Archive | South America

5 Social Movements Resisting Repression in Latin America

  • Honduras
    Honduras’ National Popular Resistance Front. | Photo: Reuters
On World Day of Social Justice, teleSUR spotlights a few of the many social justice movements resisting repression in Latin America.

Leftist governments across Latin America have fought tooth and nail to create more socially just societies.

RELATED: Human Rights Violations Persist After Peace in Colombia: Report

Countries like Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Uruguay have improved conditions for marginalized people after years of political and armed struggle. They’ve won rights for workers, peasants, women and members of the Black, Indigenous and LGBTQ communities.

Despite murders and death threats, oppressed communities struggling for equality continue to stand up and fight back.

Today, on World Day of Social Justice, teleSUR spotlights a few of the many social justice movements resisting repression in Latin America.

Argentina’s Anti-Austerity Movement

Anti-Macri protests in Argentina. | Photo: Reuters

Since right-wing Argentine President Mauricio Macri replaced former president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in December 2015, Argentines have experienced nonstop austerity.

Gas and electricity prices are rising. Jobs are being cut. Government institutions are downsizing. Private companies linked to the ruling administration are getting tax cuts.

But Macri’s rollback of social programs implemented by Kirchner’s populist government is breeding resistance.

RELATED: Is Argentina’s Macri Trying to Top Trump Immigration Policies?

Since early February, thousands of Argentines have led daily protests across the country against the “Tarifazo,” the national increase in gas and electricity prices. Armed with pots, pans and whistles, demonstrators have been calling for the resignation of Argentine Energy Minister Juan Jose Aranguren and a corruption probe against Macri. Protesters have been hosed down by water cannons, beaten with police nightsticks, and arrested en mass.

Simultaneously, thousands of Argentines have protested alongside 380 printing plant workers who were laid off earlier this year amidst spending cuts. The workers, who are demanding for their jobs to be reinstated, have also been met with violence, facing rubber bullets from police.

Brazil’s Indigenous Land Rights Movement

Anti-Temer protests in Brazil. | Photo: Reuters

The United States-supported removal of former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff in August 2016 has introduced nonstop austerity, similar to Argentina’s economic shock therapy. But in Brazil, austerity is disproportionately affecting Indigenous communities trying to protect their land from neo-liberalism.

Center-right Brazilian President Michel Temer proposed legislation earlier this month that aims to lift limits on foreign purchases of agricultural land in the country’s northern Amazon region. Currently the world’s largest rainforest, it is also home to thousands of Indigenous communities that have lived in the area for hundreds of years.

The legislation would allow foreign multinational corporations to buy out what remains, tear down existing trees, extract natural resources, and send profits back to billionaires living outside of the country. It would also forcibly displace the Indigenous communities living in Amazonia without giving them a share of profits made from privatization.

RELATED: Brazilian Army Orders 9,000 Troops on Streets of Rio de Janeiro

Since the bill was introduced to the Brazilian Congress, protests have erupted in the northern states of Amazonas, Para and Piaui. Indigenous, environmental and socialist activists protesting the proposed legislation have been beaten and arrested by police.

And three months ago, when Temer announced plans to privatize Brazil’s Amazon, dozens of police led a preemptive raid on the Landless Workers’ Movement’s Guararema headquarters. Police stormed their way into their facility by forcing their way through the main gate shooting live bullets, and threatening people, the Centre for Global Research reports.

Colombia’s Campesino Movement

Colombians protesting human rights abuses against peasants. | Photo: EFE

Colombia’s peasants have a long history of resisting repression.

In 1928, the U.S.-backed Colombian military massacred over 1,200 United Fruit Company workers leading a union strike for better working conditions. Populist leader Jorge Eliecer Gaitan and survivors of the massacre led mass protests against the ruling Conservative Party government.

Then, between 1948 and 1958, in the years that were referred to as “The Violence,” subsequent Conservative Party administrations are estimated to have killed over 5,000 peasants. This led to the formation of communist guerilla groups like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, and National Liberation Army, ELN, which have been fighting government and right-wing paramilitary groups alongside peasants ever since.

RELATED: FARC Troops Help Boost Colombia’s Landmine Removal Effort

Attacks on Colombia’s peasants, however, continue to this day.

Last week, armed paramilitaries threatened Indigenous Bari families in the country’s northern Catatumbo region. And earlier this month, Indigenous Wiwa activist Yoryanis Isabel Bernal Varela was shot and killed by paramilitaries.

More than 110 peasants and human rights activists have been murdered since the FARC signed a peace deal with the Colombian government last year.

Honduras’ Environmental Movement

Honduras’ National Popular Resistance Front. | Photo: Reuters

Honduras is the deadliest country for environmental activists, a report released by environmental rights group Global Witness confirmed in January 2017.

Since the 2009 U.S.-backed coup that removed democratic socialist President Manuel Zelaya from power, 123 environmental activists in Honduras have been killed. By now, you’ve probably heard some of their names: Margarita Murillo, Berta Caceres and Jose Angel Flores.

Murillo, the leader of a peasant’s association in northern Honduras, was shot and killed by members of a right-wing death squad in 2014 for her political activities. Along with fighting to win higher wages for workers, she protected Indigenous Lenca territories from wealthy landowners planning to deforest the areas for profits.

RELATED: The Fight for Gender Equality Continues on Honduran Women’s Day

Caceres, an Indigenous Lenca leader of one of Honduras’ largest environmental groups, was murdered in 2016. She gained prominence for leading her native people in a struggle against the Agua Zarca Dam, a controversial development project in the community of Rio Blanco that was launched without consent from local communities.

Flores, a leader of the Unified Peasant Movement of Honduras, was shot and killed last October outside of his organization’s office. He led protests against land grabs committed by the same wealthy landowners connected to Murillo’s assassination.

