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Hands Off Venezuela: Regime Change Is Not the Answer

January 31st, 2019 - by admin

US Labor Against the War & Democracy Now! – 2019-01-31 22:26:42


“Hands Off Venezuela”
Statement on US Intervention in Venezuela

US Labor Against the War

(January 27, 2019) — US Labor Against the War opposes the Trump Administration intervention in the internal affairs of Venezuela.

The US has no legitimate claim to intervene in the internal affairs of other countries, to take sides in internal political disputes, or to undermine governments elected by the people.

We have seen the disastrous consequences of recent US interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and, through its alliance with Saudi Arabia, in Yemen.

US intervention in Venezuela can only bring further hardship and suffering, as followed US support for the 2009 coup in Honduras that overthrew the elected government there and contributed to the stream of asylum-seekers now on our southern border seeking relief from that disaster.

It reveals the deep cynicism of US policy makers that they denounce what they call a dictatorial regime in Venezuela while providing unlimited support to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its murderous absolute dictatorship of the royal family.

The US also supports a host of other autocrats, authoritarians, absolute monarchs and dictators in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, to name a few. There is no case in which US intervention in the internal affairs of other countries has led to greater democracy and better conditions of life for the people.

In the case of Venezuela, the economic distress has been precipitated largely by the decline in world oil prices. Oil is the most important revenue source for the Venezuelan government. But Venezuela’s economic difficulties have been greatly compounded by economic sanctions imposed on Venezuela by the United States, beginning in March 2015 under Barack Obama.

These have been explicitly designed to choke off Venezuela’s access to international markets and resources for the purpose of destabilizing the Maduro government and, before that, the government of Hugo Chavez. T

he economic chaos the US now points to in Venezuela as a justification for intervention is in large part a consequence of US policy, which is designed to provoke popular unrest, sow divisions and precipitate an uprising against the government.

We strongly condemn the tacit support given to President Trump’s intervention by leaders of the Democratic Party. Whether articulated by Republicans or Democrats, US intervention to destabilize other countries violates the U.N. Charter and international law.

This interference in Venezuela’s internal affairs serves the interests of wealthy elites and multinational corporations, not the interests of the Venezuelan or American people. It is always the people who end up paying for these interventions in suffering, blood and treasure.

Real international solidarity calls upon us to demand of our government:

“Hands off Venezuela!”

Regime Change Is Not the Answer:
Rep. Ro Khanna Speaks Out Against US-Backed Coup in Venezuela

Amy Goodman / Democracy Now!

(January 29, 2019) — More information has come to light about the direct US role in an attempted coup in Venezuela. The Wall Street Journal reports Vice President Mike Pence called opposition leader Juan Guaido on the night before he declared himself to be president, pledging US support for his actions. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has accused the United States of attempting to wage a coup.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has named Elliott Abrams to be his special envoy to Venezuela. Abrams is a right-wing hawk who was convicted in 1991 for lying to Congress during the Iran-Contra scandal, but he was later pardoned. Abrams defended Guatemalan dictator General Efrain Rios Montt as he oversaw a campaign of mass-murder and torture of indigenous people in Guatemala in the 1980s. Rios Montt was later convicted of genocide. Abrams was also linked to the 2002 coup in Venezuela that attempted to topple Hugo Chavez.

We speak to Ro Khanna, Democratic congressmember from California.

AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show looking at Venezuela, where President Nicolas Maduro has accused the United States of attempting to wage a coup. Last week, the US and several other nations recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido, the president of the National Assembly, to be Venezuela’s president. Israel and Australia have become the latest countries to recognize Guaido.

Meanwhile, Britain, Germany, France and Spain have announced they, too, will recognize Guaido, if Maduro does not call for new elections within eight days. President Maduro has rejected the request but says he’s open to dialogue with the opposition.

Meanwhile, more information has come to light about the direct US role in the attempted coup. The Wall Street Journal reports Vice President Mike Pence called Juan Guaido on the night before he declared himself to be president, pledging US support for his actions.

On Saturday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Elliott Abrams would become his special envoy to Venezuela.

SECRETARY OF STATE MIKE POMPEO: Elliott’s passion for the rights and liberties of all peoples makes him a perfect fit and a valuable and timely addition. . . . Elliott will be a true asset to our mission to help the Venezuelan people fully restore democracy and prosperity to their country.

AMY GOODMAN: Elliott Abrams is a right-wing hawk who was convicted in 1991 for lying to congress during the Iran-Contra scandal, but he was later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush. Abrams defended Guatemalan dictator General Efrain Rios Montt as he oversaw a campaign of mass murder and torture of indigenous people in Guatemala in the 1980s. Rios Montt was later convicted of genocide. Abrams was also linked to the 2002 coup in Venezuela that attempted to topple Hugo Chavez.

The Democratic leadership in Congress has largely supported the Trump administration’s actions, but there have been some voices of dissent.

We’re joined now by Ro Khanna, Democratic congressmember from California.

Welcome back to Democracy Now! Can you respond on what has taken place in Venezuela and the US role in that, from Vice President Pence to Secretary of State Pompeo to national security adviser John Bolton?

REP. RO KHANNA: Well, it’s as if we never learned our lesson. We should have learned by now that the effort for regime change doesn’t work and that we never plan for whether it’s going to be successful and what comes next. This was the mistake we made in Syria.

The entire Washington consensus was that if we supported the rebels, somehow they would topple Assad. Now, Assad was a brutal war criminal, but that was ineffective. And what it led to was Assad actually escalating the bombing and more civilians dying.

The same situation applies here. Look, I’m not going to defend Maduro’s policies. There have been, in my view, unfair elections and hyperinflation. But there is absolutely no plan that would suggest that any effort at regime change would be successful, and there is no plan for what would happen after a civil war, which would just lead to more mayhem and violence.

That is why the responsible solution is what the Vatican and Uruguay and Mexico are doing: a negotiated settlement. And everyone knows that that’s the only way that you could have possible peace there.

Instead, we have the neocons, people like Elliott Abrams, who you just described, who was involved with the Iran-Contra scandal, who was involved in the cover-up in El Salvador, who was involved in the cover-up with Guatemala, dictating our foreign policy and getting us, yet again, into another misguided intervention.

AMY GOODMAN: And this information that came to light in The Wall Street Journal, reporting Vice President Mike Pence called Juan Guaido the night before he declared himself president of Venezuela, pledging US support for his actions, Congressman Khanna?

REP. RO KHANNA: Well, the Democrats should be appalled by that and criticizing that. I mean, for all of our legitimate concerns about Russian interference in our elections, where we get concerned if a journalist appears on Russian television and a member of Congress talks to them, imagine if someone were calling the opposition in our country. We would be furious, justifiably furious. And so, it makes no sense that our vice president would be calling and interfering in politics in Venezuela.

What we ought to be doing is working through international institutions and laws, calling for human rights, but not getting involved in a potential civil war. And again, this is no defense of Maduro. Everyone recognizes that there have been extrajudicial killings there, that his economic policies have led to hyperinflation.

But the reality is that when we have intervened, in places like Syria, in places like Libya, what has — the consequence has been that things have gotten worse. And for some reason, the people who have led all these interventions are still able to dictate American foreign policy. It’s almost as if failure is the qualification to be part of dictating what we should be doing in Venezuela.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, what are you calling for in Congress? Among those who have criticized what the US administration is doing — well, you have Dick Durbin, senator, Nancy Pelosi actually supporting Guaido. But then you have people like yourself, Ilhan Omar and others, Bernie Sanders, also critical of the Venezuelan government but critical of what the US is doing. What are you demanding in Congress right now?

REP. RO KHANNA: Well, first, that the Democrats should speak up against this administration’s effort to get us into another civil war. We have always, unfortunately, been too silent when these interventions start.

