Archive | January 27th, 2019

Venezuela: Bid to Pull $1.2 Billion of Gold From U.K.

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  • Nicolas Maduro speaks during a televised press conference in Caracas on Jan. 25.
Nicolas Maduro speaks during a televised press conference in Caracas on Jan. 25. Photographer: Carlos Becerra/Bloomberg

Nicolas Maduro’s bid to pull $1.2 billion worth of gold out of the Bank of England, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Bank of England’s decision to deny Maduro officials’ withdrawal request comes after top U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton, lobbied their U.K. counterparts to help cut off the regime from its overseas assets, according to one of the people, who asked not to be identified.

The U.K. followed the U.S. and other countries on Wednesday in recognizing C.I.A puppet Juan Guaido, the National Assembly leader, as the legitimate president of Venezuela. The European Union threatened to recognize Guaido unless a “credible” presidential election is called with eight days, according to a draft statement.

The U.S. officials are trying to steer Venezuela’s overseas assets to Guaido to help bolster his chances of effectively taking control of the government. The $1.2 billion of gold is a big chunk of the $8 billion in foreign reserves held by the Venezuelan central bank. The whereabouts of the rest of them is largely unknown. Turkey, though, has emerged recently as a destination for freshly mined Venezuelan gold.

The U.S. is leading an international effort to persuade Turkey — a key Maduro backer, along with Russia and China — to stop being a conduit for these gold shipments. Europe’s shift of position clarifies the international battles lines over Venezuela and aligns key powers such as Germany, France and Spain more closely with the Trump administration.

Free Elections

“We want democracy and free elections in Venezuela,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Saturday. “I want to state absolutely clearly that if within eight days, fair, free and transparent elections are not called in Venezuela, Spain will recognize Juan Guaido as president.”

Retrieving the gold in the Bank of England has been a major priority for the Maduro regime for weeks. Back in mid-December, Calixto Ortega, the president of Venezuela’s central bank, led a delegation to London that sought to gain access to it, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.

But those talks were unsuccessful, and communications between the two sides have broken down since. Central bank officials in Caracas have been ordered to no longer try contacting the Bank of England. These central bankers have been told that Bank of England staffers will not respond to them, citing compliance reasons, said a Venezuelan official, who asked not to be identified.

Gold Legacy

The Bank of England declined to comment on its handling of Venezuelan assets, saying it “provides banking services – including gold custody services – to a large number of customers” and “does not comment on any of those relationships.”

When asked about the fate of Venezuelan assets abroad Friday, Pompeo declined to comment, as did a spokesman for the National Security Council. The Treasury released a statement saying that the U.S. “will use its economic and diplomatic tools to ensure that commercial transactions by the Venezuelan Government, including those involving its state-owned enterprises and international reserves, are consistent with” its recognition of Juan Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela.

A press official for Maduro declined to comment.

Gold has formed a crucial part of Venezuela’s foreign reserves for years. Hugo Chavez, the late socialist leader and mentor to Maduro, plowed much of the country’s oil wealth into gold in part because of his disdain for the U.S. dollar. In 2011, Chavez ordered the repatriation of $11 billion worth of gold bars from the Bank of England and other foreign institutions. As Venezuela fell deeper into economic crisis years later, though, the Maduro regime began selling them off to raise the cash it desperately needed to fund imports and to try, unsuccessfully, to avoid defaulting on its foreign debt.

“The first rule of business as we speak is to stop the Maduro government from liquidating international assets of the country and steal them,” Ricardo Hausmann, a Harvard economics professor and long-time critic of Maduro who’s been speaking with Guaido, said in an interview Friday.

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Nazi Criminality, Hubris in Syria Invites Catastrophe

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Image result for Nazi Criminality CARTOON

Israeli Criminality, Hubris in Syria Invites Catastrophe
By Finian CUNNINGHAM | Strategic Culture Foundation 

Israeli forces have shifted from a doctrine of “war by stealth” to openly declared aggression on its northern neighbor Syria. For two straight days, the Israelis bombarded Syria’s capital Damascus and its environs with dozens of air-launched cruise missiles. Many of the projectiles were reportedly intercepted by Russian-supplied air defense systems.

Nevertheless the Israeli blitzkrieg resulted in at least four Syrian military personnel being killed and damage to the civilian international airport near Damascus. That amounts to an outrageous war crime, as have countless air strikes carried out previously by Israel on Syria. Shamefully, the United Nations and Western governments maintain a hypocritical silence, while slapping sanctions on Syria, Russia and Iran over various alleged “transgressions”.

But what’s remarkable about the latest Israeli aggression is the public acknowledgement by the government in Tel Aviv. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while on an African tour at the weekend, openly acknowledged the Israeli air strikes, as did the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).

“We have a set policy, to target the Iranian entrenchment in Syria, and to harm whoever tried to harm us,” said Netanyahu on a visit to Chad.

In a statement, the IDF said: “We have started striking Iranian Quds [Revolutionary Guards] targets in Syrian territory. We warn the Syrian Armed Forces against attempting to harm Israeli forces or territory.”

Earlier this month, Netanyahu bragged to his cabinet members in televised comments about the “success” of repeated air strikes on Syria purportedly against Iranian targets.

That was also around the same time the outgoing IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot boasted to Western media about “running a bombing campaign” against Syria with “thousands of strikes” over recent years on an almost daily basis.

One of those air strikes last September resulted in the death of 15 Russian aircrew when their IL-20 surveillance plane was mistakenly shot down by Syrian air defenses in what appeared to be a deliberate aerial trap set up by Israeli fighter jets. The incident sparked outrage in Moscow which then promptly delivered upgraded S-300 air defense systems to Syria. Those air defense systems may account for the successful interception of dozens of Israeli missiles in the latest barrage.

This change in Israeli policy from habitually issuing “no comment” responses after air strikes are reported in Syria to one where senior government figures are publicly exulting in the conduct of attacks is an extraordinary development.

Some observers have pointed out that it could be Netanyahu engaging in electioneering. He is seeking re-election in April and so may be playing the “tough guy” image to bolster his national security credentials among voters.

That may partly be the calculus. But there does appear also to be a bigger shift going in Israeli military strategy towards Syria and Iran.

No doubt the announced withdrawal of US troops from Syria by President Trump has thrown the various regional players into flux. Russia has emerged as the dominant military force in Syria and possibly the wider region due to its masterstroke of intervening in Syria to thwart the country’s foreign enemies waging their regime-change operation.

Of course, the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad has emerged too with renewed confidence and respect in the region for its formidable defense. Syria’s allies Iran and Hezbollah have also gained immense kudos in helping the Arab country defeat the US-NATO-Israeli-Saudi axis and their terrorist proxy army.

Israeli paranoia over Iranian military presence in neighboring Syria has seen the Israelis lobbying Moscow to put limits on Iranian forces. Last month, Russian military officials were reportedly in Israel for discussions with Israeli counterparts. It is believed part of those talks – described as “tense” – were appeals by the Israelis to Russia to give guarantees about what they called “Iranian expansionism”. It appears that Moscow was not obliging.