Murillo, Caceres and Flores were all members of the National Popular Resistance Front, the grassroots socialist movement that has protested Honduras’ right-wing coup government since 2009.

Mexico’s Teachers Movement

Dissident teachers marching down Mexico City. | Photo: teleSUR

Teachers are among the most persecuted workers by industry in Mexico.

“Normalistas,” teachers of working-class origin who train high school graduates to become educators, have been targeted for decades. They’ve been involved in leading important student movements across the country since Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa led the Mexican Revolution in 1910. State university professors have also led mass protests against the pro-U.S. administrations that have ruled the country since the fall of the Revolution.

In recent years, Mexican teachers resisting state repression have made headlines.

RELATED: Parents of Ayotzinapa 43 Resume Talks with Mexican Government

In 2014, when 43 leftist students from Ayotzinapa’s Normalista school were abducted, teachers across the country immediately protested the Mexican government, whom many believe was responsible for the abduction. Although many of the protesting teachers have been harassed and threatened by federal police, they continue to seek answers for the kidnapping of the 43 students to this day.

Revolutionary Mexican teachers also made headlines last June when the National Coordinator of Education Workers, CNTE, protested education privatization reforms implemented by President Enrique Peña Nieto. CNTE teachers set up blockades on major streets in Oaxaca and led nationwide strikes. Mexican police, however, killed over 12 teachers and injured hundreds more with tear gas and rubber bullets.

Normalistas, the CNTE and educators from across the country are currently participating in mass protests against Mexico’s “Gasolinazo,” a nationwide hike in gas prices also implemented by Peña Nieto.

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FARC Finish Demobilization as UN Confirms Paramilitary Activity

  • FARC rebels marching towards a designated "safe zone" in the Cauca mountains, Colombia.
    FARC rebels marching towards a designated “safe zone” in the Cauca mountains, Colombia. | Photo: EFE
The last of almost 7,000 FARC rebels entered designated “safe zones” on Saturday, completing a key first step in the peace agreement.

As FARC rebels completed their final demobilization on Saturday and entered the last of the 26 designated safe zones, U.N. monitors reported that right-wing paramilitary groups are moving into former rebel-controlled areas displacing almost a hundred families.

RELATED: Paramilitary Groups Fight To Take Over Lands Left by FARC

Both FARC leader Timoleon Jiménez and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos celebrated the completion of “three weeks of day and night movement” which brought almost 7,000 FARC troops to U.N. supervised “green zones” — a key step in the peace agreement which ended the countries 52-year civil war — where the former left-wing guerillas will disarm.

en este día el último guerrillero y la última guerrillera se suman a la ZVTN. y eso no nos falta.

Today the last guerrillas arrived in the Green Zones. Peace is Compromise, and we have not let it down.

Es histórico que las Farc estén próximas a su desarme y reinserción. Gratitud y reconocimiento a quienes demostraron que . 

It’s historic that the FARC are close to disarming and transitioning. Gratitude and recognition to those who have demonstrated that The Peace Advances

The U.N. mission in Colombia also praised the development, noting that the Colombian government had not fully lived up to its promises to prepare the safe zones for the almost 7,000 FARC soldiers who will now disarm and begin their transition to civilian life.

“The FARC-EP leadership’s decision to group its forces in these Zones—despite the lack of preparation of the camps in the vast majority of these areas— was positive,” the mission said in a statement released earlier this week.

However, the U.N. mission expressed deep concern over the arrival of right-wing paramilitaries in Northern rural areas vacated by the FARC, which has led to the displacement of 96 families, according to the BBC.

RELATED: Indigenous Bari Campesinos Face Colombia Paramilitary Violence

“During the visit to La Gabarra, the Mission noted similar concerns to those heard in other departments about the insecurity of communities in places that have historically been affected by violence, in particular of new threats linked to the entry of illegal armed groups,” said a spokesperson for the U.N. mission which is supervising the implementation of the peace accord signed last November.

The BBC reported that unnamed U.N. officials say the paramilitary groups are trying to take over mining and cocaine cultivation operations which had previously been taxed and regulated by the FARC.

The Colombian government denied the U.N. report, with Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin telling local press there was “no certainty of any such displacement.”

Last week Campesino organizations in the area attempted to prevent FARC troops from leaving the area over concerns that they would be left vulnerable to violence from the paramilitary groups.

During the 52-year civil war in Colombia more than six million people have been displaced, the second-highest number in the world after Syria.

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Mujica and Correa Make Plans for the Bank of the South

  • Former Uruguayan President Jose "Pepe" Mujica (L) meets with Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa (R) in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Jan. 18, 2017
    Former Uruguayan President Jose “Pepe” Mujica (L) meets with Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa (R) in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Jan. 18, 2017 | Photo: El Telegrafo
The two met to map out the details of the bank which will offer an alternative to the neoliberalism of the World Bank and IMF.

While many spent Saturday reflecting on the past 10 years of Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa’s Citizens’ Revolution in anticipation of Sunday’s election, Correa himself met with former Uruguayan President Jose Mujica to plan the future of the Bank of the South, Latin America’s alternative to the World Bank and the IMF.

RELATED: Latin America’s Left Funds ‘Bank of the South’ to Rival the IMF

The two met in the coastal city of Guayaquil with Pedro Buonomo, the interim director of the Bank of the South, to discuss the political and economic character of the Bank, as well as its institutional structure and headquarters.

The Bank of the South is an initiative of UNASUR, the regional alliance of progressive Latin American governments, which will provide an alternative to the neo-liberal austerity practices of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund which have impoverished so many countries in the global south and created a form of neo-colonialism through indebtedness.

According to El Telegrafo, during the meeting Buonomo, the former finance minister of Uruguay, proposed that both Correa and Mujica, known to many as “the world’s poorest president,” take on a formal role as “promotional ambassadors” for the Bank, to both help consolidate the fledgling institution as well as encourage a change in central bank policies throughout the region.

