Archive | July 26th, 2018

Palestinian: Ahed Tamimi to Be Released From Nazi camp

NOVANEWS

The 17-year-old turned into a Palestinian protest icon after she was filed slapping Nazi soldiers

An artist paints a giant mural of prominent Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi on part of the Israeli separation wall, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, Wednesday, July 25, 2018.
An artist paints a giant mural of prominent Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi on part of the Nazi separation wall, in the illegally Nazi occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem, Wednesday, July 25, 2018. Nasser Nasser

Ahed Tamimi, a Palestinian teenager convicted of assaulting Nazi soldiers, will be released on Sunday after serving her sentence, her family said Thursday.

Tamimi, 17, from Nabi Saleh in the West Bank, turned into a protest icon after she was filmed slapping Nazi soldier. She was detained for three months before being sentenced in March to eight months in jail .

As part of the agreement, Tamimi pleaded guilty to four counts of assault, including the videotaped slapping of an Nazi soldier. In addition to the eight month jail sentence, she was to pay a fine of 5,000 shekels ($1,437).

After her released Sunday, Tamimi is expected to hold a press conference in her hometown. Tamimi was arrested in December, a day after a video of her punching, slapping and kicking two Israeli soldiers in a West Bank village went viral.

Italian artist Jorit Agoch paints a mural depicting jailed Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi on Israel's controversial separation barrier in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, on July 25,2018.
Italian artist Jorit Agoch paints a mural depicting jailed Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi on Nazi  separation barrier in the illegally occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem, on July 25,2018. AFP 

Her initial January indictment included 12 charges going back to 2016. The indictment included five counts of assault against security forces, including stone throwing. She was charged with assaulting a soldier, threatening Nazi  soldier, interfering with a soldier in the line of duty, incitement and throwing objects at a person or property.

Last June, a parole board rejected Tamimi’s request for an early release. The Nazi Gestapo ‘Shin Bet’ security service issued an opinion in the case opposing her release. “The statements she has made about the case indicate her radical ideology, [and] along with the security situation in the area, [this] demonstrates her potential for danger if she receives an early release,” the Gestapo wrote.

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How The West and Its Allies Sabotaged Venezuela

Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr

Journalist Val Reynoso argues that “Venezuela and Colombia have sociopolitical tensions in part due to Colombia’s alignment with the US”.

Colombian President Manuel Santos and US President Donald Trump shake hands (Michael Reynolds / EPA)
Colombian President Manuel Santos and US President Donald Trump shake hands (Michael Reynolds / EPA)
By Val Reynoso 

Venezuela and Colombia differ in their relations and involvement with the US government and its functions.

Washington makes the case that the US was helping to protect private sectors and the oil industry in Venezuela, as well as defend the Colombian government from the supposed terrorism of FARC, however, this is not the case for either nation.  The Venezuelan government cannot be criticized without taking into account the role that the US, Organisation of American States (OAS), Saudi Arabia, Israel and Colombia have played in sabotaging the Venezuelan government and economy, then using corporate media to blame Venezuela’s problems on Chavismo.

The issues that have had an impact on the Venezuelan economy are not caused by an alleged socialism, but relatively low oil prices and sabotage by violent right-winged opposition to Bolivarianism.  In 2014, Saudi Arabia allied with the US and Israel to strategically flood the market with inexpensive oil— which resultantly drove the price of oil down from $110 to $28 per barrel, with the purpose of weakening opponents of said allied countries, whose economies are reliant on oil and natural gas exports, such as Venezuela.  As a result of this course of action, the Venezuelan state budget has been significantly reduced, which has decimated the economy, and has produced a crisis in the funding of Venezuelan social programs which are in turn vital to the strengthening of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela.

Additionally, private companies import the majority of food in Venezuela and ask for subsidized foreign currency from the government oil sales in order to accomplish that.  Venezuela needs to find other sources of income since they can no longer depend on the now cheap oil sales.  At the same time, ExxonMobil grants contracts to Guyana for infrastructure, drilling and storage with the intention of extracting the immense “Liza Project” located in maritime territory claimed by Venezuela.  The gist of the issues the US has with Venezuela is the fact that it is a socialist, anti-imperialist nation that aspires for economic independence sans intervention.  76% of Venezuelans oppose foreign intervention, according to surveys from the polling organization Hinterlaces.

On the other hand, Venezuela and Colombia have sociopolitical tensions in part due to Colombia’s alignment with the US.  For example, Colombian journalist Claudia Cano has recently been revealed to have allegedly manipulated the narrative of so-called Venezuelan defector Edgar de Jesus Villanueva on camera.  Moreover, Maduro called Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos a “failure” and “hypocrite” for criticizing Venezuela when he has played a role in worsening conditions in Venezuela to begin with.  Colombia had almost 10,000 people imprisoned, mostly for their political ideology.

The Colombian President Santos asked Trump for financial support for Colombia’s peace process in order to create a lasting peace with its 52-year long conflict with the Revolutionaey Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC); the White House stated that Trump called Colombia one of the strongest allies of the US in the western hemisphere.  Although being oftentimes demonized by the Colombian corporate media and elite, FARC has regularly placed pressure on the Colombian government to comply with peace processes even despite the frequent murders of their members and social leaders throughout the country.