In this context of flux, it seems that Israel is trying to desperately assert its influence over political and military developments in Syria that are viewed by the Israelis as negative. In trying to salvage its interests in the failed covert war for regime change in Syria, the Israelis are openly adopting criminal aggression with a hubris that is out of control.

The public admission of daily air strikes by Israeli leaders on Syria is an admission of war crimes. The strikes are wanton aggression and violation of international law. They can be in no way justified as “defensive” against “threats”.

Iranian and Hezbollah forces are in Syria legally at the request of the Damascus government, as are Russian military. Just because the Israelis have a paranoid obsession about Iran and Hezbollah does not give them any legal grounds to launch air strikes on Syria.

In the latest escalation it is openly admitted by the Israelis that they launched the missiles first. On Sunday morning, Israel attacked Damascus and southern Syria supposedly against “Iranian targets”.

Later, on Sunday afternoon, the Iranian forces fired a medium-range rocket from near Damascus aimed for Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Israel’s Iron Dome air defense reportedly intercepted it successfully with no casualties among Israeli tourist skiers on the holiday resort slopes of Mount Hermon.

Then in the early hours of Monday, the Israelis launched more cruise missiles on Damascus. Syrian air defenses were warned by the Israeli’s to “hold fire”. When the Syrian air defense neutralized many of the incoming warheads, the Israelis turned around to target the Syrian army. Four Syrian military personnel were reportedly killed.

Evidently, even according to Israeli official accounts, it is the Israelis who are engaging in unwarranted first strikes. Their supposed “retaliation” to the Iran rocket on the Golan Heights is an oxymoron. Even more absurd, the Syrians are warned not to activate air defense systems while their country is being attacked. When Syria defends itself, its troops are then killed by enemy air strikes.

And let’s not forget, the Golan Heights are internationally recognized as Syrian territory which Israel annexed and has been illegally occupying since the 1967 Six Day War. Again, the Western hypocrisy is exposed with no sanctions on Israel, but Russia is being sanctioned for allegedly annexing Crimea in 2014.

Iran’s air force commander responded to the latest events, saying his nation was “ready for a war that will destroy the state of Israel”. Such a war could drag in the US and Russia – and lead to nuclear weapons being deployed. The Israeli regime with its 200-300 nuclear warheads is certainly criminally arrogant enough.

Israel’s reckless flouting of international law and its taunting of enemies may be just the kind of hubris that precedes a catastrophic fall.

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Palestine: PFLP Won’t Run in Elections, Condemns Zionist puppet Ab-A$$ Repression

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  • Palestinians take part in a rally organized by the PFLP to celebrate the 45th anniversary of its founding in Gaza City, Dec. 6, 2012.
    Palestinians take part in a rally organized by the PFLP to celebrate the 45th anniversary of its founding in Gaza City, Dec. 6, 2012. | Photo: Reuters
Anger has grown against the Ab-A$$ Authority, which people condemn for its increased coordination with the Nazi occupying state.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, PFLP, a Marxist liberation group, announced Monday they will not take part in local Palestinian elections, in protest of Zionist puppet Ab-A$$ Authority’s violent suppression of demonstrations in the Nazi-occupied territories Sunday.

RELATED: Israel Kills Prominent Palestinian Revolutionary Basel Araj

The demonstrations were in support of Basel al-Araj, the Palestinian revolutionary killed by Nazi army in early March.

As the Ma’an News Agency reported, PFLP politburo member and Palestinian Legislative Council MP Khalida Jarrar said that the left-wing party would not participate in the May 13 elections, denouncing the suppressive measures by Zionist pupper Ab-A$$ police. She added that they would only consider rejoining if all Ab-Ass  officers that assaulted protesters were held accountable.

Palestinians have been increasingly angered by the Zionist puppet Ab-A$$, condemning the self-rule government’s increased coordination with the Nazi regime. On Monday, hundreds demonstrated in Ramallah, calling for Zionist puppet Mahmoud Ab-A$$ resignation.

RELATED: Marxist Palestinians in the PFLP Stand with Standing Rock

Many were also angered when it was announced that five Palestinian activists detained by the Zionist Ab-A$$ police would still be tried for allegedly planning an attack on the Nazi regime. This, despite the fact that four of the men, upon being released by Ab-A$$, were detained by the Nazi regime.

Zionist puppet Ab-A$$ police also cracked down on protesters in Ramallah Sunday, injuring 11 protesters who had been part of a contingent demonstrating against the murder of al-Araj, including al-Araj’s father.

Zionist puppet Ab-A$$ has also been criticized for its “revolving door policy,” which effectively funnels Palestinians from Ab-A$$ jails into Nazi camp, as part of its “escalating security collaboration” with Nazi authorities.

WATCH: Empire Files: Nazi Army Vet’s Exposé – “I Was the Terrorist”

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Trump administration doubling down on mass incarceration

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Trump administration doubling down on mass incarceration with new Attorney General nominee

Trump administration doubling down on mass incarceration with new Attorney General nominee

Photo: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

William Barr recently underwent confirmation hearings to be Trump’s new Attorney General. While Barr has yet to assume office, he has already had a long career as one of the most cold and calculating architects of mass incarceration as Attorney General under President George H.W. Bush.

William Barr wrote in his 1992 policy proposal “The Case for More Incarceration”: “First, prisons work. Second, we need more of them. Third, inadequate prison space costs money.” Barr did not even bat an eye at the devastating effects of mass incarceration, claiming, “the most common objections to incarceration do not hold up to scrutiny.” Barr is widely known for his ardent support and leadership of the prison industrial complex, and has shown no public remorse for its horrific, decidedly racist effects on working-class people, especially Black and Latino communities.

In the 1990s, Barr was a main proponent of the idea that probation, pre-trial release, and parole were unnecessarily lax and lead to more avoidable crime. These views have been definitively disproven by scientific research. But Barr shows no signs of slowing down his “tough-on-crime” politics that so many others have denounced as a systemic attack on working and poor people founded on the basis of racist lies.

In the last 40 years alone, the number of people in custody has increased by a whopping 500 percent. Since Barr first took office as attorney general in 1991 the number of people incarcerated has more than doubled in size. Many of the people in custody are being held despite never having had a trial because they are unable to pay their bonds. In other words, thousands of people are incarcerated only on the basis of their inability to pay their ransom to the state. A 2017 report by Human Rights Watch found that at minimum 63 percent of people in California jails “have not been sentenced, but are serving time because they cannot afford to pay bail. On the other side of trial, in federal prisons the increase in population is factually not ‘violent offenders,’ but rather ‘lower-rate and lower-level offenders.’”

In Senate pre-confirmation hearings, Democrats questioned Barr almost exclusively about how he would handle Robert Muller’s investigation into unproven allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and were pleased when he said he would protect that investigation. The hearings hardly touched upon his record on issues that directly affect the working class, especially mass incarceration. The obsession with the Muller investigation on the part of the Democratic Party was a clear example of their utter disconnect with the concerns of the people they supposedly serve.