During his 10 years as President of Ecuador, Correa oversaw a decade of what the Overseas Development Institute called “the world’s most inclusive growth,” which included a doubling of social spending — funded by an increase in corporate taxes and drastically reducing tax avoidance among the wealthy — which cut poverty in half while preventing inflation and boosting overall economic growth in the country.

In September of last year the governments of Bolivia, Ecuador, and Venezuela committed US$4.5 million to cover the costs of operation and administration during the formative period of the Bank of the South.

Mujica is also in Ecuador as part of a UNASUR delegation to observe Sunday’s presidential election.

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Trump, Like Obama and Bush, Pursues ‘Regime Change’ in Venezuela

  • Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami (L) and U.S. "Insane Clown President" Donald Trump (R)
    Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami (L) and U.S. “Insane Clown President” Donald Trump (R) | Photo: Tareck El Aissami Official Site / Reuters (teleSUR combination photo)
The U.S. government’s targeting of Venezuela’s vice president is just the latest episode in ongoing attempts to subvert Venezuelan democracy.

Based on allegations of drug trafficking, the U.S. government has added Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami to its list of “sanctioned” Venezuelan officials. Unsurprisingly, Westerns journalists uncritically spread the allegations. Borrowing from Einstein, a definition of corporate journalism could be “the practice of uncritically citing the same dishonest sources over and over again no matter how catastrophic the result.”

RELATED: Venezuela Sanctions CNN in Fight Against ‘Imperialist’ News

The targeting of El Aissami is part of the United States’ “regime change” policy toward Venezuela that goes back nearly two decades. It began shortly after the late President Hugo Chavez was first elected in 1998. As always, the international media’s collaboration with U.S. government objectives is crucial.

In March of 2015, the Obama administration declared Venezuela to be an “extraordinary threat to the national security of the United States.” The U.S. media was truly impressive in the way it maintained a serious tone when reporting that utter lunacy: “a formality required by law in order to carry out sanctions” the New York Times soberly assured its readers. Reflecting and reinforcing U.S. policy, hysterical opponents of Hugo Chavez (and Venezuela’s current president Nicolas Maduro) have long made the international media like the New York Times their stomping ground. Moises Naim, in an op-ed the New York Times ran in March of 2003, said that the Venezuelan government under Chavez was “a threat not just to its neighbors but to the United States and even Europe.“ Naim was a member of the government that perpetrated the infamous Caracazo massacre in 1989, a decade before Chavez first took office. Recently, the western media has falsely depicted Naim as a victim of censorship because broadcasters in Venezuela (where according to an opposition-aligned pollster Chavez remains very popular) passed on a TV series Naim wrote about the life of Chavez. The series has been getting poor ratings in Colombia despite being heavily promoted” there, according to the Miami Herald.

Since 1998, in all national level elections, 41-63 percent of the Venezuelan public has voted Chavista. The low point was the December 2015 elections when 41 percent voted for the government in the legislative elections. Nothing like 40 percent, or even 4 percent, of the international media’s coverage, has ever come from a Chavista perspective. The “left leaning” Guardian in the U.K., which is about as liberal as a major western outlet can get, was about 85 percent hostile toward Chavismo from 2006-2012. Venezuelans like Naim may fail at TV drama, but they’ve been wildly successful at propaganda outside Venezuela where their perspective has always dominated.

RELATED: The Context of Trump’s ‘Vile Aggression’ Against Venezuela

This Reuters article is far from being the worst example of how the media has responded to the sanctioning of El Aissami. Venezuelan officials are quoted by Reuters denying the allegations. Over the years, journalists have actually told me that this is how they provide “balance” in their articles: by including quotes from a government that has been relentlessly lied about and demonized in the western media. Hugo Chavez, who decisively won clean elections with very high turnout against opponents with ample media support in Venezuela, was dismissed by Bernie Sanders as a “dead communist dictator.” That tells you how well most western media consumers are equipped to evaluate statements by the Venezuelan government.

Reuters bolstered the Trump administration’s allegations against El Aissami by quoting David Smilde – a U.S. academic hostile the Venezuelan government. Smilde said the U.S. blacklisting would be “a gift” to Nicolas Maduro’s government and added that “to be clear, El Aissami and others should be held responsible for their actions. However, it should be understood this process has pernicious unintended consequences. I think we are effectively witnessing the creation of a rogue state.”

Smilde’s concern that U.S. belligerence might actually help Maduro is a U.S. establishment-friendly critique – the typical “independent” view that supports the basic stance of U.S. elites: El Aissami is guilty and must be “held accountable” by the world’s most dangerous rogue state. Of course, Smilde didn’t mean the Unites States when he fretted about a “rogue state” being created. U.S. aggression has killed about two million Iraqis since 1990. U.S. officials lied about the existence of Iraqi WMD while Saddam Hussein, a monstrous dictator, was telling the truth. Obama, in true rogue state fashion, ensured that Bush-era torturers went unprosecuted while also appointing himself a global executioner through his drone assassination program. In the past half century, hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have lost their lives thanks to the Unites States’ savage opposition to progressive reform in the region. In Syria, the Obama administration sided with al-Qaida to pursue its geopolitical objectives. A track record of horrific brutality and deceit never undermines the credibility of U.S. officials in the eyes of corporate journalists and the academics they typically turn to for analysis. By contrast, anyone like El Aissami who is denounced by the Imperial Rogue State will struggle to ever clear his name. The facts are irrelevant. Chavez was a “dictator” declared the Imperial Rogue State. The corporate media repeated (or otherwise strongly insinuated) it endlessly. Case closed.