We were too silent when Iraq was taking place. We were too silent in the intervention in Syria. We were too silent in the intervention in Libya. The neocons aren’t silent. And that’s why they often end up winning these arguments, because there’s not progressive, strong opposition to us intervening.

Second, we do have a pathway for a solution. Everyone knows that the only way that we are going to see greater progress in Venezuela is to have a negotiated settlement with the parties, to have an honest broker. Uruguay, Mexico, the Vatican are trying that. The United States can lend credence to that effort and be involved in that effort of trying to come to a negotiated settlement.

And finally, these sanctions are not working. Even people completely opposed to Maduro’s policies have said that the sanctions are only making matters worse. They’re hurting the poorest of the poor in Venezuela. And we need to really look at ending those sanctions.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Khanna, before we go, the government shutdown, the longest in US history. President Trump did not get funding for his border wall, but the effects of the shutdown and the possibility that in three weeks he’ll shut the government down again?

REP. RO KHANNA: Well, it was a total wasted effort that hurt ordinary Americans. I mean, if he was going to ultimately cave, there was no reason for hundreds of thousands of workers to have gone without a paycheck. Millions of contractors aren’t going to get back pay. And I’m concerned that on February 15th he’s going to try to declare a national emergency.

Now, I heard yesterday Senator Rubio and Senator Blunt saying that a national emergency would be a bad idea. But the question is: Is that just going to be rhetoric, or are they actually going to stand up for the Constitution? Because Congress and the Senate can pass a joint resolution — it requires a veto-proof majority — if the president does declare an emergency, to overrule that emergency.

And I would like the Republicans who are legitimately telling the president not to go down that road to say that they would actually vote against him to overturn that emergency, or we’re going to have another crisis in this country.

AMY GOODMAN: Ro Khanna, we want to thank you for being with us, Democratic congressmember from Silicon Valley, from California, leading critic of US military interventions abroad.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

The Making of Juan Guaido: How the US Regime Change Laboratory Created Venezuela’s Coup Leader

January 31st, 2019 - by admin

Dan Cohen and Max Blumenthal / GrayZoneProject. – 2019-01-31 15:37:27


The Making of Juan Guaido:
How the US Regime Change Laboratory
Created Venezuela’s Coup Leader

Dan Cohen and Max Blumenthal / GrayZoneProject.com

(January 29, 2019) — Before the fateful day of January 22, fewer than one in five Venezuelans had heard of Juan Guaido. Only a few months ago, the 35-year-old was an obscure character in a politically marginal far-right group closely associated with gruesome acts of street violence.

Even in his own party, Guaido had been a mid-level figure in the opposition-dominated National Assembly, which is now held under contempt according to Venezuela’s constitution.

But after a single phone call from US Vice President Mike Pence, Guaido proclaimed himself as president of Venezuela. Anointed as the leader of his country by Washington, a previously unknown political bottom dweller was vaulted onto the international stage as the US-selected leader of the nation with the world’s largest oil reserves.

Echoing the Washington consensus, the New York Times editorial board hailed Guaido as a “credible rival” to Maduro with a “refreshing style and vision of taking the country forward.” The Bloomberg News editorial board applauded him for seeking “restoration of democracy” and the Wall Street Journal declared him “a new democratic leader.” Meanwhile, Canada, numerous European nations, Israel, and the bloc of right-wing Latin American governments known as the Lima Group recognized Guaido as the legitimate leader of Venezuela.

While Guaido seemed to have materialized out of nowhere, he was, in fact, the product of more than a decade of assiduous grooming by the US government’s elite regime change factories. Alongside a cadre of right-wing student activists, Guaido was cultivated to undermine Venezuela’s socialist-oriented government, destabilize the country, and one day seize power. Though he has been a minor figure in Venezuelan politics, he had spent years quietly demonstrating his worthiness in Washington’s halls of power.

“Juan Guaido is a character that has been created for this circumstance,” Marco Teruggi, an Argentinian sociologist and leading chronicler of Venezuelan politics, told the Grayzone. “It’s the logic of a laboratory — Guaido is like a mixture of several elements that create a character who, in all honesty, oscillates between laughable and worrying.”

Diego Sequera, a Venezuelan journalist and writer for the investigative outlet, Mision Verdad, agreed: “Guaido is more popular outside Venezuela than inside, especially in the elite Ivy League and Washington circles,” Sequera remarked to the Grayzone, “He’s a known character there, is predictably right-wing, and is considered loyal to the program.”

While Guaido is today sold as the face of democratic restoration, he spent his career in the most violent faction of Venezuela’s most radical opposition party, positioning himself at the forefront of one destabilization campaign after another. His party has been widely discredited inside Venezuela, and is held partly responsible for fragmenting a badly weakened opposition.

“‘These radical leaders have no more than 20 percent in opinion polls,” wrote Luis Vicente Leon, Venezuela’s leading pollster. According to Leon, Guaido’s party remains isolated because the majority of the population “does not want war. ‘What they want is a solution.'”

But this is precisely why Guaido was selected by Washington: he is not expected to lead Venezuela towards to democracy, but to collapse a country that for the past two decades has been a bulwark of resistance to US hegemony. His unlikely rise signals the culmination of a two decades-long project to destroy a robust socialist experiment.

Targeting the “Troika of Tyranny”
Since the 1998 election of Hugo Chavez, the United States has fought to restore control over Venezuela and its vast oil reserves. Chavez’s socialist programs may have redistributed the country’s wealth and helped lift millions out of poverty, but they also earned him a target on his back.

In 2002, Venezuela’s right-wing opposition briefly ousted him with US support and recognition before the military restored his presidency following a mass popular mobilization. Throughout the administrations of US Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Chavez survived numerous assassination plots before succumbing to cancer in 2013. His successor, Nicolas Maduro, has survived three attempts on his life.

The Trump administration immediately elevated Venezuela to the top of Washington’s regime change target list, branding it the leader of a “troika of tyranny.” Last year, Trump’s national security team attempted to recruit members of the military brass to mount a military junta, but that effort failed.

According to the Venezuelan government, the US was also involved in a plot codenamed Operation Constitution to capture Maduro at the Miraflores presidential palace, and another called Operation Armageddon to assassinate him at a military parade in July, 2017. Just over a year later, exiled opposition leaders tried and failed to kill Maduro with drone bombs during a military parade in Caracas.

More than a decade before these intrigues, a group of right-wing opposition students were hand selected and groomed by an elite, US-funded regime change training academy to topple Venezuela’s government and restore the neoliberal order.

Training from the “‘Export-a-revolution’ Group that
Sowed the Seeds for a NUMBER of Color Revolutions”

On October 5, 2005, with Chavez’s popularity at its peak and his government planning sweeping socialist programs, five Venezuelan “student leaders” arrived in Belgrade, Serbia to begin training for an insurrection.

The students had arrived from Venezuela courtesy of the Center for Applied Non-Violent Action and Strategies, or CANVAS. This group is funded largely through the National Endowment for Democracy, a CIA cut-out that functions as the US government’s main arm of promoting regime change; and offshoots like the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs.

According to leaked internal emails from Stratfor, an intelligence firm known as the “shadow CIA,” “[CANVAS] may have also received CIA funding and training during the 1999/2000 anti-Milosevic struggle.”

CANVAS is a spinoff of Otpor, a Serbian protest group founded by Srdja Popovic in 1998 at the University of Belgrade. Otpor, which means “resistance” in Serbian, was the student group that gained international fame — and Hollywood-level promotion — by mobilizing the protests that eventually toppled Slobodan Milosevic.

