Archive | South America

Western Media Calls Hugo Chavez a “Dictator”, While Endorsing a “Real Dictator” in Saudi Arabia

An NBC news article on Venezuela stated

Thanks to the “free press” how many people would know any better? Even Bernie Sanders’ campaign was ignorant (or dishonest) enough to call the late Hugo Chavez a dictator. Hugo Chavez and current president Nicolas Maduro were both democratically elected, but when Washington (and its accomplices in Ottawa and London) want a foreign government overthrown the corporate media is always eager to help. Facts will not stand in the way.

When the media isn’t calling Maduro and Chavez dictators outright, it does all it can to insinuate that they are. It is unsurprising that they simply label them dictators from time to time. Almost two decades of propaganda pays off.

But surely a more liberal outlet, like say the Guardian in the UK, would be better – less subservient in its reporting to the foreign policy objectives of the US and its allies.

Well no. Not at all.

In recent days the Guardian has been passing off unabashed PR pieces for Saudi Arabia – perhaps the most brutal and backward dictatorship on Earth – as news articles. Saudi Arabia is also being heavily armed by the US, UK and Canada as it perpetrates a slaughter in Yemen, so it literally gets the royal treatment from the western press.

Below are two stomach churning examples from recent days.

As FAIR pointed out, hyping “reform” in Saudi Arabia has a been regular feature of corporate news for at least the past 15 years, especially for one high profile pundit. Any reader who casually imbibes corporate media “news” over the past two decades will be dismayed by “repression” in Venezuela but feel hopeful about “reform” in Saudi Arabia. The propaganda system works and big NGOs like Human Rights Watch are part of it, not just the corporate media.

Consider how Human Rights Watch wrote about the death of King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia.

Mild criticism combined with upbeat spin about “reform” for the late US–armed beheader-in-chief.

Now consider what Human Rights Watch put out a few hours after the death of Chavez.

Harsh criticism and not a positive word about a democratically elected president who greatly reduced poverty in his country despite the US-backed opposition’s efforts to overthrow him by force.

Recently, Ken Roth, head of Human Rights Watch, called Nicolas Maduro a “buffoon” on Twitter. I reminded Roth that he called his own mass murdering government “the world’s most powerful proponent of human rights”.

Do you want rich western states to have civilized foreign policy? Prepare to do battle with liberals like Ken Roth and the editors of the Guardian.

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Don’t Mention It! Russia Pardons $1 Billion of Venezuela’s Debt for 2017

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Russia will not demand Venezuela repay its owed debt in the amount of $ 1 billion for 2017 alone, said the head of Russia’s Minister of Finance Anton Siluanov.

Thus, Moscow continues to support Caracas and the Maduro led government. At the same time, there is no coherent reason to demand a return of the money from Venezuela, due to the severe economic and social crisis in the country, accompanied by a currency deficit, would not allow it to be payed off.

“Venezuela turned to us for debt restructuring. The terms of this restructuring were discussed. We have worked out the conditions with the Ministry of Finance in general. If the Venezuelan side can quickly initial these agreements, there is every reason to agree and sign the terms of the restructuring before the end of this year,” the minister said.

At present, the conditions under which the debt will be restructured have already been prepared, the agreement must be approved by the Venezuelan authorities.

This is the second restructuring of Venezuelan debt on the part of Russia over the past two years. Earlier, in September 2016, the debt was of $ 2.84 billion. This money Caracas should begin to return only in March 2019 in equal installments within three years.

Under the new restructuring, the conditions are likely to be similar, so payments will begin no earlier than 2020.

In total, over the past 11 years, Russia has invested $ 17 billion into Venezuela, including loans from Rosneft for $ 6 billion as an advance payment for the supply of Venezuelan oil.

Due to the fact that Russia will not receive funds from Venezuela, the Russian budget will be 54 billion rubles less than it could have been. The Commerce Chamber predicts that in the future, the amount of lost revenues will be greater, since it is “almost useless” to await the return of these funds from Caracas: according to the IMF, Venezuela annually requires up to $ 30 billion only to save the economy from collapse.

The economic situation remains very dire in Venezuela, inflation is expected to accelerate to 1660%, as well as the continued devaluation of the national currency and the growth of public debt. Venezuela currently has a 95% of economic collapse.

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War As Business in Colombia Threatens Venezuela’s Security

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  • Alberto Mejia, Commander of the Colombian National Army, talks to a peasant during the army
    Alberto Mejia, Commander of the Colombian National Army, talks to a peasant during the army’s arrival to an area that was previously occupied by FARC rebels. | Photo: Reuters
A military under the orders of a U.S. government that has declared Venezuela to be a potential military objective is a serious threat to its national security.

On Oct. 5, Colombian anti-narcotics police and soldiers murdered nine rural workers and wounded 50 more in a sweep to forcibly eradicate illicit crops in the Tumaco municipality of the department of Nariño.

RELATED: Colombia Attorney Pledges for Forced Eradication of Coca Crops

The Colombian government is not complying with point four of the peace agreement signed in Havana with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, guerrillas which, although not completely satisfactory, proposes the substitution of illicit crops rather than the use of force. This latest massacre in Tumaco demonstrates the Colombian elite’s lack of commitment to peace.

The warlike attitude of Colombia’s security forces is rooted in two things that directly concern Venezuela, since they also define Colombia’s actions toward its neighbor. One is the Colombian authorities supine obedience to the United States and the other is their need to continue a state of war as a business that has generated so much money for Colombia’s economy and especially for its armed forces.

U.S. government pressure on the Colombian State has been twofold, first for Colombia to cooperate in destabilizing the Venezuelan government and second not to abide by the peace accords with the FARC guerrilla and instead continue with the U.S. anti-narcotics model. The link between the two was clear from the speech by Vice President Mike Pence during his visit to Colombia last August.

As in the case of the camps for putative Venezuelan refugees announced by the Colombian government, one of the main motivations is the funding assigned to war and its related businesss activities. Each year the U.S. contributes millions of dollars to Colombia for various reasons, all linked to war. This year the U.S. Congress approved US$74 million more than last year, making a total of US$450 million which could be suspended unless Colombia follows U.S. orders.