RELATED: Drug Trafficking Accusations Against Venezuela VP Don’t Add Up: Foreign Minister

The U.S. Office of the Inspector General conceded that the Bush administration provided “training, institution building and other support” to groups involved in a military coup that briefly ousted Chavez in April of 2002. An outlet that lacks to courage to state that fact directly could find many independent journalists with years of experience in Venezuela to explain: Rachel Boothroyd-Rodas, Tamara Pearson, Ryan Mallette-Outtrim to name only a few. In fact, Mallette-Outtrim just wrote a devastating response to an Islamophobic article a Washington-based outlet, The Hill, published about El Aissami. But even when corporate journalists know independent journalists, and maybe even respect them, there is always an excuse to turn to someone like Smilde.

It is fascinating to watch the media attempt to shield itself, and U.S. officialdom generally, from the harsh re-evaluation that Trump’s presidency should provoke. Adam Johnson wrote brilliantly about one technique deployed by the U.S. media to avoid looking in the mirror and to avoid acknowledging the ample common ideological ground between Trump and the more conventional members of U.S. political class. The idea that Imperial Rogue State must be not only believed but obeyed runs deep in the international media – even with an Insane Clown President” in the White House.

Joe Emersberger was born in 1966 in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, where he currently lives and works. He is an engineer and a member of the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union.

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30 Tons of Venezuelan Bolivar Bills Found Hoarded in Paraguay


A stack of 100 bolivar notes

  • A stack of 100 bolivar notes | Photo: Reuters

While hoarding typically happens in Colombia, a massive pile of bolivars has been found in Paraguay.

A massive hoard of 50 and 100 Venezuelan bolivar Bills, amounting to 30 tons in weight, was uncovered in a house in Paraguay on the Brazilian border, Associated Press reported Monday.

RELATED: Trump Turns Screws on Venezuela by Sanctioning Vice President

The private house located in Salto del Guaira, northeast of the capital Asuncion, belongs to Leandro Da Costa, a Paraguayan that made no declaration on the haul. According to Prosecutor Julio Yegros, the haul amounts to 30 tons of bills, but its total value will have to be determined by experts and the documents detailing its entry to the country need to be verified.

The massive find is the latest example of the ongoing of hoarding Venezuela’s larger notes as part of the so-called currency war. What the government calls “financial mafias” — including organized crime groups, speculators and right-wing business owners — have been speculating and hoarding huge amounts of 100 bolivar bills.

Most commonly, bolivars are hoarded in Colombia as well as Brazil, and the situation has severely affected the value of Venezuela’s currency. Hoarding and the large flow of bolivars out of the country, combined with soaring inflation, has seen Venezuelan ATMs running out of cash and being forced to deliver only bills of smaller denominations of bolivars to users, causing major inconveniences for locals.

OPINION: From 2014 Violent Barricades to Venezuelan Assembly Right-Wing

To combat the widespread hoarding, the Venezuelan government announced plans late last year to take the 100 bolivar bill out of circulation and introduce a new 500 bolivar bill, as well as higher denomination bills, which will be introduced gradually. Venezuela has also closed its border with Colombia to help control hoarding and smuggling.

The Venezuelan government says cross-border smugglers take advantage of price controls and subsidized exchange rates where goods are taken out of Venezuela to sell for higher profits elsewhere, contributing to shortages throughout the country.

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The Hill Publishes Islamophobic Fake News on Venezuela

By Ryan Mallett-Outtrim 

ta630rg24Love it or hate it, The Hill can be a pretty useful source of information on the goings on around DC, but its latest article on Venezuela comes from some disturbing places.

In a recent article, titled Meet Venezuela’s new VP, fan of Iran and Hezbollah, The Hill’s Emanuele Ottolenghi profiled the South American country’s new second in command, Tareck El Aissami.

Although El Aissami was appointed vice-president just a few weeks ago, he’s hardly a new face to anyone who has followed Venezuelan politics for a while. He previously served as Aragua’s governor, and also had a stint as interior minister a few years back.

So what’s so special about El Aissami? A lot, according to Ottolenghi, whose piece reads much like the biography of a minor goon from a Schwarzenegger flick, replete with semi-comical claims with the credibility, sophistication and nuance of Ninja Terminator.

Here’s a few highlights:

“Despite the Baathist family background — his father headed the Venezuelan branch of the Iraqi Baath Party — and his Lebanese Druze origins, El Aissami seems to prefer the Islamist Shiite revolutionary Hezbollah and Iran over the Baath’s supposedly secular pan-Arabism.

Like his Islamic revolutionary role models, he used violence to advance his politics.

Opposition figures have accused both El Aissami and Nassereddine of recruiting young Arab-Venezuelan members of the ruling party to undergo paramilitary training in South Lebanon with Hezbollah.

As if this were not enough, El Aissami reportedly facilitated drug trafficking, a crime for which he is being investigated in the U.S.”

In other words, El Aissami is every boogyman and right-wing scapegoat wrapped up in one nice little package, at least based on Ottolenghi’s depiction. He’s a mish-mash of Baathism, Sunni radicalism and Shiite extremism; plus he smuggles coke.

The obvious question is whether any of this is true. For one, El Aissami is indeed one of many suspects in a US investigation into Venezuela’s narcotics trade. We could discuss the politics of this investigation until the cows come home, but what about the juicier claims? For instance, the claim that El Aissami has been accused of sending young Venezuelans to Lebanon to train with Hezbollah, and that he has colluded with “guerrilla movements”?

If we follow the hyperlinks provided by Ottolenghi, we find that these claims were sourced from the Centre for Security Policy (CSP). It sounds credible, but has been widely dismissed by journalists as basically a joke. According to the Southern Poverty Law Centre, the Centre for Security Policy is “known for its accusations that a shadowy ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ has infiltrated all levels of government and warnings that ‘creeping Shariah,’ or Islamic religious law, is a threat to American democracy”.

