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Three National Guard Officials Arrested After Fatal Shooting of Protester

By Rachael Boothroyd Rojas | Venezuelanalysis | June 21, 2017

Caracas – Three Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) soldiers have been arrested following the fatal shooting of an anti-government protester in Caracas this past Monday.

First sergeant Raymon Ávila León and second sergeants Johan Rojas Díaz and Jesús Baez Rojas will be charged with the misuse of a firearm, according to national ombudsman, William Saab.

On Monday, 17 year old Fabian Urbina died from gunshot wounds when GNB soldiers opened fire on a crowd of protesters in the eastern district of Altamira. Five other demonstrators were also injured in the incident.

In footage of the confrontation circulated by the private media channel La Patilla on social media, hundreds of violent protesters can be seen attempting to attack several GNB officials prior to the shooting. At least one of the protesters was armed, leading some pro-government observers to speculate that the soldiers were acting in self defense.

But Saab condemned the incident Wednesday and stated that the national guard must only employ “proportional, progressive and differentiated use of force” to ensure their own safety at protests.

In a series of tweets, the national ombudsman reminded the public that the GNB are banned from using live ammunition or rubber bullets to control unrest. He also called on opposition sectors to cease their violent protests.

“We once again call on the organizers of demonstrations to carry them out peacefully and without the use of weapons,” he tweeted.

Following the incident, President Nicolas Maduro replaced Antonio Benavides Torres as the commander of the National Bolivarian Guard. The former commander of the People’s Guard, Major General Sergio José Rivero Marcano, will now take up the position.

The president also changed the commander-in-chiefs of the armed forces, navy, airforce, and people’s militia, as well as put Major General Juan de Jesús García Toussaintt and Admiral Orlando Maneiro Gaspar in charge of the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Fishing.

It is unknown if the high level reshuffle was related to Monday’s deadly shooting.

Eighty-four people have been killed since violence anti-government unrest broke out at the beginning of April. Protesters, national security personnel, pro-government activists and passersby are all amongst the dead.

June 22, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , | Leave a comment

The war for power in Venezuela’s countryside

By Marco Teruggi – 15 y Ultimo – June 16, 2017

Since opposition protests began in Venezuela in early April, much of the media coverage has focused on clashes in Caracas. However, the opposition’s campaign to bring down the government of Nicolas Maduro has not been limited to the country’s capital.

Marco Teruggi reports on a recent visit to the small, but strategic town of Socopo, in the largely rural state Barinas, which has been the site of a campaign of terror and an all-out struggle for power.

It was original published at 15 y Ultimo and has been translated by Green Left Weekly’s Federico Fuentes.

***

More than two months after the right-wing opposition began its campaign of full-frontal confrontation, we can start to see particular episodes as model cases.

Such is the case with Socopo, a town of 20,000 residents in the state of Barinas that for five days, during a period of time that can be divided into three moments, was an epicentre of violence: April 19 and 20; the intermediary phase; and May 22, 23 and 24. Behind closed doors, people are already saying there will be a fourth moment, based on an analysis of the plans to escalate the violence.

Socopo has various characteristics. It is situated along a main highway that unites San Cristobal, the capital of Tachira, with Barinas, and then continues to Caracas via Guanare, the capital of Portuguesa.

Its proximity to San Cristobal is important for two reasons: the first is that it is the rearguard of paramilitarism in Venezuela, from where they can restock on fighters, weapons and logistics.

The second is that it is where many of the vegetables that go to Caracas come from. Cut off Socopo, or more precisely its bridge, and you cut off transit for part of the food heading to Caracas, epicentre and designated site of the final battle.

Another key characteristic is the strength of the opposition in the area, comprised of a political wing, via the opposition-aligned mayor who guarantees, for example, that the municipal police will not intervene; an economic wing, with ranchers and a section of local traders providing funds; and an armed wing, in the form of paramilitaries that for years has been infiltrating the area.

All of this provides the opposition with an organisational, economic, intelligence and military structure, to go with the approximately 150 men and women it can count on to carry out its orders. This unity of action gives the opposition the ability to coordinate its movements in the area and the capacity to control it.

Chronology

April 19

Day the cycle begins. It coincides with national mobilisations in Caracas.

The right wing attacks a pro-government Chavista mobilisation with rocks, firebombs and homemade rockets. No firearms are detected.

They attack the house of a leader of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, burn the state-owned Bicentenario Bank and attempt to take over the local command station of the state police, an objective they fail to achieve

April 20

Coincides with a night of attacks in El Valle, Caracas.

From the morning, a group of 15 motorbikes and two cars circulate, carrying with them a list of Chavistas to kill. In the afternoon, right-wing groups now use firearms in a visible manner and 30 armed motorcyclists go shop to shop, forcing them to close.

They force the Bolivarian National Guard to retreat from the bridge. Once the strategic site is occupied, they cut off electricity to the town and set off a flare, a signal for the attack on the government-subsided Mercal food distribution outlet to begin. An armed group head there, leading a mobilisation; they open the gates and allow the looting to occur. Twenty-one tonnes of food are stolen.

Intermediary phase – April 21 to May 22

It is marked by almost daily, though smaller actions, including the setting up of roadblocks on the highway, charging tolls, looting trucks.

The support of the ranchers is explicit. They take meat to the roadblocks so that those participating can eat and stay the whole day.

It is an exercise in measuring the reaction of the state security forces, the time needed to reinforce their numbers, the reaction of the people.

One day stands out during this month: May 16. That day, they rob a truck with 1600 gas bottles, set them alight, attack a gas plant, the government-run agricultural supply outlet Agropatria and the state-owned Agricultural Bank, using the same method of cutting off electricity during the times of the attacks, which occur between 7pm and 5am.

They have access to radio transmitters, two drones, cars, motorbikes, satellite telephones, firearms, rifles with telescopic sight, chainsaws.

May 22

At 9am they hijack a PDVSA tanker truck and use it to cut off the highway. During the day, motorcyclists ride through the town, guns in hand, forcing shops to close. The lesson has been learnt: as shopkeepers see them arrive, they pull down the shutters.

The slogan repeated throughout the day on social media and in the streets is, “Fucking red rats, we are coming for you”, in reference to Chavistas. By now no one leaves home. The town has been almost completely taken over; the bridge is cut off until 6am the next day.

May 23

Actions occur simultaneously with events in Barinas. Socopo is cut off in both directions. Then comes the qualitative leap: the attack on the local command station of the state police. A group of 20 people with firearms, and a sniper, initiate the offensive. Behind them is a mob of approximately 150 people.

A shootout ensues for four hours – how many bullets are needed to last for this long? Six police officers are shot.

At the same time, in the same municipality, an assault is carried out on a detachment of the national police in Bum Bum, a few minutes away from Socopo.  Six police stations are attacked that day in the city of Barinas.

May 24

The police station is empty. The mob returns, sets it alight with petrol donated by a local trader, and then knocks it down with a backhoe lent to them by a rancher. They then advance with the backhoe, forcing open the shutters of shops that have not collaborated and looting them. They are led by a group of people in balaclavas and carrying guns.

They attack the Seniat tax office, Mercal and offices of the Barrio Nuevo Barrio Tricolor government housing project.

All access to Socopo is cut off. It has become a lawless town – that is how residents refer to it.

Many residents did not leave their homes for three days. Each night was pitch black, filled with the noise of gunshots and destruction. It was a campaign of terror, one of the methods of territorial control used by paramilitaries.

It was a demonstration of strength, of capacity to act and retreat by an armed force camouflaged as civilian; and an attempt to measure the response of the state, in particular its security forces.

