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Israel threatens annexation against Palestinian move to join UN agencies

Al-Akhbar | April 2, 2014

An Israeli minister threatened on Wednesday to annex further territory in the occupied West Bank in retaliation for renewed Palestinian action to join United Nations agencies and international treaties.

“If they are now threatening (to go to UN institutions), they must know something simple: they will pay a heavy price,” Tourism Minister Uzi Landau told public radio.

Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday said he had begun steps to join several UN agencies, abandoning a pledge to freeze such action for the duration of peace talks – which end in just four weeks.

Abbas announced a request to join “15 UN agencies and international treaties.”

“The demands (for membership) will be sent immediately” to the relevant agencies, he said.

The documents Abbas signed, officials said, included the Geneva Conventions – the key text of international law on the conduct of war and occupation.

Palestinians hope it will give them a stronger basis to appeal to the International Criminal Court and eventually lodge formal complaints against Israel for its continued occupation of lands seized in the 1967 war that they want for their state.

“This is not a move against America, or any other party – it is our right, and we agreed to suspend it for nine months,” Abbas said of the decision.

Hamas, the Gaza Strip’s ruling party, welcomed the move by Abbas,

The Palestinians had repeatedly warned that they could resume their action through international courts and the UN over Israel’s settlement expansion on occupied territory in the West Bank and in annexed east Jerusalem.

“One of the possible measures will be Israel applying sovereignty over areas which will clearly be part of the State of Israel in any future solution,” said Landau, a member of the hardline Yisrael Beitenu faction.

Landau’s remarks were referring to areas of the West Bank populated by Jewish settlers which Israel hopes to retain in any future peace deal.

Israeli settlements are illegal under international law.

An Israeli government official, who would not be named, said Abbas’s announcement had thrown everything up in the air.

“Is this Israel’s partner? Is this a partner for peace?” he asked.

“Everything has changed now, is there even a deal now? We don’t know,” he said, referring to the proposal which was being discussed with Kerry.

Israel could also hurt the Palestinians economically by acting “to block financial aid to them,” the minister added.

Abbas made his announcement just hours after Israel reissued tenders for hundreds of settler homes in east Jerusalem, as Washington was working around the clock to resolve a major dispute over Palestinian prisoners.

Israeli NGO Ir Amim described the tenders as “a poke in the eye of both the Palestinians and the Americans,” army radio said.

And Hagit Ofran, from Israeli’s Peace Now NGO, accused the housing ministry of “trying to forcefully undermine the peace process… and John Kerry’s efforts to promote it.”

Israel refused to free a fourth and final group of 26 veteran Palestinian prisoners on Saturday, which would have completed an agreement that had brought the sides back to the table.

On Monday, the Palestinian Authority gave Kerry a 24-hour deadline to come up with a solution to the prisoner row, warning that failure to do so would see them turning to UN bodies to press their claims for statehood.

“America must compel Israel now to follow through on its agreement to release the fourth group of prisoners. We will be watching these efforts and hope they don’t fail,” Palestinian Prisoners Affairs Minister Issa Qaraqe said.

“But our position is clear: we want the release of the fourth group according to the agreement, and without that we won’t accept any other obligations or conditions,” he said.

The standoff came soon after US Secretary of State John Kerry left Israel on Tuesday after a lightning visit.

He had been due to fly back to the region on Wednesday for talks in Ramallah with Abbas but he cancelled his visit following the Palestinian leader’s announcement, while attempting to remain optimistic.

“It is completely premature tonight to draw… any final judgement about today’s events and where things are,” he said in Brussels.

“My team is on the ground meeting with the parties even tonight,” he said. “We urge both parties to show restraint.”

US efforts have been focused recently on getting the parties to agree an extension to the end of the year.

A US proposal to continue talks was to include a limited “freeze” on settlement construction, with Israel adopting “a policy of restraint with (West Bank) government tenders” but would not include annexed east Jerusalem.

Sources close to the negotiations had said Washington was also mulling a proposal to free Jonathan Pollard, who was arrested in Washington in 1985 and sentenced to life in prison for spying on America on Israel’s behalf.

But White House Jay Carney said before the Tuesday afternoon developments that President Barack Obama had not made any decision on Pollard.

Separately, a spokesman for the US Justice Department said Pollard had waived his right to attend a meeting of a parole board that could have re-examined his ongoing detention.

(AFP, Reuters, Al-Akhbar)

April 2, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Palestinians demand settlements freeze as condition for extending negotiations

MEMO | April 1, 2014

The Palestinian leadership is demanding that Israel freezes its settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories as a condition for extending the negotiations.

Maan News Agency quoted on Tuesday the Secretary-General of the Palestinian National Initiative, Mustafa Barghouti, as saying that the Palestinian leadership has demanded for Israel to freeze its settlement activities, including government tenders to construct settlements, in order to extend the negotiations. The leadership has also decided to seek recognition for the State of Palestine from United Nations organisations if Israel does not release the fourth group of Palestinian prisoners as previously agreed.

Barghouti, who attended the Palestinian leadership meeting on Monday to discuss the recent development in the peace process, added that the Palestinians plan to send a delegation of five people to discuss with Hamas ways to end the split with Al-Fatah and reach national reconciliation.

