Transparent manoeuvre

The West is cringing about Iran’s action against a British tanker – and is taking far worse for itself.

by Rubicon’s World Editorial Office

The application of double standards has already become so normal that we simply accept this strategy, says Peter König in his contribution to the conflict that is currently escalating in the Middle East. How else could the West simply accept the act of pure piracy in the unlawful boarding of an Iranian tanker while screaming teter and murder in the lawful boarding of a British tanker by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards?The British-flagged tanker “Stena Impero” to Saudi Arabia was upset by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards on Friday 19 July 2019 in the Strait of Hormus after ignoring the cry for help from an Iranian fishing boat and ramming it.

Open provocation?

The tanker was taken to an Iranian port because it did not “comply with international shipping law,” the Iranian Revolutionary Guards said. More importantly, the ship did not respond to several warnings from helicopters and Iranian boats because it had apparently disabled its transponder. One has to wonder how this could happen under the guidance of professional seamen – unless it was an open provocation.

The safety of shipping in the Strait of Hormus is extremely important – 20 to 30 per cent of the world’s maritime oil is shipped through this bottleneck into international waters before it reaches the Gulf of Oman. The strait is closely monitored by Iran, as it is extremely important to it in terms of safety. Blocking this passage as a result of conflict could bring the world economy to a standstill.

It is about the nuclear agreement

Are those who carry out these provocations – here Great Britain as Washington’s puppet – aware of what is at stake? Do they want to bring the Middle East to the brink of war? A regional war that could easily become a world war? In the long term this may well be intentional. In the short term, on the other hand, it looks as if they want to heat up the escalation to such an extent that the US satellite Europe no longer insists on adhering to its part of the nuclear treaty (JCPOA), and on the other hand put Iran under so much pressure that it finally enters into bilateral negotiations with the US on its nuclear programme. The first objective would be achievable, the second in no way. Iran does not fall for such deception – especially not for a country that unilaterally cancels an agreement that had been negotiated for almost two years (since November 2013) before signing the five plus one, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – China, France, Russia, Great Britain and the USA with Germany and the EU – plus, of course, Iran on 14 July 2015 in Vienna, Austria.

Not only did President Trump, led by his buddy, Israel’s Netanyahu, unilaterally rip the deal apart – in addition to all the Western lies and slander propaganda, he also relaunched one of the toughest economic sanctions programmes against Iran. It is madness to believe that under these circumstances Iran would sit at a negotiating table with its executioner. That will not happen. However, tensions continue to intensify, in line with the wishes of war criminal John Bolton since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, in the planning of which he was instrumental. This is like the purpose of this sick man’s life: mass murder through war and conflict are in his genes. The world can only hope that Trump or those who are pulling the strings behind him will finally release Bolton.

Iran has already announced that it is launching a comprehensive investigation into the British tanker “Stena Impero” into the course deviation and ramming of a fishing boat – and invited Britain to join the investigation.

An act of piracy Let us come back to 4 July, when the British Marines brought the Iranian tanker “Grace I” into Spanish waters off Gibraltar under the pretext that the supertanker was transporting oil for Syria, which contradicted EU sanctions. Iran’s Foreign Minister Dschwad Sarif denied that the oil was destined for Syria, but did not comment further. Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell announced that Washington had informed Spain of the imminent fixing of the Iranian tanker by Britain in Spanish waters. Spain could have said no, but it did not. Why not? For fear of sanctions? The United Kingdom, against its own interests, made itself the US henchman, as it was – along with Germany and France – one of the three countries that at least appeared to want to honour their part of the nuclear agreement with Iran. Not out of love for Iran, of course, but out of pure business interest. Iran should be aware of this: The EU can fall behind it at any time, through the very countries that are trying – or pretending to try – to circumvent US sanctions.

What happened on 4 July was an act of pure piracy – no less. A crime on the high seas which the West simply tolerates. The ship is still in British hands, the crew has been released in the meantime. Apart from the fact that Iran’s arrest of the British oil tanker may look like a “Like you to me, if I please you”, Iran acted perfectly legitimately as its Revolutionary Guards watched the Strait of Hormus to ensure the safety of other ship passages through the Strait.

Fire and anger – once again In one of his typical crazy outbursts on Friday 19 July, President Trump warned in a televised “Fire and Rage” speech in the White House: “We have the best ships – the deadliest ships and we don’t want to have to use them. We hope for Iran’s sake that it does not do anything unwise. If it does, it will pay a price that no one has ever paid.” Why doesn’t Trump warn the British in the same tone about their piracy of an Iranian ship in Spanish waters? Well, we know that’s the crazy, unsymmetrical, out of kilter world we live in. It is so normal that people in the West see this inequality and injustice, this duplicity and hypocrisy as their gospel.

Another step towards world domination?

But it all points to the fact that the U.S. – while building a war scenario – is seeking justification for what it has already proclaimed: an alliance of the willing that sends warships into the Strait of Hormus to ensure a safe passage for “everyone. Well, Iran will certainly not join in. But it is important to know what is behind this idea. Imagine if the US navy and its allied puppets had the violence of the sea passage that almost a third of the world’s ocean-going oil tankers pass through daily – Washington would then have another sanctioning tool to harass countries that, in Washington’s view, do not bow sufficiently to Washington’s dictates. Their oil supplies would be held back to bring down their economies – this could be the most effective weapon yet. Beware, world! Even those who now enjoy the benevolence of the self-proclaimed hegemon – you never know when the pendulum will swing in the other direction – for no reason: perhaps because the Israel-led U.S. is on a whimsical aggression course against an imaginary enemy or because corporate interests are shifting. Ultimately, no one would be safe. The world economy could collapse like a house of cards. 2008 would be a walk against it!

Translate: by Alfonso

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Court of Auditors in Venezuela imposes ban on Guaidó from holding office

Caracas.