This did not just occur in Socopo. Similar events occurred in Barinas, Valencia, San Antonio de Los Altos, Los Teques, La Grita, San Cristobal and other places in the country.

It was as if each town was converted into a battleground for one or more days. In places where paramilitaries have not taken hold, groups were dispatched to lead the campaigns.

These were actions with a symbolic and military impact, that sought to demonstrate to the right-wing’s base their power and how close they are to victory, and to impose terror and the sensation of a lack of protection in the Chavista ranks and the popular sectors.

This is the type of war they trialled between April 20 and the last days of May.

A new phase of violence

Starting in the second week of June, we have entered a new phase of violence.

Caracas has once again become the epicentre, with the objective of surrounding the Presidential Palace and generating a stirring sensation of being in reach of the final objective.  One of the distinctive marks of this phase is the combination of attacks in the west and east of the city, like a siege dealing multiple blows day-by-day, not allowing a moment’s rest.

One hypothesis is that in the next few days or weeks, all the tactics used since the start of April will be employed simultaneously: attacks on localities in the interior like the one in Socopo, roadblocks on main arterial highways, mobilisations from the east of Caracas, a show of force in popular neighbourhoods. It will be an attempt to unleash all the attacks simultaneously and generate a point of rupture.

Given what has occurred up until now, the plan will be accompanied by a political/media offensive, involving international support, the Attorney General (who has challenged the government in recent weeks) and the opposition-controlled National Assembly, in an attempt to press the accelerator on the clash between the different branches of the state.

This would create a combination of full-scale violence deployed across the country, with an extreme exacerbation of institutional conflict.

The possibility of a rupture grows. They have some 40 days to achieve it, according to some of their strategists.

This is the putschist route that the right has set out, the strategy of terror it has deployed. The question is: what should the government, the state security forces, Chavismo do?

It seems obvious that at the political level, the answer is to be found in the Constituent Assembly process; in ensuring it achieves deep-rooted popular support and a big vote on July 30.

But what about the violence? We can no longer allow ourselves to be taken by surprise.

The people, in their communities, are debating this issue.

June 19, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

2 Protesters, Opposition Politician Killed in Venezuela

By Ryan Mallett-Outtrim – Venezuelanalysis – June 16, 2017

Two opposition protesters were killed in Venezuela Thursday, in the wake of the assassination of a prominent right-wing politician.

The two latest deaths include 20-year-old protester Luis Enrique Vera Sulbaran and Jose Gregorio Perez Perez.

A university student, Vera died after being hit by a pick up truck while blocking a road in Venezuela’s second largest city, Maracaibo. The pick up truck was then torched by protesters.

Police believe the death occurred after the protesters attempted to loot the pick up truck, which was carrying medical supplies. According to Interior Minister Nestor Reverol, Vera was struck by the truck as the driver attempted to flee the robbery.

Opposition protesters are known to attempt to loot vehicles, and in some parts of the country there have been reports they demand bribes from motorists attempting to pass their barricades.

However, the official account of Vera’s death has been disputed by local opposition supporters, who have claimed the protesters didn’t try to loot the vehicle.

The driver has been charged with homicide.

Meanwhile, another protester has been killed in the violence-plagued state of Tachira. For weeks, Tachira has been one of the epicentres of opposition violence. On Thursday, protester Perez was shot by two unidentified assailants in Tachira’s Junin municipality shortly after taking part in a demonstration. According to El Universal, the two unknown attackers approached Perez in a cafe, and gunned him down without a word.

Some local opposition supporters have blamed government-backed groups for the killing, though they have yet to provide evidence to bolster the accusation.

The public prosecutor’s office has stated it is investigating the case.

“There was an irregular situation in which Perez … was shot in the face. Immediately, the young man was aided and transferred to the Padre Justo hospital in the municipality Junin, where he arrived without vital signs,” the prosecutor said in a statement.

Reverol has condemned the killing, and lamented it comes amid wider political violence in Tachira state. Bordering Colombia, Tachira has long struggled with paramilitary violence.

President Nicolas Maduro has also responded to the deaths, calling for calm and an end to violence.

“I call on the population, for the greatest calm, the greatest prudence and the greatest peace to avoid violence,” he said.

The deaths of Vera and Perez come just days after another high profile killing. On Monday, a prominent member of the right-wing Voluntad Popular party was killed in Puerto Ordaz, Bolivar state. The politician, Jose Santiago Molleton Quintero, was a pre-candidate for the position of mayor in the municipality of Soledad, according to the opposition-aligned El Nacional newspaper. He was also the head of a local union for heavy industrial workers.

According to local media reports, witnesses said Molleton was approached by an unidentified assailant in a restaurant. The attacker fired multiple shots, killing Molleton and injuring one other person.

Authorities say they are investigating the killing.

The latest killings bring the total death toll of the last two months of political unrest to 82, according to data compiled by venezuelanalysis.com. So far 22 of those deaths are suspected to be linked to the actions of opposition protesters, while 11 may have been caused by authorities. Thirteen were reportedly the result of looting, and two are suspected to have been linked to pro-government civilians. Two other deaths were accidents, while 30 took place under unclear or heavily disputed circumstances.

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

US Mulls Sanctioning Venezuelan Oil as ‘Economic War’ Continues

teleSUR | June 4, 2017

The Trump administration is debating imposing sanctions on Venezuela’s oil sector, while Washington has raised “concerns” about U.S. firms giving a “financial lifeline” to the South American nation.

Reuters reported Sunday that the White House could hit Venezuela’s vital oil and energy sector, including state-run oil company PDVSA, with a number of different sanctions, including the possibility of a blanket ban on Venezuelan oil imports — imports that the United States heavily relies on.

Since President Donald Trump took office in January, he has stepped up targeted sanctions against Venezuela, including against the vice president, the chief judge and seven other Supreme Court justices.

While Trump officials hem and haw over the move that would further incapacitate the Venezuela’s economy, other senior officials are raising concern about U.S. firms’ Venezuela investments.

After Goldman Sachs Group Inc. came under fire for purchasing US$2.8 billion of state oil company bonds, one official told Reuters, “We’re concerned by anything that provides a lifeline for the status quo.”

Last week, Venezuela’s right-wing opposition-controlled National Assembly threatened not to pay the PDVSA bonds purchased by Goldman Sachs through a third party broker.

The National Assembly’s head, Julio Borges, one of the most prominent opposition leaders in the country, claimed that in purchasing the bonds, Goldman Sachs was “extending a lifeline” to a “dictatorship” and funding “human-rights abuses.”

In response, Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami announced on Thursday that the government would be launching a lawsuit against him, condemning Borges’ attempt to cut off Venezuela from legal and transparent international investments.

“The deal with Goldman provides a desperately needed boost to Venezuela’s shrinking international reserves, which had fallen to US$10 billion amid stagnant global crude prices,” Venezuela Analysis reported.

Borges’ threats against Goldman Sachs are the latest in what the government has dubbed an “economic war” waged by international financial institutions and the right-wing opposition.

Last month, the National Assembly president sent over a dozen letters to various international banks requesting that they cut off all transactions with the Venezuelan government and state enterprises. The letters threatened that doing business in Venezuela “would be engaging in crimes, and that such contracts would be legally and morally unacceptable.”

This isn’t the first time the United States has pushed for sanctions against PDVSA. In 2011, the Obama administration punished the company for doing business with Iran, a country toward which the United States and its allies have long been hostile.

PDVSA and government officials have accused international financial institutions in the past of working in favor of right-wing groups to destabilize the country and its key economic driver, the oil sector.