This small cell of regime change specialists was operating according to the theories of the late Gene Sharp, the so-called “Clausewitz of non-violent struggle.” Sharp had worked with a former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst, Col. Robert Helvey, to conceive a strategic blueprint that weaponized protest as a form of hybrid warfare, aiming it at states that resisted Washington’s unipolar domination.

Otpor was supported by the National Endowment for Democracy, USAID and Sharp’s Albert Einstein Institute. Sinisa Sikman, one of Otpor’s main trainers, once said the group even received direct CIA funding. According to a leaked email from a Stratfor staffer, after running Milosevic out of power, “the kids who ran OTPOR grew up, got suits and designed CANVAS . . . or in other words a ‘export-a-revolution’ group that sowed the seeds for a NUMBER of color revolutions. They are still hooked into U.S. funding and basically go around the world trying to topple dictators and autocratic governments (ones that U.S. does not like ;).”

Stratfor revealed that CANVAS “turned its attention to Venezuela” in 2005 after training opposition movements that led pro-NATO regime change operations across Eastern Europe.

While monitoring the CANVAS training program, Stratfor outlined its insurrectionist agenda in strikingly blunt language: “Success is by no means guaranteed, and student movements are only at the beginning of what could be a years-long effort to trigger a revolution in Venezuela, but the trainers themselves are the people who cut their teeth on the ‘Butcher of the Balkans.’ They’ve got mad skills. When you see students at five Venezuelan universities hold simultaneous demonstrations, you will know that the training is over and the real work has begun.”

Birthing the “Generation 2007” Regime Change Cadre
The “real work” began two years later, in 2007, when Guaido graduated from Andres Bello Catholic University of Caracas. He moved to Washington DC to enroll in the Governance and Political Management Program at George Washington University under the tutelage of Venezuelan economist Luis Enrique Berrizbeitia, one of the top Latin American neoliberal economists. Berrizbeitia is a former executive director of the International Monetary Fund who spent more than a decade working in Venezuelan energy sector under the oligarchic old regime that was ousted by Chavez.

That year, Guaido helped lead anti-government rallies after the Venezuelan government declined to to renew the license of Radio Caracas Television (RCTV). This privately-owned station played a leading role in the 2002 coup against Hugo Chavez. RCTV helped mobilize anti-government demonstrators, falsified information blaming government supporters for acts of violence carried out by opposition members, and banned pro-government reporting amid the coup. The role of RCTV and other oligarch-owned stations in driving the failed coup attempt was chronicled in the acclaimed documentary, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.

That same year, the students claimed credit for stymying Chavez’s constitutional referendum for a “21st century socialism” that promised “to set the legal framework for the political and social reorganization of the country, giving direct power to organized communities as a prerequisite for the development of a new economic system.”

From the protests around RCTV and the referendum, a specialized cadre of US-backed class of regime change activists was born. They called themselves “Generation 2007.”

The Stratfor and CANVAS trainers of this cell identified Guaido’s ally — a street organizer named Yon Goicoechea — as a “key factor” in defeating the constitutional referendum. The following year, Goicochea was rewarded for his efforts with the Cato Institute’s Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty, along with a $500,000 prize, which he promptly invested into building his own Liberty First (Primero Justicia) political network.

Friedman, of course, was the godfather of the notorious neoliberal Chicago Boys who were imported into Chile by dictatorial junta leader Augusto Pinochet to implement policies of radical “shock doctrine”-style fiscal austerity. And the Cato Institute is the libertarian Washington DC-based think tank founded by the Koch Brothers, two top Republican Party donors who have become aggressive supporters of the right-wing across Latin America.

Wikileaks published a 2007 email from American ambassador to Venezuela William Brownfield sent to the State Department, National Security Council and Department of Defense Southern Command praising “Generation of ’07” for having “forced the Venezuelan president, accustomed to setting the political agenda, to (over)react.” Among the “emerging leaders” Brownfield identified were Freddy Guevara and Yon Goicoechea. He applauded the latter figure as “one of the students’ most articulate defenders of civil liberties.”

Flush with cash from libertarian oligarchs and US government soft power outfits, the radical Venezuelan cadre took their Otpor tactics to the streets, along with a version of the group’s logo, as seen below:

“Galvanizing public unrest . . . to take advantage
of the situation and spin it against Chavez”

In 2009, the Generation 2007 youth activists staged their most provocative demonstration yet, dropping their pants on public roads and aping the outrageous guerrilla theater tactics outlined by Gene Sharp in his regime-change manuals.

The protesters had mobilized against the arrest of an ally from another newfangled youth group called JAVU. This far-right group “gathered funds from a variety of US government sources, which allowed it to gain notoriety quickly as the hardline wing of opposition street movements,” according to academic George Ciccariello-Maher’s book, “Building the Commune.”

While video of the protest is not available, many Venezuelans have identified Guaido as one of its key participants. While the allegation is unconfirmed, it is certainly plausible; the bare-buttocks protesters were members of the Generation 2007 inner core that Guaido belonged to, and were clad in their trademark Resistencia! Venezuela t-shirts, as seen below:

Is this the ass that Trump wants to install in Venezuela’s seat of power?

That year, Guaido exposed himself to the public in another way, founding a political party to capture the anti-Chavez energy his Generation 2007 had cultivated. Called Popular Will, it was led by Leopoldo Lopez, a Princeton-educated right-wing firebrand heavily involved in National Endowment for Democracy programs and elected as the mayor of a district in Caracas that was one of the wealthiest in the country.

Lopez was a portrait of Venezuelan aristocracy, directly descended from his country’s first president. He was also the first cousin of Thor Halvorssen, founder of the US-based Human Rights Foundation that functions as a de facto publicity shop for US-backed anti-government activists in countries targeted by Washington for regime change.

Though Lopez’s interests aligned neatly with Washington’s, US diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks highlighted the fanatical tendencies that would ultimately lead to Popular Will’s marginalization. One cable identified Lopez as “a divisive figure within the opposition . . . often described as arrogant, vindictive, and power-hungry.” Others highlighted his obsession with street confrontations and his “uncompromising approach” as a source of tension with other opposition leaders who prioritized unity and participation in the country’s democratic institutions.

By 2010, Popular Will and its foreign backers moved to exploit the worst drought to hit Venezuela in decades. Massive electricity shortages had struck the country due the dearth of water, which was needed to power hydroelectric plants. A global economic recession and declining oil prices compounded the crisis, driving public discontentment.

Stratfor and CANVAS — key advisors of Guaido and his anti-government cadre — devised a shockingly cynical plan to drive a dagger through the heart of the Bolivarian revolution. The scheme hinged on a 70% collapse of the country’s electrical system by as early as April 2010.

“This could be the watershed event, as there is little that Chavez can do to protect the poor from the failure of that system,” the Stratfor internal memo declared. “This would likely have the impact of galvanizing public unrest in a way that no opposition group could ever hope to generate. At that point in time, an opposition group would be best served to take advantage of the situation and spin it against Chavez and towards their needs.”

By this point, the Venezuelan opposition was receiving a staggering $40-50 million a year from US government organizations like USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy, according to a report by the Spanish think tank, the FRIDE Institute. It also had massive wealth to draw on from its own accounts, which were mostly outside the country.

While the scenario envisioned by Statfor did not come to fruition, the Popular Will party activists and their allies cast aside any pretense of non-violence and joined a radical plan to destabilize the country.

Towards Violent Destabilization
In November, 2010, according to emails obtained by Venezuelan security services and presented by former Justice Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres, Guaido, Goicoechea, and several other student activists attended a secret five-day training at the Fiesta Mexicana hotel in Mexico City. The sessions were run by Otpor, the Belgrade-based regime change trainers backed by the US government.

The meeting had reportedly received the blessing of Otto Reich, a fanatically anti-Castro Cuban exile working in George W. Bush’s Department of State, and the right-wing former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.