The UN has confirmed that FARC has delivered over 7,000 weapons as part of the peace accords with the purpose of ending decades of conflict and start their transition to politics to continue their revolutionary struggle nonviolently.  Furthermore, the US state department has provided at least $49 million since 2009 in aid for Venezuelan right-wing opposition forces who have sparked violent protests and murders of innocent civilians with the hopes of removing the democratically elected President Maduro.  The US government has also provided $4.26 million for Venezuela through the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in 2015 in order to fund organizations that engage in anti-government work.

Given all this, it is clear that Western imperialism is the culprit of Venezuela’s socioeconomic issues rather than Bolivarianism.

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Why Venezuela Reporting Is So Bad

Joe Emersberger offers an analysis of Alan MacLeod’s book Bad News From Venezuela.

Western media has taken an aggressive stance when reporting on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (FAIR)
Western media has taken an aggressive stance when reporting on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (FAIR)
By Joe Emersberger – FAIR

For almost 20 years, the US government has been trying to overthrow Venezuela’s government, and establishment media outlets (state, corporate and some nonprofit) throughout the Americas and Europe have been bending over backwards to help the US do it.

Rare exceptions to this over the last two decades would be found in the state media in some countries that are not hostile to Venezuela, like the ALBA block. Small independent outlets like VenezuelAnalysis.com also offered alternatives. In the US and UK establishment media, you are way more likely to see a defense of Saudi Arabia’s dictatorship than of Venezuela’s democratically elected government. Any defense of Venezuela’s government will provoke vilification and ridicule, so both Alan MacLeod and his publisher (Routledge) deserve very high praise for producing the book  Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting. It took real political courage. (Disclosure: MacLeod is a contributor to FAIR.org, as am I.)

MacLeod’s approach was to assess 501 articles (news reports and opinion pieces) about Venezuela that appeared in the US and UK newspapers during key periods since Hugo Chávez was first elected Venezuelan president in 1998. Chávez died in March 2013, and his vice president, Nicolas Maduro, was elected president a month later. Maduro was just re-elected to a second six-year term on May 20. The periods of peak interest in Venezuela that MacLeod examined involved the first election of Chávez in 1998, the US-backed military coup that briefly ousted Chávez in April of 2002, the death of Chávez in 2013 and the violent opposition protests in 2014.

Bad News From Venezuela

Alan MacLeod’s Bad News From Venezuela

MacLeod notes that US government funding to the Venezuelan opposition spiked just before the 2002 coup, and then increased again afterwards. What would happen to a foreign government that conceded (as the US State Department’s Office of the Inspector General did regarding Venezuela) that it funded and trained groups involved with violently ousting the US government?

MacLeod shows that, in bold defiance of the facts, the US media usually treated US involvement in the coup as a conspiracy theory, on those rare occasions when US involvement was discussed at all. Only 10 percent of the articles MacLeod sampled in US media even mentioned potential US involvement in the coup. Thirty-nine percent did in UK media, but, according to MacLeod, “only the Guardian presented US involvement as a strong possibility.”

Venezuelan Media: Caged or Free?

Source: Alan MacLeod

As somebody who regularly reads Venezuelan newspapers and watches its news and political programs, I thought the most powerful evidence MacLeod provided of Western media dishonesty was a chart showing how Venezuela’s media system has been depicted from 1998–2014. Of the 166 articles in MacLeod’s sample that described the state of Venezuela’s media, he classified 100 percent of them as spreading a “caged” characterization: the outlandish story that the Chávez and Maduro governments dominate the media, or have otherwise used coercion to practically silence aggressive criticism.

There is a bit of subjectivity involved in classifying articles in a sample like MacLeod’s. From my own very close reading of the US and UK’s Venezuela coverage over the years, I’m sure one could quibble that a few articles within MacLeod’s sample contradict the “caged” story; perhaps reducing the percentage to 95 percent, but that would hardly assail his conclusion. It is truly stunning that Western journalists can’t be relied on to accurately report the content of Venezuelan newspapers and TV. How hard is it to watch TV and read newspapers, and notice that the government is being constantly blasted by its opponents? No background in economics or any type of esoterica is required to do that much—simply a lack of extreme partisanship and a minimal level of honesty.

MacLeod acknowledges that the Carter Center has refuted a few big lies about the Venezuelan government, including the one about government critics being shut out of Venezuela’s media, but he also reminds us that a week after the perpetrators of the 2002 coup thanked Venezuela’s private media for their help installing a dictatorship, Jennifer McCoy (America director for the Carter Center at the time) wrote an op-ed for the New York Times (4/18/02) in which she said that the “Chávez regime” had been “threatening the country’s democratic system of checks and balances and freedom of expression of its citizens.” Venezuelan democracy deserved much better “allies.” The Carter Center may have sparkled at times compared to the rest of the US establishment, but it’s a very filthy establishment.

Drawing from the work of Ed Herman and Noam Chomsky, MacLeod provides a structural analysis of why coverage of Venezuela has been so terrible. Corporate journalists, with rare exceptions, reflexively dismiss common-sense analysis of their industry. Chomsky and Herman therefore resorted to proving various common-sense propositions, identifying “filters” that distort news coverage in ways that serve the rich and powerful. For example, it matters who pays the bills. (In other news, water is wet.) Corporate-owned, ad-dependent media will tend to serve the agenda of wealthy owners and corporate customers who provide the bulk of the ad dollars. Such media will usually hire and promote people whose worldview is compatible with the arrangement. That greatly reduces the need for heavy-handed bullying to enforce an editorial line.

Business pressures also drive media outlets to cuts costs, and therefore rely on governments and big corporate outfits as cheap and readily available sources. Losing “access” by alienating powerful sources therefore becomes expensive, even before you consider other forms of flak that powerful people can apply.

