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Venezuela’s Electoral System Reliable, Says Monitor

By Ryan Mallett-Outtrim | Venezuelanalysis | December 8, 2017

Venezuela’s voting system remains one of the most reliable in the world, an international group of electoral experts said Thursday.

The country’s electronic voting system boasts some of the world’s best checks and balances, and is both “safe and reliable”, according to Nicanor Moscoso, the head of the Latin American Council of Electoral Experts (CEELA).

“The results have never been formally refuted. It is the most audited process in the world,” he said.

The comments were made after Moscoso concluded talks with Venezuela’s electoral authority, the CNE.

Praising the work of the CNE, Moscoso said the electoral system is heavily automated and easy for voters to use.

“Venezuelans can be sure that Sunday will deliver the real results of the democratic will,” Moscoso said, referring to upcoming municipal elections this Sunday.

More than 300 mayoral positions nationwide are up for grabs, with the ruling socialist party, the PSUV, hoping to repeat its surprise victory in October’s regional vote. The party secured 18 of the country’s 23 state governorships in the elections.

Ahead of the vote, opposition parties had expected to make major gains, and largely refused to acknowledge the unexpected results once they came in. Prominent opposition parties including Voluntad Popular, Primero Justicia and Vente Venezuela have all vowed to boycott Sunday’s vote.

The boycott is likely to backfire on the opposition, according to Phil Gunson of the International Crisis Group.

“I don’t think there are many instances in history where governments have been brought down by electoral boycotts,” he told The Guardian.

“I think the very least you can ask of an opposition is that it shows up and puts up a fight,” Gunson added.

December 9, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

UN Expert: No Humanitarian Crisis in Venezuela

By Rachael Boothroyd Rojas | Venezuelanalysis | December 6, 2017

An independent United Nations expert has publicly stated that Venezuela is not suffering from a humanitarian crisis following a recent trip to the country.

Alfred De Zayas, an independent expert on International Democratic and Equitable Order at the United Nations (UN), visited Venezuela in late November to assess its social and economic progress.

On arriving back in Geneva Tuesday, the UN official told press that he did not think the country’s current economic problems had given way to a humanitarian crisis.

“I agree with the FAO [UN Food and Agriculture Organization] and CEPAL [Economic Commission for Latin America & the Caribbean] that the so-called humanitarian crisis does not exist in Venezuela, although there are shortages, scarcity, and distribution delays, etc.” he said.

“What is important is to get to know the causes and take measures against contraband, monopolies, hoarding, corruption, manipulation of the currency and the distortions in the economy caused by an economic and financial war which includes [the effects of international] sanctions and pressure,” he added.

Venezuela’s opposition and private media have often alleged that the country is suffering from a humanitarian crisis in a bid to promote international intervention from foreign governments and agencies such as the UN. Opposition leaders have made the “opening of a humanitarian channel” to allow more food and medicine imports into the country one of their chief demands in negotiations with the national government, which began on December 1.

However, according to De Zayas, international solidarity is what is needed to help Venezuela overcome the current crisis. He also said that mainstream media coverage of the country is often “theatrical” and “does not help to resolve the problems” that the country faces.

During his visit, De Zayas met with government representatives, including Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, as well as with opposition leaders and civil society organizations. He also accompanied the initial talks held between the government and opposition in the Dominican Republic on December 1-2.

The UN expert said he would formulate a series of constructive recommendations to address Venezuela’s crisis and present them as a report to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2018. He has now departed to Ecuador, where he will be carrying out a similar visit.

Venezuela’s economy has been severely hit by the decline in global oil prices since 2014, directly impacting on the state’s ability to import the same quantity of food and medicine as in previous years.

The Trump administration imposed economic sanctions on Venezuela in August, prohibiting US financial agencies from negotiating debt relief with the beleaguered country. Canada has also passed sanctions against individual government officials.

December 7, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | Leave a comment

Canada a settler state helping pull imperial strings, not a colony

By Yves Engler · November 4, 2017

Colony or settler state?

Recently foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland dismissed concerns that Canada was seeking “regime change” in Venezuela by saying “Canada has never been an imperialist power. It’s even almost funny to say that phrase: we’ve been the colony.”

As I detailed in an initial response, Ottawa has passively or actively supported numerous U.S.-backed military coups against progressive elected governments. But, the conclusion to Freeland’s statement above is equally absurd, even if it is a common refrain among liberals and leftists.

Despite its popularity, the idea that Canada was or is a “colony” obscures Canada’s place near the top of a hierarchical world economy and polity. In probably its most famous iteration, prominent historian Harold Innis remarked that Canada had gone “from colony to nation to colony.”

Between 1867 and 1931, Canadian foreign policy was officially determined by London. But, describing this as a “colonial” relationship ignores the Canadian elite’s access to British capital, universities, armaments, etc., as well as Canada’s role in extending British power westward and, to a lesser extent, in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean.

While technically accurate, employing the term “colony” to describe both Canada and Kenya makes little sense. British, French and other settlers in Canada were not dispossessed of their land, but rather dispossessed First Nations. Additionally, they faced no repression comparable to that experienced by the Maasai or Kikuyu. Calling Canada a “colony” is akin to describing the European settlers in Kenya as “colonized”. While tensions existed between the whites in Kenya and the Colonial Office in London, the settlers also had privileged access to British arms, technology and capital.

At first, Canada was an arm of the British Empire, conquering the northern part of the Western hemisphere by dispossessing First Nations. After 1867, Ottawa regularly argued it “was looking after British imperial interests in North America and that the country’s material growth reinforced the British Empire,” writes Norman Penlington in Canada and Imperialism: 1896-1899. “The construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway was especially justified as a British military route to the East.”

A number of Canadian military institutions were established in large part to expand the British Empire’s military capacity. Opened in Kingston, Ontario, in 1876, the Royal Military College (RMC) was largely designed to train soldiers to fight on behalf of British colonialism. Usually trained at the RMC, Canadians helped conquer Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana. Four hundred Canadians traveled halfway across the world to beat back anti-colonial resistance in the Sudan in 1885 while a decade and a half later thousands more fought to advance British imperial interests in the southern part of the continent.