At the Fiesta Mexicana hotel, the emails stated, Guaido and his fellow activists hatched a plan to overthrow President Hugo Chavez by generating chaos through protracted spasms of street violence.

Three petroleum industry figureheads — Gustavo Torrar, Eligio Cedeno and Pedro Burelli — allegedly covered the $52,000 tab to hold the meeting. Torrar is a self-described “human rights activist” and “intellectual” whose younger brother Reynaldo Tovar Arroyo is the representative in Venezuela of the private Mexican oil and gas company Petroquimica del Golfo, which holds a contract with the Venezuelan state.

Cedeno, for his part, is a fugitive Venezuelan businessman who claimed asylum in the United States, and Pedro Burelli a former JP Morgan executive and the former director of Venezuela’s national oil company, Petroleum of Venezuela (PDVSA). He left PDVSA in 1998 as Hugo Chavez took power and is on the advisory committee of Georgetown University’s Latin America Leadership Program.

Burelli insisted that the emails detailing his participation had been fabricated and even hired a private investigator to prove it. The investigator declared that Google’s records showed the emails alleged to be his were never transmitted.

Yet today Burelli makes no secret of his desire to see Venezuela’s current president, Nicolas Maduro, deposed — and even dragged through the streets and sodomized with a bayonet, as Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi was by NATO-backed militiamen.

The alleged Fiesta Mexicana plot flowed into another destabilization plan revealed in a series of documents produced by the Venezuelan government.

In May 2014, Caracas released documents detailing an assassination plot against President Nicolas Maduro. The leaks identified the Miami-based Maria Corina Machado as a leader of the scheme. A hardliner with a penchant for extreme rhetoric, Machado has functioned as an international liaison for the opposition, visiting President George W. Bush in 2005.

“I think it is time to gather efforts; make the necessary calls, and obtain financing to annihilate Maduro and the rest will fall apart,” Machado wrote in an email to former Venezuelan diplomat Diego Arria in 2014.

In another email, Machado claimed that the violent plot had the blessing of US Ambassador to Colombia, Kevin Whitaker:
“I have already made up my mind and this fight will continue until this regime is overthrown and we deliver to our friends in the world. If I went to San Cristobal and exposed myself before the OAS, I fear nothing. Kevin Whitaker has already reconfirmed his support and he pointed out the new steps. We have a checkbook stronger than the regime’s to break the international security ring.”

Guaido Heads to the Barricades
That February, student demonstrators acting as shock troops for the exiled oligarchy erected violent barricades across the country, turning opposition-controlled quarters into violent fortresses known as guarimbas. While international media portrayed the upheaval as a spontaneous protest against Maduro’s iron-fisted rule, there was ample evidence that Popular Will was orchestrating the show.

“None of the protesters at the universities wore their university t-shirts, they all wore Popular Will or Justice First t-shirts,” a guarimba participant said at the time. “They might have been student groups, but the student councils are affiliated to the political opposition parties and they are accountable to them.”

Asked who the ringleaders were, the guarimba participant said, “Well if I am totally honest, those guys are legislators now.”

Around 43 were killed during the 2014 guarimbas. Three years later, they erupted again, causing mass destruction of public infrastructure, the murder of government supporters, and the deaths of 126 people, many of whom were Chavistas. In several cases, supporters of the government were burned alive by armed gangs.

Guaido was directly involved in the 2014 guarimbas. In fact, he tweeted video showing himself clad in a helmet and gas mask, surrounded by masked and armed elements that had shut down a highway that were engaging in a violent clash with the police. Alluding to his participation in Generation 2007, he proclaimed, “I remember in 2007, we proclaimed, ‘Students!’ Now, we shout, ‘Resistance! Resistance!'”

Guaido has deleted the tweet, demonstrating apparent concern for his image as a champion of democracy.

On February 12, 2014, during the height of that year’s guarimbas, Guaido joined Lopez on stage at a rally of Popular Will and Justice First. During a lengthy diatribe against the government, Lopez urged the crowd to march to the office of Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz. Soon after, Diaz’s office came under attack by armed gangs who attempted to burn it to the ground. She denounced what she called “planned and premeditated violence.”

In an televised appearance in 2016, Guaido dismissed deaths resulting from guayas — a guarimba tactic involving stretching steel wire across a roadway in order to injure or kill motorcyclists — as a “myth.” His comments whitewashed a deadly tactic that had killed unarmed civilians like Santiago Pedroza and decapitated a man named Elvis Duran, among many others.

This callous disregard for human life would define his Popular Will party in the eyes of much of the public, including many opponents of Maduro.

Cracking Down on Popular Will
As violence and political polarization escalated across the country, the government began to act against the Popular Will leaders who helped stoke it.

Freddy Guevara, the National Assembly Vice-President and second in command of Popular Will, was a principal leader in the 2017 street riots. Facing a trial for his role in the violence, Guevara took shelter in the Chilean embassy, where he remains.

Lester Toledo, a Popular Will legislator from the state of Zulia, was wanted by Venezuelan government in September 2016 on charges of financing terrorism and plotting assassinations. The plans were said to be made with former Colombian President Alavaro Uribe. Toledo escaped Venezuela and went on several speaking tours with Human Rights Watch, the US government-backed Freedom House, the Spanish Congress and European Parliament.

Carlos Graffe, another Otpor-trained Generation 2007 member who led Popular Will, was arrested in July 2017. According to police, he was in possession of a bag filled with nails, C4 explosives and a detonator. He was released on December 27, 2017.

Leopoldo Lopez, the longtime Popular Will leader, is today under house arrest, accused of a key role in deaths of 13 people during the guarimbas in 2014. Amnesty International lauded Lopez as a “prisoner of conscience” and slammed his transfer from prison to house as “not good enough.” Meanwhile, family members of guarimba victims introduced a petition for more charges against Lopez.

Yon Goicoechea, the Koch Brothers posterboy and US-backed founder of Justice First, was arrested in 2016 by security forces who claimed they found found a kilo of explosives in his vehicle. In a New York Times op-ed, Goicoechea protested the charges as “trumped-up” and claimed he had been imprisoned simply for his “dream of a democratic society, free of Communism.” He was freed in November 2017.

David Smolansky, also a member of the original Otpor-trained Generation 2007, became Venezuela’s youngest-ever mayor when he was elected in 2013 in the affluent suburb of El Hatillo. But he was stripped of his position and sentenced to 15 months in prison by the Supreme Court after it found him culpable of stirring the violent guarimbas.

Facing arrest, Smolansky shaved his beard, donned sunglasses and slipped into Brazil disguised as a priest with a bible in hand and rosary around his neck. He now lives in Washington, DC, where he was hand picked by Secretary of the Organization of American States Luis Almagro to lead the working group on the Venezuelan migrant and refugee crisis.

This July 26, Smolansky held what he called a “cordial reunion” with Elliot Abrams, the convicted Iran-Contra felon installed by Trump as special US envoy to Venezuela. Abrams is notorious for overseeing the US covert policy of arming right-wing death squads during the 1980’s in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala. His lead role in the Venezuelan coup has stoked fears that another blood-drenched proxy war might be on the way.

Four days earlier, Machado rumbled another violent threat against Maduro, declaring that if he “wants to save his life, he should understand that his time is up.”

A Pawn in Their Game
The collapse of Popular Will under the weight of the violent campaign of destabilization it ran alienated large sectors of the public and wound much of its leadership up in exile or in custody. Guaido had remained a relatively minor figure, having spent most of his nine-year career in the National Assembly as an alternate deputy.

Hailing from one of Venezuela’s least populous states, Guaido came in second place during the 2015 parliamentary elections, winning just 26% of votes cast in order to secure his place in the National Assembly. Indeed, his bottom may have been better known than his face.