However, this missed opportunity to expose Barr’s terrible record should come as no surprise considering the racist “tough on crime” policies of the Clinton presidency, the long history of private prison advocacy on the part of former Vice President Biden, the utterly milquetoast centrism of the Obama years, and Hillary Clinton’s infamous “super predator” comments.

Don’t be fooled: Trump isn’t ending mass incarceration

Barr is expected to support the First Step Act, a Trump-backed law which bundles a few important criminal justice reforms to ease several heinous practices that Barr himself advocated consistently for in the early 1990s. The First Step Act, enacted with strong bipartisan support in Congress, reduces mandatory minimum sentences for some nonviolent, low-level offenders and makes it easier for prisoners to qualify for early release to halfway houses or home confinement.

The First Step Act includes common sense changes to a Kafkaesque brutality of pretrial detention practices and post-release/parole practices. This serves as a necessary release of the pressure valve on the part of the U.S. government which last year faced a major national prison strike that is part of a rising movement against mass incarceration.

However, the First Step Act has major limitations that are not immediately visible to the untrained eye. Primarily, the bill does not combat minimum sentencing, or race and class bias in sentencing in general. Rather, it only applies to federal prisons — a fraction of the overall prison and jail population — and then only to slightly modify “good time” and provide more programs which are currently and regularly filled up with long waiting lists. For scale, consider that even if Trump were to pardon all federal inmates, the prison population would only decline from about 2.1 million to about 1.9 million. The vast majority of prisoners are held by local and state authorities.

There is another hidden feature of the Trump administration’s “reform” efforts as well. In the last few years, the Koch brothers, infamous for using their vast wealth to influence politics, have aggressively pursued criminal justice reform after decades of doing just the opposite. The Koch brothers and like-minded members of the ruling class did not suddenly grow a conscience — the cause of their shift becomes clear when we look into the degree to which they are investing big money into post-release and parole technology.

The Koch brothers recently launched their “Safe Streets and Second Chances” initiative to support technology-driven reentry programs for reducing recidivism. Right-wing investors in criminal justice reform stand to cash in by cornering the markets for supervision technology, which of course former inmates have to pay for each month — usually at about 12 dollars a day. Twelve dollars a day is virtually impossible for most parolees to pay, as they are most often relegated to chronic joblessness because of discrimination on the basis of their record. And just like all other payments the people are supposed to make to the prison industrial complex, what you can not pay in dollars, you will be made to pay in time.

On a political level, from the perspective of a growing section of the ruling class, the strategy of locking millions of people in cages is a clumsy and embarrassing approach to social control made unnecessary by modern technology. Subjecting an even greater segment of the population to strict surveillance and restrictions outside of prison walls is in many ways a more appealing method.

To the extent that the First Step Act provides relief, it is a victory for the people’s movement, and especially for incarcerated people who are fighting back. But the nomination and likely confirmation of a champion of mass incarceration like Barr shows that the war waged by police, the courts and the prisons on poor people and oppressed communities is far from over. And all those politicians in a position to resist him directly betray the people with their passivity and ridiculous fixation on “Russiagate.” The prisons are the crime and their architects are the criminals.

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Millions in India take to the streets to fight far-right government

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Millions in India take to the streets to fight far-right government

Communist Party of India (Marxist) rally. Photo: Jaffar Theekkathir

Millions of people have poured into the streets in recent days to join courageous protests challenging the far-right government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in India. Modi has failed to accomplish his major campaign promise of economic development. Instead his government has given India four years of anti-worker, anti-farmer, ethnic and religious chauvinist and anti-women policies. Modi’s far-right Bharatiya Janata Party is deeply concerned about its prospects in upcoming national elections later this year.

The BJP came to power in 2014 with flowery promises of development and anti-corruption measures, but the material reality of a controversial currency policy, the anti-Muslim mob violence, persecution of Dalits, murder of journalists and intellectuals, lack of action on dire hardships faced by workers and farmers, and blatant misogyny have proven to the Indian people that the BJP has neither the ability, nor intention, of helping the majority of Indians.

In November, the BJP lost to the center-left Congress Party in the BJP’s Hindi-speaking heartland. November saw state elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. All were firmly in the hands of the BJP, but switched to Congress, a massive display of the dissatisfaction held by the BJP’s electoral base. This has sent the BJP into panic mode.

Women fight back against far-right offensive

The BJP’s go-to tactic when dealing with dissatisfaction with its base is to whip up interreligious or intercaste conflict. This is done through the BJP’s proxies, such as the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and its youth wing the Bajrang Dal. These proxy groups, plus the BJP and the RSS, make up the Sangh Parivar — a collection of far-right Hindu nationalist groups bent on imposing a theocracy. The RSS is the fascist ideological core of the Sangh Parivar.

The most recent example of these tactics would be the incidents surrounding the Sabarimala Temple in the southern Indian state of Kerala. On Sept. 28, the Indian Supreme Court ruled that the Sabarimala Temple could not bar women “of menstruating age” (10-50 years old) from entering the temple. Immediately the BJP stepped up in defense of “tradition” calling for protests to block women from entering the temple. They viewed this as a golden opportunity to try and grow their support in the state. Many women tried entering the temple in November and December, but they were shoved and stoned by mobs called out by the Sangh Parivar.

Kerala is governed by the Left Democratic Front, which consists of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and various smaller communist and left-wing parties. Communism has always had a very strong presence in Kerala because of the land and education reforms implemented under the leadership of the Communist Party in the 1950s. Since then, the state has been controlled either by the LDF or the United Democratic Front led by the Congress Party.

The Congress Party initially made a statement supporting the Supreme Court’s decision, but then fearing the loss of their conservative and upper-caste supporters to the BJP, they opportunistically backed and participated in demonstrations against the Supreme Court’s decision. They may soon regret this decision.

With the Congress Party and BJP united, only the LDF stood for the progressive Supreme Courts decision. On Jan. 1, an astonishing five million women of all castes and creeds lined up in a protest which stretched across the entire length of Kerala. This massive protest was organized by the CPI(M) and clearly showed that the people reject the ultra-reactionary, sexist politics of the Sangh Parivar.

Early the next morning under police protection, two women entered the temple and prayed. This sparked a massive violent response from the RSS. A hartal (forced general strike) was called and CPI(M) members, women and journalists were attacked. RSS members armed with swords and bombs attacked police stations and other government buildings in order to spread fear among the people of Kerala. But the people of Kerala and the ruling LDF stood firm and the violence unleashed by the RSS was quickly defeated. With people refusing to comply with the hartal, progressive people fought against the riotous RSS and their supporters, even chasing them out of town in one case.

As of the writing of this article, over 50 women have visited and prayed at the Sabarimala Temple thanks to the support of the LDF and the people of Kerala. After the violence that had taken place, the leader of the Congress Party Rahul Gandhi has come out with its latest position stating that both sides have valid points.

