Ecuador has come under fire for scrutinizing non-profits like Accion Ecologica, many of whom get millions from Europe and North America.
Ecuador, the tiny South American nation sandwiched between Colombia and Peru, rarely makes waves in the English-speaking world’s corporate mediascape. Last year, news traveled far on at least two occasions.
First, with an earthquake that killed at least 673 people. Second, when the government moved to investigate and potentially dissolve a nonprofit called Accion Ecologica in connection with deadly violence between members of an Amazonian tribe and police sent to protect a Chinese-operated mining project.
Ecologists and prominent activists friendly to the group, including heavy-weights such as Naomi Klein, called out what they characterized as a callous repression and criminalization of Indigenous people protecting the unparalleled richness of the Amazon and alleged state prejudice against an underdog non-profit organization that was only there to save the rainforest and its inhabitants.
Ecuador’s socialist government, on the other hand, sees the “underdog” label as misplaced.
NGOs may be seen as do-gooders, but that’s not always the case. As a country historically vulnerable to the whims of powers in the North, Ecuador has, under the administration of the outgoing President Rafael Correa, put up a guard against a new kind of public diplomacy from abroad that focuses on gaining the favor of civil society to indirectly execute their political priorities.
NGOs are flagged when they operate outside the bounds of the law and their stated objectives, indicators of potential pressure from outside funders to protect their interests rather than those of nationals.
“We’re an Ecuadorean NGO, born here in Ecuador and working for 30 years in the defense of the rights of the environment and of communities across the country, and for that work we are very well known, even at an international level,” Alexandra Almeida, president of Accion Ecologica, told teleSUR.
“But that doesn’t mean that a foreign organization could manipulate us with anything — with funds, with nothing — that’s how we operate.”
NGOs have rarely had to justify their work to anyone, let alone prove that they act for the good of the people only. But Ecuador is not an ordinary country. Rich in resources but export dependent, authorities are attempting to manage the many foreign hands trying to pull the country’s development in their favor.
Silent Action Meets Loud Reaction
This government is the first to scrutinize NGOs, but their scrutiny has not been limited to Accion Ecologica.
In 2012, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa boldly declared that NGOs have been entering the country like never before during the previous decade. Many, backed by foreign states and foreign money, are out to destabilize the state, Ecuadorean leaders stated.
“Their interest is not the country, impoverished sectors, natural resources or strengthening democracies,” said Paola Pabon, director of the National Ministry of Political Management, which is responsible for tracking NGOs, in an interview with teleSUR last year. “What interests them is having control over governments, having influence over civil society to create elements of destabilization.”
Executive Decree 16, which went into effect in 2013, created a system to catalogue the financing, decision-making and activities of every registered social organization — a total of over 46,000 in the country, including non-profits, unions and community organizations, among others.
The resulting action saw 26 foreign NGOs expelled from the country for a lack of transparency and compliance with national law; in brief, for declaring themselves “non-governmental organizations” while acting on behalf of foreign governments. Among the more high-profile cases was Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical missionary relief organization that received funding and support from USAID. Fifteen others were given two weeks to get their activities in order.
A handful of Indigenous organizations, which had previously mobilized against Correa’s government, attacked the decree via the Constitutional Court. Two years later, Ecuador reformed the regulations with Executive Decree 739, which fine-tuned the reasons for closing an NGO — the main one, “diverting from stated objectives” — and, caving to demand, eliminated the requirement for organizations to register projects financed from abroad.
Donor Nations: Generous or Greedy?
The trend that prompted Ecuador’s law was not without precedent.
Through the U.S. Agency for International Development, known as USAID, and the linked but publicly independent National Endowment for Democracy, known as NED, the United States pumped over US$100 million into Venezuela to create 300 new organizations credited with contributing to the coup d’etat against Hugo Chavez in 2002. In a similar move, USAID admitted that it tried to provoke a “Cuban Spring” by setting up Zunzuneo, a kind of Cuban Twitter, to circulate calls to protest.
The most common nonprofits close to foreign governments and private interests are those that stand tallest against their states. In Ecuador, that tends to be groups that work closely with Indigenous communities, with those protecting their right to their land and with those defending women and the environment. Funding by private foundations and corporations, while more widespread, is far less transparent and tougher to quantify. Big names like the Ford Foundation and Open Society, however, are well known for injecting funds into NGOs in the global south to advance specific political visions.
