf] Hitler and Nazism,” according to the Kathimerini daily.

Golden Dawn has been accused of being behind dozens of attacks on immigrants in Greece.

The party is known for its Nazi swastika-like flag and Holocaust-denying leadership.

Posted in GreeceComments Off on Greeks look to strip immunity from neo-Nazi lawmakers

Is Washington Considering a Full-Scale Drone War over Syria?

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Silent Crow News and Global Research

Will the Obama administration launch a full scale drone war over Syria in the coming months ahead? Public support for Washington to order a direct military intervention against the Syrian government because it is accused of using chemical weapons against civilians is at the lowest level in 20 years according to a Gallop Poll conducted on September 2013.

More than 51% of Americans oppose military action and 13% are unsure if military action is practical.

In February 2013, US Press Secretary Jay Carney stated to the public, the ethical and “wise” use of drones that can pinpoint targets without of course killing innocent civilians is legal:

We have acknowledged, the United States, that sometimes we use remotely piloted aircraft to conduct targeted strikes against specific al Qaeda terrorists in order to prevent attacks on the United States and to save American lives. We conduct those strikes because they are necessary to mitigate ongoing actual threats, to stop plots, prevent future attacks, and, again, save American lives. These strikes are legal, they are ethical and they are wise. The U.S. government takes great care in deciding to pursue an al Qaeda terrorist, to ensure precision and to avoid loss of innocent life

Washington did consider launching drone strikes in the same year as reported by the Los Angeles Times ‘CIA begins sizing up Islamic extremists in Syria for drone strikes’:

The CIA has stepped up secret contingency planning to protect the United States and its allies as the turmoil expands in Syria, including collecting intelligence on Islamic extremists for the first time for possible lethal drone strikes, according to current and former U.S. officials.

President Obama has not authorized drone missile strikes in Syria, however, and none are under consideration

Obama’s speech on his drone policy had concerns on the public’s attitude towards another war in the Middle East. Obama said the following on the use of drones in foreign land:

Any U.S. military action in foreign lands risks creating more enemies and impacts public opinion overseas. Moreover, our laws constrain the power of the President even during wartime, and I have taken an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States. The very precision of drone strikes and the necessary secrecy often involved in such actions can end up shielding our government from the public scrutiny that a troop deployment invites. It can also lead a President and his team to view drone strikes as a cure-all for terrorism

In a recent meeting between French President Francois Hollande and President Obama to discuss issues in the Middle East and Africa, Obama was asked about the situation in Syria:

 I’ve said throughout my presidency that I always reserve the right to exercise military action on behalf of America’s national security interests. But that has to be deployed wisely. And I think that what we saw with respect to the chemical weapons situation was an example of the judicious, wise use of possible military action

The Obama administration refers to the use of military action and how it is deployed as a “wise” option.  Is he talking about the use of drone warfare? He later continued his statement saying that the Syrian situation is “Fluid”:

Whether we can duplicate that kind of process when it comes to the larger resolution of the problem, right now we don’t think that there is a military solution, per se, to the problem. But the situation is fluid, and we are continuing to explore every possible avenue to solve this problem, because it’s not just heartbreaking to see what’s happening to the Syrian people, it’s very dangerous for the region as a whole, including friends and allies and partners like Lebanon or Jordan that are being adversely impacted by it

The Obama administration can possibly launch a full scale drone war on Syria without involving ground troops since the public is opposed to another direct military intervention in the Middle East. Washington still has its hands tied with troops remaining in Afghanistan. Relations with President Hamid Karzai are strained. President Karzai refused to sign a security pact allowing 10,000 US troops to stay in Afghanistan for counter-terrorism purposes and training Afghan forces beyond 2014. Karzai also wants limited NATO troops in Afghanistan. With US and Israeli troops in preparation for a possible confrontation with Iran if nuclear talks fail, the use of drones would be a viable option for Washington since it would strike a delicate balance with the international community and the American public concerning their attitudes towards a new war using ground troops. A full-scale drone war launched by Washington would seem like a low-intensity war to the public, meaning that a drone war is not really a “major war” involving US troops on the ground, as President Obama said in his 2013 drone policy speech “such actions can end up shielding our government from the public scrutiny “.

Washington would hope that the American public and the international community would not organize anti-war protests regarding America’s 21st century drone war against President Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian people involving so-called “precision” strikes. War is war, regardless of what some people in power may think. The public wants no war against Syria, but will Washington and its allies listen? That is a good question.

Posted in SyriaComments Off on Is Washington Considering a Full-Scale Drone War over Syria?

Belfast: British state oppression

NOVANEWS
Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem, Sr
NUJ Birmingham
Stephen Murney, Irish political and community activist from Newry, has been acquitted of all charges today in Belfast’s High Court of Injustice. Stephen was interned for fourteen months in Maghaberry Jail on the basis of politically motivated charges, including the posting of photographs of political protests on Facebook.
Stephen Murney Acquitted of All Charges!</p>
<p>Stephen Murney, a political and community activist from Newry, has been acquitted of all charges today in Belfast's High Court of Injustice.  Stephen was interned for fourteen months in Maghaberry Jail on the basis of politically motivated charges, including the posting of photographs of political protests on Facebook. </p>
<p>We take the opportunity to acknowledge Stephen's bravery and dignity in the face of British state oppression. We also wish him and his family the very best for the future and thank everyone who has added their voice to the campaign to have Stephen released.  Maith thú Stephen!</p>
<p>Please like and share this great news with your friends!
Stephen Murney Acquitted of All Charges!Stephen Murney, a political and community activist from Newry, has been acquitted of all charges today in Belfast’s High Court of Injustice. Stephen was interned for fourteen months in Maghaberry Jail on the basis of politically motivated charges, including the posting of photographs of political protests on Facebook.

