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Brutal US Colonialism in Puerto Rico

“No ambition to oppress them”?

By Leftist Critic | Dissident Voice | December 2, 2016

Recently, I’ve been reading Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq, a book by veteran New York Times correspondent Stephen Kinzer, which focuses on US-backed coups from 1893 (Hawaii) to Iraq (2003). In the book, Kinzer devotes only fourteen pages to Puerto Rico, a small island nation controlled by the murderous empire of the United States. On page 94, he declares that “most Puerto Ricans” understand that the US, despite colonial “misdeeds,” harbors “no ambition to oppress them.” He goes on to say that most want to continue ties with the US and that colonial rule has been “relatively benign,” meaning it was partially beneficial to islanders. In his view, this hasn’t led to a “violent backlash” because of US efforts to take “direct political responsibility” to govern the island, and even floats the idea that there could be a reasonable case that US control over the island has made it “better off”! Kinzer ends optimistically, saying that “a happy end to the long story” would not only take away stigma of US citizens from “ruling another people” but would tell them that “toppling of foreign regimes need not end badly.” Such words, like this, reek of apologism for imperialism and existing US colonialism in Puerto Rico. In this article, using quotes from Kinzer’s own book, I plan to prove that US rule in the island nation has not been “relatively benign,” but that the US imperialists should not be seen as engaging in “nice” oppression, with “no ambition,” of Puerto Rico’s citizens.

On May 12, 1898, seven US warships appeared off the coast of San Juan. They soon began their bombardment, firing over 1,300 shells, met by a Spanish response of about 400 shells, killed a dozen people and one US soldier.1 The small island nation of Puerto Rico comprises of an island 3,515 square miles across, called Borinquen by many native residents, three inhabited islands (Vieques, Cuelbra, and Mona), and 140 other small reefs, islands, and atolls. For over 400 years, the island was an established Spanish colony (1493-1898), with the indigenous Taino nation pushed into forced labor as part of the encomienda system. It was not until the early nineteenth century that Puerto Rico would be integrated into the international capitalist economy.2

The island, which exported commodities such as coffee and tobacco, became a sugar colony, supported by the country’s Creole elite, with 276 sugar plantations dotting the island’s landscape.3 As the sugar industry thrived, thousands of white wage laborers and enslaved blacks suffered in the “sugar haciendas,” or plantations, concentrated near Ponce, Guayama, and Mayaguez.4 The number of enslaved black laborers, who were mistreated, abused, and overworked despite “favorable” laws, reached into the tens of thousands, numbering 17,890 in 1828.5 They were chosen over wage laborers as more profitable for the sugar industry.6 It would not be until 1873 that slavery would be abolished in the Spanish empire, but the exploitation would not end, continuing under the system of apprenticeship, for example.7

About two months before the US warships arrived, Puerto Rico had elected a new government. The Spanish, likely in a measure to stave off revolt, had offered the Puerto Ricans political autonomy.8 They didn’t want rebellions like the Lares Uprising (Grito de Lares) in 1868 or the Attempted Coup of Yauco (Intentona de Yauco) in 1897 which were strongly pro-independence and opposed to Spanish colonial rule. On March 27, 1898, Luis Munoz Rivera’s Liberal Fusion Party was elected in a legislative body, created with agreement from the “liberal” Spanish government, of the island’s autonomous government.9 However, this would not last. On July 25, US marines from the Glouchester gunboat waded ashore, raising a US flag above a customs house after a short exchange of firearms.10

As Kinzer puts it, after the US flag fluttered in the breeze above the customs house, the “United States effectively took control of Puerto Rico” with every institution of Spanish colonial control, and the autonomous Liberal Fusion Party government, would quickly disappear. The objective of the US imperialists like Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, who declared that “Puerto Rico is not forgotten [in this war] and we mean to have it” came to be true, with US trade routes protected and a naval base established on the island.11 While some Puerto Ricans welcomed the US presence, this quickly changed, as the US seizure of the island nation became “legal” with the Treaty of Paris.12

The imposition of US imperialism on Puerto Rico began in 1898 as the island was declared a colony. Luis Munoz Rivera, the former leader of the island before the US arrived, declared that “we are witnessing a spectacle of terrible assimilation… our present condition is that of serfs attached to conquered territory.”13 The “individual freedom” that was promised, was not delivered upon, with the US instead engaging in exploitation which, as Martinquis revolutionary Frantz Fanon said about all colonizers, was part of a spiral of “domination, exploitation and looting.”14

The bank on the island was transferred to US investors, who printed Puerto Rican dollars, pegged to the US dollar, replacing the Spanish peso. Other banks were established on the island by investors such as the American Colonial Bank, which opened in 1899. As a result, new taxes were imposed. The following years, as US military troops remained in place as an occupying force, the US Congress passed the Foraker Act which put the Puerto Rican assembly under direct US control.15 As the people of the island nation had “no liberty, no rights, no protection,” as civil rights campaigner Julio Henna once put it, four US corporations took over land on the island for mass production and farming.16 This was reinforced by one of Insular Cases, which some say established “political apartheid,” Downes v. Bidwell (1901) in which the Supreme Court held that Puerto Rico wasn’t a foreign country, allowing Congress to treat it like a dependent colonial possession.

In later years, the island nation forced “permanent uncertainty” in its political status. In 1910, foreign banks began foreclosing on land in Puerto Rico, and the island became an official protectorate in 1913 with the existing naval bases reinforcing economic and ideological interests.17 By World War I, with the imposition of US citizenship with the Jones Act, 18,000 Puerto Ricans were conscripted to fight in the forces of empire as 200 Puerto Ricans were arrested for refusing to participate. Such imposition did not end there. From 1920 to 1923, Moncho Reyes ruled as the Governor on the island, declaring English as the only official language, not Spanish, and that the US flag is the only one to be flown across the island. He was only forced out by corruption scandals. This was accompanied the Balzac v. Porto Rico (1922) case, in which the Supreme Court said that provisions of the US constitution did not apply to a “territory” that was not a US state. In the following years, more and more of the island was controlled by US corporations, including 80% of the farms, and half of the arable land!

By the 1930s, medicine went to war on the island’s inhabitants. In 1931, Dr. Cornelius P. Rhoads injected patients on the island with live cancer cells, with thirteen people dying. He bragged about killing them, calling for a “tidal wave or something to totally exterminate the population” and saying that the island’s inhabitants were “the dirtiest, laziest, most degenerate and thievish race of men ever inhabiting this sphere.” He went on to head the US Army’s Biological Weapons division, serve on the Atomic Energy Commission, and sent memos to US military leaders expressing the opinion that Puerto Rican supporters of independence should be “eradicated” with the use of germ bombs! This was only a prelude, in a sense.

Henry Laughlin, superintendent of the US Eugenics Record Office, pushed the Model Eugenical Sterilization Law, targeting “socially inadequate” people for sterilization in 30 US states and Puerto Rico. On the island itself, in 1936, Law 116 entered into force by making sterilization legal and free for women, with no alternative plan of birth control, backed by the International Planned Parenthood Federation18, the Puerto Rican government, and Human Betterment Association. It was voluntary, only in theory, with employer discrimination and a dearth of other options giving women the incentive to participate, coupled with the veneer of being “feminist” and sometimes a lack of informed consent. This was done after scientists conducted research experiments on Puerto Rican women who had taken birth control pills, with a high amount of estrogen. Such an approach was rejected by the Catholic Church, which supported sterilization instead. By the 1970s, this horrendous practice ended, with more than one-third of Puerto Rico’s female population of childbearing age undergoing the procedure.19

At the same time, repression of the island’s spirit and feelings for independence intensified. On October 24, 1935, police at the campus of the University of Puerto Rico confronted nationalists, resulting in the death of four nationalists and one police officer, in what has been called the Rios Piedras massacre, what police chief E. Francis Riggs declared was part of his “war to the death against all Puerto Ricans.” In response to this action, the nationalist party called for a boycott to all actions held while Puerto Rico was a part of the United States.

The nationalist party continued its actions on the island. On March 21, 1937, it peacefully marched to Ponce. As they requested a permit, it was denied, and as they continued the action, police cordoned off unarmed demonstrators, then firing upon them from multiple directions, killing a total of 21 and wounding 140-200 people, in what has been called the  Ponce Massacre. As “hysteria and near civil war swept the island” with nationalists arrested and hunted on sight, 23 nationalists and four police officers were arrested for participation in the massacre, with the ACLU even investigating the matter, finding that the protesters were not armed and had been surrounded by the police.

As the years passed, the US strengthened its hold on the island. By 1940, 80% of the country’s arable land was US-owned. In 1939, the US began bombing on the island of Culebra (which it later fully occupied until protests in the 1970s forced it to move operations to Vieques), and two years later, it began the occupation of Vieques, an island of 7,000 inhabitants. As William Blum, a renowned critic of US foreign policy, writes, from 1940 to 2000, the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, had to endure years of “target practices and war games” which included dropping depleted uranium and napalm.20 This led to the island’s drinking water to be reportedly poisoned and resulted in the land being “contaminated by radioactivity.”

Even as US military officials outrageously said that they could only have a bombing range on that island since one on the East Coast would be too close to population centers, President Bill Clinton promised that the US would stop using the bombing range in 2005.21  With international pressure and local protests, the bombing range stopped being used in 2003, but was accompanied by the closing of the Roosevelt Roads naval facility, the following year, almost to make residents “regret” their decision. Still, this was another victory against the empire. Such bombing on Vieques and Culebra islands was not the only imposition. From 1948 to 1957, Law 53, also called Le Ley de Mondonza or “gag law,” made it illegal to support or say anything construed as pro-independence, with a penalty of ten years in prison.

As the Cold War started, by arrogant imperialists who didn’t want to have friendly relationships with the Soviets after World War II, the imperialists began their “charm offensive” to the world stage. US leaders were recognizing that “ruling an impoverished colony in the Caribbean made the United States look bad.”22 Of course, they could only say this, feeling assured that those in the Puerto Rican government, like Luis Munoz Martin, the “Father of Modern Puerto Rico,” were accommodationist to US imperial power, even pushing for Law 53 and by the 1950s, at least, was clearly a symbol of an organ of the machine of colonial control.

In the UN, the US government attempted to stifle criticism of US colonial control by working on changing the country to a commonwealth. Diplomats saw the island helping in the anti-communist Korean War as a vital “political association” which respects individuality and culture of the island, and declaring that the occupation was legal. As the diplomats frankly admitted, declaring colonial control of the island nation as “free choice” of the residents would head off attacks “by those who have charged the United States government with imperialism and colonial exploitation.” While the “Soviet bloc” argued correctly that self-government didn’t exist in Puerto Rico, diplomats claimed they had a “strong case” of moving Puerto Rico from the list of non-self-governing territories (discussed more in the following paragraph), even as they felt difficulties would arise in the “usual anti-colonial propaganda by Iron Curtain countries,” along with other factors.