The meeting brought together Al-Fatah movement’s Central Committee, the PLO Executive Committee and the secretaries-general of the Palestinian factions in Ramallah.

Barghouti said the Palestinian leadership will resume its meeting on Tuesday to further discuss the latest developments in the peace process and the results of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel has refused to release the fourth group of Palestinian prisoners unless the Palestinian Authority agrees to extend the negotiations for another year unconditionally.

Kerry had cancelled his scheduled meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday in Ramallah to meet instead with the Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat and the head of the Palestinian intelligence service General Majed Faraj in Jerusalem; however, the meeting results were not disclosed to the public.

Diplomatic sources claimed that Kerry cancelled his meeting with Abbas in Ramallah because his first meeting with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu exceeded its scheduled time, running nearly five hours.

April 1, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jimmy Carter concerned about possible breach of international law by Washington

MEMO | March 31, 2014

Former American President Jimmy Carter has warned the US Secretary of State John Kerry of violating international law in his potential peace framework agreement between the Palestinians and the Israeli occupation.

He also expressed his concerns about the remarks of Kerry’s senior aides Martin Indyk, which were delivered before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and other Jewish groups.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s official news agency Wafa said Carter had shown the letter he sent to Kerry to the PA President Mahmoud Abbas. The letter included efforts to save the peace process and stressed on reaching an agreement to be accepted by the two sides.

According to Wafa, Carter warned of formulating an agreement which “in any form, breaches international law and the reinforced international precedents regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict which have been accepted since 1967.”

Carter reiterated the necessity to abide by UN resolution 242, which was accepted by the former Israeli PM Menachem Begin as part of the Camp David peace accords and supported by the Quartet, Arab League and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference.

The sponsor of the first peace treaty between Israel and the Arabs said: “Official US proposal to cancel or breach international law will make it impossible for the Palestinians in the Holy Lands, or outside, to accept the framework agreement as a new basis for peace talks.”

March 31, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

PLO: Israel reneges on final prisoner release

Ma’an | March 28, 2014

RAMALLAH (AFP) — Israel has told the PLO it will not free the final group of prisoners they had been expecting alongside US-brokered peace talks, a senior Palestinian official said on Friday.

Under the deal which relaunched the talks in July, Israel said it would release 104 Palestinians held since before the 1993 Oslo peace accords in exchange for the Palestinians not pressing their statehood claims at the United Nations.

Israel has so far freed 78 prisoners in three batches but cabinet members had warned they would block the final release, anticipated for the end of March, if the Palestinians refused to extend the talks beyond their April 29 deadline.

“The Israeli government has informed us through the American mediator that it will not abide with its commitment to release the fourth batch of Palestinian prisoners scheduled for tomorrow, Saturday 29,” Jibril Rajub told AFP.

“Israel has refused to commit to the names that were agreed upon of prisoners held by Israel since before the 1993 Oslo agreements,” Rajub said.

Israeli officials had no immediate comment.

But Israeli ministers have said previously that the prisoner releases were always conditional on progress in the talks, which had failed to materialize.

Many also baulked at the inclusion of Palestinian citizens of Israel among the prisoners slated for release.

Rajub called the Israeli move a “slap in the face of the US administration and its efforts,” and said the Palestinians would resume their international diplomatic offensive.

“Not releasing the prisoners will mark the beginning of the efforts in the international community to challenge the legality of the occupation,” he said.

The talks have been teetering on the brink of collapse, with Washington fighting an uphill battle to get the two sides to agree to a framework for continued negotiations until the end of the year.

US Secretary of State John Kerry met Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in Amman on Wednesday in a bid to salvage the talks, with US special envoy Martin Indyk meeting the Palestinian leader in Ramallah on Thursday.

Israel’s government has announced the construction of thousands of settler housing units and its army has killed 60 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza since the talks began.

The Israeli government has also insisted that it maintain a military and civilian presence in the occupied Jordan Valley, which forms around a third of the West Bank, and has insisted that the PLO recognize it as a “Jewish state,” despite having already officially recognized Israel decades earlier.

Ma’an staff contributed to this report

March 28, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , | Leave a comment

US bullying UK on Iran: British politicians

Press TV – March 27, 2014

Senior British politicians say the United States is “bullying” UK banks and is hampering legal exports from Britain to Iran.

The politicians, including former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and former Chancellor Lord Lamont, made the remarks at a Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday.

British parliamentarians say the US threatens British banks with heavy sanctions and hampers the legal exports of food, pharmaceuticals and medical devices from the UK to the Islamic republic. They add that Washington is hindering UK’s legal trade with Iran.

Lamont said Britain “should not be bullied by the American authorities.”

Straw noted that as British banks fear US sanctions, they do not provide UK companies with banking services for legal exports to Iran.

“The pressure on our banks is intense,” Straw said, adding, “The impact of this unilateral, extraterritorial jurisdiction of the US is discriminatory, especially against UK-based financial institutions, given their multinational nature.”

Straw also said the US authorities would not accept the way that British banks and companies are treated if they were in the same situation.