What the Venezuelan government has called an “economic war” on the country parallels the financial destabilization targeting the socialist government of President Salvador Allende in Chile in the early 1970s ahead of the CIA-backed military coup that ousted him from office in 1973. The U.S.-backed economic warfare sought to weaken Chile by “making the economy scream,” as then-President Richard Nixon put it in orders to the CIA, in order to topple the Allende government.

Since taking office, Trump has continued a policy of U.S. hostility toward Caracas, including by meeting with opposition figure Lilian Tintori, wife of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, in the White House in February.

The U.S. has also backed a campaign in the Organization of American States that President Nicolas Maduro’s government has slammed as attempted intervention. Top Venezuelan officials have accused the body of violating Venezuela’s sovereignty and have therefore initiated the process to withdraw from it.

After the most recent OAS meeting last week, Bolivian President Evo Morales strongly condemned the regional body and specifically OAS secretary general, Luis Almagro, warning that, “If not physically, he wants to politically eliminate the anti-imperialist presidents and governments” of Latin America.

June 5, 2017 Posted by | Economics | , , , | Leave a comment

Venezuelan Youth Burned for ‘Being Chavista’ Dies from Injuries

By Lucas Koerner – Venezuelanalysis – June 5, 2017

Caracas – A Venezuelan man burned alive by opposition protesters has died of his injuries as anti-government unrest claimed two more lives over the weekend.

Afro-Venezuelan Orlando Figuera died in the hospital on Saturday evening after suffering six knife wounds as well as first and second-degree burns on 54 percent of his body.

On May 20, the 21-year-old was passing through the opposition stronghold of Chacao when he was accused of being a government supporter by masked protesters, who brutally beat him before dousing him in gasoline and setting him on fire.

The death was made public by the national ombudsman, Tarek William Saab, who called for the “maximum sentence against the lynchers”.

“Orlando Figuera, beaten, stabbed, and burned alive by “protesters”, is the symbol of hate crimes in Venezuela,” the top human rights official declared via Twitter.

In an interview with state broadcaster VTV, Figuera’s mother, Ines Esparragoza blamed opposition leaders for the murder.

“Why does [National Assembly President] Julio Borges allow this? Why does [Miranda Governor] Henrique Capriles allow it? Who do I blame? The opposition, because they are the ones who doused my son in gasoline like an animal,” she stated.

Esparragoza has reported being fired from her job as a domestic worker in a private residence, which she has denounced as a reprisal over the VTV interview.

For its part, the Public Prosecutor’s office (MP) has indicated that investigations into the murder continue and that the alleged perpetrators have been identified.

In addition to Figuera, two more people have died of injures linked to violent protests that have rocked the country for the past two months.

On Friday, Luis Miguel Gutierrez Molina (20) died of a bullet wound he suffered during a protest on May 17 in Merida state. El Universal has reported that the incident took place during clashes between demonstrators and authorities.

The MP has dispatched a state prosecutor to investigate the homicide.

Meanwhile in Lara, another man died in the hospital on Saturday after being shot in the vicinity of a protest on April 11.

According to the preliminary MP report, Yoiner Peña (28) was shot in the back near a protest in Barquismeto by unknown assailants in a pickup truck who reportedly opened fire on those present.

However, the national ombudsman’s office has issued a conflicting account, suggesting that Peña was “mortally wounded in an [anti-government] barricade”.

According to Saab, Peña was the ninth person killed at opposition barricades since the violent protests began on April 4.

Seventy-three people have lost their lives as a result of the unrest, including at least 11 people killed by authorities and 22 deaths caused by demonstrators.

Opposition leaders have announced a fresh round of protests for this week, vowing to remain in the streets until the government meets their various demands, including holding presidential elections one year ahead of schedule.

June 5, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , | Leave a comment

European ‘Left’ Caves in to Censorship and Media Lies

By Tortilla Con Sal | teleSUR | May 31, 2017

In 2011, the former European colonial powers, backed by the United States, with the complicity of the United Nations, worked with minority opposition forces to overthrow legitimate governments in Libya, Syria and the Ivory Coast. They trashed the very international law and basic human rights they cynically proclaimed to defend. In 1961, the Belgian and U.S. governments colluded directly in the murder of Patrice Lumumba, the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s elected Prime Minister.

No one should be surprised at how easily the majority of progressive opinion in the West is intimidated by bullying from the mainstream. The overwhelming majority of progressive Western media outlets and intellectuals either accepted or openly supported Western aggression and intervention in 2011, as if they had learned nothing in the 50 years following the martyrdom of Patrice Lumumba. The 2011 events faithfully re-enacted the catastrophe of the Congo 50 years earlier.

Subsequently, that country has suffered over five million deaths from civil war and foreign intervention, a holocaust shamefully ignored internationally. Similarly, the destruction of Libya and Syria have provoked catastrophic human suffering with millions displaced and hundreds of thousands killed. Now, the U.S. elites and their allies are applying the age old formula of 1961 and 2011 to Venezuela. What still passes for the Western Left should be ferociously defending Venezuela’s right to self-determination.

Instead, less blatantly than in 2011, majority progressive opinion has crumbled and folded against the same old imperialist psychological warfare offensive used against every imperialist target since the end of WWII. Most progressive comments on Venezuela implicitly validate corporate media spin that, as in Syria, Venezuela’s opposition can be neatly segmented into moderates and extremists when in fact the main opposition leaders refuse dialogue.

With great restraint, President Nicolas Maduro has banned the use of lethal force and persisted in efforts at negotiation. Extensive Western media coverage falsely promotes an image of government repression in Venezuela in sharp contrast to their failure in 2009 to cover murderous government repression in Honduras of massive peaceful protests against the country’s coup regime. Those protests lasted over four months, much longer than the Venezuelan opposition’s latest prolonged coup attempt. But events in Honduras received nothing like the coverage of the current crisis in Venezuela. Western media soft-pedalled events in Honduras because the U.S. authorities supported the coup, one they hope to see repeated in Venezuela.

Despite that self-evident fact, Western progressive opinion has effectively caved in to the false mainstream corporate media narrative that the Venezuelan opposition offensive is a legitimate one against a dictatorial government. That moral and political collapse makes itself evident in many ways.

The latest example in Europe is the illegal summary dismissal by a leading Swedish progressive media outlet of its most experienced journalist writing on Latin America, Dick Emanuelsson. Dick has covered Latin American news for over 35 years for the Flamman weekly. Based for many years in Bogota before moving to Tegucigalpa in 2006 where he works with his partner Mirian, Dick’s reports cover all of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Very clearly, Flamman’s decision is blatantly political and should certainly be seen in the context of the Swedish authorities’ support for U.S. attempts to censor Wikileaks in the case of Julian Assange. In Emanuelsson’s case, the decision will surprise no one with any experience with the phony progressive non-governmental and media sector in Western Europe and North America.

Just as Western governments trample human rights while claiming to defend them, so Western non-governmental sector managers abuse basic rights when it suits them. Obviously, Flamman’s editors can no longer accommodate Emanuelsson’s uncompromising support for radical political and social movements in Latin America because it conflicts with received wisdom in Sweden.

Emanuelsson is among the very few European reporters with a lifetime’s experience of reporting on Latin America and one of only a handful writing as revolutionaries. Over the years, his work on Colombia relentlessly exposed the paramilitary and narcotics links of Colombia’s ruling elite. He was practically the only European reporter writing first hand about the FARC-EP’s guerrilla struggle against successive corrupt genocidal Colombian governments and the persistent efforts of the Colombian guerrilla to work for peace.

Similarly, following the 2009 coup in Honduras, Dick and Mirian fearlessly reported the events of the coup itself, the murderous repression of the peaceful protest movement and the return of ousted President Manuel Zelaya. Subsequently, along with a few North American activists, they have worked in constant solidarity with Honduran activists and reporters documenting the corrupt regimes of Porfirio Lobo and Juan Orlando Hernandez.