Guaido is known as the president of the opposition-dominated National Assembly, but he was never elected to the position. The four opposition parties that comprised the Assembly’s Democratic Unity Table had decided to establish a rotating presidency. Popular Will’s turn was on the way, but its founder, Lopez, was under house arrest.

Meanwhile, his second-in-charge, Guevara, had taken refuge in the Chilean embassy. A figure named Juan Andres Mejia would have been next in line but for reasons that are only now clear, Juan Guaido was selected.

“There is a class reasoning that explains Guaido’s rise,” Sequera, the Venezuelan analyst, observed. “Mejia is high class, studied at one of the most expensive private universities in Venezuela, and could not be easily marketed to the public the way Guaido could.

For one, Guaido has common mestizo features like most Venezuelans do, and seems like more like a man of the people. Also, he had not been overexposed in the media, so he could be built up into pretty much anything.”

In December 2018, Guaido sneaked across the border and junketed to Washington, Colombia and Brazil to coordinate the plan to hold mass demonstrations during the inauguration of President Maduro. The night before Maduro’s swearing-in ceremony, both Vice President Mike Pence and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland called Guaido to affirm their support.

A week later, Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Rick Scott and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart — all lawmakers from the Florida base of the right-wing Cuban exile lobby — joined President Trump and Vice President Pence at the White House. At their request, Trump agreed that if Guaido declared himself president, he would back him.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met personally with Guaido on January 10, according to the Wall Street Journal. However, Pompeo could not pronounce Guaido’s name when he mentioned him in a press briefing on January 25, referring to him as “Juan Guido.”

By January 11, Guaido’s Wikipedia page had been edited 37 times, highlighting the struggle to shape the image of a previously anonymous figure who was now a tableau for Washington’s regime change ambitions. In the end, editorial oversight of his page was handed over to Wikipedia’s elite council of “librarians,” who pronounced him the “contested” president of Venezuela.

Guaido might have been an obscure figure, but his combination of radicalism and opportunism satisfied Washington’s needs. “That internal piece was missing,” a Trump administration [official] said of Guaido. “He was the piece we needed for our strategy to be coherent and complete.”

“For the first time,” Brownfield, the former American ambassador to Venezuela, gushed to the New York Times, “you have an opposition leader who is clearly signaling to the armed forces and to law enforcement that he wants to keep them on the side of the angels and with the good guys.”

But Guaido’s Popular Will party formed the shock troops of the guarimbas that caused the deaths of police officers and common citizens alike. He had even boasted of his own participation in street riots. And now, to win the hearts and minds of the military and police, Guaido had to erase this blood-soaked history.

On January 21, a day before the coup began in earnest, Guaido’s wife delivered a video address calling on the military to rise up against Maduro. Her performance was wooden and uninspiring, underscoring the her husband’s limited political prospects.

At a press conference before supporters four days later, Guaido announced his solution to the crisis: “Authorize a humanitarian intervention!”

While he waits on direct assistance, Guaido remains what he has always been — a pet project of cynical outside forces. “It doesn’t matter if he crashes and burns after all these misadventures,” Sequera said of the coup figurehead. “To the Americans, he is expendable.”

Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and the author of several books, including best-selling Republican Gomorrah, Goliath, The Fifty One Day War, and The Management of Savagery. He has produced print articles for an array of publications, many video reports, and several documentaries, including Killing Gaza. Blumenthal founded The Grayzone in 2015 to shine a journalistic light on America’s state of perpetual war and its dangerous domestic repercussions.

Dan Cohen is a journalist and filmmaker. He has produced widely distributed video reports and print dispatches from across Israel-Palestine. Dan is a correspondent at RT America and tweets at @DanCohen3000.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Trump’s Intervention in Venezuela Is Undemocratic and Dangerous

January 29th, 2019 - by admin

Michael Selby-Green / The Independent & Ethan Bronner, Andrew Rosati, and Fabiola Zerpa / Bloomberg – 2019-01-29 20:54:18


Venezuela Crisis: Former UN Rapporteur
Says US Sanctions Are Killing Civilians

Michael Selby-Green / The Independent

‘Modern-day economic sanctions and blockades
are comparable with medieval sieges of towns’

— UN special rapporteur Alfred de Zayas

(January 28, 2019) — The first UN rapporteur to visit Venezuela for 21 years has told The Independent the US sanctions on the country are illegal and could amount to “crimes against humanity” under international law.

Former special rapporteur Alfred de Zayas, who finished his term at the UN in March, has criticized the US for engaging in “economic warfare” against Venezuela which he said is hurting the economy and killing Venezuelans.

The comments come amid worsening tensions in the country after the US and UK have backed Juan Guaido, who appointed himself “interim president” of Venezuela as hundreds of thousands marched to support him. European leaders are calling for “free and fair” elections. Russia and Turkey remain Nicolas Maduro’s key supporters.

Mr. De Zayas, a former secretary of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) and an expert in international law, spoke to The Independent following the presentation of his Venezuela report to the HRC in September. He said that since its presentation the report has been ignored by the UN and has not sparked the public debate he believes it deserves.

“Sanctions kill,” he told The Independent, adding that they fall most heavily on the poorest people in society, demonstrably cause death through food and medicine shortages, lead to violations of human rights and are aimed at coercing economic change in a “sister democracy”.

On his fact-finding mission to the country in late 2017, he found internal overdependence on oil, poor governance and corruption had hit the Venezuelan economy hard, but said “economic warfare” practised by the US, EU and Canada are significant factors in the economic crisis.

In the report, Mr. de Zayas recommended, among other actions, that the International Criminal Court investigate economic sanctions against Venezuela as possible crimes against humanity under Article 7 of the Rome Statute.

The US sanctions are illegal under international law because they were not endorsed by the UN Security Council, Mr. de Zayas, an expert on international law and a former senior lawyer with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said.

“Modern-day economic sanctions and blockades are comparable with medieval sieges of towns.

“Twenty-first century sanctions attempt to bring not just a town, but sovereign countries to their knees,” Mr. de Zayas said in his report.

The US Treasury has not responded to a request for comment on Mr. de Zayas’s allegations of the effects of the sanctions programme.

US sanctions prohibit dealing in currencies issued by the Venezuelan government. They also target individuals, and stop US-based companies or people from buying and selling new debt issued by PDVSA or the government.

The US has previously defended its sanctions on Venezuela, with a senior US official saying in 2018: “The fact is that the greatest sanction on Venezuelan oil and oil production is called Nicolas Maduro, and PDVSA’s inefficiencies,” referring to the state-run oil body, Petroleos de Venezuela, SA.

Mr. De Zayas’s findings are based on his late-2017 mission to the country and interviews with 12 Venezuelan government minsters, opposition politicians, 35 NGOs working in the country, academics, church officials, activists, chambers of commerce and regional UN agencies.

The US imposed new sanctions against Venezuela on 9 March 2015, when President Barack Obama issued executive order 13692, declaring the country a threat to national security.

The sanctions have since intensified under Donald Trump, who has also threatened military invasion and discussed a coup.

After backing Mr. Guaido on 23 January, Mr. Trump said, “I will continue to use the full weight of United States economic and diplomatic power to press for the restoration of Venezuelan democracy.”

Venezuela has also described US sanctions as illegal. In 2018, foreign minister Jorge Arreaza said they were “madness, barbaric, and in absolute contradiction to international law”.

Since 2015 around 1.9 million people have fled the country and on 23 October 2018 inflation reached 60,324 per cent, while the civilian death toll is unknown.

Despite being the first UN official to visit and report from Venezuela in 21 years, Mr. de Zayas said his research into the causes of the country’s economic crisis has so far largely been ignored by the UN and the media, and caused little debate within the Human Rights Council.

He believes his report has been ignored because it goes against the popular narrative that Venezuela needs regime change.