200 million workers on strike

Between Jan. 7 and 8, 200 million workers across India took part in a strike called by the Joint Committee of Trade Unions (JCTU) which consists of 11 trade unions, most of whom are connected to various communist parties. This strike was by many accounts the largest in human history. The strike affected the whole country to varying degrees, with many regions completely shut down. The major industrial belt surrounding Delhi saw massive disruptions. Finance shut down as bank workers in Gujarat and Maharashtra joined the strike. Workers from transportation, energy, telecommunications, education, auto-taxis, steel, manufacturing and even workers in the informal economy, like maids, brought the economy to a halt and demonstrated the power of the working class. Farmers and students took part in solidarity.

These workers’ protests were held to bring to light the plight of the working class. With a 12-point list of demands, which included calls for a minimum wage, a social security net, better conditions for scheme workers (those employed in government employment programs), and an end to privatization and contracting.

Workers and farmers in India have been suffering under the neo-liberal policies of the two major parties for many years. The Congress Party implemented the neo-liberal reforms in the 1990s that have pushed more and more Indians into extreme poverty. Their notorious corruption, dynastic rule, and inability to help workers or farmers is what led to the BJP taking power in 2014.

In many regions of India there are viable third parties, but they are regionally limited and the Congress Party along with the BJP are the only parties with the funding and infrastructure to be national parties. Still these third parties are slowly growing, representing local interests, lower caste interests, or in the case of the LDF, the interests of the working class and oppressed. At the same time the workers and peasants through left-affiliated groups like JCTU and the farmers’ federation All India Kisan Sabha are fighting back against the callous policies imposed on the people by either of the ruling class’ two parties. Millions of women are taking a courageous stand against the patriarchal fanaticism of the religious rightwing.

U.S. imperialism is working closely with the Modi government, lending it international legitimacy and diplomatic support as it seeks to enlist India in its campaign to encircle and contain China. As we in the United States fight against our own far-right government, we can look to the determined and massive resistance in India for inspiration.

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Atlanta, Georgia: Free human rights leader Eduardo Samaniego!

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Atlanta, Georgia: Free human rights leader Eduardo Samaniego!

Crowd rallies on Jan. 3, demanding freedom for Eduardo Samaniego, in Atlanta, Georgia. | Photo: Liberation.

Mother of Eduardo, Maricela Samaniego, with supporters in front of the ICE building in Atlanta, Georgia on January 18, 2019. Photo: Liberation

Mother of Eduardo, Maricela Samaniego, with supporters in front of the ICE building in Atlanta, Georgia on Jan. 18, 2019. | Photo: Liberation

People from all across Georgia and the southeast United States are demanding the release of Eduardo Samaniego, a young man incarcerated by Immigration, Customs and Enforcement. ICE unjustly claims that he does not have the legal right to be in the U.S. even though he has lived and worked here for a decade and has a well-known reputation as a community advocate and organizer.

Rather than protecting people in the U.S., as ICE boasts, the agency shows its despicable and racist character through its treatment of Latinos like Samaniego, who has been held for over 80 days in the Irwin County Detention Facility in Orcilla, Georgia. Ignoring plenty of clear evidence that Samaniego would participate in the court proceedings, they have labeled him a “flight risk,” denying him the ability to post bond.

Samaniego has medical needs following the injuries he suffered in a gas explosion accident at his apartment complex. He has been denied adequate medical care while incarcerated. He and his family have been denied visitation rights. For many days he has been unable to eat.

On Jan. 18, family, friends and supporters of Eduardo Samaniego gathered outside of the ICE building in Atlanta. His mother Maricela Samaniego spoke with Liberation:

“I give my thanks to all the people here today because without everyone here, my son and I would not matter. I have strength because the community has supported my son, and I appreciate all the messages of support I have received. I urge everyone to keep fight against the injustices that have been committed against my son and as my son has told me, not just for him but all the Latinos/Hispanics and all peoples who have had their rights violated.”

Maricela Samaniego explained how people can also continue support through prayer and donations, saying:

“An account has been opened where people can send $5, $10, because lawyers have told me if my son is released, his bail will be very high. The money raised will help with the legal and logistical costs of helping my son. The money also helps with my travel expenses since I came from Mexico without any money and helps me travel to wherever they send my son.”

She continued: “I feel such pain knowing my son is imprisoned. I cannot even go outside sometimes because I worry if my son is eating or sleeping or if he is warm. I feel guilty even eating because my son is not eating. And although my son is now grown, for a mother, a son is a son, and I love him all the same.”

There’s good reason people say “chinga la migra.” ICE and the U.S. government systematically violate human rights, specifically equal rights and representation before the law and the freedom of movement as laid out in Articles 2, 7 and 13, respectively, in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of which the United States is a signatory country.

Eduardo was recently transferred to an incarceration facility in Columbia, South Carolina.

Sign the petition to Free Eduardo now!

To demand Eduardo’s immediate release:
Email Atlanta ICE Field Director, Sean Gallagher: sean.W.Gallagher@ice.dhs.gov
OR Call (404) 893-1206
Call Atlanta Assistant Field Office Director, Kristin Sullivan: 404-893-1203
Email Irwin Detention Center Supervisor, Alicia Ferra: alicia.Ferra@ice.dhs.gov

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Pompeo/Bolton try to take control from Trump of Middle East policy

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US Sec. of State Mike Pompeo. State Dept. photo/public domain.

U.S. Sec. of State Mike Pompeo. Photo: State Dept./public domain

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo concluded his 8-day tour of the Middle East mid-January. He visited Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Oman. The explicit purpose of Pompeo’s trip was to form an anti-Iran alliance among the reactionary governments in the region. Explaining his goals, Pompeo told reporters in Doha, Qatar, “We will gather around a number of different topics … fighting ISIS is part of that … and address how we can get the Islamic Republic of Iran to behave like a normal nation.”

The countries Pompeo chose to visit give a clear picture of what he considers to be a “normal nation.” Six of the countries he visited, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman, Jordan, Bahrain and Qatar, are ultra-reactionary repressive monarchies where the royal families rule with an iron fist. The fact that Saudi Arabia murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi is only unique in that it happened in Turkey and that it was exposed. Assassinations, murder, chopping off people’s arms and heads in public and other atrocities are common among Pompeo’s friends in the region, the “normal nations.”

The United States has now invited officials from 70 countries to attend a meeting Feb. 13-14 in Warsaw, Poland. According to Pompeo, the gathering will “focus on Middle East stability and peace and freedom and security here in this region, and that includes an important element of making sure that Iran is not a destabilizing influence.” He also pledged to “expel every last Iranian boot” from Syria.

But Pompeo’s efforts towards forming an anti-Iran alliance may be a challenge. Long before his trip, most countries on Pompeo’s itinerary had been hostile to Iran. However, significant rifts have developed among U.S. client states in the region. This is in part due to the overly ambitious policies of the young Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, affectionately called MBS by Western media.

It is obvious that the order to murder Khashoggi came from bin Salman. But he is also responsible for a series of Saudi policies that have caused a major split among the reactionary states in the region.

In July 2013, when General Abdel Fattah el Sisi orchestrated a coup in Egypt, most U.S. clients in the region fully supported the coup. Turkey and Qatar, however, strongly objected. Both countries had long supported the Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptian branch of which was in power under President Mohammad Morsi, now ousted by Sisi. This was the first major manifestation of the split between these states.