“The US Congress and government would not tolerate this for a moment were the situation reversed,” Straw stated, saying the move by the US is a direct challenge to the sovereignty of the UK.

Straw, who is also the British head of Iran-Britain Parliamentary Friendship Group, visited Iran at the head of a high-ranking delegation, including Lamont, Conservative lawmaker Ben Wallace and Labor lawmaker Jeremy Corbyn as guests of Iran’s Majlis in January.

The British delegates held meetings with high-ranking Iranian officials. The three-day official visit was the first by a delegation of British politicians since 2008.

Earlier this month, in remarks meant to dissuade foreign countries from planning trade cooperation with the Islamic Republic, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Iran is not an open market for business.

“We have made it crystal clear that Iran is not open for business,” Kerry said, addressing US Senators on Capitol Hill on March 13. He warned that the core sanctions against Iran remain firmly in place.

Several delegations from across the world have visited Iran over the past few months in order to boost trade and ties with the Islamic Republic.

March 27, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , , , , | Leave a comment

US offers to release Israeli spy for extended peace talks

MEMO | March 26, 2014

Israel’s army radio reported on Wednesday that the US administration has offered to release the American who spied for Israel, Jonathan Pollard, in exchange for the 26 Palestinian prisoners initially scheduled for release in March, but only if Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agrees to extend the negotiations with Israel.

The offer was proposed during Abbas’s recent visit to Washington. Western sources had earlier reported that officials in the US administration did not rule out releasing Pollard to encourage Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to release a fourth group of Palestinian prisoners and to push the stalled peace talks forward.

The Palestinian and Israeli sides have not yet reacted to the news.

US Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to arrive in the Jordanian capital Amman on Wednesday to meet with Abbas.

The US arrested Pollard, a former analyst in the CIA and US Navy, for supplying Israel with thousands of secret documents revealing US involvement in spying on the Arab world, and sentenced him to life in prison in 1987.

Israel was scheduled to release a fourth group of Palestinian prisoners consisting of 26 Israeli Arab prisoners at the end of March as part of last summer’s deal to re-launch peace talks with the Palestinians under US auspices.

According to the deal, Israel had agreed to release a total of 104 prisoners in four groups. Three groups were released last year; however, Israel now refuses to release the last group, claiming that, “the Palestinian Authority has nothing to do with them because they are Israeli citizens.”

March 26, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , | 1 Comment

Israel-Palestine Talks

US Desperate to keep Futile Peace Process Show on the Road a Little Longer

For the first time since the US launched the Middle East peace talks last summer, the Palestinian leadership may be sensing it has a tiny bit of leverage.

Barack Obama met the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in Washington last week in what Palestinian officials called a “candid and difficult” meeting. The US president hoped to dissuade Abbas from walking away when the original negotiations’ timetable ends in a month.

The US president and his secretary of state, John Kerry, want their much-delayed “framework agreement” to provide the pretext for spinning out the stalled talks for another year. The US outline for peace is now likely to amount to little more than a set of vague, possibly unwritten principles that both sides can assent to.

The last thing the US president needs is for the negotiations to collapse, after Kerry has repeatedly stressed that finding a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is imperative.

The US political cycle means Obama’s Democratic party is heading this autumn into the Congressional mid-term elections. A humiliating failure in the peace process would add to perceptions of him as a weak leader in the Middle East, following what has been widely presented as his folding in confrontations with Syria and Iran.

Renewed clashes between Israel and the Palestinians in the international arena would also deepen US diplomatic troubles at a time when Washington needs to conserve its energies for continuing negotiations with Iran and dealing with the fallout from its conflict with Russia over Crimea.

Obama therefore seems committed to keeping the peace process show on the road for a while longer, however aware he is of the ultimate futility of the exercise.

In this regard, US interests overlap with those of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel has been the chief beneficiary of the past eight months: diplomatic pressure has largely lifted; Israeli officials have announced an orgy of settlement building in return for releasing a few dozen Palestinian prisoners; and the White House has gradually shifted ground even further towards Israel’s hardline positions.

The Palestinians, on the other hand, have nothing to show for their participation, and have lost much of the diplomatic momentum gained earlier by winning upgraded status at the United Nations. They have also had to put on hold moves to join dozens of international forums, as well as the threat to bring Israel up on war crimes charges at the International Criminal Court.

Abbas is under mounting pressure at home to put an end to the charade, with four Palestinian factions warning last week that the Kerry plan would be the equivalent of national “suicide”. For this reason, the White House is now focused on preventing Abbas from quitting next month – and that requires a major concession from Israel.

The Palestinians are said to be pushing hard for Israel’s agreement to halt settlement building and free senior prisoners, most notably Marwan Barghouti, who looks the most likely successor to Abbas as Palestinian leader.

Some kind of short-term settlement freeze – though deeply unpopular with Netanyahu’s supporters – may be possible, given the Israeli right’s triumph in advancing settlement-building of late. Abbas reportedly presented Obama with “a very ugly map” of more than 10,000 settler homes Israel has unveiled since the talks began.

