Venezuela’s opposition-led National Assembly has voted for impeaching President Nicolas Maduro accusing him for violating democracy. The anti-government vote came after the Supreme Court blocked the parliament’s plan to hold a referendum to try and recall President Maduro. The Venezuelan socialist government has dismissed the move as meaningless.
Lajos Szaszdi, a Latin America expert, told Press TV that President Maduro has the support of the Supreme Court, the security forces and people, as a result of which the National Assembly would not be able to remove President Maduro from power.
The executive branch of the government “has the upper hand” in the division of power in Venezuela; therefore, President Maduro will be able to survive attacks by the opposition, Szaszdi said.
The analyst went on to say that the president of Venezuela has control over police, security and military forces and “of course, there is a broad base of supporters,” and “there is no danger for his hold on power.”
The Supreme Court will not accept any anti-government resolution issued by the National Assembly of Venezuela until the parliament invalidates three opposition lawmakers who are being accused of having bought votes in the last general elections, he added.
“The opposition is desperate,” Szaszdi argued, adding that the opposition is trying to resort to “extreme measures,” but people, the armed forces and the Supreme Court would support President Maduro.
The desperation of the opposition has increased after the National Electoral Council put a stop to the opposition-driven plebiscite against Maduro when four state courts called the signature-gathering process fraudulent.
The Venezuela’s government, which is facing economic difficulties and all-out pressure from the opposition legislators, has said the country is the victim of an international plot against Socialism, led by the United States.
A family member holds an image of Marco Antonio Molina Theissen, kidnapped and disappeared in 1981 when he was 14 years old. | Photo: EFE
Marco Antonio Molina Theissen was kidnapped by the military in 1981 when he was 14 years old. His family never saw him again.
Guatemala made a new breakthrough Tuesday in the decades-old struggle for justice for historical crimes against humanity, including systematic rape, as a court indicted former military chief of staff Manuel Benedicto Lucas Garcia and four other high-ranking officials on a number of crimes linked to the 1981 kidnapping and disappearance of 14-year-old boy Marco Antonio Molina Theissen, including the torture and rape of his sister Emma Guadeloupe.
In the presence of Marco Antonio and Emma Guadeloupe’s mother, Emma Theissen de Molina, in the criminal court, Judge Victor Herrera Rios announced that all five former top military men were involved in crimes against humanity, forced disappearance, and aggravated rape.
Lucas Garcia, the brother of former dictator Romero Lucas Garcia and the four others accused — former commanders Francisco Luis Gordillo and Edilberto Letona and former military intelligence agents Hugo Ramiro Zaldaña and Manuel Antonio Callejas — have been in pre-trial detention since being arrested in January.
Initially, only four were linked to the case. Lucas Garcia — currently facing prosecution along with several other former military officers for the disappearance of at least 558 civilians between 1981 and 1988 — was added when additional charges were announced in August for charges related to his role overseeing counterinsurgency strategy at the time that Emma Guadeloupe was detained and Marco Antonio was disappeared.
In Tuesday’s hearing, the judge established that Lucas Garcia’s role as military chief of staff from 1978 to 1982 held him responsible for the actions of the military brigade under his command in Quetzaltenango, where Molina Theissen was kidnapped in 1981. In that year, Gordilla and Letona were first and second in command, respectively, of the Quetzaltenango army unit, while Zaldaña was the intelligence official to the chief of staff and Callejas was in charge of intelligence at the Quetzaltenango base.
The indictments in the Molina Theissen case are a step toward clarifying the historical truth in brutal crimes carried out at the hands of the military during Guatemala’s bloody 36-year civil war.
In 1981, Emma Guadeloupe, a young activist at the time with the Patriotic Worker Youth, was detained at a military checkpoint for being in possession of items deemed political propaganda. She had previously been detained, tortured and raped by the military officials five years earlier in an incident that saw her boyfriend and two other students killed at the hands of the army.
Intelligence agent Zaldaña, one of the five indicted, was in charge of the checkpoint where Emma Guadeloupe was arrested in 1981. The young leftist — following in the footsteps of other dissidents in her family targeted for speaking out against the military regime — was locked up at the military base in Quetzaltenango.
She managed to run away from the military base nine days later, but the army swiftly retaliated. Just days after her escape, suspected military intelligence agents dressed in plain clothes stormed the Thiessen Molina home, beating the mother and kidnapping 14-year-old Marco Antonio. The family never saw him again.
According to the Washington Office on Latin America, the Molina Theissen family’s attorney has warned that the high-ranking positions of the accused — along with the fact that some of them have been implicated in organized crime operations — raises a risk of witness intimidation and other forms of obstruction of justice in the case, leading him to urge authorities to deny the accused alternative measures.
