Archive | March 18th, 2020

‘About Damn Time’: Detroit Pauses Water Shutoffs Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

“It shouldn’t take a crisis like the spread of coronavirus to restore people’s right to drinking water.”

byAndrea Germanos,

A demonstrator holds a sign during a Detroit water shutoffs rally in 2014.

A demonstrator holds a sign during a Detroit water shutoffs rally in 2014. (Photo: uusc4all/flickr/cc)

Progressives heaped praise on grassroots activists in Detroit on Monday after the Michigan city announced, amid the spread of the coronavirus, it was temporarily restoring water services to thousands of residents who’ve had their water shut off.

“About damn time,” said Abdul El-Sayed, a former head of the city’s health department and 2018 gubernatorial candidate. “It’s been six years since the U.N. declared Detroit water shutoffs an insult to human rights.” 


This lets everyone know that the narrative that there are no health risks to water shutoffs is a lie. A temporary fix, but a necessary reprieve for Detroit.

Shouts out to all the #WaterWarriors. Now for water affordability. @WeThePeopleDet#WaterIsLife …

“Thank you Detroit Water and Sewerage Department for doing the right thing,” said advocacy group People’s Water Board. “Water is a basic need.”

The city stopped water services for over 100,000 Detroit households between 2014 and 2018 because residents could not pay their bills.

“At least 3,000 residential water accounts lost service last year and have not been reconnected,” the Detroit Free Press said Monday.

The situation has, for years, prompted outcry and mobilization from groups like We the People of Detroit and the People’s Water Board, to whom El-Sayed nodded in his tweet.

The demand for water services to be turned back on were amplified in the context of COVID-19, which is spreading globally and nationally, though there are, as of yet, no confirmed cases in Michigan.

The CDC says people can help stop the virus’s spread with frequent handwashing—a recommendation rendered impossible when there’s no water coming from the tap. As progressive advocacy group Center for Popular Democracy Action put it Sunday, “Shutting off water and telling people to wash their hands to stop #coronavirus at the same time is a special kind of oppression.”

Civil rights organizations previously urged Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to put a moratorium on the shutoffs citing their public health impact. But her office rejected that call, saying just last month that there was “insufficient data to support the use of emergency powers in this instance.” 

That response drew rebuke from the People’s Water Board, who said Sunday: “We have been working to #StoptheShutOffs for over a decade and we have seen nothing like Gov. Whitmer, Mayor Mike Duggan, and [Detroit Water and Sewerage Department director] Gary Brown’s refusal to provide this basic human need in light of a global pandemic. Shameful.”

City and state officials now appear willing to act, with the announcement of the  “Coronavirus Water Restart Plan,” which will go into effect Wednesday. The city shared details of the plan at a press conference Monday and on social media, including that the state would cover costs for the first month and that customers would pay a $25 monthly fee after that.

City of Detroit@CityofDetroit

Today we announced the Coronavirus Water Restart Plan to restore water service and prevent new service interruptions at no initial cost to customers during the Coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak.

View image on Twitter

734:11 PM – Mar 9, 2020

“I feel very good about the fact that this is what happens when the state and the city and the county executive work together,” Detroit Mayor Duggan said at the press conference.  Longtime critics of the shutoffs, however, said the moratorium took far too long to come.

One such critic was Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a candidate in the Democratic presidential primary race, who last year introduced the Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity and Reliability (WATER) Act. The legislation would, among other things, guarantee Americans have affordable access to public water services.

“It’s good news that Detroit is restoring water to thousands of households. But it shouldn’t take a crisis like the spread of coronavirus to restore people’s right to drinking water,” said Sanders. “We are going to guarantee the right to clean water for all Americans.”


This is real world impact, folks …Rashida Tlaib@RashidaTlaibReplying to @RashidaTlaibThe coronavirus is deeply concerning and we should be doing all we can to keep our residents safe, thank you @GovWhitmer & @LtGovGilchrist. Thank you, @BernieSanders, for being the only current prez candidate to lift the issue of access to clean water up.

National advocacy organization Food & Water Watch also welcomed Monday’s development, with its Public Water for All campaign director Mary Grant saying city and state officials were “finally doing the right thing.”

“We applaud the People’s Water Board for organizing to win this important victory for the public health of Detroiters. For years, the People’s Water Board has documented the dangers of water shutoffs to public health and called for a comprehensive water affordability plan. COVID-19 has brought these threats to the forefront,” Grant said in a statement to Common Dreams.

Residents of Detroit are not the only victims of water shutoffs, Grant noted, a fact that must be urgently addressed nationwide.

“As the world confronts the threat of a coronavirus pandemic, every person must have access to running water,” she said. “We call on every water provider to stop water shutoffs and to restore service to all households disconnected for being unable to pay their water bills.”

Congress should step up as well, Grant added, and pass the WATER Act, which would help “ensure our water systems have the resources they need to ensure universal access to safe water for every American.”

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Should Focus ‘On Helping Working People’

As Dow Jones Drops Record 2,000 Points on Coronavirus, Progressives Say Response Should Focus ‘On Helping Working People’

“The folks who suffer most in a market crash are not the traders on Wall Street,” said Rep. Ilhan Omar. “It is ordinary people losing their jobs, getting their pay cut, or losing their pensions.”

by: Eoin Higgins,

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on March 09, 2020 in New York City watch as the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell more than 2,000 points.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on March 09, 2020 in New York City watch as the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell more than 2,000 points. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

U.S. stocks plunged again Monday on fears of a global economic slowdown on the heels of the coronavirus outbreak combined with an oil price war led to the Dow Jones Industrial Average losing 2,000 points at closing, its largest ever single day drop in points, as progressives called on the government to prioritize the interests of working people over the 1%.

“The folks who suffer most in a market crash are not the traders on Wall Street,” said Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). “It is ordinary people losing their jobs, getting their pay cut, or losing their pensions.”

“Our focus should be on helping working people,” Omar added.

CNBC Now@CNBCnowReplying to @CNBCnow

BREAKING: Dow Jones Industrial Average closes down more than 2,000 points, its worst point drop ever on record; S&P 500 and Nasdaq plunge more than 7%

View image on Twitter

The Dow’s drop of 2,000 points was a decline of 7.79%; the S&P 500 fell 7.60% and the Nasdaq dropped by 7.29%.

Warning that the economic hit from the outbreak “will come fast” when it arrives and “hit lower-wage workers first and hardest,” Josh Biven of the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute said it will be crucial for the government to introduce a swift and targeted response.

Biven called on the government to make a plan for “rapid direct payments to individuals” just as was done by President George W. Bush in 2008—when one-time checks of $600 for individual tax-filers and $1,200 for joint tax filers were issued—in order to stem the bleeding from the financial crash that year.

“We could use this model but do even better this time,” said Biven, suggesting  $1,000 for each individual and $500 per child.

“Besides needing money to tide them over when they can’t work,” he explained, “low-wage workers could also use protection against being let go by employers when they can’t show up to work due to their sickness (or the sickness of family members).”

The decline evoked memories of the 2008 crash, according to the New York Times, as Monday’s drop “was the worst for stocks in the United States since December 2008, when the country was still reeling from the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the housing crisis that dragged the economy into a recession.”

“Markets want to hear that the global economy is open for business, and the problem is, it isn’t easy to say that going forward,” Silvercrest Asset Management chief strategist Patrick Chovanec told the Times.

As the Times reported:

Financial markets have whipped around for weeks as investors struggled to quantify the economic impact of the spreading coronavirus: stocks have tumbled, oil prices cratered, and yields on government bonds reflected a sense among investors that there was worse still to come.

The oil price war was triggered by announcements from Russia and Saudi Arabia that the two countries were about to launch into an oil production price war.

According to the Washington Post:

Oil prices tumbled into the $30s, after Saudi Arabia and Russia deadlocked over production. The Saudis had been pushing for a cut in output to prop up prices, but reversed course when Russia balked and decided, instead, to flood the market with hundreds of thousands of additional barrels per day—a move analysts fear may trigger a price war.

The oil price war is just making things worse, Janus Henderson Investors multiasset team head Paul O’Connor told MarketWatch.

“The coronavirus presents investors with an unprecedented global problem,” said O’Connor. “Investors are uncertain about the nature of the virus, its potential economic impact, and the policy response. The oil shock has only added to this confusion and uncertainty.”

President Donald Trump, who on Monday morning bemoaned the market declines as being the product of “fake news” from the media about the coronavirus and political attacks from Democrats, is under increasing pressure to take a stronger hand in dealing with the crisis. The White House on Monday held a roundtable discussion for the president and Wall Street CEOs to get a handle on the crisis and stimulate the economy.

News that the president spent time over the weekend golfing at his Mar-a-Lago resort did not impress economist Robert Reich, who tweeted that “not even a pandemic and a volatile stock market can get in the way of Trump’s golf habit.”

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Coronavirus for All


Photograph Source: 2C2K Photography – CC BY 2.0

“Someone once said that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism.”

Frederic Jameson

OK, maybe it’s not the end of the world – but it’s the end of the world as we know it – and it will be upon us within the next few days. The author heads up Still, I believe that he’s right. Michael Moore says that the public health-types in government tell him that he’s right.

In Boston, Biogen’s name will forever be mud. One of the high-flying executives of the successful biotech corporation contracted the coronavirus somewhere other than Boston. They then brought it to the hotel conference room and, afterward, to the restaurant/bar, where (through those handshakes and hugs), in a soon-to-be-famous superspreader event, billions of virions made the jump from Boston’s Patient Zero to a bunch of other managers and scientists. Then they turned in unison toward Patient Zero and chirped, “Hey, thanks for the ride, sucker!” (OK, I made up that last part.)

Those biotech executives then went to “Man’s Greatest Hospital” (Massachusetts General Hospital), where the doctors told them, no, we can’t test you for coronavirus because you don’t meet the criteria for testing according to the CDC protocol. And the executives thundered, “What? Are you stupid? Who do you think I am? I have a PhD in molecular biology and an MBA, too!” But they were turned away, and they went home fuming, but being very careful to cough into their elbows, responsible and civic-minded citizens that they are.

The smart-ass intern at the nurses’ station said into his EHR screen, “If you’re so smart, why don’t you make your own RT-PCR for SARS-CoV2?”