In the meantime, Turkey, Qatar and the Saudi-led alliance all supported jihadi terrorists fighting to overthrow the Ba’ath Party-led state in Syria. But, they each supported different groupings of jihadists. When Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government appeared to be headed for defeat, aside from periodic clashes among the jihadists, the differences between Saudi Arabia and U.A.E. vs. Qatar and Turkey did not come to a head.

However, with the help of Russia, Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, the tide in Syria’s civil war turned. The Syrian Arab Army drove ISIS, Al Qaeda and dozens of other jihadist groups out of most of its territory. ISIS has been almost completely defeated, not by the hands of U.S. forces, but by the forces of the Syrian state and its allies. The differences between these dozens of groupings of terrorist forces is not that some of them have some commitment to democratic principles. They are jihadists that share variations of the same reactionary ideology. They are different in terms of their sources of funding (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey) and the rapidly shrinking territories they control.

In June 2017, Saudi Prince bin Salman led a group of countries under its leadership in severing diplomatic ties with Qatar and even denying access to Qatari airlines and ships. Saudi Arabia claimed that sanctions were due to Qatar’s “support for terrorism,” a ridiculous claim given that Saudi Arabia is a much bigger supporter of terrorism than Qatar. Salman overestimated the strength of Saudi Arabia, as he often does, and thought that his hardline stance would force Qatar to capitulate.

But the move backfired. Iran immediately offered assistance and expedited shipments of foodstuffs to Qatar. Aside from pushing Qatar closer to Iran, Saudi Arabia’s hegemonic excesses created an enemy in Turkey, which also expanded its relations with Qatar. Khashoggi’s murder in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey might well have gone unexposed had it not been for the fact that Turkey now views Saudi Arabia as its enemy.

So Pompeo is attempting to form an anti-Iran alliance among countries that have a deep conflict between them. Pompeo would need to end the Saudi-Qatari conflict, which he was unable to do. Further, Pompeo would also need Turkey and Iraq to take part in the alliance against Iran, which is highly unlikely.

U.S. commitment to continue fighting ISIS?

The other stated purpose of Pompeo’s visit was to reassure U.S. allies in the region of the continued U.S. commitment to fighting ISIS.

On a phone call with Turkish President Erdogan, Trump abruptly declared that he would pull U.S. troops out of Syria. “OK, it’s all yours. We are done,” Trump said to Erdogan. This decision came as a complete shock to everyone as it did not follow diplomatic norms nor the customary decision-making processes in the foreign policy establishment.

Trump has no problem with imperialism and is very much for an expansion of U.S. influence in the world. In fact, his extreme racism could make him a potentially good element for executing imperialist foreign policy. But, as the leader of world imperialism, Trump is so ignorant and so incompetent at his job that he has no clue how the system works.

On a surprise visit to Iraq during the holidays, Trump stated: “If they want us to do the fighting, they also have to pay a price and sometimes that’s also a monetary price, so we’re not the suckers of the world. … We’re no longer the suckers, folks and people aren’t looking at us as suckers. … The nations of the region must step up and take more responsibility for their future and also they have to confront those remnants of ISIS and take them out very easily if after we’re totally finished, they’re left at all.”

In a gathering of his supporters in Southaven, Miss., Trump said: “We protect Saudi Arabia. Would you say they’re rich. And I love the King, King Salman. But I said ‘King – we’re protecting you — you might not be there for two weeks without us — you have to pay for your military.’”

Salman, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu, and many other U.S. allies/clients in the region have been deeply disturbed by comments such as these and the announcement of the withdrawal of troops. The leader of the United States is not supposed to openly state that it props up states that would otherwise fall “in two weeks.”

Trump seems to not understand that the United States has propped up arch-reactionary Gulf monarchies, including Saudi Arabia, for decades,  not as a naïve friend that is being taken advantage of, but as a way of upholding U.S. strategic interests in the region. Similarly, Trump does not get the fact that the U.S. presence in Syria was not primarily about fighting ISIS, but to help overthrow the Syrian state.

While every official in the imperialist establishment, from presidents to secretaries of state to foreign policy analysts at the CIA understand how U.S. military expenditures and adventures are at the service of geopolitical interests, Trump seems to have bought into the racist narrative that the U.S. is making a sacrifice to help its lesser friends, including “King Salman” who he says he loves.

The Pompeo/Bolton effort

Pompeo, along with National Security Advisor John Bolton, have long been obsessed with overthrowing Iran. During his short tenure as U.S. representative at the United Nations, Bolton even went so far as encouraging Israel to bomb Iran to force Bush’s hand into a U.S. invasion of Iran.

Pompeo and Bolton are not working on implementing Trump’s policy in the Middle East. In fact, Trump’s policy in the region is not coherent enough to implement. What they are doing is trying to blunt the effect of Trump’s impulsive decision to pull out of Syria. They know that Israel, Saudi Arabia and others are disheartened by the announced U.S. pullout, even if it turns out to be only partial. They are hoping to revive the long-held neocon dream of redrawing the map of the Middle East, which requires the overthrow of Syria and Iran.

What is the progressive response?

How should progressives and revolutionaries in the U.S. approach this question? The liberal establishment has uniformly condemned Trump for his ignorance and emphasized that U.S. troops should stay to continue to play their important tasks. Amazingly, even some progressives are opposing the U.S. draw down from Syria. They come up with various justifications, like claims that U.S. troops should stay in Syria to protect the Kurds, stand up to Assad, fight ISIS, etc.

Those who claim that U.S. troops should stay in the Middle East share Trump’s apparent ignorance about the role of the U.S. military, thinking that it is a benevolent force that is there to help the people of the region. The U.S. military is responsible for millions of deaths in Iraq alone. Countless Afghans have lost their lives in the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan, now in its 18th year. The U.S. military destroyed Libya, a country now controlled by competing gangs of jihadists and criminal elements. Israel, the colonial settler state, the lapdog for imperialism, continues to butcher Palestinian people only thanks to funding and support from the U.S. government.

The U.S. military has upwards of 800 military bases around the world. It is in the Middle East to serve a purpose. Public service is not that purpose. Protecting the interests of empire is. Revolutionaries and progressives should unequivocally oppose U.S. plans in the region, whether it is sanctioning Iran and attempting to form an anti-Iran alliance, or supposedly to fight ISIS or protect the Kurds.

The Saudi alliance is not a force for good. One needs only to look at the carnage inflicted by the Saudi alliance against the people of Yemen to see that. Through struggle, the people of the Middle East will achieve freedom and justice by defeating U.S. imperialism, apartheid Israel and reactionary Arab states. Revolutionaries and progressives in the U.S. have a responsibility to build a movement to end U.S. intervention in the Middle East. U.S. Out of the Middle East!

Posted in Middle East, USAComments Off on Pompeo/Bolton try to take control from Trump of Middle East policy

Cutting through the lies about Venezuela

NOVANEWS

Jan 24 demonstration in New York City marching from the Venezuelan Consulate to Trump towers. Among the participants in the PSL-initiated action were representatives from the Dec. 12th movement, Bayan, the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, and the Dominican group Marcha Verde. Liberation photo: Vincent Tsai.

The following is based upon a talk given by in New York City on Jan. 24 at a demonstration initiated by that group supporting the Venezuelan government from a U.S. backed coup.  

 Over the past few days, a corrupt, illegitimate regime lacking the support of vast swaths of the population it claims to represent, backed another round of imperialist hostilities against the Bolivarian republic of Venezuela. In an unconstitutional event spearheaded by the Venezuelan right wing, the president of the National Assembly in judiciary contempt, Juan Guaido, swore himself in as interim President of Venezuela, and received immediate recognition by the United States and its satellite governments in the region such as Colombia, Brazil and other Lima Group nations.

The U.S. also encouraged the Venezuelan military and security forces to “support democracy,” defend the transitional government and recognize the new leader, usurping the elections that took place in accordance with the country’s constitution in 2017 and 2018, in which Nicolas Maduro and the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, were the victors in their respective years.

With this latest round of hostility, we see the same song and dance of the imperialist media; your CNNs and MSNBCS, even some mainstream “left” media outlets, and this is unfortunately being permeated into the discourse among working class people here.

It starts with a cartoonish vilification of a government leader, a white-washing of the racist and reactionary opposition, the elevation of the narratives of wealthy expatriates who support U.S. imperialism, an erasure of indigenous voices who support the target government, and “whataboutism,” “both sides-ism” and respectability politicking from U.S. “progressives” and ostensible leftists. So I’m going to set the record straight.

Erasing the movement

 A popular propaganda tactic is reducing an entire movement comprising millions of people, and/or an entire national infrastructure, to a single individual. It’s reducing the Jamahariyya movement in Libya, which was progressive in relation to the Libyan feudal monarchy, to a single individual: Gaddafi. It’s reducing all of the progressive, secularist and pluralist elements in Syria to a single individual: Assad. In this case, it’s reduction of the vast Chavista movement, which is about helping the working class, poor, Black, Indigenous and LGBTQ people in Venezuela, to a single person: Maduro.

This erasure of a movement makes it easier to sell imperialist machinations by wrapping it in “the people vs. the dictator” language. This is ironic given the fact the U.S. has a literal billionaire in office as president, who is letting 800,000 people work without the means to feed themselves and their families so he can negotiate building his racist border wall.

Prettifying the opposition

The next phase is the white-washing of the opposition. When Vice President Mike Pence, talks about restoring “democracy” to the Venezuelan people, the “Venezuelan people” he’s referring to are the minority of upper, wealthier layers of Venezuelan society who want to give a green light to U.S. corporations to exploit the labor and resources of the country, who want to roll back social programs and progressive gains of the Bolivarian revolution, and who want a share of the cream.

The reactionary opposition is not starving for “democracy.” They’ve have been invited to collaborate and dialogue by the Chavista movement for decades to resolve problems, but they’ve refused, saying that this huge movement that commands the respect of Venezuela’s workers and poor should have no voice, and  should be silent and acquiesce to U.S. corporate domination.

The opposition  affirm this whenever they purposefully burn foodstuffs and use financial mechanisms to manufacture artificial scarcity for commodities and necessities, in a cynical effort to diminish support for Maduro’s government and punish his support base.

The class character of the opposition is also affirmed, when in their guarimbas, right wing thugs belonging to the opposition commit hate crimes, including lynchings and other forms of torture against Afro-Venezuelans and other supporters of the Chavista movement.

Claiming ‘both sides are bad’

The difficult economic situation in Venezuela is not, as western media and popular discourse would have us believe, a result of mismanagement or of socialism. It is the direct result of an illegal and savage economic and political war that the U.S. has directed since Chavez came to power, in conjunction with bourgeois reactionary elements within Venezuelan society.

Claiming  “both sides are bad” is convenient cop-out for those removed from the situation, But for the millions of people who are currently in the cross hairs of the most reactionary, brutal and sadistic empire the world has ever known, armchair analysis  leads to ambivalence that only serves the oppressor class

Oppressed people worldwide, in the barrios, hoods, reservations, and camps within and outside of the colonial borders of the U.S., need solidarity and support now. They do not have the luxury of long range politics and ivory tower academic discourse in which lives are used as bargaining chips.

Fosters colonial chauvinism

 I want to talk about colonial chauvinism. When there is a nation subjected to an escalation of imperialist meddling, some people, and yes, ostensible “progressives” and “leftists,” withhold much needed denunciations and criticisms of imperialism, and instead raise criticisms of imperialism’s targets under the guise of “nuance.”  This downplays, if not completely erases, the precarious economic and security environments that these countries have been placed in by the criticizer’s own imperialist government.

These critics of those in struggle have neither made a revolution in this country, nor had to deal with the inevitable twists and turns associated with socialist construction, poverty reduction, and international realpolitik in a world dominated by hegemonic U.S. finance capital. This is an example of colonial chauvinism.

If you think that the Venezuelan government is a dictatorship because it refuses to allow U.S. multinational corporations and bourgeois Venezuelans to mercilessly exploit poor people, but think that the U.S., which will foreclose on your home and evict you on behalf of a multi-billion dollar bank is not a dictatorship, you might be suffering from colonial chauvinism.

If you think Venezuelan security forces cracking down on right-wing rioters who are setting Black people on fire is “dictatorship,” but don’t think that U.S. security forces gunning down Black people every 28 hours is, you might be suffering from colonial chauvinism.

If you are sitting on top of  an indigenous burial ground, or on top of hoarded wealth stolen from centuries of colonial plunder and rivers of blood, thinking that your government has the moral authority to decide what countries’ governments are “legitimate” or not, you might be suffering from colonial chauvinism.

Stop it. Get help. If you are not waging a continued struggle, ideological or otherwise, against your reactionary, parasitic government, whose defeat would be of service to workers and oppressed people around the globe, what kind of struggle are you waging?

Hasta la Victoria Siempre. Yankee Go Home! Death to US imperialism. All Power to the Chavistas in Venezuela!

Posted in VenezuelaComments Off on Cutting through the lies about Venezuela

Saudi Arabia’s jails and U.S. prison imperialism

NOVANEWS
Saudi Arabia’s jails and U.S. prison imperialism

This article first appeared on the website of the Alliance for Global Justice

The United States government has deep ties with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s penal system, and with the entire Ministry of Interior, which oversees the kingdom’s police, courts, and jails. The American Correctional Association (ACA), a trade organization that collaborates and contracts with the US government, is likewise linked with Saudi jail personnel. (The ACA accredits 80% of correctional facilities in the U.S.  at the state level, many federal and private prisons, as well as prisons around the world.) U.S.-Saudi ties have included consultations to set international prison standards, and training programs for Saudi prison personnel. The Alliance for Global Justice has confirmed links between U.S. and Saudi Arabian prison personnel since at least 2009. The involvement of the United States in Saudi Arabia’s prisons and its justice system is an example of Prison Imperialism, referring to US efforts to spread its model of mass incarceration to other countries.

Today’s Prison Imperialism programs were preceded by a relationship with Saudi Arabia and over 50 other countries globally through the Extraordinary Rendition program. Saudi Arabia was one of several countries that participated in the program begun under the Clinton administration and officially ended by President Obama. Extraordinary Rendition was the practice by the Central Intelligence Agency of handing over persons alleged to be terrorists, to be tortured at secret interrogation centers. Detainees were arrested and jailed without due process in violation of international norms and agreements. This program was created to circumvent standards of human rights and the U.S.’ own laws.

Specific Examples, 2008 through 2013

As early as 2008, 30 Saudi Arabian students and prison personnel spent two years at Ohio Northern University studying Ohio’s prison system, including direct observation at the Lebanon Correctional Institution and the Warren Correctional Institution, and classes with representatives of the Ohio Department of Correction and Rehabilitation. Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of the Interior says that it routinely sends personnel for such classes in the U.S., Canada, France, and other Arab countries.

Likewise, the ACA has its own internship and training programs for international prison personnel and students. An example is the 2010 partnership between the ACA and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that brought Saudi prison managers to its headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. There they received instruction from federal, state, and local prison officials from Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC, as well as from ACA officials and past presidents, and a retired director of the Ohio Department of Correction and Rehabilitation. According to Jeannelle Ferreira, in Corrections Today,

“Five groups of Saudi corrections professionals visited in order to improve their leadership skills, prepare themselves for possible promotion, and take home a set of core competencies for the employees they supervise. Two more sessions are planned for 2012, one to train upper-level managers and a second focusing on those working at line officer level.”

Saudi Arabian officials also advised the ACA in 2010 and 2011 about its international prison accreditation criteria, as evidenced by this entry to the Standards Committee Meeting Minutes for the 141st Congress of Correction held in Kissimmee, Florida on August 5, 2011:

“James A. Gondles addressed the Committee regarding the creation of Core International Standards by the Association and emphasized the important opportunities being presented to the Association from foreign nations. Mr. Gondles outlined the interactions between members of the Association leadership and those at high levels in the corrections system in Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE [United Arab Emirates] regarding the creation and testing of new standards.”

The Intercept published an April 2013 National Security Agency memo leaked by Edward Snowden that discussed “direct analytic and technical support” to the Saudi Ministry of the Interior (MOI) for “internal security”. Reporters Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussein note,

“The Saudi Ministry of Interior… has been condemned for years as one of the most brutal human rights violators in the world. In 2013, the U.S. State Department reported that ‘Ministry of Interior officials sometimes subjected prisoners and detainees to torture and other physical abuse,’ specifically mentioning a 2011 episode in which MOI agents allegedly ‘poured an antiseptic cleaning liquid down [the] throat’ of one human rights activist. The report also notes the MOI’s use of invasive surveillance targeted at political and religious dissidents.”

But as the State Department publicly catalogued those very abuses, the NSA worked to provide increased surveillance assistance to the ministry that perpetrated them. The move is part of the Obama Administration’s increasingly close ties with the Saudi regime; beyond the new cooperation with the MOI, the memo describes ‘a period of rejuvenation” for the NSA’s relationship with the Saudi Ministry of Defense.’”

New Developments under the Trump Administration

The Trump administration has not only stayed the course of involvement with the Saudi prison system, it has launched a major effort to provide training to correctional officers for women’s prisons. The U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics-Law Enforcement (INL) released a Grants Notice on February 3, 2017, soliciting bids by vendors to participate in its Female Corrections Academy Training, Development, and Mentoring Assistance Project, a training program for women’s prison personnel in Saudi Arabia. In INL’s Request for Statements of Interest (RSOI), it describes the project:

“Participants will work in close collaboration with the INL team of corrections subject matter experts in Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the Department of State’s Office of Program Management – Ministry of the Interior-United States (OPM-MOI-US), and GDP [General Directorate of Prisons] Female Corrections Training Academy to deliver training of trainers for up to 50 female corrections training academy instructors from the GDP.  …. INL will be responsible for implementing the project….  INL will provide two Senior Corrections Advisors (through a separate implementing agreement) based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to provide mentoring, advice, and technical oversight of the Corrections Project. “

The US State Department updated the training project for women corrections officers in Saudi Arabia with a September 28, 2018 call for vendors to seek grants for what the Saudi Arabian Women’s Corrections Training Academy.

A perusal of announcements and press releases for the 2017 and 2018 bid request prominently mention training about human rights. But in the supplemental description of the 2017 grant, several course tracks are described, and whenever human rights are mentioned, they are just one of many subjects covered during training. In the most basic and general course track, human rights are lumped in with Prison Management. Some of the other subjects seem more ominous, including “Dynamic Security”, “Use of Force”, “Basics of Disturbance Control”, “Defensive Tactics”, “Roving Patrols”, and “Less-Than-Lethal Systems”.  One of the certification tracks is especially alarming, given Saudi Arabia’s use of torture and questionable interrogation techniques: Prison Intelligence Unit Operations/Security Threat Groups (Specialized Course). Notably, there is no mention of human rights in the subjects covered in that course.

The War on Drugs, Human Rights, Women’s Rights, and Prisoners’ Rights

The development of the training courses and academy are directly tied to the War on Drugs. A supplement to the 2017 announcement of the women’s correctional academy emphasizes the INL’s role and mission, pointing out that,

“INL leads the Department of State’s anticrime and counter-narcotics efforts…. The resources entrusted to us, enable INL to deliver technical assistance and capacity to: enhance international drug control through interdiction and supply reduction; develop civilian law enforcement capacity, regional partnerships, and information sharing; and further the administration of justice and corrections under the rule of law with respect for human rights.”

However, we must ask, how much of a concern is Saudi Arabia as a narcotrafficking center? By the State Department’s own admission, very little. In fact, a 2005 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report by the INL states that,

“Saudi Arabia has no appreciable drug production and is not a significant transit country…. The Saudi Government places a high priority on combating narcotics abuse and trafficking. Since 1988, the Government has imposed the death penalty for drug smuggling…. Saudi and U.S. counter narcotics officials maintain excellent relations…. Cultivation and production of narcotics in Saudi Arabia is negligible…. Saudi Arabia is not a major transshipment point.”

Of course, that was 2005, and this is 2019. However, in the last such INL country report, Saudi Arabia is not even listed among the profiled countries of concern. We see the false flag of “counter-narcotics” used to justify support for an autocratic and repressive regime. Even so, between 2014 and May 2018, nearly 600 executions took place in Saudi Arabia, one third of them for drug convictions. According to Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East Director for Human Rights Watch,

“It’s bad enough that Saudi Arabia executes so many people, but many of them have not committed a violent crime. Any plan to limit drug executions needs to include improvements to a justice system that doesn’t provide for fair trials.”

The U.S. government and the ACA both often predicate their activities in foreign prison systems with expressions of concern for human rights. The Alliance for Global Justice has researched US involvement globally, with special attention given to programs in Colombia, Honduras, and Mexico. We have found in case after case that following U.S. involvement in foreign prison systems, reports of human rights abuses have gone up, overcrowding has increased, and numbers of political prisoners have risen. Studies by others of U.S. run or supported prisons in Guantánamo in occupied Cuba, Bagram in Afghanistan, or Abu Ghraib in Iraq, bear out our findings.