“For the past decade, CSP’s main focus has been on demonising Islam and Muslims under the guise of national security,” the Southern Poverty Law Centre stated.

A cursory glance at the CSP’s homepage features ads for books with colourful titles like “CAIR is HAMAS”, “Civilisation Jihad”, “ObamaBomb” and “See No Sharia”. At the time of writing, some of their latest articles included one describing Islam as a “supremacist totalitarian ideology”, and another claiming Iran might already secretly have a “nuclear weapon” (which it doesn’t).

Well, that got weird fast.

So basically, Ottolenghi gets his best material from a website that is so far off the deep end, it has even been banned from the Conservative Political Action Conference.

As a side note, Donald Trump cited a report from the CSP back in 2015, when he falsely claimed one in four Muslims support violence against the US. At the time, the CSP’s claims were widely dismissed as junk.

But hey, that’s just one source – perhaps I’m not giving Ottolenghi’s narrative enough of a chance. Frustratingly though, Ottolenghi’s piece is very light on sources, and he provides no other references for his two most eyebrow raising claims.

Luckily, Ottolenghi is far from the first English language pundit to express this particular point of view on El Aissami. A few years ago, the Gatestone Institute published a piece that reads eerily similar to Ottolenghi’s more recent article. For example, the older piece details how El Aissami supposedly loved Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. Ignoring the fact these two political figures espoused totally different and utterly incompatible political ideologies, the Gatestone article did a somewhat better job than Ottolenghi in terms of providing sources for their claims.

This is where things take a turn for the outright bizarre.

So, where did the Gatestone’s critical intelligence on El Aissami originate? According to the reference list they provided, the answer to that question is: Wikipedia and this obscure blog. Following the breadcrumbs, the blogger also provided a reference list for their sources. This list is extremely short for supposedly groundbreaking investigative reporting, and only features four different names: Al Arabiya, MEMRI, Jihad Watch and another blogspot blog called The Jungle Hut.

…. Okey-dokey then.

The trail runs dry over at The Jungle Hut, where there’s nothing more than a dead link and a nice photo of a waterfall. It’s not quite what I was expecting to find, so let’s look at the other two sources. Al Arabiya is Saudi Arabia’s state media outlet, though don’t let that bother you too much; they’ve actually produced some decent stuff in the past. Unfortunately, there’s no links to specific articles, so again, the trail runs dry. The same problem arises when we head to MERMI. Finally, we get to the El Dorado of anti-Islam trash: Jihad Watch, a blog created by the notorious Islamophobe Robert Spencer. For anyone who doesn’t know, Spencer is perhaps best known for co-founding two prominent anti-Muslim lobby groups, Stop Islamisation of America (SIOA) and the American Freedom Defence Initiative (AFDI). Both have been listed as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Centre. Spencer also garnered media attention in the wake of the 2011 Norwegian white supremacist terrorist attack carried out by Anders Behring Breivik. In his sprawling anti-Muslim manifesto, Breivik cited Spencer dozens of times.

This is where our journey down the rabbit hole ends; with an Islamophobe beloved by one of the worst white supremacist terrorists in recent years. I guess this is what I get for checking people’s sources: a browser history full of links to hate groups, anti-Islam garbage and one nice picture of a waterfall. I didn’t find much credible reporting, but I did learn that El Aissami is hated for one reason above all: he’s got a Muslim-ish sounding name.

That’s it.

You might think I’m being harsh on Ottolenghi.

And you’d be wrong.

Ottolenghi is a long time anti-Iran hardliner, and has authored books with names like “Under a Mushroom Cloud: Europe, Iran and the Bomb”. According to a review of this book over at The Jewish Chronicle, “Ottolenghi’s view that Iran, as an exceptional case, merits exceptional treatment, is perhaps unrealistically rigid. His argument is not helped by the absence from his text of source references by which the reader could cross-check the many, selective quotes he adduces in support of it.”

In other words, making far fetched claims based on no real evidence is something of a modus operandi for Ottolenghi.

Along with having an obvious disdain for the notion of providing sources, Ottolenghi seems like just another pundit with a bone to pick with Islam, and anyone who sounds like they might be Arab, Persian or any other ethnic group he doesn’t like. Ottolenghi’s writings seem better suited to publishers like Jihad Watch, and his presence at The Hill is surprising to say the least.

Unfortunately though, this whole saga is symptomatic of a deeper problem in the media. The fact that an article for The Hill can get away with featuring links to the Islamophobic fake news CSP is emblematic of the dismal state of international corporate media. Islamophobic rants are treated like credible political analysis, and conspiracy crackpots are put on pedestals. It’s a grim state of affairs, but the real question is: how much further will we slide?

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Venezuelan Supreme Court: The President Has Not Abandoned His Post

Image result for Maduro CARTOON
By Rachael Boothroyd-Rojas 

Caracas – Venezuela’s Supreme Court (TSJ) has blocked an attempt by Congress to oust President Nicolas Maduro over the allegation that he has “abandoned his post”.

Earlier in January, the opposition-controlled National Assembly (AN) approved an agreement stating that the president should be dismissed, accusing him of being responsible for a “serious rupture of the constitutional and democratic order,” the “devastation” of the country’s economy, and human rights abuses.

Opposition lawmakers argued that the declaration was based on Article 233 of the Bolivarian Constitution, which outlines the circumstances under which the president can be considered to have permanently vacated the position.

However, on Monday, Venezuela’s highest court released a statement confirming that there were no constitutional grounds for President Maduro’s removal from office, and criticised the AN’s interpretation of the article as “fraudulent and insurrectional”.

“The President of the Republic, citizen Nicolas Maduro Moros, has not been absent, nor separated in any moment, from the exercise of his post, nor has he ceased to exercise his constitutional responsibilities since the beginning of his mandate, which is a public, well-known and communicable indisputable fact,” reads the declaration.