But now, the supposedly progressive editors of one of Sweden’s leading labor media outlets ignominiously dismissed Emanuelsson two years before retirement, despite his unique record of commitment and achievement.

In order to fire Emanuelsson, Flamman’s editor blew out of proportion minor errors made in relation to a task that only takes up about 10 percent of his overall agreed workload, totally disregarding the Swedish Law of Employment’s Protection – an odd thing to do for a media outlet that regards itself as a defender of worker’s rights. No criticisms about his regular feature reports on Latin America nor about his overall coverage were issued. In fact, no such criticisms against his work have ever been made in almost 35 years!

The paper’s readership has always regarded Emanuelsson’s work as exemplary reporting unavailable elsewhere. On the basis of their flimsy pretext and ignoring his impressive track record, Flamman tried to dismiss him with no compensation. The flagrant illegality of the dismissal notice under Swedish labor law is beyond dispute. When his union intervened, Flamman upped their offer to a measly four month’s salary, a recompense adding insult to the injury of chronic insecurity.

Flamman is an ostensibly left-wing weekly associated with the former VPK Left Communist political party which years ago aligned with acceptable pro-imperialist opinion in Sweden. That realignment is part of the general drift to the right in Europe which has seen the neo-fascist Sverigedemokraterna party become the second most popular in the country. Rather than fight that drift, many former communists and other progressives in Sweden have accommodated to it. That reality is clear from the support of most progressive opinion in Sweden for NATO’s role in the destruction of Libya and Syria and the decline in solidarity with Cuba.

Domestically, Flamman’s treatment of Emanuelsson reflects the accommodation of Swedish former communists with the neoliberal agenda of Sweden’s business sector. Like so many phony progressives across Western Europe, Flamman’s editors talk excitedly about Podemos in Spain, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labor Party in the U.K. or even Syriza in Greece.

But their real commitments reveal themselves in the practice they apply to cases like that of Emanuelsson. People may or may not agree with the politics of his reporting any more than they have to agree with the politics of Julian Assange, but basic justice demands we should defend their fundamental human rights.

June 1, 2017 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | Leave a comment

US Policymakers Openly Plot Against Venezuela

By Tony Cartalucci | Land Destroyer | May 24, 2017

The US media has been paying increasing attention to the unfolding crisis in the South American nation of Venezuela. As the US media has done elsewhere, it is attempting to portray the unfolding crisis as a result of a corrupt dictatorship fighting against a “pro-democracy” opposition.

In reality, it is simply a repeat of US-driven regime change aimed at toppling Venezuela’s independent state institutions and replacing them with institutions created by and for US special interests.

The “opposition” is comprised of US-backed political parties and US-funded fronts posing as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) many of which are listed on the US State Department’s National Endowment for Democracy (NED) website.

The UK Independent in a 2016 article titled, “Venezuela accuses US of plotting coup as Washington warns of ‘imminent collapse’,” would even admit:

… observers of the region point out that the US has a long history of seeking to interfere in the politics of Venezuela, as well as elsewhere in Latin America.

In addition to supporting those who ousted Mr Chavez in 2002, the US poured hundreds of thousands of dollars to his opponents via the so-called National Endowment for Democracy.

To understand America’s actual role amid Venezuela’s unfolding crisis, one must read policy papers produced by organizations called “think tanks” which devise and promote US policy.

The Brookings Institution is a Fortune 500-funded policy think tank. It is populated by policymakers who represent the collective ambitions of some of the world’s most powerful corporate-financier interests including big-oil, defense, agricultural monopolies, pharmaceutical corporations, media interests, and more.

Some of the Brookings Institution’s corporate-financier sponsors

Brookings and think tanks similar to it, have regularly produced policy and media guidelines later disseminated across the Western media and Western legislatures through public relations firms and lobbyists. Think tanks are where the real agenda of the West is agreed upon and promoted from.

A recent piece featured upon the Brookings Institution’s website titled, “Venezuela: A path out of crisis,” lays out a 5-point plan toward escalating Venezuela’s already precarious situation (emphasis added):

1. The United States could expand its assistance to countries that until now have been dependent on Venezuelan oil, as a means to decrease regional support for and dependence on the Maduro government.

2. The United States could increase monetary assistance to credible civil society organizations and nongovernmental organizations able to deliver food and medicines to Venezuelans. By doing so, the United States should make clear that international pressure aims to support democracy, not punish the Venezuelan people.

3. The United States could support efforts by the opposition in Venezuela to build an “off-ramp” that would split moderate elements of the government away from hardliners, encouraging the former to acquiesce to a transition to democracy by lowering their costs of exiting government.

4. The United States could coordinate with international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to offer financial incentives for holding free and fair elections in 2018, and for the opposition to unify and compete in those elections. Such coordination would also involve developing and publicizing a credible plan to restart Venezuela’s economy.

5. As a last resort, the United States could consider raising economic costs to the government through an expanded sanctions regime that aims to limit Venezuelan earnings from oil exports and block further financing. This policy is risky, given that the Maduro government would be able to more credibly shift blame for the economic crisis onto the United States, and should be accompanied by well-publicized efforts to deliver humanitarian aid through credible civil society and nongovernmental organizations.

It is a prescription for further economic isolation, US-funded political subversion, and with its reference to “a transition to democracy,” an oblique call for regime change.

The US media – particularly organizations operating from under right cover – have portrayed Venezuela’s economic crisis as primarily related to “socialism” and corruption. In reality, factors that would have only impeded the full realization of Venezuela’s economic progress have been intentionally compounded through US sanctions, economic sabotage, and political subversion to precipitate the currently unfolding socioeconomic and humanitarian crisis.

Venezuela would not be the first nation the US targeted for economic implosion in South America.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in its own online archives available to the public under a section titled, “CIA Activities in Chile,” would admit (emphasis added):

According to the Church Committee report, in their meeting with CIA Director Richard Helms and Attorney General John Mitchell on 15 September 1970 President Nixon and his National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger, directed the CIA to prevent Allende from taking power. They were “not concerned [about the] risks involved,” according to Helms’ notes. In addition to political action, Nixon and Kissinger, according to Helms’s notes, ordered steps to “make the economy scream.”

These Cold War attitudes persisted into the Pinochet era. After Pinochet came to power, senior policymakers appeared reluctant to criticize human rights violations, taking to task US diplomats urging greater attention to the problem. US military assistance and sales grew significantly during the years of greatest human rights abuses. According to a previously released Memorandum of Conversation, Kissinger in June 1976 indicated to Pinochet that the US Government was sympathetic to his regime, although Kissinger advised some progress on human rights in order to improve Chile’s image in the US Congress.

With violence increasing in the streets of Venezuela and many of the rhetorical tactics used to set the stage for violent  regime change and humanitarian catastrophe in Libya and Syria are now being used to topple the government in Caracas – the world must get ahead of the propaganda and begin exposing this open conspiracy against yet another sovereign nation.

Venezuela’s political system is for the Venezuelan people themselves to decide – without US interference. A government dominated by US-backed opposition members will leave Venezuela as an extension of US corporate-financier special interests, not an alternative or check against them. This only serves in inviting further abuse by these interests not only in South America, but all around the world – Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, and Ukraine for example – where America’s unwarranted wealth and influence is sowing instability, conflict, and catastrophe.

May 28, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

Authoritarianism in Venezuela? A Reply to Gabriel Hetland

By Lucas Koerner | Venezuelanalysis | May 19, 2017

Venezuela is once again dominating international headlines as violent opposition protests bent on toppling the elected Maduro government enter their seventh week. The demonstrations have claimed to date at least 54 lives since April 4, surpassing the previous wave of violent anti-government protests in 2014, known as “the Exit”. However, this time around, the unrest coincides with a severe economic downturn and a transformed geopolitical landscape defined by the return of the right in Brazil and Argentina as well as an even more bellicose regime in Washington.

Meanwhile, the international outcry at this latest violent effort to oust the Chavista government has been far more muffled than the last time.

With the notable exception of an open letter by LASA members, a UNAC/BAP joint statement,  and other smaller protest actions, the US left has been largely passive vis-a-vis both the Trump administration’s escalating intervention against Venezuela as well as the systematic media blackout, preferring silence to active solidarity with Chavismo.

In this environment, some leftist academics have publicly broken with the Maduro administration over its response to the country’s current political and economic crisis.

In a recent piece for NACLA*, University of Albany Assistant Professor Gabriel Hetland parts ways with the Bolivarian government, citing concerns over Maduro’s “authoritarian” slide.

“Yet, while previous claims of Venezuela’s authoritarianism have had little merit, this is no longer the case,” he writes.

While we deeply respect Professor Hetland’s critical contributions to the debate on Venezuela, we at Venezuelanalysis ** – a collective of journalists and activists who at one point or another have lived, studied, and/or worked in Venezuela – firmly reject this charge of authoritarianism on both analytical and political grounds.

Setting the record straight

Hetland cites a number of recent actions of the Venezuelan government to bolster his claim, including the Venezuelan Supreme Court’s (TSJ) alleged “dissolving” of the opposition-held National Assembly (AN), the “cancel[ation]” of the recall referendum, the postponing of “municipal and regional elections that should have occurred in 2016”, and the TSJ’s blocking of the AN’s legislative activity in 2016.

There are of course a number of serious problems with this account.

To begin, several elements of this narrative are misleadingly presented, if not all-together factually inaccurate.

First of all, as Venezuelanalysis reported at the time, the TSJ’s March 29 decisions did not “dissolve” the Venezuelan National Assembly as was almost uniformly reported in the mainstream press. Rather, the rulings sought to temporarily authorize the judiciary to take on pertinent legislative functions, which in this particular case meant approving a pressing joint venture agreement between Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA and its Russian counterpart, Rosneft, which was critical for the former’s solvency. The ruling – which was based on article 336.7 of the Venezuelan constitution – provoked a rift within Chavismo, with the current and former attorney generals lining up on opposite sides of the constitutional divide. One can certainly criticize the since-reversed decision on constitutional and political grounds, but to present it as a “dissolution” of the parliament is just disingenuous.

This brings us to the question of the Supreme Court’s blocking of the opposition-majority legislature in 2016. It is undeniable that the TSJ did in fact strike down three of the four laws the AN managed to approve last year. However, it takes two to tango and Hetland severely understates the opposition’s own role in this protracted institutional standoff. It’s important to note that the AN did not “act beyond its authority” only “in some cases”, as Hetland describes.

From quite literally the moment that the new AN was sworn-in in January 2016, the body explicitly declared war on the Bolivarian institutional order crafted by Chavismo, with AN head Henry Ramos Allup promising to oust Maduro “within six months” – a blatantly unconstitutional threat against a sitting president. A sampling of the legislation pursued by the National Assembly in 2016 includes a law to privatize Venezuela’s public housing program, a law to return expropriated lands and enterprises to their former owners, a law forcing the executive to accept humanitarian aid into the country, the infamous Amnesty Law, as well as a constitutional amendment retroactively shortening the presidential term by two years. We can add to this list the opposition’s attempted parliamentary coup, in which it declared that Maduro had “abandoned his post” first in October and again this past January – which Hetland likewise neglects to acknowledge. Nor does he mention the reason for the legislature’s current “null” status, namely the opposition’s refusal to unseat three of its lawmakers from Amazonas state currently under investigation for alleged vote-buying in flagrant violation of the high court. Again, one may still criticize the TSJ’s blockage of the AN, but to understate the parliament’s systematic efforts to overthrow the Bolivarian government by any means necessary is quite misleading.

Hetland similarly omits the opposition’s own role in the suspension of the recall referendum (RR) process. As we noted, the opposition-held parliament came into office with the objective of overthrowing Maduro “within six months” – a goal evidently incompatible with the RR, which takes a minimum of eight months. Indeed, the RR was just one of the strategies in the opposition’s four-pronged plan to oust Maduro unveiled in March 2016, which also included the aforementioned constitutional amendment, a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution (which the opposition now opposes), and heating up the streets to force Maduro’s resignation. As a result of the opposition’s own internecine divisions, it delayed in beginning the RR and made serious procedural errors, such as collecting 53,658 fraudulent signatures, which gave the government a pretext to indefinitely stall the process in the courts. There is no doubt that the Maduro administration dragged its feet on the RR process knowing full well it would likely lose, but this was hardly the one-sided drama presented by Hetland.

Lastly, the National Electoral Council (CNE) did in fact postpone the regional elections scheduled for last year, citing logistical conflicts with the RR process, a move which is indefensible on constitutional and political grounds. However, it’s worth noting that there is a precedent for such a delay: the local elections slated for December 2004 were similarly postponed until August 2005 on account of the recall referendum against then President Chávez the year before. Hetland passes over this important detail in his rush to indict Venezuela’s democratic credentials.

Moreover, while it’s perfectly legitimate to criticize the Bolivarian government for delaying the governors’ races, municipal elections are a different story. Local elections are scheduled for 2017, meaning that they can be held any time before the close of the year. In suggesting that the government has postponed local elections, Hetland commits yet another factual error that serves to inflate his largely ideological case for the Maduro administration’s “creeping authoritarianism”, as we shall see below.

Fetishizing liberal democracy

Beyond these factual errors and misrepresentations, the main problem with Hetland’s piece is his implicit notion of “authoritarianism”, which he at no point takes the time to actually define.

Without going extensively into the genealogy of this term, it’s key to remember that authoritarianism is hardly a politically neutral concept.

As Hetland correctly observes, the charge of authoritarianism was dubiously leveled against the Chávez administration and other “pink tide” governments who were excoriated by Western commentators and political scientists for daring to challenge the hegemony of (neo)liberal capitalist representative democracy.

Indeed throughout the last decade, political scientists led by former Mexican foreign minister Jorge Casteñeda have distinguished between a “good” reformist, liberal left epitomized by Brazil’s Lula Da Silva that is willing to play ball with the Washington and transnational capital and a “bad” radical, populist left embodied by Hugo Chávez, which has opened up the liberal representative floodgates to direct mass participation in democratic governance.

As Sara Motta underlines, this binary is deeply colonial in nature: the “mature” and Westernized “good-left” has learned from the alleged failures of revolutionary Marxism and embraced incremental reform, while the “bad-left” remains mired in the clientelism and tribal authoritarianism of the “pre-modern” past, rendering it hostile to liberal democracy.

This “good-left”/“bad-left” dichotomy is of course nothing new, amounting to a minor aesthetic rehashing of the “revolutionary”/“democratic” distinction applied to the Latin American left in the wake of the Cuban Revolution, which in turn is founded on the classic “civilization” versus “barbarism” divide.

Hetland, in lieu of questioning the liberal ideological criterion behind this colonial binary, preserves the distinction, announcing that the Maduro government has passed over into the dark realm of authoritarianism:

By cancelling the recall referendum, suspending elections, and inhibiting opposition politicians from standing for office, the Venezuelan government is systematically blocking the ability of the Venezuelan people to express themselves through electoral means. It is hard to see what to call this other than creeping authoritarianism.

In other words, “authoritarianism” for Hetland seems to amount to the quashing of proceduralist liberal democratic norms, including most notably separation of powers, threatening the political rights of the country’s right-wing opposition.

What we get from this formalist approach is a sort of Freedom House-style checklist in which the pluses and minuses of global South regimes (freedom of speech, press, etc.) are statically weighed and definitive moral judgement concerning “democratic quality” are handed down. Venezuela is still not yet a “full-scale authoritarian regime,” Hetland tells us, “given the opposition’s significant access to traditional and social media and substantial ability to engage in anti-government protest.” In this point, Hetland’s conclusion is virtually indistinguishable from that of mainstream Latin American studies, which has long invented convoluted monikers such as “participatory competitive authoritarianism” to characterize the Bolivarian government.

The trouble with this perspective is that it ends up reifying these so-called authoritarian practices, casting them as the cause – together with the opposition’s regime change efforts – of Venezuela’s current crisis rather than a symptom of the underlying correlation of forces.

The Maduro administration’s alleged steamrolling of certain liberal democratic norms – particularly the postponement of regional elections – is undoubtedly quite concerning, precisely because it evidences the catastrophic impasse in the Bolivarian revolutionary process.

We at Venezuelanalysis have long been critical of the Bolivarian government’s top-down institutional power plays to contain the opposition’s efforts to oust Maduro, which we view as a conservative attempt to maintain the status quo in lieu of actually mobilizing the masses of people from below to break the current deadlock and resolve the crisis on revolutionary terms.

In this vein, we have critiqued those tendencies within the Venezuelan state which we see as consolidating the power of corrupt reformist “Boli-bourgeois” class fractions in the bureaucracy and armed forces, including direct military control over imports, the de-facto liberalization of prices, reduced social spending coupled with draconian debt servicing, the Orinoco Mining Arc, a dubious but since-modified party registration process, and a conservative turn in anti-crime policy.

Yet Hetland is strangely silent regarding these reformist retreats and regressions over the past four years, which for all intents and purposes are far more serious than many of the above “authoritarian” abuses he describes.

It is precisely here that the charge of “authoritarianism” betrays its liberal ideological bias: by prioritizing the procedural violations affecting the bourgeois right-wing opposition, Hetland renders invisible the underlying dynamics of class warfare brutally impacting the popular classes.

Therefore, contra Hetland, the problem is not that liberal democratic norms have been undercut per se, but rather that the revolutionary construction of alternative institutions of radical grassroots democracy – the “communal state” in Chávez’s terms – has come up against decisive structural roadblocks.

Here we must be unequivocal: liberal democracy is not absolute nor universal, and its relation to revolutionary processes is always mediated by context. To impose these norms on the Cuban Revolution, for instance, in its context of genocidal imperial siege is the height of absurdity and political irresponsibility. Given these circumstances, Cuba’s model of revolutionary democracy – despite all its faults and limitations – is no less legitimate than other democratic socialist projects that have made strategic use of elements of liberal democracy, such as Chile and Nicaragua in the 70s and 80s or Venezuela and Bolivia today.

The Bolivarian process is, however, fundamentally different, as it is premised on an electoral road to socialism in which the existing bourgeois democratic order is approached as a strategic space of counter-hegemonic struggle. In this context, the suspension of certain liberal rights such as elections or specific opposition freedoms would only be acceptable under exceptional circumstances in which the Bolivarian government were actually taking revolutionary measures to resolve the current crisis and commanded unquestioned legitimacy among its social bases.

Despite the undeniable spiral of political and economic violence driven by the opposition, Venezuela is unfortunately not going through an equivalent of a “special period” insofar as the leadership of the party and state has thus far failed to go on the offensive against endemic corruption and take the fight to the local and transnational capitalist enemy as was the case during crucial revolutionary turning points in Russia, China, and Cuba.

Given this reality, the message coming from some sectors of Chavismo that there can be no elections under conditions of warfare – a legitimate argument in other contexts including Nazi-besieged Britain – is questionable at best. Nonetheless, this counterfactual is useful insofar as it demonstrates that liberal democracy is a wholly inadequate yardstick for evaluating revolutionary processes, confounding far more than it clarifies, as in the case of Hetland’s critique of “authoritarianism” in Venezuela.

Throw them all out?

In this diagnosis of causes of the current crisis, our position coincides with that of the vast majority of Venezuelan left-wing movements whose chief grievance is hardly the litany of “authoritarian” practices against the right-wing opposition enumerated by Hetland, but, on the contrary, the reformist and at times outright counter-revolutionary policies being pursued by the Maduro government.

The same is true for Venezuela’s popular classes – the social base of Chavismo – who don’t particularly care that the Supreme Court has blocked the National Assembly and the president has been ruling by emergency economic decree since February 2016. According to independent pollster Hinterlaces, around 70 percent of Venezuelans negatively evaluate the opposition-controlled parliament, while 61 percent have little faith that a future opposition government will address the country’s deep economic problems. Rather, the majority of Venezuelans want the Maduro administration to remain in power and resolve the current economic crisis. Their discontent flows not from Maduro’s use of emergency powers – contrary to the international media narrative – but rather from his failure to use them to take decisive actions to deepen the revolution in lieu of granting further concessions to capital.

Despite the setbacks, retreats, and betrayals that have characterized the past four years since the death of Chávez, the mood among the Venezuelan masses is not a uniform rejection of Venezuela’s entire political establishment as Hetland suggests in a sweeping generalization:

If any slogan captures the current mood of the popular classes living in Venezuela’s barrios and villages it is likely this: Que se vayan todos. Throw them all out.

While Chavismo has undoubtedly bled significant support over the past five years and the ranks of independents, or ni-nis, has swollen to over 40 percent of the population , the PSUV remarkably remains the country’s most popular party, actually increasing its support from 27 to 35 percent since January. Similarly, Maduro still has the approval of approximately 24 percent of Venezuelans, making him more popular than the presidents of Brazil, Mexico, and Chile – a fact consistently suppressed by international corporate media. These poll numbers are nothing short of incredible in view of the severity of the current economic crisis ravaging the country, speaking to the partial efficacy of some of the government’s measures such as the CLAPs as well as the opposition’s utter failure to present any alternative program.

Likewise, despite growing disillusionment with the government and hints at a possible rupture, the fact is that the overwhelming majority of Venezuela’s social movements and left-wing political parties continue to back Maduro.

What’s more is that this left unity in support of the Bolivarian government has only hardened in the face of the ongoing opposition onslaught and in anticipation of the National Constituent Assembly to be held in the coming months.

However baffling on the surface, this staunch defense of the Maduro administration actually makes perfect sense for at least two reasons.

First, as any Chavista who has lived through the last six weeks of right-wing terror can attest to, the choice between the continuity of Chavismo in power and an opposition regime is not a matter of mere ideological preference – it’s a question of survival, as there is no predicting the extent of the political and structural violence the opposition would unleash if they manage to take Miraflores. This is in no way to deny or downplay the fallout of the current economic crisis, for which the government bears a great deal of responsibility, but there is no doubt that an opposition government would take this economic war on the poor to new levels of neoliberal savagery.

Second, the existence of the Bolivarian government embodies the lingering possibility of transforming the inherited bourgeois petro-state as part of the transition to 21st Century socialism. While there is cause for skepticism about the real possibilities of pushing forward the democratization and decolonization of the Venezuelan state in this conjuncture, there has been an outpouring of grassroots support for the National Constituent Assembly which could serve as a vehicle to retake the revolutionary offensive and institutionalize radical demands from below.

This broad-based consensus of critical support for the government on the part of Venezuela’s left stands sharply at odds with Hetland’s “plague on both your houses approach”, which, in Steve Ellner’s terms, ends up “placing opposition and Chavista leaders in the same sack” as equally undesirable alternatives.

While there is indeed tremendous anger and frustration with the government – which may in fact translate to a crushing electoral defeat for Chavismo in the next elections – the prevailing sentiment among much of Venezuela’s popular classes in the face of the opposition’s present reign of terror remains “no volverán” (they shall not return).

The role of solidarity

All of this brings us to the position of international solidarity activists with respect to Venezuela.

We wholeheartedly agree with Hetland that it is the duty of each and every self-respecting leftist and progressive to “reject any and all calls for imperialist interventions aimed at ‘saving’ Venezuela”.

Nevertheless, while anti-interventionism is urgently necessary, this begs the question, with whom are we supposed to be in solidarity?

Hetland calls on us to stand with “the majority of Venezuelans who are suffering at the hands of a vengeful, reckless opposition, and an incompetent, unaccountable government.”

The end result of such a “plague on both your houses” approach is a refusal to take a side in this struggle – in a word, neutrality. This posture flows naturally from Hetland’s liberal framework of authoritarianism, which necessarily posits the Western intellectual as a disembodied arbiter – occupying the Cartesian standpoint of the “eye of God” in Enrique Dussel’s terms – uniquely capable of objectively weighing the democratic virtues and deficits of Third World regimes.

In contrast, we at Venezuelanalysis stand unconditionally with Venezuela’s Bolivarian-socialist movement, which at this conjuncture continues to critically support the Maduro administration.

We take this stance not out of a willful blindness to the Bolivarian government’s many faults and betrayals, but because we (and particularly our writers on the ground) know that for a great many Chavistas the choice between radicalizing the revolution and right-wing restoration is, quite literally, a matter of life and death.

A version of this article was submitted to NACLA, but no initial response was received. The editor elected to go ahead and publish at venezuelanalysis.com in the interest of a timely response. UPDATE: NACLA did ultimately respond to our submission on the afternoon of May 19, but by that time, the article was already published. 

** Written by Lucas Koerner on behalf of Venezuelanalysis’ writing and multimedia staff as well as VA founder Greg Wilpert.

May 20, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

US Accused of Promoting Venezuela Intervention at UN

By Ryan Mallett-Outtrim | Venezuelanalysis | May 18, 2017

The United States took to the United Nations Wednesday to compare Venezuela’s current political crisis to Syria.

For the first time, the US brought Venezuela’s current crisis before the UN Security Council (UNSC), though Washington claimed it wasn’t looking for international intervention in the South American country.

“The intent of this briefing was to make sure everyone is aware of the situation … we’re not looking for Security Council action,” US ambassador Nikki Haley told reporters after the meeting.

Haley continued by stating the international community needs to take action on Venezuela, including to “say ‘respect the human rights of your people’ or this is going to go in the direction we’ve seen so many others go”.

“We have been down this road with Syria, with North Korea, with South Sudan, with Burundi, with Burma,” she said.

She also sought to distance the US from allegations made by Caracas that Washington is seeking regime change.

“We’re not for the opposition, we’re not for President Maduro, we’re for the Venezuelan people,” she said.

The US Department of State has requested at least US$5.5 million in funding this year to “help civil society” groups in Venezuela. Critics allege these groups are almost entirely opposition organisations. Venezuelan state media outlet teleSUR has alleged this funding is just the tip of the iceberg and that the State Department has so far funneled at least US$49 million to Venezuela’s opposition since 2009.

Venezuela responds

Venezuela responded to the UNSC meeting by accusing the US of seeking to destabilize the Maduro administration.

“US meddling is what is stimulating the actions of violent groups in Venezuela,” Venezuelan UN Ambassador Rafael Ramirez stated.

Venezuelan allies likewise condemned the meeting, accusing the US of seeking to use the UNSC as a vehicle to promote regime change.

“We are concerned when international security issues are confused with an interventionist agenda,” warned Bolivia’s ambassador, Sacha Llorenti.

Meanwhile, Uruguayan ambassador Elbio Rosselli expressed concern over Venezuela’s political crisis, but called for an internal solution through dialogue.

“The only possible solution is a political understanding between the disputing sides in Venezuela,” Rosselli said.

“They themselves are the ones who must put the situation in their own hands and carry negotiations to a satisfactory outcome,” he added.

Then on Thursday, Russia offered to provide assistance in resolving Venezuela’s political stand-off, while calling for respect for the rule of law.

“Any action of the parties, both the government and the opposition forces, should be … solely within the legal sphere, in strict accordance with the constitution, and without any destructive external interference,” Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zajarova said.

Venezuela is currently in the grip of its worst economic downturn in two decades, as violent protests by the country’s right-wing opposition are poised to enter their eighth week.

May 19, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

The Guardian Takes Aim at Venezuela’s Democracy

By Joe Emersberger | teleSUR | April 26, 2017

From 2006 to 2012, The Guardian’s output on Venezuela was dominated by its Caracas-based reporter, Rory Carroll, who tirelessly demonized, ridiculed and lied about the government of former president Hugo Chavez as it made rapid progress on reducing poverty.

The Guardian recently published an editorial saying that President Nicolas Maduro’s government must be threatened with “pariah status” by the “international community“ if it does not hold presidential elections by the end of 2018. This comes from a newspaper that continually attempts to rehabilitate former British prime minister Tony Blair, a man who played a key role in launching a war of aggression that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. But no pariah status for him.

The imperial hypocrisy on display is stunning.

The Guardian editors cited the New York Times editorial board to back up their stance on Venezuela. In 2002, the New York Times editorial applauded a U.S.-backed military coup that ousted Chavez for two days.

“With yesterday’s resignation of President Hugo Chavez, Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator. Mr. Chavez, a ruinous demagogue, stepped down after the military intervened and handed power to a respected business leader, Pedro Carmona,” wrote the morally challenged “paper of record.”

In fact, two of the opposition leaders The Guardian mentioned in its editorial, Leopoldo Lopez and Henrique Capriles, not only supported but participated in that coup. They led the kidnapping of government officials on behalf of Pedro Carmona. The Guardian, however, made no mention of the 2002 coup at all.

That coup continues to hover over Venezuela because so many of the opposition’s most prominent leaders either supported or participated in it. Julio Borges, head of the opposition-led Nation Assembly, supported the 2002 coup and routinely makes very thinly veiled appeals for the military to oust Maduro. Borges just did so in the pages of El Universal, one of the country’s largest newspapers, where he regularly publishes op-eds.

The other day, a news report on Venezuela’s largest TV network, Venevision, featured opposition politician Marialbert Barrios making a very similar appeal to the military.

The Guardian editors regurgitate a talking point that has been common in the western media: that Venezuela was “once South America’s richest country.” That’s true if the measure one uses is gross domestic product, GDP, per capita adjusted by purchasing power parity, PPP. But that measure says nothing about distribution.

Venezuela had a poverty rate of 50 percent in 1998 when Chavez was first elected even though it was second in South America at the time by GDP per capita. By the United Nation’s Human Development Index, HDI, a composite measure that takes into account life expectancy, education and national income, Venezuela ranked below several Latin American countries in 1998. Its HDI ranking then improved drastically until 2013, the year Chavez died. Using the U.N.’s most recent data and taking full account of the recent devastating recession it has experienced, Venezuela continues to rank above most countries in South America by HDI despite ongoing economic hardships.

There certainly are avoidable child deaths in Venezuela as The Guardian editors said. There always have been, but such deaths are more prevalent throughout the rest of the region, including Peru, whose right-wing government has loudly demanded that Venezuela deal with its “humanitarian crisis.”

Then there is Colombia, a country that has millions of internally displaced people, rivaling Syria. Colombia is also a country with a military that is being investigated by the International Criminal Court for murdering thousands of innocent people. In The Guardian’s universe, this arms client state of the U.S. and U.K. is just another “respectable” member of the “international community” that must straighten out Venezuela.

The Guardian is inexcusably sloppy in other claims.

It says inflation is at 800 percent. Torino Capital, a source that is very critical of the Maduro government, said inflation averaged 299 percent last year and projects it will average 434 percent next year. Unemployment was at 7.3 percent last year. Torino also projects a very small contraction of real GDP (-0.5 percent) next year and a return to growth by 2018. It has also commissioned polls from Datanalisis, an opposition-aligned pollster. Incidentally, the president of Datanalisis, Luis Vicente Leon, also criticizes the government in the pages of El Universal on a regular basis. As of March, according to Datanalisis, Maduro’s approval rating was 24.1 percent and has been steadily increasing in 2017. At the same time, the approval ratings of the most popular opposition leaders have fallen to 40 percent. These facts have been blacked out by the international press.

The Maduro government has not dealt with the root cause of the economic crisis, but, through direct deliveries of supplies to the poor (where its political support is concentrated) it has clearly alleviated the suffering of the poorest to a significant extent. Rachael Boothroyd-Rojas, and independent journalist based in Caracas for many years, noted that “there is a government store just below where I live and I haven’t seen queues there for months! Last year they were awful.”

Boothroyd-Rojas reports that there are still queues outside stores in Caracas but that they are nothing like they were months ago, and that government direct deliveries to the poor “have made a big difference to those who receive them.”

It should be noted that in December 2015, Datanalisis said Maduro’s approval rating was 32 percent just before his allies won 41 percent of the vote in National Assembly elections. It is not hard to see why opposition leaders have decided to “up their game” in terms of economic and political sabotage. Opposition leaders have openly boasted of working to block the government’s access to external financing.

Boothroyd-Rojas, who lives in a poor Caracas neighborhood, has noted the contradictions the international press has embraced to put the best face it can on the opposition’s violence. Vandalism of public property, including hospitals in poor neighborhoods, is dishonestly pointed to as evidence that the poor are starting to turn on the government: a claim The Guardian editors make. But when the middle and upper-class nature of the protests is too obvious to deny, it is alleged that the poor are simply “too hungry” to join in.

The opposition has resorted to widespread vandalism, including the torching of a Supreme Court office, and marching into areas where they have not been issued authorization — precisely to prevent a repeat of the 2002 coup — to provoke confrontation which it then points to as “repression.”

Honest, informed reporting would quickly expose those cynical tactics which are the same ones used in 2002 and again in 2014, but that’s clearly beyond what The Guardian editors are willing or able to do. We can only hope they won’t run an op-ed about Venezuela written by Blair any time soon.

April 27, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | 1 Comment

As Protests Rage in Venezuela, US Media Silent on Pro-Government Movements

Sputnik – April 26, 2017

As clashes between the Maduro government in Venezuela and the opposition are getting more and more fierce, the US media is openly calling for an economic war against the Bolivarian Revolution government, blaming it for casualties on both sides of the conflict.

Speaking to Radio Sputnik’s Brian Becker, author, journalist and lecturer Arnold August noted that the US media has a very clear stance: that Maduro and his Bolivarian Revolution government are responsible for everything bad that is happening in the country. Those who do not blame Maduro directly nonetheless report on the issue in such a way as to create the impression that Maduro is responsible, August said.

​For example, an April 24 opinion piece by the Washington Times is entitled “Venezuela’s coming civil war: Maduro is arming his thugs to crush the democratic hopes of his desperate people.”

Reuters took a more subtle approach, reporting casualties among civilians without naming who fired the shots, on April 25.

“A 42-year-old man who worked for local government in the Andean state of Merida died from a gunshot in the neck at a rally in favor of president Nicolas Maduro’s government, the state ombudsman and prosecutor’s office said,” the report reads.

“Another 54-year-old man was shot dead in the chest during a protest in the western agricultural state of Barinas, the state prosecutor’s office added without specifying the circumstances,” it continues.

Major media, such as the Miami Herald and CNN, reported in the last few days that the US will have to consider imposing “serious sanctions” on Venezuela, should Maduro fail to host “free and fair” elections, allowing opposition leaders to campaign, August recalled. The US media also purposefully omits reports of demonstrations by the Chavistas — the supporters of the acting government.

The Green Left news website, on the other hand, reported “tens of thousands” of pro-government activists. Deutsche Welle carefully refrained from separating the sides, giving an overall estimate of 6 million people protesting on April 19.  August claimed there were 3 million pro-government protesters across the whole country. All agree that these demonstrations have been the largest in the history of the nation.

August mentioned an opinion piece written for CNN by Jose Miguel Vivanco and Tamara Taraciuk Broner, “high-ranking members” of Human Rights Watch, August explained. Human Rights Watch is heavily financed by George Soros, who is known to be a big proponent of regime change around the world.

Vivanco and Taraciuk’s piece promotes the narrative that all of the deaths and violence in the country are “rightfully” blamed on Maduro, and that international pressure is needed to restore “human rights and democracy in Venezuela.”

“This is one big lie, if I may be quite frank,” August commented.

The US may be up to more than just harsh words in the media, August noted. On April 24, the Maduro government seized a General Motors factory in Venezuela, forcing the company to flee the country, leaving 2,700 people without jobs.

Officially, GM did not pay its taxes and refused to conform to “basic economic and financial rules,” August explains.

But he speculates that GM could have been involved in a darker scheme, similar to what happened in Chile in the 1973 coup d’état against Salvador Allende government.

“Main enterprises in Venezuela — General Motors, but there are others as well — were specifically organizing to hoard goods, to keep it away from the people, in order to create problems, to create a situation where people are starving, etc.,” August told Becker, adding that US companies also cut flights to Venezuela in an attempt to harm its income from tourism.

“It is undeniable that there are internal problems and weaknesses in the economy under the Bolivarian Revolution, but the main feature of the problem at this time is what has been induced and still being induced by the US and its allies,” he said.

April 26, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | Leave a comment

Chavista Trade Unionist Kidnapped and Murdered in Venezuela

By TeleSUR | April 25, 2017

Venezuelan trade union leader Esmin Ramirez was killed Sunday in the southeastern state of Bolivar after being kidnapped in an act that people close to him claim was politically motivated.

Ramirez, who was a member of the Movement 21 labor syndicate in the state-run iron ore producer Ferrominera and part of the PSUV political party in Cachamay, was killed in El Rinconcito sector in Guayana City, a city along the bank of the Orinoco River in Bolivar state.

The leader was killed by several gunshots to the head. He had been previously kidnapped on Saturday night in San Felix. His body was retrieved by officials Sunday.

Ferrominera expressed condolences in a statement on social media, saying the company hoped that authorities would investigate and clarify the details surrounding the Ramirez’ death.

Ramirez had denounced previous attacks against other members of his organization in the past and was an active participant in marches in support of President Nicolas Maduro, who has in recent weeks faced a wave of violent anti-government protests demanding his ouster.

The union leader was preparing for a massive march for International Worker’s Day on May 1.

Meanwhile, another grassroots leader, Jacqueline Ortega, was murdered in the greater Caracas area in Santa Lucia del Tuy on Saturday. Ortega was also a member of the PSUV as well as a leader in her community’s Local Production and Supply Committee, known as CLAP, a government-created alternative food distribution program.

Ortega was reportedly shot dead in her home by four masked assailants.

Edited by Venezuelanalysis.com.

April 26, 2017 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture | , | Leave a comment