While Freeland wasn’t clear about whether she was referring to British or U.S. influence over Canada, the second part of the “colony to nation to colony” parable is also misleading. Has Canada been colonized by Washington in a similar way to Haiti? Among innumerable examples of its domination, on December 17, 1914, U.S. Marines marched to the country’s treasury and took the nation’s entire gold reserve — valued at U.S. $12 million — and between 1915 and 1934 Washington formally occupied Haiti (they retained control of the country’s finances until 1947.)

Facilitated by racial, linguistic and cultural affinity, Canada has long had privileged access to the U.S. business and political elite. Longtime speaker of the House of Representatives and Democratic Party nominee for President in 1912, Champ Clark, highlighted Canada’s prized place within U.S. ruling circles. “They are people of our blood,” Champ expounded. “They speak our language. Their institutions are much like ours. They are trained in the difficult art of self-government.”

During the 1898-1902 occupation of Cuba the Royal Bank was the preferred banker of U.S. officials. (National U.S. banks were forbidden from establishing foreign branches until 1914.) Canadian capitalists worked with their U.S. counterparts in Central America as well. In the early 1900s, Canadian Pacific Railway President Sir William Van Horne helped the Boston-based United Fruit Company, infamous for its later role in overthrowing elected Guatemalan president Jacobo Arbenz, build the railway required to export bananas from the country. In the political realm there were also extensive ties. For instance, Canada’s longest serving Prime Minister, Mackenzie King, worked for the Rockefeller family while the mother of long-time U.S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson was from a wealthy Canadian family.

Today, the ties are closer than ever. In a post U.S. election exposé titled “A look inside Palm Beach, where wealthy Canadians are one degree of separation from Donald Trump,” The Globe and Mail detailed a slew of prominent Canadians (Brian Mulroney, Charles Bronfman, George Cohon, Gerry Schwartz and Heather Reisman, Paul Desmarais’s family, etc.) with winter homes near the U.S. president’s exclusive property. A number of these individuals, the Globe reported, could get “Trump’s ear” if he turned on Canada.

While there is a power imbalance between the two countries and differing interests at times, the Canadian elite sees the world and profits from it in a similar way to their U.S. counterparts.

Rather than looking at Canadian foreign policy through the lens of a “colony,” a more apt framework to understand this country’s place in the world is the Canadian elite has had a privileged position with the two great powers of the past two centuries. Or, Canada progressed from an appendage of the Imperial Centre to appendage of the Imperial Centre.

The term “settler state” is a better description than “colony” of what Canada was and is. It acknowledges the primary colonizer (us) and does not obscure the power relations in the imperial order — our ruling elite is closely tied into the world ruling elite.

Canada’s opposition to Venezuela’s elected government reflects this status.

November 5, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

Canada Sanctions Venezuela’s Maduro

By Ryan Mallett-Outtrim | Venezuelanalysis | November 3, 2017

Canada announced Friday it had imposed new sanctions on President Nicolas Maduro and other senior government officials.

A total of 19 officials and ex-officials were targeted, including Vice-President Tareck El Aissami, intelligence czar Gustavo Gonzalez, and Oil Minister Eulogio del Pino.

Canada’s Foreign Ministry accused Maduro and other targeted officials of being “responsible for, or complicit in, gross violations of internationally recognized human rights, have committed acts of significant corruption, or both”.

“Canada is determined to protect human rights and combat corruption worldwide,” Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said.

“Today’s announcement sends a clear message that Canada will take action against individuals who have profited from acts of significant corruption or who have been involved in gross violations of human rights,” Freeland said.

The Foreign Ministry did not, however, provide evidence to bolster its human rights and corruption allegations against the 19 officials.

The measures were authorized under Canada’s newly approved Magnitsky Act, which was modelled on its controversial 2012 US predecessor that blacklisted Moscow officials allegedly linked to the 2009 death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in a Russian detention center. Thirty Russian officials and three South Sudanese government leaders have also been targetted.

The sanctions include “an asset freeze in Canada on all listed people, and render listed persons as inadmissible to Canada”.

According to the Foreign Ministry, these sanctions are “in addition to sanctions imposed on September 22, 2017”, in which 40 high-ranking Venezuelans were targeted.

Caracas has yet to respond to the move, though it has condemned previous rounds of sanctions as part of a US-led effort to promote regime change.

Over the past year, Canada has stepped up its pressure on the Maduro administration. In August, Ottawa joined a 12 nation bloc, known as the Lima Group, which has pushed for economic sanctions as well as an international arms embargo against Venezuela.

Last month, Canada hosted the second meeting of the Lima Group in Toronto where it urged regional governments to take steps to “further isolate” Venezuela.

November 5, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

Chrystia Freeland: Canada doesn’t engage in “regime change”

A huge surprise to the people of Libya, Haiti, Honduras, Chile, Democratic Rep. Congo, Ghana, Uganda, Guatemala, and …

By Yves Engler | Dissident Voice | October 31, 2017

It may walk and quack like a regime-change-promoting duck, but Ottawa’s unilateral sanctions and support for Venezuela’s opposition is actually just a cuddly Canadian beaver, says Chrystia Freeland.

Canada has never been an imperialist power. It’s even almost funny to say that phrase: we’ve been the colony,” said the journalist turned politician after a Toronto meeting of foreign ministers opposed to the Venezuelan government.

The above declaration was part of the Canadian foreign minister’s response to a question about Chavismo’s continued popularity, which was prefaced by a mention of protesters denouncing Ottawa’s interference in Venezuela’s internal affairs. Freeland added that “one of the strengths Canada brings to its international affairs” is that it doesn’t engage in “regime change”.

Notwithstanding her government’s violation of the UN and Organization of American States charters’ in Venezuela, Freeland’s claim that Ottawa doesn’t engage in “regime change” is laughable. Is she unaware that a Canadian General commanded the NATO force, which included Canadian fighter jets, naval vessels and special forces, that killed Muammar Gaddafi in Libya six years ago?