This veneer was first reinforced by the Constitutional Referendum in 1952, which approved a constitution proposed in 1950 by the US Congress, stripped of social democratic measures before it was approved, after negotiation with the accommodationist leaders on the island, including Governor Marin. Not surprisingly, independence was never offered as an option, showing that the motive of the US could have been to douse revolutionary feelings. The second reinforcement was on November 27, 1953, when the US imperialists achieved a victory which allowed “approval” of the commonwealth status of the island. The passing of Resolution 748, in the UN’s General Assembly, after a push of US hegemony, made it clear that the US was given sanction to determine the “status of territories under its sovereignty.” Years later, the US imperialists have tried to soften the push for independence by allowing multiple plebiscites on the island to “decide” its fate, but none of these considered that the island is a colony and needs to have self-determination, as asserted in UN General Assembly resolution 1514, described later in this article.

This may be the basis of Kinzer’s claim that colonialism in Puerto Rico has been “benign” and that US imperialists had “no ambition” to oppress the island’s inhabitants. Some may even think the idea the island is under “self-rule” or a change in its status, means that neocolonialism is in place. These are both incorrect. For neocolonialism to be present, the island would have to be under indirect colonial control. Such domination, unlike direct colonial control of the past keeping people politically and economically exploited, often used by Britain, France, and the United States, would require formal recognition of political independence even with domination by political, economic, social, military, and other means.23

This “norm” of neocolonialism, which exists under imperial rivalry, and assists profitable enterprises, is not the case in Puerto Rico.24 This is because the island is not formally an independent political entity. As recently as October 2016, the Supreme Court held that while the island nation functioned as a separate sovereign entity for certain purposes, the authority to govern the island derives from the US Constitution, saying that the US Congress still has the supreme authority over the island.25

This is buttressed by the case of United States v. Sanchez in 1993, in which a US Court of Appeals which said that Congress may unilaterally repeal the constitution of Puerto Rico, and a congressional committee report in 1997 declaring that the island is “subject to the supremacy of the Federal Constitution and laws passed by Congress,” even including the rescinding of the current “commonwealth” status! Hence, while the current government in Puerto Rico is, officially, a separate political entity from the United States, the US is still the imperial overlord of the island. By extension, this means that the officially deemed US “territories” in Guam, American Samoa, US Virgin Islands, and Northern Marinas Islands are colonies, along with arguably Hawaii.26 Hence, for these “territories,” colonialism, rather than neocolonialism, is at work, a subset of imperialism.

Efforts by US imperialists to repress or weaken resistance was abundantly clear. The FBI, the secret “internal” police of the murderous empire, spent forty years (1936-1976) working to repress, disrupt, and surveil the independence movement (“independentista”) in Puerto Rico. This included surveillance of renowned nationalist leader Pedro Albizu Campos from 1936 until his death in 1965.27 Specifically, the FBI kept files, illegally, on 140,000 pro-independence individuals! Even Governor Marin, the founder of the Popular Democratic Party, and later pliant puppet leader, was originally under surveillance until the FBI changed its mind, trying to protect him from threats. Years later, FBI director Louis J. Freeh admitted that his agency engaged in “egregious illegal activity, maybe criminal action” and violated the civil rights of those on the island. This suppression was only part of the story. The island’s police, FBI, and US Army intelligence had dossiers on 100,000 Puerto Ricans, 75,000 who were under “political” surveillance. Apart from the police provocateurs who assassinated independentistas,15,000 Puerto Ricans (of the 75,000) had extensive police files for political activity.

There were other forms of US domination. In 1976, the US put in place Section 936 of the internal revenue code, which allowed US companies to operate on the island without paying any corporate taxes. This was released years later when there was a huge pharmaceutical boom on the island, and the provision was replaced by Section 30A, which had similar language, in 2006. In 1979, Jimmy Carter, trying to engage in a “significant humanitarian gesture” mainly to fend off criticism of the United States, commuted the sentences of four Puerto Rican nationalists who participated in the 1950 and 1954 actions, described in the next paragraph, saying they had served enough time in prison.28

Clearly, the FBI’s brutal streak did not end, with surveillance of Puerto Rican independence activists still occurring in 1995. Ten years later, in 2005, the FBI murdered a Puerto Rican independence leader named Ojeda Rios in a shootout.29 This outraged many islanders. The following year, the FBI engaged in violent raids on the island. And two years later, an FBI/NYPD anti-terrorism task force targeted three independentistas living in the US mainland, currently, handing them subpoenas.30 This clearly shows that the crackdown on independentistas has not ended in the slightest.

Such impositions were not met without resistance. In 1934, sugar workers went on strike, and gained a few wage concessions, one of the victories for the small island nation. Two years later, on February 23, 1936, Riggs, on the island to protect colonial investments, was killed by nationalist Elias Beauchamp, accompanied by Hiram Rosado, who were, in turn, murdered by police, within hours and without trial! This killing was one of the times that Puerto Ricans would engage in what Fanon called “counterviolence” and recognized that the “colonized men liberates himself in and through violence.”31 Flash forward to 1950. On October 30, there were uprisings in Ponce, Jayuya, Utado, Naranjito, and elsewhere, led by Campos. These uprisings were brutally crushed, some by National Guardsmen flying planes and firing down upon the crowd as ordered by Governor Martin, a reliable US puppet leader.32 The revolutionary spirit would not die. In 1950, two Puerto Rican nationalists struck at the heart of the empire: they attempted to kill President Truman.33 While the action was not successful, there was no doubt that the anti-colonial struggle by Puerto Ricans was connected to that of other peoples as Campos said before being arrested in 1950:

… it’s not easy to give a speech when we have our mother laying in bed and an assassin waiting to take your life… The assassin is the power of the United States of North America. One cannot give a speech while the newborn of our country are dying of hunger; while the adolescents of our homeland are being poisoned with the worst virus of them all, the virus of slavery… They must go to the United States to be the slaves of the economic powers, of the tyrants of our country… One cannot easily give a speech when this tyrant has the power to tear the sons right out of the hearts of Puerto Rico mothers to send to Korea, or into hell, to kill, to be the murderers of innocent Koreans, or to die covering a front for the Yankee enemies of our country, for them to return insane to their own people or for them to return mutilated beyond recognition… It’s not easy… We have called together here those who want the union of our brothers, of our Latin American brothers, and, very specially, the Cubans, all the people of the Antilles, the Haitians, the Dominicans, for all of them who love the independence of Puerto Rico as their very own, because as long as Puerto Rico is not free, every single one of those nations feels mutilated.

By the 1950s, the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party was starting to fade from the political landscape. By the 1960s, it was being replaced by armed revolutionary groups, like the Los Macheteras, with the latter engaging in counterviolence. In 1954, this was proven to be true when Campos led a group of 37 nationalists who fired on Congressmen from the house balcony, with many taken into custody after a two-hour gun battle.34 Campos would die years later, in 1965, after being tear gassed, tortured, and beaten in prison.35

By the 1960s, the equation was changing. Between 1955 and 1960, seventy-seven newly independent nations had been admitted to the UN, which formed an alliance to push for the adoption of resolution 1514 in the General Assembly in 1960. The resolution, initially proposed by Nikita S. Khrushchev of the USSR, declared that the “colonial situation in all its forms and manifestations” had to be remedied, with eighty-nine countries voting in favor. There were only nine abstentions (and no votes against) by the U.K., US, Western-backed apartheid South Africa, Portugal, Spain, Belgium, France, Australia, and the Dominican Republic, then controlled by the US-backed Rafael Trujillo. The latter was assassinated in 1961, with the CIA, without consent of the State Department, giving the assassins rifles and other firearms, as noted in pages 70-85 of the Rockefeller Commission’s report in 1975.

In the US, with the development of the “New Left”, social movements began to gain steam. The Young Lords Party, originally a gang in Chicago, re-organized itself as a pro-Puerto Rican organization, in 1968, that took a strong anti-imperialist position. In their principles, they argued that they had been colonized for five hundred years, first by Spain, then the United States, making them the “slaves of the gringo” and rejecting Puerto Rican rulers who were “puppets of the oppressor… who keep our communities peaceful for business,” instead of pushing for a socialist society, and ultimately against machismo, a fundamentally feminist position.

Like the Black Panthers, they supported armed self-defense and had free breakfast programs to support the community while increasing their base of support. In 1969, the Black Panthers reached out to them, the Brown Berets fighting for Chicano liberation, and anti-racist Young Patriots who tried to support young, white migrants who came from Appalachia, to create the first “rainbow coalition.” The name of the coalition was later taken by black opportunist Jesse Jackson, Jr. in a failed effort to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination and push for political reforms. Years later, the Lords changed their name to the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization (PRRWO), pushed for a revolutionary party, and fell apart in 1975 after FBI disruption, infighting and other factors.

The Puerto Ricans are not alone. Starting in 1972, the UN Special Committee on Decolonization (The Committee of 24) condemned the status of Puerto Rico, recognizing that the Commonwealth status is untenable, with US investors getting preferential treatment, and that the island should be independent from the supposedly “benign empire” of the United States. Due to the more than 33 resolutions calling for Puerto Rico’s independence by the Committee of 24 since 1972, building off of resolution 1514, it has been tarred by the US. In 1968, only five years into its existence, US diplomats declared that the Committee had become “anti-Western” because it criticized US imperialism and supported “independentistas” in Puerto Rico. Such criticism didn’t stop the Committee. Recently, the Committee concluded that the US violated Puerto Rico’s right to self-determination to be an independent nation. Specifically, representatives from Cuba, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Iran have talked about independence for the island nation and relinquishing US colonial rule, with some witnesses talking about how the island was illegally taken and under corporate control. Latin America clearly did not abandon the island. Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, former Argentine President Cristina Kirchner, and Raul Castro of Cuba have all supported the island’s independence.

Other organizations that have argued for independence include the Non-Aligned Movement and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) founded by Latin American states in Carcas, Venezuela in 2011. Clearly, the Democratic and Republican parties, along with the island’s two major political parties (The Popular Democratic Party and the New Progressive Party) do not support independence.36 The island’s governors, under the constitution of the Puerto Rican “commonwealth,” five from the Popular Democratic Party (Luis Muñoz Marín, Roberto Sánchez Vilella, Rafael Hernández Colón, Sila Calderón, and Aníbal Salvador Acevedo Vilá) who want to maintain the current status of the island, five from the New Progressive Party (Luis A. Ferré, Carlos Romero Barceló, Pedro Rosselló, Luis Fortuño, Alejandro García Padilla, and newly elected Ricky Rosselló), who want the island to be a US state, have stayed within acceptable bourgeois opinion. While some may be liberal and others conservative, through all eleven of the governors, there has been concentration of corporate power on the island and maintenance of the colonial relationship. While some could claim the referendum in 2012 “solved” the status of the island, less than half supported statehood, with most, instead, wanting a change to the status quo.

In 1975, when Cuba pushed to give special status for the island for the Puerto Rican independence movement, the US balked with anger. Such a response is predictable. Deep down, the imperialists of the US are afraid of Puerto Rican independence. If the country became independent, it is possible that Vieques couldn’t become a bombing range again, the US couldn’t store nuclear weapons there, plan for strikes on Cuba, use the island to intercept “enemy” signals, and so on.37 Even some diplomats tried to say that if the island is separated from the US, the residents would be jeopardizing their “paramount interests in economic, social, education… [and] political matters.” This is reflexively talking about what US and foreign capitalists would lose, instead of referring to the real needs of Puerto Ricans.

The question remains: where do we stand now? Undoubtedly, the coverage of the island by the bourgeois media focuses on “unpayable debt.” The island is, as writer Nelson Denis argued (with likely feminist implications), the “battered spouse of the Caribbean.” An article last fall by Linda Backiel, in the Monthly Review, is vital in explaining the current situation. She writes that the dire straits of the island, $73 billion of debt, is not a surprise, since it has been “sacked by colonial powers for half of a millennium.” She goes on to say that IMF officials were paid $400,000 to make recommendations about the island’s economic crisis, which is ridiculous considering that the island has no access to financing from the World Bank, IMF, or elsewhere because it is a colony. Backiel adds that Article VI, section 8 of the island’s constitution, payment of interest and debt is the first priority, coupled with the country “running on bonds” held by US banks such as Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, and Bank of America, along with numerous venture and hedge funds.

She then writes that “the vultures are circling” the small island nation, with the island in crisis, even as human misery caused by colonialism is ignored and over 45% of the people live below the poverty line, with the country seeming on the verge of economic collapse. If this occurs, it could threaten the “propaganda value” of the island and its economy, destroyed in part by the collaboration of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party and US Congress, leaving the Popular Democratic Party to “clean up” the mess. She closes by saying “in the battle between soul and capital, who will win? Until the people of Puerto Rico organize to defend their soul; it is not even a stalemate: Black is playing with nothing but pawns.” Other accounts affirm this assessment of the situation in Puerto Rico.38

In the most recent election cycle, the island’s precarious state got some play. Bernie Sanders, the “nice” imperialist running for the Democratic nomination, declared in June of this year that the US cannot “continue a colonial-like relationship with the people of Puerto Rico,” and saying he would offer it three options: becoming a state, enhancing its territorial rights, or becoming an independent country, which is no different than the previous plebiscites ordered by the US government.39 Predictably, he didn’t mention Resolution 1514, the efforts of the Committee of 24, or actions by Puerto Ricans to engage in counterviolence, instead posing himself as a “savior” of the island, an act of racist and imperialist positioning.

Jill Stein of the Green Party had a similar statement on the subject; however, she more clearly called out colonial exploitation, even calling for a bailout of the island.40

What Vladimir Lenin wrote in 1917 in his book, Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism is relevant here, as related to the island’s debt and plans for “restructuring.” Lenin writes that concentration of production leads to monopoly especially in the US, which was described, even then, as an “advanced country of modern capitalism.”41 In the island nation, the spreading of monopoly, specifically of “monopolist combines of big capitalists” or “gigantic monopolist combines” into every sphere of life would likely get a boost under a Trump administration.42 If he follows his cost-benefit formulation of “solving” the world’s problems, he would support debt restructuring, but let the “bondholders take a hit.” Even if this sounds “anti-business,” it is likely that his plan, whatever that is, would move away from the populist rhetoric and benefit the same economic actors, reinforcing the “world system of colonial oppression” manifested in capitalism, with “world marauders” like the United States “armed to the teeth.”43 It is also possible the newly-elected Puerto Rico Governor Rosselló will clash with Trump, but what happens in that realm remains to be seen.

At the present, Puerto Rico stands at a crossroads. US control of the island, which has never enjoyed real sovereignty, arguably led to a colonial mentality where Puerto Ricans feel they cannot engage in true self-rule, despite a strong nationalist sentiment. As a result, due to economic dependence on the US, and 25% unemployment, many are not supportive of independence from the US. These feelings are reinforced by existing assimilation showing that people haven’t been decolonized, with the possible compromise of Puerto Rican strong identity and culture. With the advent of neoliberal policies on the island, accommodationist Puerto Rican leaders, as described earlier, and blatant efforts to tamp down demands for independence, it hasn’t got any better.

According to the most recent report by the military establishment in September, there are 142 military personnel, 7,598 reservists, and 1,922 civilian personnel, coming to a total of 9,662!44 Such personnel are clearly used as a way of asserting colonial dominance. Still, Puerto Ricans have not remained silent, with continuing resistance to colonial rule. One example of this would be the student strikes which shut down the university system in the country and were repressed brutally. Either the status quo of neoliberal and capitalist exploitation can remain, or there can be a challenge and destruction to the existing colonial system, ending over 520 years of colonial rule (1493-2016) by the Spanish, then the United States. That is the choice at hand.

There is no doubt that Puerto Rico should be freed from colonial shackles of the murderous empire and its corporate clients. Negotiation may lead to a situation of neocolonialism, like in a number of African countries, where a national bourgeoisie on the island is subservient to the US, not changing the existing relationship between the US and the island nation. While the Puerto Rican people ultimately have to decide their fate, it is clear that decolonization, when part of a real liberation struggle, is “always a violent event,” as Fanon put it, where the colonized masses engage in violence, such as guerrilla warfare, to push for the demolition of the colonial system and allow for the emergence of a new nation.45 In the current economic situation, such counterviolence, which undermines the role of the US as “barons of international capitalism” and demands the independence of island from the imperial behemoth, could erupt once again.46

As one stands in solidarity with Puerto Rico in resisting “a monster where the flaws, sickness and inhumanity of Europe have reached frightening proportions,” what Fanon wrote in 1961 is apt to this island nation at the crossroads: “we must shake off the great mantle of night which has enveloped upon us, and reach for the light. The new day which is dawning must find us determined, enlightened and resolute.”47

  1. Stephen Kinzer, Overthrow: America’s History of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq (New York: Henry Holt & Company, 2006), 45. [↩]
  2. Francisco Scarano, “The Origins of Plantation Growth in Puerto Rico,” Caribbean Slave Society and Economy (ed. Hilary Beckles and Verene Shepherd, New York: The New Press, 1991), 57-59. [↩]
  3. Scarano, 56-58. [↩]
  4. Scarano, 58-60, 61, 63-64, 66. [↩]
  5. Scarano, 62-65. [↩]
  6. Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States: 1492 to Present (New York: HarperCollins, 2003, Fifth Edition), 532. This was not done without resistance in Puerto Rico, in terms of slave revolts, in the 1520s and 1530s. [↩]
  7. Scarano, 66. French abolition of slavery in its colonies in 1794 (while re-established in Haiti in 1802 by Napoleon in failed attempt to stop revolution, which succeeded in 1804 after twelve years) set off panic among Puerto Rican planters. [↩]
  8. Kinzer, 44. [↩]
  9. Ibid. [↩]
  10. Kinzer, 45. [↩]
  11. Kinzer, 44 [↩]
  12. Kinzer, 45, 46, 48, 70, 80; Zinn, 312, 408; Ziaudin Sardar and Merryl Wyn Davies, Why Do People Hate America? (New York: The Disinformation Company, 2002), 43. [↩]
  13. Kinzer, 91. [↩]
  14. Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (New York: Grove Press, 2004 reprint, originally published in 1961, 14. [↩]
  15. Kinzer, 91-92. [↩]
  16. Kinzer, 92. [↩]
  17. Kinzer, 92, 104, 107, 108, 215, 300. [↩]
  18. Anti-abortion activists have even used this to criticize Planned Parenthood, with a lawyer for such a group, Casey Mattox, writing that Planned Parenthood worked with the government of Puerto Rico to sterilize women, which was not voluntary, and was a major part of the island’s sterilization program. Of course, Mattox uses it to argue against contraceptive use instead of developing it into a criticism of US imperialism.
  19. Some have argued that feminists on the US mainland too often framed the discussion around the idea that “Puerto Rican women are victimized and need to be saved,” denying the action of Puerto Rican feminists in support of the measure, and deny the possibility of “Puerto Rican feminist agency” (see pages 31-34 of Laura Briggs’s “Discourses of ‘Forced Sterilization’ in Puerto Rico: The Problem with the Speaking Subaltern”). Be that as it may, parts of this argument come very close to apology for US imperial and colonial action, such as imposed sterilization. Saying this does not deny that Puerto Rican women didn’t act in their best interests and engaged in sterilization in order to improve their own conditions. However, as said in the article, women had little choice but to engage in this procedure, so they didn’t even have “agency,” a word also used to throw off certain analysis, especially of a radical kind, or free choice to engage in all possible birth control measures if they wished to do so. [↩]
  20. William Blum, Rogue State (Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 2000), 98. [↩]
  21. Blum-Ibid. [↩]
  22. Kinzer, 92-93. [↩]
  23. Jack Woodis, Introduction to Neo-Colonialism:The New Imperialism in Asia, Africa, & Latin America (New York: International Publishers, 1969, second printing, originally published in 1967), 13, 16, 28, 32-33, 43-47, 49, 58, 61, 68-69. [↩]
  24. Woddis, 50, 68-69. [↩]
  25. The Court’s majority opinion, written by “liberal” Justice Elena Kagan, declared in flowery words that the colonial relationship is “unique” and built on the “island’s evolution into a constitutional democracy exercising local self-rule,” while admitting that the US Congress stripped the Puerto Rican constitution of social democratic qualities before it was approved since US colonies are “not sovereigns distinct from the United States” as noted on pages 2, 3, 10-11, 15 of the decision. Even Stephen Breyer, who accepted that federal power was the governing authority over US states and colonies, posited the “self-rule” argument, claiming that the island was self-ruling, citing numerous sources including the horrid Resolution 748. The dissenting opinion of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg did not not challenge, fundamentally, the court’s ruling, only saying that the matter warrants attention to future cases. Clarence Thomas had a similar opinion, only saying that he felt the decision would be a negative precedent on law governing indigenous peoples in the United States.
  26. The US also controls uninhabited islands in the Pacific including Baker Island, Howland Island, Jarvis Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Midway Atoll, Navassa Island, Palmyra Atoll, and Wake Island. They could be effectively considered part of the US colonial system.
  27. The FBI began its close attention on the island in 1936 when a local US attorney said that Campos was publishing articles insulting the US and giving “public speeches in favor of independence.” His influence was so widely recognized that when he refused to go to his parole officer, the Roosevelt administration didn’t order him back to prison for fear that there would be unrest on the island.
  28. In September 1999, Bill Clinton would commute the sentences of eleven Puerto Rican nationalists, which sparked anger among police officers, numerous leading Democrats, and numerous Republicans. Not surprisingly, Hillary Clinton opposed this move, expressing her opposition.
  29. See articles on this from Democracy Now!, USA Today, Associated Press, and Socialist Worker just for examples of differing reactions among those on the internet. [↩]
  30. From 1936 to 1995, the FBI generated 1.5 to 1.8 million pages on Puerto Rican independence activists! [↩]
  31. Fanon, 44, 47. [↩]
  32. Sardar and Davies, 96. [↩]
  33. Chronicle of America (Mount Kisco, NY: Chronicle Publications, 1988), 755, 758. The surviving man from this action, who was not killed in a gun battle with police officers, was sentenced to life imprisonment instead of being killed. [↩]
  34. Chronicle of America, 765. [↩]
  35. Laura Briggs, wrote in her article, as mentioned in an earlier footnote, that Campos was opposed to radicals who pushed for birth control on the island (along with independence), started by the Puerto Rican Socialist Party, and other efforts. This, in and of itself, would not be surprising, as machismo is widely cemented in many Latin American societies and reflected itself in liberation struggles. Despite this major flaw, it still worth recognizing his struggle in resisting US colonialism on the island nation of Puerto Rico, making him a hero to many. [↩]
  36. Politically, the Republicans would likely oppose statehood due to the large number of Puerto Ricans voting for the Democratic Party in presidential elections. [↩]
  37. In 1977, some diplomats claimed that the US could not place nuclear weapons on the island if it became a state. Whether this is actually true is not known.
  38. See articles on The Real News, The Hill, Democracy Now!, Telesur English, Mother Jones, Common Dreams, and Dissident Voice, of course
  39. Sanders is also on record for rejecting the neoliberal debt restructuring in place. However, due to his imperialist stance on foreign policy, there is no guarantee his debt restructuring would be any better overall.
  40. The Green Party of the United States has a plank on their platform declaring that the people of the island have the right to self-determination and independence, release of Puerto Rican political prisoners, environmental cleanup of Vieques, that the island’s debt is “unpayable” and that decolonization had to be supported as the “first step for the Puerto Rican people to live in a democracy.” Even the Communist Party USA, a political party that became rightist after the Hungarian “Revolution” in 1956 and with its call for a left-liberal inclusive coalition against the right-wing in the US instead of actively organizing people for socialism, declared in its 2006 “Road to Socialism” that the island nation composes an “oppressed national minority” who are mostly working class, dependent on the US, and says there needs to be a “free and independent Puerto Rico.” This is even further left, strangely enough, then the Socialist Party USA. In their recent platform, the party only calls for Guam, Puerto Rico, indigenous nations, and D.C. to have congressional representation, the similar to a position held by the Democratic Party. [↩]
  41. Vladimir Lenin, Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism (New York: International Publishers, 1972 reprint of 1939 English translation, originally published in 1917), 16-17, 20, 22, 32. [↩]
  42. Lenin, 25, 28, 31, 35, 58, 60, 62, 82. [↩]
  43. Lenin, 10-11. [↩]
  44. The “Military and Civilian Personnel by Service/Agency by State/Country (Updated Quarterly)” excel spreadsheet report from September 2016 is used here. That’s around the same number of personnel in the state of Delaware, which isn’t a colony in the slightest (although it is occupied indigenous land), which is telling. [↩]
  45. Fanon, 1, 10, 26, 30. [↩]
  46. Fanon, 38. [↩]
  47. Fanon, 235-237. [↩]

Leftist Critic is an independent radical, writer, and angry citizen and can be reached at leftistcritic@linuxmail.org or on twitter, @leftistcritic, where they tweet frequently about issues of importance relating to American empire, the environment, people of color, and criticism of the “left,” whether radical or non-radical.

December 3, 2016 Posted by | Book Review, Deception, Fake News, Illegal Occupation, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The New York Times’s Biased Obituary of Fidel Castro

By Matt Peppe | Just The Facts | November 27, 2016

After Fidel Castro passed away Friday night at 90 years old, the obituaries written about him in the American press typified the U.S. government propaganda used for decades to demonize Castro and obscure the tremendous social and humanitarian advances that the Cuban Revolution was able to achieve in the face of unrelenting interference, subversion and destabilization. None were more over-the-top in their bias than the obituary in the New York Times.

A mere 54 words, the lede paragraph contains an astonishing amount of misinformation and innuendo:

“Fidel Castro, the fiery apostle of revolution who brought the Cold War to the Western Hemisphere in 1959”

It’s hard to imagine any Western leader being called a “fiery apostle.” The phrase suggests Castro was driven by an irrational, religious mission to undertake revolution, rather than having resorted to armed resistance as a last resort after the possibility of nonviolent opposition through political means was eliminated. In 1952, as Castro was favored to win a seat in the House of Representatives, Fulgencio Batista promptly cancelled the upcoming elections as it became clear he would not be able to hold power in a free and fair vote. Only after this did Castro and others start to organize a guerilla resistance in order to prevent rule by a military dictatorship. Calling him a “fiery apostle of revolution” is reductionist and Manichean.

The second part of the sentence is easily disprovable. The Cold War was well underway and active in the Western Hemisphere long before the Revolution came to power in 1959. Five years earlier, the CIA, at the behest of the United Fruit Company and working in conjunction with Congress and the White House, supported the overthrow of Guatemala’s democratically elected progressive President Jacobo Arbenz by the Guatemalan military. The reason was summed up by Senator George Smathers of Florida, who was quoted in an article in the CIA’s professional journal, Studies in Intelligence, saying: “In all candor, we must admit that the democratic nations of the Western Hemisphere could not permit the continued existence of a Communist base in Latin America, so close to home.”

Aside from misrepresenting the Cold War timeline, the idea that it was Castro who was responsible for Cold War tensions with the United States is laughable. Castro immediately reached out to the U.S. government after taking power in 1959, and even visited the country four months later. Upon arriving he was stood up by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who decided to play golf instead meeting with Castro. The next year, Eisenhower would cancel the sugar quota Cuba depended on for export revenue, provoking Cuba to exercise its sovereign right to nationalize U.S. properties. In return, the U.S. government prohibited delivery of oil to the island, which led to Cuba seeking oil from the Soviet Union.

“and then defied the United States for nearly half a century as Cuba’s maximum leader”

It is strange that Castro’s commitment not to compromise on the sovereignty of Cuba and its people would be seen as remarkable enough to draw attention to it so prominently. Imagine a Russian obituary to Ronald Reagan stating that he defied the Soviet Union. Such a statement presumes that the natural state of affairs would be subservience to the dictates of a foreign power. Americans would find this notion absurd.

“bedeviling 11 American presidents”

This is one way of stating that Castro survived more than 600 assassination attempts authorized by multiple U.S. executives and resisted their criminal economic war that sought “to bring about hunger, desperation” and “hardship” and to this day continues to deny food and medicine to children.

“and briefly pushing the world to the brink of nuclear war”

A year and a half prior to the Cuban Missile Crisis, the CIA directed a mercenary invasion of Cuba that failed spectacularly after it was quickly repelled. Understanding that another invasion was imminent, Castro sought nuclear missiles from the Soviet Union because he believed it would possibly be the only deterrent to another U.S. attack. Meanwhile, the United States had nuclear missiles positioned across Eastern Europe at the Soviet Union. When Kennedy protested to the Soviets, Khrushchev offered to withdraw the missiles before they reached Cuba if the U.S. would likewise withdraw its nuclear missiles from Turkey and promise not to invade Cuba. Kennedy said this would “look like a very fair trade” to any “rational man.” Yet, he was still not satisfied and instead of accepting it decided to engage in a game of chicken that could easily have resulted in a nuclear holocaust. To pin responsibility on Fidel Castro for the escalation of this situation is a gross distortion.

“died on Friday. He was 90.”

This I don’t take issue with.

The rest of the obituary is riddled with other inaccuracies and rhetorical flourishes that all predictably echo decades worth of U.S. government propaganda.

The Times claims Castro “ceded much of his power to his younger brother Raúl.” In reality, Fidel resigned his position as the President of State in 2006. He did not personally hand power to his brother in a dictatorial display of nepotism. Raúl was at the time Vice President, having been elected in the process stipulated by the Cuban Constitution. Likewise under the Constitution, as Vice President he assumed the role of the Presidency upon the resignation of the current President. No different than how succession would work in the United States.

The piece goes on to make unfounded claims of Castro’s self-aggrandizement (“he believed himself to be the messiah of his fatherland”) and launch evidence-free smears about his abuse of power (“he wielded power like a tyrant, controlling every aspect of the island’s existence”).

No one in recent history has been the subject of such vitriolic and politically biased propaganda emanating from the U.S. government as Fidel Castro. It is unsurprising that the self-declared paper of record in the U.S. would replicate the same disingenuous rhetoric rather than attempt to objectively assess the life of undoubtedly the most important individual of the 20th century based on documented facts placed in historical context.

November 29, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

Eyewitnesses Say Fallen FARC Rebels Were Ambushed by Sniper

Two FARC rebels, identified as Joaco (L) and Monica, were allegedly killed Wednesday by a government sniper.

Two FARC rebels, identified as Joaco (L) and Monica, were allegedly killed Wednesday by a government sniper. | Photo: Prensa Rural
teleSUR | November 18, 2016

Eyewitnesses told a verification team that the two rebel fighters with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia killed earlier this week in the northern department of Bolivar died as a result of an ambush by government forces, Prensa Rural reported Friday.

The Ministry of Defense claimed that the armed guerrilla rebels were killed in combat after carrying out criminal activities.

Meanwhile the leaders from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC, said they were merely making their way to “pre-concentration” areas where members of the rebel army are gathering ahead of the final process of demobilization as part of the ongoing peace process.

Members of the Association of Agroecological and Mining Brotherhoods of Guamoco, a local organization, spoke to witnesses in the municipality of Santa Rosa del Sur, where the incident took place to collect testimonies.

According to these witnesses, the two victims, FARC rebels who went by the names Joaco and Monica, were standing near two houses near a section of town known as the “Y” when suddenly Joaca, who was on the phone, was struck by a bullet and fell to the ground. Monica then bent down to check on him when she too was struck by a bullet.

The testimonies were collected from people who were inside one of the houses and witnessed the entire series of events. Prensa Rural reported that the house contained four men, two women, a child, and an infant.

Government troops, who were positioned approximately 40 meters away, then fired two bursts of rounds into the air. Troops then ordered a third rebel fighter to the ground and subsequently detained him.

The government troops then harassed the locals, storming into their homes, reportedly insulting those present and demanding they produce identification. They further accused the civilians of being FARC collaborators. Locals reported that they fear reprisals from state security forces after being labeled collaborators.

Witnesses reported that two of the government soldiers wore masks to hide their identities. Others said they recalled seeing some of the government troops, in civilian clothing, visiting the house near where the killings took place.

The testimony from witnesses matched early statements from the FARC. Spanish lawyer Enrique Santiago, who has served as a legal advisor to the FARC during the peace negotiations in Havana, wrote Wednesday on his Twitter account that the two rebels were killed “by a sniper.”

The Tripartite Monitoring and Verification Mechanism, which forms part of the bilateral cease-fire agreement, was activated in order to conduct formal investigation of the events.

However, this early report raises serious questions about the conduct of the government soldiers. It is widely known within Colombia that there are high-ranking officials in the armed forces who oppose the peace process and may try to sabotage efforts to end the five-decade-long conflict.

Witness testimony belied the government’s version of events in an incident in April 2015 that left 13 dead. There the government claimed troops were ambushed but witnesses said the deaths were the product of a lengthy gun battle and that locals had warned the government soldiers not to make camp in the area. That incident took place before a bilateral cease-fire had been established and threatened to derail peace talks.

The details surrounding this latest incident, such as the presence of government troops in civilian clothing days earlier, suggests the killings were not the product of a chance encounter but rather a pre-planned operation.

The killing of the two FARC rebels marked the first documented break in some 80 days of the official bilateral cease-fire and, according to the Center for Resources for Analysis of the Conflict.

The Tripartite Mechanism is expected to issue a series of recommendations to avoid any future incidents.

FARC and government negotiators signed a new peace deal in Havana Saturday, just six weeks after a previous peace plan was narrowly rejected in a nationwide plebiscite. The new agreement includes modifications made after consultations with the “No” side as well as other sectors of Colombian civil society.

RELATED:
Exclusive: 2nd Colombia Deal ‘More Inclusive’ Says FARC Lawyer

November 19, 2016 Posted by | Deception, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Zika: JunkScience right again; Public health ‘experts’ wrong again

By Steve Milloy | JunkScience | October 26, 2016

“Scientists are bewildered by Zika’s path across Latin America” — except the “scientists” didn’t do the right science before jumping to conclusions.

From today’s WaPo :

screen-shot-2016-10-26-at-8-05-29-am

Below are the cases:

2300zikamystery10xx-1

Back in March, I wrote that we need to wait until the data from Colombia are in. Well they are. Clearly there is some other cause of the reported fetal deformities. I don’t expect the “experts” to figure it out. Meanwhile, how many babies were needlessly aborted?

November 13, 2016 Posted by | Environmentalism, Science and Pseudo-Science | | 1 Comment

Vatican Mediation in Venezuela Changes Political Equation for Washington

By Mark Weisbrot | The Hill |  November 6, 2016

The Vatican’s participation in the mediation effort in Venezuela poses an unusual challenge to US policy in Venezuela and the region. On Sunday, October 30, three of the four major opposition parties and other prominent opposition leaders met with the government, with mediators from the Vatican and UNASUR (the Union of South American Nations). Some progress was made. The government released four people who the opposition considers political prisoners, and the opposition called off a political trial against President Maduro and a planned demonstration that most observers believed ran a high risk of violence.

Thomas Shannon, the number three official in the US State Department, also went to Venezuela this week, met with President Maduro and opposition leaders, and supported the dialogue. I wish I could say that this represents an actual change in US policy in the region, but all evidence still points to the contrary.

The US government is not looking at Venezuela in terms of dialogue or compromise. The Obama administration has economic sanctions against Venezuela, which President Obama renewed last March. In renewing these sanctions, the executive order again declared that Venezuela presented “an unusual and extraordinary threat to US security.” The world knows what happens to countries that the US deems to be “an unusual and extraordinary” security threat. Look what happened to Iraq. Look what happened to Nicaragua in the 1980s. It doesn’t matter how many people are directly affected by the specific sanctions against Venezuela. The threat is what matters, and it is ugly and belligerent enough to keep many investors from investing in Venezuela and to raise the country’s cost of borrowing. (Not to mention that the whole premise of Venezuela as a “security threat” is absurd.) And the US government has also directly pressured financial institutions not to do business with Venezuela.

For all of these reasons, it is clear that Washington’s goal in Venezuela is currently the same as it has been for almost all of the past 15 years. Shannon’s support for dialogue is almost certain to turn out the same as previous diplomatic thaws in the past: a brief and insincere interlude. President Obama initiated the longest period (about five months) of calm US-Venezuela relations ― since the US-backed military coup of 2002 ―between March and July last year. It soon became clear that this was only because the Cubans ― with support from the rest of the region ― made it a condition of progress in their own negotiations for opening relations with the US. This was something that Obama wanted for his legacy. But as Venezuela’s National Assembly elections approached, the Obama administration went back to its regime change strategy, supporting an international campaign to delegitimize Venezuela’s elections. (This turned out to be unnecessary, since the opposition won in a landslide.)

The Venezuelan opposition pursued a “strategy of military takeover” for the first four years of the Chávez government, including the 2002 military coup. But since 2004, they have been divided on whether to pursue change through legal means. Whenever they had people in the streets supporting a violent or extralegal overthrow ― as in 2002–03, 2013, or 2014 ― the US government has taken their side. Washington has also led various campaigns to delegitimize the Venezuelan government, a vital part of any extralegal “regime change” strategy.

But for the moment, Pope Francis has altered everyone’s calculations. It is not good optics for the hard-line Venezuelan opposition to condemn the pope. And the Obama administration cannot exert the kind of pressure on the Vatican that it does on, e.g., European governments to support its sanctions against Russia, or various unpopular military adventures. Also, the international media cannot marginalize or ignore the pope in the way they do the rest of the hemisphere’s governments, e.g., when these governments resist Washington’s support for regime change in Venezuela, Honduras, and other countries.

The pope is likely to look at the Venezuelan crisis in a pragmatic way, rather than through the lens of Washington’s imperial and ideological imperatives. There is a divided government in Venezuela, with the chavistas controlling the presidency and to a large extent the judiciary. The fractious opposition controls the National Assembly. Until the next presidential election, there is no way to resolve the political conflict except through dialogue and negotiation.

Pope Francis can be a pragmatic diplomat, but he has certain principles and is not easily intimidated. He is likely to understand that Venezuela’s divided government is a result of a divided country. From 2003, when the Chávez government got control of the national oil industry, until 2014, the large majority of the population experienced enormous gains in their living standards. That is why, in December of last year, in the elections for National Assembly, the ruling PSUV still got more than 40 percent of the vote ― despite inflation running at 180 percent and widespread shortages of basic consumer goods.

A big part of the gains of the Chávez era have been lost in the past nearly three years, and especially over the past year. But the governing party still has a political base that remembers worse poverty and exclusion, if not worse shortages, in the pre-Chávez era. They do not see the political opposition, which is a right-wing political movement that has always represented the upper classes, offering solutions that will make their lives better.

The Vatican will therefore likely seek negotiation and compromise on both sides of the political divide. This poses a unique challenge to Washington and some of its closest allies in Venezuela.

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C. and president of Just Foreign Policy. He is also the author of  Failed: What the “Experts” Got Wrong About the Global Economy (Oxford University Press, 2015).

November 9, 2016 Posted by | Economics | , , | Leave a comment

The Nemeses and Scourges of the Western World

By James Petras | November 5, 2016

Seven is a winning throw of the dice. But in our civil society, seven now signifies the multi-thong scourge, the whip used by the Western world as its instrument of punishment and, in response; seven signifies Nemesis and her sisters, the inescapable agents of the West’s downfall.

The seven scourges of the Western world are used against the people of Asia, Africa, Latin and North America. These whips are constructed, wielded and unleashed especially by the US and the UK.

The seven sisters of Nemesis, the Erinyes, are the Furies who pursue the injustices committed by the Western world against Asia, Latin America, Africa and Europe. Those holding the scourge detest and fear Nemesis and the Furies, but are incapable of destroying them. Try as they might, their whip is in corrupt and feeble hands and, of course, it can only follow their orders: Otherwise, it just twitches and remains immobile, while Nemesis pursues the scourgers of humanity.

The Seven-Tailed Scourge of the Western World

The ‘whip’ wielded by the Western world, is used to punish disobedient, ‘rebellious’ people, movements and states. Their multiple lashes have bloodied countless generations and buried millions.

The seven scourges against humanity are unrepentant in their promotion of ‘Western values’ – visible to the terrified world on the red raw backs of oppressed people, their wounds flayed open by the faceless drones proclaiming their gifts of freedom and democracy.

Let us go forward now and describe the pillars holding up the Western empire, the seven-tailed scourge of humanity.

1. Mexico: The Cartel, the Narco-State, US Bankers and Death Squads

Over the last two decades, over a quarter million Mexicans have been murdered by the joint forces of the drug cartels, the Mexican State and its death squads, presided over by the US state and backed by its rapacious financial sector. Cartels and complicit Mexican officials prosper because US banks launder their narco-dollars by the billions. On their part, US corporations grow even richer by relocating their plants to Mexico where terrorized workers can be exploited for 1/5 the cost. Amidst the terror and exploitation, over 11 million Mexican workers and family members have fled to the US running from their local scourges, only to confront the US scourge of deportation. Over 2 million have been imprisoned and expelled under Obama.

2. Honduras and Guatemala: Imperial Wars, Drug Gangs and Narco-Oligarchs

Destitution and state terror are direct products of US–installed regimes in Honduras and Guatemala. Guatemala’s indigenous majority was ravaged by US and Israeli-trained military battalions and death squads. In their wake, scores of narco-gangs, sponsored by local oligarchs and their own private death squads, have emerged. The Honduran people attempted to elect an enlightened liberal President, and were ‘rewarded’ for their peaceful democratic election with a military coup orchestrated by the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. They further underscore the lesson of ‘Western values’: Scores of human rights activists and peasant leaders have been murdered and the scourges continue unabated.

3. Colombia: Nobel Prize for Death Squad President

For the past fifteen years, (2001-2016), the Clinton-Bush-Obama regimes launched the seven-billion-dollar ‘Plan Colombia’ terror campaign against the Colombian people. This scourge was so powerful that over two and a half million peasants, Indigenous peoples, and Afro-Colombians have been driven from their homes and villages while, tens of thousands of peasants, trade unionists, human rights activists and civic leaders have been killed. The notorious narco-President Alvaro Uribe and his Vice President Santos worked with the death squads and the Colombian military under the instruction of over one thousand US military advisers and contract mercenaries as they imposed a scorched earth policy – to consolidate a ‘reign of Western values’.

In Colombia, the three-tailed scourge of narco-presidents, death squads and the military decimated rural communities throughout that large and populous nation. They finally induced the FARC guerrillas to submit to a ‘peace’ agreement, which perpetuated the oligarchy. The US remains free to exploit Colombia for its military bases against the rest of Latin America, while foreign corporations exploit its mineral riches. For his part in promoting the ‘peace of the dead’, Colombian President Santos received the Nobel ‘Peace’ Prize.

4. Saudi Arabia: A Household Name Among the Middle East Scourges

No country in the Middle East has financed, organized and directed terrorism in the Middle East, South Asia, North and East Africa, the former Soviet Union and even North America, more than the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It currently scourges the tiny nation of Yemen. Using its ISIS mercenaries, backed by jets, missiles, and logistical support from the UK and the USA, the Saudi despots have invaded maimed and murdered tens of thousands of Yemenis, while hundreds of thousands face starvation in a Saudi-imposed blockade.

The Saudi billionaire regime bankrolled thousands of terrorists in Syria and Iraq, giving billions of dollars of business to US and UK arms manufacturers. Saudi monarchs and their extended clans form a parasitic rentier regime unique in the world. They rely on the skills and labor of imported professionals, workers, household servants, mercenary solders, financial managers and even their praetorian guards. They confine their women behind the veil and closed doors, under the absolute rule of male relatives. They chop off the hands, feet and heads of foreign workers and their own citizens for minor offenses, including ‘blasphemy’, criticism of the king or resisting an employer’s abuse. Saudi Arabia, which is totally dependent on Washington’s protection, has become a scourge especially against Muslim people throughout the Middle East and beyond.

5. Israel: The Scourge of Palestine and Free People Near and Far

The Israeli State is the head commanding the tentacles of a far-reaching Zionist Power Configuration operating in the US, Canada, England, France and, to a less degree, in satellite states and institutions. Israel was established on the dispossession and ethnic cleansing of millions of Palestinians from their homes and villages since 1948. For almost 50 years, 600,000 ‘Israeli’ Jews (immigrants given automatic ‘citizenship’ and stolen property based solely on their ‘ethno-religious’ identity) have illegally moved into what remained of historical Palestine, building exclusive ‘Jews-only’ colonial towns on land ripped from its original inhabitants. The Palestinians are herded into apartheid militarized enclaves and squalid camps. Israel invaded and devastated large parts of Lebanon, Egypt and Syria. They have bombed other nations, like Jordan and Iraq, with impunity. The Israeli state uses a virtual fifth column of loyalist organizations and billionaire financiers in the US and EU who ultimately dictate Middle East policy to the ‘elected’ Western politicians. Presidents and Prime Ministers, Cabinet members and legislators must publicly bow to the increasing demands of the overseas Zionist power structure. This has undermined the will and interests of national electorates and democratic procedures. All public discourse on this vital issue has been censored because critics of Israel’s influence are subjected to unremitting campaigns of overt coercion, threats, jailing on trumped up charges, vilification and job loss – within their own countries in the ‘democratic’ West. Meanwhile, Israel has sold its much-vaunted expertise in surveillance, torture and counter-insurgency to its fellow scourgers in Guatemala, Colombia, Mexico and even Afghanistan.

6. Egypt: Modern Scourges of an Ancient People

For decades, Egyptian military dictators have served the Anglo-American Empire and Israel’s ruling colonists in the Middle East, North and East Africa. Generals-turned-‘Presidents’ Hosni Mubarak and Abdel Fattah al-Sisi specialized in murdering, torturing and jailing thousands of Egyptian trade unionists, dissident activists, peasant leaders and the restless urban poor. These violently installed Egyptian rulers are expected to collaborate with Israel and trap millions of desperate Palestinians in the world’s largest open air prison: Gaza. Cairo actively collaborates with the US and Israel in subverting the people and institutions of Gaza, Libya, Somalia and Sudan – guaranteeing that none will be functioning, independent modern states. Egypt’s first and only elected president Mohamed Morsi was overthrown by General Sisi and sentenced to twenty years in a military torture dungeon (a virtual death sentence for a 65 year old) by a kangaroo court under the direction of Washington and Tel Aviv. Egypt, once the epicenter for civil democratic expression — ‘the Arab Spring’ — has become the a major staging area for US-backed jihadi terrorists entering Syria.

7. ISIS, NUSRA Front, Ukraine and Syria: Puppets, Kleptocrats, Fascists and Terrorists

In this very modern Western world, where democratic values are sold to the cheapest buyer, the US, the UK and the EU shop for mercenaries and puppet regimes in order to scourge their critics and adversaries.

The West, led by the Grand Scourger Hillary Clinton, bombed Libya and destroyed its entire modern state apparatus. They opened the floodgates to thousands of mercenaries and terrorist-thugs of all colors and stripes to feed off the carcass of what Mouammar Gaddafi and the modern Libyan state had built over the past 40 years. These criminals, draped in the banners of ‘humanitarian intervention’ or ‘mission civilisatice’, ran amok, killing and ravaging tens of thousands of Libyan citizens and contract workers of sub-Saharan African origin. The tens of thousands of Africans desperately fleeing each year into the Mediterranean are the result of this Western rampage against the Libyan state. The jihadis have moved on… by those who forgot to distinguish between terrorists who support our ‘democratic values’ and those who would attack the West. The West can’t be blamed: Mercenaries change sides so often.

The ethnic cleansing scourges of the past returned to the Ukraine: as (neo) fascists took power in Kiev, storming the Parliament and forcing the President to flee. Nazi-era banners decorated the streets of Kiev under the approving gaze of the US State Department. Neo-Nazi thugs massacred scores of unarmed ethnic Russian citizens in the port city of Odessa when they set fire to the main trade union hall where the trapped men, women and youths were burned alive or bludgeoned while fleeing the flames. The US State Department had spent $5 billion dollars to replace an elected government with a pliant regime in Kiev while large parts of the country fell into civil war. The ethnic Russian populations of the industrialized Donbas region resisted and were invaded by an ethnically cleansed and neo-fascist putschist Ukrainian army – under US-EU supervision. The war has cost tens of thousands of lives, a million refugees fled to Russia and a divided failing state now festers in the heart of Europe. Kleptocrats and Fascists in Kiev oversee an utterly bankrupt economy. The destitute citizens abandon the towns and cities; some fleeing to Poland to pick potatoes as their serf ancestors did a century ago.

Syria has been ravaged by an immense army of mercenary scourges, financed and supplied by the US, EU, Turkey and, of course, Saudi Arabia. Al Qaeda had merely to change its battle flags to NUSRA and receive the US benediction as ‘moderate pro-Western democrats’ resisting a Baathist dictatorship in Damascus. In the course of their ‘democratic’ mission they destroyed the ancient, critical cultural and economic center of Aleppo – scourging the Christians and non-jihadi Muslims and other ancient minorities. Over two million Syrians have died or fled the fiery scourge of Anglo-American and Saudi-Turkish terror.

The Seven Sisters: Nemesis and the Furies Confront the Western World

The scourges are falling on hard times: East and West, North and South they face their inescapable Nemesis. Their exposed injustices, crimes and grotesque failures herald their inevitable downfall. The seven furies are even emerging in unusual places:

1. The economic and trade power of China challenges the West throughout world, expanding even into the heartland of the empire. The West’s fear over China’s peaceful economic expansion has led Western political leaders to revive protectionist policies, claiming that barriers against Chinese investors must be raised to prevent takeovers by Beijing. From July 2015 to September 2016, the West blocked nearly $40 billion in productive Chinese investment. This comes after decades of preaching the virtues of foreign investment and the universal benefits of ‘globalization’. Suddenly Western leaders claim that Chinese investment is a ‘threat to national security’ and ‘profits Chinese businesses over Western-owned enterprises.’

Meanwhile, far from this Sino-phobic hysteria, the countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America actively seek greater economic ties with China to the detriment of US-EU multinationals. Once servile Asian countries, like the Philippines, have declared unfettered US access to frontline imperial military bases in doubt, as they sign favorable multi-billion trade and investment agreements with China. Western imperial ideology about investment and globalization has boomeranged and met its Nemesis.

2. The Russian Furies: Vladimir Putin

During the 1990s, the US plundered Russia at will. Washington imposed a uni-polar world, celebrated as the New World Order. They bombed and devastated former Russian allies like Yugoslavia and Iraq, setting up ethnically cleansed rump states like Kosovo for their huge military bases. Meanwhile, Washington reduced Russia, under the inebriate Yeltsin regime, to a backwater vassal stripped of its resources, its institutions, scientists, and research centers. In the absence of war, the Russian economy declined by 50% and life expectancy fell below that of Bangladesh. The US celebrated this ‘victory of democracy’ over a helpless, deteriorating state by welcoming the most obscene new gangster oligarchs and pillagers and laundering their bloodstained loot.

The door slammed shut on the pillage with the election of Vladimir Putin and the demise of the Yeltsin gangster-government. Russia was transformed. Putin reversed Russia’s demise: the economy recovered, living standards rose abruptly, employment in all sectors increased, and cultural, educational and scientific centers were restored. Vladimir Putin was elected and re-elected by overwhelming majorities of the Russian electorate despite huge sums of Western money going to his opponents. Russia systematically recovered many strategic sectors of the economy illegally seized by Western-backed Israeli-Russian oligarchs Even more important, Putin restored Russian statecraft and diplomacy – formulating a strategy for an independent, democratic foreign policy and restoring Russia’s defense capability. The loss of this critical vassal state under its dipsomaniacal Boris Yeltsin shook the US EU-NATO alliance to its very core.

In the beginning President Putin did not oppose the US-NATO military invasion of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. It went along with the economic sanctions imposed on Iran. It even maintained its cooperation despite a US-sponsored attack by the government of Georgia against South Ossetia killing scores of Russian peacekeepers. In the wake of those destabilizing disasters, what finally led the Russian government to reverse its complicity with the West was the horrific US-financed invasion of Syria where Russian jihadis from the Caucasus were playing an important role as mercenaries, threatening to return and undermine the stability of Russia. This was quickly followed by the US-sponsored putsch in Ukraine, fomenting a civil war on Russia’s frontiers, threatening is vital naval base in Crimea and repressing millions of ethnic Russian-Ukrainian citizens in the industrialized Donbas region. This blatant aggression finally pushed Putin to challenge the expansionist policies of Washington and the EU.

Putin backed a plebiscite in Crimea and won when its citizens voted overwhelmingly to re-join and preserve the Russian bases. Putin has backed the rebel defense of the Donbas against a NATO-neo-fascist Kiev invasion.

Putin accepted a request for aid from the Syrian government as it battled mercenaries and jihadis to preserve its national integrity. The Russians sent arms, troops and air support for the Syrian Arab Army, rolling back the Western and Saudi armed terrorists.

In response to the Washington-EU economic sanctions against Russia over the Crimean plebiscite, Putin signed multi-billion-dollar trade and investment agreements and joint defense pacts with China – mitigating the impact of the sanctions.

Wherever Washington seeks to seize and control territory and regimes in Eurasia, it now faces the Putin nemesis. In Russia and overseas, in the Middle East and the Caucuses, in the Persian Gulf and Asia, the US meets stalemates at best, and roll-back at worst.

The CIA-stooge Yeltsin and his cronies were evicted from the Kremlin to the indignation of Washington and the EU. Many of the kleptocrats, politicos, thugs and swindlers fled to their new homes in Langley, on Wall Street, in Washington or set up talk-shops at Harvard. Even the gruesome Chechens had their ‘color-coded’ support center (the CIA-American Committee for Peace in Chechnya) based in Boston. Never in modern history has a country so rapidly transformed from degraded vassalage to a dynamic global power as Russia. Never has the US seen its grand imperial design so successfully challenged in so many places at the same time.

The Putin Nemesis has become the inescapable agent of the downfall of the US Empire.

3. The Islamic Republic of Iran became a Muslim-nationalist alternative to the US-Israeli dominated Muslim dictatorships and monarchies in the Middle East. The Iranian Revolutions inspired citizens throughout Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Iraq and Yemen. As a result of its growing influence, Iran was punished by the US and EU with crippling economic sanctions pushed especially by Tel Aviv and its Western agents. Fearful that Iran’s example would destabilize its control, the US invaded Lebanon, promoted the Israeli invasion and occupation of Lebanon and has backed the terrorist campaign to dismember Syria. The results have been dismal for Washington: Iran continues to support the powerful Hezbollah, a major political and military power in Lebanon. The Saudi’s war against Yemen is largely an ethno-religious campaign to destroy Yeminis who favor independence over Saudi-US control and have Iran’s support. Iraq’s Shia resistance forces are leading the attack against the Saudi-funded ISIS terrorists, with Iranian commanders playing a significant role.

Hezbollah, Iran’s ally in Lebanon, drove out the Israeli occupation forces and raised the cost of another invasion by Tel Aviv.

Against all the impotent, corrupt Arab puppets in the Middle East, only Iran has supported the Palestinians. It is the only force capable of retaliating against an Israeli sneak attack – which is why it is demonized.

Iran is the Nemesis against US plans to conquer and dismember Syria. It has provided arms and volunteers on the battlefield against terrorist mercenaries.

Iran effectively negotiated a partial lifting of Western sanctions, overcoming Israeli intransigence and securing billion-dollar trade agreements with Germany, Russia and China. It holds the prospects for productive trade and diplomatic deals in the near future – to the howling consternation of its enemies in Washington, Riyadh, London and Tel Aviv.

For all the efforts by the tentacles of Israel’s fifth column, Iran has survived and emerged as the Nemesis of Anglo-American and Israeli ambitions in the Middle East.

4. Venezuela became the leading proponent for an independent foreign policy in Latin America. For almost twenty years, the US tried repeatedly to overthrow the government in Caracas. They failed. By ballot or by bullet, despite slapping economic sanctions on Venezuela, the US suffered humiliating defeats and failed coups and aborted uprisings. Venezuela remains Washington’s principal Nemesis, thwarting its efforts to make ‘free trade’ pacts and deepen military alliances in Latin America.

5. Upon taking office in June 2016, the Philippines new president Rodrigo Duterte assumed the lead role of Washington’s most colorful ‘Nemesis’ in Southeast Asia. Under his widely popular presidency, he pivoted to China, promising to sharply reduce joint Philippine-US military exercises in the South China Sea directed against Beijing and, in return, he secured the co-operation of several hundred leading Philippine entrepreneurs in winning an initial $13 billion dollar public-private Chinese investment package for critical infrastructure and trade development..

President Duterte has frequently denounced Washington’s interference in his domestic war on drug traffickers – citing the US hypocrisy in its criticism of his human rights record. He has personally held President Obama responsible for meddling in Philippine affairs. Drawing on the history of the bloody US colonial war against the Philippine people in 1898, he holds the US responsible for inciting ethno-religious conflicts in the southern island of Mindanao – Duterte’s home region.

President Duterte’s declaration of independence from Washington (“I am no one’s ‘tuta’ [puppy dog]”)and his foreign policy priority of ‘pivoting’ from US military domination to regional economic co-operation with Beijing has turned the Philippines into Washington’s prime Nemesis in Southeast Asia.

6. The resistance of the Yemeni people, mainly ethnic Houthi freedom fighters, against the onslaught of bombing and missile strikes by the Saudi-US-UK air force, has aroused widespread solidarity throughout the Middle East.

Despite the ongoing massacre of over 10,000 Yeminis, mostly civilians, the Saudi ‘alliance’ has failed to impose a puppet regime. US links with the Saudi dictatorship have undermined its claims of humanitarian concerns for the people of Yemen. The embattled Houthi rebels have secured the support of Iran, Iraq and the majority of people in the Persian Gulf countries. As the war continues, the Saudi’s increasingly rely on military trainers, fighter bombers and logistical experts from the US, UK and NATO to pick the targets and maintain the starvation blockade. Sooner or later the courageous and tenacious resistance of the free people of Yemen against the Saudi overlords will inspire a domestic Saudi uprising against its grotesque and decrepit theocratic-monarchist state. The fall of the Royal House of Saud will bury a major scourge in the Middle East. In a word, the battle for Yemen has become the Nemesis of US-Saudi domination.

7. Everywhere in the Western world the ruling classes and their media outlets fear and loath ‘populists’ – leaders, movements, electorates – who reject their austerity programs designed to deepen inequalities and further enrich the elite. Throughout the European Union and in North and South America, workers and middle class majorities are on the march to oust the ‘free market’ regimes and restore the ‘populist’ welfare state, with its emphasis on social services, living wages and humane working conditions.

From the UK to France, Poland to Portugal, China to North America, Mexico to Argentina, the Nemesis and Furies of populist rollbacks threaten to dislodge the scourge held by the bankers, conglomerates and billionaires. Scattered populists may hold diverse ideologies; some may be nationalists, leftists, workers, farmers, petit bourgeois and public employees, indebted students, ecologists or protectionists. All are both united and divided by disparate interests and beliefs. And all are preparing for the inevitable downfall of the empire of the free market and wars.

Conclusion

Today the world’s greatest global conflicts have lined up the Imperial West and its frontline scourging allies against the Furies and Nemesis emerging on all continents. These are the inescapable agents of the Empire’s downfall.

The scourges of the West have been free to plunder the wealth of subject peoples and launch wars, which ravage both ancient and modern states and cultures while slaughtering and dispossessing scores of millions. The West derives its lifeblood through its seven-tailed scourge. Western elites rule through a chain of scourging puppet states with their bloody accomplices, from narco-murderers, Islamists terrorists, death squads to ordinary ‘piecework’ torturers.

Without resorting too much to the wisdom of the ancient Greek myths, we have come to believe that states, regimes, movements and people finally will emerge to act as the inescapable agents of the justice leading to the downfall of the Western empire. Modern Nemesis and Furies have a dual existence: While bringing down the old order they seek to create alternatives.

The ‘scourgers’ are by their nature specialists in wanton crimes against humanity. Nemesis and her sisters challenge and oust the latter as they construct their own new centers of wealth and power. China, Russia and Iran have gone beyond the role of Nemesis to the West – they are poised to build a new civilization on its ruins.

It remains an open question whether they can avoid becoming the new scourge against the people and nations who have risen in revolt.

November 6, 2016 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Son of Honduran Human Rights and Resistance Activist Murdered

Fernando Aleman Banegas was assassinated in La Ceiba in the early hours of Monday morning.

teleSUR | November 2, 2016

In post-coup Honduras, a coup which Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton supported, the corpses continue to pile up.

Human rights organizations are raising alarm after yet another assassination in Honduras, this time of the son of a prominent resistance activist, human rights defender, and aspiring progressive candidate for local political office with the left-wing Libre party.

Fernando Aleman Banegas was shot dead in the early hours of Monday morning when we was getting into his car after leaving a club in the northern port city of La Ceiba, according to local reports. The gunmen reportedly fled the scene on a motorcycle.

Aleman will be buried in the nearby city of Tocoa, which borders the Aguan Valley agricultural region, home to a brutally repressive land conflict between campesino communities and large private landowners.

Aleman’s mother, Elsy Banegas, has accompanied the campesinos struggle for years as the President of the Coordinator of Popular Organizations of the Aguan, known as COPA, a human rights group focused on labor and campesino issues in the region. Banegas is also an aspiring mayoral candidate for Tocoa with the Libre party, founded as an offshoot of the popular resistance movement in the wake of the 2009 U.S.-backed coup, in order push for a constituent assembly to rewrite the Honduran constitution at the ballot box, to complement their street resistance.

According to the Honduran human rights organization COFADEH, Banegas’ candidacy “threatens the interests of transnational mining companies and large landowners in the region.” The prominent activist has long been a vocal critic of systematic grave human rights abuses, impunity and the consequences of militarization in the region, particularly since the coup.

Banegas’ organization COPA reported after the murder that the social leader has “on many occasions received death threats for acting against mining companies, privatization and against the violation of human rights.”

Aleman’s assassination came hours before Libre kicked off its internal elections process to select the party’s new leadership leading up to the 2017 general election. Despite the shadow of violence, participation in the process surpassed the party’s own goals, according to Libre leader and ousted President Manuel Zelaya, with at least 239,000 people casting votes when estimates expected participation of 150,000 in the country of about 8 million.

Human rights organizations have called for a thorough and impartial investigation into Aleman’s murder.

The killing comes just two weeks after two Aguan campesino activists were murdered. Jose Angel Flores, president of the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguan, one of the most prominent land rights organizations on the forefront of the Honduran resistance movement, and his fellow activists Silmer Dionisio George were both gunned down on Oct. 17. Since 2010, the bloody land conflict in the Aguan has claimed the lives of nearly 150 campesinos, according to human rights groups.

The wave of assassinations also comes months after the high-profile killing of internationally-renowned Indigenous activist Berta Caceres in March. Caceres’ case has come to epitomize the grave human rights situation in Honduras and systemic impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of political violence.

Human rights organizations have stressed that the United States — which under the leadership of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton helped secure the 2009 coup — is complicit in the ongoing crisis in Honduras and must cut all aid funding to the Honduran government and military.

November 2, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | , , | Leave a comment

Venezuelan Government Releases Five Opposition Activists in Goodwill Gesture

By Rachael Boothroyd-Rojas | Venezuelanalysis | November 1, 2016

Caracas – Venezuela’s national government has agreed to release five jailed opposition activists in a goodwill gesture as part of its official talks with the country’s opposition.

The liberation of the prisoners is the first concrete agreement to emerge from the Vatican-mediated dialogue, initiated Sunday with representatives of four opposition parties.

On Monday evening, opposition mayor Carlos Ocariz took to social media to announce the negotiated release, confirming the freed prisoners as Andrés Moreno, Marco Trejo, Carlos Melo, Ángel Coromoto Rodríguez, and Andrés Leon– all arrested for their participation in violent protests or for the incitement of political violence.

As former security chief to opposition National Assembly President Ramos Allup, Ángel Coromoto Rodríguez, was arrested in May for allegedly bankrolling anti-police violence during opposition protests, while Melo was detained on August 31 for the possession of explosives. Similarly Moreno and Trejo were both arrested in late September after creating a video calling for the rebellion of the armed forces.

The longest-serving inmate amongst the group is Andres Leon, who was arrested during the deadly 2014 street violence known as the “guarimbas”. He was granted house-arrest on health grounds in June last year.

“Not enough”

The announcement comes just three days ahead of an anti-government march on the Miraflores Presidential Palace, called by the opposition for this coming Thursday.

Opposition leaders had previously hinted that they would be willing to consider calling off the demonstration depending on the progress of the talks, which they say are contingent on the release of their activists from jail.

Nonetheless, the government’s gesture appears to have done little to dissuade the MUD leadership from going forward with the controversial march– despite the violence unleashed by their supporters during protests last week.

“The release of the political prisoners is important, but not sufficient,” MUD Secretary Jesus Chuo Torrealba told reporters.

On Tuesday morning, the MUD opposition coalition also retweeted a message from legislator Freddy Guevara insisting that Thursday’s march would “still go ahead”. Guevara is a lawmaker for the ultra-right Popular Will party, which is currently boycotting the talks.

The coalition has been deeply divided over the decision to partake in official negotiations with the government, with proponents describing the top-level talks as just “one more terrain of struggle” amongst many.

Meanwhile, the government has hailed the move as a sign of its willingness to negotiate with the opposition in a bid to ease tensions in the politically polarised country.

“We, who have been permanently waiting for opposition sectors to (commit to) dialogue, salute the fact that it has finally taken place,” Venezuela’s foreign minister, Delcy Rodriguez, told press at the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday.

The opposition has stated that it will not negotiate on its demands for a presidential recall referendum this year or on the release of all of its activists from jail, regardless of their crime. The MUD has yet to release an official statement confirming the status of Thursday’s march.

November 1, 2016 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

Who owns the ‘school’ that studies Canadian foreign policy?

By Yves Engler | October 30, 2016

Next week the Fraser Institute’s newly established Peter Munk Centre for Free Enterprise will offer a day long “Introduction to Economic Reasoning” seminar for Grade 10-12 students in Scarborough. Launched in June with $5 million from the founder of Barrick Gold, the Centre for Free Enterprise cements Munk’s position as leading contributor to right-wing ideas. But, the ideologue’s biggest contribution has been to a venerable public institution.

The Munk School of Global Affairs reveals much about the state of foreign-policy debate in this country. Among 35 million Canadians, the University of Toronto would be hard pressed to find a less credible source of support for the study of international affairs.

Peter Munk is a right wing ideologue and mining magnate with an important personal stake in a particular foreign policy. The Munk founded Barrick Gold has benefited from Canadian diplomatic support, export financing and development aid.

With its projects spurring ecological devastation, communal conflict and dozens of deaths on six continents, the Toronto company has led the charge against moves to withhold diplomatic and financial support to Canadian companies found responsible for significant abuses abroad. After An Act Respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas Corporations in Developing Countries was narrowly defeated in 2010 Munk wrote a letter in the Toronto Star “celebrating those MPs who had the courage” to side with Canada’s massive mining industry lobby and vote against bill C 300.

Munk espouses far-right political views. In 1997 he praised dictator Augusto Pinochet for “transforming Chile from a wealth-destroying socialist state to a capital-friendly model that is being copied around the world” while two years later the Canadian Jewish News reported on a donation Munk made to an Israeli university and a speech in which he “suggested that Israel’s survival is dependent on maintaining its technological superiority over the Arabs.” In 2007 he compared Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez to Hitler and later dismissed criticism of Barrick’s security force in Papua New Guinea by claiming “gang rape is a cultural habit” in that country. He responded to a 2014 Economist question about whether “Indigenous groups appear to have a lot more say and power in resource development these days” by saying “globally it’s a real problem. It’s a major, major problem.”

An initial $6.4 million contract to rename the International Studies Department the Munk Centre for International Studies stipulated the Centre would receive advice from Barrick’s international advisory board, which included US President George Bush and former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. (When asked why he appointed Mulroney to Barrick’s board, Munk told Peter C. Newman: “He has great contacts. He knows every dictator in the world on a first name basis.”) The 1997 agreement empowered Munk to stop payments if dissatisfied with the Centre. Happy with its direction, Munk contributed $5 million more in 2006 and $35 million to launch the Munk School of Global Affairs in 2010. That deal committed the U of T to pony up $39 million from its endowment while the Ontario and federal governments chipped in $50 million (as well as a $16 million tax credit to Peter Munk for his $35 million donation).

Flush with resources, the School is highly influential. It co-sponsors an award for the world’s best non-fiction book on foreign affairs, Canadian Forces College workshops, annual lecture with Washington’s National Endowment for Democracy and Toronto International Film Festival speakers series. The School also co-sponsors the Munk Debates, which held the first-ever Canadian foreign policy leaders debate during the 2015 federal election.

The School’s Munk Fellowship in Global Journalism awards twenty fellowships for a year-long program run in partnership with the Globe and Mail, CBC News, Toronto Star, Postmedia and Thomson Reuters. The School has significant ties to the Globe and Mail with former editors-in-chief John Stackhouse and William Thorsell both senior fellows at the School.

While executive director at the Munk Centre in 2007, Marketa Evans helped spawn the Devonshire Initiative, a project for NGOs and mining companies to discuss corporate social responsibility and development issues. Named after the street where the School is located, the Devonshire Initiative undermined a government–civil society Roundtable that called for withholding government financial and political support to resource companies found responsible for major abuses abroad. Evans would later be appointed Canada’s inaugural Corporate Social Responsibility counselor, a post the Harper Conservatives set up to alleviate pressure to restrict government support for companies found responsible for international abuses.

The School supported the Harper Conservatives’ low-level war against Iran. After severing diplomatic ties and designating Iran a state sponsor of terrorism in 2012, Foreign Affairs ploughed $250,000 into the Munk School’s Global Dialogue on the Future of Iran. The aim of the initiative was to foment opposition to the regime and help connect dissidents inside and outside Iran. Expanding the Global Dialogue on the Future of Iran, Foreign Affairs gave the Munk School $9 million in 2015 to establish the Digital Public Square project to undermine online censorship within enemy states.

Canada’s most influential global studies program is the brainchild of a mining magnate with a significant personal stake in a particular foreign policy. And the school has been shaped in his hard right image.


Yves Engler is the author of Canada in Africa: 300 years of aid and exploitation.

October 30, 2016 Posted by | Corruption, Environmentalism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Venezuela Police Officer Shot, Killed During Right-Wing Protest

teleSUR – October 26, 2016

A Venezuelan policeman died after being shot during an opposition protest late Wednesday in the province of Miranda, Minister of the Interior and Justice Nestor Reverol said, adding there were two other officers injured.

Reverol stated that the officer was shot after the police tried to disperse an opposition march to preserve public order on the Panamerican highway in San Antonio de los Altos, adding that two suspects were in custody.

“There are two people detained for questioning, and an order will be issued to begin investigations to clarify this murder,” said Reverol.

The wounded officers were taken to a private clinic, where Jose Alejandro Molina Ramirez died, shot in the abdomen and arm. Medouza Dany Daniel Briceno was shot in one hand, Davis Jose Laya Ayala was hit in one arm and Miguel Antonio Cuevas Pirela had a wound on his face from a blunt object, but all were out of danger, the doctors informed.

Reverol said the right-wing opposition was responsible for the death of officer Molina. He also confirmed that four policemen were injured in Zulia state during the protests.

“The officer killed is Jose Alejandro Molina Ramirez who was shot in the abdomen and arm.”

The right wing had called for a “Taking of Venezuela” march Wednesday, provoking clashes that led to more than a hundred injuries.

Despite some factions of the opposition agreeing to talks with the government, some of the splintered right wing have refused dialogue and instead called for a national strike on Friday and a more provocative march to the Miraflores presidential palace on Nov. 3.

Miranda’s governor is right-wing leader Henrique Capriles, who denied that opposition forces had agreed to talks with the socialist government Tuesday and has been instrumental in calling for street demonstrations and the ouster of President Nicolas Maduro.

“This needs to keep growing so that the government understands once and for all that we’re doing this for real,” said two-time presidential loser Capriles.

The National Assembly, that is in contempt of the constitution, voted Tuesday to start an impeachment process against Maduro, even though any actions it takes have been declared nulled by the Supreme Court in the country.

Crowds at the protests where the officer was shot chanted “This government is going to fall!”

Clashes also broke out in the western town of San Cristobal that was an epicenter of violence during 2014 anti-Maduro protests that left at least 40 people dead.

October 28, 2016 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 1 Comment

‘Venezuela opposition unable to overthrow Maduro’

Press TV – October 26, 2016

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.

October 26, 2016 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

Guatemala Indicts Top Ex-Military Men for War Crimes and Rape

A family member holds an image of Marco Antonio Molina Theissen, kidnapped and disappeared in 1981 when he was 14 years old.

A family member holds an image of Marco Antonio Molina Theissen, kidnapped and disappeared in 1981 when he was 14 years old. | Photo: EFE
teleSUR | October 25, 2016

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.

October 26, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment