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Venezuela human rights hypocrisy offers cover for imperialist intervention

 by Sam Mcgill

USS Nitze off the coast of Venezuela, 2019 (photo: US Navy)

On 16 September, the Fact-Finding Mission of the UN Human Rights Council published a report on Venezuela, accusing state officials, including Socialist Party (PSUV) President Nicolas Maduro, of ordering arbitrary killings, torture and other crimes against humanity. This spurious report completely fails to mention the suffocating US sanctions against Venezuela, described as crimes against humanity by the former UN rapporteur Alfred de Zayas last year. Its extreme bias reflects the politicisation of the human rights industry and its role as a mechanism for regime change. Venezuela’s biggest ‘crime’ is opposing US interests in Latin America and daring to propose a socialist agenda. SAM McGILL reports.

‘An irresponsible fraud’

Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza lambasted the report as ‘plagued with falsehoods’, lacking ‘any methodological rigour’, produced by a ‘ghost’ mission which conducted its research from abroad. The report contains lurid details of assassinations, blindings and sexual abuse at the hands of the country’s security forces, alleging much of this was personally ordered by President Maduro and dozens of other high-ranking government figures. The mission admits it ‘made full use of available open source information…especially Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube’. Many of the sources interviewed are politically compromised such as Christopher Figuera, former chief of the SEBIN national intelligence service who fled to the US after participating in a failed coup in April 2019. Despite now being a prized propagandist for US intervention in Venezuela, Figuera’s ‘privileged information’ is given high credibility throughout the report. In one egregious falsehood, the report alleges that opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez was a victim of ‘torture and cruel treatment or punishment’ whilst he was held at Ramo Verde prison. In contrast, CCTV footage shows him openly celebrating family occasions with his wife and children in his roomy cell before he was released under house arrest. Though painted as a political prisoner, Lopez has played a central role in multiple coup attempts since 2002, regularly inciting violence and encouraging attacks on housing projects, hospitals and other flagship achievements of the Bolivarian revolution. The escapade of Oscar Perez, a former police official, who in 2017 stole a helicopter and showered the Supreme Court with machine gun fire and grenades, is described as a mere fly-over of government offices. Perez was later killed in a confrontation in 2018 and is painted as a victim of political assassination; that he was leading an organised attack on the Bolivarian National Guard at the time is a detail too inconvenient for the report to include.

The mission criminalises Chavista colectivos as armed gangs, vilifying the grassroots organisations and social movements that blossomed under late socialist president Hugo Chavez, founder of PSUV and the Bolivarian Revolution. In reality the colectivos include the popular power structures of the communal councils and communes, the committees of local supply and production which distribute subsidised food boxes, feminist networks, workers initiatives, community media outlets, as well as official voluntary Bolivarian militias who play a key role defending their communities and workplaces from sabotage and coup manoeuvrers. Meanwhile nothing is reported about regular incidents of grotesque opposition violence which have seen nurseries set alight, Afro-Venezuelans burned alive and multiple beheadings of motorcyclists at road barricade protests; nothing is reported about May’s botched mercenary invasion that saw the capture of several US operatives. Whilst accepting that their evidence is ‘inferior’ and ‘less than what would be needed to achieve a criminal conviction’, the mission fails to acknowledge that 811 officials and 129 civilians have been charged with committing human rights offences, belying the claim that such acts are committed with impunity in Venezuela.
The concluding recommendations urge the international community to consider ‘initiating legal actions against the individuals responsible’, a barely concealed call for intervention in Venezuela and the removal of Nicolas Maduro and the PSUV government by all means necessary. As Arreaza highlighted, ‘Such a report, which is a monument to war propaganda, is an irresponsible fraud.’

In an official communique, Venezuela stated: ‘As an elected member of the Human Rights Council for the period 2020-2022, Venezuela reiterates its strict commitment to the promotion and protection of Human Rights and ratifies that it will work hard to depoliticise its implementation for selective purposes with the tendentious intention of violating independence, sovereignty and self-determination of the Venezuelan people and of all the peoples of the world.’ The mission is in fact redundant and was set up as a bogus parallel to undermine UN resolution 42/4 which created the 2019 ‘Letter of Understanding’ between the Venezuelan government and the office of Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Under this framework the UN office has visited 14 detention centres, conducted confidential interviews and inspected the SEBIN intelligence agency amongst others. Earlier in September, Bachelet acknowledged Venezuela’s cooperation, renewed the commission and praised August’s pardon of 110 opposition activists imprisoned in connection with violent destabilisation.
The parallel fact-finding mission was sponsored by the Lima Group to the tune of $5m and voted through with the support of Australia and Britain, passing with 19 votes in favour and 21 abstentions. The Lima Group, which today incorporates 13 right-wing regional governments plus Canada, was specifically set up in 2017 to isolate Venezuela and topple Maduro. A central member of the mission is Chilean criminal defence lawyer Francisco Cox who previously represented Jovino Novoa, a high-ranking official of the Pinochet dictatorship as well as ministers of the current Piñera regime in Chile. Whilst Cox clamours for human rights in Venezuela, in his recent assessment of the horrific crackdown on protesters in Chile he apparently could not verify ‘attacks on the civilian population as a State policy’, stating ‘I do not believe that the President (Piñera) has international criminal responsibility’. Since the social uprisings of October 2019, Chile has detained over 1,500 young protestors and has broken the world record for eye injuries from the use of rubber bullets, tear gas and live rounds with 500 people mutilated in the space of four months.

Imperialist hypocrisy

The focus on Venezuela in the region is ludicrous. Where is the global condemnation of the coup in Bolivia and the massacre of indigenous protesters? What of the human rights of Movement Towards Socialism campaigners brutally attacked by ‘para-statal groups’ as they canvass for upcoming elections? Where is the global condemnation of Colombia’s government which this year has presided over the assassination of at least 244 people? What of Ecuador’s proscription of left wing coalition ‘Fuerza Compromiso Social’ from next year’s elections? Where is the outcry against the campaign of violence and assassination against journalists and activists in Honduras, Haiti and Guatemala? This so-called ‘independent’ report on Venezuela has been sponsored by the same Lima Group countries committing these atrocities.

The report’s authors have the temerity to express ‘deep concern’ about access to adequate food and medicine in Venezuela, while failing entirely to mention the illegal, unilateral US sanctions which have blocked shipments from neighbouring countries, frozen transactions and led to the prosecution of companies in Colombia and Mexico that attempt to trade with Venezuela. The US Trump administration is tightening sanctions further, ending all exemptions for oil exports and fuel swaps, cutting Venezuela off further from much needed oil revenue. Former UN special rapporteur Alfred de Zayas estimates these sanctions have killed up to 100,000 Venezuelans, a collective punishment that violates the human rights of the whole Venezuelan population. Referring to a similarly biased UN report in 2019, de Zayas commented ‘The report…gives scarce attention to the central problem – the financial blockade and sanctions that cause so much suffering and death. Venezuela’s problems can all be solved, but first the criminal US sanctions must be lifted.’ Venezuelan envoy to the UN, Jorge Valero, reported that US sanctions and bank freezes have cost the Venezuelan people $30bn in the last four years, including the $1bn of gold withheld in the Bank of England in London: ‘This is an amount that the Bolivarian government will no longer be able to spend on food, medicine, and medical supplies.’