But the United States isn’t the only country to have funneled funds to Ecuador through NGOs.
Official numbers from Ecuador’s Chief Administrative Office of International Cooperation, or SETECI, show that since Correa assumed office in 2007 until 2015, foreign NGOs have managed over US$800 million from abroad. Top givers include the U.K. and Spain, followed by several European states.
No one, however, beats the United States. In that same period, the U.S. sent over twice the amount of money of the next-highest donor, with a total of over US$282 million and 780 projects, or 35 percent of all funding.
Of those funds, which only count NGOs based abroad that invested in local or regional projects, 13 went to projects in the Amazon led by non-profits like Care International, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the World Wildlife Fund, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Mitsubishi Corporation Foundation for the Americas. Projects based in Morona Santiago, the province where the anti-mining protests that led to the death of a police officer broke out, brought in over US$1 million from the U.S. since 2007.
The flow of funds is indicative of a broader attitude between receiver and giver, who “take advantage of the assumption that they have a perfect democracy, which is completely false – there’s a paternalistic attitude that must be regulated,” said Fernando Casado, research fellow at the National Institute for Higher Studies on public administration in Ecuador and Venezuela. Conversely, a flow in the opposite direction would immediately raise suspicion from developed countries, he added.
Yet money itself doesn’t tell the full tale: the funds are tied directly to foreign policy objectives, Casado told teleSUR. “The powers of the North have changed strategy.”
Each state has its own way. Germany, which has had 151 NGO projects in Ecuador since 2007, is known for meddling in affairs of developing countries through its Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, or BMZ. When SETECI found that three-quarters of its funds went toward stopping another mining project in the Amazon’s Yasuni region last March, it kicked the German agency out of Ecuador.
The United States has several agencies do its work, the most prominent being USAID, NED — funded through money allocated to USAID by Congress — and the Broadcast Board of Governors. The stated missions: to promote development, democracy creation and a free press, respectively, while strictly adhering to U.S. foreign policy priorities.
“We should not have to do this kind of work covertly,” said former head of NED Carl Gershman on CIA missions to the New York Times in 1986. “It would be terrible for democratic groups around the world to be seen as subsidized by the CIA. We saw that in the 60s, and that’s why it has been discontinued. We have not had the capability of doing this, and that’s why the endowment was created.”
What Givers Want
The “work” the United States has set out for Ecuador — according to a 2016 Office of Inspector General report on the U.S. embassy leaked by WikiLeaks — is “to mitigate the effects of the contentious political environment created by the Ecuadorean Government” with the help of other government agencies, which play a “critical role.”
The report, intended for the eyes of the BBG and Congress, said the embassy was “actively engaged with civil society leaders and nongovernmental organizations to increase Ecuadorean awareness of and support for U.S. policies and values, promote Ecuadorean civil society and government accountability, and strengthen environmental initiatives.”
To set up a climate conducive to U.S. meddling, the U.S. Government Accountability Office included Ecuador on a shortlist with Colombia, Egypt and the West Bank/Gaza the year Correa was elected to closely study public opinion in “specific, targeted public awareness campaigns.”
It also either commissioned or was the beneficiary of a study from Stratfor, a secretive intelligence company contracted by the State Department and the U.S.’s multinational titans, which evaluated the extent to which Ecuador is manipulable by NGOs. The 2013 report, leaked by WikiLeaks, focused especially on how NGOs can influence trade policy and corporate regulation. Its conclusion: based on a scale likely defined in relation to other developing nations, Ecuador is fairly resilient to NGO pressure but has submitted in certain instances.
USAID sends hundreds of millions to local projects in Ecuador, some less explicitly political, but some indirectly benefiting opposition groups, according to U.S. Ambassador in Ecuador Adam Namm. BBG affiliate, TeleAmazonas, has been accused of fomenting strong opposition rhetoric against Correa. And the NED spends over US$1 million annually on dozens of local programs with broad objectives like “promoting citizen oversight of elected officials,” “monitoring due process and the independence of the judicial system,” “monitoring the use of public resources in government advertising” and “facilitating dialogue and consensus on democracy.”
Both Germany’s BMZ and USAID are back in Ecuador following a deluge of NGO activity after the April earthquake. The workload of the National Ministry of Political Management has peaked ever since, said Pabon.
The Sneaky Alliance With Mother Earth
One pet project of USAID was the Conservation in Managed Indigenous Areas, or Caiman, which ended before Correa took office but was among several USAID programs to conserve the country’s biodiversity and promote alliances between Indigenous communities and private businesses.
