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Probe finds Pablo Neruda didn’t die of cancer

Press TV – October 21, 2017

International experts announced Friday that Chilean Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda did not die of cancer, but could not conclusively determine if he was assassinated by late dictator Augusto Pinochet’s regime.

Neruda, a celebrated poet, politician, diplomat and bohemian, died in 1973 aged 69, just days after Pinochet, then the head of the Chilean army, overthrew Socialist president Salvador Allende in a bloody coup.

The writer, who was also a prominent member of the Chilean Communist party, had been preparing to flee into exile in Mexico to lead the resistance against Pinochet’s regime.

He died in a Santiago clinic where he was being treated for prostate cancer.

The subsequent death of former president Eduardo Frei at the same clinic, where he had come for a routine operation, reinforced the thesis that Neruda was murdered.

“The (death) certificate does not reflect the real cause of death,” Aurelio Luna said at a news conference on behalf of a panel of experts, referring to the official explanation that cancer killed the famed writer.

The group of 16 experts from Canada, Denmark, the US, Spain and Chile, 12 of whom worked in Santiago while the rest worked from abroad, could neither confirm nor rule out the hypothesis that Neruda was murdered.

The experts discovered bacteria that is already being studied in labs in Canada and Denmark, and could offer more insight into the cause of Neruda’s death.

“We are waiting to precisely establish the origin and whether it is bacteria that comes from a laboratory, modified and cultivated for the purpose of use as a biological weapon,” Luna said.

Following the exhumation of Neruda’s remains in 2013, studies in Chile and abroad discovered Staphylococcus aureus, a highly-infections bacteria that can be lethal, but not conclusive evidence that it was the cause of death.

The investigation began in 2011 after Manuel Araya, Neruda’s former driver and personal assistant, claimed that he was given a mysterious injection in his chest just before he died.

“Neruda was assassinated,” Araya told AFP in 2013.

His assertion is supported by the Neruda family, which maintains a lawsuit seeking to clarify the circumstances of Neruda’s death.

Pinochet, who ruled Chile for 17 years, installed a regime that killed some 3,200 leftist activists and other suspected opponents.

He died in 2006 at age 91 without ever being convicted for the crimes committed by his regime.

Neruda won the Nobel Prize in 1971 “for a poetry that with the action of an elemental force brings alive a continent’s destiny and dreams,” in the words of the award committee.

October 21, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

Canada Rejects Venezuela Vote, EU Mulls Sanctions & Russia Congratulates Government

By Rachael Boothroyd Rojas | Venezuelanalysis | October 18, 2017

Twenty-eight European Ministers jointly agreed to “establish the legal framework” for pursuing sanctions against the Venezuelan government Monday in the wake of the country’s regional elections, Europa Press has reported.

Venezuela’s government won eighteen out of twenty-three states in regional elections this past Sunday, but the results have been disputed by the right-wing opposition, the US, Canada and France, on the basis of alleged foul play.

Opposition spokespeople have so far been unable to corroborate their allegations of fraud, while international electoral observers have testified to the veracity of the results. Venezuelan political commentators have said that mass abstention of opposition voters due to disillusionment with their leaders was the reason for the shock result.

Speaking at an EU meeting in Luxembourg Monday, EU Foreign Policy chief Federica Mogherini cautiously described the election results as a “surprise” and asked for investigations to “clarify what happened in reality”.

Ministers also agreed to advance in the preparation of “selective, gradual and reversible” sanctions against members of Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro administration, with some apparent reticence from Portugal.

The EU has been discussing the potential implementation of sanctions against individuals within the Venezuelan government since the US imposed economic sanctions against Venezuela in August. Canada also followed suit shortly after with asset freezes targeting top Caracas officials.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro responded to the decision Tuesday, accusing Mogherini of only listening to opposition voices in Venezuela, and inviting her to call him or arrange a meeting in Brussels.

Meanwhile, Canada officially added its voice to the international chorus of condemnation against the regional election results Tuesday.

In an official statement, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said that “Sunday’s elections were characterized by many irregularities that raise significant and credible concerns regarding the validity of the results.”

She also added her government would continue to “stand for the Venezuelan people and for the defence and restoration of democracy in Venezuela.”

Freeland had already tweeted on Monday that her government was “”very concerned by yesterday’s polling centre closures & relocations – clearly favouring #Venezuela regime, hindering free + fair elections”. Her stance was criticized by Canada’s Communist Party.

Canada is a member of the so-called Lima Group – a regional organization made up of right-wing regional governments opposed to the Maduro administration, including Argentina, Brasil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, and Peru.

On Tuesday, the Lima Group likewise claimed that the elections were marred by irregularities, and demanded a full “independent audit” of results. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro had already called for an audit of 100 percent of votes Sunday.

The Lima Group is due next to meet in Canada on October 26, when it will discuss Venezuela’s regional elections and the ongoing stand-off between the government and opposition.

But not all international governments have condemned the elections, and the Maduro administration has received supportive statements from Russia, Cuba, Bolivia and other Latin American leaders.

For its part, Russia said the elections represented a new opportunity to address the “pressing economic and social problems facing the country” and criticised the opposition’s refusal to accept the results.

“The population demonstrated its commitment to civilized, first of all electoral, ways of settling political differences,” reads a statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry.

“Given this, the opposition’s refusal to recognize the results of the voting and calls for more street protests and tougher international sanctions are fraught with negative consequences. This may frustrate the emerging scenario of compromise and trigger another spiral of violence and confrontation,” the ministry added.

In addition, Russia urged Venezuelan political forces to refrain from violence, and spoke in support of dialogue between the opposition and national government “to stop attempts at destructive interference from outside.”

“The counter-productiveness of force and sanction pressure on Venezuela is obvious,” the ministry underscored.

Meanwhile, the government of Cuba also congratulated the Maduro government on the election win.

“Dear Nicolas: I congratulate you for the results of state elections. Venezuela has shown another example of peace, democratic vocation, courage and dignity,” Cuban President Raul Castro said in a letter published by Cuba’s Foreign Relations Ministry.

Bolivian President Evo Morales also took to Twitter to say that “In Venezuela, peace triumphed over violence, the people triumphed over the empire. [Organization of American States Secretary-General] Luis Almagro lost, along with his boss [US President] Trump”.

En Venezuela triunfó la paz frente a la violencia, triunfó el pueblo frente al imperio. Perdió Luis Almagro con su jefe Trump.

— Evo Morales Ayma (@evoespueblo) October 16, 2017

In similar statements, former Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said that the election results had “exposed” how biased international media coverage is on Venezuela.

Many international media outlets had predicted that Venezuela’s opposition would sweep to victory on Sunday, in a repeat of the 2015 National Assembly elections.

October 19, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | 1 Comment

Venezuela Regional Elections: chavismo in triumph, opposition in disarray and media in denial

By Ricardo Vaz | Investig’Action | October 18, 2017

As the President of the Venezuelan Electoral Commission (CNE) read the results from the regional elections that took place on Sunday, October 15, one could feel the agony in the editorial rooms of mainstream media outlets. Chavismo had just won 18 out of 23 (1) governorships, a result that, according to them, could not have happened. International observers praised the electoral process and opposition claims of fraud, while uncritically echoed by the media, do not have a leg to stand on.

The United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) had a tremendous victory in these elections. Among the three quarters of the governorships secured, some were quite significant. Hector Rodríguez, a young and charismatic chavista leader, won the governorship of Miranda state back from the opposition. Miranda includes part of Caracas and was the main hotspot of opposition violence in recent months. Another example was Chávez’s home state of Barinas which also saw some unrest in recent months. Chávez’s younger brother Argenis was the candidate and the state was successfully held by the PSUV.