Certainly it’s true in the U.S.A. it is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism. On the other hand, it’s also obvious that capitalist health care is going to faceplant in the face of the coronavirus. It’s going to be a choice between Medicare for All or Coronavirus for All.

But eventually, the coronavirus made its way into regular working people. And that fast food worker had to think, so I’m living paycheck to paycheck, and I’ve got this cough and this fever. Can I take time off from work? Can I afford to go to the doctor? For many who work for hourly wages – a day off from work means no pay for that day. While public health authorities may say, “Don’t go to work if you’re sick,” many who live paycheck to paycheck had to think that staying home meant having trouble paying for rent, food, water, electricity, or childcare.

The virus had an easy time infecting homeless people, who may not have homes, but do congregate in shelters. Nursing homes are also congregate living settings. What happened in old people’s homes in Wuhan? When we talk about a 14.8% case-fatality rate (CFR) among those 80 year-olds and older–it’s evident that Wuhan’s health system wasn’t ready for lots of old people in lung failure. Is the U.S. health system ready for that? Of course, the CFRs are related to the biology of the infecting organism: the coronavirus is much more virulent than, say, seasonal influenza. The CFR is, however, also related to the effectiveness of health systems. So, we can expect health systems to keep people from dying when they’re not overwhelmed – when health care workers in Wuhan or Lombardy are not having to decide whom to put on those scarce mechanical ventilators.

These days U.S. health system is run by health care executives, with their business smarts, their lean operations (except for their compensation packages), achieving just-in-time delivery. Until there was a nationwide shortage of IV bags of normal saline after Hurricane Maria, whoever knew that they were made in Puerto Rico? Until lots of losartan and ranitidine had to be taken off the shelves, whoever knew that they were made in China? The lax manufacturing practices of generic pharmaceutical corporations there contaminated the medications with NDMA. That’s what happens when you obtain your supplies from the cheapest sources on the planet. They’re the cheapest because they have the most lax environmental regulations and their labor is most exploited.

Until this past week, the only available option in for COVID-19 testing was your state laboratory, which was sending samples to the CDC. In order to obtain the COVID-19 test, it was required that the patient have a respiratory virus panel test done. This panel is a reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test for a variety of viruses, including influenza and the run-of-the-mill coronaviruses that cause the common cold. From a diagnostic perspective, this makes some sense. If the patient’s symptoms can be explained by influenza, then it’s unlikely that they would have COVID-19. The respiratory virus panel test, however, costs $1479.90. Now for a very ill, hospitalized patient, such a cost would be buried within the cost of the entire hospitalization – and health insurance would likely pick up the cost. For the outpatient who is not about to die, however, it means a bill for $1479.90. It appeared unlikely that insurance will pay for a $1500 test to confirm a common cold – especially if we were to start testing larger numbers of patients. An uninsured patient would find such a cost unaffordable, meaning that unless one is deathly ill, an uninsured person cannot get tested for COVID-19. This has hampered our ability to who has the virus in the U.S. In Korea, you can get tested via a drive-through. In China, the authorities will find you, and they will test you – free of charge – and they’ll warehouse you in a re-purposed exhibition hall.

Anthony Fauci says that we’re now moving from containment, the notion that we’re going to track down any individual with the virus and isolate them – to mitigation, just trying to slow down the spread so that your local hospital doesn’t turn into The Central Hospital of Wuhan. In the mitigation phase, we’re social distancing. We’re staying six feet away from each other. We’re going to hole up and subsist on macaroni and cheese. Or the government could lock it down the way China did – where a man was quarantined, and his disabled son starved to death, where a boy was found with the body of his grandfather because he had told him not to venture out.

Our government will compensate the petroleum, airline, cruise ship, hotel, and sports and entertainment industries for their losses. Socialism for corporations is the first order of the day. But if we want to get through the coronavirus with grandma and grandpa alive, we must have Medicare for All. Or would you rather have Coronavirus for All?

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Cuba’s Contribution to Combatting COVID-19


Photograph Source: NatalieMaynor – CC BY 2.0

COVID-19 surged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late December 2019 and by January 2020 it had hit Hubei province like a tidal wave, swirling over China and rippling out overseas. The Chinese state rolled into action to combat the spread and care for those infected. Among the 30 medicines the Chinese National Health Commission selected to fight the virus was a Cuban anti-viral drug Interferon Alpha 2b. This drug has been produced in China since 2003, by the enterprise ChangHeber, a Cuban-Chinese joint venture.

Cuban Interferon Alpha 2b has proven effective for viruses with characteristics similar to those of COVID-19. Cuban biotech specialist, Dr Luis Herrera Martinez explained that ‘its use prevents aggravation and complications in patients, reaching that stage that ultimately can result in death.’ Cuba first developed and used interferons to arrest a deadly outbreak of the dengue virus in 1981, and the experience catalysed the development of the island’s now world-leading biotech industry.

The world’s first biotechnology enterprise, Genetech, was founded in San Francisco in 1976, followed by AMGen in Los Angeles in 1980. One year later, the Biological Front, a professional interdisciplinary forum, was set up to develop the industry in Cuba. While most developing countries had little access to the new technologies (recombinant DNA, human gene therapy, biosafety), Cuban biotechnology expanded and took on an increasingly strategic role in both the public health sector and the national economic development plan. It did so despite the US blockade obstructing access to technologies, equipment, materials, finance and even knowledge exchange. Driven by public health demand, it has been characterised by the fast track from research and innovation to trials and application, as the story of Cuban interferon shows.

Interferons are ‘signalling’ proteins produced and released by cells in response to infections which alert nearby cells to heighten their anti-viral defences. They were first identified in 1957 by Jean Lindenmann and Aleck Isaacs in London. In the 1960s Ion Gresser, a US-researcher in Paris, showed that interferons stimulate lymphocytes that attack tumours in mice. In 1970s, US oncologist Randolph Clark Lee, took up this research.

Catching the tail end of US President Carter’s improved relations with Cuba, Dr Clark Lee visited Cuba, met with Fidel Castro and convinced him that interferon was the wonder drug. Shortly afterwards, a Cuban doctor and a haematologist spent time in Dr Clark Lee’s laboratory, returning with the latest research about interferon and more contacts. In March 1981, six Cubans spent 12 days in Finland with the Finnish doctor Kari Cantell, who in the 1970s had isolated interferon from human cells, and had shared the breakthrough by declining to patent the procedure. The Cubans learned to produce large quantities of interferon.

Within 45 days of returning to the island, they had produced their first Cuban batch of interferon, the quality of which was confirmed by Cantell’s laboratory in Finland. Just in time, it turned out. Weeks later Cuba was struck by an epidemic of dengue, a disease transmitted by mosquitos. It was the first time this particularly virulent strand, which can trigger life-threatening dengue haemorrhagic fever, had appeared in the Americas. The epidemic affected 340,000 Cubans with 11,000 new cases diagnosed every day at its peak. 180 people died, including 101 children. The Cubans suspected the CIA of releasing the virus. The US State Department denied it, although a recent Cuban investigation claims to provide evidence that the epidemic was introduced from the US.

Cuba’s Ministry of Public Health authorised the use of Cuban interferon to halt the dengue outbreak. It was done at great speed. Mortality declined. In their historical account, Cuban medical scientists Caballero Torres and Lopez Matilla wrote: ‘It was the most extensive prevention and therapy event with interferon carried out in the world. Cuba began to hold regular symposia, which quickly drew international attention’. The first international event in 1983 was prestigious; Cantell gave the keynote speech and Clark attended with Albert Bruce Sabin, the Polish American scientist who developed the oral polio vaccine.

Convinced about the contribution and strategic importance of innovative medical science, the Cuban government set up the Biological Front in 1981 to develop the sector. Cuban scientists went abroad to study, many in western countries. Their research took on more innovative paths, as they experimented with cloning interferon. By the time Cantell returned to Cuba in 1986, the Cubans had developed the recombinant human Interferon Alfa 2b which has benefited thousands of Cubans since then. With significant state investment, Cuba’s showpiece Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB) was opened in 1986. By then Cuba was submerged in another health crisis, a serious outbreak of Meningitis B, which further spurred Cuba’s biotechnology sector.

Cuba’s Meningitis Miracle

In 1976, Cuba was struck by meningitis B and C outbreaks. Since 1916 only a few isolated cases had been seen on the island. Internationally, vaccines existed for Meningitis A and C, but not for B. Cuban health authorities secured a vaccine from a French pharmaceutical company to immunise the population against type C Meningitis. However, in the following years, cases of type B Meningitis began to rise. A team of specialists from different medical science centres was established, led by a woman biochemist, Concepción Campa, to work intensively on finding a vaccine.

By 1984 Meningitis B had become the main health problem in Cuba. After six years of intense work, Campa’s team produced the world’s first successful Meningitis B vaccine in 1988. A member of Campa’s team, Dr Gustavo Sierra recalled their joy: ‘this was the moment when we could say it works, and it works in the worst conditions, under pressure of an epidemic and among people of the most vulnerable age.’ During 1989 and 1990, three million Cubans, those most at risk, were vaccinated. Subsequently, 250,000 young people were vaccinated with the VA-MENGOC-BC vaccine, a combined Meningitis B and C vaccination. It recorded 95% efficacy overall, with 97% in the high-risk three months to six years age group. Cuba’s Meningitis B vaccine was awarded a UN Gold Medal for global innovation. This was Cuba’s meningitis miracle.

‘I tell colleagues that one can work 30 years, 14 hours a day just to enjoy that graph for 10 minutes,’ Agustin Lage, Director of the Centro for Molecular Immunology (CIM) told me, referring to an illustration of the rise and sudden fall of Meningitis B cases in Cuba. ‘Biotechnology started for this. But then the possibilities of developing an export industry opened up, and today, Cuban biotechnology exports to 50 countries.’

Since its first application to combat dengue fever, Cuba’s interferon has shown its efficacy and safety in the therapy of viral diseases including Hepatitis B and C, shingles, HIV-AIDS and dengue. Because it interferes with viral multiplication within cells, it has also been used in the treatment of different types of carcinomas. Time will tell if Interferon Alfa 2b proves to be the wonder drug as far as COVID-19 goes.