Caiman worked with various groups working in ecological and Indigenous rights, including Accion Ecologica. For several years, Caiman had Accion Ecologica help them battle against the Ministry of the Environment and train park rangers to oppose contamination from oil and mining.
Whether or not USAID or foreign foundations have funded Accion Ecologica directly is unclear. Unlike many others in the industry, the non-profit does not publish its financial information on its website, and refused multiple requests from teleSUR for copies of audits. When asked, the organization’s president said she does not know specifics on foreign funders and could not answer.
Almeida did say that Accion Ecologica receives funds from Europe — from individuals, “small organizations, alliances, groups that form” around fundraising events on ecological issues. She did not say how much or cite specific names but mentioned Italy and Belgium.
A 2012 investigation from Andes, an Ecuadorean state publication, found that both Accion Ecologica and the Regional Foundation of Human Rights Advising, another powerful nonprofit, are financed by the European Commission, Oilwatch, the Netherlands embassy and a few international ecological networks. Almeida said the accusations were false.
While Europe may be the principal interested party in the success of Accion Ecologica, the U.S. is also well known to have played an active role in similar battles.
In 2013, the year after Correa took the lead against foreign NGOs and a year before he expelled USAID, Bolivia accused USAID of spending US$22 million to divide Indigenous groups on the exploitation and nationalization of oil in their lands.
“Since the right can’t find arguments to oppose the process of change, it now turns to campesino, Indigenous and native leaders who are paid by several NGOs and foundations with perks to foment a climate of conflict with the national government to deteriorate the process of unification that the country is experiencing,” said Morales as he gave USAID the boot.
Beyond Accion Ecologica
“Theoretically speaking, NGOs shouldn’t exist,” said Casado. NGOs operate within a logic of narrowing, minimizing and weakening the role of the state so they can keep filling holes in public services and keep their jobs, which are at risk of disappearing if the state works as it should, added Casado.
“They elect themselves representatives of civil society in general,” and yet their role is limited and entirely reliant on and responsive to funding, which at the end of the day remains in their pockets. Other social organizations and popular movements, said Casado, operate only on conviction.
If an NGO is completely free to operate without regulations, a country would open itself to any corporate and foreign interest that found an open hand, he argued. Latin America is intimately familiar with that process — of consolidating power in the monied class — and NGOs back similar corporate interests, only with a more benevolent face.
It’s near-impossible to identify the perfect case of foreign intrusion — and, as in Accion Ecologica’s case, near-impossible to prove. Multiple factors are always at play, from the ideology of individual members to the decision-making process to however events play out on the ground. Casado said that the first step to uncovering hidden interests is financial transparency — a move that faces stiff opposition precisely for the interests that it could reveal.
Ecuador’s answer is to carefully collect records and draw a clear line between what is acceptable and what is not. Foreign NGOs, state the decree, cannot participate “in any form of party politics, any form of interference or proselytism, any threat to national security or public peace or any other activity not permitted under their migratory status.”
When Accion Ecologica testified before the Interior Ministry and the Ministry of the Environment, it argued that it had been doing the same work — protecting the rainforest — for decades, always in a peaceful manner. The evidence presented showing they provoked violence through a series of tweets in and around the time of violent clashes was “a bit absurd, very absurd,” said Almeida.
In the end, the government’s case did not hold, and the Environment Ministry concluded there was not enough credible evidence to shut down the group. Accion Ecologica credited “pressure” from its supporters, as its representatives continue to urge for a deregulation of NGOs.
“It’s not only NGOs, but also any organization that will be at risk, especially their right to free expression and the right to free association” if the decree regulating NGOs remains intact, said Almeida.
Her position echoes those taken up by opposition politicians, whose one commonality is their depiction of Correa’s government as one systematically trouncing on citizens’ rights and freedoms.
In an election year, rhetoric makes the difference.
Dianileysis Cruz contributed reporting.
A bipartisan group of 34 U.S. lawmakers urged President Donald Trump to apply new sanctions against Venezuela’s Bolivarian government, alleging that it supports corruption, human rights abuses, and “terrorism.”
Cuban-American right-wing congresspeople Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Florida, and Sen. Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey, co-authored a letter sent to Trump endorsed by 32 other republican and democratic lawmakers.
The letter calls on Trump to investigate alleged drug trafficking and support for so-called Middle Eastern terror groups by the country’s new vice president, Tareck El Aissami, AP reported.
“Decisive, principled action in response to unfolding developments in Venezuela as one of the first foreign policy actions of your administration would send a powerful message to the Maduro regime and the Venezuelan people,” lawmakers said in the letter.
In addition to sanctioning Venezuelan officials and launching an investigation into the Bolivarian government’s alleged ties to terrorism, the U.S. lawmakers want to boost funding for right-wing opposition groups operating within the country.
Since 1999, the year former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez took office, the U.S. government has provided opposition groups with hundreds of millions of dollars. Since 2014, US$5 million has been allocated in the federal budget to finance opposition activities inside the South American country, the Daily Mail reported.
These are the same groups that are responsible for the guarimbas — the violent practice of blocking roads, lighting tires on fire, and firing rocks and other materials at Venezuelan police. Members of opposition groups have also been caught hoarding and illegally selling foodstuffs for personal profit.
Despite the Venezuelan opposition’s well-recorded criminality, the bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers is instead choosing to combat the democratically-elected government’s alleged “crimes.”
The lawmakers claim Venezuelan officials in charge of distributing food rations are “profiting” from shortages, citing a December 2016 report by AP. The investigation, however, quotes unsubstantiated claims made by opposition residents and former officials hostile to the incumbent government.
The lawmakers also claim El Aissami has connections to the Islamic Republic of Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon, which they say automatically makes him complicit in supporting “terrorism,” but provided no evidence to back that accusation.
Trump’s administration has not commented on proposed plans to sanction and investigate Venezuela. Maduro’s administration continues to speak out against U.S. efforts to destabilize the democratically-elected government.
A lack of activity and upkeep is plaguing facilities including the site of swimming competitions, where craters from disassembled pools collect stagnant water.
Less than six months after Rio de Janeiro hosted the first-ever Olympics in South America, game venues sit idle and already in disrepair, raising questions about a legacy that organizers promised would benefit the Brazilian city and its residents.
A lack of activity and upkeep is plaguing facilities including the site of swimming competitions, where craters from disassembled pools collect stagnant water, and Rio’s famed Maracanã stadium, site of the opening and closing ceremonies.
The field there, one of the most iconic soccer pitches in the world, is giving way to dirt and scrub. Electricity was cut recently because of a financial spat between local officials and the contractor hired to manage the stadium.
Before the games, organizers touted the venues as facilities that could easily be repurposed in sports-crazed Rio. But little more than one beach volleyball tournament has been played at any of the venues — and even that drew criticism because it involved throwing sand on the Olympic tennis court.
Federal, state and local governments, along with private partners, paid more than US$12.8 billion to host the Olympics, about US$7 billion of which was for game venues and related facilities.
Cover of Ecaudor in the Sights: The Wikileaks Revelations and the Conspiracy Against the Government of Rafael Correa | Photo: El Telegrafo
In his new book, “Ecuador In the Sights: The WikiLeaks Revelations and the Conspiracy Against the Government of Rafael Correa,” released this week in Quito, Norwegian journalist Eirik Vold details attempts by the U.S. government to topple Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa and derail his Citizens’ Revolution.
“Correa was not about to let Washington maintain its dominance through financial institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund,” Vold told the Andes press agency in explaining the motivation behind years of U.S. efforts to undermine the Ecuadorean president.
The book is largely based on the “Cablegate” documents released by WikiLeaks in 2010, including thousands of secret documents sent from the U.S. Embassy in Quito and the U.S. consulate in Guayaquil.
“There is direct U.S. interference in Ecuador,” Vold told El Telegrafo, adding that “documents show a close relationship between several figures of Ecuadorean political life, the financial sector, and the United States Embassy.”
In the book, Vold outlines how the U.S. looked to thwart Correa from the very beginning, trying to directly prevent his election out of fear of losing the U.S. military base in Manta, the base of CIA operations in the region, as well as control over the U.S. oil company Occidental Petroleum Corp.
After his 2006 election, Correa nationalized the oil company and closed the U.S. base in Manta.
Vold says his book documents multiple attempts by the U.S. to sabotage UNASUR — the regional cooperation body founded in 2007 by progressive governments in Latin America — as well as extensive contacts between the U.S. Embassy and members of the national police force before an attempted 2010 coup, known as 30S.
In 2015, 22 police officers were found guilty of insubordination for their role in the failed coup.
Vold also claims the secret cables identify multiple NGO, media, finance, and political contacts which the U.S. embassy used to attempt to destabilize Correa’s government.
One of those Vold names is current vice presidential candidate Andres Paez. Paez, formerly the president of the left-wing Left Democracy Party, is now running on the right-wing CREO ticket along with former banker Guillermo Lasso.
“The U.S. says in a document he is one of our most trusted contacts. In other documents, it is pointed out that he was considered an ally for imposing free trade agreements, and it is evident that he had meetings at the United States Embassy.”
The Norwegian journalist, who has written extensively about U.S. involvement in Latin America, including a book about Hugo Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution, said that Ecuador is of particular importance due to its efforts to protect WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange from U.S. persecution, ensuring its role as a “protector of the right to information for the whole planet.”
“We’re talking about a region with the world’s greatest concentration of natural resources, and obviously a region which has been known as the U.S.’s ‘backyard’,” he told Andes. “So U.S. activities are very intense in the region, but they have been maintained, for the last decade, with a more discrete, more covert strategy.”
“The revelations are many, the purpose is one,” he said at a book launch in Quito on Thursday. “That the Ecuadorean public regardless of their political inclination has access to truthful information about the activities of U.S. officials. And local informants in the country who had previously been concealed from them.”
Colombian human rights defender Emilsen Manyoma | Photo: Conpaz
On Tuesday police in the Pacific coast city of Buenaventura announced they had discovered the body of Afro-Colombian human rights activist Emilsen Manyoma, 32, and her partner Joe Javier Rodallega, who had been missing since Saturday.
A prominent leader in the Bajo Calima region since 2005, Manyoma was an active member of the community network CONPAZ where she was an outspoken critic of right-wing paramilitary groups and the displacement of local by international mining and agribusiness interests.
For the past year Manyoma played a key role in documenting attacks on human rights leaders in the region as part of the recently created Truth Commission.
The police said they had found the bodies in an advanced state of decomposition in a jungle area beside the highway. The Justice and Peace Commission, an ecumenical human rights group, reported that both bodies were severely wounded, with Rodallega’s hands reported tied. Radio Contagio reported that both bodies were beheaded.
While police did not release the names of any suspects, just days before their disappearance on Saturday, Rodallega reported being threatened and said a truck had been circling Manyoma’s house.
According to the human rights organization Front Line Defenders, at least 85 human rights defenders were murdered in Colombia in 2016 alone.
Weaponized hacking all began with Stuxnet
Is the United States the victim of an unprovoked cyber and media attack by Russia and China or are the chickens coming home to roost after Washington’s own promotion of such activity worldwide? On Thursday Director of National Intelligence James Clapper asserted to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that while no foreign government had been able to interfere with actual voting machines, “U.S. agencies are more confident than ever that Russia interfered in America’s recent presidential election. And he called the former Cold War foe an ‘existential threat’ to the nation.” Pressed by Senator John McCain whether the “attack” constituted an “act of war,” Clapper demurred, saying that it would be a “very heavy policy call” to say so. He also said that he could not judge if the election outcome had been changed due to the claimed outside interference.
Clapper also claimed that the Russian effort included including the creation and dissemination of fake stories, explaining that “While there has been a lot of focus on the hacking, this is actually part of a multifaceted campaign that the Russians mounted.” Clapper singled out Russian state funded TV channel RT, previously called Russia Today. “Of course RT… was very, very active in promoting a particular point of view, disparaging our system.” [Full disclosure: I have been on RT numerous times.]
Apart from the nonsense about foreign broadcasters being part of a conspiracy to “disparage our system” and destroy our democracy, I confess that I was willing to be convinced by what seemed to be the near-unanimous intelligence and law enforcement agency verdict but, any such expectations disappeared when the 17 page report on the hack was actually released on Friday. Entitled Declassified Intelligence Community Assessment of Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections, the report is an exercise in speculation minus evidence indicting alleged Russian interference in the recent election. It even came with a significant caveat, “Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact.”
So I am still waiting to see the actual evidence for the Russian direct involvement and have to suspect that there is little to show, or possibly even nothing. Saying that Russian government agents were employed in passing the stolen emails from the DNC server to WikiLeaks raises more questions than it answers, particularly as it is now clear from media leaks that the parties involved were using what is referred to as cut-outs to break the chain of custody of the material being passed. Does the intelligence community actually know exactly who passed what to whom and when or is it engaged in reconstructing what it thinks happened? Does it really believe that intercepted unencrypted phone calls among Russian officials expressing pleasure over the election result equate to an actual a priori conspiracy to determine the outcome? And based on what evidence do they know that conspiracy was “ordered” by President Vladimir Putin as is now being alleged? Or are they only assuming that it must have been him because he is head of state?