The opposition lost all three governorships won in 2012 (Miranda, Amazonas and Lara) and won five others (Anzoátegui, Mérida, Nueva Esparta, Táchira and Zulia), with three of them being on the border with Colombia and raising some fears of increased paramilitary activity. Overall participation was 61%, compared to 54% five years ago, and the PSUV had 54% of the vote, some 5.6M votes. This marked a complete reversal from the legislative elections of 2015. It showed that chavismo’s core support remains very strong, and that, due to its less than coherent actions, it was the opposition that failed to mobilise its supporters.

Electoral map after Sunday’s regional elections. Chavismo took 18 (red) governorships, and the opposition took five (blue).

The media reaction was one for the history books. Having not paid much attention to these elections, the run-up had just the same recycled narrative: “if the elections are free and fair, the opposition will win by a landslide”. Once the results came out, rather than look to understand them and figure out what had gone wrong in their predictions, the media simply went down the rabbit hole. According to their biased narrative and historically inaccurate polls, this simply was not possible!

The evidence to back this impossibility was also less than convincing. There were the usual unsubstantiated, or easily disproved, claims of “fraud” (more on that later). The New York Times added the very scientific claim that “turnout appeared to be lower”, while Reuters, with its ever decreasing credibility, went further and talked about voters being forced to vote at gunpoint! Several analysts were paraded to claim that this result was not possible, some even argued it was “inconceivable”. It seems like these journalists and analysts have violated one of the cardinal rules of (information) trafficking: don’t get high on your own supply. Simply put, they have started believing too much in their own propaganda.

A resounding defeat for the Venezuelan opposition

Let us look at the actions of the US-backed Venezuelan opposition in the recent past. First they kicked off a wave of street violence in April that left more than 100 dead (most of them caused by opposition violence). With the media propaganda in overdrive they claimed they were on the verge of “tumbling the dictatorship”. But barring a few isolated occasions, the violence never spread far beyond the opposition strongholds, mainly in eastern Caracas.

After Maduro proposed the Constituent Assembly, the opposition refused to participate and claimed that they would stop it from taking place. They even staged their own “referendum” to reject the Constituent Assembly and call for intervention of the armed forces. But in what was a massive chavista show of strength, as well as a rejection of opposition violence, more than 8M people voted on July 30th. All the opposition, and the media, could do was claim that the figure was false, based on shoddy exit polls and unsubstantiated claims from Smartmatic (2). These elections and the swearing in of the Constituent Assembly effectively brought peace to the streets.

So after all the talk of tumbling the dictatorship and demanding that Maduro step down tomorrow, the opposition turned to their supporters, and with a straight face asked them to go out and vote in the regional elections. Some of the more hardline factions refused to take part (and are now chiding the leadership for having done so) but most of the opposition parties carried on with the absurd discourse of “voting against the dictatorship”. In the end the absurdity caught up to them and the result was a resounding defeat. And then, like clockwork, the opposition claimed the results were fraudulent. Frankly, what else was left for them to do? They can send the defeated candidates to Washington DC and continue forming their “government in exile”. (3)

Opposition leader Julio Borges’ contradictions with regard to the regional elections (Translated from Misión Verdad)

Fraudulent “fraud” claims

If the media coverage of Venezuela had any vestige of honesty, articles would explain how the voting works, so that these “fraud” allegations can be put into context. In a nutshell, voters mark their vote in a machine, a paper ballot is printed, and if this matches the electronic vote, they deposit the paper ballot in a box. After the voting is completed, a audit is conducted in 54.4% of the voting centres, randomly selected. This consists of tallying up the paper ballots and seeing if they match, up to a very small margin, against the electronic tally. This ensures that statistically the results are pretty much final, and that is what the CNE President Tibisay Lucena means when she says the results are “irreversible”.

Chavista, opposition and international monitors take part in pre-voting checks, are present at voting centres during the day, and they are also present during this audit. At the end of this process they sign an act (acta). So it is very hard to claim there was actual electoral fraud. In fact, defeated opposition candidate in Miranda, Carlos Ocariz, said himself that he had the acts and that was not the problem. Therefore it is ridiculous for France and the US State Dept. to claim there is anything wrong with the tabulation process.

The main “fraud” complaint in the media were that over 200 voting centres (out of 13.500) had been relocated away from areas where the opposition is strongest and into traditionally pro-government areas. What, conveniently, was left unsaid, is that these were centres that could not open for the Constituent Assembly elections because of opposition violence, which makes the CNE’s security concerns more than justified.

There were also protests that opposition candidates that had lost a (contentious) primary vote were left on the ballot, with the CNE arguing that the requests to remove them from the ballot were not filed on time. But looking at the results, all the contests were virtually two-horse races, with hardly any votes for third-placed candidates and with the winner taking over 50% of the vote, so any consequence of this was negligible (with the possible exception of Bolívar).

Another complaint was that some of the voting centres did not open on time. But given that, even after polls close at 6PM, everyone who is standing in line still gets to vote, this complaint does not hold water. All in all, the Venezuelan opposition, their sponsors, and the media, would have the world believe the elections were fraudulent because middle-class voters did not want to wait in line and much less see poor people on their way to vote.

Chavista celebrations after the electoral triumph (photo by AVN)

The road ahead

It is hard to see where the Venezuelan opposition can go from here, with signs of in-fighting already clear. With their “doomsday cult” behaviour they are unlikely to have any success in reactivating the street violence, and thus their fate rests essentially on what the US empire can do. They will be hoping that (more) sanctions can inflict enough pain on the Venezuelan people to give them a chance of winning the presidential election next year. The most fanatical ones might hope that Trump follows through on the threats of military intervention.

One thing they can count on is the unwavering, unconditional support from the mainstream media. While opposition voters and supporters may use their memory and call out the inconsistencies and contradictions, no such thing is to be expected from the media. They will keep echoing claims that there was fraud in these elections, that the turnout on July 30th was inflated, and continue to milk the story of the former prosecutor who goes around saying she has proof of corruption involving high government officials. As with everything that can be used against the Bolivarian government, no evidence is ever needed.

As for chavismo, it is unquestionable that the two most recent electoral showings have been tremendous victories. Western analysts time and again fail to grasp the vitality of the Bolivarian Revolution, and belittle chavistas either as brainwashed zealots or people who simply fear losing their benefits (4). The reality is that, even through a deep economic war/crisis that has hit them hard, and regardless of what the leadership should have done differently, the Venezuelan poor and working-class still see this project as their own, one in which they are actors and not just spectators.

Maduro’s term has arguably seen chavismo playing defence all the time, with an economic war, a steep drop in oil prices, two incarnations of guarimba violence and constant international pressure and sanctions. Fresh off this electoral win and with the Constituent Assembly in place, it is imperative that chavismo seizes the moment to radicalise, to go on the offensive, with a year to go until the presidential elections. The support that it has retained through this storm should not be taken for granted, and there is now a window to fight corruption, increase working-class control in the economy, increase the influence of the communes, etc. This is not just a matter of keeping the grassroots involved, this is how the economic war will be won, this is how socialism will be built.

Notes

(1) The initial results were only final for 22 out of the 23 states. In the southern state of Bolívar the PSUV candidate was later confirmed to be the winner in a tight contest.

(2) Smartmatic, the company responsible for the software in the voting machines, claimed that “without any doubt” the turnout had been inflated by at least 1M votes. The claim was rejected by Venezuelan electoral authorities because the company does not have access to electoral data. Several solidarity organisations delivered a letter to Smartmatic CEO Antonio Mugica on September 8 demanding that the company either present evidence for its claims or issue an apology. There has been no response to this day.