A cover for regime change

The fact-finding mission has of course been splashed across the capitalist media. The BBC and The Guardian gleefully ran headlines denouncing Venezuela’s ‘crimes against humanity’ repeating the ‘evil dictator’ trope against Maduro, preparing public opinion for intervention. The same sensationalism was employed in the run-up to the war in Iraq against Saddam Hussein (2003) and the war in Libya against Muammar Gaddafi (2011). The well-worn ploy of categorising states as ‘failed’, ‘terrorist’, ‘narco-trafficking’ or ‘violators of human rights’ is willingly taken up by these mouthpieces of British capitalism. They have long distorted reality when it comes to the struggle for socialism in Venezuela, especially The Guardian, a paper that has deliberately denied Venezuela’s success in controlling coronavirus, and backed every coup attempt against Maduro and the PSUV government. Despite a severe economic crisis and the return of over 130,000 economic migrants, Venezuela has implemented a robust system of testing, quarantine centres and free healthcare and by the end of September had registered fewer than 600 deaths, an astounding feat, especially compared to the huge death-tolls of neighbouring Colombia and Brazil. Meanwhile, over three million units of social housing have been built since 2012, over six million families currently receive subsidised food boxes, five million elderly people now receive state pensions and more than six million children have benefited from school care programmes. The deliberate silence of The Guardian on these achievements is part of its crusade to support regime change in Venezuela. The consequences are dangerously familiar; sanctions and military intervention in Iraq and Libya decimated economic, social and political progress as imperialists scrambled to seize control over their natural resources. The British press dutifully presented the case for war as an issue of human rights. The cowboy US bounties on the heads of Hussein ($25m) and Gaddafi ($1m) saw them hunted down and executed as headlines triumphantly crowed victory. The Guardian’s pseudo-left coverage backing intervention in Venezuela provides political cover for anyone seeking to claim the current $15m bounty on Maduro’s head.

The human rights narrative is central to the next phase of attack against Venezuelan democracy. Elections for the controversial National Assembly are due to be held in December. In 2015, amidst claims of election fraud, the opposition’s coalition of ‘democratic unity’ won a majority of seats in the legislative body. Refusing to rerun elections for three contested seats, the Assembly was ruled to be in contempt of the Supreme Court in 2017. Sections of the opposition, including former Presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, have confirmed their participation in the upcoming elections, however Juan Guaido, who swore himself in as ‘interim’ president in January 2019 and led a string of failed coup attempts in the last 18 months, is pushing a boycott, backed by the US. With the opposition hopelessly divided and Guaido increasingly unpopular within Venezuela, an international campaign to refuse to recognise the results is now being prepared. Quick off the mark, OAS Secretary General and Lima group architect, Luis Almagro declared that, due to such alleged human rights conditions, elections could not go ahead and should not be recognised. Accordingly, the ‘International Contact Group’ on Venezuela, made up of the European Union and several Latin American states, demanded the postponement of elections, turning down Venezuela’s invitation to observe December’s elections and indicating that they too will refuse to recognise the results. Notably, all of the European Union ICG member countries recognize Guaido as the legitimate interim president of Venezuela. Simultaneously, US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo embarked on an autumn tour of Venezuela’s neighbours, visiting Brazil, Colombia, Guyana and Suriname, drumming up support for intervention and proxy war. The stage is being carefully set.

US and EU imperialism are determined to drown Venezuela in blood. Despite the contradictions and challenges faced by a movement trying to build socialism in the framework of a capitalist oil exporting state, strangled by sanctions and surrounded by hostile enemies, the Bolivarian revolution is steadfastly resisting. It demands our solidarity!

Hands off Venezuela!
No sanctions!
No coup!

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Paramilitary invasions in Venezuela: Made in USA

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Nic de la Riva

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In the early morning of Sunday, May 3, the National Bolivarian Armed Forces of Venezuela along with the Special Actions Forces of the Venezuelan National Police repelled an armed invasion by speedboats off the coast of La Guaira, less than an hour from the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, recalling past U.S.-backed paramilitary invasions in Latin American states such as the Bay of Pigs in Cuba and the Contras in Nicaragua. As we go to press, the government has issued a maximum alert, with other terrorists having been apprehended in Chuao, west of La Guaira, and other plots suspected.

Venezuelan authorities captured various weapons such as 10 rifles, a Glock 9mm pistol and 2 machine guns along with loaded cartridges of various calibers. Other objects captured were identification documents, satellite telephones, uniforms (including a helmet with a U.S. flag on it) and two notebooks detailing the operation, known as “Operation Gideon.”

Reports have stated that from eight to 10 invaders were killed in the first encounter, along with two being captured. One of the captured is reported to be an agent of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

The origin of the speedboats has been confirmed through GPS data on the satellite telephones as taking off from Riohacha, Colombia, which is located in the La Guajira department that borders Venezuela.

While this attempted invasion was taken care of swiftly and efficiently by the Venezuelan government, further action and investigation will be taken to protect Venezuela from more paramilitary invasion or the activation of paramilitary cells already within Venezuela.

Both the U.S. government and the U.S.-backed part of the opposition led by self-proclaimed “interim president” Juan Guaidó have denied any involvement in the invasion. However, several non-state actors are coming forward and contradicting these statements.

The most vocal of these actors is Jordan Goudreau, a former U.S. Special Operations soldier, who currently owns Silvercorp, a paramilitary contractor that specializes in “strategy” and “procedural executions.” He claims to have been working for months with the U.S.-backed, Guaidó-led faction, formulating a 70 page, $212 million contract to train paramilitaries, many of whom are deserters of the Venezuelan Armed Forces, in order to execute what he confirms as Operation Gideon. This operation planned to invade Venezuela as near to Caracas as possible in order to take Caracas and overthrow the Maduro government.

Goudreau has produced the contract, which includes the signatures of Juan Guaidó, Juan José Rendón, and Goudreau himself. He has even confirmed that Operation Gideon is the same operation outlined by Cliver Alcalá, the Venezuelan ex-military officer who turned himself into the U.S. government after the U.S. placed bounties of millions of dollars on the heads of not only Alcalá, but high Venezuelan officials such Nicolás Maduro and PSUV vice-president Diosdado Cabello, falsely accusing them of being involved in “narco-terrorism.” It is language strikingly similar to that used against Panama’s leader Manuel Noriega before the December 1989 invasion by U.S. imperialism.

But Goudreau also details the vacillation and “backstabbing” of the opposition who would not pay his company’s $1.5 million retainer, and accused opposition leaders of hoarding million of dollars, funds stolen from Venezuela by imperialist countries and given to the U.S.-backed opposition.

Aside from the statements of Goudreau and Alcalá, other connections can be made linking the invasion to U.S.-backed Contra style operations originating from Colombia that are also connected to the Guaidó faction. For example, the captured assault rifles, which are not the same used by Venezuela’s Bolivarian National Armed Forces, match those used in the attempted coup by Guaidó and Leopoldo López on April 30, 2019.

The Venezuelan government and its civic-military union have been preparing for invasions like this as part of its initiative “Escudo Bolivariano” or “Bolivarian Shield.” Recently, Venezuela has intercepted the illegal transport of arms into Venezuela, for which Alcalá has already claimed responsibility. They have also arrested members of the National Guard who allegedly robbed weapons from military detachments in Miranda. They have captured various leaders of the armed opposition such as Rubén Darío Fernández, known as “Búho” who has confessed that another leader and confidant of Alcalá, Robert “Pantera” Colina, was heading a terrorist squad with a goal of assassinating members of the Venezuelan executive branch. “Pantera,” who is seen on video calling for the “liberation” of Venezuela, is reportedly among the eight-10 killed during the La Guaira attempted invasion.

President of the Constituent Assembly Diosdado Cabello confirms that they have been expecting invasions like this, and is in fact expecting more, which has been confirmed by Goudreau in his statements that other cells are activating. But despite the violence of the U.S.-backed opposition, which tries to take advantage of an economically blocked country in the middle of a global pandemic, Cabello made the following statement on the “arrogant” Venezuelan right-wing,

“We have defeated them in the street, we have defeated them electorally, we have defeated them militarily… Because of this, they have left all their hope in a military intervention of the highest level… Our answer is this: Bolivarian Fury.”

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Venezuela moves PDVSA HQ to Moscow

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Gloria La Riva

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To protect Venezuela’s oil from the “armed robbery being carried out against Venezuela’s wealth,” Vice-President Delcy Rodríguez announced that the European offices of Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., the state-owned oil and natural gas company,  will be moved from Lisbon to Moscow.

In a joint press conference in Moscow on March 1, together with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, both spoke of the countries’ growing economic and trade relations, including agreements between the oil giant PDVSA of Venezuela and Russia’s Gazprom and Rosneft. Russia will assist Venezuela in the production of medicines inside the country, as well as supply medicines that are purchased.

The continued U.S. attempt to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro was also presented, and Russia warned of U.S. arms being funneled to opposition groups inside Venezuela.

Economic agreements were already signed last December, but U.S. and European sanctions have accelerated closer ties with Russia.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government’s attempt to pass a resolution in the UN Security Council calling for presidential elections in Venezuela was vetoed by Russia and China. South Africa also voted no. A resolution by Russia backing Venezuela as the primary party to initiate or accept any international aid, also failed.

Nevertheless, U.S. military plans continue. Both Lavrov and Rodríguez gave details.

Lavrov warned that the U.S. is arming paramilitary groups, saying, “These plans are very alarming. The U.S. openly talks about this. The information we have shows that in the upcoming future, the United States is planning to buy in one of these European countries, light arms, mortars, anti-aircraft portable weapons and then send it close to Venezuela, with the help of the air cargo company which is absolutely loyal to the regime friendly with Washington.

Vice-president Rodríguez spoke of the same U.S. strategy that was used in Syria. “As far as the operation against Venezuela, a very experienced person is heading up that operation.

“Mr. Abrams has already been involved in this kind of activity. There are certain steps aimed at establishing some illegal military units …  the U.S. supports these extremist groups, illegal terrorist groups and uses them to destabilize peace.

“It will not happen in Venezuela. Our independence is the connection between the army and the people. Our people and our army are together, they will protect the territorial integrity and independence of our country.”

Foreign minister Lavrov affirmed Russia’s support with Venezuela, describing it as “our longstanding partner. We reaffirm our solidarity with the people of the legitimate government of Venezuela in its effort to defend its independence and sovereignty … Russia will continue to help Venezuelan authorities in solving social and economic problems by supplying humanitarian aid.”

In addition to moving PDVSA’s Europe site to Russia, Venezuela will pursue its legal claims to CITGO properties that were seized by the U.S. government.

In early April high-level government commissions from both countries will meet in Moscow to discuss major works, including military and high technology.

Today, Sunday, the Russian Senate’s president Valentina Matviyenko presented Rodríguez with the Senate’s declaration warning the United States that any intervention in Venezuela will be seen as an “act of aggression.”

“Everything is pointing to the threat of military intervention. Russia has done all it can and will continue doing so in the future to prevent the development of such an occurrence,” said Matviyenko.

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Venezuela leads the way in hurricane relief efforts

Jamier Sale

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Barbuda: Damage caused by Irma

After Hurricane Harvey left thousands of homes underwater, Venezuela pledged $5 million to aid in relief through its oil company Citgo as well as providing free fuel for relief workers in the area.

First with Harvey and now with Irma, Venezuela has demonstrated the true meaning of solidarity with its response to the devastation left by the two historic tropical storms. The tiny island of Barbuda lay in ruins after enduring the Category 5 hurricane with winds over 175 mph. It is reported that St. Martin is 95 percent destroyed, and more damage is expected on other islands as Irma continues its path of destruction.

Within 24 hours of speaking with officials from Barbuda, Venezuela began delivering urgently needed medical supplies, beds, and water to the hard-hit Caribbean island. They also provided two military cargo planes to be used to get supplies from neighboring countries.

As this is being written, Venezuela stands as the first, and to-date only, nation to provide this vital support needed for those in the wake of the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic. Cuba, with its legendary medical aid to many countries during disasters, is itself hunkering down as the monstrous hurricane approaches the island.

This spirit of solidarity that has been shown by Venezuela is a reflection of the humanitarian values of the Bolivarian Revolution. At the same time as the reactionary opposition is engaged in an economic war against the Venezuelan government and masses, with the support of the U.S. government, humanitarian support with no strings attached for those in need remains a high priority.

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Zionist puppet Guaido to restore Venezuelan ties with ‘Israel’

The Zionist media reported on Saturday, that “the leader of the Venezuelan opposition, Juan Guaidó, will work to resume relations with Israel after 11 years of estrangement caused by former President Hugo Chavez,” following the 2009 Gaza conflict.

According to the online newspaper Israel Hayom, the Venezuelan opposition leader “will seek to resume relations with Tel Aviv again.”

The newspaper said, “Guaidó has appointed a Venezuelan of Jewish origin, who is Rabbi Pinchas Brenner, who led the Jewish community in Venezuela for years, as an ambassador to Israel, and in preparation for this step, a virtual embassy was opened via the Internet.”

However, they said ‘Israel’ has yet to recognize any ambassador to their country.

The late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez severed relations with the Nazi regime 11 years ago, in protest against the Nazi Holocaust Israeli military in the Gaza Strip.

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Long Overdue for Latin America

by MEDEA BENJAMIN – STEVE ELLNER

U.S. policy towards Venezuela has been a fiasco. Try as it might, the Trump regime-change team has been unable to depose President Maduro and finds itself stuck with a self-proclaimed president, Juan Guaidó, who President Trump was reported to have called “a kid” who “doesn’t have what it takes.” The Venezuelan people have paid a heavy price for Trump’s debacle, which has included crippling economic sanctions and coup attempts. So has U.S. prestige internationally, as both the UN and the EU have urged lifting sanctions during the pandemic but the U.S. has refused.

This is only one example of a string of disastrous policies toward Latin America. The Trump administration has dusted off the 19th century Monroe Doctrine that subjugates the nations of the region to U.S. interests. But as in past centuries, U.S. attempts at domination are confronted at every turn by popular resistance.

Instead of continuing down this imperial path of endless confrontation, U.S. policymakers need to stop, recalibrate, and design an entirely new approach to inter-American relations. This is particularly urgent as the continent is in the throes of a coronavirus crisis and an economic recession that is compounded by low commodity prices, a belly-up tourist industry and the drying up of remittances from outside.

A good reference point for a policy makeover is Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “Good Neighbor Policy” in the 1930s, which represented an abrupt break with the interventionism of that time. FDR abandoned “gunboat diplomacy” in which Marines were sent throughout the region to impose U.S. will. Though his policies were criticized for not going far enough, he did bring back U.S. Marines from Nicaragua, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and scrapped the Platt Amendment that allowed the U.S. to intervene unilaterally in Cuban affairs.