Sticking to contexts more directly applicable to the situation in Venezuela, Ottawa has repeatedly endorsed US-backed military coups against progressive elected leaders. Canada passively supported the ouster of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953, Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz in 1954, Ugandan President Milton Obote (by Idi Amin) in 1971 and Chilean President Salvador Allende in 1973.

In a more substantial contribution to undermining electoral democracy, Ottawa backed the Honduran military’s removal of elected president Manuel Zelaya. Before his 2009 ouster Canadian officials criticized Zelaya and afterwards condemned his attempts to return to the country. Failing to suspend its military training program, Canada was also the only major donor to Honduras — the largest recipient of Canadian assistance in Central America — that failed to sever any aid to the military government. Six months after the coup Ottawa endorsed an electoral farce and immediately recognized the new right-wing government.

In the 1960s Ottawa played a more substantial role in the ouster of pan-Africanist independence leaders Kwame Nkrumah and Patrice Lumumba. In 1966 Ghana’s Canadian-trained army overthrew Nkrumah. In an internal memo to External Affairs just after Nkrumah was ousted, Canadian high commissioner in Accra, C.E. McGaughey wrote “a wonderful thing has happened for the West in Ghana and Canada has played a worthy part.” Soon after the coup, Ottawa informed the military junta that Canada intended to carry on normal relations and Canada sent $1.82 million ($15 million today) worth of flour to Ghana.

Ottawa had a strong hand in Patrice Lumumba’s demise. Canadian signals officers oversaw intelligence positions in the UN mission supposed to protect the territorial integrity of the newly independent Congo, but which Washington used to undermine the progressive independence leader. Canadian Colonel Jean Berthiaume assisted Lumumba’s political enemies by helping recapture him. The UN chief of staff, who was kept in place by Ottawa despite being labelled an “imperialist tool” by Lumumba’s advisers, tracked the deposed prime minister and informed army head Joseph Mobutu of Lumumba’s whereabouts. Soon after Lumumba was killed and Canadian officials celebrated the demise of an individual Prime Minister John Diefenbaker privately called a “major threat to Western interests”.

It’s in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation where Canada was most aggressive in opposing a progressive government. On January 31 and February 1, 2003, Jean Chrétien’s Liberal government organized an international gathering to discuss overthrowing Haiti’s elected government. No Haitian officials were invited to the “Ottawa Initiative on Haiti” where high-level US, Canadian and French officials decided that president Jean-Bertrand Aristide “must go”, the dreaded army should be recreated and that the country would be put under a Kosovo-like UN trusteeship.

Thirteen months after the “Ottawa Initiative on Haiti” meeting Aristide and most other elected officials were pushed out and a quasi UN trusteeship had begun. The Haitian National Police was also heavily militarized.

Canadian special forces “secured” the airport from which Aristide was bundled (“kidnapped” in his words) onto a plane by US Marines and deposited in the Central African Republic. Five hundred Canadian troops occupied Haiti for the next six months.

After cutting off aid to Haiti’s elected government, Ottawa provided tens of millions of dollars in foreign aid to the installed government, publicly supported coup officials and employed numerous officials within coup government ministries. Haiti’s deputy justice minister for the first 15 months of the foreign-installed government, Philippe Vixamar, was on the Canadian International Development Agency’s payroll and was later replaced by another CIDA employee (the minister was a USAID employee). Paul Martin made the first ever trip by a Canadian prime minister to Haiti to support the violent post-coup dictatorship.

Dismissing criticism of Ottawa’s regime change efforts in Venezuela by claiming Canada has been a benevolent international actor is wholly unconvincing. In fact, a serious look at this country’s foreign policy past gives every reason to believe that Ottawa is seeking to unseat an elected government that has angered many among the corporate set.

Anyone with their eyes open can tell the difference between a beaver and a duck.


Yves Engler is the author of A Propaganda System: How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Canada in Africa: 300 years of aid and exploitation.

October 31, 2017 Posted by | Deception | , , , | 1 Comment

How America Spreads Global Chaos

By Nicolas J.S. Davies | Consortium News | October 30, 2017

As the recent PBS documentary on the American War in Vietnam acknowledged, few American officials ever believed that the United States could win the war, neither those advising Johnson as he committed hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops, nor those advising Nixon as he escalated a brutal aerial bombardment that had already killed millions of people.

U.S. F-105s bomb North Vietnam in 1966
(Photo credit: U.S. Air Force)

As conversations tape-recorded in the White House reveal, and as other writers have documented, the reasons for wading into the Big Muddy, as Pete Seeger satirized it, and then pushing on regardless, all came down to “credibility”: the domestic political credibility of the politicians involved and America’s international credibility as a military power.

Once the CIA went to work in Vietnam to undermine the 1954 Geneva Accords and the planned reunification of North and South through a free and fair election in 1956, the die was cast. The CIA’s support for the repressive Diem regime and its successors ensured an ever-escalating war, as the South rose in rebellion, supported by the North. No U.S. president could extricate the U.S. from Vietnam without exposing the limits of what U.S. military force could achieve, betraying widely held national myths and the powerful interests that sustained and profited from them.

The critical “lesson of Vietnam” was summed up by Richard Barnet in his 1972 book Roots of War.  “At the very moment that the number one nation has perfected the science of killing,” Barnet wrote, “It has become an impractical means of political domination.”

Losing the war in Vietnam was a heavy blow to the CIA and the U.S. Military Industrial Complex, and it added insult to injury for every American who had lost comrades or loved ones in Vietnam, but it ushered in more than a decade of relative peace for America and the world. If the purpose of the U.S. military is to protect the U.S. from the danger of war, as our leaders so often claim, the “Vietnam syndrome,” or the reluctance to be drawn into new wars, kept the peace and undoubtedly saved countless lives.

Even the senior officer corps of the U.S. military saw it that way, since many of them had survived the horrors of Vietnam as junior officers. The CIA could still wreak havoc in Latin America and elsewhere, but the full destructive force of the U.S. military was not unleashed again until the invasion of Panama in 1989 and the First Gulf War in 1991.

Half a century after Vietnam, we have tragically come full circle. With the CIA’s politicized intelligence running wild in Washington and its covert operations spreading violence and chaos across every continent, President Trump faces the same pressures to maintain his own and his country’s credibility as Johnson and Nixon did. His predictable response has been to escalate ongoing wars in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and West Africa, and to threaten new ones against North Korea, Iran and Venezuela.

Trump is facing these questions, not just in one country, Vietnam, but in dozens of countries across the world, and the interests perpetuating and fueling this cycle of crisis and war have only become more entrenched over time, as President Eisenhower warned that they would, despite the end of the Cold War and, until now, the lack of any actual military threat to the United States.

Ironically but predictably, the U.S.’s aggressive and illegal war policy has finally provoked a real military threat to the U.S., albeit one that has emerged only in response to U.S. war plans. As I explained in a recent article, North Korea’s discovery in 2016 of a U.S. plan to assassinate its president, Kim Jong Un, and launch a Second Korean War has triggered a crash program to develop long-range ballistic missiles that could give North Korea a viable nuclear deterrent and prevent a U.S. attack. But the North Koreans will not feel safe from attack until their leaders and ours are sure that their missiles can deliver a nuclear strike against the U.S. mainland.

The CIA’s Pretexts for War

U.S. Air Force Colonel Fletcher Prouty was the chief of special operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1955 to 1964, managing the global military support system for the CIA in Vietnam and around the world. Fletcher Prouty’s book, The Secret Team: The CIA and its Allies in Control of the United States and the World, was suppressed when it was first published in 1973. Thousands of copies disappeared from bookstores and libraries, and a mysterious Army Colonel bought the entire shipment of 3,500 copies the publisher sent to Australia. But Prouty’s book was republished in 2011, and it is a timely account of the role of the CIA in U.S. policy.

Prouty surprisingly described the role of the CIA as a response by powerful people and interests to the abolition of the U.S. Department of War and the creation of the Department of Defense in 1947. Once the role of the U.S. military was redefined as one of defense, in line with the United Nations Charter’s prohibition against the threat or use of military force in 1945 and similar moves by other military powers, it would require some kind of crisis or threat to justify using military force in the future, both legally and politically. The main purpose of the CIA, as Prouty saw it, is to create such pretexts for war.

The CIA is a hybrid of an intelligence service that gathers and analyzes foreign intelligence and a clandestine service that conducts covert operations. Both functions are essential to creating pretexts for war, and that is what they have done for 70 years.

Prouty described how the CIA infiltrated the U.S. military, the State Department, the National Security Council and other government institutions, covertly placing its officers in critical positions to ensure that its plans are approved and that it has access to whatever forces, weapons, equipment, ammunition and other resources it needs to carry them out.

Many retired intelligence officers, such as Ray McGovern and the members of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), saw the merging of clandestine operations with intelligence analysis in one agency as corrupting the objective analysis they tried to provide to policymakers. They formed VIPS in 2003 in response to the fabrication of politicized intelligence that provided false pretexts for the U.S. to invade and destroy Iraq.

CIA in Syria and Africa

But Fletcher Prouty was even more disturbed by the way that the CIA uses clandestine operations to trigger coups, wars and chaos. The civil and proxy war in Syria is a perfect example of what Prouty meant. In late 2011, after destroying Libya and aiding in the torture-murder of Muammar Gaddafi, the CIA and its allies began flying fighters and weapons from Libya to Turkey and infiltrating them into Syria. Then, working with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Croatia and other allies, this operation poured thousands of tons of weapons across Syria’s borders to ignite and fuel a full-scale civil war.

Once these covert operations were under way, they ran wild until they had unleashed a savage Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria (Jabhat al-Nusra, now rebranded as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham), spawned the even more savage “Islamic State,” triggered the heaviest and probably the deadliest U.S. bombing campaign since Vietnam and drawn Russia, Iran, Turkey, Israel, Jordan, Hezbollah, Kurdish militias and almost every state or armed group in the Middle East into the chaos of Syria’s civil war.

Meanwhile, as Al Qaeda and Islamic State have expanded their operations across Africa, the U.N. has published a report titled Journey to Extremism in Africa: Drivers, Incentives and the Tipping Point for Recruitment, based on 500 interviews with African militants. This study has found that the kind of special operations and training missions the CIA and AFRICOM are conducting and supporting in Africa are in fact the critical “tipping point” that drives Africans to join militant groups like Al Qaeda, Al-Shabab and Boko Haram.

The report found that government action, such as the killing or detention of friends or family, was the “tipping point” that drove 71 percent of African militants interviewed to join armed groups, and that this was a more important factor than religious ideology.

The conclusions of Journey to Extremism in Africa confirm the findings of other similar studies. The Center for Civilians in Conflict interviewed 250 civilians who joined armed groups in Bosnia, Somalia, Gaza and Libya for its 2015 study, The People’s Perspectives: Civilian Involvement in Armed Conflicts. The study found that the most common motivation for civilians to join armed groups was simply to protect themselves or their families.

The role of U.S. “counterterrorism” operations in fueling armed resistance and terrorism, and the absence of any plan to reduce the asymmetric violence unleashed by the “global war on terror,” would be no surprise to Fletcher Prouty. As he explained, such clandestine operations always take on a life of their own that is unrelated, and often counter-productive, to any rational U.S. policy objective.

“The more intimate one becomes with this activity,” Prouty wrote, “The more one begins to realize that such operations are rarely, if ever, initiated from an intent to become involved in pursuit of some national objective in the first place.”

The U.S. justifies the deployment of 6,000 U.S. special forces and military trainers to 53 of the 54 countries in Africa as a response to terrorism. But the U.N.’s Journey to Extremism in Africa study makes it clear that the U.S. militarization of Africa is in fact the “tipping point” that is driving Africans across the continent to join armed resistance groups in the first place.

This is a textbook CIA operation on the same model as Vietnam in the late 1950s and early 60s. The CIA uses U.S. special forces and training missions to launch covert and proxy military operations that drive local populations into armed resistance groups, and then uses the presence of those armed resistance groups to justify ever-escalating U.S. military involvement. This is Vietnam redux on a continental scale.

Taking on China

What seems to really be driving the CIA’s militarization of U.S. policy in Africa is China’s growing influence on the continent. As Steve Bannon put it in an interview with the Economist in August, “Let’s go screw up One Belt One Road.”