(3) Right on cue, Maria Corina Machado has urged the opposition-controlled National Assembly, which has been in contempt of court since mid-2016, to nominate new electoral authorities. One hopes there is enough office space in OAS headquarters in Washington DC.

(4) If only they had a deep and mature political understanding such as the opposition and their “we do not want to be Cuba” slogans…

Cover photo: President Maduro lauded the election victory as a message against imperialism (photo by AVN)

October 19, 2017 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Fake News | , | 1 Comment

Colombian Social Leader Assasinated Weeks After 7 Campesinos Were Killed

Jose Jair Cortes

Jose Jair Cortes | Photo: UN
teleSUR | October 17, 2017

A Colombian social leader, Jose Jair Cortes, was murdered in a rural area of Tumaco municipality located in the southwest department of Narino.

Jair Cortes, a member of the local council of the Alto Mira and Frontera Community, was killed in a sector called Y, located in the heart of the city of Tumaco. The social leader was one of seven community leaders to receive death threats in recent months.

The governor of Narino, Camilo Romero Galeano, denounced the murder that occurred just weeks after a massacre that left seven people dead in the village of El Tandil, in the same municipality.

The state government has urged the authorities to investigate the exact details of the community leader’s murder.

“We have once again resisted accepting that the war will continue to make its mark on the Narino pacific,” Romero said. “Our voice of solidarity for the family of Jose Jair Cortes in this painful moment that keeps the mourning in our south.”

“We are profoundly affected by this death, just days after we met in Tumaco with him and the other members of this Junta de Gobierno, corresponding to the territory where the painful events that six peasants and dozens of wounded and still remain of research,” the official statement said.

The community council in the area has repeatedly denounced human rights violations against the Afro-Colombian, Mestizo and Indigenous peasants in the region. The campesinos in the area have been protesting against government’s plan to reduce the production of Cocoa crop, an important means of livelihood for many in the region.

In the western department of Cauca, over 40 campesinos have been injured and one journalist killed in clashes between the Indigenous community members and the Colombian police.

The Indigenous community members who began their protests 10 days ago are demanding the property in the Coconuco Indigenous Reservation, a rural area of Purace municipality, where the government had promised them land in 2013.

The Mobile Anti-Riot Squads (ESMAD) accused the natives of encroaching private property. ESMAD member, Capt. Edgar Garcia, told Caracol, a local radio station that the natives threw “immense rocks that destroy sticks and all around, equally, they shoot us with artifacts, stones, bottles, and explosives to intimidate us, while we are defending the private property.”

Whereas, a spokesman for the protesters quoted by the local radio station, said that “about 10 ESMAD trucks, two tanks and all the artifacts against the indigenous peoples, entered the community.”

October 18, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

International Electoral Observers Validate Venezuela Regional Vote as US, France Reject Results

By Lucas Koerner | Venezuelanalysis | October 16, 2017

Caracas – The Latin American Council of Electoral Experts (CEELA) has confirmed that Sunday’s vote in Venezuelan gubernatorial elections was clean and transparent.

“The vote took place peacefully and without problems… the vote reflects the will of [Venezuelan] citizens,” declared CEELA President Nicanor Moscoso during a press conference Monday morning.

The CEELA delegation was comprised of 1300 international observers, including former Colombian Electoral Court President Guillermo Reyes, ex-president of the Honduran Supreme Electoral Court, Augusto Aguilar, and former Peruvian electoral magistrate Gastón Soto.

According to the body’s report, the vote was held under conditions of “total normality” and the right to a secret ballot was “guaranteed”.

Sunday’s elections pitted President Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela against the right-wing MUD coalition, with the former scoring a surprise win in 17 of the nation’s 23 states.

The results have, however, been rejected by the MUD, which has alleged “fraud” and called on its supporters to take to the streets in protest.

The MUD has accused the National Electoral Council of attempting to suppress opposition turnout by relocating 334 voting centers previously targeted by anti-government violence during July 30’s National Constituent Assembly Elections.

Announced several weeks ago, the relocations were concentrated in the states of Anzoátegui, Aragua, Carabobo, Lara, Merida, Miranda, and Tachira. Nonetheless, in Merida and Tachira, the MUD emerged triumphant, despite there being 58 and 42 changes in voting centers, respectively.

For its part, CEELA has reported that it has yet to receive any formal denunciations from the opposition, which has issued its fraud allegations via the media.

President Maduro has requested a 100 percent audit of Sunday’s elections, a call that was subsequently echoed by the MUD.

Nothewstanding CEELA’s certification of the outcome, Venezuela’s regional elections have come under fire from Washington and Paris.

“We condemn the lack of free and fair elections yesterday in Venezuela. The voice of the Venezuelan people was not heard,” declared US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert.

The diplomat did not, however, offer specific evidence explaining her government’s disavowal of the election result.

In recent months, the Trump administration has taken an increasingly aggressive stance against the Maduro government, imposing economic sanctions, decreeing a travel ban on Venezuelan officials, as well as threatening military intervention and an embargo.

France’s Foreign Ministry likewise issued a communique Monday in which it alleged “serious irregularities” and “lack of transparency in the verification and tabulation process”

“France deplores this situation and is working with its EU partners to examine appropriate measures to help resolve the serious crisis affecting the country,” the French government continued.

France’s newly elected president, Emmanuel Macron, has become an increasingly vocal critic of the Maduro government Caracas.

In September, the French leader met with senior Venezuelan opposition politicians during a tour by the MUD to drum up support for EU sanctions against Venezuela.

The European Parliament voted last month to explore the option of sanctioning top Venezuelan officials, following the lead of Washington and Ottawa.

In response to the statement by Paris, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza took to Twitter Monday, lambasting European interference in his country’s internal affairs.

“The EU and some of its member states (subordinate to Trump) question the will of the Venezuelan people,” he stated.

“In Europe, they’d only wish to have a real democracy, where their peoples can freely choose between two truly contrasting projects,” Arreaza added.

October 17, 2017 Posted by | Deception | , , | 1 Comment

Cuban missile crisis yields more secrets

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | October 17, 2017

History lends itself to re-interpretation when more facts become available or when ulterior motives creep in. There is a surfeit of the latter happening in India currently. Nothing is spared, even symbolically, in India’s history today – starting from Nehru’s legacy  to Taj Mahal to Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. However, such revisionist history (‘historical negationism’) is interchangeable with fiction or folklore and on the whole it fails to stick. Historical reappraisals are an entirely different thing.

Based on new archival materials becoming available every now and then, a slice of Cold War era history that is still dissected and understood from new perspectives is the so-called Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. The narrative that was dominant initially was that the Soviets surreptitiously tried to deploy inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBM) to Cuba targeting the US and the attempt was nipped in the bud with the Kennedy administration staring down the then Kremlin boss Nikita Khrushchev through a display of naval blockade of the island.

As time passed, the informed sections of opinion came to know that it was a settlement negotiated through nerve-wracking back channel negotiations directly between the Oval Office and the Kremlin – even Fidel Castro was kept in the dark – that brought the crisis to an end, with the Soviets and the Americas rolling back their missile respective deployments to each other’s backyard – Cuba and Turkey. The Soviets, true to character, eschewed triumphalism so long as the strategic objective was realised, leaving the Americans free to claim ‘victory’.