“When I come and I say the emigration is partly attributable to the economic war waged against Venezuela and is partly attributable to the sanctions, people don’t like to hear that. They just want the simple narrative that socialism failed and it failed the Venezuelan people,” Mr. de Zayas told The Independent.

“When I came back [the UN and media were] not interested. Because I am not singing the song I’m supposed to sing so I don’t exist … And my report, as I said, was formally presented but there has been no debate on the report. It has been filed away.”

The then UN high commissioner, Zeid Raad Al Hussein, reportedly refused to meet Mr. de Zayas after the visit, and the Venezuela desk of the UN Human Rights Council also declined to help with his work after his return despite being obliged to do so, Mr. de Zayas claimed.

He told The Independent the office gave him the “cold shoulder” because they were worried his report, which is now published, would be too independent.

“They are only interested in a rapporteur who is going to … do grandstanding, is going to condemn the government and ask for regime change. And I went there to listen. I went there to find out what’s actually going on,” Mr. de Zayas said.

A spokesperson for the office of the UN high commissioner said: “The 56 Special Procedures – of which Alfred de Zayas was one – are independent, as well as very numerous, and so it is not a practice for the high commissioner to meet with them individually to discuss their reports. It would be physically impossible for him … to do so.”

The spokesperson said the actions of the Venezuela desk are more “complicated” then Mr. de Zayas described, adding, “calling for regime change is not our business”.

Ivan Briscoe, Latin America and Caribbean programme director for Crisis Group, an international NGO, told The Independent that Venezuela is a polarising subject, dividing those who support the socialist government and those who want to see a more US-aligned business friendly regime replace it.

Briscoe is critical of Mr. de Zayas’s report because it highlights US economic warfare but in his view neglects to mention the impact of a difficult business environment in the country which he believes is a symptom of “Chavismo” and the socialist governments’ failures.

Juan Guaidó declares himself interim president of Venezuela

He said even if the sanctions are lifted, the country could not recover under current government policies, adding that Mr. de Zayas’s report is the result of a “lawyer trying to understand the nature of supply and demand, and it didn’t quite work”.

But, speaking before the news of Guaido’s coup attempt, Briscoe acknowledged rising tensions and the likely presence of US personnel operating covertly in the country.

“Yes, something is going on. Yes there is talk of a military intervention. Which would be a very bad idea. But the fact of the matter is that the plan has been conceived in the context of the humanitarian crisis,” he said.

Eugenia Russian, president of FUNDALATIN, one of the oldest human rights NGOs in Venezuela, founded in 1978 before the Chavez and Maduro governments and with special consultative status at the UN, spoke to The Independent on the significance of the sanctions.

“In contact with the popular communities, we consider that one of the fundamental causes of the economic crisis in the country is the effect that the unilateral coercive sanctions that are applied in the economy, especially by the government of the United States,” Ms. Russian said.

She said there may also be causes from internal errors, but said probably few countries in the world have suffered an “economic siege” like the one Venezuelans are living under.

The sanctions are part of a US effort to overthrow the Venezuelan government and instal a more business friendly regime, as was done in Chile in 1973 and elsewhere in the region, Mr. de Zayas said.

“I’ve seen that happen in the Human Rights Council, how the United States twists arMs. and convinces countries to vote the way they want them to vote, or there will be economic consequences, and these things are not reflected in the press,” the former high-ranking UN official told The Independent.

“What’s at stake is the enormous, enormous natural resources of Venezuela. And I sense that if Venezuela had no natural resources no one would give a damn about Chavez or Maduro or anybody else there,” Mr. de Zayas added.

Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world and an abundance of other natural resources including gold, bauxite and coltan. But under the Maduro government they’re not easily accessible to US and transnational corporations.

US oil companies had large investments in Venezuela in the early 20th century but were locked out after Venezuelans voted to nationalise the industry in 1973.

“If you crush this government and you bring in a neoliberal government that is going to privatise everything and is going to sell out, a lot of transitional corporations stand to gain enormous profits and the United States is driven by the transnational corporations,” the former UN special rapporteur told The Independent.

“The business of the United States is business. And that’s what the United States is interested in. And they can’t [currently] do business with Venezuela.”

In his report, Mr. de Zayas expressed concern that those calling the situation a “humanitarian crisis” are trying to justify regime change and that human rights are being “weaponised” to discredit the government and make violent overthrow more “palatable”.

The Maduro government is responsible for “the worst human rights crisis in the country’s history,” according to Amnesty.

“Venezuela is going through one of the worst human rights crises in its history. The list of crimes under international law against the population is growing,” Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty’s Americas director, said in late 2018.

“It is alarming that, instead of applying efficient public policies to protect people and reduce levels of insecurity, the Venezuelan authorities are using the language of war to try to legitimise the use of excessive force by police and military officials and, in many cases, the use of lethal force with intent to kill.”

Violence erupts as anti-government protests in Venezuela continue

Mr. De Zayas recommended dialogue between the international community and Venezuelans to make their government better, rather than squeezing the country with sanctions and backing coups. He proposed that Venezuela’s abundant natural wealth can help it recover once sanctions are lifted.

“The key to the solution of the crisis is dialogue and mediation… There is nothing more undemocratic than a coup d’état and nothing more corrosive to the rule of law and to international stability when foreign governments meddle in the internal affairs of other states,” he told The Independent.

“Only the Venezuelans have a right to decide, not the United States, not the United Kingdom … We do not want a repetition of the Pinochet putsch in 1973 … What is urgent is to help the Venezuelan people through international solidarity – genuine humanitarian aid and a lifting of the financial blockade so that Venezuela can buy and sell like any other country in the world – the probleMs. can be solved with good faith and common sense.”

Mr. De Zayas has since signed an open letter with Noam Chomsky and over 70 other academics and experts, condemning the US-backed coup attempt against the Venezuelan government.

He called the recent developments “totally surreal”.

Ms. Russian, speaking about the economic crisis, said: “It is insufficient to see only the errors or deficiencies that the government may have, without seeing the environment of international pressure under which this population lives.”

Inside the Failed Plot to Overthrow
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro

Ethan Bronner, Andrew Rosati, and Fabiola Zerpa / Bloomberg

(June 27, 2018) — The plot, code-named Operation Constitution, involved scores of captains, colonels, and generals from all four branches of Venezuela’s armed forces. The goal was straightforward and seismic — to capture President Nicolas Maduro and put him on trial.

The plotters, wearing blue armbands marked OC, were supposed to storm the presidential palace and main military base and stop the May 20 presidential election. Some of the planning took place in Bogota, but Colombian and US officials, who allegedly knew about the plot and winked from the sidelines, declined to provide active support.

Then something went wrong. In mid-May, several dozen servicemen, including one woman, as well as a couple of civilians, were secretly arrested — some have been accused of treason — and imprisoned by a military court. Many say they’ve been tortured. The plotters believe they were betrayed, possibly by a double agent.

This reconstruction of the conspiracy is based on interviews with one plot coordinator who escaped arrest, two who attended planning sessions, and lawyers and relatives of the accused. All spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing for their safety. Bloomberg also viewed a military court report laying out the government’s version of events; it corroborated many of the plotters’ accounts.

Details of the failed coup, probably the biggest threat to Maduro in his five years in office, haven’t been reported before, though a military blogger in the country has alluded to it. Once rich and relatively democratic, socialist Venezuela has devolved into a dysfunctional, authoritarian petrostate.

The country is beset by hyperinflation and severe food and medicine shortages. Hundreds of thousands have fled to neighboring Colombia, which for decades battled Marxist guerrillas backed by Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, who himself led a failed coup against the Venezuelan government in 1992. A decade later, as president, he beat back a coup.