Setting Barghouti free, as well as Ahmad Saadat, whose PLO faction assassinated the far-right tourism minister, Rehavam Zeevi, in 2001, would be an even harder pill for the Israeli government to swallow. Cabinet ministers are already threatening a mutiny over the final round of prisoner releases, due at the end of the week. But Israeli reports on Sunday suggested Washington might consider releasing Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, possibly in return for Israel freeing more Palestinians, to keep the talks going.

Simmering tensions between the US and Israel, however, are suggestive of the intense pressure being exerted by the White House behind the scenes.

Those strains exploded into view again last week when Moshe Yaalon, Israel’s defence minister, used a speech to lambast Washington’s foreign policy as “feeble”. In a similar vein, he infuriated the White House in January by labelling Kerry “obsessive” and “messianic” in pursuing the peace process. But unlike the earlier incident, Washington has refused to let the matter drop, angrily demanding an explicit apology.

The pressure from the White House, however, is not chiefly intended to force concessions from Israel on an agreement. After all, the Israeli parliament approved this month the so-called referendum bill, seen by the right as an insurance policy. It gives the Israeli public, raised on the idea of Jerusalem as Israel’s exclusive and “eternal capital”, a vote on whether to share it with the Palestinians.

Washington’s goal is more modest: a few more months of quiet. But even on this reckoning, given Netanyahu’s intransigence, the talks are going to implode sooner or later. What then?

Obama and Kerry have set out a convincing scenario that in the longer term Israel will find itself shunned by the world. The Palestinian leadership will advance its cause at the UN, while conversely grassroots movements inside and outside Palestine will begin clamouring for a single state guaranteeing equality between Israeli Jews and Palestinians. Israel’s vehement and aggressive opposition on both fronts will only serve to damage its image – and its relations with the US.

An unexpected voice backing the one-state solution emerged last week when Tareq Abbas, the Palestinian president’s 48-year-old son, told the New York Times that a struggle for equal rights in a single state would be the “easier, peaceful way”.

Bolstering Washington’s argument that such pressures cannot be held in check forever, a poll this month of US public opinion revealed a startling finding. Despite a US political climate committed to a two-state solution, nearly two-thirds of Americans back a single democratic state for Jews and Palestinians should a Palestinian state prove unfeasible. That view is shared by more than half of Israel’s supporters in the US.

That would constitute a paradigm shift, a moment of reckoning that draws nearer by the day as the peace process again splutters into irrelevance.

March 25, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Venezuelan Ombudswoman Accuses “NGOs” of “False” Reports

By Ryan Mallett-Outtrim | Correo del Orinoco | March 22, 2014

Venezuelan ombudswoman Gabriela Ramírez has accused international organizations of misrepresenting human rights conditions in Venezuela.

vtvAccording to Ramirez, non-government organizations have been part of a campaign of “attacks” on Venezuela.

“A few NGOs have forged reports against our institution with false information,” Ramirez tweeted on Monday.

Since last month Venezuela has come under renewed criticism from international human rights monitors.

On 21 February, the United States based Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Venezuelan security forces of using excessive force, while claiming it couldn’t find evidence of “anti-government protesters carrying firearms or using lethal force against security forces or third parties”.

Since February at least 29 people have been killed amid anti-government demonstrations and opposition violence. Among the dead are security forces and civilians who have been killed by firearms during clashes with the opposition.

The day before the HRW report was released, the brother of a socialist party (PSUV) deputy, Arturo Alexis Martinez was shot dead by a sniper. He was trying to clear an opposition barricade in Lara state when he was killed. On 24 February, motorbike taxi worker Antonio Jose Valbuena was shot by a masked individual in Maracaibo while clearing another opposition barricade. The alleged assailant reportedly demanded Valbuena desist from the attempt to clear the barricade. Since then assailants have shot at least two more civilians trying to clear opposition barricades.

Three national guard soldiers have also been shot dead during clashes with the opposition, including Giovanni Pantoja in Carabobo on 28 February, Acner Isaac Lopez Leon on 6 March in Caracas, Ramzor Bracho in Carabobo on 12 March and Jose Guillen Araque on 17 March.

According to Ramirez, misrepresentations of Venezuela by non-government organizations (NGOs) comes amid an anti-government social media campaign of misinformation.

Since February, photographs have circulated on social media websites including Twitter and Facebook of alleged cases of human rights violations by Venezuelan security forces. However, many of the photographs appear to be taken in countries as diverse as Syria, Chile and Egypt, but with inaccurate captions indicating they were taken in Venezuela.

HRW’s own report is accompanied by a photograph of what is claimed to be “a tank in San Cristobal”. The “tank”, was a statue that had been moved into the middle of the road and vandalized by opposition protesters.

Ramirez accused NGOs of being backed by the US State Department, which has also attacked Venezuela. In a report last month, the department leveled accusations against the Maduro government similar to those issued by HRW, while Secretary of State John Kerry has threatened possible “sanctions”.

Kerry’s comments have since been condemned by the Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), along with the Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

“The Miami lobby is taking measures to sanction Venezuela, but I tell you, you’ll be going down a road without return,” Maduro stated in response to Kerry.

March 23, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | 1 Comment

Crimea vote in line with UN charter: Putin to Ban

BRICS Post | March 15, 2014

Ahead of the upcoming referendum in Crimea, Russian President Vladimir Putin told UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in a phone conversation on Friday the move was in line with the UN Charter.

Putin and Ban discussed “the situation in Ukraine, including the referendum to be held on March 16,” said a Kremlin statement.

“Putin emphasized that the decision to hold the referendum is in line with the provisions of international law and with the UN Charter,” says the statement.

International observers have arrived in Crimea on Saturday ahead of the controversial referendum.

The Crimean parliament declared independence Tuesday ahead of a popular vote Sunday on seceding from Ukraine and becoming part of Russia.

Authorities in Kiev and international leaders have condemned the referendum as illegitimate and accused Moscow of fomenting unrest in order to annex Crimea.

Ban told reporters in New York later in the day that the situation in Ukraine continues to deteriorate and there was “a great risk of dangerous, downward spiral.”

He also urged Russia and Ukraine not to take “hasty measures” that “may impact the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine.” The UN chief said that peaceful solution was still an option.

Russia and the West have reached a standoff over the fate of Crimea, which has refused to recognize the legitimacy of the new central government in Kiev following last month’s revolution.

Russia has no plans of a military action in southeastern Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday after talks with his US counterpart John Kerry in London.

“Russia does not and cannot have any plans to invade southeastern Ukraine. There are no reasons that prevent us from showing transparency [on the Ukrainian issue],” he said.

In spite of extensive talks between Kerry and Lavrov, disagreements between Moscow and Washington persist.

“As far as prospective sanctions are concerned… I assure you that our partners are fully aware that sanctions are a counter-productive measure. They will not benefit our mutual business interests or the development of our partnership in general,” Lavrov said.

Writing for The BRICS Post, Alexander Nekrassov, a former Kremlin and government advisor, said too much is at stake to make drastic changes in Russia-US ties, and “too much money is involved in deals and trade to simply ignore everything and turn back on years of tough negotiating and compromise”.

“Despite what is happening in Ukraine, relations between the US and Russia will continue; Exxon Mobile and others will keep on signing deals with the Russian oil giant Rosneft and trade between the two countries will not suffer,” writes Nekrassov.

TBP and Agencies

March 15, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

America’s Unceasing Contempt for Venezuela

By Jason Hirthler | CounterPunch | March 11, 2014

Some things never change. The petulant and undemocratic Venezuelan opposition is at it again, with the full backing and check-writing support of the U.S. government. Recent protests have inflamed the streets of Caracas, as opposition groups, as they have in the Ukraine, called for the ouster of the sitting president. I suppose it’s needless to note that Nicolás Maduro is Venezuela’s democratically elected president, and that he won by a higher victory margin in a cleaner election than did Barack Obama in 2012. Nor is it worth asking, one supposes, that if the entire country is engulfed by dissent, as The New York Times insidiously suggested by claiming the “The protests are expressing the widespread discontent with the government of President Nicolás Maduro, a socialist…”, then why did Maduro’s party, Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV), claim wide majorities in municipal elections in December? Or why are these “widespread” protests largely confined to middle-class or student areas of Caracas and not rife within much larger poor neighborhoods? Or if a government has the right to arrest opposition leaders (in this case Leopoldo Lopez, the latest rabid ideologue) for inciting violence?

Public Virtue, Private Vice

Secretary of State John Kerry has ratcheted up the drivel stateside, claiming to be “alarmed” by reports that Maduro has “detained scores of anti-government protesters” and that the crackdown would have a “chilling effect” on free expression. A bit rich coming from a man whose own government has been icing free speech since the Snowden revelations. Kerry failed to mention whether the millions of American taxpayer dollars being funneled to the opposition were behind the violence. The Los Angeles Times described Maduro’s administration as an “autocratic government.” Opposition leader Henrique Caprilles, demolished by Maduro in last year’s landslide election, rejected Maduro’s invitation to talks and claimed one of the Latin America’s most popular political parties was a “dying government.”

For its part, Mercosur, the alliance of South America’s southern cone countries, denounced the violence as an attempt to “destabilize” a democratic government. Of course, the behavior of Maduro’s government in response to these street provocations ought to closely watched, as this is the new president’s first real test coping on an international stage with the intrigues of a small but virulent neoliberal opposition.

There’s plenty to suggest that this is, like Ukraine, another external attempt to uproot a democratically elected government through a volatile cocktail of in-country agitation and violence paired with global media defamation of the existing administration. It wouldn’t come as a surprise. Like a frustrated and petulant infant, the United States has repeatedly attempted to derail the Bolivarian Revolution launched by former President Hugo Chavez in the late nineties, as CEPR’s Mark Weisbrot has noted. It backed an anti-democratic coup by business elites in 2002 that actually succeeded for a couple of days and happily dissolved parliament before Chavez regained power. It supported an oil strike in an attempt to destabilize the economy and perhaps bring down the government. It encouraged opposition members of parliament to push for recalls (failed) and boycott National Assembly elections (useless) and clamor incessantly that last year’s national presidential election was rigged (false). Of course, despite being widely held to be a superior electoral process than that of the United States, Kerry was only shamed into recognizing the legitimacy of the election long after the rest of the world had.

The U.S. has poured millions into opposition activities on an annual basis since the failed coup in 2002. (NGOs are convenient destinations for this money since foreign contributions to political parties are illegal in both countries.) Just look at 2013 alone. Washington would hardly stand for interference of this kind from, say, China. Or, better, from Venezuela itself. Imagine if it was discovered that Chavez had been seeding major American metropolises with anti-capitalist pamphleteers. Obama wouldn’t be able to hit the “signature strike” button fast enough. Nevertheless, Kerry, in his role as Secretary of State, has turned out to be a masterful mimic capable of registering a fusty outrage on short notice, especially over claimed violations of civil liberties. Curious, since the ceaseless trampling of civil liberties by his own Democratic party have elicited nothing from this flag-bearer for democratic values.

Dollars & Bolivars

This is not to say that Venezuela does not have protest-worthy problems. Inflation has been chronic since the pre-Chavez days. Now food shortages are trying the patience of the population. And in one sense, these shortages are self-inflicted. According to Gregory Wilpert of VenezuelAnalysis, the government’s currency controls have been undermined by an all-too-predictable black market. While the government has placed strict criteria on the ability of citizens to purchase dollars with bolivars, the black market allows citizens to buy dollars without any criteria whatsoever. The government’s exchange rate is likewise controlled, and has over time begun to distort the real value of the bolivar. The black market exchange rate, by contrast, reflects the external value of the currency. The gap between these exchange rates has grown rapidly, such that there now exist huge incentives for citizens to play currency arbitrage. If they satisfy the federal criteria—such as needing dollars to travel or import goods—Venezuelans can buy dollars cheaply using the government exchange rate. They can then pay those dollars to import goods, then export those goods in exchange for the dollars they just spent on the imports. From there it is a simple step to the black market, where they can sell those dollars for many times what they paid at the government’s official rate, making a tidy profit for themselves. If they happen to be rabid anti-socialists, they can enjoy the companion thrill of generating food shortages that can be blamed on the government. Ah, the timeless magic of import/export.

These are legitimate grievances, however, as are crime figures, which top the regional table. Yet the question is, do they merit the overthrow of a legitimate government backed by a wide majority of the population at the behest of a small but fierce oppositional faction openly funded by an imperial power committed to its overthrow? To do so would risk the absurdity of gratifying the strident demands of a few at the expense of the many. … The fact is, despite the inflation and shortages, the population continues to support the Bolivarian Revolution because of its accomplishments—massive reductions in poverty, extreme poverty, and illiteracy. Significant growth in per capita GDP and other important metrics.

A Doctrine in Decline

We’re seeing in clear images the viciousness with which neoliberal factions resent the loss of power and seek to restore it by any means necessary. Democracy is the least of their concerns. But this has been the Latin American back-story for a couple of centuries. Much of the U.S. activity in Latin America feels like a frantic and desperate last-ditch effort to preserve the Monroe Doctrine, by which we essentially declared Latin America to be our own backyard, off-limits to European empires. What was ostensibly a call to respect independent development in the Southern hemisphere rather predictably evolved into an excuse for self-interested intervention. But now, for the first time in centuries, Latin America has struck out on its own, slipping from beneath the clutch of the eagle’s claw to form organizations like Mercosur and CELEAC, PetroCaribe and Petrosur, the Bank of the South as well as the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA). Aside from Columbia, an implacable outpost of American influence, the region has shunned greater U.S. involvement, and begun to view its proffered trade agreements with far more suspicion, particularly in the long wake of NAFTA, the poster child for lopsided and economically destructive trade treaties.

Whether the U.S. will eventually succeed in a cynical ploy to unseat Maduro remains to be seen. If recent events in the Ukraine are any indication, that may have been a test run for Venezuela, as Peter Lee suggests. It hasn’t helped that, as in practically every country that comes to mind, an elite class of neoliberal ideologues own the mainstream media. The tools of propaganda have rarely been more fiercely deployed than since Chavez launched his socialist revolution. And yet, since then, practically the entire continent has experimented with left-leaning leadership: Rafael Correa in Ecuador, Evo Morales in Bolivia, Nicanor Duarte in Paraguay, Tabare Vazquez in Uruguay, to some degree Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in Brazil, and Maduro in Venezuela. Nor should exiled Honduran president Manuel Zalaya be forgotten. These figures have collectively stepped back from the brink of dubious integration with North America and sought stronger regional ties and continental autonomy.

The U.S. has replied with a predictable confection of threats, lies, and sacks of cash for ferociously anti-democratic elements. Perhaps it most fears the bad karma it generated for itself with Operation Condor, which on September 11, 1973 overthrew and murdered Chile’s socialist leader Salvador Allende and replaced him with a gutless sadist, Augusto Pinochet. Pinochet—a repressive militarist—happily instituted the untested prescriptions of the Chicago School of Economics’ sermonizing armchair guru Milton Freidman, with predictable results. Now, Maduro, carrying the mantle of Chavez and his Bolivarian manifesto, is arguably the spiritual vanguard of the socialist left in South America. Venezuela’s efforts to continue to forge its own independence in the coming decade will surely influence the mood and courage of other leftists in the region. The stakes are obviously high. Hence the relentless American effort to destabilize and publicly discredit the PSUV. The fate of the global left is in a very real sense being tested in the crucible of Caracas.

Jason Hirthler can be reached at jasonhirthler@gmail.com.

March 11, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Economics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Russia says US proposals on Ukraine crisis ‘not suitable’

Press TV – March 11, 2014

Russia says proposals by the United States on finding a solution to the crisis in Ukraine are “not suitable.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in a televised briefing with President Vladimir Putin on Monday that the proposals made by US Secretary of State John Kerry are inappropriate as they take the “situation created by the coup as a starting point”, in an apparent reference to the ouster of Ukraine president, Viktor Yanukovich by the parliament on February 23.

The Russian foreign minister said the document he received from Kerry on Washington’s recommendations to end the crisis in Ukraine “raises many questions.”

“Everything was stated in terms of allegedly having a conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and in terms of accepting the fait accompli,” Lavrov said.

He also commented on Kerry’s delay in a visit to Moscow for talks on the Ukraine crisis. Lavrov said the Kremlin had decided to draft counter proposals to resolve the situation on the basis of international law.

“We suggested that he (Kerry) come today… And we were prepared to receive him. He gave his preliminary consent. He then called me on Saturday (March 8) and said he would like to postpone it for a while,” the Russian foreign minister stated.

Russia has sent forces to Ukraine’s southern region of Crimea after the Russian parliament authorized President Putin to use armed forces to “protect Russia’s interests in that region.”

Yanukovych refrained from signing an Association Agreement with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia in November 2013. The move triggered weeks of anti-government protests in the country.

The local Crimean administration is expected to hold a referendum on March 16 in order to decide whether the Black Sea peninsula should become part of Russia or remain part of Ukraine.

March 11, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Washington’s Hysteria Towards Russia Hides US Regime Change

By Finian Cunningham  |  Strategic Culture Foundation | March 6, 2014

Legally, Washington and its European allies haven’t a leg to stand on. Both can be rightly accused of violating international law from their gross interference in Ukrainian sovereign affairs – from the instigation of violent street protests that led to the sacking of an elected president and government, to the subsequent climate of lawlessness and fear sweeping across Ukraine and felt in particular by the majority Russian ethnic population in the east and south of the country.

The latest revelations that killings in Kiev’s Maidan Square among protesters and police were covertly carried out by snipers working for the Western-backed agitators are further proof that a coup d’état was orchestrated. A leaked phone call between EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and Estonian foreign minister, Urmas Paet, dated February 25, indicates that snipers were used as provocateurs during the demonstrations, with the intention of heightening violence and blaming it on the government of President Viktor Yanukovych.

In the phone call, reported by Russia Today, Paet is heard to say: «There is now stronger and stronger understanding that behind the snipers, it was not Yanukovych, but it was somebody from the new [Western-backed] coalition».

Ashton replied: «I think we do want to investigate. I mean, I didn’t pick that up, that’s interesting. Gosh».

The evidence for Western-sponsored subversion in Ukraine is so glaring – from the parade of American and European politicians over the past four months whipping up protesters in Kiev, to documented infiltration of civic organizations by the CIA, USAID, National Endowment for Democracy, Freedom House, the Adenauer Foundation, among others, to their own words of admission from the likes of State Department official Victoria Nuland on the desired formation of a new governing administration in Kiev – that in order to distract from this mountain of damning evidence, the Western governments and their servile media are trying to shift the terrain of discourse away from the panoramic obvious.

The latest revelation of snipers used as provocateurs adds a new sinister twist.

However, against all the evidence, it is not the West that is in violation over Ukraine; it is Russia – so they claim.

More than this, the Western leaders and media have gone into hysterical mode, accusing Russia of «brazen aggression» and «bringing the region to the brink of war». Ironically, given the astounding denial of reality by the West, it is now turning around and accusing Russia of peddling propaganda over recent events in Ukraine. One France 24 headline read: «The fanciful claims of Russian propaganda».

Never mind fanciful claims, how about just some hard facts – facts that Western media are in abject denial of?

Apart from the above litany of outrageous Western interference in Ukrainian politics, the fact is that President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in a violent putsch at the end of last month.

Yanukovych was elected in 2010; and in a constitutional democracy his removal from office requires a vote by the electorate, not the diktats of a bunch of gun-wielding paramilitaries. We may not have liked Yanukovych’s alleged authoritarian style of governance or accusations of cronyism, but the only legal way to correct that would have been for an orderly constitutional process of elections or some other form of due process.

Yanukovych signed a national unity deal with political opponents on February 21, which European Union ministers had been involved in brokering. But his opponents immediately trashed the deal with threats of violence unless Yanukovych stood down.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is therefore correct when he told a press conference this week that what has happened in Kiev is «an unconstitutional coup» and «an armed seizure of power».