In the official ruling, the high court describes opposition lawmakers’ actions as an attempt to set in motion a “coup d’etat” against the president of the Republic and to “subvert the established constitutional order”.

“(This) responds to their interest in destabilisation, with the only intention of changing the legitimately constituted government through an unconstitutional procedure,” continues the top judicial body.

TSJ judges also went on to reprimand the opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable, for having continuously flouted the court’s previous orders demanding that congress remove three opposition legislators pending investigations into voter fraud. The court has released several statements declaring the National Assembly to be in contempt of court and consequently void, as well as warning the legislative body not to overstep its constitutional boundaries.

According to the Constitution, the Venezuelan president can be considered to have “abandoned his post” through his death, resignation, destitution by the TSJ or his “physical or mental incapacity” as corroborated by a medical committee.

Nonetheless, opposition legislators have prioritised removing Maduro from office through a variety of initiatives since winning a congressional majority in the legislative elections of December 2015.

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How the WaPo Turned 111 Venezuelan Jewish Emigrants into a Mass Exodus

Image result for CHAVEZ CARTOON
By Lucas Koerner 

The international media has long peddled outlandish fake news about Venezuela aimed at presenting the economically-struggling South American democracy as a starvation-ridden communist dictatorship.

Faced with the reality that the elected socialist government of Nicolas Maduro has not been toppled by the highly unpopular opposition despite a severe economic crisis, corporate journalists have grown increasingly desperate for even the scantiest of evidence supporting their narrative of the country’s descent into apocalyptic ruin.

The Washington Post’s Ruth Eglash brings this pernicious race to the bottom to new, awe-inspiring depths.

In an article titled “Venezuelan Jews are moving to Israel to escape deepening poverty”, the Jerusalem-based reporter decries the shocking flight of Venezuelan Jews to Israel.

Just how many Venezuelan Jews constitute this mass exodus?

111, says Eglash, “more than double the number who arrived in 2012.”

Yes, you read right: 111 Venezuelan Jews emigrated to Israel in 2015, just about fifty more than in 2012 when there was no economic crisis and oil prices topped $100 per barrel.

Apparently, Israel is such a popular destination that Venezuelan Jews are packing their bags to move by the dozens.

However, 2016 appears on track to set records. Eglash quotes the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, which has reported aiding a whopping 90 Venezuelan Jews emigrate this past year.

Eglash goes on to relay the jarring testimony of Venezuelan Jews who decided to move to Israel. Daniel Ortiz complains, “There was no meat, no sugar, no pasta.”

Indeed Venezuela has been hard hit by a deep economic crisis triggered by the collapse of global oil prices that has seen soaring inflation and chronic shortages, leading thousands to seek work in other countries.

However, the Washington Post correspondent never bothered to interview any of the approximately 9,000 Jews who have decided to remain in their country in spite of the economic difficulties. Not all Venezuelan Jews, she may be shocked to learn, view Israel as a promised land “filled with social innovation and opportunities”.

“I don’t think Israel is a very good option for emigration,” says Jaime Palacios, a Jewish student at Venezuela’s state-run Bolivarian University.

Palacios is a native of the Caracas neighborhood of Petare, which is one of the largest barrios in Latin America.

“There [in Israel] there is no freedom of religion and we see how the Israeli government attacks their Palestinian brothers and maintains constant conflict,” he told Venezuelanalysis, referring to Israel’s military occupation and its repression of the rights of Palestinian Muslims and Christians.

Nonetheless, Eglash insists on the apparently horrifying proportions of Venezuelan Jewish emigration. She notes that “about 50 percent of the 22,000 Jews who lived in the country when Chávez came to power have left,” as if to imply that this outflow was brought on by anti-Semitism that she says was “widespread under Chávez”.

Eglash’s only source for this charge of alleged anti-Semitism against the Chavista government is the Anti-Defamation League, which last year denounced a Venezuelan magazine for printing a cover suggesting that Orthodox Jews were behind illicit currency speculation in the country.

It’s no secret that the Anti-Defamation League has a long track record of dismissing any and all legitimate criticism of Israeli colonialism as “anti-Semitism”.

For example, in a 2014 report titled, “Venezuelan Government Fuels Incendiary Anti-Israel and Anti-Semitic Environment”, the ADL castigated President Nicolas Maduro– himself of Sephardi origin– for calling the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip “a huge Auschwitz” during the Israeli government’s 50-day assault that left over 2,200 Palestinians dead, including 490 children.

These dubious charges of anti-Semitism were also leveled against late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez over his condemnation of US-sponsored Israeli war crimes in Lebanon and Gaza, as well as his government’s geopolitical alliance with Iran.

While anti-Semitism is real in Venezuela, the ADL bases their claims exclusively on the government’s political stance vis-a-vis Israel, rather than seeking testimony from any Jews who may have experienced discrimination in the country.

“In Venezuela, you don’t see a large amount of anti-Semitism, though this isn’t to say that it doesn’t exist. The Jewish community in Venezuela has won the affection of many people,” explains Palacios.

Sadly, voices like Palacios’ are notably missing from the accounts of establishment journalists such as Eglash, whose confirmation bias leads them to systematically privilege the perspectives of upper class Venezuelans, such as 29 year-old Reisy Abramof, who studied for five years at a US university before emigrating to Israel.

Once again we note that basic journalistic standards seem simply not to apply when it comes to Venezuela.

Any story about the South American nation– whether it’s the emigration of several dozen Venezuelan Jews or the government’s confiscation of 4 million toys– is seamlessly woven into a preexisting narrative of the country’s catastrophic, socialism-inflicted collapse.

 The era of post-truth has arrived, and international corporate media– as Glen Greenwald has observed– are its greatest purveyors.