Time: Venezuela Is Dying

Time (8/22/16)

Beyond the general “filters” that Chomsky and Herman identified, MacLeod described others that are specific to Venezuela.  MacLeod pointed to

massive cuts to newsroom budgets, leading to reliance on local stringers. Local journalists recruited from highly adversarial Venezuelan opposition–aligned press, leading to a situation where Venezuelan opposition ideas and talking points have their amplitude magnified. Anti-government activists producing supposedly objective news content for Western media.

He also explained that

journalists are overwhelmingly housed in the wealthy Chacao district of Eastern Caracas…. This, combined with concerns over crime, creates a situation where journalists inordinately spend their work and leisure time in an opposition bastion. Hence, it can appear to a journalist that “everyone” has a negative opinion about the government.

I wish MacLeod had more forcefully stressed another factor explaining why Venezuela reporting is so bad: impunity. A structural analysis explains why biased coverage results even if journalists are usually honest, but being able to say anything you want about an adversary without having to worry about being refuted (and discredited) encourages dishonesty. Media bias in Venezuela’s case could more appropriately be called media corruption.

In 2015, one of MacLeod’s interviewees, the former Caracas-based journalist Girish Gupta, wrote (Reuters8/5/15) that 1.5 million Venezuelans had left the country since Hugo Chávez first took office in 1999, according to “Caracas-based sociologist Tomás Páez, who has published papers and books on migration.” According to UN population figures, about 320,000 had left over that period: about one fifth the number Páez estimated.

Paez is a fiercely anti-Chavista academic who signed a letter published in a Venezuelan newspaper (as a quarter-page ad) that welcomed the dictatorship that briefly replaced Chávez during the 2002 coup. Gupta’s response to my emails explaining why Páez’s figure was very far-fetched, and that he should not be presented as a neutral expert, was that he would no longer read my emails. Páez has since been cited as a neutral expert on migration by Reuters, the New York Times and Financial Times.

MacLeod notes that the Venezuelan government has become practically inaccessible as a source for corporate journalists, but the same is often true for independent journalists in Venezuela, and grassroots supporters of the government. I’ve personally tried to get some of them to meet a Caracas-based corporate journalist whose integrity I trusted, but they declined. The assumption was that even if the journalist didn’t set out to write a dishonest hit piece, the editors would make it one (or simply kill the piece)—an assumption that I can’t blame them for making.

While MacLeod could have been even harsher, his book makes a concise and well-argued case against media corruption that has succeeded in hanging the “dictatorship” label on Venezuela—and therefore allowed the country to be targeted for US-led economic strangulation, and even military threats by the Trump administration.

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Venezuelan Presidential Elections: An “on the Ground” Canadian Perspective

Unifor, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, The United Church, Common Frontiers and Rabble.ca observed and reported on the 2018 Presidential Elections.

By Common Frontiers Canada
Common Frontiers Report, June 2018. (Common Frontiers)
Common Frontiers Report, June 2018. (Common Frontiers)

The following thorough report examines the Venezuelan electoral scenario, reporting on the voting process, its electoral guarantees and the opposition reactions as witnessed during the Canadian Delegation’s visit to the Caribbean nation in May.

Read it here.

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Venezuela in the Continental Labyrinth: A Conversation with Amilcar Figueroa

A revolutionary militant and historian talks about the balance of forces in Latin America and Venezuela’s current situation.

By Amilcar Figueroa and Cira Pascual Marquina 
Amilcar Figueroa. (Archive)
Amilcar Figueroa. (Archive)

In the ‘70s, Amilcar Figueroa was part of the insurgent Party of the Venezuelan Revolution (PRV), which split off from the Venezuelan Communist Party and is widely credited with developing the ideology of Bolivarianism that influenced President Hugo Chávez. A committed internationalist, Figueroa worked with El Salvador’s FMLN (El Salvador) in the ‘80s and, more recently, was honored with a US Treasury Department sanction for his support of the Colombian guerrilla. Figueroa was president of the Latin American Parliament (PARLATINO) between 2006 and 2008. As a historian, he has written several books including El Salvador: Su historia y sus luchas (Ocean Sur, 2009) and Chávez: la permanente búsqueda creadora (Trinchera, 2013). In this interview with Venezuelanalysis, we asked him to explain the Bolivarian Process in the current continental context.

Recently, Colombia entered NATO and soon Ivan Duque, an ultraconservative close to former president Alvaro Uribe, will become the country’s new head of state. Can you analyze the consequences of this, both on the continental level and specifically for Venezuela?

The triumph of Ivan Duque must be situated, just like the Venezuelan situation, in the complex panorama of the Latin American situation, which unfolds in the context of an overarching struggle between reform and counter-reform, revolution and counterrevolution. Moreover, all this push and pull must be understood in the context of the United States’ recolonizing offensive.

Regarding Colombia, it’s clear that the most reactionary right has long been in control of the state. The Colombian state was reactionary, anti-popular and pro-imperialist with Alvaro Uribe, with Juan Manuel Santos, and it will be so with Ivan Duque. The differences between the three leaders are subtle.

Obviously, for reasons that must be examined with precision, the Santos government facilitated – or rather allowed – the conversations and the peace dialogue in Havana. As is well known, the outcome of the dialogues was the incorporation of the FARC into electoral politics. But let’s not be fooled: the Santos government was a warmongering one, wielding constant violence and repression against the popular movement.