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How the OAS Revived the Cold War in the Americas


Statue of Isabella I the Catholic Queen in front of the seat of the Organization of American States in Washington D.C. Photograph Source: Martin Baran – CC BY-SA 3.0

The OAS has never been a neutral forum. Since its founding in 1948, the United States government has always wielded power far beyond its vote. Each member state’s contribution is based on the relative size of its national economy and the US contributed 60% ($51 million) of the $81million 2019 OAS operating budget. As a result, the U.S. has historically had disproportionate power over the organization.

Inconformity with U.S. hegemony brought the organization to the brink of obsolescence during the first decade of the millennium. Numerous efforts, spearheaded by South American member states, turned toward the formation and strengthening of alternative south-south regional blocs that did not include the United States or Canada. The past few years, elections and constitutionally dubious maneuvers brought rightwing governments to power. The alternative regional organizations wilted and the OAS has regained relevance.

When former Uruguayan foreign minister Luis Almagro took the helm of the organization in 2015 with the support of many left governments, political observers expected he would support the priorities of Latin American countries over those of Washington. But instead of learning the positive lessons of greater Latin American independence, Almagro swung the pendulum in the opposite direction. To nearly everyone’s surprise, Almagro brought the OAS into even closer alignment with U.S. government policies.

Under Almagro, the OAS has shifted from being a multilateral forum heavily influenced by the United States, to a proxy for U.S. interests. The Secretary General has consistently supported the U.S. government and corporate agenda, particularly in promoting US sanctions and attempts at regime change in Venezuela. He has used his post to close doors to dialog or a non-violent solution to the political crisis in Venezuela and even gone so far as to condone military intervention–a step explicitly prohibited in the OAS charter. This strategy has exacerbated the humanitarian crisis, while sidelining the OAS as a credible mediator in Venezuela’s political crisis.

Nearly five years into Almagro’s tenure, a close examination exposes a series of actions that reflect a blatant ideological bias, rather than a commitment to building multilateralism in a regionwide forum. Many of these actions have violated the letter and the spirit of the OAS’s founding principles, including self-determination, democracy, a commitment to peaceful resolution of conflict, and the goal of unified action to benefit the populations of all 35 member-states.

The Organization of American States (OAS) approaches pivotal internal elections March 20, in which the Secretary General seeks a second 5-year term, amid mounting criticism. What’s at stake? What are the results of his leadership? And what does his record tell us about where he would take the OAS in the future?

Bias and Manipulation in Elections Observation

Electoral observation is a signatue activitiy of the OAS. The OAS Electoral Observation Missions are generally comprised of former politicians and electoral experts who present themselves as professional and impartial. However, under Almagro’s leadership,  Missions have received accusations from host countries of bias in the exercise of their mandate. This report analyzed three of the latest OAS’s electoral observation missions  that resulted in failure to facilitate peaceful and transparent elections. These Missions sparked accusations that OAS actions provoked, rather than prevented, post-electoral conflict: the Honduran presidential elections of November 2017, the Bolivian presidential elections of October 2019 and the recent Dominican Republic municipal elections of February 2020. Electoral processes overseen by the OAS in these countries resulted in massive popular protests which, in the first two cases, triggered the assassination of scores of protesters by security forces and caused massive human rights violations, and in all three cases deepened divisions and conflict within the host countries.

The Bolivian Presidential Elections 2019

The Bolivian presidential elections of October 20, 2019 provide the most extreme and tragic case of OAS partisanship in its monitoring duties. The actions of the OAS Electoral Mission there, headed by the Costa Rican Manuel González Sanz, led directly to a violent break with the democratic order, exile of the elected president and multiple killings of mostly indigenous protesters.

Just hours after the polls closed and before the vote count was finished, the OAS mission issued a press release, followed up two days later by a preliminary report, calling into question Morales’ lead of just over the 10% needed to avoid a second round of voting. The report cited a “hard to explain” pause in the rapid count and other criticisms of the process. Based on the report’s charges of irregularities and manipulation, rightwing forces that had hoped to gain power by forcing Morales into a second round, mobilized to overthrow the elected government. Joined by some social organizations and state security forces, they staged demonstrations and burning buildings. When the Armed Forces stepped in threatening a coup, Morales resigned to avoid further bloodshed. A government of ultra-rightwing political figures took power, unleashing attacks on indigenous peoples and Morales supporters.

The OAS accusations of “manipulation” in the Bolivian presidential elections fed and in many ways offered a spurious justification for the violent protests and unleashed widespread human rights violations. The president and vice president, along with other high-level elected officials of the ruling MAS party, were forced to flee when their houses were set on fire and they came under attack. By using its experts to question official elections results, the OAS report contributed to mob violence and the fall of the elected government, and massacres of indigenous peoples under the rightwing regime that came to power. When national and international voices protested the Bolivian coup d’état, Almagro retorted: “Yes, there was a coup in Bolivia on October 20, when Evo Morales committed electoral fraud” –an unsubstantiated assertion that did not express a consensus within the organization nor even reflect the language of the Mission’s report.

An analysis of the OAS reports by the Center for Economic and Policy Research showed that the mission provided no proof of fraud, and that the timing and accusations of the report played a critical political role in the subsequent chain of events. On February 27, experts at MIT deduced in a separate analysis of the data that “there is no statistical evidence of fraud in the results of the Bolivian presidential elections”, debunking the report by the Organization of American States (OAS) that triggered the rightwing coup.

The study by the analysts at the MIT Election Data and Science Lab concluded:

“The OAS’s claim that the stopping of the TREP [Transmission of Preliminary Electoral Results] during the Bolivian election produced an oddity in the voting trend is contradicted by the data. While there was a break in the reporting of votes, the substance of those later-reporting votes could be determined prior to the break. Therefore, we cannot find results that would lead us to the same conclusion as the OAS. We find it is very likely that Morales won the required 10 percentage point margin to win in the first round of the election on October 20, 2019.”

Their findings caused an international uproar. The OAS mission’s report alleging “intentional manipulation” to favor Morales’ re-election had become the go-to interpretation of events among press and many foreign governments. Scores of pro-Morales protesters were killed in the mayhem that ensued after the OAS Mission called into question the legitimacy of the electoral process and ignited the sequence of events that led to the coup. To date, an interim government headed by a minor member of parliament, Jeanine Añez, remains in power.

Following publication of the expert analysis, the OAS wrote a letter to the Washington Post, complaining that the study “is not honest, fact-based, or exhaustive.” However, the organization has not presented a full scientific rebuttal or specific reasons for its assertion. In view of the doubts and the dire impact, the Mexican government has demanded an explanation from the OAS. As of this writing, neither the OAS leadership nor the mission have responded to the request.

There are also troubling reports that the OAS followed the political dictates of the U.S. government in precipitating the Bolivian coup. The Los Angeles Times reported:

“Carlos Trujillo, the U.S. ambassador to the OAS, had steered the group’s election-monitoring team to report widespread fraud and pushed the Trump administration to support the ouster of Morales. (The State Department denied Trujillo exercised undue influence on the report and said it respects the autonomy of the OAS. Trujillo, through a spokesman, declined a request for an interview.)”

The OAS’s lack of transparency regarding the mission has compounded suspicions. Unlike other election observations, all of which should be included in the OAS public database, the 2019 Bolivia mission does not appear at all. The OAS press office has not responded to numerous queries regarding the omission of the data on the Bolivian mission, including the names of the members and other pertinent information that could allow investigators to further probe the role the OAS Electoral Observation Mission played in the Bolivian political crisis.

The Honduran Presidential Elections 2017

The November 2017 presidential elections in Honduras provide another example of the OAS’s political agenda. Incumbent Juan Orlando Hernandez, known by his initials JOH, ran despite a ban on re-election, which was suspended by a questionable court ruling that declared the constitution unconstitutional. On election night, members of the Honduran electoral tribunal announced that the opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla had established an “irreversible” lead over Hernandez. Then the Electoral Tribunal shut down the vote count and later returned to announce the incumbent’s unlikely victory, amid mass disbelief. The OAS mission initially questioned the re-election of President Hernandez, and proclaimed that the elections were too dirty to call. Sec. Gen. Almagro himself called for new elections. The Trump administration immediately endorsed the Tribunal’s position and congratulated JOH on his supposed victory, while pressuring allies to do the same. Following the U.S. lead, Almagro eventually backed down from his insistence on new elections and accepted the JOH government.

The Honduran government has brutally repressed natiowide protests following the election, leaving more than 30 opposition demonstrators dead. While the direct blame lies with the Honduran government, the OAS’s inability to assure or restore clean elections and its compliance with U.S. policy causing it to reverse its original position, contributed to the breakdown of rule of law in the country. Today the political crisis continues to claim lives and forces thousands of Hondurans to emigrate every month.

The Caribbean: Dominican Republic Local Elections 2020, Dominica Prime Minister 2019

OAS actions in the Dominican Republic’s botched local elections on February 16 raise doubts regarding both its fairness and its capabilitty, and reinforce arguments that the missions apply political criteria when responding to electoral processes in member nations. Prior to the elections, the OAS pressured the island government to switch from paper ballots to an automated voting system. On voting day, that system went haywire. When Dominicans tried to vote, the names of certain candidates did not appear on the screens and other serious problems with the electronic system occurred in nearly half the precincts.

The national Elections Board suspended the elections just hours after the polls opened and re-scheduled them for March 15. Although local elections may seem minor, they are the forerunner to presidential elections May 17 and the results affect the campaigns. Dominicans are marching to demand the resignation of the Elections Board and call for fair elections, amid claims of fraud and sabotage.

The OAS Electoral Observation Mission says it is studying the failure, but to date has not been able to identify the technical problem, which it was its job to avoid, or explain why it didn’t catch it earlier. Completely contrary to its actions in Bolivia, after the Dominican elections fiasco, the OAS Mission did not immediately release a destabilizing report alleging manipulation. Faced with a far more major breakdown in the system, the OAS mission and its Secretary General did not point fingers, instead stating prudently “to date there is no evidence to indicate a willful misuse of the electronic instruments designed for automated voting”. The OAS seconded the Elections Board’s decision to reschedule elections and scrap the U.S.-based automated system, which cost the island a reported $80 million dollars between equipment and the aborted elections, and announced it will stay on for the March elections.