In Venezuela, self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaidó has been banned from holding political office for 15 years. The opposition politician conspired with foreign actors to harm the country, the chairman of the Court of Audit, Elvis Amoroso, was quoted by the Venezuelan media. The head of the office added that there were also doubts as to the legality of his income. Guaidó sharply rejected the decision. He accused the Court of Auditors of being close to President Nicolás Maduro’s government and of abusing the constitution. The Court’s decision will not change the political situation in the short term. President Maduro’s government already does not recognize the opposition-dominated National Assembly. Parliament, on the other hand, meets in parallel with a constituent assembly in which the government camp has a majority.

Support for Guaidó again came from the international level. Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), rejected “any illegal decisions of the repressive authorities of the dictatorship under Nicolás Maduro against the interim president Juan Guaidó”. A spokesman for the US government spoke of a “laughable” manoeuvre. In the daily El Nacional, which is critical of the government, constitutional lawyer Juan Manuel Raffalli questioned the decision of the Court of Audit. It violates Article 65 of the constitution, according to which such a measure could only be taken by criminal courts. However, a final judgement is necessary for this. In addition, the Court of Auditors infringed Guaidó’s parliamentary immunity as acting president of the National Assembly. The Latin American news channel Telesur, which occupies a position close to the government in Venezuela, refers to Article 187 of the Constitution, according to which parliamentarians are obliged “to work exclusively for the benefit of the Venezuelan people and not to receive any additional income or to hold offices other than their parliamentary functions”.

According to the Venezuelan Migration Service, Guaidó has undertaken more than 91 foreign trips since the start of his parliamentary mandate, the cost of which is estimated at 310 million bolivares. He had not declared these funds for tax purposes.

Translated by Alfonso

NLG Statement on the Illegal U.S. Interference in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) is the oldest human rights bar association in the United States, with members in every state and a mission to value human rights and the rights of ecosystems over property interests. For more than a decade, the NLG International Committee has sent numerous delegations to Venezuela to observe nearly a dozen elections and research the electoral system, including meeting with lawyers and judges, community workers, union members, economists, journalists, government officials and opposition leaders.

The statements of Vice-President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo openly calling for democratically elected President Nicolas Maduro to be removed by a military and popular revolt harken back to the dark days of direct intervention in Latin America and make it clear that the U.S. is currently orchestrating a coup against the elected government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. The shocking aggression and illegal interference against a sovereign nation by the Trump administration is a blatant violation of the charters of the United Nations and Organization of American States, which recognize the principles of national sovereignty, peaceful settlement of disputes, and a prohibition on threatening or using force against the territory of another state.

The contempt that this administration has shown for the norms and core values of international law has been apparent from threatening the use of force against other nations, withdrawing from the U.N. Human Rights Council and attempting to discredit U.N. independent experts. However, directly fomenting a coup in a sovereign nation is not only illegal and outright shunned by the international community, it fundamentally undermines any pretextual concern about interference by other nations in U.S. elections.

Plots to overthrow the elected government in order to dismantle the regional economic, military, political and social alliances that have been established without the participation of the U.S. have been at the core of U.S. policy in Venezuela and the region since the election of former President Hugo Chávez. After unsuccessfully supporting a military coup against Chávez in 2002, U.S. administrations have consistently funded hard right opposition forces in their efforts to oust Chávez and reverse the people-centered Bolivarian Project. As recently as 2014, the U.S. supported violent street actions (guarimbas) planned and executed by the opposition. In 2015, President Obama declared Venezuela to be an “unusual and extraordinary threat” to U.S. national security and imposed unilateral sanctions. The recent appointment of Elliott Abrams by the Trump administration—a notorious human rights violator and war criminal—to coordinate the Venezuela destabilization operation further strips away any pretextual argument that the U.S. is concerned about democracy and human rights in Venezuela and instead shows how far the U.S. will go to implement its long-standing plans for regime change.

The National Lawyers Guild recognizes the complexities of the situation in Venezuela and joins the concerns of other progressive leaders that there is a critical need for dialogue. We condemn the statement by Secretary of State Pompeo on January 24, 2019, that “the time for debate is over.” Our government has consistently stood in the way of any meaningful dialogue between the Bolivarian government and its opposition and continues to support the forces that promote violence and polarization. The NLG calls on our government to respect international law, to refrain from intervening (militarily, economically or politically) in the sovereign affairs of Venezuela and to allow for peaceful debate among all sectors of Venezuelan society to take place as determined by its people.

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The National Lawyers Guild (NLG), whose membership includes lawyers, legal workers, jailhouse lawyers, and law students, was formed in 1937 as the United States’ first racially-integrated bar association to advocate for the protection of constitutional, human and civil rights.

The NLG International Committee seeks to change U.S. foreign policy that threatens, rather than engages, or is based on a model of domination rather than respect. The Guild provides assistance and solidarity to movements in the United States and abroad that work for social justice in this increasingly interconnected world.

alfonso

Guaidó returns to Venezuela for next stage of US regime-change operation

 

By Bill Van Auken
5 March 2019

Self-proclaimed “interim president” Juan Guaidó returned to Venezuela after an 11-day absence Monday, escorted into the country by a phalanx of Western diplomats, including the ambassadors of the US, Germany, France, Canada, Brazil and several other countries.

In advance of his return, Washington issued threats of retaliation against any attempt by Venezuelan authorities to apprehend Guaidó, who violated an order of Venezuela’s supreme court barring him from leaving the country after state prosecutors announced the initiation of a criminal investigation into the right-wing opposition operative’s involvement in the US-orchestrated coup.

US National Security Adviser John Bolton warned that any interference with Washington’s Venezuelan puppet would provoke “a strong and significant response” from the US.

Similarly, US Vice President Mike Pence tweeted that any action taken against Guaidó would “not be tolerated & will be met with a swift response.”

After leaving the Simon Bolivar airport, Guaidó was driven to a rally in eastern Caracas, the wealthy district of Venezuela’s capital, where he told a crowd of supporters that the fact that he was not arrested upon arrival was proof that the Venezuelan security forces were not obeying the orders of President Nicolas Maduro’s government. “The chain of command is broken,” he said.

He directed much of his speech to the military, demanding that it not “stand idly by” and ordered them to arrest armed supporters of the Maduro government organized in so-called colectivos based in the poorer neighborhoods of Caracas and other Venezuelan cities.

Guaidó left Venezuela on February 22 to lead the Trojan Horse “humanitarian aid” operation organized by Washington. Both he and his US backers had promoted an attempt the next day to forcibly crash through the Venezuelan border from Colombia with a handful of trucks carrying food and other supplies stockpiled by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) as the event that would bring down the Maduro government, forcing the military to turn against it.

Nothing of the kind took place. The “aid” convoys were easily blocked, while clashes between security forces and protesters led to several deaths, concentrated among an indigenous population on Venezuela’s border with Brazil.

The “tidal wave” of aid and millions of supporters that Guaidó had promised failed to materialize. The entire operation was a filthy and cynical propaganda stunt staged by a US government that offered a pittance in terms of food supplies, even as it systematically strangles Venezuela’s economy and impoverishes its population with sweeping sanctions barring the country from the US-dominated financial system and blocking its export of oil.

In his speech in eastern Caracas Monday, Guaidó promised that even more sanctions are to come, but did not provide any details as to their scope.

During his 11 days outside of Venezuela, Guaidó met in Colombia with Pence and the so-called Lima Group, consisting of several Latin American governments along with Canada. He traveled on for meetings with Brazil’s newly installed president, the fascistic former army captain Jair Bolsonaro, as well as the right-wing government of Mauricio Macri in Argentina, and in Paraguay that of Mario Abdo Benítez, a former military officer who has extolled the legacy of the dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner, whom his father served as private secretary. He also went to Ecuador for a meeting with President Lenin Moreno, who is attempting to curry favor with Washington.

Throughout this tour, Guaidó was accompanied by his US “handler,” the State Department’s assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Kimberly Breier, who is described on the department’s website as a “policy expert and intelligence professional with more than 20 years of experience.”

Guaidó, a member of the right-wing party Voluntad Popular (Popular Will) party, which has received substantial financial aid from the National Endowment for Democracy and other US agencies, is a creature of US intelligence, groomed for a regime change operation and unknown to the Venezuelan population before he proclaimed himself “interim president” on January 23.

The appeals made by Guaidó to the Venezuelan military, offering a blanket amnesty to anyone who supports his coup and guarantees of their interests, while threatening prosecution of those who fail to do so, have thus far produced few results. The Colombian government and the Venezuelan right-wing opposition claim that some 700 members of the security forces—out of a force of 235,000—have defected, while the Maduro government puts the number at 116.

Guaidó, both before and after the debacle of the “humanitarian aid” stunt of February 23, has appealed openly for a US military intervention to secure the overthrow of the Maduro government. He argued last month that the Venezuelan National Assembly, where he was installed as president in January, was authorized to approve the intervention of an “international force” to “restore the constitutional order and protect the lives of our citizens.” He also invoked the “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) doctrine used to justify previous imperialist regime-change operations, such as those in the former Yugoslavia and Libya.

The Lima Group has formally rejected military intervention in Venezuela, opting for “diplomatic and financial pressure” to topple the Maduro government.

In a March 1 interview with Patricia Janiot, the anchor of the US Spanish-language television broadcaster Univision, Elliott Abrams, appointed in January as the Trump administration’s special representative for Venezuela, denied that Washington is preparing to use military force, either to topple Maduro or to force through the “humanitarian aid” supplies it has stockpiled on Venezuela’s borders.

Abrams, it should be noted, is a convicted liar, who gave false testimony to the US Congress on the illegal conspiracy to arm and finance the CIA-organized “contra” terrorists who were unleashed upon Nicaragua in the 1980s. He served as the Reagan administration’s point man in justifying and covering up the atrocities of US-backed dictatorships in El Salvador and Guatemala.

In a Sunday interview with CNN, however, John Bolton gave a full-throated defense of US intervention in Venezuela, declaring, “In this administration we’re not afraid to use the word Monroe Doctrine.”

He was referring to the nearly 200-year-old canon of US foreign policy that supposedly endowed Washington with the right to use force in preventing outside powers from establishing a foothold in the Western Hemisphere.

Initially invoked as a US policy of opposing any attempt by European empires to re-colonize newly independent countries in Latin America, it was turned into a declaration of a US imperialist sphere of influence and became the rationale for some 50 direct US military interventions in the region along with the fomenting of CIA-backed coups that imposed fascist-military dictatorships over much of the region in the second half of the 20th century.

If this doctrine is being resurrected today against Venezuela, it is because of the close economic and political ties established by Caracas with both Beijing and Moscow. The United States, as Bolton previously acknowledged, is determined to bring the country and its oil wealth—the largest proven reserves in the world—back under the domination of US imperialism and the US-based energy conglomerates.

An indication of Washington’s real intentions was provided by a column published in the Spanish daily El Pais by Hector Schamis, who is an instructor on Latin America at the US School of Foreign Service.

He writes that while “the diplomatic solution would be ideal” in Venezuela, “the problem is that, in politics, the ideal rarely takes place in reality.”

He goes on to state that “without American troops [Yugoslavian president Slobodan] Milosevic would not have gone to the diplomatic negotiating table. Much less would he have died as a prisoner in The Hague in 2006.”

Guaidó has called for anti-government protests on Saturday and announced that he is meeting with leaders of public employee unions today. The union leaderships are seeking to channel the widespread anger of workers over the austerity policies and repressive measures of Maduro’s bourgeois government behind the US imperialist regime-change operation.

The success of this operation would impose a brutal dictatorship of US imperialism and Venezuelan capitalist interests over the masses of working people, leading to far more severe austerity measures and police-state repression.

The desperate crisis created by capitalism in Venezuela and the threat of US military intervention can be countered only by means of the political mobilization of the Venezuelan working class, independently of Maduro’s capitalist government and its trade union stooges. The organization of workers’ assemblies to expropriate foreign and domestic capitalist interests and establish workers’ control over the country’s vast oil wealth must be combined with a struggle to unite the Venezuelan working class with workers throughout the hemisphere to put an end to capitalism.

by Alfonso

 

 

Eagle without claws

Because the Russian economy is growing strongly, the sanctions of the West are becoming irrelevant.

by Rubicon’s World Editorial Office, Mac Slavo
The hybrid warfare of the USA has long relied on economic sanctions as a measure of subjugation and discipline. There are, however, increasing signs that the method is gradually being phased out, says Mac Slavo.

The USA has the problem that its sanctions are no longer effective because states are increasingly disregarding what governments of other states want them to dictate. Despite the sanctions imposed on Russia, the Russian economy continues to grow.

Russia’s inflation rate remained low last year, while the economy has grown, according to the World Bank. “Although economic sanctions have been tightened, Russia’s inflation rate has remained stable at a relatively low level and oil production has increased. As a result of the robust domestic economy, Russia’s economic growth last year was 1.6 percent,” the World Bank report says.

The US has long used sanctions to damage the economies of other countries for a variety of reasons, but more recently such sanctions no longer seem to be effective. According to an RT report, the World Bank has pointed out that Russia and other oil exporters “had stable growth in 2018 due to rising oil prices”. In Russia, “growth was supported by private consumption and exports”. For the current year, the World Bank predicts a short-term decline in growth to 1.5 percent, but expects Russia’s gross domestic product to increase by 1.8 percent in both 2020 and 2021.

In October, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) raised its forecast for Russia’s GDP growth in 2019 to 1.8 percent. His chief economist Maurice Obstfeld stated that the positive influence that rising oil prices on the world market would have on the Russian economy more than compensated for the negative effect of the sanctions imposed by Washington (1).

In May 2018, Bloomberg reported that the effect of US sanctions was reaching its limits. The states affected by US sanctions dropped the dollar “like a hot potato” in their trade transactions, rendering US sanctions ineffective.Six years ago, when the New York State Revenue Service investigated the London-based bank Standard Chartered Plc (2) on suspicion of having disregarded the sanctions imposed by the US on Iran, a department head of this bank complained in an e-mail to New York as follows:

“You damn Americans, who are you to ban the rest of the world from trading with Iran?”

Russia is not the only state that the sanctions imposed on it can hardly affect. China has founded the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, AIIB, a commercial bank that competes with the World Bank and the IMF, both of which are based in Washington, and through which international business can be transacted in yuan (1 Chinese yuan equals 0.13 euros). And China is likely to expand its trade with Iran, no matter how Trump reacts.

What China has done could also be done by Europe if it also wants to override US sanctions. “Out of justified self-interest, China will certainly find ways not to rely on US banks,” said Jeffrey Sachs, an economics professor at Columbia University.

translated by Alfonso

 

President Maduro: An open letter to thePeople of the USA

Nicolas Maduro writes:

“If I know anything, it is about peoples, such as you, I am a man of the people. I was born and raised in a poor neighborhood of Caracas. I forged myself in the heat of popular and union struggles in a Venezuela submerged in exclusion and inequality. I am not a tycoon, I am a worker of reason and heart, today I have the great privilege of presiding over the new Venezuela, rooted in a model of inclusive development and social equality, which was forged by Commander Hugo Chávez since 1998 inspired by the Bolivarian legacy.

We live today a historical trance. There are days that will define the future of our countries between war and peace. Your national representatives of Washington want to bring to their borders the same hatred that they planted in Vietnam. They want to invade and intervene in Venezuela – they say, as they said then – in the name of democracy and freedom. But it’s not like that. The history of the usurpation of power in Venezuela is as false as the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. It is a false case, but it can have dramatic consequences for our entire region.

Venezuela is a country that, by virtue of its 1999 Constitution, has broadly expanded the participatory and protagonist democracy of the people, and that is unprecedented today, as one of the countries with the largest number of electoral processes in its last 20 years. You might not like our ideology or our appearance, but we exist and we are millions.

I address these words to the people of the United States of America to warn of the gravity and danger that intend some sectors in the White House to invade Venezuela with unpredictable consequences for my country and for the entire American region. President Donald Trump also intends to disturb noble dialogue initiatives promoted by Uruguay and Mexico with the support of CARICOM for a peaceful solution and dialogue in favor of Venezuela. We know that for the good of Venezuela we have to sit down and talk because to refuse to dialogue is to choose strength as a way. Keep in mind the words of John F. Kennedy: “Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate”. Are those who do not want to dialogue afraid of the truth?

The political intolerance towards the Venezuelan Bolivarian model and the desires for our immense oil resources, minerals, and other great riches, has prompted an international coalition headed by the US government to commit the serious insanity of militarily attacking Venezuela under the false excuse of a non-existent humanitarian crisis.

The people of Venezuela have suffered painfully social wounds caused by a criminal commercial and financial blockade, which has been aggravated by the dispossession and robbery of our financial resources and assets in countries aligned with this demented onslaught.

And yet, thanks to a new system of social protection, of direct attention to the most vulnerable sectors, we proudly continue to be a country with high human development index and lower inequality in the Americas.

The American people must know that this complex multiform aggression is carried out with total impunity and in clear violation of the Charter of the United Nations, which expressly outlaws the threat or use of force, among other principles and purposes for the sake of peace and the friendly relations between the Nations.

We want to continue being business partners of the people of the United States, as we have been throughout our history. Their politicians in Washington, on the other hand, are willing to send their sons and daughters to die in an absurd war, instead of respecting the sacred right of the Venezuelan people to self-determination and safeguarding their sovereignty.

Like you, people of the United States, we Venezuelans are patriots. And we shall defend our homeland with all the pieces of our soul. Today Venezuela is united in a single clamor: we demand the cessation of the aggression that seeks to suffocate our economy and socially suffocate our people, as well as the cessation of the serious and dangerous threats of military intervention against Venezuela. We appeal to the good soul of the American society, a victim of its own leaders, to join our call for peace, let us be all one people against warmongering and war.

Long live the peoples of America!

Nicolás Maduro
President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela”

by Alfonso

Trump-Appointed Venecuela Coup Leader, Plans Neoliberal Capitalist Shock Therapy.

By Ben Norton

Venezuela’s US-appointed coup leader Juan Guaidó plans to privatize state assets and give foreign corporations access to oil, the Wall Street Journal admitted.

“Guaidó plans to implement the neoliberal capitalist shock therapy that Washington has imposed on the region for decades.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that Venezuela’s US-appointed coup leader Juan Guaidó has already drafted plans for “opening up Venezuela’s vast oil sector to private investment” and “privatizing assets held by state enterprises.”

The report confirms what The Grayzone previously reported .

“Juan Guaidó, recognized by Washington as the rightful leader, said he would sell state assets and invite private investment in the energy industry,” read the Wall Street Journal’s January 31 article.

The paper noted that Guaidó plans “to reverse President Nicolás Maduro’s economic polices,” explaining:

“Mr. Guaidó said his plan called for seeking financial aide from multilateral organizations, tapping bilateral loans, restructuring debtand opening up Venezuela’s vast oil sector to private investment. It includes privatizing assets held by state enterprises … He also said he’d end wasteful state subsidies and take steps to revive the private sector.”

In other words, Guaidó plans to implement the neoliberal capitalist shock therapy that Washington has imposed on the region for decades.

“Guaidó seeks to adopt an aggressive “structural adjustment” program.”

Using funding from US-dominated international financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Venezuelan coup leader seeks to adopt an aggressive “structural adjustment” program, enacting the kinds of economic policies that have led to the preventable deaths of millions of people and an explosion of poverty and inequality in the years following capitalist restoration in the former Soviet Union.

In a speech, Juan Guaidó even echoed rhetoric that is popular among US conservatives: “Here, no one wants to be given anything.”

It is clear that the coup leader’s priorities reflect those of Venezuela’s capitalist oligarchs and right-wing politicians in the United States. Economic liberalization is the Venezuelan opposition’s first and most important goal; democracy is just a pretense.

This article previously appeared on The Grayzone Project site.

by Alfonso

 

The Paralyzed Opposition

In view of Trump’s current coup attempt in Venezuela, Bernie Sanders and the Democrats fail.

With breathtaking speed and without regard to applicable law, the “Western powers” are advancing the coup d’état in Venezuela. Ten days ago, when Trump publicly signaled his support to the coup d’étatists, left-wing hopeful Bernie Sanders remained silent for a whole day. When he finally made a statement, he merely confirmed Trump’s position. He made it clear that even the US Democrats offer no alternative to Trump’s naked aggression. Shamus Cooke analyses precisely what this attitude means. Imperialist efforts abroad are not only illegitimate and inhuman, but also worsen living standards in the USA itself. After all, they devour much-needed money for social reforms.

If Trump drives the coup forward, he risks not only the welfare of the American and Venezuelan people, but also his credibility on the international stage. For while Elliot Abrams, who was already involved in the Iran-Contra affair, is working as a new “special envoy” on the completion of the coup, a militarily trained resistance supported by the spirit of the revolution is forming among the Venezuelan working class. There is the threat of a bloody civil war that threatens democracy – in Venezuela and the USA alike.

When Trump announced his support for the unfolding coup in Venezuela, Bernie Sanders remained silent for 24 hours. This is important because a coup is won or prevented in the first moments or hours; during a coup, a day can feel like a month or more. With every hour Bernie’s silence roared louder. So much hung in the balance with Trump at home and abroad, so much so that the touch of a single finger could have made the difference – but Bernie refused to lift his own. Of the many Democratic Party presidential candidates, only Tulsi Gabbard made a clear statement condemning the coup, while the favorite of the left, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, limited her criticism to a re-tweet.

While U.S. politics fought fierce battles over the government’s standstill, Trump’s coup gave the Democrats a dagger and an open flank, but they refused to stab; instead, they returned the weapon so it could be used against the democratically elected government of Venezuela. Nancy Pelosi and other leading Democrats went a step further and cheered on their commander-in-chief by using their platform to attack President Maduro. Trump’s position was strengthened accordingly. Instead of condemning him for violating international law, he was made to look like a responsible statesman leading a “coalition” of countries opposed to an “authoritarian dictator. The vehemently anti-Trump section of the US media closed its ranks in his favor – as it was difficult to find a dissenting opinion.

In this context, Trump was placed in an excellent position to win the war over the government’s shut down – at least until the courageous actions of airport employees quickly ended the drama. But Trump has certainly learned an important lesson: The Democratic Party’s “resistance” crumbles at critical moments when a conflict breaks out abroad, which will help promote more such moments in the future.

Bernie’s finally tweeting!

After an agonizing day of silence, Bernie finally found his voice – by tweeting three times. But their content was revealing and emphasized the weakness that had kept him silent during the first decisive day. Tweet number 1 was basically a point-by-point plagiarism of the lies Trump had used to justify the coup. Bernie tweeted: “The Maduro government has brought violent repression to the civilian population of Venezuela, violated the constitution by dissolving the National Assembly, and was re-elected last year in an election that many election observers say was rigged. The economy is a disaster and millions are leaving the country.”

Instead of attacking Trump’s coups, Bernie attacks the victim. Bernie’s assertion that the election was rigged is pure slander, as Venezuela’s elections are widely ranked among the best in the world. Every time the opposition in Venezuela believes it will lose an election, it “boycotts” it, with the opposition so divided during the last election that some boycotted participation and others supported two different anti-Maduro candidates. So, every halfway objective observer knew that Maduro would win an easy and fair victory. By providing Bernie Trump with this ammunition – the central justification for the coup – the senator simply makes himself an accomplice to a crime. Moreover, Bernie’s assertion that Maduro “dissolved the National Assembly” is not true either. Although the actual procedures were complicated, it was the Venezuelan Supreme Court – not Maduro – that dissolved the National Assembly in 2017 in response to blatant violations of the law that turned the pro-opposition National Assembly into a malfunctioning institution that only passed laws that unconstitutionally attacked Maduro’s government.

Venezuela has been in a state of dual rule since 2017, when a united government was torn in two by the pressure of class struggle and the incessant gimmicks of a US-based opposition bent on overthrowing the government. As for Bernie’s reference to the economy as “a disaster,” he certainly knows that US economic sanctions, pro-opposition immigration policies, and political threats have much to do with the situation. But he has chosen to ignore these crucial factors as they strengthen the anti-Maduro sentiment.

Encouragement of Trump’s lies

Bernie’s second tweet further strengthened the first and underpinned Trump’s action:

“The United States should support the rule of law, fair elections and self-determination for the Venezuelan people. We must condemn the use of force against unarmed demonstrators and the suppression of dissent.

The “unarmed demonstrators” Bernie talks about here are the rich opposition’s shock troops who tried to overthrow the government and led violent, deadly protests in 2017, killing more than 100 people, including at least four Maduro supporters burned alive by the opposition. Bernie knows for a fact that the opposition in Venezuela is neither peaceful nor democratic. In his third and final tweet, Bernie finally expresses his half-hearted “opposition” to Trump’s coup: “But we must listen to the lessons of the past and not engage in regime change or support for coups – as we have done in Chile, Guatemala, Brazil and the Dominican Republic. The US has a long history of inappropriate interference in Latin American countries; we must not go down that road again.”

Neutrality benefits the oppressor.”

In truth, Bernie’s position is a signal to Trump that he can count on no organized opposition to the coup and that the Democrats will limit their reaction to the coming bloodshed to criticism of Maduro.

Why imperialism matters

The question of imperialism is not an abstract one that only concerns people in underdeveloped, “exotic” countries like Venezuela. In truth, the US government’s policy of interference has a direct daily impact on US residents – ruining their living standards and at the same time making their children’s future even worse. Money spent abroad – and the policies it creates – always affects opportunities at home. Because taxpayers’ money used to destroy other governments cannot be used to make Bernie’s proposals – like health care for all, free university education, a Green New Deal, and so on. A central reason for the remarkable social systems of Western European countries is the small size of their military.mWar spending acts like an endless guaranteed veto on social programs that people in the US desperately want but are always denied – a true example of oppression abroad restricting our freedom at home.mThe article “Does Bernie Sanders’ Imperialism Matter” argues that “is Bernie Sanders’ imperialism important”?

“Imperialism is a spectrum that haunts social progress and reappears in countless forms to channel an endless stream of resources into wars abroad. This inhibits domestic spending and distracts from the demands of the working class. A new military “crisis” will always seek to take precedence over domestic considerations.”

Will the coup fail?

Some observers already dismiss Trump’s coup as a failure, as the Venezuelan military seems to be united in its support for Maduro. But the coup d’état machinery continues. US allies in Europe – France, Germany and Spain – have given Maduro eight days to hold new elections, otherwise they will recognize Juan Guaidó as president. (This article originally appeared on 29.01.2019; translator’s note) Of course, no country can hold elections within eight days; the demand simply serves as a pretext to force the coup. That European powers follow Trump into the abyss around Venezuela means that Trump has invested some political capital to persuade them to act. This coup is a significant investment that will demand compensation. The states that follow Trump usually do not break international law in such a sensational way because it is risky; therefore, the Europeans must be convinced that Trump will actually complete the coup and ensure Maduro’s downfall. Otherwise, Germany will recognize a man as president who hides shamefully underground to escape capture like an ordinary criminal.

Should Trump fail to complete the coup, the US would lose crucial credibility and it would be harder to find allies for such adventures next time. If the US recognizes a president who never becomes president, it would have political and economic consequences. For example, the US cannot afford to be a weak player on the international stage, while actively threatening China and Russia and still involved in the Syrian war, which is influenced by many states. The major powers are vehemently courting allies, and a failed coup makes one of them less competitive. A country that uses its military as a central political lever cannot afford to paint a weak picture. This is a major reason why so many of the establishment’s actors were angry at Trump for “not finishing the job” in Syria and leaving Assad in power. Since then, Trump has been hesitant.

The “Salvador Option”

Trump is therefore bound to this new venture, which will deepen in the coming days and weeks. Many expect Trump to use the “Syrian Option” – formerly known as the “Salvador Option” – which begins with the arming and training of anti-Maduro militias and ends with attacks on the government and/or pro-Maduro forces, creating the “need” for US intervention to ensure “law and order”. The rehearsals for this strategy were conducted as early as 2017, when the above-mentioned violent protests unleashed themselves, but did not provoke a crisis large enough to justify US military intervention. Such conspiracy theories were immediately believed when Trump announced during the coup that he had a new “special envoy” for Venezuela, the infamous Elliot Abrams. Abrams became known for his role in the Iran-Contra affair. He belonged to the inner circle at the center of the affair and broke laws, and he publicly stood up for the death squads – or “Contras” – who terrorized Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador; here the term “Salvador option” was born. Abrams was condemned for his role in the Iran-Contra affair, but as anticipated pardoned by George H.W. Bush – who used his office as Reagan’s vice-president to push Iran-Contra forward. In his new position, Abrams will focus on accelerating and completing the coup by holding talks with the Venezuelan military and key opposition figures, cobbling together groups willing to escalate the coup, and undoubtedly conspiring with hostile neighbors Colombia and Brazil, who can easily be lured into conflict for even the smallest concessions – Colombia has been involved for several years. Promises will be made to Venezuelan military members, who, after changing sides, will become better known as new leaders of the newly created Venezuelan military.

When Maduro falls

Abram’s approach will quickly lead Venezuela into a particularly bloody civil war, as much of the military has learned its trade under Chavez and a majority of these people are still strongly attached to the revolution and its principles. Chavism is also strengthened by the still growing Bolivian national militia of Venezuela. Here, hundreds of thousands of working class members have received military training, some of which was aimed at preparing the country for exactly the kind of coup that is underway. The Venezuelan working class will not tacitly accept a right-wing dictatorship and has both the means and the organizational structure to resist and win.mBut should Maduro’s government fall, the far-right opposition will aim to roll down the progress achieved under the Chavez and Maduro governments: rapid mass privatizations will follow, while the currency crisis will be resolved on the backs of the working class. The scale of the political and economic “corrections” will demand an enormous toll of blood as the working class organizations oppose the attacks on their living standards, democracy and dignity. The would-be president Juan Guaidó has already discussed plans to accelerate the privatization of Venezuelan oil. He also wants to turn to the IMF for austerity measures, which will demand nothing less than its typical “restructuring” stimulus programs that will attack the social programs created by Chavez and Maduro. Ironically, it was IMF austerity measures that sparked the Venezuelan Revolution almost 30 years ago in the form of the Caracazo uprisings.nIf democracy abroad can be so easily destroyed, this empowers anti-democratic forces at home.

The military-industrial complex of the USA is just as encouraged as the extreme right-wing political actors there, the most hard-boiled supporters of militarism and “trumpism”. By coups d’état fascist governments abroad, they create new allies for trumpism from forces that could have been allies of the left. These are the hidden yet real consequences of Bernie’s inaction. It serves to play down the significance of imperialism at a historic moment for the Western hemisphere.

 

Translated from German by Alfons

The the Russian program “News of the Week”

The motives of the USA for its support of the coup d’état in Venezuela were questioned and the historical background was illuminated. I translated the article.

Start of translation

President Maduro is therefore in favour of dialogue with the opposition and external interference in Venezuelan affairs is perceived as impertinence. “We return to neo-colonialism when orders are given from a European capital or from Washington to any country in Asia, Africa, Latin America or the Caribbean. Who do they think they are, that they want to make decisions here? We don’t accept any ultimatum from anyone in the world, we don’t accept blackmail,” Maduro said. And really, on what basis are the countries of the West asking Maduro to resign? It is particularly piquant when French President Macron declares that Maduro should “disappear”. Macroon’s popularity was only 28% in January. Maduro was inaugurated in January after elections in which he received 68 percent of the votes. So, which of these two “Ms” should “disappear”?

Meanwhile, the US openly set course for the overthrow of Maduro. Thus the accounts of the largest Venezuelan oil company were frozen and the transfer of part of the assets of the Venezuelan government into the hands of the fraud Juan Guaido was decided. According to US security consultant Bolton, the USA froze 7 billion dollars of the Venezuelan oil company. Imagine that: The USA expropriates the money of another state and arbitrarily gives it to some runaway uncle, who Washington himself has appointed as president of this state! For Russia, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has declared: “We understand that the United States, to put it simply, has “licked blood” and is publicly heading for an illegal regime change. Nevertheless, international law must be valid and should be defended by all available means.”

Meanwhile, China and Russia support Venezuela and continue economic cooperation with it. I named China first because it is the largest lender and investor in Venezuela. It’s about 70 billion dollars. Second place goes to American investors and lenders. According to Reuters, they “buried” about 50 billion dollars in Venezuela. Russia’s share is much lower. Money is important, but there are still things that are more valuable than money. These are principles. One of them is non-interference in the internal affairs of other states. America, for example, doesn’t like the idea of someone interfering in its elections, so why do Americans interfere so cynically and ruthlessly in Venezuela’s affairs?

There is again a lot of talk about the Monroe Doctrine. The President of the United States in the 1820s was James Monroe. He then proclaimed the doctrine according to which the two American continents are the zone of influence of the USA and the USA, in return, does not interfere in the zone of influence of the European countries on the other side of the world. But if you will allow me, they only insist on Monroe’s doctrine when it comes to Venezuela. When talking about Syria or Iraq, for example, they suddenly forget this doctrine. Sometimes it’s true, sometimes it’s not. Yes, now life in Venezuela is difficult. Maduro’s socialist methods, i.e. the direct distribution of food or the nationalisation of companies which, in the government’s opinion, sell their goods overpriced, are popular with the people, but have achieved the opposite of what was the goal. They have led to shortages, galloping inflation and a noticeable exodus of people from the country. But a coup is not medicine either. The country needs a dialogue within Venezuela and a joint search for a way out.

And the causes of economic hardship are not only to be found in the government’s current course. Until 1959, foreign oil companies paid only 26 percent taxes. This means that the profits of these foreign, and especially American and British, companies were three times as high as the share Venezuela received for its own oil. That was robbery! Therefore, in 1976, the entire oil industry of the country was nationalized. Now the Americans want to take advantage of the hour.

End of translation

by Alfonso

Venezuela and Western values

Those who want to realise freedom, the rule of law and democracy should start with themselves, within their own sphere of power and influence.

With his self-proclamation as interim president, Parliament President Juan Guaido has proclaimed himself leader of the opposition in Venezuela. His recognition by the leading forces of the West of values followed promptly. This has further intensified the power struggle between government and opposition that has been going on for years. Venezuela threatens to slide into a civil war.

Freedom, democracy and self-determination

In supporting the Venezuelan opposition, the Western community of values (WWG) is driven by nothing but the noblest motives in its public statements. Donald Trump stated: “The Venezuelan people have courageously taken the floor”(1). He also explains without digression the will of the people of Venezuela, namely nothing less than the typical Western values: “freedom and the rule of law”(2).

The EU, too, was not allowed to lag behind in defending Western values. Thus the Foreign Affairs Commissioner Mogherini hastened to inform the world and Venezuela itself: “On 23 January the people of Venezuela demanded democracy and the possibility to freely determine their own destiny”(3).

Imagine the outrage in the WWG if Russia, China or Iran were to interfere in the dispute between Trump and Pelosi in a similar way to what is now being done in Venezuela. What threats against Russia have been made solely by the hitherto unproven allegation of interfering in the American election campaign or of wanting to intervene in the forthcoming European elections? But the West is actively engaged in power politics in Venezuela, right up to the civil war, before the eyes of the world.

And what would happen if Russia threatened with sanctions in the area of gas and oil supplies to support the demands of the Yellow West in France? But the WWG has taken the liberty of threatening other peoples and states with sanctions, interventions and wars for nothing less than human rights, freedom, democracy and the rule of law.

How would one have reacted in the Catalonia conflict if Russia or China had stationed troops there and claimed airspace for themselves, as the WWG states do illegally in the Kurdish regions of Syria? Would the USA accept it inactively if Russian soldiers settled in neighbouring Canada or Mexico without the consent of the governments of these countries? Just remember how close the world was to a third world war during the Cuban crisis, because the Soviet Union wanted to take out the same thing that NATO and SEATO had done since their founding: the installation of missiles on the enemy’s doorstep.

Keeping your own house in order.

But WWG claims all this for itself on the basis of what it calls the “Western” values. But what makes them the typical “western” values or even the “only western” ones? In contrast to other peoples, are they part of a typical “western” DNA, i.e. quasi genetic, perhaps even racial? Are Western people perhaps a master race after all in the eyes of those who argue like this?

Do they believe themselves to be so superior to other peoples, societies and states that they claim to be allowed to missionize them with their own ideas of democracy and freedom and the rule of law, or even to have to missionize them? So do higher rights apply to the West of values because of the higher values that it believes it has at its disposal?

Would the states of the WWG want to be missionized by Russia, China or Iran, let their ideas of social coexistence be forced upon them? Would the West of values want to let itself be blackmailed by sanctions, instigated colour revolutions or even wars into a different lifestyle, a different politics? So why should other peoples and societies let the WWG put up with it? Only because he pretends to be value-oriented in his own opinion?

This is perhaps how one sees it in the WWG, but other peoples and societies see it differently. How else can it be explained that it is losing more and more influence in the world? The Taliban are becoming stronger and stronger in Afghanistan, to which the West’s blessings were to be brought by force of arms. They now control half of the country, forcing the Americans to negotiate the terms of their own withdrawal. In the Middle East, Russia has expanded its influence through its involvement in Syria to such an extent that the Americans are about to withdraw from the country. Relations between Russia and Turkey have improved so much that NATO’s cohesion is at risk.

But even within their own sphere of influence, the number of those who still find themselves in the Western image of the rule of law and democracy is constantly decreasing. For example, a Forsa survey states: “Almost all social institutions in Germany are losing confidence” and “such a widespread erosion of confidence has never been observed in the survey conducted over the last ten years”.(4)

Shouldn’t one rather put one’s own shop in order than want to bring salvation to other peoples that is missing in one’s own country? Those who want to realise freedom, the rule of law and democracy should start with themselves, within their own sphere of power and influence.

Ideal and material values

Or isn’t all this talk about values more about those values that you can get out of the ground and out of the market? Are these perhaps the values that the West so painfully misses in Venezuela? It’s precisely in this area that Chavez and Maduro have put a stop to the Americans. Many companies were expropriated because they wanted to let the wealth of the country benefit their own population and develop the economy according to their own ideas.

Isn’t the Western notion of freedom the same as it was before Chavez’s Bolivarian revolution, to be able to freely rule Venezuela again? In any case, Russia and China are becoming more and more important for Venezuela’s economy, not least because the Western sanctions regime prevents its own companies from trading more than the Venezuelan government itself. The importance of the Western economy for the country is declining more and more.

Now the USA has tightened the sanctions against Venezeula. This is intended to help the opposition, which is to receive the proceeds from the oil trade. The situation for a change of power seems more favourable than ever before. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung notes with relief: “Maduro’s opponents are finally united”(5). When the leading medium of the ruling class in Germany talks about the “final game in Venezuela”(6) it’s clear what it’s all about. They want new political conditions in the country, conditions that meet the interests of the value West.

Confusion of the public sphere

Since Juan Guaido’s self-appointment as interim president, the media in Germany have been trying to justify his move and thus also their own support for a politically very questionable act. It is worth recalling here how, in contrast, the Western media and states condemned the proclamation of Puigdemont as President in Catalonia as unlawful. There was no struggle for understanding. On the contrary, the media and politicians tried to portray the actions of the Catalans as unconstitutional to their own people and to provide the corresponding justifications by the obligatory “experts”. Two comparable situations lead to different behaviour and judgement. So are the values not as indivisible as they are often tried to be? So aren’t they much more dependent on situation and interests than on ethics and law?

The Western media and governments try to give their own people the impression that it is about the Venezuelan people, their freedom, their interests. In reality they know, at least the Frankfurter Allgemeine as the leading medium, that it is different and hide it under a pile of information that explains little. The view that Guaido’s actions are justified is increasingly being worked out. The people of Venezeula want it that way and the country must be saved from destruction, according to the tenor of the media.

The country has been brought to the brink of the abyss primarily by the sanctions of those who now pretend to do everything they can to save it. And the people? The FAZ describes the mood among large sections of the population in a single paragraph, while it gives page by page space to all other aspects of the crisis: “The opposition, whose representatives come mainly from the upper social strata, has never had a strong connection to the people. Even today, most Venezuelans do not identify with the opposition parties.”(7)

This is almost at the end of a full-page article somewhere and says more about the situation than the many pages with which media consumers have tried to cloud their brains. However, it says a lot about the manipulation that media consumers are being subjected to in order to share the offered point of view and support the policy against Venezuela because they consider it to be right and fair.

translated by Alfonso