However, what still remains less understood is that the crisis in 1962 was not just about the Soviet missile deployment. There was also alongside a full-bodied American agenda of ‘regime change’ in Cuba. Incredibly enough, the Pentagon had drawn up a detailed report on the overthrow of Fidel’s government by a military government headed by a US commander and military governor – something like the American occupation of Japan led by General Douglas MacArthur in September 1945. Proclamation No 1 that was to have been issued, which vested “all powers of government, executive, legislative, and judicial and all jurisdiction in the occupied territory and over its inhabitants” in the hands of the US military governor. The Proclamation stated:

  • All persons in the occupied territory (Cuba) will obey immediately and without question all enactments and orders of the military government. Resistance of the United States Armed Forces will be forcefully stamped out. Serious offenders will be dealt with severely. So long as you remain peaceable and comply with my orders, you will be subjected to no greater interference than may be required by military exigencies.

Also, leaflets were to be airdropped in their thousands all over Cuba advising that “U.S. armed forces will take temporary charge of your country.” They were to warn Cuban citizens to “remain at home” because “everything that moves is a target.”

Meanwhile, the Soviets too were factoring in a possible American invasion of Cuba, the fledgling socialist state in the Western Hemisphere, and therefore had deployed tactical battlefield nuclear weapons to Cuba. With all the formidable intelligence gathering capacity at the disposal of the United States, the Americans had no inkling that if they invaded Cuba, they would have had a nasty surprise. In sum, the crisis had every potential to escalate into an apocalyptic event. (I am reminded of the recent bullish claim by our air chief that he knows precisely where and how to destroy Pakistan’s nuclear assets in one sweeping Indian air strike.)

The above are facts culled out from documents that have been declassified in the US this week under the Freedom of Information Act (here). To my mind, the most fascinating document is the (redacted) post-mortem report on the entire episode of the Cuban Missile Crisis authored by the famous CIA spook Richard “Dick” Lehman who worked with 7 American presidents from John F. Kennedy to George H.W. Bush and was credited with creating the president’s daily intelligence briefing and regarded as one of 50 trailblazers who created the CIA. (For connoisseurs of Cold War history, Lehman’s recount of his 33 years in the world of intelligence archived in the CIA’s Library, here, makes fascinating reading.)

Much of what Lehman wrote will not come as stunning disclosure, but it is useful to know how carefully, meticulously, factually (backed with empirical evidence) an adversary’s strategic challenge needs to be studied and assimilated before the intelligence is taken to the desk of the political boss and gets morphed into decision-making. (I wonder how we fared in the run up to the recent Doklam standoff with China.) Read Lehman’s Top Secret report to the CIA Director, here.

October 17, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Medical Students at Chile’s Largest University Overwhelmingly Vote for BDS

IMEMC | October 17, 2017

More than three-fourths of students at the University of Chile’s Faculty of Medicine voted to break institutional ties with Israeli universities in a student referendum held last month. They also voted against Israeli government sponsorship or attendance of events at their university.

This is the third such vote to take place at the University of Chile, the country’s largest university. Over the last two years, more than 90% of students at the Faculty of Social Sciences  and more than 60% of students at the Faculty of Law also voted in support of  Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) measures.

BDS UChile, the university’s student coalition advocating for BDS, celebrated the victory, saying:

We are celebrating yet another win for the global BDS movement at the University of Chile. After students at the Faculty of Law and students at the Faculty of Social Sciences voted for BDS in 2015 and 2016 respectively, we are very proud that students at the Faculty of Medicine joined in to vote a resounding YES on having a university free of Israeli apartheid.

Before this vote took place, Palestinian medical students sent a video message to Chilean students, highlighting the impact of Israeli apartheid, military occupation and colonialism on their rights to health and education. They emphasized the importance of effective international solidarity through the academic boycott of Israeli universities.

Monia Kittana, a Birzeit University Palestinian medical student featured in the video, welcomed the referendum results, saying:

We are very thankful that medical students at the University of Chile have heeded our call to boycott Israeli apartheid. We applaud them for their principles and solidarity. They’ve set an example to be followed by other departments and universities in Chile and in all of Latin America. Palestinians need effective solidarity from around the world, and students can play a leading role in pressuring their universities to break ties with institutions that are complicit in Israel’s half-century of military occupation and nearly 70 years of dispossessing Palestinians from their homes and lands.

The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) is the largest coalition in Palestinian civil society. It leads and supports the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter @BDSmovement.

October 17, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , | 1 Comment

The Legacy of Reagan’s Civilian ‘Psyops’

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | October 13, 2017

Declassified records from the Reagan presidential library show how the U.S. government enlisted civilian agencies in psychological operations designed to exploit information as a way to manipulate the behavior of targeted foreign audiences and, at least indirectly, American citizens.

A just-declassified sign-in sheet for a meeting of an inter-agency “psyops” committee on Oct. 24, 1986, shows representatives from the Agency for International Development (USAID), the State Department, and the U.S. Information Agency (USIA) joining officials from the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Department.

Some of the names of officials from the CIA and Pentagon remain classified more than three decades later. But the significance of the document is that it reveals how agencies that were traditionally assigned to global development (USAID) or international information (USIA) were incorporated into the U.S. government’s strategies for peacetime psyops, a military technique for breaking the will of a wartime enemy by spreading lies, confusion and terror.

Essentially, psyops play on the cultural weaknesses of a target population so they could be more easily controlled or defeated, but the Reagan administration was taking the concept outside the traditional bounds of warfare and applying psyops to any time when the U.S. government could claim some threat to America.

This disclosure – bolstered by other documents released earlier this year by archivists at the Reagan library in Simi Valley, California – is relevant to today’s frenzy over alleged “fake news” and accusations of “Russian disinformation” by reminding everyone that the U.S. government was active in those same areas.

The U.S. government’s use of disinformation and propaganda is, of course, nothing new. For instance, during the 1950s and 1960s, the USIA regularly published articles in friendly newspapers and magazines that appeared under fake names such as Guy Sims Fitch.

However, in the 1970s, the bloody Vietnam War and the Pentagon Papers’ revelations about U.S. government deceptions to justify that war created a crisis for American propagandists, their loss of credibility with the American people. Some of the traditional sources of U.S. disinformation, such as the CIA, also fell into profound disrepute.

This so-called “Vietnam Syndrome” – a skeptical citizenry dubious toward U.S. government claims about foreign conflicts – undermined President Reagan’s efforts to sell his plans for intervention in the civil wars then underway in Central America, Africa and elsewhere.

Reagan depicted Central America as a “Soviet beachhead,” but many Americans saw haughty Central American oligarchs and their brutal security forces slaughtering priests, nuns, labor activists, students, peasants and indigenous populations.

Reagan and his advisers realized that they had to turn those perceptions around if they hoped to get sustained funding for the militaries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras as well as for the Nicaraguan Contra rebels, the CIA-organized paramilitary force marauding around leftist-ruled Nicaragua.

Perception Management

So, it became a high priority to reshape public perceptions inside those targeted countries but even more importantly among the American people. That challenge led the Reagan administration to revitalize and reorganize methods for distributing propaganda and funding friendly foreign operatives, such as creation of the National Endowment for Democracy under neoconservative president Carl Gershman in 1983.

Another entity in this process was the Psychological Operations Committee formed in 1986 under Reagan’s National Security Council. In the years since, the U.S. administrations, both Republican and Democratic, have applied many of these same psyops principles, cherry-picking or manufacturing evidence to undermine adversaries and to solidify U.S. public support for Washington’s policies.

This reality – about the U.S. government creating its own faux reality to manipulate the American people and international audiences – should compel journalists in the West to treat all claims from Washington with a large grain of salt.

However, instead, we have seen a pattern of leading news outlets simply amplifying whatever U.S. agencies assert about foreign adversaries while denouncing skeptics as purveyors of “fake news” or enemy “propaganda.” In effect, the success of the U.S. psyops strategy can be measured by how Western mainstream media has stepped forward as the enforcement mechanism to assure conformity to the U.S. government’s various information themes and narratives.