Despite the obvious discrepancy between the two cases, the OAS’s press release, used the opportunity to defend its Bolivia mission, promising to apply “the same standards of  technical quality and professional rigor as the process that was recently carried out in Bolivia”—leading some Dominicans to note on Twitterthat the comparison was not reassuring. Commentators and Dominicans on the island and in the diaspora have blamed the OAS in part for the breakdown in the system. In New York City, Dominican immigrants demonstrated in front of OAS headquarters against the “elections disaster” and called to respect the vote. U.S. Congressman Adriano Epaillat demanded that the head of the Elections Board resign. But the scores of OAS observers working on-site in the country before, during and after the events, have avoided criticizing the government or publicly analyzing the breakdown that led to the cancelation of the elections.

Protesters insist that the system failure favors the ruling Dominican Liberation Party by buying it an extra month. The ruling party’s presidential candidate trails in polls for the May elections. Current President Danilo Medina has a close relationship to the U.S. government. He was among the five Caribbean leaders who attended Trump’s Mar-a-Lago meeting March 21, 2019 to consolidate support for Trump policies to remove Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro from office and support Almagro’s re-election bid, apparently in return for promises of investment.

In addition to being key for U.S. policies in the region, recent investigative reporting indicates that Donald Trump may have more than a geopolitical interest in Dominican politics. A December 2018 undercover report by Global Witness, an anti-corruption watchdog, revealed that the Trump Organization is making plans for a new multi-million dollar development on the island that appears to have benefited from several Dominican government decisions on tax and zoning following recent visits by Eric Trump. The group called for Congressional investigation into a possible conflict of interest, which could cast further suspicion on the electoral debacle and U.S. and OAS actions.

Almagro also has a personal interest in the results of elections in the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean nations. The Caribbean Community (CARICOM), holds 14 of the 35 votes in the OAS. The island nation of Dominica recently denounced Almagro’s interference in its Dec 6th elections. Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, who has publicly rejected “interference in the internal affairs of any country” including Venezuela, won re-election handily, but just days before the voting, Almagro tweeted support for opposition demands as demonstrations by anti-Skerrit forces grew violent. Dominica’s foreign minister, Francine Baron, said in the OAS,  “We are concerned by public pronouncements that have been made by the Secretary General, which display bias, disregard for the governments of member states and call into question his role and the organization’s role as an honest broker”. Prime Minister Skerrit harshly criticized the regional body:

“The OAS mantra about free and fair elections has become a formal justification for undercutting democracy and toppling non-conforming governments to make way for US-backed political parties.”

Although its nations are divided, the leadership of the regional group, the Caribbean Community or CARICOM[*], has condemned Almagro’s active support of U.S. attempts to oust Maduro. On January 31, 2019, following Almagro’s public recognition of Juan Guaidó as interim president, the group sent a letter, stating “you did not speak on behalf of all the member states of the OAS” and demanding that he clarify the position as an individual statement. The heads of state referred to the Secretary General’s statement as a “clear de­par­ture from nor­mal prac­tice and cause for great concern.” CARICOM nations have also broken with U.S.-Almagro dictums on other issues, presenting a successful resolution to reject violence and support indigenous rights in Bolivia following massacres carried out by security forces under the coup government of Jeanine Añez, and publicly opposing Almagro’s re-election bid.

The Caribbean rebellion has provoked an active response from the Trump administration in defense of Almagro’s candidacy and control in the OAS. In January 2020, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited the region to meet with a handpicked group of leaders to discuss cooperation and nail down support for U.S. Venezuelan policy and Almagro’s re-election bid. CARICOM chair and Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, denounced that Pompeo’s selective power broker role sought to drive a wedge between the Caribbean nations and rejected the meeting. Her position was seconded forcefully by Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, who protested U.S. efforts to exclude nations that didn’t agree with Trump and Almagro’s views.

Speaking in Mexico in August 2019, the OAS Secretary General stated that if the public does not trust election results, it severely affects the quality of a democracy. However, his partisan role and the biased and dishonest actions of OAS electoral observation missions have severely undermined democracy in the region and disrupted key elections. The region faces major challenges in the near future: 2020 presidential elections in Bolivia and the Dominican Republic, the Chilean referendum and 2021 presidential elections in Nicaragua, Peru and Ecuador. These elections could either resolve or enflame political crises.

Impartial, expert election observation can instill trust in the electoral process, expose corrupt and anti-democratic practices and head off post-electoral conflicts. The region urgently needs an organization that is willing and able to play this role professionally and not act in favor of hidden interests and powers and a personal ideological agenda.

Human Rights for Some, A Blind Eye for Others

Almagro’s open bias has not only eroded the Organization’s role as an elections arbiter–politicized double standards have also been applied to human rights. Although the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights is a relatively autonomous part of the OAS, authorized to organize delegations by invitation from member states, the OAS leadership plays a huge role in priorities and funding. The Secretary General’s statements on human rights follow the pattern of bias in deciding which governments are targeted and pressured to reform, what measures are taken, and which leaders are supported despite human rights violations. Notably, while alleged human rights violations against Venezuelans receive almost daily attention, rightwing governments allied to the United States have committed grave human rights violations with little to no follow-up from the OAS. These include key allies of the Trump administration and Almagro: Colombia, which sponsored his candidacy, Chile, Honduras and Haiti. These four countries have been most prominent in the news lately due to near-constant cycles of protest and violent repression, but the OAS General Secretariat’s bifurcated strategy of highlighting human rights violations to isolate ideological enemies, and ignoring them when committed by friends also exists with other governments.

Chile: The Chilean government of Sebastian Piñera responded to mass demonstrations against a hike in the subway fare and more generally privatization, the cost of living and inequality by cracking down on protesters. According to the latest report by the National Human Rights Institute, since protests began Oct. 18, 445 protesters or bystanders have been shot in the eye with 34 suffering permanent loss of vison or complete loss of an eye, 195 complaints of sexual violence have been filed, and 951 for torture at the hands of state agents, health services report 3,765 wounded, with 2,122 hospitalized after being struck by government rubber bullets or other projectiles. These are only the cases that experts and public agencies have been able to document. Up to February, 31 Chileans have been killed, mostly young people.

Many of these figures are included in the preliminary report of the OAS’s Interamerican Commission on Human Rights. However, when Almagro visited Chile in January 2020–the same month as the IACHR report came out–he congratulated Piñera for his government’s response to the protests, saying, “in the framework of the rule of law, preservation of democracy, [your government] has efficiently defended the public order, at the same time taking special measures to guarantee human rights”. He added, “The circumstances that had to be confronted were confronted in the best way possible.”

His statements directly contradicted the findings of the OAS human rights commission, which reported: “The IACHR expresses its extreme concern and condemns the high number of human rights violations reported in the context of the social protest, and calls on the authorities of Chile to investigate with due diligence the reports of violations of human rights and identify and sanction those responsible and inform the citizenry of the results.” It cited excessive use of force by government security forces, criminalization of protesters, and use of violence against groups including women, LGBTQ, indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants, migrants and youth.

National organizations have criticized Piñera for his attempt to undermine the legitimacy of protesters’ demands by claiming that they are instigated by “foreign interference”,  particularly “Cubans and Venezuelans”. Almagro and Trump have made the same claim on several occasions and along the same ideological lines, while discounting the grassroots nature of the protests and the rights of the victims. As the Chilean government was attacking Chilean youth in the streets, the first pronouncement of the General Secretariat, issued October 27, 2019, reads like a Cold War credo:

“The Bolivarian winds of Simón Bolivar brought freedom and independence to our peoples; the breezes of the Bolivarian regime driven by Madurismo and the Cuban regime bring violence, looting, destruction and a political purpose of directly attacking the democratic system and trying to force interruptions in constitutional mandates. The attempts that we have seen documented in Ecuador and Colombia, we see the same pattern repeated in Chile today. The polarization, hatred, violence, bad practices, policies of systematic violation of human rights and crimes against humanity with which the dictatorships infused our political systems must be eradicated and isolated, wherever they come from. It is therefore essential to shut off the sources of violence that have their origin in external and internal efforts of institutional destabilization.”

Chilean government official have admitted they have no evidence of foreign instigation of the protests that have mobilized crowds of more than 1.5 million in Santiago, and hundreds of comments in the media and social networks have criticized Piñera for unfounded accusations. Although the IACHR continues to monitor human rights abuses in Chile, Almagro and   Trump continue to denounce foreign influence and the Secretary General has bolstered the side of the Piñera administration while ignoring the mounting number of victims.

Colombia: Another cohort among states that support the Almagro-Trump agenda in the OAS, the government of Ivan Duque, has also come under intense international scrutiny for violations of human rights, including the assassination of more than 500 grassroots leaders since the peace agreement was signed in 2016, according to the national Ombudsman’s Office.  The OAS has largely looked the other way.

Amid the criticisms of his human rights record, Duque sent out a letter on June 27, 2019 calling for support for Almagro, stating “my government is convinced that the re-election of Almagro is indispensable to continue to advance in the regional agenda of democracy and human rights”. The letter warned that “any alternative would derail the agenda of principles”, even before other candidacies had been announced. Then-president of Uruguay, Tabaré Vázquez, responded to the letter, stating that he had important differences in his evaluation of Almagro’s actions, and that OAS member states should have a chance to propose other candidates.

Just days before Duque sent out the letter requesting support for Almagro’s re-election, Almagro issued an official OAS declaration stating that Duque’s government “has done everything to maintain the peace, to deepen peace with justice and to eradicate plantations and fight drug trafficking.” The praise for Duque sparked outrage among many Colombians. Members of the organization “Defendamos la Paz-Let’s Defend the Peace” who participated in the peace process wrote a letter dated June 26, 2019 on the eve of the OAS’s 49th Assembly, declaring that Almagro’s declaration,

“not only ignores and contradicts the on-the-ground reality of what is happening in the country, but also does not concur with the declarations and reports that offices and agencies of the OAS such as the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights and the Mission of Support for the Peace process in Colombia have issued on the implementation of the final Accord to end the conflict and build a stable and lasting peace.”

Indeed, the January 2019 report from the IACHR flags the “alarming issue of murders of social leaders and human rights defenders”, stating that the situation has gotten worse under the Duque government since the accord. The FARC party has registered the murder of more than182 former FARC combatants. The party announced Jan. 29 that it will present the case before both the IACHR and the UN. Indepaz, an independent think tank, documents that 738 civilian activists have been murdered between Jan. 1, 2016 and July 20, 2019. The IACHR report concludes with the need for protective measures and urges the Colombian government to intensify efforts to implement the peace agreement, which the Duque government has been widely accused of undermining.

Haiti: Two other countries seem to be involved in a trade of support for the US-Almagro agenda and a pass on serious human rights violations—Honduras and Haiti. Haiti has been unable to carry out elections to restore democracy, courts are closed and the population has mobilized to confront the increasingly despotic actions of President Jovenel Moise. A IACHR report from January 2020 calls for political dialogue and the strengthening of institutions and balance of powers.

After police protests brought another wave of turmoil, the OAS Secretary General published a tweet condemning the violence, but at the same time endorsing Moise: “..violence is unacceptable in any form, but especially it is unacceptable with the intention of a violent change in the established democratic regime”. Meanwhile, the crisis under Moise is at a breaking point. The UN Integrated Office on Haiti reported this month that 4.6 million Haitians require immediate humanitarian assistance. The UN published this statement from the non-profit Fondasyon Je Klere on the lack of rule of law and government violence: “We have witnessed odious killings, decapitations, rapes, robberies, embezzlement and the diversion of supplies, abductions and kidnappings… We have death squadrons, and that’s a form of state terrorism.”

The OAS Secretary General has put little pressure on the Haitian regime to respond to popular demands in, again, what appears to be an exchange of favors. Ronald Sanders, the ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda to the OAS, noted Almagro’s “deafening silence” on the crisis in Haiti, writing in an op-ed March 2:

“Disappointingly, the OAS Secretary-General, Luis Almagro, who has needed no urging to condemn governments in Venezuela and Nicaragua for violations of human, civil and political rights, has not seen it fit to bring the troubling situation in Haiti to the attention of the Permanent Council of the OAS.”

Haiti illustrates the OAS politics of division in the Caribbean. Following the Almagro-Trump strategy, Moise broke with a history of Haitian relations with Venezuela and with most of the CARICOM group by joining the rightwing Lima Group that Almagro helped organize to pressure for the removal of Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro from office. The Haitian regime recognized Guaidó, sparking protests in Haiti, while other Caribbean countries have insisted on non-intervention in Venezuela’s internal affairs. Haiti’s president was one of the five Caribbean leaders who support Almagro’s re-election and met with President Trump in Mar-a-Lago on Mar. 21 of last year.

The Haitian ruler has publicly sided with the U.S. and the OAS Secretary General on the divisive issues of Venezuela and Almagro. Just as Moise entered a second year as a “caretaker government”, governing without a democratic mandate, his foreign minister Bocchit Edmond published an op-ed expressing his government’s support for Almagro´s re-election and calling for “unity” in CARICOM. As the Haitian crisis deepens, it remains to be seen how firmly the OAS Secretary General will defend democracy and human rights there, against the interests of one of his most proactive supporters.

Honduras: The Honduran administration of Juan Orlando Hernandez has accumulated a number of reports of human rights violations and accusations of corruption since taking office, and especially since the controversial 2017 elections. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights documented the murder of 22 people during protests following the elections, with the Committee of Families of Forced Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH) documenting 30 in the single month between Nov. 30 and Dec 31 of 2017.

The latest report of the UN Human Rights Council notes that there has been little to no progress in prosecuting the security forces responsible for the crimes. It also documents continued violations in every area of review. JOH and his party have passed a series of “impunity pacts” that limit investigation and prosecution of government officials in the midst of numerous revelations of corruption and misuse of power. The president himself has been implicated in drug trafficking in a New York court.

The OAS created the Support Mission Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH) in 2016. This year, despite a recommendation that the MACCIH’s period be extended, the organization agreed with the Honduran government to end the mission, due to the limitations on investigation and prosecution of government officials placed by the Honduran government.

The OAS General Secretariat issued a formal communiqué that stated briefly, “Unfortunately, it was not possible to reach the agreements required for the renewal of the mandate of the Mission, which is why MACCIH will end its functions on January 19, 2020”, further noting that the Honduran government would no longer provide the cooperation needed with the public prosecutor’s office.

Juan Jimenez, the former in-country spokesperson of the MACCIH, stated that the termination of the mission’s work resulted from failed negotiations between the Secretary General and the Hernandez administration that involved assuring the Honduran government’s support for Almagro’s re-election. He implied, as have other observers, that the parties agreed on a discreet exit of the anti-corruption mission in return for the JOH’s support for Almagro’s re-election. Jimenez posted on Twitter:

“Closure of MACCIH will have terrible consequences. The incapacity of the SG of the OAS in murky negotiations cannot be saved by a lukewarm communique. What was at stake here was not Honduras, but the vote for the SG of the OAS next March 20.”

The termination of the anti-corruption commission comes just after the president’s brother was found guilty of drug trafficking and other charges in the United States, in a case that named the president as an accomplice and recipient of the illicit funds. Despite extensive evidence of wrong-doing, the U.S. government has also consistently looked the other way when it comes to human rights violations in Honduras since facilitating the coup that removed the elected president Manuel Zelaya in 2009 and installed a rightwing regime. Since then, the Honduran government has been a staunch ally of U.S. policy in the region, as demonstrated most recently with the signing of a “Safe Third Country” agreement to block refugees from moving through Honduras toward the United States.

As with the corrosive effects of conditioning the defense of democracy on ideological beliefs, the OAS’s practice of using a political lens to pursue human rights violations causes it to lose credibility and efficacy. It also creates a dangerous situation for human rights defenders in the countries where they work, as they become more exposed, more easily criminalized and attacked, and less recognized by society for the brave and critical work they do. The rising number of assassinations of human rights defenders attests to the crisis in the region—of 300 defenders murdered worldwide in 2019, two-thirds of them were in the region of the Americas.

The Need for New Leadership

The revival of a Cold War mentality in the OAS produces grave threats deriving from its actions as detailed above, but also from its inaction. With U.S. regime change in Venezuela dominating, climate change, coordinated action against the illicit activities of transnational criminal organizations, the migration and refugee rights, and environmental catastrophes like the loss of the Amazon rainforests and the Honduran drought have practically fallen off the agenda. The OAS has put forth no comprehensive solutions for the criminal greed of corrupt governments, inequality, or violence and discrimination against women.

All this has many nations worried. News reports confirm that Argentina under Alberto Fernandez will not vote for Almagro’s re-election. Mexico’s OAS representative Luz Elena Baños announced Mexico will not support Almagro’s bid, asserting that the Secretary General exceeded his faculties by obliging the organization “to recognize or not recognize governments” and permitting “a representative of the president of the Assembly to have an ambassador” in reference to the unprecedented presence of a Guaidó supporter in the Permanent Council. Many CARICOM countries have declared their support for the candidacy of the Ecuadoran former defense minister, Maria Fernanda Espinosa.

Espinosa and the other candidate for Secretary General, the Peruvian Hugo de Zela, cited the partiality of the incumbent in their presentation speeches before the body on February 12. Espinosa, a former president of the UN General Assembly and if successful the first woman to lead the organization, promised to recover the principles of cooperation, respect the sovereignty of the States, and “maintain the technical, impartial and independent character of the electoral missions.” De Zela warned that “political polarization weakens the two essential elements of multilateralism: constructive dialogue and the search for consensus” He vowed to provide “a balanced alternative faced with polarizing perspectives that are weakening the effectiveness and relevance of the OAS as a hemispheric, multilateral forum.”

The Western Hemisphere has become a geopolitical battleground—again. For decades, the region has set global agendas and reflected geopolitical trends, although it doesn’t often capture the headlines. Thousands march in protest in Chile, Colombia, Honduras, Haiti and Ecuador, demanding deep changes in their political and economic systems. Corruption scandals have shaken Peru and Guatemala. Mexico and Argentina have popular new leftwing governments, and Brazil has a president from the ultra-right who’s proud to be called “the Trump of the South”. Meanwhile, the U.S. government, which normally calls the shots, will likely be disputed between an autocratic capitalist and a democratic socialist, marking two very different paths forward.

The possible scenario of another five years of Almagro as Secretary General presents serious difficulties, regardless of how the U.S. elections go. If Donald Trump wins re-election, regional self-determination and many of the principles of the OAS will face even greater threats from an “America First” agenda beholden to U.S. hegemony, corporate interests, and “border control”, including an explicit revival of the Monroe Doctrine. Aggressive U.S. behavior, supported by the Secretary General, could further polarize the region and the OAS. If a progressive democrat is elected, the regional organization will find itself saddled with an anachronistic Cold War leader, out of synch with new aspirations and possibilities.

Either way, Almagro’s record as leader of the OAS gives grave cause for concern. The aggressive pursuit of his personal ideological aims has led to division, conflict and even bloodshed. The Organization of American States must restore its reputation as a forum for sovereign governments to resolve the region’s most pressing issues and build toward a safe and prosperous future. To do that, it urgently needs a change in leadership.

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The Corona Virus, Trump, and Friday the 13th Press Conference


Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

On Friday 13 March,  listening to the President’s speech on the state of emergency provoked by the Coronavirus, I was thinking that the litany of interdictions enumerated had all the features of a crisis heterotopia. I reveled at all the “measures” he recalled: banning assemblies of people, canceling performances and sporting events, in short “social distancing” (better qualified as “physical distancing”) and cutting off an entire continent, with the (temporary) exception of one chosen Anglo-Saxon one from which you can still return to the USA, unless you are an alien trying to sneak into the American dreamland through Great Britain, after having sojourned in a suspicious European country. And if someone dares such a deviousness, they will be repelled.

I thought that this time reality was indeed stranger than science fiction. A deadly virus attacking humanity, and having originated from a vicious, bat or snake from a distant land, or having escaped a laboratory, or even having descended upon us from a-high from a different planet.

Of all the talk of American resilience put in military parlance, “we will prevail” and “we will defeat this threat,”  I was struck by an absence, one that makes the speech a simulacrum of sorts: No mention of the lagging behind in testing. Apparently the test kits recommended by the WHO have not been approved, perhaps for political reasons, lest the results harm the elections…..?? or is it more financially advantageous to have concocted tests that proved ineffective after all? Trump and his team during the conference press promised test kits “in the near future,” but everyone remained evasive as to exactly when this near future would occur, though the CEO of Lab Corps and Quest Diagnostics confirmed that national labs throughout the nation will “very soon” deliver.

Why, as of March 9, 2020, the US tested 8,554 individuals to a rate of 26 tests per a million people; on the other hand South Korea did much better, testing 8, 354 individuals to a rate of 4,910 per million people, and France 11,895 individuals to a rate of 182 tests per million people. Why these disparate figures when, in the words of President Trump during the state of emergency speech, “no nation is more prepared or more equipped to face down this crisis” because “we are rated number one in the world and we are helping other nations, a lot.” Really? So why are we at the bottom of the list of 18 countries, after Turkey and Vietnam, testing for the Coronavirus? Could it be that a long tradition of poor healthcare shows its tentacles precisely in moments of acute crisis?

When someone from the audience asked if that delay in testing was indeed a failure, Trump evaded the question and passed the mike to one of his associates who beat around the bush and said something to the effect that nobody knew the turn the virus would take. But isn’t that the definition of lack of preparedness? Nevertheless, Trump flaunted the great “accomplishment” of having closed the borders: “we acted quickly and we acted early,” lavishing praise on his team—he called them geniuses—and especially the leader of the “coronavirus task force,” Mike Pence.

In an amazing feat of self-contradiction, when two members of the audience asked him about the timeline for those test kits to become available for every American, Trump replied that people without symptoms should not be tested and “we don’t want people to take a test when they shouldn’t be.” Really? So why all the hullabaloo about self-isolation for two weeks if you are coming back from Europe or if you have been exposed to the virus?

Several members of the audience brought it home and asked him the same question with various degrees of urgency: Since those returning American travelers were required to self-quarantine and to undergo “further screening,” having been exposed to the virus in Europe, was he himself not going to be tested or self-isolate? After all, he had visited with the President of Brazil a few days earlier in Mar-a-Lago and it was proven that one of the members of Bolsonaro’s delegation—Jair Wajngarten—had tested positive for the Coronavirus. Trump was even photographed next to him. To this, Trump replied that Bolsonara was doing a great job in Brazil, and that he was a very nice person who had tested negative after all. He added that he himself had no symptoms and that he did not need to be tested, according to the White House physicians. To further drive his point home, Trump pointed out that after all he did not know the person standing beside him on the photograph, as if that lack of acquaintance was a sure shield against the virus! Frustrated by all this run-around, another reporter asked him verbatim if he was “being selfish to expose” others to his virus. Trump interrupted her, pointing his index finger to the next reporter who, unluckily for Trump, happened to have the very same concern! In an about-face, Trump conceded that he will be tested “but not because of that.” Not because of what? I was left wondering. Did he want to be tested only for the fun of it?

Since this speech, Trump indeed tested for Coronavirus and allegedly, the result came back negative. But one is left pondering about the fabric of contradictions and the evasiveness that punctuated his speech, the situation with the test kits or lack thereof, the initial refusal to test, his flouting the recommendations of the CDC that he himself had endorsed and litanized, and overall, the tentacles underneath the politics of the handling of the Coronavirus crisis in the US.

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To Help Stem Coronavirus, Lift Sanctions on Iran


Photograph Source: Debra Sweet – CC BY 2.0

The COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic is far from the first proof of how intertwined we are as a global community. The climate crisis and the refugee crisis have long been glaring examples that the wars or CO2 emissions on one continent risk the lives and well-being of people on another continent. What coronavirus is providing, however, is a unique opportunity to look specifically at how the intentional damage caused to one country’s healthcare system can make it harder for the entire world to address a pandemic.

The coronavirus started in China in December 2019 and President Donald Trump immediately brushed it off as something limited to China. At the end of January 2020, he banned entry to the United States of people from China but still insisted that the Americans need not worry. It will have “a very good ending for us,” he said, insisting that his administration had the situation “very well under control.”

Despite Trump’s insistence that the medical pandemics can be contained via travel bans and closed borders, the coronavirus knows no borders. By January 20, Japan, South Korea, and Thailand had all reported cases. On January 21, the U.S. confirmed the infection of a 30-year-old Washington State man who had just returned from Wuhan, China.

On February 19, Iran announced two cases of the coronavirus, reporting within hours that both patients had died. By March 13, at the time of this writing, the total number of coronavirus infections in Iran is at least 11,362 and at least 514 people in the country have died. Per capita, it is currently the most heavily infected country in the Middle East and third in the world, after Italy and South Korea.

In the Middle East, coronavirus cases have now been identified in Israel/Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, UAE, Iraq, Lebanon, Omar, and Egypt. If Iran is not able to stem the crisis, the virus will continue to spread throughout the Middle East and beyond.

By the time the coronavirus hit Iran on February 19, the country’s economy, including its healthcare system, had already been devastated by U.S. sanctions. Under the Obama administration, the Iranian economy was given a boost when the Iran nuclear deal was signed in 2015 and the nuclear-related sanctions were lifted. By February 2016, Iran was shipping oil to Europe for the first time in three years. In 2017, foreign direct investment increased by nearly 50% and Iran’s imports expanded by nearly 40% over 2015-2017.

The reimposition of sanctions after the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal in 2018 has had a devastating impact on the economy and on the lives of ordinary Iranians. The Iranian currency, the rial, lost 80 percent of its value. Food prices doubled, rents soared, and so did unemployment. The decimation of Iran’s economy, reducing the sale of oil from a high of 2.5 million barrels a day in early 2018 to about 250,000 barrels today, has left the government with scant resources to cover the enormous costs of dealing with direct medical treatment for patients suffering from the coronavirus, as well as supporting workers who are losing their jobs and helping businesses going bankrupt.

Humanitarian aid—food and medicine—was supposed to be exempt from sanctions. But that hasn’t been the case. Shipping and insurance companies have been unwilling to risk doing business with Iran, and banks have not been able or willing to process payments. This is especially true after September 20, 2019, when the Trump administration sanctioned Iran’s Central Bank, severely restricting the last remaining Iranian financial institution that could engage in foreign exchange transactions involving humanitarian imports.

Even before Iran was unable to procure enough testing kits, respiratory machines, antiviral medicines and other supplies to slow the spread of the coronavirus and save lives, Iranians were having a hard time getting access to life-saving medications. In October 2019, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report citing that “the overbroad and burdensome nature of the US sanctions [on Iran] has led banks and companies around the world to pull back from humanitarian trade with Iran, leaving Iranians who have rare or complicated diseases unable to get the medicine and treatment they require.”

Among those in Iran who have been unable to get critical medications have been patients with leukemia, epidermolysis bullosa, epilepsy, and chronic eye injuries from exposure to chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq war. Now coronavirus is added to that list.

On February 27, 2020, with over 100 people in Iran having been infected and with a reported 16% mortality rate, the Treasury Department announced that it would waive sanctions for certain humanitarian supplies to go through Iran’s central bank. But it was far too little far too late, as the spread of coronavirus is yet to slow in Iran.

The Iranian government is not without blame. It grossly mishandled the beginning of the outbreak, downplaying the danger, putting out false information, and even arresting individuals who raised alarms. China had acted similarly at the start of the virus there. The same can be said for President Trump, as he initially blamed the virus on Democrats, told people not to practice social distancing, and refused to accept tests offered by the World Health Organization. Today, there are still nowhere near enough tests in the U.S., Trump is refusing to have himself tested despite having been in contact with infected individuals, and he continues to label this a “foreign virus.” Neither China nor the U.S., however, have the compounding problems of sanctions that prevent them from obtaining the necessary medicines, equipment, and other resources to address the crisis.

It isn’t just Iran that is sanctioned. The U.S. imposes some form of sanctions against 39 countries, affecting over one-third of the world’s population. In addition to Iran, Venezuela is one of the countries most hard hit by U.S. sanctions, including new measures just imposed on March 12.

According to President Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela does not yet have any coronavirus cases. However, sanctions have contributed to making Venezuela one of the most vulnerable countries in the world. Its healthcare system is in such shambles that many public hospitals often do not have water, electricity, or basic medical supplies and many households have only limited access to basic cleaning supplies such as water and soap. “As of today, it has not reached Venezuela,” President Maduro said on March 12. “But we have to get ready. This is a time for President Donald Trump to lift the sanctions so Venezuela can buy what it needs to face the virus.”

Likewise, the Iranian government, which is now asking the International Monetary Fund for $5 billion in emergency funding to fight the pandemic, has penned a letter to United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres calling for U.S. sanctions to be lifted.

There are sweeping changes President Trump needs to make to seriously address the coronavirus pandemic at home and abroad. He must stop minimizing the crisis and insisting that people do not need to exercise social distancing. He must stop falsely claiming that testing is available. He must stop catering to the greedy, profit-based healthcare industry. In addition, and no less important, the Trump administration must lift the sanctions on Iran, Venezuela and other countries where ordinary people are suffering. This is not a time to squeeze countries economically because we don’t like their governments. It’s a time to come together, as a global community, to share resources and best practices. If coronavirus is teaching us anything, it’s that we will only defeat this terrible pandemic by working together.

Posted in USA, IranComments Off on To Help Stem Coronavirus, Lift Sanctions on Iran

The Battle for the Saudi Royal Crown


Photograph Source: Qrmoo3 – CC BY-SA 4.0

The fear caused by the coronavirus outbreak is greater than that provoked by a serious war because everybody is in the front line and everybody knows that they are a potential casualty. The best parallel is the terror felt by people facing occupation by a hostile foreign army; even if, in the present case, the invader comes in the form of a minuscule virus.

The political consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic are already vast because its advance, and the desperate measures taken to combat it, entirely dominate the news agenda and will go on doing so for the foreseeable future, although it is in the nature of this unprecedented event that nothing can be foreseen.

History has not come to a full stop because of the virus, however: crucial events go on happening, even if they are being ignored by people wholly absorbed by the struggle for survival in the face of a new disease. Many of these unrecognised but very real crises are taking place in the Middle East, the arena where great powers traditionally stage confrontations fought out by their local proxies.

Top of the list of critical new conflicts that have been overshadowed by the pandemic is the battle for the throne of Saudi Arabia: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), whose dwindling band of admirers describe him as “mercurial”, this month launched a sort of palace coup by arresting his uncle, Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, and his cousin, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, whom he displaced as crown prince in 2017.