The issue now is whether the Duque government will recognize the Havana agreements, which were already being cast aside by sectors of the Colombian establishment and were being systematically broken by the Colombian state even under Santos’s presidency.

It’s true that the peace so desired by the Colombian people scored some important successes with the Havana agreements, but the overall situation of violence and social injustice remains in place. Now that Duque, a representative of the most retrograde sector of Colombian politics, has taken center stage, we are likely to see an even more complete rollback of the peace agreements. That, in turn, could send the Colombian nation back into an overt conflict of large dimensions.

Will Duque’s presidency alter the relations of the Colombian government vis-a-vis Venezuela?

Things are not going to change much: Duque, Santos and Uribe share the same views regarding geopolitics. The latter two represented a continental vanguard in their anti-Bolivarian (and anti-Venezuelan) project, and Duque will continue to be part of this drive. It is not, in the end, a question of individuals but of the Colombian state, which has long been in the service of US interests.

The incorporation of Colombia into NATO (an issue that, by the way, had been brewing for a while) further threatens peace in the continent. For Venezuela, this is quite serious, since it reinforces the offensive against its government.

In the last few years, Venezuelans have repeatedly experienced the consequences of Colombia’s being the US’s beachhead on the continent. Colombia joining NATO was the logical step after installing seven US bases in its territory in 2009 and making additional agreements (less public but disclosed) between the US military and Colombia that turn Colombian territory into a potential platform for US Southern Command’s military actions.

However, we should keep in mind that in the June 17 elections more than eight million Colombians rejected Duque and also said no to war; they did so by voting for Gustavo Petro. Those eight million votes do not even express all the dissent, since the electoral system in Colombia is highly problematic. This means that the parliament is not going to be absolutely submissive to Duque’s project. They won’t give him a blank check, neither for the reactionary establishment’s agenda regarding Colombia’s internal politics nor its agenda regarding Venezuela.

It is evident and worrisome that so many people point the finger at Colombia to explain all of Venezuela’s problems. According to this way of thinking, everything bad – from violence to smuggling – is caused by Colombia. Could you tell us something about this?

Leaving aside national chauvinism, which is surely a problem in Venezuela, the spilling over of paramilitary practices from Colombia to Venezuela is real and a very serious concern. It endangers spaces of popular organization.

As far as smuggling is concerned, there has always been an illegal market on the Colombia-Venezuela frontier. It only exists because there is complicity on both sides of the border and from both states. Smuggling is a practice that has a direct relation with private appropriation and accumulation of wealth in a lumpen or mafioso context.

Latin America is in a process of political regression and the Bolivarian Process’ leadership generally espouses a kind of “realist” reformism which erodes the original revolutionary project. Can you talk to us about the relationship between the overall continental regression and the Venezuelan leadership’s tepidness?

The reactionary counteroffensive taking place in the continent must be examined with care and precision. It began in 2009 with the coup d’etat in Honduras, and from then on we have seen imperialist interests advancing in a series of big steps. This led to a new balance of forces in the continent. In Venezuela, things began to change with the September 2010 parliamentary elections, in which we lost the popular vote. Whether people acknowledge it or not, that event initiated an internal shift. Then, in 2014, there was a real turning point in the Bolivarian Process.

That March, negotiations began between key representatives of Bolivarian Government and the bourgeoisie. The most powerful capitalist in Venezuela, Lorenzo Mendoza, became the public spokesperson for “production,” and the government made tremendous concessions to the sector that he represented. The new balance of forces coupled with the fascist right’s violent emergence in the 2014 guarimbas was what immediately triggered the negotiations. However, it was the financial boycott and the war on different fronts against Venezuela that caused the Bolivarian leadership to assume that backing off on revolutionary goals was the only way to maintain control of the government.

The death or even assassination of Chavez – who had an impressive capacity to find creative (and popular) ways out of difficult situations – has had an enormous impact on the revolutionary process. Henceforth, with an unfavorable correlation of forces, reformist positions became hegemonic within the government. Furthermore, this revolutionary to reformist shift is not confined to Venezuela. I believe that, as a whole, the continental left’s leadership assumes that there are no conditions to advance. Their analysis fails to take into account that a profound capitalist crisis of global dimensions spawns tremendous violence and enormous suffering, thus creating exceptional conditions for an anti-systemic struggle. On the other hand, the Bolivarian Process’ leadership (and that of the continental left) assumes that capitalism is very strong. As a consequence, to avoid social confrontation, they think that changes can only be small and gradual.

How would you characterize the Bolivarian government today?

When Chavez was leading the revolution there was a constant creative search that proposed profound reforms. He opened a path of deep revolutionary transformations. But after his death, and when the correlation of forces became unfavorable, much of the left and its leadership assumed an attitude of class reconciliation. With this shift, the Bolivarian Process abandoned its radical character and began sliding towards a Keynesian model and a social protectionist project. For example, there are many discourses in which Nicolas Maduro calls himself “the protector of the people.” In other words, the government’s objective now is not that people take power and transform the social and economic structures. No, it is rather to generate social welfare policies from above.

Of course, this is not the whole story. Those in power do not constitute a perfect and unified bloc. However, there is no question that reformist positions are the most common ones in our political leadership.

How can we imagine a “left-solution” to Venezuela’s current crisis?

To imagine renewing the strategic path towards a revolutionary horizon with mass participation has much to do with making advances, taking spaces, and developing concrete work from a class-based perspective.

Working people must take on many tasks. The proletariat in this stage has to accumulate forces. That is because – whatever our aspirations and critical analysis of the situation – it’s impossible to do anything without organization. No matter how much imperialism has advanced on the continent and reformism has spread in the country, we need to develop a conception that allows new political referents to emerge: leaders who will take up working people’s revolutionary goals.

Thus, our tasks include building an overarching movement that consolidates the spaces that the popular resistance movement has created. This would be a movement influenced by Chavez’s proposal of popular power, the commune and workers’ councils. All this has to be consolidated to defend what has already been achieved at the same time as the great objectives of the revolution are revived. Simultaneously, there needs to be a process of political education focused on the historical revolutionary process and on bringing back to the foreground the desires that were unleashed by Chavez, which are latent in much of the Venezuelan population.

The truth is that most of the people of Venezuela do not want to return to the past and they aspire to build a society of equals.

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Sanctions Don’t Help the Venezuelan People

The endless string of sanctions imposed on Venezuela first by the US and later by the EU and Canada has irreversible consequences.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaking at a rally. (Archive)
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaking at a rally. (Archive)
By Guadalupe de la Torre

The financial blockade imposed on the Latin American nation is achieving its principal objective: to isolate Venezuela. However, the sanctions are also gradually creating open wounds within Venezuelan society. Wounds that are increasingly deeper that can’t be repaired so easily.

Although the administration of Donald Trump wants us to believe that these measures are the best option for the Venezuelan people, reality proves the contrary. Economic sanctions do nothing other than endanger those who have the least in society.

The US with the EU as its sidekick has already warned that they continue considering the implementation of additional measures to be taken against Venezuela.

Sanctions not only affect their target, which in this case is the Maduro government, but also businesses and exporters who face new difficulties when trying to access international markets. And as a consequence, the people are also punished.

Seemingly, all sanctions imposed until now have not achieved what they sought out to.  Or perhaps, they’re still unaware of what they wish to achieve through the use of these measures.

What remains clear is this: they have every intention of continuing to meddle in Venezuelan affairs. Under the auspices of wanting to help the Venezuelan people, the US is fostering need and suffering in order to fuel their own geopolitical needs, a strategy which comes naturally to them.

The discourse of the US president is clear: sanctions against Venezuela are the perfect tool to weaken the Maduro government and force it out of power.

But in practice, their efficacy is not so evident. Criticisms of US sanctions against Venezuela are nothing new, nor are they exclusive to the situation in this country alone. These measures represent a central component of US foreign policy that has been questioned many times over the years. In this particular case, many specialists have already asserted that sanctions are not effective.

One critic, Luis Vicente León, assured that sanctions don’t punish the government, but the whole country. In other words, sanctions not only affect their target, which in this case is the Maduro government, but also businesses and exporters who face new difficulties when trying to access international markets. And as a consequence, the people are also punished.

If the government doesn’t have the cash that it needs to pay for food and medicine, citizens are unable to access such goods.

The shortages in pharmacies and hospitals are becoming more and more evident, as is the shortage of food and other basic products. According to the latest figures, the level of medicine shortage in Venezuela has reached 80%.

The question, therefore, is to what extent are US sanctions helping to revert this situation? US authorities attempt to hide the drastic consequences sanctions are having on society, claiming they make up part of a plan that in the long term will benefit Venezuela.  However, it’s no longer clear that this is the case.

Perhaps this argument was effective in the beginning to convince the world that the US was genuinely concerned about the situation.

But today, it has become evident that this was just a speech aimed at gaining more influence in the region, forcing other countries to turn against Maduro and thus isolating Venezuela and its people.

As the US continues to demonstrate the reach of their sanctions, the crisis becomes deeper, testing how far society can cope.

There are no doubts that new measures are needed to assist Venezuela. Measures, not sanctions. There is no such thing as an economic sanction that only affects the government without endangering the livelihood of the people.

History has already demonstrated that economic blockades are not effective when it comes to forcing governments out of power.

If the government doesn’t have the cash that it needs to pay for food and medicine, citizens are unable to access these goods.

In other words, the shortage becomes more profound, as do the effects on well-being, among a population who find themselves deprived of basic resources that are necessary for everyday survival. In the words of David Smilde, an expert from the Washington Office for Latin American Affairs, there is no way to implement sanctions so that they only affect governments.

History has already demonstrated that economic blockades are not effective when it comes to forcing governments out of power. The example of Cuba is enough evidence to show that the more Trump fights to remove Maduro from the government through sanctions that are becoming increasingly stronger, the less likely he will be to achieve this.

And his attempt will not only fail, but it will leave an indelible mark upon Venezuelan society:  a mark that only those who feel it will be able to understand it. Nobody other than the Venezuelans themselves have the right to decide about their future.

The wellbeing of an entire country is at stake. Meanwhile, Trump keeps playing the tough guy. Perhaps, in this case, he will encounter a surprise, because Venezuelans are tougher and won’t give up so easily.

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A Deeper Look Into US Military Interference in Venezuela

“Since 2001, the very idea of war has changed from a strictly military case.”

By Sputnik News
Venezuelan soldiers take part in independence parade celebrations July 5 2018. (Marco Bello / Reuters)
Venezuelan soldiers take part in independence parade celebrations July 5 2018. (Marco Bello / Reuters)

On the eve of Venezuela’s Independence Day, which was celebrated on July 5, a news report published by AP, specifying Donald Trump’s remarks on invading Venezuela, once again raised concerns in the Latin American country.

Sputnik Mundo’s columnist Jose Negron Valera analyzed the situation with Jesus Mieres Vitanza, director of Topo el Molino, which monitors the international situation in areas such as foreign policy, security and strategic planning.

Sputnik: A few days ago, The Associated Press published an article about a meeting in the White House in 2017, in which Trump discussed the possibility of military intervention in Venezuela. Do you think this development is possible?

Jesus Mieres Vitanza: Military intervention by the United States is quite possible in the short, long and medium-term perspective. Nevertheless, this option corresponds only to the political paradigm that is gradually changing.

Donald Trump

© AP PHOTO / ANDREW HARNIK

By this I want to say that, according to the paradigm that some authors classify as Post-Westphalia, US intervention in the affairs of Venezuela will not only be military; since 2001, the very idea of war has changed from a strictly military case to one whose nature can be connected with some other dimension.

In this regard, we must ask ourselves the question, has the United States already intervened in our affairs? I would say that yes, they did, and military intervention would be just another means by which the US attacks Venezuela. However, the military operation would cost Washington dearly, since such actions would further aggravate the crisis of US confidence and leadership in the Latin American region.

Sputnik: What can be the reason for military intervention?

Jesus Mieres Vitanza: After the publication of the book by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri “Empire” in 2000, it became clear that the existence of a transitional phase of imperialism was real. I mean that at present there is an empire created by the United States that transcends its geographical boundaries and functions in close connection with the strategic political allies of the United States and various multinational companies.

U.S. President Donald Trump (R), trailed by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, arrives to speak to reporters after their meeting at Trump's golf estate in Bedminster, New Jersey U.S. August 11, 2017

© REUTERS / JONATHAN ERNST

Venezuela with the victory of Hugo Chavez in the 1999 elections became a symbol of this confrontation to the empire. This means that the war that is unfolding here, as resistance to the United States, is seen in Washington as a war against the barbarians.

The nature of struggle that Caracas waged against the United States is a war against the war itself. Therefore, it is important to understand the strategy of various US organizations, agencies and institutions, because they will create a war with special characteristics, where the military component will be only part of a huge tactic.

Sputnik: What conditions should arise for intervention or direct military attack by the US, of which you are speaking?

Jesus Mieres Vitanza: These conditions have already been created. We are a threat because we have values, mentality, goals, ideology and strategic partners that are different from the United States. That’s why I say that Washington’s interests go beyond the desire to control some strategically important object for them. The point is to subordinate, even ontologically, their will to a nation that is not epistemologically similar to the United States.

Sputnik: What are the implications for Venezuela and the whole region?

Jesus Mieres Vitanza: They have already affected us. And it’s not just about the economic effect, the absence of some goods, but also more abstract things. There are already a lot of people to whom the uncertainty of their daily lives has a psychological impact.

We are isolated from other countries and nations, from ways of thinking; therefore we exist in isolation even towards the access to ideas. We cannot understand what stage we are experiencing, if we cannot see it from a different perspective. The lack of access to ideas means that we cannot understand how they will wage war against us.

That’s why I say that the consequences at the local and regional levels are devastating. In principle it is because we are experiencing a stage of pronounced relativism. There are many people, who doubt what is good, what is bad, what is economics, ideology, even war.

Sputnik: Many believe that Colombia will become a platform for the US to attack Venezuela? What role can the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – the People’s Army (FARC) play in this case?

Jesus Mieres Vitanza: It is possible that the US is using Colombia as a platform for this purpose. It is also possible that the purpose of such an operation could be the spread of chaos and the disengagement of the country from the Venezuelan heartland, that is, Caracas.

Nevertheless, it is important to analyze the role of various groups and groups operating in the zones bordering Venezuela. This is not just about the FARC, but also about criminal, radical groups, as well as about state structures that operate secretly in this zone. It is necessary to analyze the interests of each of the players.

Sputnik: What do you think, what could be the response of the allies of Venezuela, Russia and China in case of an attack? What should be the scale of aggression, so that these countries become more active? Do you think it possible that they will provide military support? Or will they be limited to diplomatic statements?

Jesus Mieres Vitanza: In the event of military action in Venezuela, Russia and China will actively participate in the conflict, mainly because their trade, economic interests, will be under attack. All politicians and officials of Venezuela are responsible for ensuring that the connection between Caracas and the two countries is strengthened, so that their participation is in favor of Venezuela, and not vice versa.

Sputnik: Will Venezuela be able to respond by military action in the event of an attack by the United States?

Jesus Mieres Vitanza: The country’s armed forces are making great efforts to modernize the entire system and maintain it under optimal conditions. But perhaps the most important advantage of Venezuela is to know who its enemy is, to know about all sorts of military scenarios, to provide each of the strategically important regions of the country and formulate a defense doctrine for each of them, to maintain the morale of the military and explain to them what their purpose is.

Venezuela already has a military response to a possible attack by the United States. It is necessary to clearly understand what the center of gravity of the attacking army is in order to quickly end this foreign intervention, guided by the strategic goal of restoring control over the territory and minimizing losses among people and resources.

Sputnik: Do you think that the United States will try to commit violent acts to advance what analysts call “Balkanization” or the destruction of the Venezuelan nation state?

Jesus Mieres Vitanza: I believe that the United States can take any action only to destabilize Venezuela and put an end to the Bolivarian government. However, I believe that first they will try to achieve full control over the territory through various political maneuvers, before dismembering the state. Basically because when the nation-state is destroyed, they take on strategic risks, such as, for example, the participation of powers such as Russia and China in the emergence of new states.

Sputnik: What should Venezuela do to avoid the invasion and to repel it?

Jesus Mieres Vitanza: The army of the country is making great efforts, conducting research on what might be the actions of Venezuela in the event of a military conflict involving a foreign invasion of the country.

However, a very valuable position of the current doctrine is to believe that the US, although it has not yet been meddling, is besieging Venezuela every day to destabilize the nation and create chaos on a large scale. This strengthens the state of unmanageability and justifies what they call the “humanitarian intervention.”

The creation of new strategic approaches and even an understanding of the enemy’s approaches will help to ensure an effective response from the armed forces of Venezuela in any internal situation that is vulnerable or disturbed by a foreign threat.

Posted in USA, VenezuelaComments Off on A Deeper Look Into US Military Interference in Venezuela

Venezuelans March on May Day in Support of Maduro & Bolivarian Revolution

Thousands of workers took to the streets of Caracas this May Day, in defense of their historic struggles and in support of the candidacy of Nicolás Maduro. Opposition members also concentrated on the east side of Caracas in protest against the “humanitarian crisis”.

By Various

Thousands of workers gathered in the streets of downtown Caracas on Tuesday to commemorate International Workers’ Day. The social movement organizations, leftist parties and unions that participated in the massive march and rally manifested their support for the reelection of President Nicolas Maduro, their commitment to the Bolivarian revolutionary process, as well as their opposition to international sanctions and foreign interference. They also demanded solutions from Maduro, himself a former bus driver and trade unionist, to Venezuela’s severe economic crisis that has hit the working class the hardest.

President Maduro greeted the march in Parque Ezequiel Zamora by paying tribute to workers’ gains during the Bolivarian Revolution, most notably the passage of the Organic Law of Work and Workers (LOTTT).  Regarded as one of the most progressive labor laws on the planet, the LOTTT has provided improvements in the conditions of workers and their families by guaranteeing policies such as pre and postnatal leave for mothers and fathers, special conditions for lactating mothers, the reduction of work weeks to 40 hours, a ban on arbitrary firings, as well as the penalization of discrimination on the basis of sex, race, creed and/or disabilities.

Maduro also reiterated the announcement of the 8th minimum wage increase since the beginning of 2017. Though the wage increase still remains far below the spiraling levels of inflation, Maduro solicited a vote confidence from his supporters, promising to take on those he termed the “economic mafias” after having achieved victory in the upcoming May 20 elections.

The opposition’s new coalition, the Broad Front for a Free Venezuela, also held a rally in the wealthy commercial center of the eastern municipality of Chacao, in protest of “the economic and humanitarian crisis” in Venezuela. Nicmer Evans, former member of Trotskyist party Marea Socialista and current member of the opposition movement Juntos, stated, “Today we are protesting because a slave system would be much more profitable than working in Venezuela right now.”

Posted in VenezuelaComments Off on Venezuelans March on May Day in Support of Maduro & Bolivarian Revolution

China Approves US$5Bn Loan for Venezuelan Oil Development

Venezuelan officials said Chinese cooperation opens up alternative networks outside the sanctions of the United States.

By TeleSur English & Venezuelanalysis.com
China's President Xi Jinping and Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro shake hands during a signing ceremony in Caracas July 21, 2014. (Reuters)
China’s President Xi Jinping and Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro shake hands during a signing ceremony in Caracas July 21, 2014. (Reuters)

The Development Bank of China has approved a loan of US$5 billion for Venezuela to increase petroleum development, Prensa Latina reports.

These funds will allow Venezuela to upgrade the development of its key industry, as well as expand China-Venezuela cooperation.

Venezuelan Finance Minister Simon Zerpa praised China-Venezuela bilateral relations and said that during a recent call between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, both leaders expressed a will to further develop ties.

Such ties, Zerpa said to Prensa Latina, make it possible to establish alternative international trade networks and financial systems that open up possibilities of economic cooperation beyond the framework of the United States, which has attempted to strangle Venezuela with economic sanctions.

Zerpa, who is personally sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department, is currently meeting with Chinese officials in Beijing and will continue to hold financing talks this week.

Venezuela’s oil output has been falling in recent years, reaching an all-time low of 1.36 million barrels per day in June, causing significant budget problems for the oil-dependent nation.

The drop in production has in part been blamed on corruption within the public firm, with eleven top executives the latest arrested last week in a wide-reaching anti-corruption probe.

Equally, falling production levels have also been attributed to a lack of infrastructure investment. Last month, a workforce of concerned technicians from other industries offered a “volunteer” maintenance and repair operation in the Paraguana refinery, highlighting the personnel and upkeep problems in the state-run PDVSA oil firm.

Posted in China, VenezuelaComments Off on China Approves US$5Bn Loan for Venezuelan Oil Development

Venezuela: Popular Power: If Not Now, When?

Martha Lia Grajales, of the Bolivar and Zamora Revolutionary Current, argues that only an emphasis on popular power, communal production and social property will allow the Bolivarian Process to maintain its strategic course toward socialism.

By Martha Lía Grajales Pineda – CRBZ
Participants in the Plan Pueblo a Pueblo, a self‐organized food distribution project, in the San Agustin neighborhood of Caracas. (Archive)
Participants in the Plan Pueblo a Pueblo, a self‐organized food distribution project, in the San Agustin neighborhood of Caracas. (Archive)

Amidst the terrible crisis in Venezuela, many ask themselves if the socialist horizon is still the strategic goal that guides our discourse and political action – both for the Chavista leadership in government and for popular movements – or if instead the pragmatism and common sense of the capitalist economy are imposing themselves as a strategy, in the best case scenario circumstantially, to overcome or mitigate the effects of the crisis in Venezuela.