For instance, any questioning of the U.S. government’s narratives on, say, the current Syrian conflict, or the Ukraine coup of 2014, or Russian “hacking” of the 2016 U.S. election, or Iran’s status as “the leading sponsor of terrorism” is treated by the major Western news outlets as evidence that you are a “useful fool” at best, if not a willful enemy “propagandist” with loyalty to a foreign power, i.e., a traitor.

Leading mainstream media outlets and establishment-approved Web sites are now teaming up with Google, Facebook and other technology companies to develop algorithms to bury or remove content from the Internet that doesn’t march in lockstep with what is deemed to be true, which often simply follows what U.S. government agencies say is true.

Yet, the documentary evidence is now clear that the U.S. government undertook a well-defined strategy of waging psyops around the world with regular blowback of this propaganda and disinformation onto the American people via Western news agencies covering events in the affected countries.

During more recent administrations, euphemisms have been used to cloak the more pejorative phrase, “psychological operations” – such as “public diplomacy,” “strategic communications,” “perception management,” and “smart power.” But the serious push to expand this propaganda capability of the U.S. government can be traced back to the Reagan presidency.

The Puppet Master

Over the years, I’ve obtained scores of documents related to the psyops and related programs via “mandatory declassification reviews” of files belonging to Walter Raymond Jr., a senior CIA covert operations specialist who was transferred to Reagan’s National Security Council staff in 1982 to rebuild capacities for psyops, propaganda and disinformation.

Raymond, who has been compared to a character from a John LeCarré novel slipping easily into the woodwork, spent his years inside Reagan’s White House as a shadowy puppet master who tried his best to avoid public attention or – it seems – even having his picture taken.

From the tens of thousands of photographs from meetings at Reagan’s White House, I found only a couple showing Raymond – and he is seated in groups, partially concealed by other officials.

But Raymond appears to have grasped his true importance. In his NSC files, I found a doodle of an organizational chart that had Raymond at the top holding what looks like the crossed handles used by puppeteers to control the puppets below them. The drawing fits the reality of Raymond as the behind-the-curtains operative who was controlling the various inter-agency task forces that were responsible for implementing psyops and other propaganda strategies.

In Raymond’s files, I found an influential November 1983 paper, written by Col. Alfred R. Paddock Jr. and entitled “Military Psychological Operations and US Strategy,” which stated: “the planned use of communications to influence attitudes or behavior should, if properly used, precede, accompany, and follow all applications of force. Put another way, psychological operations is the one weapons system which has an important role to play in peacetime, throughout the spectrum of conflict, and during the aftermath of conflict.”

Paddock continued, “Military psychological operations are an important part of the ‘PSYOP Totality,’ both in peace and war. … We need a program of psychological operations as an integral part of our national security policies and programs. … The continuity of a standing interagency board or committee to provide the necessary coordinating mechanism for development of a coherent, worldwide psychological operations strategy is badly needed.”

One declassified “top secret” document in Raymond’s file – dated Feb. 4, 1985, from Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger – urged the fuller implementation of President Reagan’s National Security Decision Directive 130, which was signed on March 6, 1984, and which authorized peacetime psyops by expanding psyops beyond its traditional boundaries of active military operations into peacetime situations in which the U.S. government could claim some threat to national interests.

“This approval can provide the impetus to the rebuilding of a necessary strategic capability, focus attention on psychological operations as a national – not solely military – instrument, and ensure that psychological operations are fully coordinated with public diplomacy and other international information activities,” Weinberger’s document said.

An Inter-Agency Committee

This broader commitment to psyops led to the creation of a Psychological Operations Committee (POC) that was to be chaired by a representative of Reagan’s National Security Council with a vice chairman from the Pentagon and with representatives from CIA, the State Department and USIA.

“This group will be responsible for planning, coordinating and implementing psychological operations activities in support of United States policies and interests relative to national security,” according to a “secret” addendum to a memo, dated March 25, 1986, from Col. Paddock, the psyops advocate who had become the U.S. Army’s Director for Psychological Operations.

“The committee will provide the focal point for interagency coordination of detailed contingency planning for the management of national information assets during war, and for the transition from peace to war,” the addendum added. “The POC shall seek to ensure that in wartime or during crises (which may be defined as periods of acute tension involving a threat to the lives of American citizens or the imminence of war between the U.S. and other nations), U.S. international information elements are ready to initiate special procedures to ensure policy consistency, timely response and rapid feedback from the intended audience.”

In other words, the U.S. government could engage in psyops virtually anytime because there are always “periods of acute tension involving a threat to the lives of American citizens.”

The Psychological Operations Committee took formal shape with a “secret” memo from Reagan’s National Security Advisor John Poindexter on July 31, 1986. Its first meeting was called on Sept. 2, 1986, with an agenda that focused on Central America and “How can other POC agencies support and complement DOD programs in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama.” The POC was also tasked with “Developing National PSYOPS Guidelines” for “formulating and implementing a national PSYOPS program.” (Underlining in original)

Raymond was named a co-chair of the POC along with CIA officer Vincent Cannistraro, who was then Deputy Director for Intelligence Programs on the NSC staff, according to a “secret” memo from Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Craig Alderman Jr.

The memo also noted that future POC meetings would be briefed on psyops projects for the Philippines and Nicaragua, with the latter project codenamed “Niagara Falls.” The memo also references a “Project Touchstone,” but it is unclear where that psyops program was targeted.

Another “secret” memo dated Oct. 1, 1986, co-authored by Raymond, reported on the POC’s first meeting on Sept. 10, 1986, and noted that “The POC will, at each meeting, focus on an area of operations (e.g., Central America, Afghanistan, Philippines).”

The POC’s second meeting on Oct. 24, 1986 – for which the sign-in sheet was just released – concentrated on the Philippines, according to a Nov. 4, 1986 memo also co-authored by Raymond.

But the Reagan administration’s primary attention continued to go back to Central America, including “Project Niagara Falls,” the psyops program aimed at Nicaragua. A “secret” Pentagon memo from Deputy Under Secretary Alderman on Nov. 20, 1986, outlined the work of the 4th Psychological Operations Group on this psyops plan “to help bring about democratization of Nicaragua,” by which the Reagan administration meant a “regime change.” The precise details of “Project Niagara Falls” were not disclosed in the declassified documents but the choice of codename suggested a cascade of psyops.

Key Operatives

Other documents from Raymond’s NSC file shed light on who other key operatives in the psyops and propaganda programs were. For instance, in undated notes on efforts to influence the Socialist International, including securing support for U.S. foreign policies from Socialist and Social Democratic parties in Europe, Raymond cited the efforts of “Ledeen, Gershman,” a reference to neoconservative operative Michael Ledeen and Carl Gershman, another neocon who has served as president of the U.S.-government-funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED), from 1983 to the present. (Underlining in original.)

Although NED is technically independent of the U.S. government, it receives the bulk of its funding (now about $100 million a year) from Congress. Documents from the Reagan archives also make clear that NED was organized as a way to replace some of the CIA’s political and propaganda covert operations, which had fallen into disrepute in the 1970s. Earlier released documents from Raymond’s file show CIA Director William Casey pushing for NED’s creation and Raymond, Casey’s handpicked man on the NSC, giving frequent advice and direction to Gershman. [See Consortiumnews.com’sCIA’s Hidden Hand in ‘Democracy’ Groups”]

While the initials USAID conjure up images of well-meaning Americans helping to drill wells, teach school and set up health clinics in impoverished nations, USAID also has kept its hand in financing friendly journalists around the globe.