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights found the Guatemalan state guilty in the Molina Theissen disappearance in 2004, opening the door to a decade-long investigation in hopes of prosecuting the masterminds behind the heinous crimes.
Earlier this year, a landmark sexual slavery trial in Guatemala sentenced two former soldiers to 120 and 240 years in jail and established that rape was systematically used by the military as a weapon of war under the dictatorships. It was the first case of wartime sexual abuse prosecuted in the Central American country, raising hopes among human rights defenders that it could set a precedent for other cases of systematic rape.
The five accused will continue to be held in preventative detention.
In the past week, Burundi and South Africa have joined Namibia in declaring their intention to withdraw from the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC). They are likely to be followed by a parade of other African countries, jeopardizing the future of an international court that has prosecuted 39 officials from eight African countries but has failed to indict a single person who is not African.
Ironically, African countries were among the first to embrace the ICC, so it is a striking turnaround that they are now the first to give up on it.
But it is the United States that has played the leading role in preventing the ICC from fulfilling the universal mandate for which it was formed, to hold officials of all countries accountable for the worst crimes in the world: genocide; crimes against humanity; and war crimes – not least the crime of international aggression, which the judges at Nuremberg defined as “the supreme international crime” from which all other war crimes follow.
As the ICC’s founding father, former Nuremberg prosecutor Benjamin Ferencz, lamented in 2011, “You don’t have to be a criminologist to realize that if you want to deter a crime, you must persuade potential criminals that, if they commit crimes, they will be hauled into court and be held accountable. It is the policy of the United States to do just the opposite as far as the crime of aggression is concerned. Our government has gone to great pains to be sure that no American will be tried by any international criminal court for the supreme crime of illegal war-making.”
The U.S. has not only refused to accept the jurisdiction of the ICC over its own citizens. It has gone further, pressuring other countries to sign Bilateral Immunity Agreements (BIA), in which they renounce the right to refer U.S. citizens to the ICC for war crimes committed on their territory.
The U.S. has also threatened to cut off U.S. aid to countries that refuse to sign them. The BIAs violate those countries’ own commitments under the ICC statute, and the U.S. pressure to sign them has been rightly condemned as an outrageous effort to ensure impunity for U.S. war crimes.
Resistance to U.S. Impunity
To the credit of our international neighbors, this U.S. strategy has met with substantial resistance. The European Parliament overwhelmingly passed a resolution stating that BIAs are incompatible with E.U. membership, and urged E.U.- member states and countries seeking E.U. membership not to sign them.
Fifty-four countries have publicly refused to sign BIAs, and 24 have accepted cut-offs of U.S. aid as a consequence of their refusal. Of 102 countries that have signed a BIA, only 48 are members of the ICC in any case, and only 15 of those countries are on record as having ratified the BIAs in their own parliaments.
Thirty-two other ICC members have apparently allowed BIAs to take effect without parliamentary ratification, but this has been challenged by their own country’s legal experts in many cases.
The U.S. campaign to undermine the ICC is part of a much broader effort by the U.S. government to evade all forms of accountability under the laws that are supposed to govern international behavior in the modern world, even as it continues to masquerade as a global champion of the rule of law.
The treaties that U.S. policy systematically violates today were crafted by American statesmen and diplomats, working with their foreign colleagues, to build a world where all people would enjoy some basic protections from the worst atrocities, instead of being subject only to the law of the jungle or “might makes right.”
So current U.S. policy is a cynical betrayal of the work and wisdom of past generations of Americans, as well as of countless victims all over the world to whom we are effectively denying the protections of the U.N. Charter, the Geneva Conventions, the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child and other multilateral treaties that our country ignores, violates or refuses to ratify.
Avoiding the jurisdiction of international courts is only one of the ways that the U.S. evades international accountability for its criminal behavior. Another involves an elaborate and well-disguised public relations campaign that exploit the powerful position of U.S. corporations in the world of commercial media.
Major Propaganda Funding
The U.S. government spends a billion dollars per year on public relations or, more bluntly, propaganda, including $600 million from the Pentagon budget. The work of its P.R. teams and contractors is laundered by U.S. newspapers and repeated and analyzed ad nauseam by monolithic, flag-waving TV networks.
These profitable corporate operations monopolize the public airwaves in the U.S., and also use their financial clout, slick marketing and the support of the U.S. State Department to maintain a powerful presence in foreign and international media markets.
Foreign media in allied countries provide further legitimacy and credibility to U.S. talking-points and narratives as they echo around the world. Meanwhile, Hollywood fills cinema and TV screens across the world with an idealized, glamorized, inspirational version of America that still mesmerizes many people.
This whole elaborate “information warfare” machine presents the United States as a global leader for democracy, human rights and the rule of law, even as it systematically and catastrophically undermines those same principles. It enables our leaders to loudly and persuasively demonize other countries and their leaders as dangerous violators of international law, even as the U.S. and its allies commit far worse crimes.
Double Standards in Syria/Iraq
Today, for instance, the U.S. and its allies are accusing Syria and Russia of war crimes in east Aleppo, even as America’s own and allied forces launch a similar assault on Mosul. Both attacks are killing civilians and reducing much of a city to rubble; the rationale is the same, counterterrorism; and there are many more people in the line of fire in Mosul than in east Aleppo.
But the U.S. propaganda machine ensures that most Americans see one, in Mosul, as a legitimate counterterrorism operation (with Islamic State accused of using the civilians as “human shields”) and the other, in east Aleppo, as a massacre (with the presence of Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, the former Nusra Front, virtually whited out of the West’s coverage, which focuses almost entirely on the children and makes no mention of “human shields”).
The phrase “aggressive war” is also a no-no in the Western media when the U.S. government launches attacks across international borders. In the past 20 years, the U.S. has violated the U.N. Charter to attack at least eight countries (Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Syria), and the resulting wars have killed about two million people.
A complex whirlwind of conflict and chaos rages on in all the countries where the U.S. and its allies have lit the flames of war since 2001, but U.S. leaders still debate new interventions and escalations as if we are the fire brigade not the arsonists. (By contrast, the U.S. government and the Western media are quick to accuse Russia or other countries of “aggression” even in legally murky situations, such as after the U.S.-backed coup in 2014 that ousted the elected president of Ukraine.)
Systematic violations of the Geneva Conventions are an integral part of U.S. war-making. Most are shrouded in secrecy, and the propaganda machine spins the atrocities that slip through into the public record as a disconnected series of aberrations, accidents and “bad apples,” instead of as the result of illegal rules of engagement and unlawful orders from higher-ups.
The senior officers and civilian officials who are criminally responsible for these crimes under U.S. and international law systematically abuse their powerful positions to subvert investigations, cover up their crimes and avoid any accountability whatsoever.
When British playwright Harold Pinter was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005, he bravely and brilliantly used his Nobel lecture to speak about the real role that the U.S. plays in the world and how it whitewashes its crimes. Pinter recounted a meeting at the U.S. Embassy in London in the 1980s in which a senior embassy official, Raymond Seitz, flatly denied U.S. war crimes against Nicaragua for which the U.S. was in fact convicted of aggression by the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Seitz went on to serve as Assistant Secretary of State, U.S. Ambassador to the U.K., and then Vice-Chairman of Lehman Brothers.
As Pinter explained: “this ‘policy’ was by no means restricted to Central America. It was conducted throughout the world. It was never-ending. And it is as if it never happened.
“The United States supported and in many cases engendered every right wing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War. I refer to Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, and, of course, Chile. The horror the United States inflicted upon Chile in 1973 can never be purged and can never be forgiven.
“Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place throughout these countries. Did they take place? And are they in all cases attributable to US foreign policy? The answer is yes they did take place and they are attributable to American foreign policy. But you wouldn’t know it.
“It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.”
If in 2016 the world seems to be more violent and chaotic than ever, it is not because the United States lacks the will to use force or project power, as both major party candidates for President and their military advisers appear to believe, but because our leaders have placed too much stock in the illegal threat and use of force and have lost faith in the rule of law, international cooperation and diplomacy.
After a century of commercial dominance, and 75 years of investing disproportionately in weapons, military forces and geopolitical schemes, perhaps it is understandable that U.S. leaders have forgotten how to deal fairly and respectfully with our international neighbors. But it is no longer an option to muddle along, leaving a trail of death, ruin and chaos in our wake, counting on an elaborate propaganda machine to minimize the blowback on our country and our lives.
Sooner rather than later, Americans and our leaders must knuckle down and master the very different attitudes and skills we will need to become law-abiding global citizens in a peaceful, sustainable, multipolar world.
Nicolas J S Davies is the author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq. He also wrote the chapters on “Obama at War” in Grading the 44th President: a Report Card on Barack Obama’s First Term as a Progressive Leader.
The ominous calls came as courts temporarily froze the referendum process to investigate thousands of fraudulent signatures submitted in the first phase.
Leader’s from Venezuela’s opposition appeared to call for a coup against President Nicolas Maduro, after the country’s Supreme Court ruled that the presidential recall referendum would be temporarily suspended due to fraud committed in the first phase of the process.
Opposition leader Henrique Capriles said Friday that President Maduro is “in disobedience of the constitution” and called on both the National Assembly and Armed Forces to “make a decision” and have people “respect the constitution.”
The former Venezuelan presidential candidate also said Maduro had vacated his position as president, prompting fears that a coup might be looming.
“Maduro did not only leave the country, he left his position,” Capriles said during Friday’s press conference.
“Maduro declared himself in disobedience, he does not respect the Constitution, and today he left the country, and will leave everything.”
Maduro left Venezuela for various OPEC and non-OPEC countries Thursday to help establish a stable price for oil, which has negatively affected the South American country’s economy.
Capriles, head of Justice First and one of the leaders of the opposition MUD coalition, also called on the nation’s armed forces to intervene.
“Hopefully the armed forces will have people respect the constitution,” he said.
The MUD leader also demanded the government repeal the decision to suspend the signature collection process for the recall referendum and called on opposition members to “take the streets of Venezuela.” Toward the end of his speech, Capriles denied he wanted a coup to oust Maduro and said he does not want to incite violence.
“We don’t want a coup in the country,” said Capriles, “A coup has (already) happened to the people and we have to restore constitutional order.“
Henry Ramos Allup, the president of the National Assembly, also spoke during the press conference and said the National Assembly he leads supports all the decisions and the message promoted by Capriles.
Ramos Allup also called on the Venezuelan Armed Forces “to analyze the abuses to the constitution” allegedly carried out by the government. He also said they were offering a constitutional way out for Maduro through the recall referendum in order to prevent “a violent way out” in the future.
The legislator said a delegation from the assembly will travel to the Organization of American States, or OAS, to demand the OAS apply the so-called Democratic Charter against his country, something the opposition has been requesting for months.
“Venezuelans have always been stronger than its leaders,” he said, before he cast doubt on Maduro’s nationality, suggesting he may actually be Colombian—a common allegation that has no basis.
The National Electoral Council, or CNE, said the decision to postpone the recall referendum process came after the MUD committed the criminal offense of presenting more than 600,000, about 30 percent, of signatures deemed irregular. Among the invalid signatures were almost 11,000 from deceased Venezuelans.
The Supreme Court also declared invalid all acts of the National Assembly after it swore in three legislators who had previously been suspended over irregularities when they were elected.
Caracas – Venezuela’s Supreme Court (TSJ) issued a ruling Tuesday ordering the country’s the public prosecution to reopen investigations into the case of a law student disappeared in 1966.
Andres Pasquier Suarez, a law student at the Central University of Venezuela, was detained by Venezuela’s national guard on October 10, 1966 and subsequently handed over to the now defunct Armed Forces Information Service.
According to military records, the youth was transferred two days later to the Urica Anti-Guerrilla Camp from which he never returned.
A Maracaibo military tribunal charged with investigating the incident declared the case closed on March 15, 1968, finding that “no crime has been committed in any moment”.
Writing on behalf of the high court, TSJ President Gladys Gutierrez struck down the prior ruling as “contrary to the elemental principles of law and justice”, concluding that the military court had failed to conduct an impartial investigation of the disappearance.
The justice ordered the public prosecutor’s office to reopen the investigation and identify those responsible as mandated under article 19 of Venezuela’s Law to Prosecute Crimes, Disappearances, Tortures, and Other Human Rights Violations for Political Reasons during the Period 1958-1999.
Over the last 17 years, numerous inquiries have brought to light the magnitude of human rights violations committed under Venezuela’s pacted, two-party system known as the Fourth Republic.
This past July, the country’s official Truth and Justice Commission revealed that it had registered a total of 11,043 cases of torture, assassinations, and political disappearances between 1958 and 1998.
Argentina Not Only Wants To Bring In E-Voting, It Will Make It Illegal To Check The System For Electoral Fraud
Earlier this year, we wrote about Australia’s refusal to allow researchers to check e-voting software being used in that country. The situation in Argentina seems to be even worse. Access Now provides the background (original in Spanish):
The ruling party in Argentina is driving the adoption of an electronic voting system for national elections. Despite stern warnings from computer security experts about the dangers of the system, the ruling party is persisting with the project and plans to put it to a vote in Congress in the coming weeks.
Techdirt readers hardly need to be reminded about the deeply-flawed nature of e-voting systems, but there’s a useful article on Medium (in Spanish) with plenty of links to hispanophone experts from widely-different backgrounds warning against the move.Imposing an e-voting system may be foolish, but Argentina’s plans manage to magnify that folly many times over. A blog post in Spanish by Javier Smaldone explains why:
The proposal provides for imprisonment (1 to 6 years) for conducting activities that are essential in any audit or independent review of the system.
Thus, it is intended to impose the use of computer system in the casting and counting of votes, and as if it were not already extremely difficult for any citizen to be sure how it works (and it is safe), anyone who tries to find out is punished with imprisonment.
It’s one thing to bring in an e-voting system that most experts say is a bad idea in theory. But making it effectively illegal to point out flaws that exist in practice is really asking for trouble. Unless this proposed law is changed to allow independent scrutiny of the systems, Argentina will probably find this out the hard way.
Forty years ago, on October 6, 1976, Cubana Flight 455 on its way from Barbados to Jamaica was bombed shortly after takeoff, killing 73 people, including the national fencing team of Cuba.
In what was immediately seen as a terrorist act, most in the international community joined Cuba in denouncing the horrific act.
In 2011, declassified CIA documents showed that one of the key figures in this terrorist attack was Luis Posada Carriles, a right-wing Cuban who had fled the island after the Cuban Revolution of 1959.
The documents revealed that it was Posada Carriles, now 88, who had planned the 1976 bombing. He had already gained experience terrorizing the Cuban people as a participant in the failed CIA-orchestrated Bay of Pigs assault in 1961.
Peter Kornbluh, author of the book, “Back Channel to Cuba,” and a former researcher at the National Security Archive of George Washington University, said in 2011 that the declassified documents “again brings up the issue of how an international terrorist like Luis Posada Carriles can live happily ever after in Miami.”
This point demonstrates that the Oct. 6 anniversary should not only be remembered, it should be reflected upon.
The 1976 attack highlights U.S. imperialism’s decades-long war of sabotage against the Cuban Revolution. Despite a thawing in U.S.-Cuba relations, this war has not subsided.
A free man, Posada Carriles moved to Venezuela in the early 80’s where he was eventually jailed for his acts of terror against Cuba. But he escaped in 1985 and resumed plotting against Cuba and its leader, Fidel Castro.
In this period, he was also instrumental in plotting against the revolutionary government of the Sandinista National Liberation Front in Nicaragua, working as a coordinator for the contras who were fighting a war backed by the U.S. government.
Posada Carriles bragged to the New York Times in 1998 that he had been responsible for the 1997 hotel bombings targeting Cuba’s tourist industry that killed an Italian tourist, saying the man just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Posada Carriles later recanted his story.
The New York Times wrote in 1998, “Mr. Posada was schooled in demolition and guerrilla warfare by the Central Intelligence Agency in the 1960s. In a series of tape-recorded interviews … Posada said the hotel bombings and other operations had been supported by leaders of the Cuban-American National Foundation. Its founder and head, Jorge Mas Canosa … was embraced at the White House by Presidents Reagan, Bush and Clinton.”
The CANF recieved millions of dollars of U.S. tax-payer money to carry out its dirty war against Cuba for decades, according to declassified documents.
Posada Carriles was again arrested in 2000 for possession of explosives in Panama and charged with plotting to assassinate the Cuban leader at the Peoples’ Summit taking place at the University of Panama. Soon after he went into hiding.
When Posada Carriles resurfaced in Miami in 2005, the U.S. government refused to extradite him to Cuba or Venezuela to face judicial proceedings for his crimes.
In early 2011, Posada Carriles was finally put on trial in El Paso, Texas—not for his many terrorist acts—but for immigration fraud and obstruction of a proceeding.
He was charged with lying to an immigration judge about his involvement in the 1997 bombings and about how he entered the U.S. in 2005.
U.S. prosecutors presented evidence that Posada Carriles played a major role in carrying out bombings in Cuba. Many expected convictions on at least some of these charges but the jury dumbfounded prosecutors with a complete acquittal.
Ricardo Alarcon, a long-time Cuban leader and at the time, the president of the national assembly, told AP, “The stupid and shameful farce is over.”
Venezuela’s government also denounced the trial as “theater,” saying Washington continued to harbor a mass murderer.
Alarcon had intimate and deep knowledge of the farce that is the U.S. judicial system. He had been a leading advocate of the Cuban Five and a principle strategist for their freedom.
The Cuban Five were Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando Gonzalez and Rene Gonzalez. They were arrested by the U.S. government in Miami in 1998 and falsely accused of committing espionage conspiracy against the U.S. and other related charges.
They were convicted in a federal court in 2001 and spent over 15 years in jail, labeled by the U.S. government and media as terrorists.
But the Five were in fact counter-terrorists, heroes who were willing to sacrifice their lives, leave their beloved families and homeland to protect Cuba from U.S. aggression. They worked to stop terror and aimed to defend Cuba from the kind of aggression Posada Carriles and his CIA cohorts carried out.
The Five reflect a spirit of justice and peace and to this day—having returned to their beloved country—continue to inspire all those who yearn for a better world.
As long as the likes of Posada Carriles are free to walk the streets of Florida, Cuba must do everything it can to defend itself from U.S. terror.
As long as the U.S. continues to occupy Guantanamo, the Cuban Revolution must be ready to defend itself, despite President Barack Obama’s dubious declarations.
A Salon magazine article in 2008 raised this question: “The coddled ‘terrorists’ of South Florida: Anti-Castro Cuban exiles who have been linked to bombings and assassinations are living free in Miami. Does the U.S. government have a double standard when it comes to terror?”
The answer is yes—a thousand times yes.
The “Doctrine of Discovery” of 1493, also known as the Papal Bull “Inter Caetera”, was issued by Pope Alexander VI on May 4, 1493. It is arguably the most damaging policy ever enacted in human history. In fact, the 1493 Papal Bull stated that land that was not inhabited by Christians could be claimed and exploited in order to expand and instill the Christian faith. Without doubt this was the justification for European/western expansion that resulted in pain, suffering, exploitation and mass extermination. The effects of this dreadful doctrine are felt to this day.
As a descendent of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, I am one who can affirm the negativity of this Papal Bull being felt even until this present moment. Your Holiness, I am asking you in the name of Jesus Christ, that you repudiate this doctrine immediately to stop the hemorrhaging of people worldwide. In fact, “Peter opened (his) mouth, and said, of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34 – KJV) and therefore stating that God is not biased of individuals or of one group of people over another.
Your Holiness, over the past year I have visited the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) three times. In 1921, Jesus Christ visited a deacon by the name of Simon Kimbangu in Nkamba, Congo. Deacon Kimbangu was commissioned by God into His service to renew their strength because they had fallen into apostasy. Consequently, Deacon Kimbangu was accused of inciting riots and convincing the people not to pay taxes. As a result, he was placed in prison and later on given a death sentence, which was commuted to life. After serving 30 years, he died in a Belgian controlled prison.
After the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885, the Papal Bull of 1493 helped further to enable King Leopold II to legitimize his claim of ownership of the DRC and unrepentantly to treat those in the Congo with devastating atrocities almost directed toward extermination – except that he wanted some of them as oppressed workers. Over the next 23 years, up to 10 million citizens of the DRC were murdered!
This edict, or doctrine, Your Holiness, declared by the Roman Catholic Church more than 600 years ago, was infiltrated and adopted into European Christian nations solely for the purpose of having a legal basis to confiscate properties that would be in their best interest at any time, and, according to its language, served to devalue and dehumanize peoples and societies of color. Non-compliance to this doctrine would result in various forms of persecution, including slavery and death.
In fact, the 1493 “The Doctrine of Discovery” Papal Bull was part of an on-going justification of this oppression as stated by Thomas Aquinas in 1271: “Unbelievers deserve not only to be separated from the church, but also to be exterminated from the world by death.”
Your Holiness, this position as expressed in the Papal Bull has led to several ills in this world, namely Slavery, Unjust Treatment, Poverty, Discrimination, Apartheid, Separate But Equal Laws, Jim Crow, Financial Ruin, Massacres and much more. To justify the cruelty of slavery and subjugation of Africans, the slaveholders, for one, claimed that Africans were not human and therefore could be used and abused in any way the slaveholders so desired. This cruelty was for, as you know, the financial gain of slaveholders at the expense of others and the slaveholders very own humanity. Many of the slaveholders also claimed to be Christian and obvisouly chose to accept the ongoing concepts of major doctrines, such as the Papal Bull of 1493, as a rationale for their behavior.
As mentioned, people of color throughout the world still suffer from these ills. Historically, and in the 20th and 21rst centuries alone, all of this has been importantly coupled with countless reactions to this oppression such as Sit-ins, Marches, Occupy Movements and many other collective actions in the United States and internationally. Yet, the oppression continues.
In 1776, the “Declaration of Independence” of the United States forthrightly declared, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
Your repudiation of the “The Doctrine of Discovery” would also help us in America to further enforce and enshrine the “Declaration of Independence” and to then help spread this compelling statement and sentiment throughout the world.
Your Holiness, in the name of Jesus Christ, I ask that you consider going to Nkamba in the Congo and address the Kimbanguist Church that numbers some 22 million adherents worldwide. The poverty that exists in that Nation is due directly and solely to this unjust “doctrine”, and, in my opinion, pains the very heart of God!
Upon repudiating the Bull of 1493, therefore, I pray you will also consider going to Belgium and entreat that government, including King Philippe Leopold Louis Marie, to begin the healing process for the people of the DRC.
You have declared 2016 as a year of Jubilee. Luke 4:18-19 states, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken hearted to preach deliverance to the captive, and the recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” I cannot think of a better way to honor this declaration of 2016 as a year of Jubilee than by a Papal repudiation of the “Doctrine of Discovery.”
Your Holiness, the above concerns and issues are worldwide precepts, and we cannot be satisfied until we let “justice roll on like many waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing river” (Amos 5:24).
I also respectively request to meet with you, along with a delegation of like-minded people, to discuss with you this significant matter.
With every good wish to your Holiness, I am,
Deacon Joe Beasley
Antioch Baptist Church North
Atlanta Georgia, USA
404 218 3997
Google: Joe Beasley
Additional contact: Heather Gray
The government of Colombia and the FARC insurgents signed peace accords six days ago to much public jubilation. Today the peace accords were put to a public vote. Polls predicted a landslide approval of 60%.
The public airwaves had been saturated with advertisements for “si” to approve the accords. Practically every wall that I passed here on the coast and earlier this week in the capital of Bogota was plastered with “si” posters.
The “no” side appeared absent except for a fringe represented by former president Uribe and his right-wing cohorts. The Catholic Church, the current Santos government, and the entirety of progressive civil society – unions, Indigenous, Afro-descendants, campesinos – were campaigning for “si.” The outcome seemed preordained.
Yet when the polls opened today, the usual long lines were absent. Turnout was low, allowing an upset victory for “no.”
The right-wing had been threatening activists – many had already been assassinated – to disrupt the peace process. Hence our delegation of North Americans to accompany targeted Colombian activists to provide them some protection by raising their international visibility. The Alliance for Global Justice along with the National Lawyers Guild came to Colombia at the invitation of FENSUAGRO, an agrarian workers federation, Marcha Patriotica, a large progressive coalition, and Lazos de Dignidad, a human rights organization.
The accords would have ended the 52-year civil war – the longest in modern history. The FARC’s position during the intense four years of negotiations in Havana with the Colombian government was there could be no peace without justice. That it makes no sense to end the armed conflict if the conditions that generated that conflict were not addressed. The accords accordingly had provisions for agrarian reform, political participation for the insurgents, transitions from an illicit drug economy, and reparations for victims of the conflict.
Campesino leaders in the rough and rundown frontier town of Maicau on the Venezuelan border, where drug running and sales of contraband are mainstays of the local economy, spoke about the agrarian struggle. The “oligarchs,” they explained, want to “clean” the countryside of small farmers to make way for transnational agribusiness. Yesterday they spoke of the great hope they had for a “si” vote to defeat the oligarchy.
Today Colombia voted against peace and against that hope.
The Obama administration, while giving lip service in support of the peace process, has massively increased lethal aid and transfer of the latest military technology to the Colombian government under the rubric of Plan Colombia. Presumptive president-elect Hillary Clinton has been on the campaign trail stomping for Plan Colombia as the world model for the military subjugation of those who oppose the extension of the US neoliberal empire.
The October 2nd “no” vote on peace in Colombia will have repercussions around the world.
Roger D. Harris is on the State Central Committee of the Peace and Freedom Party, the only ballot-qualified socialist party in California.
Russia is prepared to join efforts aimed at resolving Venezuela’s internal political standoff if necessary, Russian Ambassador to Venezuela Vladimir Zaemsky told Sputnik.
“We welcome efforts of various politicians to help reach a mutual understanding between the various political groups in Venezuela and we hope that such steps eventually would lead to a positive result. We are ready to join this if it is deemed necessary,” Zaemsky said.
Venezuela has been embroiled in a political crisis with opposition staging regular protests and launching a campaign to remove President Nicolas Maduro, blaming him for an economic crisis in Venezuela, a country suffering from shrinking GDP, shortages of goods and rising inflation. According to the ambassador, the political crisis cannot be settled without preventing the attempts of some of Venezuela’s neighbors, the West, global media and non-governmental organizations to interfere in the internal affairs of the country.
“Russia believes that the political resolution of Venezuela’s problems should be found by the Venezuelan people itself… It must meet constitutional norms and national laws. Destructive meddling from abroad is unacceptable, no one can impose ‘color [revolution] scenarios’ based on notorious radical tactics to destabilize the situation,” Zaemsky said.
Venezuela has been in a state of an economic emergency since January. Up to 96 percent of Venezuela’s budget depends on oil revenues amid the ongoing slump in oil prices. Venezuela’s opposition hopes to hold a recall referendum to remove Maduro from power.
In August, Maduro pledged to act much tougher than his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in case of the coup attempt in the country.
A group of 29 countries called for the Venezuelan government and opposition to engage in renewed national dialogue Thursday, amid calls for more US sanctions against the South American country.
Led by the right-wing government of Paraguay, the international group including the US and UK called on President Nicolas Maduro to “ensure the full respect of human rights, due process, the separation of powers and the consolidation of a representative democracy”.
Issued during a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, the statement also called for the Venezuelan government to ensure the organisation of a presidential recall referendum.
Venezuela condemned the declaration as “interventionist”, while its regional allies drew support outweighing the Paraguayan statement.
A call from Cuba for respect for state sovereignty drew the support of 88 countries.
Maduro described the outcome of the UNHRC meeting as a “great victory” for Venezuela.
“To their 29 votes, we got 88,” he said.
The fiery session Thursday was the latest in a series of jabs at Venezuela over the course of the meeting. When the UNHRC forum began on September 13, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein lashed out at Maduro’s government over “allegations of repression of opposition voices, arbitrary arrests and excessive use of force against peaceful protests”.
A major anti-government rally two days later drew thousands of opposition supporters to the streets of Caracas and other major Venezuelan cities, with no signs of widespread police crackdowns or repression. Another large rally is scheduled to take place on October 12.
More International Setbacks, Possible Sanctions
The controversy at the UNHRC followed weeks of bad news for Venezuela’s international relations. Earlier this month Venezuela was barred from its position as president of the South American trade bloc Mercosur, while Maduro’s hosting of a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement failed to draw more than a handful of international allies.
Then on Wednesday, US lawmakers issued renewed condemnation, and calls for new sanctions on Caracas.
On Tuesday, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution calling for the release of “political prisoners” in Venezuela.
“This resolution states in no uncertain terms that President Maduro’s shameful and rampant corruption in Venezuela must end,” said Florida Representative and former chairperson of the Democratic National Committee Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Schultz herself faced allegations of corruption earlier this year, after whistle-blower website Wikileaks released documents that appeared to show Schultz and other leading party officials failed to maintain impartiality during the Democratic primaries.
CNE Head Targeted by Rubio
The day after the House issued its latest Venezuela resolution, long time anti-Venezuela campaigner Senator Marco Rubio called on President Barack Obama to authorise sanctions on government officials including the head of Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE), Tibisay Lucena.
Rubio claimed Lucena and other top officials have “committed significant acts of violence or human rights abuses”.
Lucena herself has no oversight over Venezuela’s security forces, which have been accused of human rights abuses. Nor has she directly been involved in the arrest of opposition political figures such as Leopoldo Lopez, who was imprisoned in 2015 after a Venezuelan court found him guilty of inciting a wave of deadly violence.
As head of the CNE, Lucena has been criticised by opposition supporters, who say her organisation has dragged its feet on preparing for a presidential recall referendum, which could lead to Maduro being forced from power early. CNE officials have responded to the complaints by arguing the opposition itself has slowed the referendum by allegedly including bogus signatures in a preliminary petition that was required to prompt a recall vote.
Last week, the CNE confirmed the referendum would not be possible until next year, dashing opposition hopes of forcing new elections. The timing of the referendum is significant: if it takes place before January 10, 2017, Maduro could be forced from office, and snap elections held. If the referendum is held after this cut off point, Maduro will simply be replaced by his vice-president for the rest of the normal presidential term.
The CNE’s handling of the referendum has also been criticised by the US, prompting backlash from the Maduro administration.
In a bid to ease tensions, the US and Venezuela are expected to hold new diplomatic talks in the coming weeks.
According to a report from the Associated Press this week, the talks will include Venezuelan officials and a US Department of State official. The official was named as Thomas Shannon, the state department’s current undersecretary of state for political affairs.
No further details of the meeting have been released, though another recent meeting between Venezuelan officials and US Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly focused on the detention of Joshua Holt.
A US national, Holt was detained by the Venezuelan military in June, under allegations of stockpiling firearms in the home of his wife in Venezuela. Holt’s relatives have denied the allegations.
Augusto Pinochet. | Photo: EFE
The Death Caravan was the name of a military operation that killed almost 100 political prisoners in Chile beginning on Sept. 30, 1973.
Former Army Commander Juan Emilio Cheyre and six military officials were arrested July 7 in Chile for their involvement in the death of 15 people as part of an operation known as the Death Caravan, launched the same month as the military coup that overthrew President Salvador Allende.
The Death Caravan was the name of a military operation that killed and disappeared almost 100 political prisoners in Chile beginning on Sept. 30, 1973, following General Augusto Pinochet’s coup, with the support of the United States. The military ruled the country with an iron fist for 17 years, until 1990.
Judge Mario Carroza told La Tercera that the decision to arrest the former commander-in-chief of the Chilean army was based on “knowledge of what happened during the three hours in La Serena,” where the killing took place.
Carroza added that “testimonies of direct observers during the reconstruction of the scene” coincided with other elements of the investigation, and will be an important factor in the trial.
The arrests followed a complaint filed by the Human Rights Program affiliated with the interior ministry.
Cheyre was named commander-in-chief of Chile’s army in 2002, one year before he was publicly accused of participating in the murder of a couple and stealing their 2-year-old child in La Serena back in 1973. Chile’s justice eventually filed a case without finding Cheyre responsible for the act.
Serving in the top-ranking military role until 2006, Cheyre was appointed as president of Chile’s electoral body in 2013 by the neoliberal President Sebastian Piñera.
Cheyre jailed an estimated 80,000 people, tortured 30,000 and murdered around 3,200. Only 75 of more than a thousand of his former agents are serving prison sentences for human rights violations.