Posted in Venezuela0 Comments

Nazi Shadowy Role in Guatemala’s Dirty War

Israel’s Shadowy Role in Guatemala’s Dirty War



Last year was a busy one for Guatemala’s criminal justice system.

January 2016 saw the arrests of 18 former military officers for their alleged part in the country’s dirty war of the 1980s. In February last year, two ex-soldiers were convicted in an unprecedented wartime sexual slavery case from the same era.

Such legal proceedings represent further openings in the judicial system following the 2013 trial and conviction of former head of state General Efraín Ríos Montt for genocide and crimes against humanity. Although the Guatemalan Constitutional Court very quickly annulled the trial (finally restarted in March after fitful stops and starts, but currently stalled again), a global precedent has been set for holding national leaders accountable in the country where their crimes took place.

Israel’s well-documented role in Guatemala’s Dirty War that left more than 200,000 dead has not been met with justice. William Gularte Reuters

And in November, a Guatemalan judge allowed a separate case against Ríos Montt to proceed. The case relates to the 1982 massacre in the village of Dos Erres.

Ríos Montt was president from 1982 to 1983, a period marked by intense state violence against the indigenous Mayan peoples. The violence included the destruction of entire villages, resulting in mass displacement.

Mayans were repeatedly targeted during the period of repression that lasted from 1954 – when the US engineered a military coup – to 1996. More than 200,000 people were killed in Guatemala during that period, 83 percent of whom were Mayans.

The crimes committed by the Guatemalan state were carried out with foreign – particularly US – assistance. One key party to these crimes has so far eluded any mention inside the courts: Israel.

Proxy for US

From the 1980s to today, Israel’s extensive military role in Guatemala remains an open secret that is well-documented but receives scant criticism.

Discussing the military coup which installed him as president in 1982, Ríos Montt told an ABC News reporter that his regime takeover went so smoothly “because many of our soldiers were trained by Israelis.” In Israel, the press reported that 300 Israeli advisers were on the ground training Ríos Montt’s soldiers.

One Israeli adviser in Guatemala at the time, Lieutenant Colonel Amatzia Shuali, said: “I don’t care what the Gentiles do with the arms. The main thing is that the Jews profit,” as recounted in Dangerous Liaison by Andrew and Leslie Cockburn.

Some years earlier, when Congressional restrictions under the Carter administration limited US military aid to Guatemala due to human rights violations, Israeli economic and military technology leaders saw a golden opportunity to enter the market.

Yaakov Meridor, then an Israeli minister of economy, indicated in the early 1980s that Israel wished to be a proxy for the US in countries where it had decided not to openly sell weapons. Meridor said: “We will say to the Americans: Don’t compete with us in Taiwan; don’t compete with us in South Africa; don’t compete with us in the Caribbean or in other places where you cannot sell arms directly. Let us do it … Israel will be your intermediary.”

The CBS Evening News with Dan Rather program attempted to explain the source of Israel’s global expertise by noting in 1983 that the advanced weaponry and methods Israel peddled in Guatemala had been successfully “tried and tested on the West Bank and Gaza, designed simply to beat the guerrilla.”

Israel’s selling points for its weapons relied not only on their use in the occupied West Bank and Gaza but also in the wider region. Journalist George Black reported that Guatemalan military circles admired the Israeli army’s performance during the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. Their overseas admiration was so unabashed that rightists in Guatemala “spoke openly of the ‘Palestinianization’ of the nation’s rebellious Mayan Indians,” according to Black.

Military cooperation between Israel and Guatemala has been traced back to the 1960s. By the time of Ríos Montt’s rule, Israel had become Guatemala’s main provider of weapons, military training, surveillance technology and other vital assistance in the state’s war on urban leftists and rural indigenous Mayans.

In turn, many Guatemalans suffered the results of this special relationship and have connected Israel to their national tragedy.

Man of integrity?

One of the most haunting massacres committed during this period was the destruction of the El Petén district village named Dos Erres. Ríos Montt’s Israeli-trained soldiers burned Dos Erres to the ground. First, however, its inhabitants were shot. Those who survived the initial attack on the village had their skulls smashed with sledgehammers. The bodies of the dead were stuffed down the village well.

During a court-ordered exhumation in the village, investigators working for the 1999 UN Truth Commission cited the following in their forensics report: “All the ballistic evidence recovered corresponded to bullet fragments from firearms and pods of Galil rifles, made in Israel.”

Then US President Ronald Reagan – whose administration would later be implicated in the “Iran-Contra” scandal for running guns to Iran through Israel, in part to fund a paramilitary force aiming to topple Nicaragua’s Marxist government – visited Ríos Montt just days before the massacre.

Reagan praised Ríos Montt as “a man of great personal integrity” who “wants to improve the quality of life for all Guatemalans and to promote social justice.” Reagan also assured the Guatemalan president that “the United States is committed to support his efforts to restore democracy and to address the root causes of this violent insurgency.” At one point in their conversation, Reagan is reported to have embraced Ríos Montt and told the Guatemalan president he was getting “a bum rap” on human rights.

In November 2016, however, judge Claudette Dominguez accepted the Guatemalan attorney general’s request to prosecute Ríos Montt as intellectual author of the Dos Erres massacre, pressing him with charges of aggravated homicide, crimes against humanity and genocide.

Among the 18 arrested this year was Benedicto Lucas García, former army chief of staff under his brother Romeo Lucas García’s military presidency. Benedicto, who was seen by some of his soldiers as an innovator of torture techniques for use on children, described “the Israeli soldier [as] a model and an example to us.”

In 1981, Benedicto headed the inauguration ceremony of an Israeli-designed and financed electronics school in Guatemala. Its purpose was to train the Guatemalan military on using so-called counterinsurgency technologies. Benedicto lauded the school’s establishment as a “positive step” in advancing the Guatemalan regime to world-class military efficiency “thanks to [Israel’s] advice and transfer of electronic technology.”