Last year, USAID issued a fact sheet summarizing its work financing “journalism education, media business development, capacity building for supportive institutions, and strengthening legal-regulatory environments for free media.” USAID estimated its budget for “media strengthening programs in over 30 countries” at $40 million annually, including aiding “independent media organizations and bloggers in over a dozen countries,”

In Ukraine before the 2014 coup, USAID offered training in “mobile phone and website security,” which sounds a bit like an operation to thwart the local government’s intelligence gathering, an ironic position for the U.S. with its surveillance obsession, including prosecuting whistleblowers based on evidence that they talked to journalists.

USAID, working with billionaire George Soros’s Open Society, also funded the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), which engages in “investigative journalism” that usually goes after governments that have fallen into disfavor with the United States and then are singled out for accusations of corruption.

The USAID-funded OCCRP also collaborates with Bellingcat, an online investigative website founded by blogger Eliot Higgins, who is now a senior non-resident fellow of the Atlantic Council, a pro-NATO think tank that receives funding from the U.S. and allied governments.

Higgins has spread misinformation on the Internet, including discredited claims implicating the Syrian government in the sarin attack in 2013 and directing an Australian TV news crew to what looked to be the wrong location for a video of a BUK anti-aircraft battery as it supposedly made its getaway to Russia after the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in July 2014.

Despite his dubious record of accuracy, Higgins has gained mainstream acclaim, in part, because his “findings” always match up with the propaganda theme that the U.S. government and its Western allies are peddling. Though most genuinely independent bloggers are ignored by the mainstream media, Higgins has found his work touted by both The New York Times and The Washington Post, and Google has included Bellingcat on its First Draft coalition, which will determine which news will be deemed real and which fake.

In other words, the U.S. government has a robust strategy for deploying direct and indirect agents of influence who are now influencing how the titans of the Internet will structure their algorithms to play up favored information and disappear disfavored information.

A Heritage of Lies

During the first Cold War, the CIA and the U.S. Information Agency refined the art of “information warfare,” including pioneering some of its current features like having ostensibly “independent” entities and cut-outs present U.S. propaganda to a cynical public that would reject much of what it hears from government but may trust “citizen journalists” and “bloggers.”

USIA, which was founded in 1953 and gained new life in the 1980s under its Reagan-appointed director Charles Wick, was abolished in 1999, but its propaganda functions were largely folded into the new office of Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, which became a new fount of disinformation.

For instance, in 2014, President Obama’s Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy Richard Stengel engaged in a series of falsehoods and misrepresentations regarding Russia’s RT network. In one instance, he claimed that the RT had made the “ludicrous assertion” that the U.S. had invested $5 billion in the regime change project in Ukraine. But that was an obvious reference to a public speech by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland on Dec. 13, 2013, in which she said “we have invested more than $5 billion” to help Ukraine to achieve its “European aspirations.”

Nuland also was a leading proponent of the Ukraine coup, personally cheering on the anti-government rioters. In an intercepted phone call with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, Nuland discussed how “to glue” or “midwife this thing” and who the new leaders would be. She picked Arseniy Yatsenyuk – “Yats is the guy” – who ended up as Prime Minister after elected President Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown.

Despite all the evidence of a U.S.-backed coup, The New York Times simply ignored the evidence, including the Nuland-Pyatt phone call, to announce that there never was a coup. The Times’ obeisance to the State Department’s false narrative is a good example of how the legacy of Walter Raymond, who died in 2003, extends to the present.

Over several decades, even as the White House changed hands from Republicans to Democrats, the momentum created by Raymond continued to push the peacetime psyops strategy forward.

In more recent years, the wording of the program may have changed to more pleasing euphemisms. But the idea is the same: how you can use psyops, propaganda and disinformation to sell U.S. government policies abroad and at home.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.

October 14, 2017 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance, Deception, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ugly Canadian face now belongs to Trudeau

By Yves Engler · October 14, 2017

The “Ugly Canadian” is on the march, but now with a much prettier face at the helm. Across the planet, Canadian mining companies are in conflict with local communities and usually have the Trudeau government’s support.

A slew of disputes have arisen at Canadian run mines in recent weeks:

Last week in northern central Mexico, community members blockaded the main access road to Goldcorp Inc.’s Penasquito mine. They are protesting against the Vancouver-based company for using and contaminating their water without providing alternative sources.

In Northern Ireland two weeks ago, police forced activists out of a Cookstown hotel after they tried to confront representatives from Dalradian Resources. Community groups worry the Toronto firm’s proposed gold and silver mine will damage the Owenkillew River Special Area of Conservation.

Last weekend, an Argentinian senator denounced Blue Sky Uranium’s exploration in the Patagonia region. Magdalena Odarda said residents living near the planned mine fear the Vancouver company’s operations will harm their health.

On Wednesday more than 40 US congresspeople, as well as the Alaska’s Governor, criticized the removal of restrictions on mining in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region, home to half the world’s sockeye salmon production. In May, Northern Dynasty CEO Thomas Collier met the new head of the US Environmental Protection Agency to ask for the lifting of restrictions on its Pebble Mine, which is expected to destroy the region’s salmon fishery. In a bid to gain government permission to move forward on the project, the Vancouver firm appointed a former chief of staff at the US Department of the Interior as its new CEO.

At the end of September, hundreds of families were displaced by the Filipino Army to make way for a mine jointly run by Australian and Canadian firms MRL Gold and Egerton Gold. The community in the Batangas Province was blocking a project expected to harm marine biodiversity.

In eastern Madagascar, farmers are in a dispute with DNI Metals over compensation for lands damaged by the Toronto firm.

In August, another person was allegedly killed by Acacia (Barrick Gold) security at its North Mara mine in Tanzania.

Last week, Barrick Gold agreed to pay $20-million to a Chilean a group after a year-long arbitration. The Toronto company had reneged on a $60-million 20-year agreement to compensate communities affected by its Pascua Lama gold, silver and copper project.

In mid-September, Eldorado Gold threatened to suspend its operations in Halkidiki, Greece, if the central government didn’t immediately approve permits for its operations. With the local Mayor and most of the community opposed to the mine, the social-democratic Syriza government was investigating whether a flawed technical study by the Vancouver company was a breach of its contract.

And in Guatemala, Indigenous protestors continue to blockade Tahoe Resources’ Escobal silver mine despite a mid-September court decision in the company’s favour. Fearing for their water, health and land, eight municipalities in the area have voted against the Vancouver firm’s project.

The Liberals have largely maintained Stephen Harper’s aggressive support for Canada’s massive international mining industry. Last month Canada’s Trade Minister François-Philippe Champagne backed El Dorado, denouncing the Greek government’s “troublesome” permit delays. Canada’s Ambassador to Madagascar, Sandra McCadell, appears to have backed DNI Metals during a meeting with that country’s mining minister.

As I detailed previously, the Trudeau government recently threw diplomatic weight behind Canada’s most controversial mining company in the country where it has committed its worst abuses. Amidst dozens of deaths at Barrick Gold’s North Mara mine in Tanzania and an escalating battle over the company’s unpaid royalties/tax, Canada’s High Commissioner Ian Myles organised a meeting between Barrick Executive Chairman John Thornton and President John Magufuli. After the meeting Myles applauded Barrick’s commitment to “the highest standards, fairness and respect for laws and corporate social responsibility.”

Two years into their mandate the Trudeau regime has yet to follow through on their repeated promises to rein in Canada’s controversial international mining sector. Despite this commitment, they have adopted no measures to restrict public support for Canadian mining companies responsible for significant abuses abroad.