The new purge of close relatives by MbS may be motivated by his wish to eliminate any potential rivals for the crown who might step forward upon the death of King Salman, his 84-year-old father. This need to settle the royal succession has become more urgent in the past few weeks because the US presidential election in November might see the crown prince lose an essential ally: Donald Trump, a man who has become increasingly discredited by his shambolic response to Covid-19, and who faces Joe Biden’s emergence as the likely Democratic candidate for the presidency.

Trump has been a vital prop for MbS, standing by him despite his role in starting an unwinnable war in Yemen in 2015 and his alleged responsibility for the gruesome murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in 2018. MbS has denied personal involvement in the killing, but told PBS last year: “It happened under my watch. I get all the responsibility, because it happened under my watch.”

The record of misjudgements by MbS after he established himself as the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia five years ago makes Inspector Clouseau seem like a strategist of Napoleonic stature by comparison. Every one of his initiatives at home and abroad has stalled or failed, from the endless and calamitous war in Yemen to the escalating confrontation with Iran that culminated in Tehran’s drone and missile attack on Saudi oil facilities last September.

The latest gamble by MbS is to break with Russia and flood the market with Saudi crude oil just as world demand is collapsing because of the pandemic’s economic impact. In living memory in the Middle East, only Saddam Hussein displayed a similar combination of hubris and erratic performance that inspired disastrous ventures such as the Iraqi invasion of Iran in 1980 and of Kuwait in 1990.

I once asked a Russian diplomat knowledgeable about the workings of the Iraqi ruler’s inner circle why none of his senior lieutenants, some of whom were intelligent and well informed, had warned him against taking such idiotic decisions. “Because the only safe thing to do in those circles was to be 10 per cent tougher than the boss,” explained the diplomat. MbS reportedly shows similar impatience towards anybody critical of the latest cunning plan.

When it comes to the oil price war, the likelihood is that the Kremlin will have thought this through and Riyadh will not. Russian financial reserves are high and its reliance on imports less than during the last price conflict five years ago between the two biggest oil exporters. Inevitably, all the oil states in the Middle East are going to be destabilised, Iraq being a prime example because of its complete reliance on oil revenues. Iran, suffering from the worst outbreak of Covid-19 in the region, was already staggering under the impact of US sanctions.

In time, the Russians may overplay their hand in the region – as all foreign players appear to do when over-encouraged by temporary successes. For the moment, however, they are doing nicely: in Syria, the Russian-backed offensive of President Assad’s forces has squeezed the rebel enclave in Idlib without Turkey, despite all the belligerent threats of President Erdogan, being able to do much about it.

These developments might have provoked a stronger international reaction two months ago, but they are now treated as irrelevant sideshows by countries bracing themselves for the onset of the pandemic. It is easy to forget that only 10 weeks ago, the US and Iran were teetering on the edge of all-out war after the Iranian general Qassem Soleimani was assassinated at Baghdad airport in a US drone strike. After ritualistic Iranian retaliation against two US bases, both sides de-escalated their rhetoric and their actions. Rather than drastically changing course, however, the Iranians were probably re-evaluating their strategy of pinprick guerrilla attacks by proxies on the US and its allies: this week, the US accused an Iranian-backed paramilitary group of firing rockets at an American base north of Baghdad, killing two Americans and one Briton. Iran has evidently decided that it can once again take the risk of harassing US forces.

Covid-19 is already changing political calculations in the Middle East and the rest of the world: a second term for President Trump looks much less likely than it did in February. The election of Biden, an archetypal member of the Washington establishment, might not change things much for the better, but it would restore a degree of normality.

Trump’s foreign policy in the Middle East and elsewhere has always been less innovative in practice than his supporters and critics have claimed. Often, in Iraq and Afghanistan, it was surprisingly similar to that of Barack Obama. The biggest difference was Trump’s abandonment of the nuclear deal with Iran, but even there Trump relied on the “maximum pressure” of economic sanctions to compel the Iranians to negotiate. For all Trump’s bombast and jingoism, he has never actually started a war.

However, this is now changing in a way that nobody could have predicted, because in its political impact the pandemic is very like a war. The political landscape is being transformed everywhere by this modern version of the Great Plague. By failing to respond coherently to the threat and blaming foreigners for its spread, Trump is visibly self-isolating the US and undermining the hegemonic role it has played since the Second World War. Even if Biden is elected as the next president, the US will have lost its undisputed primacy in a post-pandemic world.

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Saudi Arabia: Princes’ Massacre: The Throne Undisputed

By: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr

In an unprecedented precedent that the Al Saud family did not know, the most prominent princes in the country were imprisoned, headed by the most prominent neighborhoods of the founder Abdul Aziz, Prince Ahmed, the brother of King Salman, on charges of “treason” by seeking the coup. The accusation included three of the princes of the Naif family, the most famous of whom was the toppled crown prince, Muhammad bin Nayef, and he returned to the interface the file of the struggle of the wings and its mysteries. 

And while the Saudi media did not deny or question the narratives of the American media, the campaign’s reasons strengthened that the accusation was an excuse by Al Salman to tame the “pledge of allegiance” and suppress any restlessness or possible ambition on the wings of the family.

To know the magnitude of the feared strike, Al Saud’s palaces, it is sufficient to follow a torrent of tweets in the last hours, confirming loyalty and renewing allegiance to the king and his crown prince, published by the accounts of princes who until recently were inmates of the “Ritz-Carlton”, where they arrested, insulted, and deprived their financial and media empires. Those tweeters, such as “Prince of Cola” for example (Abdul Aziz bin Fahd, or Prince Azzuz, the richest man on the planet, possesses unique characteristics that may not be known to each other from their abundance, stripped of the treasures of treasures, the most important of which is the MBC group). Their heads these days, and they are right, they are nothing but remnants of the “semi-survivors” of the ongoing Salman campaign against the princes of the royal family.

Since 2015, with media fanfare or otherwise, Asmaa has disappeared, others have been kidnapped, and doubts have been raised about some people’s lives or being placed under house arrest. However, the new chapter of abuse for the cousins ​​appeared different in some of its circumstances from the most famous in 2017: “The Ritz-Carlton”, where the campaign extended to include the then Lebanese Prime Minister, Saad Hariri.

There is no “hospitality” this time around, just like the princes had many hotel guests, and talk of corruption and money. The novel was presented as the fact that the incident is a crackdown on the “traitors” group of princes, and that means thwarting a coup d’etat that was under preparation behind the walls of the palaces, orchestrated by the alliance of the two princes: Muhammad bin Nayef, his uncle Ahmed bin Abdul Aziz, and other people involved between princes and officers.

The American media account, published by an organized leak, distributed in more than one known medium, and it is still standing without official denial or even questioning the circles of the system. Rather, the leakers continued to publish details of news of the arrest campaign, with news of new arrests.

Ahmed bin Abdul Aziz

It is known about Ahmed bin Abdul Aziz (77 years), the seventh of the “Seven Sudairians”, balance, calmness and weakness of personality. The last of King Salman’s siblings alive is also known for his love and trust in a large spectrum of princes, especially those narrowly fed between them and restless from the escalation of Muhammad bin Salman. The most important thing that revolves around him is to repeat his name every time the Western media touches on the door of the crisis of Ibn Salman and his replacement scenarios. The climax of the case was during the scandal of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Prince Ahmed’s return to the country today from the United Kingdom undoubtedly aroused Ibn Salman, who is under diplomatic and media pressure, especially when the return was coupled with hints that he could be replaced by him in the province of the Covenant, with Western blessing. Demonstrating the family’s unity and interdependence in the face of the new attack was the price of the man’s return in the difficult period, and motivated the Salman family’s hedging and bending over with the storm.

What will make matters worse is speculation about Prince Ahmed’s ability to play a future role within the Allegiance Commission, which is said to be the third of three (out of 34) who did not vote on Ibn Salman’s choice of the mandate of the covenant, and he is best known for a video clip calling on protesters over the Yemen war to blame The King and Crown Prince instead of the House of Saud. This body, which is composed of the sons of the founding king Abdulaziz and other princes, and whose work is surrounded by ambiguity (no one knows who chaired it at the last meeting or who is chairing it now), is assigned to it according to the system of governance the most important matters: checking the king’s eligibility healthily, and voting to choose the crown prince of the king . According to the latest amendment of the regime, Ibn Salman will not be able to obtain a crown prince from among his children and siblings, but rather the grandson of the founder Abdel Aziz from another branch, i.e. from the cousins.

Muhammad bin Nayef

Prince Al-Sudairi, who was expelled from the mandate of the Province of Al-Ahd, is distinguished by the loyalty of officers in the Ministry of Interior and strong ties to the western security services, which he recognized and built up during the cooperation in the war against Al-Qaeda during the years of the decade following the September 11 attacks. It is said that, after excluding him from the mandate of the Covenant and then the return of Prince Ahmed to the country, he began to approach the latter with what raised suspicion at Al Yamamah Palace, especially since the prince and his uncle shared the attribute of western satisfaction with them, at a time when distrust of the Americans leaked to Ibn Salman, after the repercussions The Khashoggi case. However, this information contradicts the scarcity of Ibn Nayef’s media appearance, which explains that the man is restricted in movement, that is, under house arrest or under strict supervision.

Whatever it is, the inclusion of the son of Nayef’s campaign of arrests is also explained by its coverage, according to the leaks, his half-brother Prince Nawwaf. This means that the truce with the Sudairi branch, which began with the appointment of Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Nayef, as Minister of the Interior, has ended. Accordingly, Abd al-Aziz has since this day been on the list of candidates for dismissal in the coming days, as well as the exclusion of the Naif family in general more and more, especially as sources in the royal court reported that the Wall Street Journal stated that the father of the minister, the prince of the eastern region and the eldest son of Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz Saud bin Nayef, later summoned. Also, according to the sources, officers in the Ministry of Interior and Defense were arrested.

King Salman is dying?

To explain what the leaks revealed, analysts rushed to speculate the king’s health would deteriorate, or to conceal his death in the final hours. The explanation stems from the fact that the death of King Salman will impose two benefits on his successor: First, the pledge of allegiance to him smoothly. The second is to impose the name of a crown prince on his “pledge of allegiance” that chooses the crown prince, and Prince Ahmed has influence within it. It is more likely that his brother Khaled would be satisfied with this, which is prevented by the regime according to the new amendment. Consequently, what is required is oppression by the one who poses the slightest threat to the era of the grandchildren’s rule, and the terror of those who remain silent until the regime is modified again and the throne is practically confined to the Salman family, thereby limiting the ambition of the rest of the branches.