So what would a Good Neighbor Policy for the 21st Century look like? Here are some key planks:

An end to military intervention. The illegal use of military force has been a hallmark of U.S. policy in the region, as we see from the deployment of Marines in the Dominican Republic in 1965, Grenada in 1983, Panama in 1989; involvement in military actions leading to the Guatemalan coup in 1954 and destabilization in Nicaragua in the 1980s; support for coups in Brazil in 1964, Chile in 1973 and elsewhere. A Good Neighbor Policy would not only renounce the use of military force, but even the threat of such force (as in “all options are on the table”), particularly because such threats are illegal under international law.

U.S. military intimidation also comes in the form of U.S. bases that dot the continent from Cuba to Colombia to further south. These installations are often resisted by local communities, as was the case of the Manta Base in Ecuador that was shut down in 2008 and the ongoing opposition against the Guantanamo Base in Cuba. U.S. bases in Latin America are a violation of local sovereignty and should be closed, with the lands cleaned up and returned to their rightful owners.

Another form of military intervention is the financing and training of local military and police forces. Most of the U.S. assistance sent to Latin America, particularly Central America, goes towards funding security forces, resulting in the militarization of police and borders, and leading to greater police brutality, extrajudicial killings and repression of migrants. The training school in Ft. Benning, Georgia, formerly called the “School of the Americas,” graduated some of the continent’s worst human rights abusers. Even today, U.S.-trained forces are involved in egregious abuses, including the assassination of activists like Berta Cáceres in Honduras. U.S. programs to confront drugs, from the Merida Initiative in Mexico to Plan Colombia, have not stopped the flow of drugs but have poured massive amounts of weapons into the region and led to more killings, torture and gang violence. Latin American governments need to clean up their own national police forces and link them to communities, a more effective way to combat drug trafficking than the militarization that Washington has promoted. The greatest contribution the U.S. can make to putting an end to the narcotics scourge in Latin America is to take measures to control the U.S. market for those drugs through responsible regulation and reforms,

No more political meddling. While the U.S. public has been shocked by charges of Russian interference in its elections, this kind of meddling is par for the course in Latin America. USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), created in 1983 as a neutral sounding alternative to the CIA, spend millions of tax-payer dollars to undermine progressive movements. Following the election of Hugo Chávez in 1998, for instance, NED ramped up its assistance to conservative groups in Venezuela (which became the foundation’s number one Latin American recipient) as a leadup to regime change attempts.

Unfortunately, the State Department’s definition of democracy includes free market capitalism, which gets translated into special relations with conservative governments that prioritize the interests of the elite and U.S. corporations. Under Trump, this has meant that Washington’s closest allies are governments on the extreme right of the political spectrum that have been accused of flagrant violations of human rights: Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, Ivan Duque in Colombia, Jeanine Añez in Bolivia, Sebastián Piñera in Chile and Nayib Bukele in El Salvador. A New Good Neighbor Policy would follow the example of the United Nations in not letting ideology determine relations with other nations.

An end to the use of economic blackmail. The U.S. government uses economic pressure to impose its will. The Trump administration threatened to halt remittances to Mexico to extract concessions from the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador on immigration issues. A similar threat persuaded many voters in El Salvador’s 2004 presidential elections to refrain from voting for the candidate of the left-leaning Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN).

The U.S. also uses economic coercion against the socialist governments of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. For the past 60 years, U.S. administrations have sanctioned Cuba—a policy that has not successfully led to regime change but has made living conditions harder for the Cuban people. The same is true in Venezuela, where one study says that in just 2017-2018, over 40,000 Venezuelans died as a result of sanctions. With coronavirus, these sanctions have become even more deadly. A Good Neighbor Policy would lift the economic sanctions against all three nations and help them recover economically.

Support trade policies that lift people out of poverty and protect the environment. U.S. free trade agreements with Latin America have been good for the elites and U.S. corporations, but have increased economic inequality, eroded labor rights, destroyed the livelihoods of small farmers, furthered the privatization of public services, and compromised national sovereignty. When indebted nations seek loans from international financial institutions, the loans have been conditioned on the imposition of neoliberal policies that exacerbate all of these trends.

In terms of the environment, too often the U.S. government has sided with global oil and mining interests when local communities in Latin America and the Caribbean have challenged resource-extracting projects that threaten their environment and endanger public health. We must launch a new era of energy and natural resource cooperation that prioritizes renewable sources of energy, green jobs, and good environmental stewardship.

With the economic crisis brought on by coronavirus, the protests that rocked Latin America before the pandemic will return with a vengeance unless countries are free to explore alternatives to neoliberal policies. A New Good Neighbor Policy would cease imposing economic conditions on Latin American governments and would call on the International Monetary Fund to do the same. An example of international cooperation is China’s “Belt and Road Initiative,” which, even with some downsides, has generated goodwill in the Global South by prioritizing investments in much-needed infrastructure projects without conditioning its funding on any aspect of government policy.

Humane immigration policy. Throughout history, U.S. administrations have refused to take responsibility for the ways the U.S. has spurred mass migration north, including unfair trade agreements, support for dictators, climate change, drug consumption and the export of gangs. Instead, immigrants have been used and abused as a source of cheap labor, and vilified according to the political winds. President Obama was the deporter-in-chief; President Trump has been caging children, building walls, and shutting off avenues for people to seek asylum. A Good Neighbor policy would dismantle ICE and the cruel deportation centers; it would provide the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States a path to citizenship; and it would respect the international right of people to seek asylum.

Recognition of Latin America’s cultural contributions. President Trump’s blatant disrespect towards Latin Americans and immigrants, including his call for building a wall “paid for by Mexico,” has intensified racist attitudes among his base. A new Latin America policy would not only counter racism but would uplift the region’s exceptional cultural richness. The recent controversy surrounding the extensive commercial promotion of the novel “American Dirt,” written by a U.S. author about the Mexican immigration experience, is an example of the underestimation of talent south of the border. The contributions of the continent’s indigenous population should also be appreciated and justly compensated, such as the centuries-old medicinal cures that are often exploited by U.S.-based pharmaceutical companies.

According to the Pew Research Center, in the two years prior to Trump’s assumption of the presidency, the percentage of Latin Americans who viewed the United States favorably dropped from 66% to 47%. These percentages continued their precipitous decline under the Trump presidency. A few economic concessions are not going to turn the trend around.

With the possibility of a change in the White House, CODEPINK, the Center for Economic Policy and Research (CEPR), and other progressive organizations are drafting a letter to presidential candidate Joe Biden that begins: “We hope that your administration will adopt a New Good Neighbor Policy” based on the “principles of non-intervention and non-interference, mutual respect and acceptance of our differences.”

An all-encompassing expression of goodwill in the form of a New Good Neighbor Policy will meet resistance from vested economic and military interests, as well as those persuaded by racist arguments. But the vast majority of people in the United States have nothing to lose by it and, in fact, have much to gain. Universal threats, such as coronavirus and the climate crisis, have taught us the limits of borders and should act as incentives to construct a Good Neighbor Policy for the 21st century based on those principles of non-intervention and mutual respect.

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Bank of England must hand back Venezuela’s gold

Britain’s latest theft is part of a long history of looting and aggression against the Venezuelan people, who continue to struggle for their independence and freedom.

Lalkar writers

When Hugo Chávez took power in Venezuela in 1998, a chain of reaction was set off among the Venezuelan comprador elite and the US imperialism it served. The stratagems and dirty tricks that have been used to try to take this country back to its former subordinate position are many and varied, and these unbridled and aggressive attempts to bury the Bolivarian revolution and the example it sets to other countries in what the US considers its ‘backyard’ have been covered in many of our previous articles.

Before 1998, Venezuela was the world’s fifth-largest exporter of oil, and the little that remained to Venezuela of its huge wealth after the imperialist corporations had taken the lion’s share was systematically appropriated in the personal incomes of the ruling elite, with an even smaller share going to pay the wages of workers in the privileged oil and banking sector, who make up the country’s much-touted ‘middle class’.

Venezuela’s dependency on oil profits meant that its economy was always firmly tied to imperialism, and no attempt was ever made by these leeches either to diversify or to invest any of the profits from oil into improving conditions for the vast majority of the people, most of whom were existing in slums and shantytowns well below the poverty line.

Venezuela today, by contrast, stands proudly at the side of socialist Cuba, supported in the region by some other progressive states such as Nicaragua, which also suffers from constant interference in its internal affairs by the US and its puppets.

The constant coup attempts, financial and industrial sabotage (mainly in the field of oil production and refining) and the crippling sanctions have been a drain on the Bolivarian state programmes aimed at raising living standards for the poor, but, despite this, the masses still support their government, now led by President Nicolás Maduro.

This article mainly deals with recent intrusions and dirty tricks, but will also have to refer back to some earlier ones as part of the background to what is happening now.

The coronavirus Covid-19 is causing distress and deaths around the world in 2020, and almost every country has tried to combat the virus and alleviate the problems caused it is causing as much as possible. Venezuela’s efforts in this regard have been hampered since it has been under even stricter US sanctions than before, because (a) President Maduro won the last presidential election easily, and (b) Venezuela did not succumb to a coup attempt last year aimed at overturning the election result.

Sanctions from the US in reality mean sanctions from nearly every country that has dealings with the US. This has meant that food, medicines and personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical staff are among the items being cruelly withheld from the Venezuelan people as US imperialism attempts to cow them into submission. Even where the much-needed supplies could be found, their transportation is problematic as any company taking on such a contract will find itself sanctioned by the US and on a very slippery and short slope to financial ruin.

Fuel is also on the list of embargoed essentials being denied to Venezuela. This does at first sight seem strange, since Venezuela sits on the largest-known oil reserves in the world, but, with that staple industry wrecked by sabotage and sanctions, it is extremely hard to sell what oil can be got to the surface. Many who used to work in the oil production and refinement industries as specialists and managers kept their allegiance to the comprador Venezuelan elite and to US imperialism, and were well placed for wrecking activities.

Venezuela has had to look to its gold reserves to try to overcome the problems of trying to protect its people from the pandemic and getting the oil industry back into production – at least for the home market and for those countries strong enough to stand up to US imperialism.

Like most countries, Venezuela has assets in other countries and has, like many others, for very many years held gold bullion in the Bank of England (BoE). This may seem strange to some, especially when Britain is a major enforcer of the sanctions placed on Venezuela, but the BoE is the second-largest keeper of gold in the world, with approximately 400,000 bars belonging to various nations in its vaults. Only the New York Federal Reserve has more.

Venezuela’s gold was placed in the bank’s vault before Hugo Chávez come to power, and has therefore been safe from theft, there being, unfortunately, nowhere in Venezuela anywhere near as safe. Venezuela did keep a small amount of gold at home, but this has been keeping the country afloat during the period of crippling sanctions.

When the elected government of Venezuela requested the release some of the country’s gold for sale in order to realise funds of around £820m to get food, medicines, medical equipment and refined oil products to fight against the pandemic, the BoE immediately turned down the request.

The US and other piratical imperialist powers behind last year’s failed coup attempt claim not recognise President Maduro’s government, and the US last year warned “bankers, brokers, traders and facilitators” not to deal in “gold, oil, or other Venezuelan commodities stolen from the Venezuelan people by the Maduro mafia”. Taking this as its cue, the BoE is now claiming not to know who is the rightful owner of the Venezuelan gold in its vaults!

The imperialist claim that President Maduro’s government is ‘illegitimate’ is absurd in the extreme. The flimsy pretext is that in 2018 the Venezuelan government brought the presidential election forward by a few weeks, thereby hoping to clarify to the world the fact that the president had the country’s overwhelming support.

Meanwhile, 2017 had seen another coup attempt connected with what was supposed to be ‘mass, popular’ anti-Maduro rioting in some wealthy areas, and 2018 witnessed drone attacks, carried out by small groups hiding within the country who had loaded the drones with explosives, at least one of them targeting the president. Fortunately, the Venezuelan security forces were able to disrupt the drones’ signals, while soldiers and local workers captured some members of the piloting groups, who, when questioned, named Colombian drug cartels as the financial power (at least as far as their wages were concerned) behind their activities.

Venezuela’s pro-imperialist opposition complained that it was wrong to bring the elections forward, even though it made perfect sense for voter safety and despite the fact that there is nothing in the constitution against doing so. The opposition also complained that people who had been imprisoned for promoting and taking part in defeated coup attempts or who had escaped the justice of the Venezuelan masses by fleeing the country after such coup attempts were not being allowed to run for the presidency.

When the presidential election results came in, Nicolás Maduro had secured 6.2 million votes against 1.9 million for Henri Falcón of ‘Progressive Advance’, and, just under a million for Javier Bertucci of ‘El Cambio’ (two other candidates – Quijada and Ratti – pulled out during the campaign). Maduro therefore won a clear 67.8 percent of the votes cast.

In the wealthier areas it is known that many workers were threatened with extreme violence and financial aggression by landowners and employers, resulting in a high rate of abstention, yet in every single state, even those where workers were threatened by the elite, Maduro’s vote never went below 50 percent, while in others it soared to 60-70 percent.

Both defeated candidates complained about ‘irregularities’. There had been some, of course, but they were carried out by the elite, who had tried in some places to force workers to vote for one of the opposition candidates or to abstain. Despite these ballot-rigging activities, President Maduro had shown that the vast majority of the masses supported him, his government and their collective aims.

The ruling elite in the USA and its tame news media went mad. Amid the frothing mouths all screaming that the Venezuelan presidential election had been fixed and that it was ‘anti-democratic’, the US government decided that the result was void and declared the winner to be Juan Guaidó. Mr Guaidó had not taken part in the election, of course, but as an escaped coup conspirator he was seen as the ideal ‘democratic’ choice of the US to be the puppet leader of Venezuela.

As farcical as this scenario is, every other imperialist robber and all their many puppet states lined up to declare Juan Guaidó to be the rightful democratic leader of Venezuela. It is this breathtakingly audacious declaration by the 40 thieves that stopped Venezuela (on the face of it at least) from securing the IMF loan of $5bn that it asked for to buy the things it needed to combat the Covid-19 outbreak (that and the fact that the IMF simply does as it is told by the USA anyway).

And it was just this declaration that was making the poor old Bank of England hesitate to hand Venezuela’s gold over to Venezuela.

In the USA, of course, there was no such public handwringing. All Venezuelan assets were seized and handed to Mr Guaidó. In Britain, however, Venezuela has launched legal proceedings against the Bank of England to try to force it to release £820m ($1bn) worth of Venezuelan gold. It has even asked for that money to be given straight to the United Nations for the sole use of fighting Covid-19 in Venezuela.