Legally speaking, and even under the terms of the EU-brokered national unity accord signed on February 21, Viktor Yanukovych is still the lawful president of Ukraine. When Yanukovych subsequently sent a formal letter to Putin requesting military assistance in the light of unconstitutional and violent upheaval, the Russian Federation had a legal and moral mandate to enter into Ukrainian territory.

The differing responses to the February 21 «event» are instructive. Both Washington and Brussels immediately recognized the new office holders in Kiev as the «legitimate government» of Ukraine with its self-declared president Oleksandr Torchynov and prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. The new cabinet, comprising members of the fascist Svoboda party who had been previously waging street war, was also conferred with official Western recognition. The Western media have since gone on to use euphemisms like Kiev’s «fledgling government».

A more accurate definition of the new administration in Kiev is an unelected, self-imposed junta. But the violent, unconstitutional means of taking political power has not stopped British foreign secretary William Hague coming to Kiev this week, followed by US secretary of state John Kerry, to shake hands with the junta. Brussels also invited the mob rulers in Kiev to a ministerial summit this week.

By contrast, Russia is calling for a return to the national unity deal signed on February 21 – a deal which recognizes Yanukovych as the president in office until mutually agreed constitutional reforms are worked out and mandated by the entire electorate of Ukraine – as the legal starting point for any future political settlement. This is the most reasonable and constitutionally legal way forward. Let the people decide whom they want in government by voting, that is by democracy, which, pointedly, Western leaders do not seem able or willing to countenance. The latter prefer imposing governance by force according to their diktat because the real agenda is the economic pillaging of Ukraine by Western capital, an outcome that the Ukrainian people would not vote for if they truly had a democratic choice in the matter.

Given the self-publicized threats of aggression towards ethnic Russians in Ukraine and other perceived political opponents issued by Svoboda and its Right Sector paramilitaries, together with documented acts of recent violence in Kiev, it is was eminently legal and appropriate that Moscow embarked on defensive security measures in Ukraine. Securing military bases and a majority Russian-speaking population in the autonomous southern republic of Crimea this week – at the written requests of President Yanukovych and the Crimean regional prime minister Sergei Aksyonov, as well as under the legal terms of a long-standing bilateral agreement with Ukraine – all that gives Moscow an irrefutable mandate to do so.

Yet, with frothing hysteria, the Western governments and their media have turned reality upside down. There is not a mention of the unlawful Western interference and subversion in the Ukraine or of its hand-in-fist association with neo-Nazi street mobs in executing a violent putsch in Kiev. US ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power brazenly denied reality earlier this week when she accused Moscow of citing «imaginary threats» in Ukraine. The bitter irony of that is that Samantha Power is one of the cheerleaders for the so-called «responsibility to protect» which has given her country the fictitious cover to illegally intervene and militarily overthrow governments in former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya and anywhere else the US deems desirable for regime change.

In a feat of sheer doublethink, the West has accused Russia of «illegal invasion» in Ukraine and of using «pretexts for acts of aggression». This hysterical rhetoric is being used to cover up the West’s own glaring transgressions in Ukraine and to shift the blame for the turmoil.

Unabashed by its unequivocal involvement in engineering regime change in Ukraine, American and European leaders are demanding that Russia withdraw troops from Crimea or face sanctions. Washington’s top diplomat John Kerry said the US would isolate Russia «economically, politically and diplomatically» if it did not reverse security measures, or as Kerry put it «aggression».

Meanwhile, there is not a scintilla of indication that the Americans and Europeans have any intention of reversing their unlawful interference in Ukraine. Far from it, Kerry on his visit to the junta in Kiev this week said that the US was offering $1 billion in loan guarantees. The New York Times explained: «The purpose of the loan guarantees is to support Ukraine’s efforts to integrate with the West».

European Union ministers this week somehow found reserves of €11 billion for the new «Western friendly» administration in Kiev – against the backdrop of millions of EU citizens suffering from unemployment and deprivation. The International Monetary Fund is also drawing up a lure (loan) of $2 billion.

With pro-Western, pro-capitalist Yatsenyuk now at the helm in Kiev (as Nuland prescribed), Ukraine is being steered inexorably into debt bondage by the West. This bondage, facilitated by an unelected junta, will entail an austerity assault on Ukrainian workers, beginning with swingeing cuts in public spending, wages and subsidies on fuel. It will also lead to privatization of Ukrainian oil and gas industries and the full take over of other prodigious Ukrainian natural resources, such as its wheat agriculture, by Western capital. Yatsenyuk, who talks with pride about being willing to commit political suicide for the sake of pro-Western reforms, that is Western subjugation, is exactly the kind of ideologue the West want and need in Kiev, as Nuland duly recognized.

Interestingly, this week the new Ukrainian ambassador to Belarus, Mykhailo Yeshel, admitted in a media interview that loans (lures) from Washington were being offered on condition of the Ukraine permitting the deployment of American missile systems on its territory – right on the border with Russia.

The emerging picture is clear. Despite all the hysterical nonsense being spouted by Western leaders and their media propaganda machine, demanding Russia to «back off» from Ukraine, the Western regime-change operation in that country is not just being consolidated – it is being ramped up.

March 6, 2014 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Corruption, Deception | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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