In the popular movements, this socialist horizon is generally being reinforced and deepened despite this terrible crisis. Many experiences, such as the El Maizal commune or the Pueblo a Pueblo plan (to mention but a few) have shown how economically efficient and politically powerful the construction of popular power from below can be. This construction itself is generating the conditions for the strategic goal of socialism.

In the El Maizal commune the people have elected – autonomously and from the grassroots – their candidates for bodies such as the National Constituent Assembly, city hall and municipal councils. And unlike what has been happening at a national level, popular participation in the commune has increased and grown in quantity and quality. Since 2009, when the commune was constituted, its productive capacity has continually increased. Currently, more than 1000 hectares of corn are sown every year, alongside production of pork, milk, and vegetables such as peppers, scallions, cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchinis, and more.

The Pueblo a Pueblo plan, with only 270 organized producers, has managed to produce, in a self-managed fashion, over one thousand tons of food in the past three years. It has coordinated efforts to rescue our native seeds, producing seeds that reduce the need for peasant producers to import them, and it has designed a distribution system based upon a new relationship between city and countryside, that eliminates the intermediaries from the productive chain. This way more than 1.200 families have access to high-quality foodstuffs on a weekly basis, saving at least 60% compared to market prices.

Time and again the grassroots of the Bolivarian Revolution have shown that popular power is the best weapon to fight back and transform this crisis, and in turn to give birth to socialism. Popular power built from below is the only way to beget socialism, something that Chávez made clear on countless occasions:

“Socialism needs to emerge from the grassroots, it won’t appear by decree; it has to be created. It is a popular creation, of the masses, of the country; it is a “heroic creation”, like Mariategui said. It is a historical construction, which does not come from the presidency”.

Although it may be that socialism will not be created by a presidential decree, in Venezuela we also know from experience how important it is to have a popular government that will enable and push for the construction of this popular power. Precisely for this reason, we wonder if, unlike what happens in popular movements, the Venezuelan government, which we consider to an ally in the construction of popular power and the transition towards socialism, is opting for the pragmatism and common sense of the capitalist economy (in the best case scenario as a short-term plan to overcome the current crisis in Venezuela).

If, on the other hand, the socialist horizon remains as the strategic goal, how do we explain that, amid this crisis, there is a bigger emphasis on cooptation than on popular participation and protagonism? This is evidenced, for example, by the suspension of the communal council elections in 2016; the appointment — and not the election – of the CLAP spokespeople and of the PSUV leaders at local and national levels; together with the sidelining of the construction of the communal state and popular power in the national political agenda.

Why is assistentialism prioritized over self-management? The subsidised food in CLAP boxes and the bonuses assigned through the homeland card (Carnet de la Patria) are undoubtedly necessary steps to reduce the effects of the crisis on the poorest sector of population, which suffers the most. But why have these become the government’s flagship policies, marginalizing those policies that allow for the advances of popular power, of poor people, towards the strategic focus on self-management and self-government, as well as economic policies that focus on increasing social property over the means of production?

Why is our government more committed to empowering private capital instead of social property? Statements such as the one made by Foreign Trade Minister José Vielma Mora, during a meeting with the leadership of the National Council for Investment Promotion, on June 11, 2018, offer stark proof of this: “We want to be highly productive, and we will accomplish it together with the private sector… I’ll say it again: we may have big political differences, perhaps insurmountable, but when it comes to trade it’s a different matter”.

Is the transition towards socialism by any chance compatible with agreements or peaceful coexistence with capital? I don’t think so. While we go on making pacts with capital, under the assumption that the crisis is forcing us to be pragmatic, the common sense of capital will end up imposing itself in every aspect. In the words of Miguel Mazzeo:

“One of the greatest challenges of the Bolivarian Revolution is eliminating the entire field of collusion between private/state capitalism and the bureaucratic and corporative logics which, from the inside (and practicing a Chavismo “from above”), cling on to a path based on forms of parasitic capital accumulation and hold onto a model that has little to do with communal socialism. If capitalists, or a bureaucracy that assumes the role of the bourgeoisie, hold in their hands the property, the management and the direction of companies while subaltern and oppressed classes are relegated to implementation tasks, this supremacy of capital will inevitably express itself in political terms”.

Only through social property of the means of production and organizations such as communes, communal councils, cooperatives, and others, is it possible to create a new, socialist, economic model, inserting social property and a socialist mindset, into every step of the production chain: production, distribution and consumption.

For those that argue that embracing popular economy, as the central strategy to overcome the crisis, is at best naive, I would retort that what is naive is to go on believing that capitalists are out there to save anyone but themselves. The latest Oxfam report actually shows that wealth is being concentrated at an accelerated rate in recent times:

“The number of billionaires rose at an unprecedented rate of one every two days between March 2016 and March 2017.” (Oxfam, 2018)

Thus the challenge for the Chavista popular movement – the one that embraces and deepens the socialist horizon as the only way to fight back and transform the deep crisis we have in Venezuela – is to grow and articulate, to build collective agendas of struggle that will allow us to strengthen popular power, socialist productive chains, and fight with the political leadership and other actors in order to maintain the transition to socialism as the strategic orientation of the Bolivarian Revolution.

Posted in VenezuelaComments Off on Venezuela: Popular Power: If Not Now, When?

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