The new military doctrine of the Colombian army has discovered in the so called “system of permanent threats” its excuse to continue treating war as a business even after the signing of the peace agreeement with the FARC guerrillas and the bilateral ceasefire with the ELN guerrillas. In January 2016, marking 15 years of the U.S. funded Plan Colombia, the country’s then Minister of Defense announced that by his reckoning the so called post-conflict could cost around US$3 billion. It is hoped that money will be provided by the U.S., making the pending business much bigger than its predecessor which has already surpassed the Marshall Plan for Europe several times over.

The Colombian army follows U.S. orders

Colombian rural families that depend on growing coca leaf, along with cocaine’s end users, are the most vulnerable links in the chain of the cocaine business, for which events like the massacre in Tumaco increase the drug’s price. Both end users and the rural families that grow the leaf just to survive get killed, but cocaine continues to be a great business whose profits sustain the capitalist economy and its narco-states.

Ten days after the Tumaco massacre the Afro-Colombian leader José Jair Cortéz was murdered, also in the Tumaco municipality, when he returned home anxious for his wife’s health. He had received death threats over a long time resulting from the large number of economic interests that converge in that area. According to his comrades from the local Community Council of the Autonomous People of Alto Mira and Frontera, the only support Cortéz got from the Colombian government’s National Protection Unit was a bullet proof vest and a mobile phone.

RELATED: FARC Militant Turned Social Leader Killed in Colombia

For Colombian sociologist Camilo Álvarez, “The anti-narcotics strategies applied in Colombia are burdened with the feeling that “only the gringos win” because the cocaine price rises when its costs go up, because anti-narcotics spraying destroys crops, and because they control our sovereignty.” Alvarez also thinks the Colombian government should do more to subordinate the armed forces to its peace policies, referring specifically to point four of the peace agreement with the FARC guerrillas which establishes the substitution of crops and rural development as an alternative method to outright eradication.

The Colombian government’s apparent non-compliance with this point is a threat to Colombia itself and to the whole region, given that it is in line with Donald Trump’s threat of decertification. It noted “Ultimately, Colombia is not designated because the Colombian National Police and Armed Forces are close law enforcement and security partners of the United States in the Western Hemisphere, they are improving interdiction efforts, and have restarted some eradication that they had significantly curtailed beginning in 2013.” Trump expressly excluded the Colombian government from his remarks. That is why the indignant protests in Colombia this week included expressive slogans like “Peace shouldn’t cost lives!” or “Stop screwing us around!”

A military under the orders of a U.S. government that has declared Venezuela to be a potential military objective and is ready to kill even its own citizens so as to carry on profiting from war is at once a tragedy for the people of Colombia and a serious threat to Venezuela’s national security.

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Splintered Venezuelan Opposition Meets with Mediators in Dominican Republic

NOVANEWS
  • Dominican Foreign Minister Miguel Vargas and President Danilo Medina.
    Dominican Foreign Minister Miguel Vargas and President Danilo Medina. | Photo: EFE
After their loss in regional elections, the Venezuelan opposition is showing further signs of internal rifts.

Officials of the Dominican Republic, which is serving as mediator, said Venezuela’s opposition is expected to resume dialogue with the government after meeting with members of the splintered group on the Carribean island.

RELATED: Venezuela Opposition Leader Capriles Threatens to Withdraw From MUD Coalition

The new round of talks, the dates of which has yet to be confirmed, will be held in Santo Domingo according to Foreign Minister Miguel Vargas Maldonado.

The opposition, led by Julio Borges and other members of the MUD coalition, met with President Danilo Medina saying that they need certain guarantees to return to negotiations, which they scrapped by failing to attend the last round of scheduled talks.

The Democratic Unity Roundtable coalition, which was hoping to make major gains in the regional elections on Oct. 15, instead lost 18 out of 23 governor’s seats to the United Socialist Party of Venezuela.

Tensions within the coalition came to a head after four governors from the Democratic Action party decided to take the oath of office in front of the National Constituent Assembly.

Henrique Capriles, from First Justice and the past opposition presidential candidate, announced he will withdraw from the coalition, further exposing the cracks within the right-wing.

RELATED: Venezuelan Opposition Governors Cave In, Take Oath Before Constituent Assembly

Some opposition factions have accused the government of President Nicolas Maduro of rigging the elections and using undemocratic means to gain votes. Opposition lawmaker Luis Florido said a part of the opposition will travel to the United Nations to demand “a complete audit” of the elections, even though to date, they have not submitted a single official complaint to the National Electoral Council.

Ali de Jesus Uzcategui, Venezuelan ambassador in the Dominican Republic said that the opposition should bring forward proof of irregularities, and work towards peace in the country.

“We have to remember that President Nicolas Maduro has presented the idea of coming to the Dominican Republic to sign the agreement that will come out of this dialogue,” Uzcategui said.

The government and the opposition began a dialogue in 2016, with the support of the Vatican and Unasur, to overcome the Venezuelan political crisis, but the opposition left those talks.

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Denounce the massacre of campesinos in Tumaco, Colombia

 NOVANEWS

Denounce the massacre of campesinos in Tumaco, Colombia

Navy Admiral Kurt W. Tidd, commander of U.S. Southern Command, meets with Colombian military leadership in Tumaco, Colombia, in April 2016

The Party for Socialism and Liberation denounces the massacre of campesinos in the municipality of Tumaco, Colombia on October 5th, 2017 by part of Colombian National Police, Escuadron Movil Antidisturbios ESMAD and the Colombian National Army. These government and military groups violently attacked farmers in Alto Mira, Frontera del Corregimiento de Llorente and left between nine and 16 dead and over 50 injured.

Farmers in the area have been peacefully protesting since thursday September 28th, demanding that the Colombian government comply with Section 4 of the peace agreement. Section 4 of the peace agreement deals with the voluntary substitution of illicit crops. These farmers and agricultural workers were attacked because of their political organizing and participation, continuing the legacy of political repression in Colombia. Such attacks have been conducted by right wing, Uribistas, fascist, state military and paramilitary groups who are funded and directly trained by the government of the United States.

The U.S. government has continuously pressured the Colombian government to conduct forced eradication programs and violate Section 4 of the Peace Accords, which work to minimize coca production via voluntary substitution programs. These forced eradication programs instruct military officers to go into farmers’ homes, terrorize them and destroy all of their crops. Furthermore, forced eradication programs include the aerial fumigation of illicit crops with the toxic Monsanto’s RoundUp Ultra, which has been linked to causing cancer among agricultural communities, and have also completely killed off legally grown crops. The massacre in Tumaco is not a random act, but instead an extension of the forced eradication programs that the U.S. is promoting.

In 2016, the President of Colombia Juan Manuel Santos won the Nobel Peace Prize, but has time and again failed to follow through on the peace deal. He has ignored the attacks on the people of Colombia by right-wing groups. He dragged his feet in releasing former combatants, leading to a massive prison hunger strike. While insisting on FARC disarmament, he has remained silent when armed right-wing terrorist groups move into the zones that the FARC vacates.

We demand that the U.S. government stop undermining and sabotaging the Peace Accords. We join with Colombia’s popular and left-wing forces to demand an immediate investigation of the attacks that took place on October 5th, 2017; that all officials who are involved in the attacks be held accountable; and that the Colombian government truly comply with the Peace Accords.

We further call for justice and protection for grassroots, union, political and human rights organizations of Colombia and an end to the repression, attacks and murders targeting people due to their political activity.

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Venezuelan socialists make election gainsn socialists make election gains

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Venezuelan socialists make election gains

Venezuela held its second election in four months, the 22nd election since the beginning of the socialist Bolivarian revolutionary process in 1998. These elections, for the governors of Venezuela’s 23 states, saw a turnout of 61.14 percent of registered voters, much higher than expected, second only to 2008 where regional elections saw a 65.45 percent turnout.

The ruling party, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and their alliance, the Great Patriotic Pole, won 54 percent of the total vote share and at least 17, or 75 percent of the states. It seems like the GPP won an 18th state but the count is still ongoing as of this writing.

The opposition, as the above makes clear, won only 5 states on 45 percent of the vote share. In typical fashion, after losing, significant parts of the opposition are claiming fraud, claims uncritically echoed by many major U.S. media outlets.

As we have pointed out in the past, the opposition’s claims of fraud simply don’t hold water.

First, note the split responses of the opposition. While the overarching electoral coalition of the opposition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) has been aggressive in its claims of fraud, its largest component has not. The Vice-President of opposition party Democratic Action (AD), which won four of the five states that went to the opposition, stated “so far there is no evidence of fraud.” The other opposition winner, from the Popular Justice (PJ) party has also–not surprisingly–recognized his own victory, while major opposition figure Henri Falcon has recognized his defeat.

There is also the inconvenient fact that MUD participated in all the pre-election procedures and approved of the process and preparations. If the PSUV wins the contested Bolivar State, it will have won the same number of governorships–18–as in the 2008 election with similar turnout.

The opposition vote tumbled by 2.2 million from the 2015 elections when they took control of the National Assembly. The 45 percent of the vote they received in this election is relatively close to the 47 percent share they achieved in the 2010 National Assembly election.

Further, on October 15 major opposition strongholds like Amazonas, Lara, and Miranda states all fell to the socialist forces. In Amazonas the opposition vote totally collapsed down 59 percent from 2012. The opposition vote in Lara was down 18 percent from 2012, and 28 percent from 2008. In Miranda the opposition vote was down 5 percent from similar totals in both 2008 and 2012.

2015 was a high point for the opposition when they surprisingly won even some traditionally Chavista areas, so undoubtedly there is also the factor of a diminishing protest vote cast by those who usually vote Chavista.  All these factors comport with a reduced vote for the opposition.

Revolution capitalizes on opposition disarray

Ultimately the poor opposition result is the fruit of their own totally failed strategy. The strategy had three prongs: Refusal to recognize the authority of either the executive branch or the Supreme Court; total gridlocking of the National Assembly; and a street protest campaign.

The first two were entirely unsuccessful in doing anything other than exposing the opposition’s fundamental opposition to almost all of the most popular elements implemented by the Bolivarian government. The third resulted in 147 deaths and a number of gruesome scenes in which opposition supporters burned people alive just for being suspected of being Chavistas, some marked as such because of their Black skin.

Clearly these factors drove people away from the opposition camp. Add to this the clear blow to their credibility by their participation in the elections of a government it had previously referred to as a fraudulent dictatorship, and one can see why the opposition had such a poor showing.

The Bolivarian forces, in contrast, in the lead up to the elections concretely addressed the problems in the country. In the face of an economic crisis the Bolivarian government established a new basic goods distribution network to combat shortages and black market extortion; introduced productivity into the tax code to reduce reliance on oil revenues; and took initial steps to broaden exports and reduce exposure to the fall in oil prices.

In the face of attempted isolation by U.S. and Europe, the government has responded with a concerted diplomatic effort to forge new economic ties, attempt to restore oil prices and defend the principle of national sovereignty. In addition, they have made moves to de-dollarize its international trade.

As all of this took place, the government never backed off its commitment to social justice. Examples of this are the pushing forward of existing programs like the almost two million low-cost and in some cases free homes, as well as  new endeavors such as launching in recent months a massive push for more comprehensive neonatal care for all pregnant women.

Finally, the Bolivarian government spoke to the issue of popular power. These issues are more directly outlined here, but the essential thrust has included mechanisms to empower masses of people to directly fight the hoarding of and speculation with basic goods; as well as creating the constituent assembly as an arena to finally programmatically harmonize the the many thousands of communal councils and communes with the formal structures of the existing government.

This latter factor is heavily underplayed. It should be remembered that the Chavista movement is a revolt of the majority against the tyranny of a minority. It is a unique project that aims to give people real power, beyond the ballot box, over what is produced and distributed, socialism–in the words of the Venezuelans–of the 21st century. Clearly between the Constituent Assembly elections and now the regional elections the core Chavista base has rallied to prevent a rollback of this process, doubling down on the PSUV-led government as the instrument for their own liberation.

The road ahead

The initiative still lies with the socialist Bolivarian movement. The opposition is now clearly divided. On the one hand are those, led by the AD, that see the street protest option as counterproductive and seem content to take their chances at the ballot box and the negotiation table. These members of the opposition are undoubtedly hoping for international pressure as well for the Chavista government to cut some sort of deal with them.

On the other side of the coin are sectors of MUD now calling for a return to the streets. This seems to be the preferred route of the core opposition supporters, typically gathered together in richer, whiter neighborhoods. They violently oppose the revolution for giving power and resources to the poor. They seek chaos which would allow them to bring forward a coup. Ominously these seem to be the forces with the most backing from the United States and from Organization of America States President Luis Almagro.

Now the Chavista forces are also confronted with many serious issues to work through in the Constituent process and serious challenges uprooting corruption and implementing more decisive proposals to lessen the impacts of the economic crisis and definitively start to further improve lives.

We repeat here, what we said in our earlier piece:

For revolutionaries around the world then, the tasks could not be clearer. A people decided in 1998 to break decisively with neo-liberal capitalism, and to share their wealth more equally. They also decided to institutionalize and expand massively efforts at communal, popular power. In that time living standards have increased, poverty has decreased, healthcare, education and housing are formally rights and policy is aimed at achieving that. Indigenous communities and Afro-Venezuelans have been empowered to reclaim their culture and heritage and push back against the legacies of genocide and slavery. In effect, Venezuela has relaunched a worldwide discussion on socialism, what the next round of attempts to build socialism can and should look like, and what they can borrow from the past and must invent for the future.

If the Bolivarian movement is derailed, or overthrown, all that goes away. The cause of people being able to collectively decide how to best use their resources and talents for their own benefits will be irreparably set-back. There are challenges and contradictions to discuss for sure, but first and foremost the Bolivarian revolution must be defended.

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Time for a Vigilant Celebration in Venezuela

NOVANEWS

In one day, on October 15, Venezuela has achieved several outstanding landmarks in our region at a time when we face dangerous world conflicts and unrest. By carrying out fair elections for governors of the 23 states, Venezuela has shown that people value the opportunity to participate in decision-making even under hard circumstances.

The Gran Polo Patriotico (Great Patriotic Pole), a coalition of ten parties, including the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela – PSUV), and the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV), have won 17 governorships and lost 5 to the coalition Democratic Unity Roundtable (Mesa de la Unidad Democratica – MUD) (One State still pending at the time of writing).

This represents winning a significant battle, but the war may still be brewing.

The significance of this victory lies in the different fronts in which Venezuela has established a clear claim.

On the democratic front 64% of the voters who participated in the elections have made an implicit statement that there is no dictatorship in Venezuela, contrary to the propaganda of Western right wing corporate media. In fact, there has been no shortage of elections in Venezuela. This has been the 22nd free, secret ballot in the last 18 years, including a failed referendum to revoke Hugo Chavez from the presidency in 2004.

This display of building democracy flies in the face of the recent action of the OAS Secretary General, Luis Almagro, who staged a swearing in ceremony in Washington, DC of a “supreme court” whose members are Venezuelans opposing the Maduro government who have left the country. This is a fragrant illegitimate, anti-democratic interference in internal affairs of Venezuela. Luis Almagro has no shame to show his personal antipathy for Nicolas Maduro but he should be ashamed to involve the organization he represents.

This victory for democracy in Venezuela has been succinctly expressed by Bolivian President, Evo Morales, who posted a tweet that said,

“Democracy has won over intervention and conspiracy. The people defend their sovereignty and dignity.”

The second front where this election can claim a victory is likely the most welcome: Desire of people to live in peace. The large turn out of voters is both a testimonial to fearless defiance and a statement of aspiration for a country at peace. Around 10 million Venezuelans have agreed to engage in this electoral dialogue in the understanding that violence cannot be a bargaining chip.

Telesur reported the president of the National Constituent Assembly, Delcy Rodriguez praising the Venezuelan people for going to the polls and ratifying their desire to live in peace.

“This was an election convened by the National Constituent Assembly and we were not mistaken,” said Rodriguez. “This election has allowed us to consolidate the peace and to defend (our) sovereignty.”

The victory of Chavismo on the political front is perhaps the most tangible for political analysts. Despite the economic hardship in Venezuela caused by harsh US sanctions, despite negative media propaganda, and despite months of street violence triggered by the opposition that caused 126 deaths, Venezuelans are still putting their trust in support of the governing party, the PSUV, with a 54% overall popular vote. Considering that the PSUV is a party openly anti-imperialist that fiercely advocates for independence and sovereignty, the vote signals a rejection of any direct intervention by the United States. Evo Morales rightly interpreted this sentiment in his tweet,

“the people triumphed over the empire. Luis Almagro lost with his boss Trump.”

The opposition MUD has not performed badly if we take into account that they gained two more states compared to the three they had in the 2012 elections. (States gained by the opposition in the 2017 elections: Anzoategui, Merida, Nueva Esparta, Tachira and Zulia)

However, early indications suggest that the opposition will not respect the democratic process in the days to come, will reject the offer of peace and dialogue, and will not recognize the elections results. In fact, they have already called for a recount and at the same time for “street actions” in protest.

In a true democracy differences in state politics is not a ground for revolt, but the continued belligerent attitude of the opposition MUD is dangerously fueled by the US, Canada and increasingly by the EU. This is precisely the kind of interference that Venezuela does not need and the Bolivarian Revolution is fighting back. Under these circumstances, the opposition cannot be trusted and nobody can lower the guard.

For now, we join all Venezuelans in a vigilant celebration for their victory for democracy over violence.

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Canada Rejects Venezuela Vote, EU Mulls Sanctions & Russia Congratulates Government

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Image result for CANADA FLAG CARTOON

 

By Rachael Boothroyd Rojas | Venezuelanalysis 

Twenty-eight European Ministers jointly agreed to “establish the legal framework” for pursuing sanctions against the Venezuelan government Monday in the wake of the country’s regional elections, Europa Press has reported.

Venezuela’s government won eighteen out of twenty-three states in regional elections this past Sunday, but the results have been disputed by the right-wing opposition, the US, Canada and France, on the basis of alleged foul play.

Opposition spokespeople have so far been unable to corroborate their allegations of fraud, while international electoral observers have testified to the veracity of the results. Venezuelan political commentators have said that mass abstention of opposition voters due to disillusionment with their leaders was the reason for the shock result.

Speaking at an EU meeting in Luxembourg Monday, EU Foreign Policy chief Federica Mogherini cautiously described the election results as a “surprise” and asked for investigations to “clarify what happened in reality”.

Ministers also agreed to advance in the preparation of “selective, gradual and reversible” sanctions against members of Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro administration, with some apparent reticence from Portugal.

The EU has been discussing the potential implementation of sanctions against individuals within the Venezuelan government since the US imposed economic sanctions against Venezuela in August. Canada also followed suit shortly after with asset freezes targeting top Caracas officials.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro responded to the decision Tuesday, accusing Mogherini of only listening to opposition voices in Venezuela, and inviting her to call him or arrange a meeting in Brussels.

Meanwhile, Canada officially added its voice to the international chorus of condemnation against the regional election results Tuesday.

In an official statement, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said that “Sunday’s elections were characterized by many irregularities that raise significant and credible concerns regarding the validity of the results.”

She also added her government would continue to “stand for the Venezuelan people and for the defence and restoration of democracy in Venezuela.”

Freeland had already tweeted on Monday that her government was “”very concerned by yesterday’s polling centre closures & relocations – clearly favouring #Venezuela regime, hindering free + fair elections”. Her stance was criticized by Canada’s Communist Party.

Canada is a member of the so-called Lima Group – a regional organization made up of right-wing regional governments opposed to the Maduro administration, including Argentina, Brasil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, and Peru.

On Tuesday, the Lima Group likewise claimed that the elections were marred by irregularities, and demanded a full “independent audit” of results. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro had already called for an audit of 100 percent of votes Sunday.

The Lima Group is due next to meet in Canada on October 26, when it will discuss Venezuela’s regional elections and the ongoing stand-off between the government and opposition.

But not all international governments have condemned the elections, and the Maduro administration has received supportive statements from Russia, Cuba, Bolivia and other Latin American leaders.

For its part, Russia said the elections represented a new opportunity to address the “pressing economic and social problems facing the country” and criticised the opposition’s refusal to accept the results.

“The population demonstrated its commitment to civilized, first of all electoral, ways of settling political differences,” reads a statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry.

“Given this, the opposition’s refusal to recognize the results of the voting and calls for more street protests and tougher international sanctions are fraught with negative consequences. This may frustrate the emerging scenario of compromise and trigger another spiral of violence and confrontation,” the ministry added.

In addition, Russia urged Venezuelan political forces to refrain from violence, and spoke in support of dialogue between the opposition and national government “to stop attempts at destructive interference from outside.”

“The counter-productiveness of force and sanction pressure on Venezuela is obvious,” the ministry underscored.

Meanwhile, the government of Cuba also congratulated the Maduro government on the election win.

“Dear Nicolas: I congratulate you for the results of state elections. Venezuela has shown another example of peace, democratic vocation, courage and dignity,” Cuban President Raul Castro said in a letter published by Cuba’s Foreign Relations Ministry.

Bolivian President Evo Morales also took to Twitter to say that “In Venezuela, peace triumphed over violence, the people triumphed over the empire. [Organization of American States Secretary-General] Luis Almagro lost, along with his boss [US President] Trump”.

En Venezuela triunfó la paz frente a la violencia, triunfó el pueblo frente al imperio. Perdió Luis Almagro con su jefe Trump.

— Evo Morales Ayma (@evoespueblo) October 16, 2017

In similar statements, former Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said that the election results had “exposed” how biased international media coverage is on Venezuela.

Many international media outlets had predicted that Venezuela’s opposition would sweep to victory on Sunday, in a repeat of the 2015 National Assembly elections.

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Venezuela Regional Elections: chavismo in triumph, opposition in disarray and media in denial

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By Ricardo Vaz | Investig’Action 

As the President of the Venezuelan Electoral Commission (CNE) read the results from the regional elections that took place on Sunday, October 15, one could feel the agony in the editorial rooms of mainstream media outlets. Chavismo had just won 18 out of 23 (1) governorships, a result that, according to them, could not have happened. International observers praised the electoral process and opposition claims of fraud, while uncritically echoed by the media, do not have a leg to stand on.

The United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) had a tremendous victory in these elections. Among the three quarters of the governorships secured, some were quite significant. Hector Rodríguez, a young and charismatic chavista leader, won the governorship of Miranda state back from the opposition. Miranda includes part of Caracas and was the main hotspot of opposition violence in recent months. Another example was Chávez’s home state of Barinas which also saw some unrest in recent months. Chávez’s younger brother Argenis was the candidate and the state was successfully held by the PSUV.

The opposition lost all three governorships won in 2012 (Miranda, Amazonas and Lara) and won five others (Anzoátegui, Mérida, Nueva Esparta, Táchira and Zulia), with three of them being on the border with Colombia and raising some fears of increased paramilitary activity. Overall participation was 61%, compared to 54% five years ago, and the PSUV had 54% of the vote, some 5.6M votes. This marked a complete reversal from the legislative elections of 2015. It showed that chavismo’s core support remains very strong, and that, due to its less than coherent actions, it was the opposition that failed to mobilise its supporters.

Electoral map after Sunday’s regional elections. Chavismo took 18 (red) governorships, and the opposition took five (blue).

The media reaction was one for the history books. Having not paid much attention to these elections, the run-up had just the same recycled narrative: “if the elections are free and fair, the opposition will win by a landslide”. Once the results came out, rather than look to understand them and figure out what had gone wrong in their predictions, the media simply went down the rabbit hole. According to their biased narrative and historically inaccurate polls, this simply was not possible!

The evidence to back this impossibility was also less than convincing. There were the usual unsubstantiated, or easily disproved, claims of “fraud” (more on that later). The New York Times added the very scientific claim that “turnout appeared to be lower”, while Reuters, with its ever decreasing credibility, went further and talked about voters being forced to vote at gunpoint! Several analysts were paraded to claim that this result was not possible, some even argued it was “inconceivable”. It seems like these journalists and analysts have violated one of the cardinal rules of (information) trafficking: don’t get high on your own supply. Simply put, they have started believing too much in their own propaganda.

A resounding defeat for the Venezuelan opposition

Let us look at the actions of the US-backed Venezuelan opposition in the recent past. First they kicked off a wave of street violence in April that left more than 100 dead (most of them caused by opposition violence). With the media propaganda in overdrive they claimed they were on the verge of “tumbling the dictatorship”. But barring a few isolated occasions, the violence never spread far beyond the opposition strongholds, mainly in eastern Caracas.

After Maduro proposed the Constituent Assembly, the opposition refused to participate and claimed that they would stop it from taking place. They even staged their own “referendum” to reject the Constituent Assembly and call for intervention of the armed forces. But in what was a massive chavista show of strength, as well as a rejection of opposition violence, more than 8M people voted on July 30th. All the opposition, and the media, could do was claim that the figure was false, based on shoddy exit polls and unsubstantiated claims from Smartmatic (2). These elections and the swearing in of the Constituent Assembly effectively brought peace to the streets.

So after all the talk of tumbling the dictatorship and demanding that Maduro step down tomorrow, the opposition turned to their supporters, and with a straight face asked them to go out and vote in the regional elections. Some of the more hardline factions refused to take part (and are now chiding the leadership for having done so) but most of the opposition parties carried on with the absurd discourse of “voting against the dictatorship”. In the end the absurdity caught up to them and the result was a resounding defeat. And then, like clockwork, the opposition claimed the results were fraudulent. Frankly, what else was left for them to do? They can send the defeated candidates to Washington DC and continue forming their “government in exile”. (3)

Opposition leader Julio Borges’ contradictions with regard to the regional elections (Translated from Misión Verdad)

Fraudulent “fraud” claims

If the media coverage of Venezuela had any vestige of honesty, articles would explain how the voting works, so that these “fraud” allegations can be put into context. In a nutshell, voters mark their vote in a machine, a paper ballot is printed, and if this matches the electronic vote, they deposit the paper ballot in a box. After the voting is completed, a audit is conducted in 54.4% of the voting centres, randomly selected. This consists of tallying up the paper ballots and seeing if they match, up to a very small margin, against the electronic tally. This ensures that statistically the results are pretty much final, and that is what the CNE President Tibisay Lucena means when she says the results are “irreversible”.

Chavista, opposition and international monitors take part in pre-voting checks, are present at voting centres during the day, and they are also present during this audit. At the end of this process they sign an act (acta). So it is very hard to claim there was actual electoral fraud. In fact, defeated opposition candidate in Miranda, Carlos Ocariz, said himself that he had the acts and that was not the problem. Therefore it is ridiculous for France and the US State Dept. to claim there is anything wrong with the tabulation process.

The main “fraud” complaint in the media were that over 200 voting centres (out of 13.500) had been relocated away from areas where the opposition is strongest and into traditionally pro-government areas. What, conveniently, was left unsaid, is that these were centres that could not open for the Constituent Assembly elections because of opposition violence, which makes the CNE’s security concerns more than justified.

There were also protests that opposition candidates that had lost a (contentious) primary vote were left on the ballot, with the CNE arguing that the requests to remove them from the ballot were not filed on time. But looking at the results, all the contests were virtually two-horse races, with hardly any votes for third-placed candidates and with the winner taking over 50% of the vote, so any consequence of this was negligible (with the possible exception of Bolívar).

Another complaint was that some of the voting centres did not open on time. But given that, even after polls close at 6PM, everyone who is standing in line still gets to vote, this complaint does not hold water. All in all, the Venezuelan opposition, their sponsors, and the media, would have the world believe the elections were fraudulent because middle-class voters did not want to wait in line and much less see poor people on their way to vote.

Chavista celebrations after the electoral triumph (photo by AVN)

The road ahead

It is hard to see where the Venezuelan opposition can go from here, with signs of in-fighting already clear. With their “doomsday cult” behaviour they are unlikely to have any success in reactivating the street violence, and thus their fate rests essentially on what the US empire can do. They will be hoping that (more) sanctions can inflict enough pain on the Venezuelan people to give them a chance of winning the presidential election next year. The most fanatical ones might hope that Trump follows through on the threats of military intervention.

One thing they can count on is the unwavering, unconditional support from the mainstream media. While opposition voters and supporters may use their memory and call out the inconsistencies and contradictions, no such thing is to be expected from the media. They will keep echoing claims that there was fraud in these elections, that the turnout on July 30th was inflated, and continue to milk the story of the former prosecutor who goes around saying she has proof of corruption involving high government officials. As with everything that can be used against the Bolivarian government, no evidence is ever needed.

As for chavismo, it is unquestionable that the two most recent electoral showings have been tremendous victories. Western analysts time and again fail to grasp the vitality of the Bolivarian Revolution, and belittle chavistas either as brainwashed zealots or people who simply fear losing their benefits (4). The reality is that, even through a deep economic war/crisis that has hit them hard, and regardless of what the leadership should have done differently, the Venezuelan poor and working-class still see this project as their own, one in which they are actors and not just spectators.

Maduro’s term has arguably seen chavismo playing defence all the time, with an economic war, a steep drop in oil prices, two incarnations of guarimba violence and constant international pressure and sanctions. Fresh off this electoral win and with the Constituent Assembly in place, it is imperative that chavismo seizes the moment to radicalise, to go on the offensive, with a year to go until the presidential elections. The support that it has retained through this storm should not be taken for granted, and there is now a window to fight corruption, increase working-class control in the economy, increase the influence of the communes, etc. This is not just a matter of keeping the grassroots involved, this is how the economic war will be won, this is how socialism will be built.

Notes

(1) The initial results were only final for 22 out of the 23 states. In the southern state of Bolívar the PSUV candidate was later confirmed to be the winner in a tight contest.

(2) Smartmatic, the company responsible for the software in the voting machines, claimed that “without any doubt” the turnout had been inflated by at least 1M votes. The claim was rejected by Venezuelan electoral authorities because the company does not have access to electoral data. Several solidarity organisations delivered a letter to Smartmatic CEO Antonio Mugica on September 8 demanding that the company either present evidence for its claims or issue an apology. There has been no response to this day.

(3) Right on cue, Maria Corina Machado has urged the opposition-controlled National Assembly, which has been in contempt of court since mid-2016, to nominate new electoral authorities. One hopes there is enough office space in OAS headquarters in Washington DC.

(4) If only they had a deep and mature political understanding such as the opposition and their “we do not want to be Cuba” slogans…

Cover photo: President Maduro lauded the election victory as a message against imperialism (photo by AVN)

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Is It Time for “Food Diplomacy” in Venezuela?

The convincing victory of Venezuela’s governing socialist party in this weekend’s elections provides a convenient opportunity for President Maduro to finally request food aid from his Russian and Chinese partners, both of whom would be more than eager to receive the soft power boost that would come with easing the humanitarian suffering that the US’ Hybrid War and related sanctions have placed on the Venezuelan people.

The United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) came out on top during this weekend’s regional elections, even though its victory predictably produced unsubstantiated allegations of fraud by the opposition. Although there’s a chance of anti-government violence, the average Venezuelan appears exhausted by the unrest that’s shaken their country over the years, hence why the majority of voters chose to support the PSUV in order to preserve peace and stability in the country. This has placed President Maduro in a more solid position than at any other time since the Hybrid War on Venezuela began in earnest in early 2014, which will therefore allow him to push forth his constitutional reform agenda with less resistance than before.

That being said, this also means that he needs to deliver on his promises to improve the living situation for the Venezuelans who have been suffering from a lack of food and other basic commodities, since this has not only contributed to the worsening of Venezuela’s international reputation, but it also provides the opposition with an excellent opportunity to recruit new Color Revolution followers into its ranks. At the same time, however, the Venezuelan government appears reluctant to recognize that this problem does indeed exist in some parts of the country, no doubt over-amplified by the international media for infowar purposes but nevertheless still present to some extent. It’s debatable whether external US economic pressure or internal government mismanagement is more to blame for this, but regardless of the cause, the symptoms need to be addressed, and now is the best time for Maduro to do so.

Trump’s Threats

Trump’s mid-August refusal to rule out a conventional “military option” in the Hybrid War on Venezuela was a godsend to the country’s government because it confirmed what they’d been saying for years, namely that the US is intent on carrying out a regime change in the oil-rich country using whatever possible means at its disposal, including an Iraq-like invasion. It can’t be known for certain whether this is exactly what Trump had in mind or not, but the fact remains that Maduro was able to masterfully make it seem like this was the case, which also had the effect of implying that the opposition’s Color Revolution vanguard was the “tip of the spear” in this campaign. It’s little wonder then that the government won in the last elections, as the implication of voting for an American-linked opposition coalition in light of the US President’s formal threats against their country proved to be too traitorous of a thought for some anti-government Venezuelans.

The intensification of Venezuela’s siege mentality as a result of Trump’s bellicose statement a few months ago, his melodramatic speech at the UN, and the ever-present sanctions allow Maduro to now conveniently shift all the blame for his country’s economic problems onto the US, jettisoning any responsibility for them and opening up a whole new range of options for dealing with the Hybrid War against his country. Whereas in the past he and his government were uncomfortable with recognizing the humanitarian consequences of this asymmetrical conflict because of the fear that this admission could be repackaged into yet another infowar weapon to discredit the authorities and influence the upcoming elections, no such pressure exists now that the PSUV convincingly won the last elections and the US has proven itself without a doubt to have a pressing interest in carrying out a regime change in the country at all costs.

Petro Politics

 The US doesn’t just want to acquire control over the world’s largest oil reserves in the Orinoco River Basin for the sake of it, whether to use for its own needs or to control the flow of this resource to its global Chinese competitor, but because this might be the only option left to save the petrodollar. With the US’ Saudi partner increasingly pivoting towards Russia and China, there’s a very real chance that Riyadh will soon conduct all new energy contracts in local currencies in order to bypass the dollar, which would slash the Achilles’ heel of the US-led global economic system and herald in the biggest worldwide financial change since Washington completely abandoned the gold standard in 1971. It’s not for naught, then, that Russia and China have been stockpiling gold over the past couple of years, as they prudently forecast that this moment might arrive sometime in the near future.

The grand strategic consequences of this would be that the US would finally lose control over the globalization processes that it first helped initiate and eventually harnessed in becoming the sole post-Cold War superpower, thereby enabling China’s Silk Road globalization to replace its Western rival in formalizing the start of the Multipolar World Order. The US is desperate to prevent this from happening, hence why it needs a “backup plan” in guaranteeing that the dollar will still be used for a sizeable percentage of transactions in the international energy marketplace, and this is precisely where Venezuela fits into the equation. If the US’ “Operation Condor 2.0” series of hemispheric regime changes succeeds in toppling the PSUV, then the resultant geopolitical chain reaction would probably lead to the fall of the ALBA-allied Bolivian and Nicaraguan governments soon thereafter, which would evict multipolar influence from the South American heartland and preempt the game-changing construction of the Nicaraguan Canal, respectively.

Furthermore, and of heightened relevance to the petrodollar, it would complete the US’ proxy conquest of Latin America’s energy resources, providing Washington with the chance to pioneer a formidable rival to OPEC in the North American-South American Petroleum Exporting Countries (NASAPEC) structure that the author originally forecast at the end of last year. If all of the Western Hemisphere’s resources were under the US’ control via NASAPEC, then the petrodollar could survive long enough until the “Clash of Civilizations” blueprint for dividing and ruling the Eastern Hemisphere through Hybrid Wars succeeds in toppling the OPEC governments one by one and restoring the dollar as the preferred currency for conducting transactions. This explains why it’s so important for the US to overthrow the Chavismo government in Venezuela, and correspondingly, why Russia and China have an interest in preventing this.

Orinoco heavy oil belt

Russia To The Rescue

Having placed the Hybrid War on Venezuela into its grand geostrategic context, it’s now time to talk about what the country’s Russian and Chinese partners can realistically do to help it withstand this onslaught. There’s no chance that either of them will commit military forces to assist the government, though Moscow will of course seek to leverage its “military diplomacy” in selling more arms and other defensive equipment to help Caracas ward off the US’ threatened “humanitarian intervention”. Ironically, though, a “humanitarian intervention” might just be what’s needed in order to stop the Hybrid War on Venezuela, but it would have to be carried out by Russia and China and in an unconventional manner than what’s commonly understood by this term.

Of these two Great Powers, Russia is thought to have established more influence in Venezuela due to its skillful maneuvers in the financial and energy industries, so it should be presumed that Moscow has the onus in taking the lead in any forthcoming ‘multipolar humanitarian intervention” in Venezuela, though only if it’s asked to do so by Caracas, which is the key point. Up until now, Maduro was reluctant to officially acknowledge the humanitarian consequences of the Hybrid War on Venezuela, but ever since Trump’s track record of aggressive statements about his country over the past couple of months and the PSUV’s victory over the weekend, he now has the “political flexibility” to do so in setting the stage for inviting his Great Power partners to assist in improving the humanitarian situation.

As opposed to the cruise missiles that typically accompany any unipolar “humanitarian intervention”, its multipolar counterpart could see cargo ships of food and other basic commodities instead. After all, the new Russian Ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzya was proudly telling the Security Council just the other day about his country’s impressive humanitarian operations abroad, particularly in Syria and Yemen, but to which Qatar could also be added when considering Russia’s offer earlier this summer to send food to the blockaded country during Ramadan. Although the latter proposal was politely declined by Doha, the global soft power impact that it had greatly boosted Russia’s reputation in the international Muslim community and paved the way for solidifying its “Ummah Pivot”.

All of this is relevant for Venezuela because it means that Russia, but also China as well, would jump at the first opportunity to relieve the humanitarian suffering that the US is to a large degree responsible for, both because it’s the “right thing to do” but also because of the soft power masterstroke that it would be for enhancing the country’s soft power all across Latin America just like the proposal to Qatar did for the Mideast. Unlike before when Maduro didn’t want to officially recognize this problem because of the risk that it could embolden another Color Revolution wave and sway the upcoming elections, he might change his mind now that his party’s political position is much more secured and even gain populist points by framing the whole “humanitarian operation” as a multipolar response to the US’ Hybrid War on Venezuela.

Russian Rosneft oil company CEO Igor Sechin signs a deal with Venezuela Oil Minister Eulogio del Pino in the presence of President Maduro, July 2016

Russian Rosneft oil company CEO Igor Sechin signs a deal with Venezuela Oil Minister Eulogio del Pino in the presence of President Maduro, July 2016

As a result, the protest-prone and opposition-aligned segments of the population who propelled the anti-government parties to victory in the late-2015 parliamentary elections could be placated so long as they steadily receive food and basic commodities, thereby opening up a valuable window of opportunity for the PSUV to “win them back” to the Chavista fold and dramatically de-escalate the regime change campaign in the country.

Concluding Thoughts

The US’ incessant efforts to overthrow the Venezuelan government might finally be reaching a turning point, though not the one that its strategic planners forecasted. Instead of the latest elections resulting in another bout of Color Revolution unrest just like the last two, this time the vote proceeded peacefully and the ruling PSUV produced a convincing victory, thereby freeing President Maduro from the “political constraints” that had previously prevented him from formally recognizing the deteriorating humanitarian situation in parts of the country. Accordingly, given how Trump has unabashedly admitted that he wants to see a regime change in Venezuela, and the CIA hinted as much earlier this summer too, the stage is now set for Maduro to “save face” by blaming everything on the US and finally requesting humanitarian assistance from his Russian and Chinese partners.

These two Great Powers would be more than happy to help their Latin American ally, both for good-hearted humanitarian reasons and also the obvious boost that this would provide to their soft power appeal in the region, but there’s another motivation for all of this too, and it has to do with the multipolar world’s grand strategy to de-dollarize the global energy trade. So long as Venezuela’s people remain content and less susceptible to Color Revolution intrigue, then there’s less of a likelihood that they could inadvertently play into the US’ plans by handing their oil-rich country over to its northern neighbor via opposition proxy, which in that scenario would allow the petrodollar to hang onto life if OPEC leader Saudi Arabia begins de-dollarizing its oil sales as it progressively moves closer to Russia and China.

As crude as it may sound, providing the Hybrid War-victimized population with a full belly and reliable access to basic commodities might be all that’s needed to turn the tide against the regime change movement and stabilize the beleaguered country, which in turn could increase the odds that the multipolar de-dollarization plan would succeed in inflicting a crippling blow to the petrodollar. For these reasons, it’s not inconceivable that Maduro might request humanitarian aid from his Russian and Chinese partners in countering the socio-economic consequences that the US’ asymmetrical war has had on some of the poorer segments of his country’s population. Instead of “classical” or even “military diplomacy”, it might ultimately turn out that “food diplomacy” was all that was needed this entire time to thwart the US’ clandestine Color Revolution campaign.

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