Yesterday, King Salman appeared accepting the accreditation of the Ukrainian and Uruguayan ambassadors (AFP)

However, the king’s health scenario quickly fades if we notice that last Thursday Salman, just hours before the leak, received British Foreign Secretary Dominic Rapp in Riyadh. Even his appearance yesterday, as he accepts the accreditation of the Ukrainian and Uruguayan ambassadors. A Reuters source confirmed that King Salman “is in good mental and psychological condition” and he agreed to carry out the arrests.

Was it a coup then?

The five sources who confirmed to Reuters news leaks, “The Wall Street Journal” and “New York Times” and later “Bloomberg” additions, contradicted the details of the novel. While the two American newspapers reported that the two princes were arrested from their home by masked members of the Royal Court’s guard, Reuters quoted sources as saying that the two princes Nawaf and Muhammad bin Nayef were arrested in their camp in the desert, while Prince Ahmed was arrested from his home. The most important thing in “Reuters” is a source’s statement that the reason for the arrests is that Bin Salman “accused them of making contact with foreign powers, including the Americans and others, to carry out a coup.” A source added that the princes “were discussing the implementation of a coup with the support of influential tribes, but these discussions did not reach an advanced stage.”

The Khashoggi crisis recedes, to which the addition of Prince Ahmed to a coup, as well as those familiar with his compromising personality, suggests two indicators that suggest that the pretext of arrest is not correct, i.e. a coup plot, despite the hypothesis of Ibn Nayef’s ability to help Prince Ahmed by harnessing his remaining influence in the security establishment. The absence of a coup plot does not refute the information about the fabrication of this accusation, which is reinforced by the interpretation of it as an excuse, which was confirmed yesterday by two sources for the “Associated Press”, denying the intention of the coup to Prince Ahmed, but only from him was resentful of the decision to close the Great Mosque of Mecca within the measures to prevent the spread of “Corona ». Observers of the ruling family’s affairs point out that the reason behind the fabrication of the coup pretext is to strive to achieve two goals:

Closing the gap opened by the Khashoggi crisis and extracting the loyalty, support and extradition of princes. The Salman family had completed their control of the government and paved the way of Ibn Salman with the traditional “federal influence” of Fakfah with the “Ritz” arrests and the establishment of a new system that concentrated all forms of power in the hands of the Crown Prince. However, the repercussions of the killing of Khashoggi hit a murderer from the image of Ibn Salman, “Prince of openness, change and moderation.” It allowed the shaking of the new situation and the emergence of Prince Ahmed. Medialy, he did not return the doubt to the Crown Prince, in light of the calls to consider replacing him with external support. However, the latter’s steadfastness, and the position of US President Donald Trump, who remained steadfast in supporting bin Salman, ultimately contributed to the removal of pressure.

Preparation for the expected round: The Allegiance Commission. In spite of the growing internal strength that Ibn Salman has become, the prince and his father, the king, and his father, the king, have to remove any possible disturbance emanating from the princes’ ambition. The father and son prefer the former not to step down from the throne for the second, given the presence of Salman’s cover and support, but a scenario remains difficult to say for sure. And if the concession is possible (some expect that bin Salman wants it before the kingdom hosts the “Twentieth Summit”), and in order to secure a smooth transition path, it requires taming the “pledge commission” to pledge allegiance to the eighth king, the first king outside the bounds. It is a required taming in any case, in the event of a waiver during the life of the king or after his departure, to win a pardon from the Salmani House after modifying the system. And targeting a man like Prince Ahmed by recording the precedent of arresting one of Abdel Aziz’s sons and accusing him of treason, means that there is no tent over anyone’s head.

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Introducing the Workers Party

Workers Party of Britain

LEADER: George Galloway :: Deputy leader: Joti Brar

George Galloway and Joti Brar at the launch meeting of the Workers Party, 7 December 2019

Our vision:

Economically radical with an independent foreign policy.

After scraping onto the ballot paper to play the role of the constantly outvoted minority, Jeremy Corbyn surprised everyone when he gathered 59.5 percent of the total vote to beat his main rivals and become leader of the Labour party in 2015. The following year, after intrigue and internecine warfare, he defeated his challenger Owen Smith with 61.8 percent of the vote and secured his position and the right to take Labour into a general election in 2017.

Thousands of well-intentioned working-class people flocked to the Labour party, wanting to believe that Corbyn would be different from Blair, Brown and Miliband; that he would hold true to his professed principles and that, somehow, we would have socialism in Britain. The experience of the last few years alone is enough to demonstrate that one cannot make a silk purse from a sow’s ear.

Nevertheless, this is not the place to chart the complete breakdown of this effort. It is enough to note that the Corbyn project is dead and buried, and that with it, British workers should bury any illusions that electing a left-wing leader can change the fundamental character of the Labour party, which remains a party committed to capitalism and fully integrated into the workings of the British state – a faithful servant of British imperialism.

Under Corbyn, rather than a flourishing of left social democracy we are witnessing its final meltdown. Ken Livingstone was forced to resign, Chris Williamson was repeatedly and unconstitutionally deselected, there was no way back for left-wingers like George Galloway, and even Mr Corbyn himself was harangued as an antisemite in a disgraceful campaign of Goebbelsian fiction. Far from fighting for principles, Labour’s most ‘left-wing’ leader ever, capitulated. One U-turn would never be enough for the ruling class, and before much time had passed his long-held positions of principle on everything from Trident to Nato to EU membership had been given up.

Workers Party

The need for a Workers Party arises from this developing situation. Thousands of committed and well-intentioned socialists are distraught and disillusioned with their experiences inside the Labour party. Millions of Labour voters are appalled at the undemocratic manoeuvres of the party as it attempts to overturn the democratic mandate of the 2016 Brexit referendum.

The establishment of the Workers Party, with the anti-imperialist and socialist politician George Galloway at its head, can provide inspiration to those who, like himself, find themselves politically homeless or desire to put their talents, creativity and energies at the service of the working class.


The Workers Party believes in the importance of a planned economy, in the directing role of the state. Free-market fundamentalism has gutted Britain of its industries, undermined our manufacturing and productive industries, castrating our society and adversely destabilising proud working-class traditions, culture and way of life.

Our country needs the state to guide the economic life of the country in such a way as to promote work, to respect the dignity of labour, and to serve the working people. All adults have a duty to work in a useful fashion, according to their talents and abilities, and society has an equal duty to ensure that useful employment is available to all, part-time or full-time according to the domestic, health and life constraints of the worker.

Useful work, well done for collective benefit gives personal fulfilment and shall be the basis of a society that collectively tackles the growing scourge of mental ill-health.

Class politics and socialism

The Workers Party is a socialist organisation. The Workers Party stands on principles and will not give these up, one by one, in the misplaced hope of a truce with our enemy.

The Workers Party is unequivocally committed to class politics. Though the fashion of the times is to divide working people along identity lines, we seek to unite them, based on their shared class interest. It is not ‘homophobic’ or ‘racist’ for socialists to focus their attention on those contradictions that concern the whole working class in its struggle for socialism. While being totally opposed to discrimination on grounds of race, sex or sexual proclivity, we declare that obsession with identity politics, including sexual politics, divides the working class.

The Workers Party stands with all those countries that have attempted to break free of imperialist domination and build a different kind of world. We defend the achievements of the USSR, China, Cuba etc, not least the debt owed by humanity to the Soviet Union and Red Army in their war of liberation against German fascism.

The Workers Party defends the independence and right to development of those countries that are today undermined and attacked by imperialism, not least the heroic Venezuelan people.

We categorically reject the attempt by the ruling class, its paid agents and the EU imperialist bloc to rewrite history so as to equate the Soviet Union with Hitlerite Germany. We shall defend the positive historical legacy of the Soviet Union as well as all those today who struggle for socialism; for an alternative world order.


What kind of Brexit – what kind of Britain? This is the question in many working people’s minds.

The Workers Party positively embraces Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. Britain needs to be free of the EU regulations that would restrict our fiscal and monetary policy and prevent Britain from taking public ownership of key utilities and transport infrastructure.

If we are to be free to direct the affairs of our country to meet the needs of working-class people, we must be able to have something to say on the free movement of capital out of our country as well as the free movement of labour into it. Under a socialist system, the control of our borders, both physical and financial, will be a guarantee not only of the rights of our workers to good labour rights and rates of pay, but will restrict the ability of capital to pack up and leave for greener pastures, abandoning our workers and decimating British industry.

In tandem with these measures will be the coordinated action of workers and government to ensure that the ever-increasing productivity of labour, arising today from the development of robots and artificial intelligence, is put at the service of lightening the drudgery of work and not replacing the working class. We reject a future of parasitism where the British people, through the operation of the City of London, degenerate into an unemployed feckless rump living off cheap imported food and the plastic-electronic consumables of global capitalist anarchy.

What kind of Britain?

A ten-point programme for workers

  1. An end to imperialist wars and financial domination, starting with withdrawal from Nato.
  2. Rebuild British industry and abolish the anti-worker ‘rationalisation’ that puts profits ahead of people to provide useful, secure jobs for all in decent conditions, with living wages, paid holidays, sick leave, maternity leave, etc.
  3. Decent, cheap, secure housing for all.
  4. High-quality, free pre-school childcare and education, followed by high-quality, free, lifelong education and vocational training.
  5. Free and comprehensive healthcare with no waiting lists, accompanied by easy access to cheap and nutritious food.
  6. Public, high quality laundries, crèches and dining facilities that enable women to take part in work and public life without prejudice or physical barriers.
  7. High-quality, free provision of all necessary support services for the disabled, as well as the elderly. Full state support to enable families to look after their elderly, with nursing homes and sheltered accommodation for those in need of it, so that all workers are able to live full, dignified and meaningful lives.
  8. Universal access to a cheap or free fully-integrated public transport system and all essential amenities: water, sanitation, heating, electricity, post, telephone, internet.
  9. Open and easy access to all forms of culture and the media.
  10. A government that prioritises giving resources to the solving of urgent problems such as the need to live sustainably and protect our natural environment, putting science at the service of the people.

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