The UN is no friend of Bolivarian Venezuela, but it has already identified Venezuela as a “priority country” in considering its global Covid-19 response because the Venezuelan healthcare system is now so fragile as a result of the sanctions, the loss of oil revenue, and the many aggressive armed interventions that the US has sponsored.

One of the first statements made by the UN after the Covid-19 outbreak was declared a pandemic, was a call for a global ceasefire so that all humanity could fight against the pandemic. The US’s representatives in the UN voted against this proposition. They saw the pandemic as an ally in strangling several countries’ leaderships – Cuba, Venezuela and Iran being among the top targets.

Mr Guaidó does not even have the support of most of what constitutes the opposition within Venezuela, let alone the masses. Most of the opposition, such as Falcón, did not approve of what he called “Guaidó’s submission to Trump and Pompeo”.

Claudio Fermín of the Partido Soluciones para Venezuela (‘Solutions for Venezuela’ party) attacked the “irresponsible and fanciful thesis” of Guaidó and his supporters, which is reliant upon the “fantasy cloud of instructions sent to them by their bosses Elliot Abrams, Pompeo, and Trump”. Henrique Capriles Radonski, who twice ran unsuccessfully in presidential elections, pointedly said that Nicolás Maduro has “internal control” while Guaidó’s people have only “international alliances”.

At the time of writing, the British courts are yet to rule on who is the genuine ruler of Venezuela so that they can then consider the $1bn lawsuit that the Bank of Venezuela has had to bring against the BoE. Every state with gold in the BoE that thinks it may one day fall foul of US imperialist interests will be watching the proceedings closely.

The US government has also announced that Venezuela and its leaders are growing and shipping drugs to America, and has therefore put a price on the heads of President Maduro ($15m) and other government leaders ($10m each).

Here again, farce follows farce. Not only is there no evidence anywhere to prove this lie but in December 2019 the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) released its ‘National Drug Threat Assessment’, a study that gives the best and most detailed look at the movement of drugs into the United States. At several points in the study, the DEA pointed out that Colombia is the “primary source for cocaine seized in the United States”.

According to the DEA’s cocaine signature programme, in 2018 “approximately 90 percent of cocaine samples tested were of Colombian origin, six percent were of Peruvian origin, and four percent were of unknown origin”. As far as the US’s own drug agency is concerned, there is no cocaine or any other narcotic coming to the US from Venezuela, and yet the world is told with the greatest of confidence (obviously bluster is to be taken as an adequate replacement for proof) that Venezuela’s leaders want to flood the US with cocaine.

Apart from putting prices on the heads of Venezuela’s elected leaders, the US imperialists think this tactic gives them the authority to block the Venezuelan coast with gunboats and send US military into Venezuela looking for ‘drugs’ and ‘drug growers’ to arrest or shoot.

On April Fools’ Day, US president Donald Trump gave a press conference in which he announced a new “counter-narcotics effort” by US Southern Command. “We’re deploying additional navy destroyers, combat ships, aircrafts and helicopters; coast guard cutters; and air force surveillance aircraft, doubling our capabilities in the region,” he said, adding: “The point of this mission, which will be joined by other countries, is to increase surveillance, disruption, and seizures of drug shipments. We must not let the drug cartels exploit the pandemic to threaten American lives.”

As the American government knows only too well, the drugs traffic from Columbia, the real source of the killing powder on the streets of the US, doesn’t go anywhere near Venezuelan ports or its coast, even when it is shipped by sea. Since they don’t really want to stop that trade, however, the real routes are immaterial to them.

One of the US’s partners in this farcical ‘exercise’ is Colombia, a country where the government really does have links to drug growth and shipment. Both Colombia’s current president, Iván Duque, and his patron, the former president Álvaro Uribe, have had close ties with drug lord José Guillermo Hernández Aponte, known as Ñeñé, among others.

Armed intervention foiled

On 3 May 2020, in the early hours of a sleepy Sunday morning, speedboats left the Colombian coastline and headed toward Venezuela, landing on the coast at La Guaira. The heavily-armed men on board sported US flag patches on their uniforms.

Eight of the invaders were killed when they encountered the Venezuelan military, while two more were arrested and several went temporarily on the run. One of the arrested men told the Venezuelan soldiers that he was an agent of the US government’s Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). The next morning, Venezuelan security forces, aided by the fishermen and fisherwomen of the Bolivarian militias in the coastal town of Chuao, arrested eight more mercenaries on a speedboat that was also attempting to enter the country.

Two more invaders were captured by Venezuelan soldiers and militias the same day in the town of Puerto Maya. Large quantities of specialised assault weapons, explosives and ammunition along with military intelligence equipment was seized by Venezuelan security forces over the two days.

One Venezuelan leader, Diosdado Cabello said at the time: “What happened is an example of the desperation of the United States and its allies.” He also called the invaders and the coup-plotters behind them “a cast of characters from the seediest quarters of the military and the drug world, as well as of US intelligence and Colombian paramilitaries”.

The plot has now been laid bare for all to see. It was led by Jordan Goudreau, who served in the US army in Iraq and Afghanistan and is now linked with mercenary suppliers Silvercorp. He worked with Cliver Alcalá, a former Venezuelan military officer, who is now in prison in the United States for his involvement in the drug trade. Goudreau and Alcalá were backed by Trump’s bodyguard Keith Schiller and Roen Kraft of Kraft Foods.

One of the ironies of the military incursion was that, in the name of ‘combatting narcotrafficking’, the entire operation seems to have been financed by drug dealers. José Alberto Socorro Hernández (aka Pepero), who was captured during the invasion, admitted that the La Guajira cartel of Colombia promised to pay them $2m for their actions.

Videos and photos have emerged on social media of a contract signed between Goudreau and US puppet/leader Guaidó. There may be some enmity between them now, however, as Silvercorp has yet to receive any of payment it was promised.

It does now seem likely that the mission of this group was not to take over the country or government by itself; it was probably expected to inspire and join up with other groups. But if they really expected a friendly response from the armed forces or a street mobilisation of the populace it didn’t happen. What they clearly did not expect was the swift and unforgiving response that they actually got from Venezuela’s people and armed forces alike.

Juan Guaidó must now be feeling pretty peeved with his backers and embarrassingly impotent as every plan to send him back to Venezuela as a puppet dictator/triumphal president turns to ash. When a flotilla of Iranian tankers set off to deliver petrol and other refined oil products to Venezuela, he went from screaming that they contained nothing to declaring that the fuel wouldn’t last long, while all the time hoping that the US or one of its allies would capture or sink the tankers in question.

He must have been beside himself with rage when he realised that the five ships were able to sail serenely into harbour, the US’s gunboats having almost magically disappeared before the first tanker got to where they had been stationed. The Iranian flotilla escorted into harbour by the Venezuelan navy, delivered its cargo and returned home, while the Iranian government made it clear to all that they would sail again if asked by Venezuela to do so.

Far more worrying for the plans of Guaidó and the US ruling class is the fact that Iranian oil and refinery experts have been flown into Venezuela to mend the country’s sabotaged refineries and wells.

In saluting the Venezuelan people, armed forces and government for their heroism and tenacity under extreme threat, we also salute the Iranian people and government for their selfless acts of comradeship to another country suffering under the imperialists’ crippling sanctions regime.

We include a special salute to those five tankers: Fortune, Forest, Petunia, Faxon and Clavel and their crew of heroes.

Long live anti-imperialist unity!

Posted in UK, VenezuelaComments Off on Bank of England must hand back Venezuela’s gold

UK Commits ‘Highway Robbery’ of Venezuelan Gold, Says Academic

By Johanna Ross

When it comes to Venezuela, Britain is suffering from split personality disorder. While the UK Foreign Office reportedly maintains ‘full, normal and reciprocal diplomatic relations’ with legitimately elected President Maduro’s government, and with Maduro’s UK ambassador, the British government has been actively supporting the self-appointed US-backed ‘leader’ Juan Guaido, who led the coup against Maduro in 2019.

Last week the High Court in London ruled that Juan Guaido was ‘unequivocally’ recognised as the President of Venezuela. There’s just one problem with the ruling however: Juan Guaido isn’t the President. He may have tried hard; he talked the talk, and walked the walk (clearly modelling himself on a cross between Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron, with sleeves rolled up like Barack Obama). He had just the right youthful, liberal image to front the US led regime change campaign in the South American nation. But last year’s coup, supported by the US and Colombia, dramatically backfired after the Venezuelan military refused to back him.

Nevertheless, it has been in the British government’s interest to prop up the would-be Venezuelan leader. The High Court’s verdict was in a case brought to the court by Maduro’s government, which is trying to access $1bn of its gold currently held by the Bank of England. It’s pretty straightforward – the bank doesn’t want to pay out, and is using Maduro’s ‘contested’ leadership as a reason not to do so. Suddenly it matters that Maduro’s presidency is questionable, never mind the fact that he was democratically re-elected in 2018.

Juan Guaido claims that the funds from the Bank of England gold would be used to ‘prop up the regime’, while the Venezuelan government has insisted that the money would go towards managing the coronavirus pandemic. Maduro has even said that once the gold is sold the money will be transferred to the UN Development Programme. In any case, the reason seems irrelevant; when was the last time you or I had to justify a withdrawal from our own bank accounts?

I spoke recently to the National Secretary of the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign and senior lecturer at the University of Middlesex, Dr Francisco Dominguez, who said to me that the move by the High Court to block the transfer of Venezuelan gold constituted nothing more than ‘highway robbery’ and he condemned the UK’s use of Guaido in this case as a ‘legal device to steal Venezuela’s assets’. He stated:Give Venezuela Back Its Gold: Case Goes to London Court

‘It is abundantly clear the UK’s recognition of Guaido’s farcical “interim presidency” has nothing to do with “democracy” or “human rights” but with “colonial pillage”.  After all, there is nothing democratic or decent about Guaido: he colludes with Colombian narco-traffickers; he attempted a violent coup d’etat’; contracted US mercenaries to assassinate President Maduro and several Venezulean government high officials, vigorously promotes sanctions and aggression against his own nation, and he reeks of corruption.’

Dr Dominguez also pointed to direct collusion of the UK government with Guaido, as was recently uncovered by a British journalist. Newly obtained documents, exposed by John McEvoy, have recently shed light on the murky connection between the British government and the aspiring Venezuelan president. It was uncovered that a Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) Unit named the Venezuela Reconstruction Unit has been created which has not been officially acknowledged by either country. In the documents it was revealed that  Juan Guaidó’s representative in the UK, Vanessa Neumann, had spoken with FCO officials about the sustenance of British business interests in Venezuela’s ‘reconstruction’. A conversation of this nature obviously stinks of regime change, given the fact Venezuela sits on the largest proven oil reserves in the world, and that Neumann has previously links to oil companies. Britain is placing its stake in Venezuela’s demise.

Formally the UK government has a different position. In relation to Venezuela’s gold, former Treasury Minister Robert Jenrick said back in 2019 in response to the parliamentary question ‘what the legal basis was for the Bank of England’s decision to freeze approximately 1125 gold bars stored by the Venezuelan central bank in November 2018.’, that it was a ‘matter for the Bank of England’. Jenrick maintained that HM Treasury only has direct control over the UK government’s own holdings of gold within its official reserves, which are held at the Bank of England.’

However the facts paint a different picture. John Bolton’s White House memoir The Room Where It Happened’ reveals that UK Foreign Secretary at the time, Jeremy Hunt ‘was delighted to freeze Venezuelan gold deposits in the Bank of England so the regime could not sell the gold to keep itself going.’  As Bolton unashamedly admitted: ‘These were the sort of steps we were already applying to pressure Maduro financially.’ The former National Security Advisor relates in his book how proud he was to have been the driving force behind the 2019 power grab: ‘I was heartened that Maduro’s government promptly accused me of leading a coup’. Bolton openly describes how they discussed ways of delegitimizing the Venezuelan government as Trump reportedly said ‘Maybe it’s time to put Maduro out of business’.

The evidence suggests that the UK complied fully in Bolton’s masterplan to unseat Maduro, and is continuing to work with the US to undermine the Venezuelan leadership; only in truly subtle British fashion, surreptitiously, hoping no-one would notice. Who knows, when, if ever, the Venezuelans will see their gold. But you can be sure they won’t be investing with the Bank of England any time soon.

Posted in UK, VenezuelaComments Off on UK Commits ‘Highway Robbery’ of Venezuelan Gold, Says Academic

US Plans to Invade Venezuela Through Colombia

By Lucas Leiroz de Almeida

Colombia is under a pro-Washington government. The country’s current president, Iván Duque Márquez, has been noted for a series of policies of alignment with the United States, continuing the legacy of his predecessor, former president Juan Manuel Santos, who has made Colombia a NATO’s “global partner”, allowing the country to participate in joint military operations of the Western military alliance. In general, the long scenario of crises and tensions in Colombia, marked by drug trafficking and the conflict between criminal factions and rebel parties, has driven its governments towards a policy of alignment with Washington in exchange for security, which has increased in recent years.

However, not all Colombian politicians approve these measures. Recently, the leftist senator Iván Cepeda asked Colombian Congressional President Lidio García to convene a session to investigate and legally control the government in its collaboration with the constant arrival of American soldiers in the country. According to Cepeda, the presence of these military personnel is hostile to Colombia, deeply affecting the maintenance of national sovereignty.

Cepeda claims that the government should consult the National Congress before allowing the American military to arrive. A recent decision by the Supreme Court of Cundinamarca proved Cepeda right. According to the judges of the Court, the unilateral decision to allow the entry of foreign troops violates the Colombian National Constitution, and the Executive Branch must previously submit the matter to the Congress. For this reason, the Court asked the government to send information about the joint operations in progress, with the aim of clarifying the reason for the arrival of American troops. The deadline for sending the report was July 6 and was not met by the government – which claims it will appeal the decision. Due to the non-compliance, Cepeda filed a request for the establishment of a special congressional session.Bay of Pigs 2.0 – Armed Invasion of Venezuela?

The exact number of US military personnel in the country is uncertain, which further raises suspicions about the case. Some sources say there are more than 800 Americans, while others say they are between 50 and 60 military personnel. No official note was given by the government to explain the reasons and the exact number of soldiers. On the other hand, the American Embassy in Colombia, under pressure, commented on the case, giving an unsatisfactory answer. According to American diplomats, military personnel are arriving in Colombia to carry out joint operations to combat drug trafficking. Apparently, these operations would aim to carry out a siege against Venezuela and Nicolás Maduro, who, according to Donald Trump, has links with drug trafficking in the region. It is important to remember that Trump’s accusations against Maduro were never substantiated and any evidence was provided of such links between the Venezuelan president and drug trafficking.

Recently, Colombian mercenaries invaded Venezuela by sea in American vessels. Venezuelan security forces neutralized the attack, but since then it has become clear that Colombia is willing to collaborate with the US to overthrow the government of Nicolás Maduro. Apparently, therefore, American troops arriving in the country are preparing for a next step in this old American project to occupy Venezuela.

The justification that the Venezuelan government has links with drug trafficking becomes even more curious when the American ally is precisely Colombia, a state that historically has structural links with the organized crime and the illegal drug trade in South America, being considered by experts in the whole world as a true narco-state. Likewise, the United States is not innocent of scandals involving international trafficking. The CIA has repeatedly been accused of collaborating with criminal networks worldwide. The American invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 guaranteed to the US the complete control of opium production in the region. In Mexico, in exchange for information and resources, American intelligence has collaborated several times with the activities of the so-called Guadalajara Cartel. Still, for years, American intelligence collaborated with Panamanian general Manuel Noriega, who has been publicly involved in drug trafficking since the 1960s, in exchange for military support against guerrillas in Nicaragua.

In fact, we can see that drug trafficking is a flawed and inconsistent justification for an invasion against Venezuela. Colombia and the United States have much more credible and notorious evidence of drug trafficking and are precisely the countries articulating this operation. We can imagine the real reasons behind this: unable to maintain its global hegemony, Washington desperately tries to guarantee its power in Latin America, and, for that, it tries to overthrow Maduro; Colombia provides support to the US in exchange for a mask for its own criminal activities, carried out in collusion by the government and criminal networks of drug trafficking groups – such activities will be falsely attributed to Maduro.

Anyway, what seems clear now is that the US plans to invade Venezuela through Colombia.

Posted in USA, VenezuelaComments Off on US Plans to Invade Venezuela Through Colombia

Venezolanos-ConBiden and MAGA-zuela: Two Sides of the Same Coin

By Leonardo Flores

The Biden campaign held an online event on Wednesday, July 8 pitched as the former Vice President’s “vision for Venezuela and Venezuelans in the U.S.” Spoiler alert: his vision for Venezuela barely differs from President Trump. This event, which didn’t merit an appearance from Biden himself, was aimed at getting Venezuelan-Americans to volunteer for “Uncle Joe”, as Representative Darren Soto (D-Fl) called him. It was an hour and a half of shilling for votes and influence, and it demonstrated that when it comes to Venezuela, policies of regime change, sanctions and a refusal to engage in dialogue unite VenezolanosConBiden (the group hosting the event) with MAGAzuela (the term for Trump-supporting Venezuelans).

There are only two policy differences in the Biden and Trump approaches to Venezuela. One is about TPS, or temporary protected status, which is an immigration policy that allows people from ten specific countries affected by disasters to live and work in the U.S. Biden supports TPS for Venezuelans, while Trump allies have blocked it in the Senate and Trump himself ended the program and has refused to issue it for Venezuelans. According to one of Biden’s surrogates, there are 150 thousand Venezuelans in the U.S. who are either undocumented or are here on expired visas.

The other difference is the border wall, which is now being built in part using Venezuelan funds. The Trump administration has diverted $601 million dollars in assets stolen from the Venezuelan people to build the wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. This money was previously held in the Treasury Department’s “forfeiture fund”, which is typically used to finance law enforcement operations. It is part of the estimated $24 billion that the U.S. and its allies have frozen and looted from Venezuela in their regime change efforts. Juan Guaidó, the self-proclaimed interim president, has yet to comment on how the Trump administration is using these Venezuelan funds, but his “ambassador”, Carlos Vecchio, admitted to working with the Justice Department to “establish a formal agreement … to define the percentage” of how much of the seized Venezuelan funds will go to the United States. According to Guaidó and his associates, it is “normal” for the Trump administration to take a cut.

TPS and the wall are the only two points on which Biden and Trump differ. Biden’s surrogates claim he will grant TPS to Venezuelans on Day One of his administration and Biden says he will stop financing the wall. These differences are minimal though, especially considering that Biden will continue the policies that have led millions of Venezuelans to flee in the first place and he has given every indication that more funds will be frozen.

Biden’s vision is more of the same magical thinking that the Trump administration has engaged in for years. His campaign says the sanctions will continue and actually intensify. A Biden administration would seek “a huge increase in aid”, not just for Venezuela but for Colombia and other countries with Venezuelan migrants. They would build an “international coalition” to rebuild Venezuela. They would persecute key supporters of the Venezuelan government, regardless of where they are in the world. According to Juan González, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State under Obama and current advisor to Biden on Latin America, they will give the government of President Nicolás Maduro one option: elections observed by a respected (and unnamed) multilateral institution and he must leave office.

Biden’s surrogates warn that Venezuela is a national security issue for the U.S., that the country has been infiltrated by terrorist groups and everything must be done to end Russian, Chinese and Cuban influence. They responded to a question about the impact of sanctions by blaming the “humanitarian crisis” on chavismo. They say Biden will not negotiate with Maduro.The Biden campaign attacked Trump for suggesting he would meet with Maduro, forcing Trump to backtrack on the offer, and has been running ads in Miami accusing Trump of being soft on Maduro .

Biden’s policies are the same policies and exact rhetoric used by the Trump administration. Since 2017, the U.S. has imposed sanctions that have cost 100,000 Venezuelans their lives and led to economic losses of $130 billion. But according to Biden supporter Rep. Soto, “there hasn’t been enough of a crackdown” on the Maduro government. Trump has spent three years building an approximately 60-country anti-Maduro coalition and Secretary of State Pompeo has travelled the world seeking more aid allegedly for Venezuela, but that ends up in countries with Venezuelan migrants. They have sanctioned foreign companies doing business with Venezuela and sought to arrest Venezuelan businessmen overseas.

On the issue of military intervention, the Biden surrogates claimed Trump’s threats of a military option were empty and insisted other options must be explored and all other avenues of pressure exhausted (except, of course, dialogue) before considering military action. They did not say whether U.S. intervention should be “on the table”, and framed the discussion around the U.S. public’s alleged aversion to another war rather than on the catastrophic consequences this would have for the Venezuelan people, let alone the illegality of any sort of military intervention.

It is no secret that regime change in Venezuela is a bipartisan objective, and Trump’s tactic of pandering to right-wing latinx extremists in Florida has led the Democrats to do the same. The Biden campaign strategy is clear: mimic the administration’s Venezuela policy while offering TPS to draw votes away from Trump. The surrogates also repeatedly insisted that Biden is not a socialist – apparently a common misconception among the MAGAzuela crowd.

It should be no surprise that this is all about Florida and the 2020 election. Trump not only won the state in 2016, but his allies took the governorship and a Senate seat in 2018, albeit by small margins. Republican governor Ron DeSantis and Senator Rick Scott both accused their opponents of being socialists who are soft on Venezuela. The Biden camp is doing its utmost to prevent those types of attacks from sticking against their candidate.

There is no reason to believe that Biden will change course on Venezuela if elected. There are too many votes in Florida at stake, as well as donations to be had from wealthy Venezuelan expats – who at this point are playing both sides and doing so very well. A Biden presidency, just like another four more years of Trump, looks to be disastrous for the Venezuelan people.

Posted in USA, VenezuelaComments Off on Venezolanos-ConBiden and MAGA-zuela: Two Sides of the Same Coin

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