The ‘Ugly Canadian’ is running roughshod across the globe and pretty boy Justin is its new face.

October 14, 2017 Posted by | Environmentalism, Nuclear Power, Progressive Hypocrite, Solidarity and Activism | , , | 1 Comment

Undermining Venezuela’s socialist government nothing new for Canada

By Yves Engler · September 23, 2017

Alongside Washington and Venezuela’s elite, the Trudeau government is seeking to oust President Nicolás Maduro. While Ottawa’s campaign has recently grown, official Canada has long opposed the pro-poor, pro-working class Bolivarian Revolution, which has won 19 of 21 elections since 1998.

Following a similar move by the Trump Administration, Global Affairs Canada sanctioned 40 Venezuelans on Friday. In a move that probably violates the UN charter, the elected president, vice president and 38 other officials had their assets in Canada frozen and Canadians are barred from having financial relations with these individuals.

In recent months foreign minister Chrystia Freeland has repeatedly criticized Maduro’s government. She accused Caracas of “dictatorial intentions”, imprisoning political opponents and “robbing the Venezuelan people of their fundamental democratic rights”. Since taking office the Liberals have supported efforts to condemn the Maduro government at the Organization of American States (OAS) and promoted an international mediation designed to weaken Venezuela’s leftist government (all the while staying mum about Brazil’s imposed president who has a 5% approval rating and far worse human rights violations in Mexico).

Beyond these public interventions designed to stoke internal unrest, Ottawa has directly aided an often-unsavoury Venezuelan opposition. A specialist in social media and political transition, outgoing Canadian ambassador Ben Rowswell told the Ottawa Citizen in August: “We established quite a significant internet presence inside Venezuela, so that we could then engage tens of thousands of Venezuelan citizens in a conversation on human rights. We became one of the most vocal embassies in speaking out on human rights issues and encouraging Venezuelans to speak out.” (Can you imagine the hue and cry if a Russian ambassador said something similar about Canada?) Rowswell added that Canada would continue to support the domestic opposition after his departure from Caracas since “Freeland has Venezuela way at the top of her priority list.”

While not forthcoming with information about the groups they support in Venezuela, Ottawa has long funnelled money to the US-backed opposition. In 2010 the foremost researcher on U.S. funding to the opposition, Eva Golinger, claimed Canadian groups were playing a growing role in Venezuela and according to a 2010 report from Spanish NGO Fride, “Canada is the third most important provider of democracy assistance” to Venezuela after the US and Spain. In “The Revolution Will Not Be Destabilized: Ottawa’s democracy promoters target Venezuela” Anthony Fenton details Canadian funding to anti-government groups. Among other examples, he cites a $94,580 grant to opposition NGO Asociación Civil Consorcio Desarrollo y Justicia in 2007 and $22,000 to Súmate in 2005. Súmate leader Maria Corina Machado, who Foreign Affairs invited to Ottawa in January 2005, backed the “Carmona Decree” during the 2002 coup against President Hugo Chavez, which dissolved the National Assembly and Supreme Court and suspended the elected government, Attorney General, Comptroller General, governors as well as mayors elected during Chavez’s administration. (Machado remains a leading figure in the opposition.)

Most Latin American leaders condemned the short-lived coup against Chavez, but Canadian diplomats were silent. It was particularly hypocritical of Ottawa to accept Chavez’s ouster since a year earlier, during the Summit of the Americas in Québec City, Jean Chrétien’s Liberals made a big show of the OAS’ new “democracy clause” that was supposed to commit the hemisphere to electoral democracy.

For its part, the Harper government repeatedly criticized Chavez. In April 2009 Prime Minister Stephen Harper responded to a question regarding Venezuela by saying, “I don’t take any of these rogue states lightly”. After meeting only with opposition figures during a trip to Venezuela the next year Peter Kent, minister of state for the Americas, said: “Democratic space within Venezuela has been shrinking and in this election year, Canada is very concerned about the rights of all Venezuelans to participate in the democratic process.”

The Bolivarian Revolution has faced a decade and a half of Liberal and Conservative hostility. While the NDP has sometimes challenged the government’s Venezuelan policy, the party’s current foreign critic has echoed Washington’s position. On at least two occasions Hélène Laverdière has demanded Ottawa do more to undermine the Maduro government. In a June 2016 press release Laverdière bemoaned “the erosion of democracy” and the need for Ottawa to “defend democracy in Venezuela” while in August the former Foreign Affairs employee told CBC “we would like to see the (Canadian) government be more active in … calling for the release of political prisoners, the holding of elections and respecting the National Assembly.” Conversely, Laverdière staid mum when Donald Trump threatened to invade Venezuela last month and she has yet to criticize the recently announced Canadian sanctions.

NDP members should be appalled at their foreign critic’s position. For Canadians more generally it’s time to challenge our government’s bid to undermine what has been an essentially democratic effort to empower Venezuela’s poor and working class.

September 24, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

Venezuela Rejects Imposition of Sanctions by Canada

teleSUR | September 22, 2017

The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry has issued a statement categorically rejecting the illegal sanctions imposed by Canada on 40 Venezuelan government officials, including President Nicolas Maduro.

It says this hostile action, whose only purpose is to attack Maduro’s government, breaks international law which is fundamental for the promotion of economic development and social, as well as for peace and security.

The statement said the objective is “to undermine the peace and social stability achieved in our nation after the formation of the National Constituent Assembly, as well as the continued efforts made by the National Executive in favor of dialogue and understanding between the different sectors that make life in the country. ”

“These are sanctions aimed at undermining efforts to establish dialogue between the government and the Venezuelan opposition, with the support and support of members of the international community.”

It went on to say that the measures are a violation of the purposes and principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, the Charter of the OAS, and the rules governing friendly relations and cooperation between States.

The statement also warned they threaten to undermine efforts to initiate, with the support and support of members of the international community, the dialogue between the government and the Venezuelan opposition.

“On September 5, 2017, the government of Canada established an aberrant association of subordination to the government of President Donald Trump with the explicit purpose of overthrowing the constitutional government of Venezuela using economic sanctions as a political weapon.”

It ends, “This decision of the Canadian government profoundly damages the bonds of friendship and respect that for years have guided the relations between our countries and, consequently, will consider all the necessary measures to defend the national interest and sovereignty.”

Earlier Canada announced it would impose the sanctions as a punishment for “anti-democratic behavior.”

“Canada will not stand by silently as the government of Venezuela robs its people of their fundamental democratic rights,” the Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said in a statement, adding that the sanctions were “in response to the government of Venezuela’s deepening descent into dictatorship.”

The measures include freezing assets of the officials and banning Canadians from having any dealings with them.

As well as the sanctions on Maduro, the Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami and President of the National Constituent Assembly, Delcy Rodriguez have been added to the list.

The measures mirror those imposed on Venezuela by the United States which target Maduro and around 30 other officials.

Last month, the U.S. President Donald Trump also placed renewed sanctions on its Venezuela’s state oil company, while also issuing military threats against the country.

“Canada is a country that has a strong reputation in the world as a country that has very clear and cherished democratic values, as a country that stands up for human rights,” Freeland said. “To be sanctioned by Canada, I think has a real symbolic significance.”

The sanctions come in the wake of Trump’s comments criticizing Venezuela at the UN General Assembly, where he threatened to strengthen economic sanctions if Maduro “persists on a path to impose authoritarian rule.”

September 23, 2017 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | Leave a comment

Human Rights: The Latest Weapon Against Venezuela

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and Lilian Tintori, wife of opposition leader Leopoldo López who is currently serving a 13 year sentence (in house arrest) for his responsibility in the deadly violence of the 2014 guarimbas.