China is already too big and powerful for the U.S. to apply what is known as the Ledeen doctrine named for neoconservative theorist and intelligence operative Michael Ledeen who suggested that every 10 years or so, the United States “pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show we mean business.”

China is too powerful and armed with nuclear weapons. So, in this case, the CIA’s job would be to spread violence and chaos to disrupt Chinese trade and investment, and to make African governments increasingly dependent on U.S. military aid to fight the militant groups spawned and endlessly regenerated by U.S.-led “counterterrorism” operations.

Neither Ledeen nor Bannon pretend that such policies are designed to build more prosperous or viable societies in the Middle East or Africa, let alone to benefit their people. They both know very well what Richard Barnet already understood 45 years ago, that America’s unprecedented investment in weapons, war and CIA covert operations are only good for one thing: to kill people and destroy infrastructure, reducing cities to rubble, societies to chaos and the desperate survivors to poverty and displacement.

As long as the CIA and the U.S. military keep plunging the scapegoats for our failed policies into economic crisis, violence and chaos, the [elite elements of] United States and the United Kingdom can remain the safe havens of the world’s wealth, islands of privilege and excess amidst the storms they unleash on others.

But if that is the only “significant national objective” driving these policies, it is surely about time for the 99 percent of Americans who reap no benefit from these murderous schemes to stop the CIA and its allies before they completely wreck the already damaged and fragile world in which we all must live, Americans and foreigners alike.

Douglas Valentine has probably studied the CIA in more depth than any other American journalist, beginning with his book on The Phoenix Program in Vietnam. He has written a new book titled The CIA as Organized Crime: How Illegal Operations Corrupt America and the World, in which he brings Fletcher Prouty’s analysis right up to the present day, describing the CIA’s role in our current wars and the many ways it infiltrates, manipulates and controls U.S. policy.

The Three Scapegoats

In Trump’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly, he named North Korea, Iran and Venezuela as his prime targets for destabilization, economic warfare and, ultimately, the overthrow of their governments, whether by coup d’etat or the mass destruction of their civilian population and infrastructure. But Trump’s choice of scapegoats for America’s failures was obviously not based on a rational reassessment of foreign policy priorities by the new administration. It was only a tired rehashing of the CIA’s unfinished business with two-thirds of Bush’s “axis of evil” and Bush White House official Elliott Abrams’ failed 2002 coup in Caracas, now laced with explicit and illegal threats of aggression.

How Trump and the CIA plan to sacrifice their three scapegoats for America’s failures remains to be seen. This is not 2001, when the world stood silent at the U.S. bombardment and invasion of Afghanistan after September 11th. It is more like 2003, when the U.S. destruction of Iraq split the Atlantic alliance and alienated most of the world. It is certainly not 2011, after Obama’s global charm offensive had rebuilt U.S. alliances and provided cover for French President Sarkozy, British Prime Minister Cameron, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Arab royals to destroy Libya, once ranked by the U.N. as the most developed country in Africa, now mired in intractable chaos.

In 2017, a U.S. attack on any one of Trump’s scapegoats would isolate the United States from many of its allies and undermine its standing in the world in far-reaching ways that might be more permanent and harder to repair than the invasion and destruction of Iraq.

In Venezuela, the CIA and the right-wing opposition are following the same strategy that President Nixon ordered the CIA to inflict on Chile, to “make the economy scream” in preparation for the 1973 coup. But the solid victory of Venezuela’s ruling Socialist Party in recent nationwide gubernatorial elections, despite a long and deep economic crisis, reveals little public support for the CIA’s puppets in Venezuela.

The CIA has successfully discredited the Venezuelan government through economic warfare, increasingly violent right-wing street protests and a global propaganda campaign. But the CIA has stupidly hitched its wagon to an extreme right-wing, upper-class opposition that has no credibility with most of the Venezuelan public, who still turn out for the Socialists at the polls. A CIA coup or U.S. military intervention would meet fierce public resistance and damage U.S. relations all over Latin America.

Boxing In North Korea

A U.S. aerial bombardment or “preemptive strike” on North Korea could quickly escalate into a war between the U.S. and China, which has reiterated its commitment to North Korea’s defense if North Korea is attacked. We do not know exactly what was in the U.S. war plan discovered by North Korea, so neither can we know how North Korea and China could respond if the U.S. pressed ahead with it.

Most analysts have long concluded that any U.S. attack on North Korea would be met with a North Korean artillery and missile barrage that would inflict unacceptable civilian casualties on Seoul, a metropolitan area of 26 million people, three times the population of New York City. Seoul is only 35 miles from the frontier with North Korea, placing it within range of a huge array of North Korean weapons. What was already a no-win calculus is now compounded by the possibility that North Korea could respond with nuclear weapons, turning any prospect of a U.S. attack into an even worse nightmare.

U.S. mismanagement of its relations with North Korea should be an object lesson for its relations with Iran, graphically demonstrating the advantages of diplomacy, talks and agreements over threats of war. Under the Agreed Framework signed in 1994, North Korea stopped work on two much larger nuclear reactors than the small experimental one operating at Yongbyong since 1986, which only produces 6 kg of plutonium per year, enough for one nuclear bomb.

The lesson of Bush’s Iraq invasion in 2003 after Saddam Hussein had complied with demands that he destroy Iraq’s stockpiles of chemical weapons and shut down a nascent nuclear program was not lost on North Korea. Not only did the invasion lay waste to large sections of Iraq with hundreds of thousands of dead but Hussein himself was hunted down and condemned to death by hanging.

Still, after North Korea tested its first nuclear weapon in 2006, even its small experimental reactor was shut down as a result of the “Six Party Talks” in 2007, all the fuel rods were removed and placed under supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the cooling tower of the reactor was demolished in 2008.

But then, as relations deteriorated, North Korea conducted a second nuclear weapon test and again began reprocessing spent fuel rods to recover plutonium for use in nuclear weapons.

North Korea has now conducted six nuclear weapons tests. The explosions in the first five tests increased gradually up to 15-25 kilotons, about the yield of the bombs the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but estimates for the yield of the 2017 test range from 110 to 250 kilotons, comparable to a small hydrogen bomb.

The even greater danger in a new war in Korea is that the U.S. could unleash part of its arsenal of 4,000 more powerful weapons (100 to 1,200 kilotons), which could kill millions of people and devastate and poison the region, or even the world, for years to come.

The U.S. willingness to scrap the Agreed Framework in 2003, the breakdown of the Six Party Talks in 2009 and the U.S. refusal to acknowledge that its own military actions and threats create legitimate defense concerns for North Korea have driven the North Koreans into a corner from which they see a credible nuclear deterrent as their only chance to avoid mass destruction.

China has proposed a reasonable framework for diplomacy to address the concerns of both sides, but the U.S. insists on maintaining its propaganda narratives that all the fault lies with North Korea and that it has some kind of “military solution” to the crisis.

This may be the most dangerous idea we have heard from U.S. policymakers since the end of the Cold War, but it is the logical culmination of a systematic normalization of deviant and illegal U.S. war-making that has already cost millions of lives in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan. As historian Gabriel Kolko wrote in Century of War in 1994, “options and decisions that are intrinsically dangerous and irrational become not merely plausible but the only form of reasoning about war and diplomacy that is possible in official circles.”

Demonizing Iran

The idea that Iran has ever had a nuclear weapons program is seriously contested by the IAEA, which has examined every allegation presented by the CIA and other Western “intelligence” agencies as well as Israel. Former IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei revealed many details of this wild goose chase in his 2011 memoir, Age of Deception: Nuclear Diplomacy in Treacherous Times.

When the CIA and its partners reluctantly acknowledged the IAEA’s conclusions in a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), ElBaradei issued a press release confirming that, “the agency has no concrete evidence of an ongoing nuclear weapons program or undeclared nuclear facilities in Iran.”

Since 2007, the IAEA has resolved all its outstanding concerns with Iran. It has verified that dual-use technologies that Iran imported before 2003 were in fact used for other purposes, and it has exposed the mysterious “laptop documents” that appeared to show Iranian plans for a nuclear weapon as forgeries. Gareth Porter thoroughly explored all these questions and allegations and the history of mistrust that fueled them in his 2014 book, Manufactured Crisis: the Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scares, which I highly recommend.

But, in the parallel Bizarro world of U.S. politics, hopelessly poisoned by the CIA’s endless disinformation campaigns, Hillary Clinton could repeatedly take false credit for disarming Iran during her presidential campaign, and neither Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump nor any corporate media interviewer dared to challenge her claims.

“When President Obama took office, Iran was racing toward a nuclear bomb,” Clinton fantasized in a prominent foreign policy speech on June 2, 2016, claiming that her brutal sanctions policy “brought Iran to the table.”

In fact, as Trita Parsi documented in his 2012 book, A Single Roll of the Dice: Obama’s Diplomacy With Iran, the Iranians were ready, not just to “come to the table,” but to sign a comprehensive agreement based on a U.S. proposal brokered by Turkey and Brazil in 2010. But, in a classic case of “tail wags dog,” the U.S. then rejected its own proposal because it would have undercut support for tighter sanctions in the U.N. Security Council. In other words, Clinton’s sanctions policy did not “bring Iran to the table”, but prevented the U.S. from coming to the table itself.

As a senior State Department official told Trita Parsi, the real problem with U.S. diplomacy with Iran when Clinton was at the State Department was that the U.S. would not take “Yes” for an answer. Trump’s ham-fisted decertification of Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA is right out of Clinton’s playbook, and it demonstrates that the CIA is still determined to use Iran as a scapegoat for America’s failures in the Middle East.

The spurious claim that Iran is the world’s greatest sponsor of terrorism is another CIA canard reinforced by endless repetition. It is true that Iran supports and supplies weapons to Hezbollah and Hamas, which are both listed as terrorist organizations by the U.S. government. But they are mainly defensive resistance groups that defend Lebanon and Gaza respectively against invasions and attacks by Israel.

Shifting attention away from Al Qaeda, Islamic State, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and other groups that actually commit terrorist crimes around the world might just seem like a case of the CIA “taking its eyes off the ball,” if it wasn’t so transparently timed to frame Iran with new accusations now that the manufactured crisis of the nuclear scare has run its course.

What the Future Holds

Barack Obama’s most consequential international achievement may have been the triumph of symbolism over substance behind which he expanded and escalated the so-called “war on terror,” with a vast expansion of covert operations and proxy wars that eventually triggered the heaviest U.S. aerial bombardments since Vietnam in Iraq and Syria.

Obama’s charm offensive invigorated old and new military alliances with the U.K., France and the Arab monarchies, and he quietly ran up the most expensive military budget of any president since World War Two.

But Obama’s expansion of the “war on terror” under cover of his deceptive global public relations campaign created many more problems than it solved, and Trump and his advisers are woefully ill-equipped to solve any of them. Trump’s expressed desire to place America first and to resist foreign entanglements is hopelessly at odds with his aggressive, bullying approach to every foreign policy problem.

If the U.S. could threaten and fight its way to a resolution of any of its international problems, it would have done so already. That is exactly what it has been trying to do since the 1990s, behind both the swagger and bluster of Bush and Trump and the deceptive charm of Clinton and Obama: a “good cop – bad cop” routine that should no longer fool anyone anywhere.

But as Lyndon Johnson found as he waded deeper and deeper into the Big Muddy in Vietnam, lying to the public about unwinnable wars does not make them any more winnable. It just gets more people killed and makes it harder and harder to ever tell the public the truth.

In unwinnable wars based on lies, the “credibility” problem only gets more complicated, as new lies require new scapegoats and convoluted narratives to explain away graveyards filled by old lies. Obama’s cynical global charm offensive bought the “war on terror” another eight years, but that only allowed the CIA to drag the U.S. into more trouble and spread its chaos to more places around the world.

Meanwhile, Russian President Putin is winning hearts and minds in capitals around the world by calling for a recommitment to the rule of international law, which prohibits the threat or use of military force except in self-defense. Every new U.S. threat or act of aggression will only make Putin’s case more persuasive, not least to important U.S. allies like South Korea, Germany and other members of the European Union, whose complicity in U.S. aggression has until now helped to give it a false veneer of political legitimacy.

Throughout history, serial aggression has nearly always provoked increasingly united opposition, as peace-loving countries and people have reluctantly summoned the courage to stand up to an aggressor. France under Napoleon and Hitler’s Germany also regarded themselves as exceptional, and in their own ways they were. But in the end, their belief in their exceptionalism led them on to defeat and destruction.

Americans had better hope that we are not so exceptional, and that the world will find a diplomatic rather than a military “solution” to its American problem. Our chances of survival would improve a great deal if American officials and politicians would finally start to act like something other than putty in the hands of the CIA.


Nicolas J. S. Davies is the author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq.  He also wrote the chapters on “Obama at War” in Grading the 44th President: a Report Card on Barack Obama’s First Term as a Progressive Leader.

October 31, 2017 Posted by | Book Review, Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) Won the Election

By James Petras | Axis of Logic | October 27, 2017

Introduction

Every major newspaper, television channel and US government official has spent the past two years claiming that the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), founded by the late Hugo Chavez, had become a marginalized political party, supported only by ‘hard core Chavistas’ and public employees. The US government, under Presidents Obama and Trump, backed gangs of violent demonstrators, who rampaged through the streets, as ‘the true democratic representatives’ of the will of the voters. Secretary General of the Organization of American States Luis Almagro, a veteran running dog for Washington, railed against  President Nicholas Maduro, denouncing him as a ‘dictator’ and openly demanded that the Venezuelan people and neighboring Latin American regimes unite to oust him – even through violence. President Trump imposed brutal economic sanctions designed to strangle the economy and guaranteed Washington’s support for the rightwing opposition, the self-styled Democratic Unity Roundtable, (‘Mesa de la Unidad Democratica’ – or MUD).

MUD took advantage of the economic crisis facing Venezuela with the sharp decline of the price oil, of its main export. MUD has spent the past three years attacking the government and mobilizing its supporters through street violence and parliamentary maneuvers to paralyze the government’s socio-economic agenda. Vital public services, like power stations, were frequent targets of MUD-orchestrated sabotage, even leading to the assassination of public employees, like police and firefighters.

MUD rejected the government’s proposal for peaceful negotiations with the opposition. President Maduro asked for a dialogue with the US, which was sponsoring MUD, but President Trump replied with his usual bombast and threats of violent intervention.

The economic blockade and drop in oil prices had devastating consequences: Inflation hit triple digits in Venezuela. There were increasing food shortages, long lines and valid consumer complaints. As a result, the opposition coalition won the Congressional elections of 2015 and immediately tried to impeach President Maduro. Rather than using their electoral mandate to govern and address the country’s problems, they focused exclusively on forcing ‘regime change’. This monomania led to voter dissatisfaction with MUD and, contrary to Washington’s hopes, predictions, threats and sanctions, the PSUV won the gubernatorial elections by a wide margin in October 2017.

The opposition was decisively defeated. Over a thousand independent outside observers, who had monitored the Venezuelan elections and voting procedures, declared the elections to be the free and valid expression of the citizens will. The opposition immediately rejected the result. The entire US-EU press predictably converged on Caracas, screaming ‘fraud’, echoing the rabid right-wing politicos in the US, the OAS and Europe. They saw no need to back their claims with ‘evidence’.

In truth, the Opposition-MUD was roundly defeated: They had secured only 39% of the vote and only 5 of the 23 governorships. The PSUV, for its part, increased its voter support from 44% in the 2015 to 54% in October 2017.

The real question, which is being ignored, is how the PSUV won and the Opposition lost, given the enormous outside support for MUD and the economic crisis in Venezuela? Why did the opposition lose 2.7 million votes in two years following their much-ballyhooed parliamentary victory? How could the US, the OAS and the EU miss this trend and waste their money and credibility?

Ten Reasons for the Socialist Victory and the Rightist Defeat

Understanding the reasons for the Socialist victory requires that we first analyze the strengths and weakness of the MUD.

  1. The PSUV retained its committed and loyalist core, despite hardships endured by the masses of Venezuelans, because of the socialists long-term, large-scale socio-economic programs advancing the citizens’ welfare over the previous decade and a half.
  2. Many low-income voters feared that, once in power, the rightwing extremists in MUD would reverse these social advances and return them to the pre-Chavista era of elite domination, repression and their own marginalization.
  3. Many right-of center-voters were appalled by MUD’s support for violence and sabotage, leading to the destruction of public buildings and private businesses and paralyzing public transportation. They decided to abstain and/or vote for the PSUV, as the party of law and order.
  4. Many independent voters supported the PSUV as the greater defender of Venezuelan sovereignty. They were appalled by the opposition coalition – MUD’s endorsement of Washington’s economic sanctions and blockade and President Trump’s brutal threats to intervene to force ‘regime change’.
  5. Probably most decisive for the shift to the left by many former MUD voters was the right-wing opposition’s failure to offer any positive alternative. Apart from promoting violence and dismantling the Chavista social programs, MUD lacked any concrete program or policies to address the ongoing economic crisis. It was clear to voters that MUD’s constant harping on the ‘failures’ of the PSUV offered no viable way out of the crisis.
  6. The MUD was not able to use its electoral majority in Congress to obtain overseas economic aid to provide social services, or to arrange trade deals or loans. Washington was only willing to subsidize MUD’s campaign for violent regime change but not to support any opposition congressional proposals for Venezuela’s schools or its health system. MUD was stuck in a self-perpetuating cycle, telling people what they already knew, with no serious proposals to address the people’s everyday problems.
  7. MUD constantly denigrated the memory of President Hugo Chavez, whose legacy represented the ‘best of times’ for millions of Venezuelans. Many voters recalled the decade of Chavez’s Presidency – his generous welfare policies, his own humble origins, his courage, his folksy sense of humor and his links to the grassroots. This was in stark contrast to the MUD leaders’ ‘Miami mentality’, their fawning over US consumerism and Washington’s militarism, their servility to the upper class’s cultural elitism and contempt for the dark-skinned mestizo population.
  8. The MUD congressmen and women focused their time in Congress with sectarian political name-calling when they weren’t busy plotting regime change in the posh upper class salons of the Caracas’ elite.   They failed to articulate any realistic grassroots solution to everyday problems. Their complaints over ‘dictatorship’ carried little weight since they held the majority in Congress and did nothing for the electorate.
  9. The MUD’s unsuccessful attempts to incite a military coup among Venezuela’s patriotic military officers alienated moderate liberal-democrats, some of whom either ‘jumped ship’ to support the Left or, more likely, abstained in October’s election.
  10. President Maduro’s moves toward negotiating favorable trade and investment deals with Russia, China and Iran encouraged voters to imagine that viable alternatives to the crisis were on the government’s agenda.

Many voters may have placed more trust in Maduro’s promise of serious new programs and policies to revive the economy. But more significantly, the PSUV’s established programs and future prospects were more appealing than MUD’s predictable denunciations of election fraud; and almost two-thirds of the electorate chose to participate in October’s elections. These ‘fraud’ charges only worked with MUD’s true believers who had either abstained, virtually ensuring a victory for the Left, or had voted and therefore made themselves ‘accessory to electoral fraud’, which they had denounced.

Conclusion

The MUD lost the state governor elections of October 2017, less than 2 years after they had won the congressional elections, by demonstrating their incompetence, their propensity for violence against serious democratic adversaries and their incapacity to fulfill any programmatic promises.

The PSUV won because of the Chavez legacy, the decision by middle-of-the-road voters to support a pragmatic ‘lesser evil’ over a violent opposition ‘greater evil’ promising chaos. Many voters are desperate for new and better policies to address Venezuela’s current economic challenges. Finally, many Venezuelans rejected US President Trump and OAS President Almagros’ blatant, arrogant assumption that they knew what was best for the people of Venezuela – even if it meant blood in the streets.

In the end, the Chavez legacy of successful class and national struggles carried more weight with the voters than the negative, chaotic impotence of a subservient opposition. The US/Venezuelan mass media’s efforts to undermine the government were defeated because the people responded to the socialist message that US-led economic warfare, and not government mismanagement, was the key cause of their social and economic decline. They had experienced more than a decade of independent foreign policy and Bolivarian socialist programs to compare with the chaos of ‘regime change’ promised by Washington and the opposition.

The Left won the battle for now but the war continues.


Please note James Petras’s most recent book:

THE END OF THE REPUBLIC AND THE DELUSION OF EMPIRE

ISBN: 978-0-9972870-5-9
$24.95 / 252 pp. / 2016
EBOOK ISBN: 978-0-9972870-6-6
ORDER E-BOOK:  $19.00

© Copyright 2017 by AxisofLogic.com

October 27, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | Leave a comment

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

By Rachael Boothroyd Rojas | Venezuelanalysis | October 18, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A resounding defeat for the Venezuelan opposition

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

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

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

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

Fraudulent “fraud” claims

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

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

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

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

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

Chavista celebrations after the electoral triumph (photo by AVN)

The road ahead

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

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

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

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

Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Lucas Koerner | Venezuelanalysis | October 16, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chavistas Take 17 of 23 States in Venezuelan Regional Elections as Opposition Cries Fraud

By Lucas Koerner – Venezuelanalysis – October 16, 2017

Caracas – President Nicolás Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) won 17 of 23 states in Sunday’s gubernatorial elections, the National Electoral Council (CNE) has confirmed.

According to CNE President Tibisay Lucena, 61.14 percent of Venezuela’s eighteen-million-strong electorate came out to vote, marking a record participation in the country’s regional elections, second only to the 65.45 percent turnout in 2008.

The result defied forecasts of high abstention fueled by the current economic crisis as well as polls showing dissatisfaction with the leadership of both the government and political opposition.

With 95 percent of all votes counted, the governing PSUV won in the states of Amazonas, Apure, Aragua, Barinas, Carabobo, Cojedes, Falcon, Guarico, Lara, Miranda, Monagas, Sucre, Trujillo, Yaracuy, Delta Amacuro, and Vargas.

For its part, the opposition Democratic Action party triumphed in Anzoátegui, Merida, Tachira, and Nueva Esparta, while the First Justice party took the strategic northwestern border state of Zulia.

The CNE has yet to release final results for the mineral rich Amazonian state of Bolivar in the country’s southeast border.

The PSUV won 54 percent of the total vote, marking a significant recovery since the ruling party’s landslide defeat in the 2015 parliamentary elections when it garnered only 40.8 percent of the vote. The pro-government upswing follows on the heels of July 30 National Constituent Assembly (ANC) elections, which saw over eight million people turn out to vote amid deadly opposition protests and escalating US pressure.

The CNE indicated that the right-wing opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable, won 45 percent of votes, amounting to a loss of 2.2 million votes relative to 2015.

Speaking late Sunday evening, President Maduro welcomed the result, vowing to work with the newly elected opposition governors.

“I extend my hand to the opposition governors to work with them for the peace and calm of the country,” he declared.

The head of state likewise called on the CNE to carry out a “100 percent audit” of all paper ballots from Sunday’s vote.

Under Venezuela’s electoral system, every electronic vote is backed up by a paper ballot, 50 percent of which are by law subject to recount in any given electoral cycle.

Despite scoring important victories in several key states, the MUD responded to the CNE announcement by refusing to recognize the results, alleging “fraud”.

In a press conference early Monday morning, MUD campaign head Gerardo Blyde rejected the outcome as “not reliable”.

Blyde cited the CNE’s controversial decision announced several weeks ago to relocate 334 voting centers – predominantly located in opposition areas and targeted by anti-government violence during the July 30 ANC vote– which he claimed impacted 700,000 people.

The Baruta mayor called on the CNE to “audit the whole process”, echoing President Maduro’s remarks several hours earlier.

Blyde urged opposition candidates to mobilize their supporters in the streets in the coming days to put pressure on the nation’s electoral authority.

October 16, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | | Leave a comment

Undermining Venezuela’s socialist government nothing new for Canada

By Yves Engler · September 23, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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