We take the opportunity to acknowledge Stephen’s bravery and dignity in the face of British state oppression. We also wish him and his family the very best for the future and thank everyone who has added their voice to the campaign to have Stephen released. Maith thú Stephen!

Posted in UKComments Off on Belfast: British state oppression

Zio-Wahhabi after Pakistan arms for Syria militants: Sources

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Saudi Arabia: Zio-Wahhabi  is in talks with Pakistan to provide foreign-backed militants operating inside Syria with anti-aircraft and anti-tank rockets, sources say.

An unnamed Zio-Wahhabi source, who is close to decision-makers in the country, said on Sunday that Pakistan produces its own version of Chinese shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles, known as Anza, and anti-tank rockets, both of which Riyadh is planning to get for the militants.

The source referred to Pakistani army chief of staff General Raheel Sharif’s visit to Riyadh earlier this month during which he met Zio-Wahhabi Puppet Salman bin Abdul Aziz.

Last week, Zio-Wahhabi Salman himself headed a large delegation to Pakistan.

The source further said that Zionist King of is to provide facilities to store the arms before they are delivered to the militants within Syria.

Zio-NATO Rat Ahmad Jarba, the head of the so-called Syrian National Coalition (SNC), said last week during a visit to northern Syria that “powerful arms will be arriving soon.”

Citing Western and Arab diplomats as well as foreign-backed Syrian opposition sources, the Wall Street Journal reported on February 15 that Zio-Wahhabi regime has agreed to provide the foreign-backed militant groups in Syria with more sophisticated weaponry, including anti-aircraft shoulder-fired missiles.

A Western diplomat with knowledge of the weapons deliveries told the journal that “new stuff is arriving imminently.”

Meanwhile, the Syrian army has reportedly arrested more than 80 foreign officers and soldiers, mostly from Zio-Wahhabi spy services. The detainees are said to have entered Syria to carry out terrorist attacks.

Zio-Wahhabi regime has been the main supplier of weapons and funds to foreign-backed militants inside Syria.

Syria has been gripped by deadly violence since 2011. Over 130,000 people have reportedly been killed and millions displaced due to the unrest.

Posted in Pakistan & Kashmir, Saudi Arabia, SyriaComments Off on Zio-Wahhabi after Pakistan arms for Syria militants: Sources

Interview: Deputy General Secretary Abu Ahmad Fouad answers the questions of the comrades

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300-457

In his first interview with the Front’s media office, published in both Arabic and English, a comprehensive dialogue with Comrade Abu Ahmad Fouad, published on Friday, February 21, 2014 in all of the Front’s publications and websites. 

Click here to download a PDF version.

In extremely difficult circumstances and exceptional meetings, the Front convened its seventh national conference. In light of the complexities and difficulties facing the Palestinian cause and the political situation in the Palestinian arena, this leads us to ask the following questions:

Q.  Comrade Abu Ahmad, how do you assess the reality of the Popular Front today, in light of the results of the Seventh National Conference? Can you say that the Front has made a step forward?

A. Yes, no doubt about it. The conference of the party is an opportunity to make a quantum leap in its organizational structure, general trends, and the political program of the party, as well as innovation in the leadership ranks.

In regards to the Seventh Conference of the Front, this conference was frequently delayed, and this led to an imbalance in our work over time, particularly in the areas of action in the field of militant and popular struggle. In addition, during the period between the two conferences, some concerns in the party’s structure became apparent, and some of the party’s institutions and leadership sought to overcome red tape, bureaucracy and formalism in the work. This did not prevent Party structures and institutions from making progress and recording substantial achievements, including the growth of the party within the occupied homeland.

The conference, then, was an opportunity to rid ourselves of the negatives which have hung over the body of the party for the past years and to correct our errors at various levels: political, organizational, and in struggle. This is what happened at our Seventh National Conference, and we are seeing positive results that we hope will manifest themselves in a short period of time.

Q. The Front’s leadership has issued statements regarding renewal and positive change in the structures and branches of the Front. We, our comrades and our readers, want to know more about this renewal  and if it also includes an intellectual and political renewal?

A. There is no doubt there has been renewal; leading bodies and figures have changed significantly in the Front, to an extent that has rarely been witnessed in the past. We have a renewal of almost 65% in leadership bodies in this conference for the first time. Second, while the intellectual and political program were both reviewed and changed, the basic positions and principles of the Front have remained. There were no significant changes to organizational forms and the rules of procedure, although a few small amendments. In terms of the political program, the Front reiterated its commitment to the liberation of the entire national land of Palestine as the strategic goal of the Front and the Palestinian national struggle, and the emphasis on the establishment of a democratic Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem; these things are already the essence of the political program.

Concerning the rules of procedure, they emphasize the internal democracy of the Front and its various bodies, including its constant development and improvement in the work of the Party. In the matter of theory, the conference stressed the commitment of the Front to the scientific theory of Marxism. In a nutshell, these are the most prominent aspects addressed by the Front’s seventh Conference.

Q. Does the Front still seek to constitute a strong bridge of national unity, or has it stopped attempting to play this role?

A. The Front will remain a strong bridge of national unity, and advocates to promote and develop Palestinian institutions on a democratic basis, through popular elections among the Palestinian people and sectors of the Palestinian people for their leaders  and institutions. The Front is aware of the militant history of struggle and the deep importance of Palestinian national unity. The division has been employed as a weapon of mass destruction by the enemy of our people and the sacred national cause. In Palestinian political history, the record of the Front is unique in its diligent commitment to Palestinian national unity and rejection of all forms of division and internal fighting.

Q. The Front practices criticism and self-criticism and is not afraid of constructive criticism. The Front, in examining its Seventh national Conference looks at its errors in policies and positions and conducts an audit of its work. How do you see this?

A. The Front acknowledges and recognizes errors and mistakes not only in the Conference, but also among leadership bodies, in the General Central Committee, in the Political Bureau, and at all levels. There is a standing item on the agenda of each body or institution, at all levels of the Party, which is one of assessment, criticism and self-criticism. The purpose of criticism and self-criticism is to address and correct errors and omissions. The documents and reports of the Seventh National Conference examined shortcomings, failures and errors that occurred within the Front in the thirteen years between the Sixth and Seventh Conferences, including, but not limited to:

First, the Front’s lack of development and escalation of its military effectiveness against the Zionist enemy, despite the recognition of the massive difficulties and complexities faced by this area of struggle.

Second, the inability of the Front to compel the Palestinian institutions, especially the Palestine Liberation Organization, to adopt the policies of the Front, in particular, the demand to end negotiations with the enemy, or rebuilding the PLO on a democratic and inclusive basis. In addition, the Front failed to achieve great results in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections in 2006. The Conference recorded the importance of such events not recurring in the future. At the same time, the Conference stressed the Front’s commitment to democratic elections and building national Palestinian institutions on a democratic basis as our firm choice in all fields and at all levels.

Third, the Front did not succeed in ending the Palestinian internal rift, despite all efforts on this front, and its role remained in the area of wishing, hoping, and calling to action.

Fourth, the Front did not obtain its financial rights within the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Fifth, the Front did not succeed in forming a nucleus of radical Arab nationalist work. The attempt lasted throughout the life of Comrade al-Hakim (Dr. George Habash) and has continued after his passing, who previously led this important national work.

Sixth, the Front has not been sufficiently productive in the field of culture, studies, and literature. This reflects negatively on the Front’s participation in these important areas, which should have been much greater than what has been achieved so far.

The above are some of the issues raised at the conference regarding the Front’s errors, omissions and failures. We seek to overcome these issues. We also examined the achievements of the Front and positive elements to celebrate, including:

First, successful and serious operations such as the assassination of Rehavam Zeevi on October 17, 2001 and a number of other operations.

Second, the Front’s effective contribution to the Cairo agreements to end the Palestinian division.

Third, our effective contribution in confronting the enemy attacks on Gaza.

Fourth, the Front adhered firmly to its policy of rejecting Palestinian internal fighting and has seen strong response to this policy.

Generally, regarding the atmosphere of the conference, it was sharply critical of the current Palestinian political situation: particularly in examining the negotiations, the interim program, the Oslo Accords and subsequent understandings and agreements with the enemy. There was a focus on the importance of armed struggle and resistance and demanding action in all forms of struggle, and on upholding the call for a democratic state on the entire Palestinian national soil in the conference. There has been no retreat from the positions, constants, and policies highlighted by the front in the previous conferences.

Q. Why is the condition of the PLO and its institutions so negative? Until when will the PLO remain an individual monopoly of one organization? How does this impact the relationship between the Front and this monopolistic leadership of the PLO? What is your position on calls to withdraw from the PLO and its institutions?

A. The relationship with this monopolistic leadership of the PLO is negative for many reasons, including:

First, the individualism as noted;

Second, the lack of respect for the decisions of the majority by this leadership – it is a logic of “Say what you will, and I will do what I want.”

Third, the commitment to the political approach to negotiations which have been taking place for over six months to no tangible results and the continued willingness of this leadership to engage with the project of John Kerry and the U.S., which is currently the most dangerous project aiming to liquidate the Palestinian cause.

Fourth, this leadership has evaded the implementation of the Cairo agreements, particularly on the issue of elections or the rebuilding of the PLO, despite the urgency of the Front, and initiatives and efforts to do so.

As for the Front remaining in the PLO, our decision is to remain in the institutions of the Organization with the aim of continuing to confront the approach of settlement and concessions, and at the same time continue to insist on national unity. These issues are difficult to address on the basis of a single action here or there by a single party. It is necessary to reassert political principles and fundamentals – contrary to those that are prevailing now – in particular, to reassert the political program adopted in the Cairo agreements with the consensus of all  forces and parties.

In any case, we should not forget, that the institutions of the PLO were built with the blood of the Palestinian people and their sacrifices, including the blood of the martyrs of the Front.  The qualitative political situation at any time may be impacted by our presence in institutions rather than in the Organization itself. All of our political tactics, statements and work should serve the goals of the Palestinian people and their strategic program. The Front as a political party should draw conclusions and lessons from previous experiences in order to support and enhance its role and examine the path to achieving its goals.

Finally, it is always required of us and all the forces of change and democracy addressing this situation to exert all pressure to change the political approach of this monopolistic leadership in the PLO to support the popular will, change and Palestinian democracy within the organization and its institutions.

Q. How do you understand the role of the Popular Front, its weapons and resistance? What is the importance of revolutionary violence in the struggle with the Zionist enemy? Why do some people say there is a difference in this subject between now and in the past? Do you think the struggle with “Israel” can be resolved without violence and resistance?

A. No one disagrees that the occupation and racist settler colony perched on our land cannot be defeated without a long term people’s liberation war, in which armed struggle is in the forefront yet without neglecting all other forms of struggle. In fact, in history, while there are one or two cases in which it is claimed that a country was liberated from colonialism without violence as a major factor (for example, this claim is often made about India), in fact, this obscures the reality that liberation from colonialism has largely been accomplished by people’s wars of national liberation.

Attempting to negate revolutionary violence as a leading method of struggle against the occupier only perpetuates the existence of the occupation and makes the occupier comfortable in the occupation and results in the loss of our homeland, failing to achieve our goals, and the implementation of the colonizer’s plan to liquidate the national cause through settlement, Judaization and other colonial methods.

The sixty-six years of Nakba answer clearly and unequivocally: the liberation of Palestine passes through the gun first and other forms of struggle second. These forms of struggle are interdependent and harmonious. There is a constant dialectic: decline in armed struggle due to conditions, then the reverse quite quickly – there is no state, no return and no liberation without resistance of all forms: violent and non-violent.

Q. How do you determine the Front’s relationships with Palestinian forces? Will you stand at the same difference from Fateh and Hamas?

A. The Front’s line constitutes a third line or third option in the Palestinian national scene, namely the national democratic line, and we strongly believe this option expands the hope and the future of the Palestinian people and highlights the most deserving issue of the day, namely the Palestinian cause.

The Front is a resistance organization committed to armed struggle in the conflict with the enemy in order to achieve a democratic, liberated, revolutionary and popular free Palestine. This is the basis of our definition of relationships with other Palestinian forces as well as political tactics and alliances. This makes the Front clear and credible and provides opportunities and conditions for relate to other forces with clear objectives and programs in line with Palestinian national constants. At the foundation of our relationship with different Palestinian forces and parties are the goals and rights of the Palestinian people, liberation, return, and a democratic state with full sovereignty on the entire land of Palestine. There are levels of convergence and divergence with this or that Palestinian force, including Fateh and Hamas. We are first, second, third and always dedicated to national unity on the road to liberation and freedom.

Q. How do you assess your relations with the resistance camp, including Iran and Hezbollah?

A. The Front is a resistance organization, so it is natural to be in the camp of resistance at popular and official levels. We establish relationships not only with regimes identified with defiance or resistance in Iran, Syria or elsewhere, but our relationships are good with all parties to resistance, popular movements, political parties and resistance forces. This includes Iran and Hezbollah. We cannot ignore here the importance of the support of the Islamic Republic of Iran for the Palestinian people and the Palestinian cause.  Also, the position of Hezbollah that is engaged in an ongoing conflict with “Israel” and its support for the Palestinian people and their just cause, as well as the support from Syria, both the people and the state.

Q. President Abu Mazen recently made a number of statements that the Front condemned. How do you evaluate those statements which involved more concessions to the occupier, while insisting on the continuation of negotiations?

A. Despite over six months of negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and “Israel” under the name of “peace talks,” there has been no meaningful progress. The Palestinian Authority leadership continues to adhere to negotiations despite the absence of any serious results. The negotiations are absurd and harmful and yet the leadership of the Palestinian Authority and the PLO continues to push them forward. And the strange thing is, that Abu Mazen, when asked about the negotiating track, provides statements and positions on the Palestinian political situation that create greater difficulties for the Palestinian cause. For example, in a recent interview in the New York Times, exhibiting the decline in Palestinian politics, he declared in response to U.S. pressure to submit to the retention of Israeli occupation forces for five years – even longer than the previously stated three years, as well as supporting the occupation of NATO forces or another third party in order to reassure the Israelis.

What Abu Mazen sees as a tactic of political flexibility to negotiate with the Israelis has a proven experience of failure. It has achieved no valuable gains for Palestinians and what was once the floor of Palestinian political positions is today the ceiling. Such statements by Abu Mazen cannot be considered seriously not only by the majority of the Palestinian people and their forces and political parties, but also by international and regional parties who support the rights of the Palestinian people. The Palestinian Authority leadership has no right to offer those rights as concessions while the intransigence of Israeli policies increases.

The claim by the Palestinian Authority and the negotiating team that Palestinians have no alternative is not correct and does not represent the reality of Palestinian political life. Yes, there is an alternative to the policy of concession and liquidation. The political tactics of the current official Palestinian leadership, if continued, will take the historical, national and legal rights of the Palestinian people to hell.

21 years since Oslo has confirmed to all that the path of Oslo and concessions will never bring about an independent Palestinian state with full sovereignty and Jerusalem as its capital or the return of refugees. The alternatives available to Palestinians are:

First, reorganize the Palestinian internal situation, which leads to reconciliation and Palestinian national unity, that includes in its agenda, regaining the place of the Palestinian cause on all Arab, regional and international levels, after what it has suffered due to events in surrounding countries and the retreat of other Arab countries.

Second, develop a political agenda and effective resistance to the occupation and its policies at all level: political, militant and media, because the fascist Zionist enemy understands only the language of force and resistance.

Third, Palestinian involvement in all international bodies, including its status as an observer state in the United Nations, to give momentum and real international support for the Palestinian cause while exposing and isolating Israeli practices and policies and U.S. support for them.

Fourth, struggle to expand the Palestinian resistance to the occupation on all levels, including striving to bring about a third Palestinian intifada to confront the Israelis to retreat on their practices and policies

The performance of the Palestinian leadership in these negotiations does not respond to the aspirations and goals of the Palestinian people, inside or outside the homeland. The statements by some Palestinian officials, whatever their motives or beliefs, do not serve to advance the Palestinian cause one iota, as confirmed unequivocally through 21 years of Oslo. Palestinians urgently need to expand their vision for work to achieve our goals, not distractions in backstage negotiations and lobbying. This has been concretely proven; these negotiations are futile, absurd and harmful.

We call upon the Executive Committee of the PLO to issue a formal statement rejecting the statements of Palestinian leaders which violate the national consensus and its decisions.

Q. What is your opinion of the meeting of President Abu Mazen with the delegation of “Israeli” students?

A. We see that this normalization by the leading Palestinian official comes in the context of a damaging political approach that harms our national cause and the rights of the Palestinian people. The only beneficiary of these meetings and this behavior is the enemy who use it to manipulate local and global public opinion. We reject all of these statements and behaviours and the PLO Executive Committee must create accountability for this situation and the recent statements.

****

Comrade Abu Ahmad, thank you for your quick response to the questions of the Front’s media office, which are transparent, direct and objective. We wish you great success and our Front progress and success in reaching its great objectives to fulfill the dreams and aspirations of our people for freedom, liberation, the democratic state, and the return of all Palestinian refugees to their homes in Palestine.

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U.S. Policy Toward Venezuela: Seeing The Larger Picture

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The analysis of U.S. policy toward the Ukraine and Syria is even more applicable in the case of Venezuela, argues academic and author Steve Ellner.

Since the 1990s, many critics of the U.S. have accused Washington of promoting the dismemberment of nations such as Yugoslavia, in accordance with neoliberalism’s drive to weaken central governments and nation states. Today, Washington’s official policy in nations like Syria and now the Ukraine has been support for rebels that are trying to overthrow the government, even though their chances of success are minimal. In the case of Syria, the U.S. has provided material support for rebels, while in the case of the Ukraine the Obama administration has threatened the government with sanctions even though the dissidents are armed and have attacked security forces. Regardless of one’s evaluation of the two governments (and I’m not defending either one), it could be said that regime change in highly unlikely. The best-case political scenario for those opposed to both governments would be a prolonged armed conflict, perhaps even civil war. The worst-case political scenario for them would be government consolidation and the complete defeat of the rebels. Washington obviously knows this.  Could it be that in cases of governments considered adverse to U.S. interests, Washington prefers a civil war over a normal situation free of discord and violence?

This analysis of U.S. policy toward the Ukraine and Syria is even more applicable in the case of Venezuela. Indeed, there are several key factors favoring the Venezuelan government that make regime change even less likely. First the Chavistas have the electoral support of fifty percent or more of the population with a mobilization capacity that has since 2003 exceeded that of the opposition. Second, less than two months ago the Chavistas defeated the opposition at the polls by a substantial margin. Three, it has solid support in the military, not just from an “institutionalist” faction but from officers who identify with Chavismo. And fourth, Venezuela counts on a united Latin America, more so than at any other time throughout its two-century history, and solid backing during the current conflict from governments throughout the region.

Yet the United States openly supports the opposition. While the entire world (including such non-leftist governments as Mexico and Colombia) recognized the triumph of Nicolás Maduro in the April 2013 presidential elections, Washington was alone in siding with the Venezuelan opposition in refusing to recognize the results. (If the opposition really won the elections in April, how can you explain the Chavista triumph in December whose results were accepted by the opposition?).  All the statements coming out of Washington including those from Kerry to Obama explicitly support the position of the opposition with specific reference to Leopoldo López (U.S. educated at undergraduate and graduate levels who comes from one of the historically richest families in Venezuela), who represents the most extremist current within the opposition. López, with his slogan “salida” openly supports regime change.

Washington along with the opposition leaders are banking on a wearing out process, what is known as “low intensity war.” It may work. It did in Nicaragua in the 1980s. Nicaraguan voters in 1990 felt that the only way to end the ongoing violence was by electing a “moderate,” namely Violeta Chamorro (whose candidacy and party received millions of dollars from the U.S.). A similar scenario may play out in Venezuela. Capriles very skillfully is positioning himself to play the role of “moderate” (he even calls himself a “progressive”) and has distanced himself from López, particularly on the social front (even though both come from the upper class). He states the only way for the opposition to triumph is by getting support from the popular classes, a position which represents an indirect criticism of López for overestimating subjective conditions. In short, Capriles is following the “Chamorro strategy.”

While not minimizing the effectiveness of low-intensity war, there are other scenarios in which the current protests may have a boomerang effect on the opposition and the U.S. First, is the possibility of a backlash which is already occurring in middle class areas, which have been subject to nearly all the violence. Furthermore, events in the Ukraine, which inspired the opposition who were led to believe that “civil protests” could topple regimes, are demonstrating how easy it is for things to slide into armed confrontation with scores of deaths and civil war. Second, members of the middle class opposition are likely to lose hope in the absence of positive short-term results for this all-or- nothing strategy. The staying power of the enthusiasm of these sectors tends to be limited.

Washington also has much to lose. It has a long history of supporting subversive movements that (as in the case of Iran in 1953 and Guatemala in 1954) after reaching power had disastrous long-term effects on the country. Venezuela is not a typical case. It is in the center of world attention.  The failure of U.S. government efforts to bring about regime change in country after country (Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela) after scoring “successes” in Iraq and Lybia would come as a blow to U.S. prestige. In short, much is at stake.

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Cairo’s public transport workers continue strike for minimum wage

NOVANEWS
Public transport workers continue strike for a second day, demanding inclusion in the state’s minimum wage scheme
Ahram Online
Bus Station

Bus station deserted in September 2013 strike “Photo: Mai Shaheen”

Egypt’s public transport workers entered their second strike day Sunday, demanding inclusion in the state’s LE1200 ($172) minimum wage scheme, Tarek El-Beheri, deputy chief of the Independent Workers’ Syndicate for Public Transport Workers, told Ahram Online.The wage scheme for public transport workers ranges between LE600 ($86) and LE1400 ($200), said El-Beheri.

All 28 garages in Greater Cairo are currently on strike, taking a toll on daily revenues with some LE800,000 ($115,000) in losses for the Public Transport Authority, reported the state-owned Al-Ahram news website.

“The government offered to pay us LE200 ($29) monthly for three months without categorising the payment. But we want LE400 ($48) per month in a permanent category,” said El-Beheri.

Workers are willing to suspend the strike if the government shows responsiveness, but will escalate their protests if no demands are met by involving maintenance workers, added El-Beheri.

The minimum wage scheme targets the state’s administrative apparatus and excludes state-owned businesses and independent economic authorities, such as the Public Transport Authority.

Independent economic authorities can implement the minimum wage if they want, but within their own budgets, Mesbah Qotb, finance minister advisor told Al-Ahram Arabic website.

“The authority is not generating enough revenue to raise our salaries due to the limited number of buses. Any raise would have to be paid by the government,” said El-Beheri.

The Public Transport Authority used to have 4,700 buses but in 2005, 2,000 of those were dispensed with for being outdated, and no new buses were added since then, according to El-Beheri.

Cairo’s governor told the state-owned MENA news agency that the Public Transport Authority will receive 1,350 new buses in 2014.

Around 1.5 million employees of nine holding companies and 50 economic authorities make up the “business sector” entities that are regulated under Law 203 of 1991.

According to that law, the budgets of companies and authorities in the “business sector” are not included in the state budget, although they are technically state-owned.

Workers in several state-owned business have been striking for the past few weeks to demand their inclusion in the minimum wage scheme.

The largest strike was staged in Mahalla Textile Company with 20,000 workers participating. Other companies, including Tanta Flax and Shebeen Weaving, have also been striking to demand their wage meet the minimum wage of LE1,200 ($172).

Mahalla textile workers were the first demonstrators calling for a national minimum wage at LE1,200 in 2008, in one of the largest anti-regime protests before former president Hosni Mubarak was deposed in 2011. They never received the minimum wage.

 

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‘Pre-Negotiation’ Meeting Called as Burma’s Ceasefire Talks Falter

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Ethnic armed groups sit down for a conference in late October in Laiza, Kachin State. (Photo: JPaing / The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON — Leaders of Burma’s ethnic armed groups will hold a side meeting with government peace negotiators in Rangoon early next month ahead of the long-awaited next round of official talks, scheduled to take place in the Karen State capital of Hpa-an.

Renewed fighting in Kachin State this month has cast doubt on the Burma government’s claim it can get a nationwide ceasefire signed in April, and ethnic leaders say the current demands of the government side, led by President’s Office Minister Aung Min, are not acceptable.

Khun Okkar, the joint-secretary of the ethnic alliance group the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), told The Irrawaddy that he had received a letter this week from Aung Min saying a “pre-negotiation” meeting would take place in the first week of March.

The Hpa-an meeting, at which government officials hope a date for a nationwide ceasefire agreement will be set, has been repeatedly delayed since it was first scheduled in December. Ethnic groups twice requested more time to study demands from the government side in a draft agreement handed over in November by Lt-Gen Myint Soe, the commander of a government’s bureau of special operations that oversees military operations in Kachin State.

However, Khun Okkar said the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), a group representing 14 ethnic groups in the talks toward a nationwide ceasefire, had been trying to meet with government negotiators—for a side meeting ahead of the Hpa-an meeting—for some time.

“We are ready to meet them. We have even selected our representatives already who will join the meeting,” he said. “We asked them to meet two times already, but they could not meet us.”

A key sticking point appears to be a demand in the government’s draft agreement that calls for the ethnic armed groups to come under Burmese military command, and to submit to the government a full account of the troops, arms and munitions under their control.

Nai Man, a community leader in Moulmein, Mon State, said that in meetings this week the head of the NCCT Nai Hong Sar, who is also the joint chairman of the New Mon State Party, told Mon leaders that the demands were too much for the ethnic groups. The ethnic negotiators are asking the government to compromise before the peace process can progress, Nai Man said.

“The meeting in Hpa-an can’t happen unless the ethnic side gets the result they want,” he said.

The United Nations human rights rapporteur for Burma, Tomás Ojea Quintana, met with Aung Min and visited Kachin State during his last visit to Burma, which concluded this week. During a press conference Wednesday, Quintana said Aung Min told him that the nationwide ceasefire would be signed in April.

However, Quintana reported that Kachin leaders told him they had doubts about the peace process, and that human rights abuses by the Burma Army were ongoing in northern Burma.

The UN envoy said he had “received allegations of more recent human rights violations following military clashes in Kachin State and northern Shan State, including cases of rape, arbitrary detention and torture during interrogation.”

On Feb . 12 the Burma army made an incursion into rebel territory, seizing a Kachin Independence Army outpost in Bhamo Township. The attack has sparked doubts among Kachin leaders about the government’s sincerity in the peace process.

San Aung, who is a peace broker from KIO side it was vital that trust is not damaged between the Kachin and the Burma Army during the peace negotiations.

“I am worried the attack from the government troops to his Kachin could make the peace process fail,” he said.

 

 

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In Meeting With NLD Cofounder, Wirathu Cautions Against Suu Kyi Presidency

NOVANEWS

Nationalist Buddhist monk U Wirathu is greeted with respect at a monks’ conference in Rangoon in June 2013. (Photo: JPaing / The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON — The controversial Buddhist monk U Wirathu, leader of Burma’s ultranationalist 969 movement, has advised the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) to refrain from pushing the presidential candidacy of democracy icon and party chairwoman Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Mandalay-based monk conveyed the message in a meeting with NLD cofounder Win Tin on Saturday in Mandalay, where he said a constitutional provision that currently bars Suu Kyi from presidential eligibility should remain in place, despite his admiration for the long-time democracy campaigner turned parliamentarian.

“Everyone in the country, including me, wants Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to be president. But I am worried about those who are not ethnic people [who identify as one of Burma’s officially recognized ethnicities], such as Chinese and Muslim, will become president in the country if Article 59 is amended,” Wirathu told The Irrawaddy on Monday, saying he feared foreign influence in the nation’s affairs if an ethnic Chinese or Muslim were elected president.

Article 59F of the 2008 Constitution bars from presidential eligibility anyone who marries a foreigner or has children who claim foreign citizenship. Suu Kyi married a British man and has two children who hold British passports.

There is no comparable constitutional provision preventing Muslims who hold Burmese citizenship from running for president, but people in Burma who identify as ethnic Chinese are not considered citizens and thus cannot run for the office.

Win Tin on Monday said that he had dismissed Wirathu’s concerns over the precedent that a Suu Kyi presidency might set.

“I told him that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is not struggling only to be president of the country. She is working for democracy and a genuine federal system in the country,” the NLD cofounder told The Irrawaddy.

Wirathu has courted controversy in recent years with a nationwide campaign that claims Muslims in Burma are threatening the country’s Buddhist majority. Monks promoting the movement have held public sermons urging Burma’s Buddhists to protect their race and religion by boycotting Muslim-owned businesses.

Some of the same monks have in recent months called into question whether Suu Kyi is up to the task of protecting the purportedly besieged Buddhist majority.

Monks have a long tradition of involvement in Burma’s politics, including the religious order’s leading role in anti-government protests in 2007 that were dubbed the Saffron Revolution, in reference to the monks’ colored robes.

Unlike the monks’ political agitations then, the efforts of 969 proselytizers have been condemned by the international human rights community, which has blamed them in part for outbreaks of Buddhist mob violence against Muslim communities in Burma.

Wirathu’s stated position on Monday appears at odds with remarks he made in late November, when he said a Suu Kyi presidency would bring “chaos” because she was “weak at governance.”

Win Tin on Monday said he did not buy into the monk’s ostensible reason for opposing a change to Article 59F.

“I found that he does not want Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to become president. He does not want her to win in the election and he does not want a person who married a foreign citizen to win power,” he said.

Win Tin said he had assured Wirathu that the NLD would not allow “puppet politics” to affect its policy positions and hoped-for governance following elections in 2015.

Win Tin met with Wirathu at the latter’s invitation, in a setting that the NLD leader said added more mixed signals about the monk’s loyalties.

“I found Daw Aung San Suu Kyi photos and messages from her speech, and messages in support of her, which were posted at his monastery when I was there,” Win Tin said.

“He told me that he and his monks have been active in the movement for political change in the country, and that they intended to foster a smooth transition,” Win Tin added.

“I told him that I approved of monks’ participation in the political transition because there is a history of monks involved in politics. But, I told him that it was important that their efforts benefit all the people in the country and not only one group of people.”

 

 

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Burmese Refugees in Thailand Are Running out of Options

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Poe Suter Toe, an ethnic Karen refugee from Mandalay, stands between fences at the Mae La refugee camp near Mae Sot June 3, 2012. (Photo: Reuters)

BANGKOK — Win Myint and his two younger sisters fled Burma in June 2011, after months of harassment by plainclothes officers because of a documentary about the Burmese army featuring their exiled younger brother, a former soldier who later spent 15 years in jail for his pro-democracy activism.

The officers accused them of distributing the film and warned them they could be jailed. “They told us not to go anywhere overnight. They also followed me to places I gave tuition. They accused our younger brother of trying to break the unity of the armed forces,” said Win Myint, speaking by phone from Umpiem Mai refugee camp in northern Thailand. “We didn’t feel safe,” said Myint, a 63-year-old former teacher and a Muslim.

He and his sisters, both in their 50s, fled to Thailand, hoping to be recognized as refugees and reunited with their mother and three other siblings who are now in the United States.

But, like some 40,000 of the 120,000 people in the nine refugee camps straddling the Thai-Burma border, they arrived too late to be eligible for resettlement.

Thailand stopped screening and registering new refugees in 2007, and in January this year the United States, the largest recipient of Burmese refugees from Thailand having taken more than 70,000, announced it was ending its group resettlement program.

“The United States will continue to consider for resettlement individual referrals received from the UNHCR,” said the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, but it did not elaborate further on the criteria for these cases.

The Thai government did not immediately respond to emails and calls seeking comment.

As former pariah Burma garners praise for its gradual democratic reforms, and financial support to the camps dwindles, so talk of repatriating the remaining refugees has grown—creating uncertainty and fear among the thousands of refugees who have a real fear of persecution if they return to Burma.

Critics point to the arrest of journalists and activists, continuing offensives against armed ethnic groups in the north, and persistent  violence against the Rohingya in particular and Muslims in general as signs that Burma’s reforms have not gone far enough. New asylum seekers are still arriving in Thailand, underlying the patchiness of the reforms.

Life in Thailand, which has never ratified the U.N. Refugee Convention, is not rosy either. Refugees who go outside the camps are subject to arrest, detention and deportation.

“We can’t go forward or backward. We’re stuck,” said Win Myint.

Houses Raided

His brother Myo Myint lost an arm and a leg to an enemy mortar round while serving as a soldier in the Burmese army. He later became a pro-democracy activist, for which he spent 15 years in jail, where, Win Myint says, he was tortured.

He later fled to Thailand and the United States, where he now works as a translator and interpreter for newly arrived refugees. His story was told in Burma Soldier, an Emmy-nominated 2010 HBO documentary in which he spoke of the army’s routine abuse of civilians.

“If they go back they could be arrested at any time because I was involved in what the government considers to be an illegal film,” Myo Myint said in a phone interview from Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he has lived for the past five years.

Soon after the Democratic Voice of Burma, a news outlet, broadcast Burma Soldier in Burma in November 2010, plainclothes officers, who Win Myint believes were from military intelligence, started turning up at their house in the former capital, Rangoon, subtly threatening them with repercussions.

Coming from a politically active family – besides Myo Myint, another brother had been a student leader and a sister had helped political prisoners – Win Myint was no stranger to harassment.

But a raid on their family home one night in April 2011 by police and military intelligence officers armed with automatic weapons, left his two sisters badly shaken – especially as this happened only a few weeks after a reformist government led by President Thein Sein had taken power, ending half a century of brutal military rule.

The officers were looking for evidence that the family had been distributing the documentary and left empty-handed after a 90-minute search. But they kept returning, Win Myint said.

He and his sisters left Burma quietly without informing anyone, even their youngest sister whose visits had become less frequent as the authorities’ attentions became more intrusive. They decided to go to Umpiem Mai, where Myo Myint had lived before being resettled in the United States. Here they could sleep easier but their troubles were far from over.

Individual Resettlement, No Forced Return

The United Nations refugee agency, in a statement announcing the end of the group resettlement program, said that resettlement on an individual basis was continuing.

“UNHCR is still identifying vulnerable refugees for submission to resettlement countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Japan,” UNHCR spokeswoman Vivian Tan told Thomson Reuters Foundation. About 19,000 Burmese refugees have resettled in these countries.

Both the UNHCR and The Border Consortium (TBC), a non-governmental organization that has been working in the camps since the 1980s, also say conditions in Burma are not yet conducive for Burmese to return and no timeline for such action has been set. Still, people in the camps are worried.

“There are so many people in the same boat as us. Everyone in the camp is worried because our future is uncertain and there are a lot of rumours going around,” said Win Myint, now a volunteer teacher at the camp.

“We hear future resettlement will be to reunite families but only for those under 18,” he said. “We would like to request that people who a third country would agree to accept should be allowed to go. It would lessen the burden on the Thai government too.”

But Thai government policy remains that unregistered refugees cannot be resettled, with a few exceptions, assessed on a case-by-case basis, where immediate family members are or could be separated as a result of resettlement, said the UNHCR’s Tan.

“We feel hopeless and helpless,” Myo Myint, who blames his family’s troubles on his political activities, told Thomson Reuters Foundation.

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