Some members of the Venezuelan military say the only hope for a return to stability is to replace Maduro by force. That remains unlikely after the coup’s failure. The president holds sway over all major institutions; he’s never been a military man but has worked hard to win the loyalty of top brass. And while his reelection in May was widely condemned as fraudulent, it reaffirmed the sense that he’s firmly in power.

The coup attempt, however, indicates that parts of the security services are roiling with discontent — and Maduro has taken note. At a military parade on June 23 he declared, “It’s time to close ranks and dig in against treason! We need a united military loyal to the glorious country of Venezuela and its legitimate commander-in-chief!”

The military tribunal report on the plot, participants say, contains both fact and fiction. Its key assertion is undisputed: In May high-ranking officers from all four branches of the security services attempted an insurrection. But those interviewed reject the most dramatic claims, including that the US and Colombian governments provided financial backing and that there was a separate plot, Operation Armageddon, which called for Maduro’s assassination at a military parade in July 2017.

The US has “no intent to destabilize or overthrow the Venezuelan government,” says a State Department spokesperson, but wants “a return to a stable, prosperous, and democratic Venezuela.” Speaking in Texas in February, as coup preparations were coming to a head, then-US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson noted that militaries in Latin America frequently step in during crises. “If the kitchen gets a little too hot for [Maduro], I am sure that he’s got some friends over in Cuba that could give him a nice hacienda on the beach,” he said. Both Colombia and Venezuela declined to comment.

The military prosecutor asserts that Maria Corina Machado, a top opponent of Maduro’s, took part in the plot. She and the participants say this is fiction aimed at besmirching and possibly jailing her.

“This regime is once again trying to incriminate me,” Machado says in an interview in Caracas. “I have no connection to these plots. They want to silence my voice, because I have labeled them a narco-dictatorship. I want to be clear: I want Nicolas Maduro out of power immediately. But I want him out alive so he can face the justice that his regime has denied to Venezuelans.”

Both the government and the plotters have reason to exaggerate as well as to downplay what happened: The plotters want foreign support and more officers to join the next effort and hope to protect those who’ve been caught. The government seeks to justify a purge, which has begun, while claiming to be in full control.

Participants say the coup was first planned for April 2017 to stop Maduro from expanding his powers over Venezuela’s legislature. But an unrelated and much smaller military rebellion caused the participants to pull the plug. Planning continued into 2018, with secret meetings being held in homes in an upscale part of Caracas. At one point, a participant snuck across the border from Colombia wearing a fake mustache and using a false ID.

Elements of discontent among the security forces began to appear a year ago when Oscar Perez, a police officer and pilot, commandeered a helicopter and lobbed grenades at government ministries. Maduro blamed the attack on Major General Miguel Rodriguez Torres, a former intelligence chief who broke with the government in 2015. Perez was later killed in a raid. By January, arrests of special forces lieutenants began. In March, Rodriguez Torres and some armored battalion commanders were arrested for attempted insurrection. He remains in prison.

The biggest set of arrests took place around the time of Maduro’s reelection. Participants and their lawyers say the authorities picked up a Colombian civilian, the physician boyfriend of the only woman who participated in the coup attempt. They say he’s been tortured, though he knew nothing of the plot.

Maduro has carefully cultivated his relationship with the military. Last year, when more than a million people joined antigovernment protests, he relied on his security forces to quash the unrest.

Since Chavez’s death in 2013, Maduro has handed over large parts of the economy to the military, including top jobs at the state oil producer and control over food distribution. He’s promoted hundreds of generals and admirals, and active and retired military officials hold nine of 34 cabinet posts.

Nonetheless, a person with knowledge of the military says polls run by the intelligence service found Machado has especially high approval ratings among officers. That may explain why the government has tried to link her to the plot. Rocio San Miguel, president of watchdog group Control Ciudadano, says Maduro also maintains control through fear, regularly detaining or purging other officers and soldiers.

“I don’t believe this idea that Maduro is holding on by a thread,” San Miguel says. “Maduro has developed a state policy of persecution and monitoring within the armed forces. He’s paranoid. The government is creating a firewall.”

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg Wins Sweden’s Olof Palme Prize

January 29th, 2019 - by admin

The Local – 2019-01-29 20:05:41


Ellsberg Wins Palme Prize
American whistleblower wins Sweden’s Olof Palme Prize

The Local

(January 9, 2019) — [On January 30,] American military analyst Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the US government’s secret war plans for Vietnam in 1971, is set to receive Sweden’s prestigious Olof Palme Prize.

Ellsberg, born in 1931, is perhaps most known for releasing the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret Pentagon study which revealed that several US administrations had misled the public over the war in Vietnam, to the New York Times and other newspapers.

He was charged with espionage and conspiracy and risked spending years in jail, but the charges were later dismissed.

“Regardless of such consequences, his decision led to the removal of a mendacious government, a shortening of an illegal war, and an untold number of saved lives,” read a statement by the Olof Palme Foundation.

“More than four decades later Daniel Ellsberg again takes on the Pentagon’s secret war plans. He warns us of a nuclear holocaust, caused by the refusal of the nine nuclear states to comply with the binding commitment of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons to further the goals of a nuclear-free world.”
The Foundation said it would award the prize to Ellsberg at a ceremony on January 30th in Stockholm “for his profound humanism and exceptional moral courage”.

The Olof Palme Prize is an annual award worth $100,000 granted by the Swedish labour movement. It commemorates the memory of the Social Democratic prime minister, an outspoken international human rights advocate, who was assassinated in 1986.

Since 1987, the award has been handed out to human rights defenders around the world including former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, pro-democracy Chinese activist Xu Youyu and anti-Nazism activists and Holocaust survivors Hédi Fried and Emerich Roth.

Dan Ellsberg Receives Olof Palme Prize
Rick Goldsmith / Director/Producer, Kovno Communications

(January 2019) — We’re pleased to share that our friend and the subject of our documentary, The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, is scheduled to receive the Olof Palme prize on January 30 “for his profound humanism and exceptional moral courage.”

Awarded by Sweden’s Olof Palme Foundation, this prize commemorates the memory of the Social Democratic prime minister, an outspoken international human rights advocate, who was assassinated in 1986.

The prize is given to “a single recipient or to several for an outstanding achievement in any of the areas of anti-racism, human rights, international understanding, peace and common security.” Daniel Ellsberg will receive a diploma and a $100,000 award at the ceremony in Stockholm.

To relive the story of Ellsberg’s critical role in helping to stop the War in Vietnam through the release of the Pentagon Papers, rent or download Most Dangerous Man via Vimeo On Demand, or on DVD with extras (including the Nixon tapes), by clicking here.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Experts Warn Trump’s New Nukes Will Make Atomic War More Likely

January 29th, 2019 - by admin

Julian Borger / The Guardian & Lisbeth Gronlund / Union of Concerned Scientists – 2019-01-29 19:40:13


New Weapon, Ordered by Nuclear Posture Review,
Could Make Nuclear Conflict More Likely, Say Experts

Julian Borger / The Guardian

WASHINGTON (January 28, 2019) — The US has begun making a new, low-yield nuclear warhead for its Trident missiles that arms control advocates warn could lower the threshold for a nuclear conflict.

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced in an email it had started manufacturing the weapon at its Pantex nuclear weapons plant in Texas, as ordered by Donald Trump’s nuclear posture review (NPR) last year.

The NNSA said the first of the new warheads had come off the production line and that it was on schedule to deliver the first batch — an unspecified number referred to as “initial operational capability” — before the end of September, according to the email, first sent in response to an enquiry from Exchange Monitor, which covers the nuclear weapons complex.

The new weapon, the W76-2, is a modification of the existing Trident warhead. Stephen Young, a senior Washington representative of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said its yield had most likely been cut by taking away one stage from the original two-stage, W76 thermonuclear device.