This history is important for us to understand clearly that when the U.S. government claims it aims to improve human rights in the Saudi Arabian prison system, it does so despite a track record of insincerity and false promises.Nevertheless, given those assurances, and given the focus of U.S. involvement specifically in Saudi Arabia’s women’s prisons, we must look at the current context of human rights, prisoner rights, and women’s rights in the country.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has long used its Ministry of Interior and imprisonment and executions to crush political dissent,target women’s rights activists, and to exercise religious intolerance. In 2017, Saudi Arabia committed the world’s third highest number of executions, 146. Saudi Arabia leads the world in beheadings, its preferred form of capital punishment. After the 2015 ascendancy of King Salman al Saud, 2016 saw the highest number of Saudi executions in 20 years. Since the consolidation of his power as Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in June of 2017, by March 2018 there were 133 beheadings, compared with 67 in the eight-month period before that. Those especially vulnerable are migrant workers and women, who are often unable to pay “blood money”, which can buy their ways off death row. For instance, according to Amnesty International, in 2013, 45 foreign maids were awaiting beheading on the kingdom’s death row.

Since 2015 political arrests and arrests of women have both risen, especially now, under the watch of the Crown Prince.In 2016, during a mass execution of 47 persons, the kingdom executed eight Shiite activists for participating in protests inspired by the Arab Spring. Another 14 persons were arrested in 2016 for similar “crimes”. Israa al Ghomgham, a Shiite woman and pro-democracy activist, is even now awaiting execution for her role in organizing protests.

Earlier in 2018, dozens of pro-democracy and women’s rights activists, as well as journalists were arrested, several without formal charges and without access to communication. Many of these are still imprisoned. In May 2018, 15 women’s rights activists were branded as “traitors” and arrested, several for their activities pressing for a woman’s right to drive, despite that the government was simultaneously preparing to lift the ban. Among the women driving advocates arrested were Emam al-Nafjan, who maintains the Saudiwoman blog, and blogger Nouf Abdulaziz, who is being held incommunicado.

The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that,

“CPJ is investigating the possible jailing of at least 10 other journalists since Salman took power, but news of detentions sometimes doesn’t surface for months. Activists in contact with CPJ often have no knowledge of when authorities detained someone or where they are holding them. The journalists’ profile pages and blogs disappear behind “404 not found” messages, leaving only a breadcrumb trail of social media posts that stop the day of a rumored arrest.”

As for prison conditions in Saudi Arabia, generally, in 2017, the United Nations Human Rights Commission visited 857 Saudi prisons and detention centers, describing them as “appalling” and citing overcrowding, inadequate health care, and unavailability of services for handicapped inmates among other concerns.

Following a visit in June 2018 by UN Special Rapporteur on anti-terrorism Ben Emmerson, he alleged that Saudi Arabia is using the charge of terrorism to justify torture, crush dissent, and imprison human rights defenders. According to Emmerson,

“Those who peacefully exercise their right to freedom of expression are systematically persecuted in Saudi Arabia. Many languish in prison for years. Others have been executed after blatant miscarriages of justice…. A culture of impunity prevails for public officials who are guilty of acts of torture and other ill-treatment…. Under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia is undergoing the most ruthless crackdown on political dissent that the country has experienced in decades….

When we assess the involvement of the US government and ACA in the Saudi Arabian prison system, what we find is a pattern consistent with prison imperialism programs: disregard for human rights or for prison conditions despite pronouncements otherwise. U.S. collaboration with the Saudi Arabian prison system has coincided with a worsening of abuses.

The Real Purpose of Prison Imperialism Programs

The real purpose of prison imperialism programs in Saudi Arabia is connected to its overall US objectives with the country, especially to its military strategies. By reinforcing Saudi Arabia’s capabilities for war at the same time as its repressive capabilities at home, the US assures the internal stability of this important partner, while backing its political and military dominance in the region. It is not a strain to make the connection between U.S. support for Saudi prisons and for its military. Three months after the Trump Administration began soliciting participation in the women’s correctional academy and training project, it signed a $110 billion military accord with the Kingdom.

An October 16, 2018 document by the US Department of State’s Bureau of Military-Political Affairs tells us that,

“Saudi Arabia is the United States’ largest foreign military sales (FMS) customer, with over $114 billion in active cases. With the signing of the May 2017 $110 billion agreement to pursue Saudi Armed Forces modernization by President Trump and King Salman, we expect a significant increase in FMS and DCS [Direct Commercial Sales] cases…. The Saudis have agreed to receive training from U.S. forces on Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) and best practices for preventing civilian casualties.”

Thus, the same State Department that gives assurances of its concern for human rights in Saudi Arabian prisons expresses commitment to reducing civilian casualties in Yemen. Unfortunately, it appears that they have failed miserably.  According to Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), between June and September 26, 2018, a couple of weeks before the State Department document, civilian casualties had spiked 164%, with a monthly total of 166 civilian casualties.

U.S. support of Saudi Arabia’s military capabilities and its justice system are both about maintaining and protecting US hegemony in the region, and about protecting the flow of Saudi Arabia’s oil and oil profits. Whether in the hands of Democrats or Republicans or both, the objective of the U.S. government is to maintain the royal family in power.

People in the United States are rightfully upset over revelations about the extrajudicial execution of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and over the humanitarian crisis occurring in Yemen. But we can expect that any US government repercussions toward Saudi Arabia will be temporary at best unless there is a vocal and protracted popular movement for real action.

If we are going to end US support for the royal family of Saudi Arabia, political leaders on all sides must be shown that the people’s interests are not the same as the Empire’s. We must defend people’s rights from Saudi Arabia to South Los Angeles, from Yemen to Yonkers. And if our leaders don’t recognize those interests, then we need to get rid of them and change this system until it reflects our desires for peace and justice everywhere.

Posted in USA, Saudi ArabiaComments Off on Saudi Arabia’s jails and U.S. prison imperialism

No to Trump’s coup! Emergency actions in solidarity with Venezuela

NOVANEWS

venezuela.jpg

Venezuela and the Bolivarian Revolution that has empowered the country’s poor and working class is under assault by a U.S.-orchestrated coup effort. In an unbelievable display of colonial arrogance, the Trump administration has determined that it — not the people of Venezuela — has the authority to determine who is the legitimate president.

Although it has been concealed by the corporate media, huge numbers of Venezuelans are in the streets expressing their support for President Nicolás Maduro. It is essential that opponents of U.S. war and empire mobilize as well. The list of actions below will be updated as more events are organized.

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New York City, N.Y.
la_demo.png
Los Angeles, Calif.
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Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C.: January 23 outside the Embassy of Venezuela

Los Angeles, Calif.: January 24

New York City, N.Y.: January 24

Posted in VenezuelaComments Off on No to Trump’s coup! Emergency actions in solidarity with Venezuela

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