And what about the possibility that activity of Russian intelligence agencies to penetrate computers in the United States was little more than routine information collection, which Clapper conceded is normal activity for Washington as well? And above all, where is a truth and consequences analysis of America’s global role as a contributor to the tit-for-tat, obscured by a prevailing mainstream media narrative that prefers to see everything in terms of good guys versus bad guys?
One can reasonably argue that Washington started the practice of cyber-warfare and has been a long-time practitioner of both regime change and election tampering in its relationship with much of the world. The Snowden papers indicate that NSA hacking of targets in China has been going on for many years as has routine interception of cell phones of allied European and other world leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the UN Secretary General. The NSA has deliberately sought to have the capability to penetrate nearly every electronic communications network in the world, frequently in real time, and has come close to achieving that ability under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
The information obtained in the huge dumps of intelligence obtained by NSA is, at least in theory, used to confront possible threats to the United States and to obtain competitive advantage over both adversaries and competitors. But the intrusion into systems has also been weaponized, witness for example the creation of the Stuxnet worm in collaboration with the Israelis. Stuxnet was intended to disable key elements in Iranian nuclear research but it also went beyond that, creating dysfunction in other economic and industrial systems unrelated to its laboratories. The assault on Iran was more of an act of war than the hack of the DNC computers. And the damage was not limited to Iran. There have also been concerns that the Stuxnet virus had migrated from the Iranian systems and become viable on other civilian use computers.
There have been numerous military interventions in Latin America ever since the U.S. became involved in the region in the wake of the Spanish-American War. The subsequent interventions in the so-called Banana Wars by U.S. Marines in Central America and the Caribbean were on behalf of United Fruit Company and other commercial interests. The cynical use of force to support American business moved the highly-decorated Marine Major General Smedley Butler to describe himself as “a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers … a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism” while declaring that “war is a racket.” More recently, the CIA arranged for the removal of populist Jacopo Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954, initiating 60 years of political instability in that country while the Agency role in the military coup in Chile that ousted Salvador Allende and its involvement with the Nicaraguan contra rebels subsequently are similarly notorious.
When I was in Europe with CIA the U.S. government regularly interfered with elections, particularly in Italy, Spain, France and Portugal, all of which had active communist parties. The Agency would fund opposition parties directly or indirectly and would manage media coverage of the relevant issues to favor the non-communists. The end result was that the communists were indeed in most cases kept out of government but the resulting democracy was frequently corrupted by the process. Italy in particular suffers from that corruption to this day.
The United States has directly interfered in Russia, using proxies, IMF loans and a media controlled by the oligarchs to run the utterly incompetent Boris Yeltsin’s successful campaign in 1996 and then continuing with more aggressive “democracy promotion” projects until Putin expelled many of the NGOs responsible in 2015. More recently there have been the pastel revolutions in Eastern Europe and the upheaval in Ukraine, which came about in part due to a $5 billion investment by the United States government in “democracy building” supplemented by regular visits from John McCain and the State Department’s activist Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland.
And then there are Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq and Syria as well as endorsement of the ongoing carnage in Yemen. The Congress meanwhile continues to call for regime change in Iran. So it leads to the question “Who is actually doing what to whom?”
One can well understand the anger at Russian actions but much of the sentiment is being fueled by a hostile press and deliberate U.S. government fear mongering orchestrated by the Obama Administration as its parting gift to the American people. A new Cold War would be good for no one. Stepping back a bit, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that anything Russia did or is suspected of doing in 2016 pales in comparison to what the United States has been doing for much longer and on a much wider scale. The Defense Department runs a cyber warfare command with a budget of $7 billion and the White House has ordered military interventions to bring about regime change in four Muslim majority countries while also interfering in a number of others since 9/11. The Obama response to an alleged Russian conspiracy that has yet to be demonstrated has been to send more soldiers to the Baltics while ordering a massive politically motivated retaliation that included the persona non grata expulsion of 35 Russian officials and their families. Moscow did not retaliate and instead invited U.S. diplomatic families to a Christmas celebration at the Kremlin. Sure, it was political theater to a certain extent but it has to make one wonder who was actually the adult in the room whenever Obama and Putin would meet.
SANTIAGO – A number of pro-Palestinian Chilean MPs are preparing for an international campaign starting from the Chilean capital, Santiago that calls on the United Kingdom to apologize to the Palestinian people for the Balfour Declaration, which paved the way for the establishment of Israel on the land of Palestine in 1948.
Chilean deputies from the parliament affirmed that the vast majority of the political spectrum in Chile advocates the Palestinian cause.
The deputy of the Christian Democratic party, Fuad Shahin, said in an interview with the Quds Press news agency that half of the deputies of the Chilean parliament support the Palestinian issue and back the UN anti-settlement resolution. They also push to stop importing goods form the Israeli settlements, and expedite the approval of the two-state solution and the establishment of a Palestinian state on the 1967 territories.
George Sbakh, MP of the Christian Democratic party, told the Quds Press that the supporters of Palestine are not only in the parliament, but also in all Chilean official institutions, and they don’t face major challenges since supporting Palestine is common among Chilean people. Besides, pro-Israel activists in the Chilean parliament and government don’t pose any danger, he added.
A number of pro-Palestinian Chilean MPs received on Thursday a delegate of Palestinian notables in Europe accompanied by Palestinian journalists. Their visit to Chile comes as a part of activities seeking to shed light on the Palestinians of Chile who make up the largest percentage of Palestinian refugees in Latin American countries.
A group of Chilean MPs are preparing to launch a campaign demanding Britain to apologize to the Palestinian people for the Balfour Declaration on its centennial anniversary. They are also working to unify the endeavors of the pro-Palestinian parliamentarians in Latin America.
Margaret Thatcher wanted to eradicate cocaine in Peru with moths, according to newly-released documents, which also reveal the then-British government’s top-secret strategy in combating acid house parties and soccer hooligans.
Her peer in the Labour Party, Lord Victor Rothschild, suggested in 1989 that to tackle drug production in Peru, “One might think of aerial sprays, with or without the connivance of the government concerned; and various other methods of introduction, covert as well as overt.”
The moth, Eloria noyesi, is known for its exclusive diet of the coca plant. “While virtually everyone agrees that those who take cocaine or crack, in the various ways available, should be punished, everyone, I think, agrees that it is the ‘drug baron’ who must be mercilessly ‘put down,’” Rothschild also added.
Thatcher found the “most intriguing idea” to be “characteristically brilliant” and an “ingenious solution,” she responded in a letter released Friday by the National Archives in Kew.
However, the plan was never executed because it lacked cooperation from the Peruvian government.
Other declassified documents describe plans to allow law enforcement to attack anti-nuclear “demonstrators or terrorists” and “as a last resort, open fire to prevent a perceived threat of sabotage not only to nuclear warheads but also to the submarine.”
Multiple documents also detail moves against soccer hooligans with the aim of “excluding troublemakers from football grounds,” who represent “a serious blemish on our society” that are “destroying the game as family entertainment.”
Another signature fight from Thatcher revealed in the documents is her war on Acid House parties, the 1980s’ underground equivalent of raves. Private correspondence claims her uncle was “very disturbed” by the parties and that police had a “feeling of collective anger and helplessness” when they were unable to shutdown the raves.
Caracas – Venezuela’s Supreme Court (TSJ) has blocked an attempt by Congress to oust President Nicolas Maduro over the allegation that he has “abandoned his post”.
Earlier in January, the opposition-controlled National Assembly (AN) approved an agreement stating that the president should be dismissed, accusing him of being responsible for a “serious rupture of the constitutional and democratic order,” the “devastation” of the country’s economy, and human rights abuses.
Opposition lawmakers argued that the declaration was based on Article 233 of the Bolivarian Constitution, which outlines the circumstances under which the president can be considered to have permanently vacated the position.
However, on Monday, Venezuela’s highest court released a statement confirming that there were no constitutional grounds for President Maduro’s removal from office, and criticised the AN’s interpretation of the article as “fraudulent and insurrectional”.
“The President of the Republic, citizen Nicolas Maduro Moros, has not been absent, nor separated in any moment, from the exercise of his post, nor has he ceased to exercise his constitutional responsibilities since the beginning of his mandate, which is a public, well-known and communicable indisputable fact,” reads the declaration.
In the official ruling, the high court describes opposition lawmakers’ actions as an attempt to set in motion a “coup d’etat” against the president of the Republic and to “subvert the established constitutional order”.
“(This) responds to their interest in destabilisation, with the only intention of changing the legitimately constituted government through an unconstitutional procedure,” continues the top judicial body.
TSJ judges also went on to reprimand the opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable, for having continuously flouted the court’s previous orders demanding that congress remove three opposition legislators pending investigations into voter fraud. The court has released several statements declaring the National Assembly to be in contempt of court and consequently void, as well as warning the legislative body not to overstep its constitutional boundaries.
According to the Constitution, the Venezuelan president can be considered to have “abandoned his post” through his death, resignation, destitution by the TSJ or his “physical or mental incapacity” as corroborated by a medical committee.
Nonetheless, opposition legislators have prioritised removing Maduro from office through a variety of initiatives since winning a congressional majority in the legislative elections of December 2015.
An Argentine court slapped a new sentence against jailed Indigenous leader Milagro Sala Thursday, just a day after she was handed down a three-year suspended prison sentence for being guilty of “aggravated damages” linked to a protest she led against the conservative government in her home province in Jujuy.
The Jujuy court issued Sala the maximum fine of 3,870 Argentina pesos — nearly half the monthly minimum wage of 8,060 pesos — and prohibited her from participating in any civic and political organizations for three years, the same term as her suspended prison sentence.
Sala was charged with a misdemeanor of “occupying public space, disorderly conduct and the obstruction of vehicle and pedestrian traffic.” The court also ordered the Tupac Amaru organization that Sala leads to shut down its location in Jujuy.
Sala, who has been dubbed the first political prisoner of President Mauricio Macri’s administration, was jailed last January after leading a 52-day sit-in against Jujuy governor and Macri ally Gerardo Morales.
She was initially detained on accusations of inciting mob violence with the occupation — a protest that was reportedly carried out in a peaceful manner — but was soon hit with a barrage of other charges of alleged corruption and illicit enrichment that kept her behind bars for months as investigations continued.
The new three year prohibition of Sala’s participation in social and political organizations extends until the end of Morales’ term as the governor of Jujuy.
After being jailed for nearly a year, on Wednesday a court handed her three years probation with a suspended prison sentence.
Sala is the leader and founder of Tupac Amaru, a 70,000 member-strong organization inspired by the ideals of South American Indigenous liberator Tupac Amaru, revolutionary leader Che Guevara, and former Argentine First Lady Eva Peron, that works with Indigenous and poor communities on a number of political issues.
She is also a lawmaker with the parliament of the sub-regional South American trade bloc Mercosur, known as Parlasur, though her detention has blocked her from being able to fulfill her parliamentary duties.
The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has slammed Sala’s arrest as arbitrary, calling for her immediate release. President Macri ignored the ruling.
Social movements have also rallied behind Milagro Sala, demanding her release as well as freedom for other political prisoners.
An Argentine federal appeals court will order the reopening of a probe that accuses former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of covering up Iran’s alleged role in the bombing of a Jewish center in 1994, state news agency Telam said on Thursday.
Two years earlier the prosecutor who initially made the accusation, Alberto Nisman, was found shot dead in the bathroom of his Buenos Aires apartment. Nisman had said Fernandez worked behind the scenes to clear Iran and normalize relations to clinch a grains-for-oil deal with Tehran.
Nisman’s death rocked Argentina, with some trying to pin the blame on the government of Fernandez, whose late husband President Nestor Kirchner ordered the investigation into the AMIA bombing. However, courts have repeatedly dismissed the allegations of an official conspiracy.
Fernandez’s government said Nisman’s murder was perpetrated by rogue agents from the defunct Secretariat of Intelligence — a holdover from Argentina’s Dirty War era — which was dissolved immediately after his death, but a report by Reuters revealed that President Mauricio Macri’s government wants to revive the infamous agency, sparking fears of a return to authoritarian rule and open class warfare in the country.
Iran has repeatedly denied any link to the bombing, and an Argentine judge in February 2015 dismissed Nisman’s accusations as baseless. A review panel later agreed, finding insufficient evidence to formally investigate the president.
Still, a delegation of Argentine Jewish associations pushed Macri to reopen the case, citing new evidence.
Fernandez has faced numerous criminal charges since leaving office a year ago. Earlier this week, she was indicted on corruption charges arising from allegations she skimmed money intended for public works projects, which her supporters say are being launched used to prevent Fernandez from running for office in the future.