By Ricardo Vaz | Investig’Action | September 21, 2017

The mainstream media have a crucial role to play in the war against Venezuela, creating a distorted narrative and a constant frenzy that are crucial for any regime-change operation. With violent protests having failed to topple the government and to stop the Constituent Assembly, the plan switched to military threats and economic sanctions. But these come directly from an unpopular US administration, and a more impartial-looking figure was needed. The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Jordanian Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad al Hussein, stepped up to the plate with the backing of more than 100 NGOs. We tackle the manipulation of human rights for imperial purposes, but first we examine how the term “NGO” is woefully inadequate to describe these organisations.

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So much more than NGOs

On occasion of the 36th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, 116 “NGOs”1 signed a letter demanding that Venezuela be a priority for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The effort was spearheaded by none other than Human Rights Watch (HRW). HRW has a long and documented history of bias and outright lies in their reports on Venezuela, which is no surprise given their blatant revolving door with the US government. Among the signatories are several usual suspects such as Provea or Foro Penal, whose president Alfredo Romero was a recent speaker in a “US Democracy Support” forum.

Another organisation on the list is Transparencia Venezuela, which includes as sources of funding the EU, several embassies and the parent organisation Transparency International. And although Transparency International is much shadier than it sounds, at least we can laud their transparency in listing their backers. The list includes the US State Department, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), George Soros’ Open Society, even corporations such as Shell. One more that stands out, and is quoted regularly by the media, is the International Commission of Jurists, which sounds very noble and independent until you discover that they were initially funded by the CIA.

The issue here is with the term “non-governmental organisation”, which are always presented by the media as faultless, impartial actors. While there are many scenarios in which independent organisations can step in and provide invaluable services, this is hardly the case of groups funded by the NED (or USAID, or similar agencies) to “promote democracy” or “defend human rights” in countries like Venezuela. These are merely extensions of the US and western foreign policy apparatus, working as the local infrastructure that is necessary in regime change operations as well as a source for the media to build its biased narrative.

At the end of the day, it is the term “non-governmental organisation” that falls very short of describing the nature and activities of these groups. If an organisation in Venezuela, or anywhere else, is funded by the US government, in what world is it a “non-governmental organisation”? One cannot prove that all the “NGOs” standing with HRW are western-funded, but advancing western interests is very much advancing corporate interests, and it is doubtful that anyone would do that for free.

UN High Commissioner for HR shaking hands with former US Secretary of State John Kerry. (If by accident their speeches were switched nobody would notice!)

Weaponizing human rights

While one should not judge a book by the cover, it might be useful to consider the background of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad al Hussein. A member of the royal family of Jordan, he comes from a Hashemite dynasty whose calling card has been its pliancy to imperial interests in the Middle East. And having served as ambassador to the US and permanent representative to the UN, he is, much like Jordan, someone the US can rely upon.

His most recent statement, which could just as well have been written by the US State Department, was delivered during the 36th Session of the Human Rights Council. It takes aim at every inconvenient country, from Iran to North Korea, while important US allies like Bahrain or Egypt are invited to “engage more productively” with his office. Israel is treated with kid gloves, and somehow the blame for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is supposed to be shared between Israeli and Palestinian authorities. And there is no mention whatsoever of Saudi Arabia, where surely there are no human rights issues… Even when addressing the catastrophe in Yemen there is only a passing mention to “coalition airstrikes”.

And then the High Commissioner gets to Venezuela, sounding like any opposition leader or US official on “human rights violations” during anti-government protests or the “crushing [of] democratic institutions”, and suggesting an investigation into possible “crimes against humanity”. Never mind Colombia, where for years the army killed thousands of civilians and dressed them as rebels to collect rewards. Never mind Saudi Arabia, conducting double tap strikes2 against funerals in Yemen, or the US “torturing some folks,” or Israeli soldiers killing children because they were “running like terrorists.” The High Commissioner is worried that crimes against humanity have been committed in Venezuela!

This statement comes on the heels of a OHCHR report about Venezuela that Joe Emersberger described as “embarrassingly shoddy and biased.” It barely mentions any violence coming from the opposition ranks, and while offering a tally of deaths allegedly caused by government forces and the bogeyman colectivos, there is no detailed breakdown to be compared with other accounts such as the one by Venezuelanalysis. Remarkably, given the importance of the issue and the damning verdict that the OHCHR wishes to pass, no investigators from the UN body set foot in Venezuela. Instead the report relies on carefully selected testimonies and the “NGOs” we just discussed.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza condemned the manipulation of human rights to attack Venezuela and the lies in the recent OHCHR report.

True NGOs strike back

While the amenable High Commissioner and the poorly-named “NGOs” put on their show to further the regime-change operation in Venezuela, others were not about to take it sitting down. True NGOs, independent organisations that are not pawns in imperialist machinations, and which are truly committed to human rights, condemned foreign meddling in Venezuela and the politicisation of human rights. One example was Swiss-based CETIM, an organisation focused on supporting social movements in the Global South. Concerning Venezuela, it released a statement that said:

[…] we declare ourselves for an immediate return to calm and to dialog, for the respect of Venezuelan peoples’ right to self-determination and the deepening of the process of democratic transformation that they have freely and courageously undertaken for two decades […]

Another organisation that reacted to the recent actions of the OHCHR was the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), through its representative at the UN, Micòl Savia, during one of the plenary meetings of the 36th Session of the Human Rights Council (intervention #35 in this link)

The IADL expresses its most profound dismay at the recent OHCHR report […]. Given its severity, we are particularly concerned by the High Commissioner’s mention of […] crimes against humanity, which lacks any legal grounds or sense of proportion. […]

The report is selective and biased, and represents a further example of the unfortunate politicisation that affects the work of the OHCHR, undermining its credibility and standing. Use of firearms, explosives, setting up barricades, people burned alive, attacks against hospitals, […], is this the model of “peaceful protests” that this council wants to promote?

Judge, jury and executioner

In the end the bias and lack of standards, or outright falsehood, of these claims and reports does not matter, because if the target is Venezuela they only have to look credible. The media will then do the rest, creating a background by repeating that “Venezuela has been accused by the UN of human rights abuses”, regardless of the shoddiness of the accusations, and this will be the basis to justify future escalations and aggressions as the empire pulls out all the stops to get rid of the biggest threat in its “backyard”.3

This is a good time to stress that legal systems are not moral or just by definition, but a reflection of who holds power, and this is especially true of international law. Though the struggle for an arena where all countries have the same weight is imperative, we are fooling ourselves if we are counting on international bodies to be impartial upholders of justice (just look at Palestine). Recent international tribunals have only served to reinforce the US/western narrative, either as a posteriori justification for past wars such as the one in Yugoslavia, or to justify upcoming ones against troublesome leaders like Gaddafi.

We should clarify that our argument is not some kind of moral relativism, whereby we defend that the alleged crime A should not be investigated until justice is served for (the much worse) crime B. We are not arguing that nobody can be guilty of crimes against humanity until Henry Kissinger is tried, although it is hard to take any international tribunal seriously if the most blatant crimes are immune from prosecution. But what is definitely absurd and unacceptable is to have the US empire, either directly or through its proxies, be the judge trying other people and countries.

Notes

  1. The HRW statement, and all pieces about it, refer to 116 NGOs; however, the organisations listed only total 115
  2. Double tap strikes comprise an initial strike on a target followed by another one targeting first responders.
  3. In its article about this issue, the Guardian refers to a high-profile jailed opposition leader called Leonardo López (his name is Leopoldo López). Given the overall bias and lack of standards, this is probably fitting.

September 22, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment