Archive | Venezuela

‘Imperial Interests’ Behind UN Call to Release Political Prisoners in Venezuela

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  • Venezuelan ambassador Jorge Valero speaks at the U.N.
    Venezuelan ambassador Jorge Valero speaks at the U.N. | Photo: UN
Many so-called political prisoners are high-ranking opposition leaders who have instigated violence in the country, leading to the deaths of many citizens.

Venezuelan Ambassador Jorge Valero has called out a high-ranking U.N. official who demanded the release of “political prisoners” as acting in favor of imperial interests.

RELATED: 74 Percent of Venezuelans Don’t Trust the Opposition: Survey

U.N. official Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein expressed “concern about the extreme polarization in Venezuela with continued restrictions on freedom of movement, association, expression and peaceful protest,” as Venezuela Analysis reported. He called for the alleged political prisoners’ release and parroted mainstream media’s condemnations of Venezuela and the supposed lack of fundamental rights for all in the country.

Valero rejected the high official’s comments, describing them as an echo of “the international media campaign against Venezuela, hatched by imperialist interests,” as reported by Venezuela Analysis.

“It is deplorable that those responsible for crimes are presented by you (Al-Hussein) as peaceful demonstrators and political opponents,” Valero said, addressing Al-Hussein during the U.N. Human Rights Council session.

He also added that “human rights and fundamental freedoms are respected in Venezuela. Everyone can freely express their own viewpoints. Peaceful declaration is a constitutional right.”

RELATED: The Venezuela ‘Opposition’ We Never Hear About

According to the Venezuelan Penal Forum, FPV, there are 97 “political prisoners” in the country. But in fact, many are high-ranking opposition leaders who have instigated violence in the country, leading to the death of many citizens in their attempt to remove the elected government of President Nicolas Maduro.

Of these alleged political prisoners, Leopoldo Lopez has gained the most international attention after he was sentenced to 13 years and nine months in jail in September 2015 for his role in the violent anti-government protests known as “The Guarimbas” in 2014, which led to the death of 43 people.

Last month, Lopez’s wife Lilian Tintori visited U.S. President Donald Trump and other U.S. congressmen to demand his release. Since then, the United States has ramped up sanctions against Venezuela.

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Ecuador Denies Entry to Venezuela Opposition Figure Visiting to Campaign for Right Wing

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  • U.S. President Donald Trump has met with Lilian Tintori, an outspoken opponent of Nicolas Maduro.
    U.S. President Donald Trump has met with Lilian Tintori, an outspoken opponent of Nicolas Maduro. | Photo: Twitter / Donald Trump
“Change is coming to Ecuador,” Tintori said, referencing the campaign slogan of right-wing presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso.

Ecuador denied entry Wednesday morning to Venezuelan opposition figure Lilian Tintori, traveling to meet and campaign with right-wing Ecuadorean presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso — an activity that is banned by the country’s immigration law.

IN DEPTH: Ecuador Elections 2017

Tintori, wife of jailed Venezuelan opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez, arrived at the airport in Guayaquil from Miami at 1:30 a.m. local time Wednesday morning. On her social media accounts she reported that immigration authorities had retained her passport and denied her entry, a move she claimed amounted to a violation of her “human rights.”

An official immigration document circulated online by local journalists showed that Tintori’s entry was denied for her failure to justify her immigration status and explain the reason for her visit.

According to Ecuador’s Human Mobility Law, “Temporary visitors in Ecuador will not be able to interfere in matters of Ecuador’s internal politics.” The law also states that foreigners can be deported for eight reasons, including for “being a temporary visitor in Ecuador who engages in issues of Ecuador’s internal politics.”

The law also outlines that lack of a valid visa when required or failure to justify immigration status — as in Tintori’s case — will result in “immediate departure of the inadmissible person” from the country “without the need for administrative processing.” It also states that such travelers can return to the country when the reason for which they were denied entry is resolved.

On social media, Tintori made references to her political motivations for visiting Ecuador, writing on her Facebook account that Ecuadoreans “have an opportunity for change” on April 2, referring to the date of the presidential runoff election between governing party candidate Lenin Moreno and opposition leader Guillermo Lasso. “They are not letting me enter because they know that change is coming to Ecuador,” she said in a video posted on her Facebook and Twitter accounts, referencing the Lasso’s campaign slogan. “They are not letting me in because they do not want me to help my Ecuadorean brothers and sisters.”

In response to Tintori being denied entry, Lasso also confirmed that the Venezuelan had planned to enter the country to support his bid for president. “A few weeks ago we agreed that she would come for a few days to accompany Maria de Lourdes and I in this campaign,” Lasso said in a video message, referring to his wife, who stood beside him in the video.

RELATED: Ecuador Indigenous Movement Split as Leader Embraces Right-Wing Presidential Candidate

In a press conference on Tintori’s case in Quito Wednesday, Interior Minister Diego Fuentes explained that when immigration authorities asked Tintori about the reason for her travels, she stated that she was “going to perform certain acts within a political agenda at the invitation of right-wing candidate Guillermo Lasso” and intended to enter with a tourist visa.

Fuentes stated that immigration authorities had acted in accordance with the law. He highlighted the article of the Human Mobility Law banning foreigners from participating in political activities and also pointed to a separate article of the same law stating that the Ecuadorean state has the power to “deny entry to a foreign person on the basis of an action or omission committed.”

Tintori, who arrived in Ecuador on an American Airlines flight from Miami, was put on a flight back to Miami at 6:45 a.m. local time Wednesday.

Fuentes confirmed that Tintori returned to Miami on the earliest available American Airlines flight. He welcomed Tintori to return to the country on a tourist visa if she intended to conduct tourist activities, saying, “she is invited with her tourist visa to carry out the activities she would like to carry out within the framework of the law and for the activist and political activities she must process the corresponding visa.”

On her Twitter account, Tintori, who frequently describes Venezuela as a “dictatorship,” claimed that she was denied entry to Ecuador because the country is “complicit in (Venezuelan President Nicolas) Maduro’s dictatorship.”

Leopoldo Lopez was jailed in 2013 for his role in violent protests that claimed the lives of 43 Venezuelans. Since then, Tintori and leaders from Lopez’s right-wing Popular Will Party have been campaigning around the globe for his release, calling him and others involved in the violent protests “political prisoners.”

Lasso, a former banker who came in distant second to front-runner Moreno in the first round of presidential elections last month, said the denial of Tintori into the country was evidence of “dictatorship.”

“Not allowing the entry of Lilian Tintori, wife of Leopoldo Lopez, confirms the dictatorship Ecuador is living the dictatorship of a political party,” Lasso said in his video message.

Lasso also misleadingly referenced the article of the constitution that allows foreigners to vote — a civil right accorded to foreign residents “as long as they have resided legally in the country for at least five years,” according to the constitution — as well as the principle of “universal citizenship,” which promotes free movement to “transform the unequal relations between countries, especially those between North and South.” While Ecuador’s widely celebrated “no one is illegal” policy — applauded by the U.N. Refugee Agency — offers a framework to decriminalize irregular immigration status, not override other sections of the immigration law barring foreigners from interfering in local politics.

RELATED: ‘In Second Round, We Will Defeat Them Again’: President Correa

A high-profile case amid opposition protests in 2015 brought similar migration laws to light and offers a precedent for application of Ecuador’s law barring foreigners from participating in local politics. French-Brazilian academic Manuela Picq, living in Ecuador with a cultural exchange visa, was deported in August after participating in opposition protests that at times turned violent. Her visa was revoked, according to then-Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño, for “carrying out political activities” not allowed under the cultural exchange immigration status. Picq’s case similarly sparked accusations of human rights violations from the ranks of the opposition, including Lasso’s running mate Andrez Paez, who accompanied Picq during the legal process leading up to her deportation.

Despite Lasso’s defense of the legality of Tintori’s planned visit, as the governor of Guayas in 1999, he ordered a foreigner be expelled for less. Months after the 1999 banking crisis — which Lasso is also accused of played a role in — the then-governor called for the deportation of Venezuelan economic analyst, Jose Luis Cordeiro. The Venezuelan analyst had criticized the economic policies of the government of then-President Jamil Mahuad, under whom Lasso went on to serve as minister of finance. Lasso argued at the time that Cordeiro’s statements showed a “lack of respect” against Mahuad, adding that “it is not possible to allow foreigners to threaten the national honor” of Ecuador.

Tintori’s main political activities have also including building relationships with other right-wing figures in the region, including conservative Argentine President Mauricio Macri and more recently, U.S. President Donald Trump.

Just weeks ago, she met Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Florida Senator Marco Rubio in the White House. After the meeting, she thanked Trump on her Twitter account for “standing with the Venezuelan people.”

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The Venezuela “Opposition” We Never Hear About

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venezuela

This “opposition” has loyalties that lie with the Bolivarian Revolution and nothing else.

At 35 years of age, he is tall and slim, and his imposing stature moves about in a subtle swagger that exudes confidence tempered with a humility that does not succumb to his good looks and natural charisma. As a deputy, he is the leader of a block of 55 deputies in the Venezuelan National Assembly. From all appearances, his personality and the important position he holds should attract the sensation-seeking U.S. corporate media that hangs on to every word and is so eager to capture images of the deputies and their supporters to make a “story.”

There is, however, a problem for them and for Washington. Héctor Rodríguez is the leader of this minority block of 55 Chavista-led deputies, Bloque de la Patria, which is an outcome of the Dec. 5, 2015 legislative election that saw the ruling socialist party, the PSUV, lose its majority in the National Assembly.

Rodríguez opposes the majority in what has become a bourgeois national assembly, to paraphrase the words that Nicolás Maduro used in a talk in Caracas to national and international guests on March 7, 2017.

In the U.S. Congress, depending on its composition, the minority Democrats or Republicans oppose the majority. However, this “opposition” is always within the framework of the capitalist status quo, preserving the racist state as a vestige of slavery, negating the genocide of the Indigenous peoples (which is still under way in different forms) and sacrificing the working people on the altar of capitalist globalization, which itself is a key component of a foreign policy based on imperialist aggression and wars.

In parliamentary systems, such as in Canada and Britain, the establishment consensus adds a shameful British slant to the “opposition” charade, which would be a comedy if it were not so tragic. In these other countries in the North, the “loyal opposition” (as they are actually formally recognized) can feel free to oppose as long as they are loyal to the head of state, which in both Canada and Britain is the Queen of England.

“Extraordinary meeting with leaders of different nationalities! Only united will we build a just world!|
Count on our solidarity!” | Source: Twitter of Hector Rodriguez

However, Rodríguez’s loyalty lies with the Bolivarian Revolution and nothing else. On March 6, in Caracas, he participated in a more intimate meeting with delegates of the international Network of Intellectuals, Artists and Social Movements in Defense of Humanity. It took place in a small hall in the Foreign Affairs building. During the course of this encounter, an exchange between the participants and the deputy naturally evolved. It was so engrossing that the banal act of taking notes would have failed to do justice to the content or the style in the best Chavista tradition exhibited by Rodríguez, which is also increasingly being demonstrated by President Nicolás Maduro and other leaders.

The discussion covered many themes. One, for example, was an incredibly lucid explanation of the view that the Bolivarian Revolution, which the block of deputies are part of, is based in words and deeds on opposition to U.S. imperialism and capitalism. While the Revolution is flexible in terms of tactics, for example, in negotiating with the majority pro-capitalist, pro-U.S. force in the National Assembly in order to strive for a peaceful solution to the crisis, when it comes to the question of principles and objectives, there is no compromise possible.

No wonder that those in the North, who rely on the corporate media, never hear about this “opposition” as personified in Rodríguez. This censorship takes place even though the establishment media must be in dire straits in the hunt for a new face to replace the bland dinosaur-type politicians in the National Assembly. Washington and its media would rather sink into the swamp of Venezuelan political oblivion, even though they should pay formal attention to the “opposition” as they do so faithfully not only in other countries but also, of course, in the U.S. Congress. If they ever decide to focus on Venezuela’s opposition to the National Assembly majority, Rodríguez and other such deputies would no doubt steal the show.

Another distinguishing feature of the Bolivarian Revolution opposition is that its rejection of the status quo is defined more by what it is in favor of than what it is against. The goals of the Bolivarian Revolution comprise social and economic equality, housing, food, health, education, culture, sports and a participatory and protagonist democracy, the very essence of which is blocked by imperialism and the neoliberal status quo.

Those of us who came of political age in the 1960s felt right at home as the deputy zeroed in on the imperialists, gringos and Yankees while making crystal clear what we already know. The conflict is not with the people of the U.S., who were duly represented in red those days in Caracas, but rather with the ruling circles who, as Martí and Bolívar said in their own respective ways, are destined to plague the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean with hardship and misery.

Moreover, the U.S. is doubling-down on its reprehensible destiny as the peoples in the South strive to finally break free from the shackles of the most forceful and aggressive military and economic power in the history of mankind (or surely since the fascism of WWII), represented by Republicans and Democrats. Thus, it was encouraging to hear President Maduro on that memorable evening in Caracas telling the truth: Venezuela has not been attacked by any U.S. president as much as during the eight years of Obama. Let that sink in.

In this context, the intransigent Bolivarian opposition to U.S. imperialism is no small matter. Venezuela, at the forefront of anti-U.S. imperialism today, is thus writing another chapter in modern world history, as the Cuban Revolution and Fidel Castro have done in safeguarding their sovereignty, dignity and the social system they have chosen.

For his part, Rodríguez walked the audience very carefully and deliberately, repeating as if to test our determination (and looking us in the eyes), that while the battle is at present still mainly in the realm of ideas, if necessary – if necessary – Venezuela will also fight militarily. There is no doubt that if forced to do so, the Bolivarian Revolution will resist in this way as well. This is why all of humanity must today more than ever stand with Venezuela

During the course of the exchange with Rodríguez, what stands out is his deep political conviction illuminated by clarity in theory. This is not merely manifested by ideas and words. When ideas and words combine with action, they become a material force in society. Material force means that the ideas become an organic part of society: the ideas in the minds of individuals such as Rodríguez and other leaders and activists at all levels are socialized and thus evolve into a common movement replete with diversity. Yes, diversity – but always and only within the wide framework of broad-based Chavismo.

Thus, the minority in the National Assembly — and perhaps still a minority of 40 percent, or even half of the population in the shifting sands, of Venezuelan society – represents the future of Venezuela and that whole region. A material force such as the Bolivarian Revolution cannot be snuffed out. Yes, it can suffer setbacks, but it cannot be eliminated.

Nevertheless, Chavismo is not an electoral movement but a revolution in the making and constantly redefining itself. It does so to the extent of fearlessly organizing revolutions within the revolution, striving to carry this out in conjunction with the people and activists at all levels. With this fresh approach so singularly characteristic of the Bolivarian Revolution, the irresistible material force of socialism to replace capitalism and foreign dependence increasingly takes root and grows in Venezuelan society and on its political scene.

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Venezuela Cash Reserves Reach New Low Amid U.S.- Led Sabotage

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Venezuela Currency Slide

From 1958 up until Chávez’s presidency began in 1998, Venezuelan politics rigidly conformed to U.S. political and economic interests on all strategic issues. For nearly 40 years, Venezuela was at the U.S.’ beck and call – following Washington’s lead in breaking off relations with Cuba, supporting U.S. invasions of other Latin American nations and backing U.S. counter-insurgency policies throughout the region.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Venezuelan government moved to make the nation’s economy subservient to U.S. interests by committing to programs promoted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that privatized the majority of the nation’s resources  and introduced drastic austerity programs.

While U.S. corporations reaped massive profits,Venezuela’s inflation hit triple digits, its unemployment rate spiked and poverty rates hovered around 50 percent. As a result, these policies fostered caustic resentment against U.S. domination of Venezuela’s political and economic structures, resulting in the rise of Hugo Chávez.

Chávez, upon becoming president, worked to unchain Venezuela from U.S. influence, passing numerous reforms and nationalizing key utilities that had been privatized decades earlier. These efforts, which translated into dwindling U.S. influence, earned him the ire of the Bush administration, whose efforts to oust Chávez culminated in the failed coup attempt of 2002.

Emboldened by the U.S.’ failed regime change efforts, Chávez then moved to nationalize Venezuelan oil and even more utilities, ejecting numerous U.S.-based multinational corporations in the process. Though the U.S. refrained from attempting to overthrow him, the Venezuelan government has accused them of being responsible for Chávez’s untimely death in 2013 – claiming that they induced the cancer that claimed his life as a covert means of assassination.

In the years since Chávez’s death, his successor Maduro has been fighting wave after wave of destabilization attempts. Most of these efforts have manifested economically, including widespread shortages of goods and basic necessities. However, on more than one occasion, Venezuelan authorities have caught businesses hoarding food, medicine and other goods in order to create the appearance of scarcity while raising profits through massive price increases and the smuggling of goods to Colombia.

The Venezuelan government has also accused these businesses of intentionally creating scarcity with the goal of fueling unrest that could destabilize the government. If history is any indication, this is quite likely, considering the same tactics were used against the Allende government in Chile in the 1970s.

However, the most destabilizing influence of all has been lower global oil prices. Venezuela’s economy is largely dependent on oil exports, which represent 90 percent of its total exports. Thus, the decline in oil prices has done a number on the nation’s economy – even forcing them to import oil due to the financial difficulties plaguing the country’s refineries.

This decrease in oil prices has not been based on the whims of the market, but rather a concerted effort led by the U.S. and its ally Saudi Arabia. The artificial lowering of oil prices has several benefits for the U.S.-Saudi alliance due to the economic harm it inflicts on the Saudi’s oil-producing competitors – chief among them Iran, Russia, and Venezuela. These are also countries that the U.S. aims to contain.

Maduro was well aware of the situation when he asked rhetorically: “What is the reason for the United States and some U.S. allies wanting to drive down the price of oil? To harm Russia.” But Venezuela has arguably been much harder hit than any other country targeted by the price drop.

Another tactic employed by the U.S. to force Maduro out of power has been the imposition of sanctions. In 2015, the Obama administration imposed sanctions on Venezuela, asserting that the South American nation was a direct threat to U.S. national security, despite no evidence offered to support this claim. At the time, many journalists and analysts noted that the timing was odd, as it coincided with the Obama administration’s attempts to normalize relations with Cuba.

“President Barack Obama … has personally decided to take on the task of defeating my government and intervening in Venezuela to control it,” Maduro said in a televised address soon after the sanctions were announced.

Despite Venezuela’s resilience against U.S.-led sabotage for nearly two decades, they may not be able to hold out for much longer. Venezuela’s cash reserves have dwindled to a mere 10.5 billion dollars, 7.2 billion of which they must use this year just to pay off outstanding debts. These latest figures, based off of data recently released by the nation’s central bank, show that the South American nation’s reserves have declined dramatically. For instance, in 2015, Venezuela had 20 billion dollars in reserves and, in 2011, it held over 30 billion dollars.

Venezuela is running out of time, as the country is set to run out of cash within a year or two. But the day of reckoning could come sooner if the U.S. and the Saudis choose to collude once again in slashing global oil prices, as this would further crippling Venezuela’s economy.

Some of Venezuela’s more powerful allies may try to keep the Maduro-led government afloat. But if Venezuela’s government were to run out of funds and subsequently collapse, it would only be the latest leftist government to fall in a nearly century-old U.S. government effort to eradicate socialism and democracy in Latin America.

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Venezuelan VP Releases Open Letter to US Treasury as Parliament Demands Resignation

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Image result for Venezuela CARTOON
By Lucas Koerner | Venezuelanalysis 

Caracas – Venezuelan Vice-President Tareck El Aissami published an open letter to the US Treasury Department in the New York Times Tuesday in which he lambasted the body’s recent drug trafficking accusations as an attempt to further derail bilateral relations.

On February 13, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) froze all of El Aissami’s alleged assets in the US under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Act, making the vice-president the top-ranking official of any country to be sanctioned in this way. In particular, the OFAC accused El Aissami of having “facilitated shipments of narcotics from Venezuela” allegedly in collusion with the Las Zetas Cartel in Mexico.

In the letter, El Aissami charged the OFAC of being “deceived” by certain US political factions “whose fundamental interest is to prevent Venezuela and the United States from restoring their political and diplomatic relations on the basis of mutual recognition and respect”.

The vice-president further lambasted the drug trafficking allegations as a “false positive” which he said was intended to “criminalize – by way of my person – the Bolivarian Government of Venezuela”. The US Treasury Department has yet to release concrete evidence buttressing the accusations; meanwhile no US court has indicated that it is opening an investigation into the case.

El Aissami also highlighted the 62 percent increase in Venezuelan drug busts following the expulsion of the US Drug Enforcement Agency in 2005, which he said evidences Washington’s “egregious failure in the fight against drug trafficking”.

“How many heads of drug trafficking organizations has the US captured in its territory? How many banks and tax havens has the US closed for serving as a financial base for this gigantic business and crime against humanity? … The United States should reflect and rectify,” he wrote in the New York Times.

While El Aissami has received resounding support from President Maduro as well as the nation’s armed forces, the number two official has come under fire from the opposition-controlled National Assembly (AN), which has demanded that he resign from his post.

On Wednesday, a special parliamentary commission headed by Popular Will party legislator Freddy Guevara announced that it was opening an inquiry into the US Treasury allegations and called on the vice-president to step down in order to “facilitate the investigation”.

The AN moreover resolved to formally solicit from the US Congress and the US Treasury Department “the precise information that backs up the claims made so the AN can carry out the corresponding inquiry”.

The legislature additionally called on the Public Prosecutor’s office to provide all information relevant to the case.

Neither the executive branch nor the Public Prosecutor’s office have yet responded to the AN’s resolutions.

Venezuela’s parliament has been declared “null and void” by the Supreme Court over the body’s failure to unseat three legislators from Amazonas state under investigation for alleged electoral fraud.

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

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  • 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

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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

NOVANEWS
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

NOVANEWS
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

NOVANEWS
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.

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