In its inaugural year alone, the school enabled the regime’s secret police, known as the G-2, to raid some 30 safe houses of the Revolutionary Organization of People in Arms (ORPA).

The G-2 coordinated the assassination, “disappearance” and torture of opponents to the Guatemalan government.

While Guatemalan governments frequently changed hands – through both coups and elections – during the 1980s, Israel remained Guatemala’s main source of weapons and military advice.

Belligerence at the border

The Israeli military-security complex casts a long, intercontinental shadow over Guatemalans who are still fleeing the consequences of the dirty war.

In some areas along the US-Mexico border, such as in Texas, the numbers of migrants hailing today from Central America (but only from the countries combusted by US intervention – Guatemala, El SalvadorHonduras) – has begun to outpace the number coming from Mexico.

According to information provided to this author by the Pima County Medical Examiner’s office in Arizona, many Guatemalans who have perished while crossing these desert borderlands originated from among the indigenous Mayan areas hit hardest by the 1980s genocide: El Quiché, Huehuetenango, Chimaltenango.

Southern Arizona has also seen a spike in undocumented Guatemalan migration. US firms and institutions have been collaborating with Israeli security companies to up-armor Southern Arizona’s border zone.

The Israeli weapons firm Elbit won a major government contract to provide 52 surveillance towers in Southern Arizona’s desert borderlands, beginning with the pilot program of seven towers currently placed among the hills and valleys surrounding Nogales, a border town split by the wall.

More towers are slated to surround the Tohono O’odham Nation, the second largest Native American reservation in the US. Already the number of federal forces occupying permanent positions on Tohono O’odham lands is the largest in US history.

Alan Bersin, a senior figure in the US Department of Homeland Securitydescribed Guatemala’s border with Chiapas, Mexico, as “now our southern border” in 2012. That “southern border” was heavily militarized during Barack Obama’s eight years as US president.

We can safely expect that militarization to continue during Donald Trump’s presidency. Trump’s anti-migrant rhetoric during the presidential election campaign suggests it is likely to be intensified.

During the dirty war, tens of thousands of Guatemalans fled over this border into Southern Mexico. Today, Israel assists the Mexican authorities in Chiapas with “counterinsurgency” activities largely targeting the indigenous Maya community.

Though media reporting on Guatemala’s connection with Israel has dissipated, Israel’s enterprising efforts in the country have never diminished. Today, Israel’s presence in Guatemala is especially pronounced in the private security industry which proliferated in the years following the so-called Guatemalan peace process of the mid-1990s.

Ohad Steinhart, an Israeli, relocated to Guatemala at this opportune moment, originally working as a weapons instructor. Roughly two years after his 1994 move to Guatemala, he founded his own security firm, Decision Ejecutiva.

Steinhart’s modest 300-employee company is small compared with the colossal Golan Group, Israel’s largest and oldest private security conglomerate in Guatemala.

Founded by ex-Israeli special forces officers, the Golan Group has also trained Department of Homeland Security immigration agents along the US-Mexico border. The Golan Group has employed thousands of agents in Guatemala, some of whom have been involved in repressing environmental and land rights protests against mining operations by Canadian firms. The company was named in a 2014 lawsuit by six Guatemalan farmers and a student who were all shot at close range by security agents during a protest the previous year.

Guatemala’s use of Israeli military trainers and advisers, just as in the 1980s, continues. Israeli advisers have, in recent years, been assisting the current “remilitarization” of Guatemala. Journalist Dawn Paley has reported that Israeli military trainers have shown up once again at an active military base in Coban, which is the site of mass graves from the 1980s. The remains of several hundred people have so far been uncovered there.

The mass graves at Coban serve as the legal basis for the January arrests of 14 former military officers. This past June a Guatemalan judge ruled that the evidence is sufficient for eight of those arrested to stand trial. Future arrests and trials are likely to follow.

Scholars Milton H. Jamail and Margo Gutierrez documented the Israeli arms trade in Central America, notably in Guatemala, in their 1986 book It’s No Secret: Israel’s Military Involvement in Latin America. They worded the title that way because the bulk of the information in the book came from mainstream media sources.

For now, Israel’s well-documented role in Guatemala’s dirty wars passes largely without comment. But Guatemalans know better than most that the long road to accountability begins with acknowledgment.

Yet it is unclear how long it will be before we hear of Israeli officials being called to Guatemala to be tried for the shadowy part they played in the country’s darkest hours.

Posted in ZIO-NAZI, South America0 Comments

Colombian Human Rights Leader Assassinated



Colombian human rights defender Emilsen Manyoma | Photo: Conpaz

On Tuesday police in the Pacific coast city of Buenaventura announced they had discovered the body of Afro-Colombian human rights activist Emilsen Manyoma, 32, and her partner Joe Javier Rodallega, who had been missing since Saturday.

A prominent leader in the Bajo Calima region since 2005, Manyoma was an active member of the community network CONPAZ where she was an outspoken critic of right-wing paramilitary groups and the displacement of local by international mining and agribusiness interests.

For the past year Manyoma played a key role in documenting attacks on human rights leaders in the region as part of the recently created Truth Commission.

The police said they had found the bodies in an advanced state of decomposition in a jungle area beside the highway. The Justice and Peace Commission, an ecumenical human rights group, reported that both bodies were severely wounded, with Rodallega’s hands reported tied. Radio Contagio reported that both bodies were beheaded.

While police did not release the names of any suspects, just days before their disappearance on Saturday, Rodallega reported being threatened and said a truck had been circling Manyoma’s house.

According to the human rights organization Front Line Defenders, at least 85 human rights defenders were murdered in Colombia in 2016 alone.

Posted in Colombia, South America0 Comments

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