“As best we can tell, the only requirement is to replace the existing secondary, or second stage, with a dummy version, which is what they do every time they test fly a missile,” Young said, adding that the amount of tritium, a hydrogen isotope, may also be adjusted. The result would be to reduce its explosive power from 100 kilotons of TNT, to about five — approximately a third of the force of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

The Trump administration has argued the development of a low-yield weapon would make nuclear war less likely, by giving the US a more flexible deterrent. It would counter any enemy (particularly Russian) perception that the US would balk at using its own fearsome arsenal in response to a limited nuclear attack because its missiles were all in the hundreds of kilotons range and “too big to use”, because they would cause untold civilian casualties.

Low-yield weapons “help ensure that potential adversaries perceive no possible advantage in limited nuclear escalation, making nuclear employment less likely”, the 2018 nuclear posture review said.

Many critics say that is an optimistic scenario that assumes there will be no miscalculation on the US side.

“There are many other scenarios, especially with a president who takes pride in his unpredictability and has literally asked: ‘Why can’t we use our nuclear weapons?'”, Young said.

Melissa Hanham of the One Earth Future foundation pointed out that adversaries would have no way of knowing if a full-force Trident was being fired at them, or its low-yield cousin.

“Hey all you nuclear powers out there. We’re just going to trust that you recognize this is “just a little nuclear weapon” and won’t retaliate with all you’ve got,” Hanham wrote in a tweet. “Remember! The US only intends to nuke you “a little bit.””

Hans Kristensen, the director of the nuclear information project at the Federation of American Scientists said the new warhead marked a sharp break from the Obama administration policy of making no new weapons or capabilities. He said it risked starting an arms race with Russia involving smaller nuclear weapons.

“To what extent does this signal a new willingness on the part of the US to start using strategic nuclear weapons in a tactical and very limited way early in a potential conflict?” Kristensen asked. “Frankly, mission creep is my greatest worry about this.”

There has been a spate of developments signaling that a new arms race is gathering pace. Vladimir Putin has unveiled a new generation of Russian weapons, and Russia’s suspected development of a cruise missile banned under the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty.

Trump has declared he will take the US out of the treaty, and the administration is expected to suspend compliance and serve six months’ notice of withdrawal on Saturday.

The Trump nuclear weapons review expanded an ambitious modernisation plan already underway. It ordered work to start on a new sea-launched cruise missile and blurred the line between the use of conventional and nuclear weapons.

The NPR said the US could respond with nuclear weapons against “significant non-nuclear strategic attacks,” including attacks on “civilian population or infrastructure”. It also said the US would “strengthen the integration of nuclear and non-nuclear military planning”.

It is not inevitable that all of Trump’s nuclear weapons plans will be pursued. Since the funds for the initial batch of warheads was approved, Democrats have taken over Congress, and are sceptical about their cost and purposes.

Last week, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office issued a report projecting the nuclear weapons costs over the next decade as nearly a half trillion dollars, up 23% from the last estimate two years ago.

“I don’t think we need as many as they’re talking about,” Adam Smith, the new head of the House armed services committee, said in a C-Span interview. “I just don’t think we can afford what the NPR is calling for and I don’t think it is necessary.”

The nuclear weapons budget is likely to be an important battlefield in the struggle between Trump and congressional Democrats. The president is increasingly surrounding himself with Reagan-era nuclear hawks, including John Bolton, his national security adviser and who pushed for the INF to be jettisoned.

Bolton’s new deputy, Charles Kupperman, once argued a nuclear war could be won “in the classical sense” if one side emerged the stronger, even if there were tens of millions of casualties.

Speaking to reporters last week, former defence secretary William Perry, an arms control advocate, said he was less worried about the number of nuclear warheads left in the world than by the return of cold war talk about such weapons being “usable”.

“The belief that there might be tactical advantage using nuclear weapons — which I haven’t heard that being openly discussed in the United States or in Russia for a good many years — is happening now in those countries which I think is extremely distressing,” Perry said.

“That’s a very dangerous belief.”

Memo to Congress:
America Already Has Low-yield Nuclear Warheads

Lisbeth Gronlund / Union of Concerned Scientists

(January 8, 2019) — The Trump administration plans to build new “low-yield” nuclear weapons that would be launched from Trident submarines. Its rationale? It insists they are needed to counter Russia’s low-yield weapons.

This plan has resulted in a lot of confused — or perhaps deceptive — verbiage on the part of some of our elected officials. They seem not to know or neglect to mention that the United States already deploys a wide array of low-yield nuclear weapons.

Or it could be that they have their own set of alternate facts?

Alternate Facts in the House
For example, on May 22, Mike Roger (R-Ala.), who chairs the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, laid out his reasons for supporting the new warhead. Discussing the possibility of a Russian attack with low-yield weapons, he said:

“. . . [W]e have to understand Russia has this capability. . . . I think one of the reasons they don’t believe we would respond is we don’t have the capability [emphasis added] to do it without all-out nuclear war. They have to understand that we can, with precision, do exactly what they would do to us.”

Given Roger’s position in Congress, you would expect him to know quite a bit about US nuclear weapons. Yet he seems to believe that the United States has no low-yield nuclear weapons, so that the only US option would be to use its regular-size nuclear weapons and start an all-out nuclear war. (He also seems to believe that using low-yield nuclear weapons could not itself lead to an all-out nuclear war, but let’s ignore that for now.)

Alternate Facts in the Senate
More recently, Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), who was then serving on the Senate Armed Services Committee, weighed in with a November 29 op-ed on The Washington Post website, “Why America needs low-yield nuclear warheads now.”

He and his co-author Michael Morell, who is a former deputy director and acting director of the CIA, argue that the United States needs the new low-yield Trident warhead “because a high-yield, long-range US response to Russia’s first, limited use of a low-yield nuclear weapon against a military target is not credible. The Russians believe we are not likely to risk a global thermonuclear war in response to a ‘tactical’ nuclear attack by them.”

Again, the claim is that if Russia were to use low-yield nuclear weapons, the United States would have only two options: no response or launching a global thermonuclear war by using its regular- size weapons.

Again, given the responsibilities and experience of these two men, one would expect them to know a fair amount about the US arsenal. Yet they seem not to know — or at least don’t acknowledge — that the United States has other options because it already deploys a wide array of low-yield nuclear weapons, and has for decades.

The Real Facts
Exactly what low-yield weapons does the United States have in its arsenal?
The B61 bombs — which include 150 deployed at US air bases in six NATO countries — have variable explosive yields. The lowest available option has an explosive power of 0.3 kilotons of TNT — just 2 percent of the yield of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. The bombs also can be set to a yield of 1.5, 10, 45 or 60 kilotons.

The United States also deploys air-launched cruise missiles with yields of 5 to 150 kilotons.

The United States is upgrading these weapons to extend their lifetimes for several decades and to add improvements, such as greater accuracy.

The planned new warhead — the W76-2 — will have a yield of 6.5 kilotons and will replace some of the existing 100-kiloton W76 warheads on US submarines. It would add yet another weapon to the low-yield nuclear arsenal that our elected officials apparently don’t know exists.

You have to admit, though, the W76-2 will nicely fill in the gaping hole between 5 and 10 kilotons in the figure below.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Pentagon Warns Climate Change Threatens Bases and Troops: Trump Says “I Don’t Believe It”

January 28th, 2019 - by admin

Anthony Capaccio, Jennifer A Dlouhy and Ari Natter / Bloomberg – 2019-01-28 21:54:51


Pentagon Warns of Dire Risk to Bases, Troops From Climate Change
Anthony Capaccio, Jennifer A Dlouhy and Ari Natter / Bloomberg

WASHINGTON (January 18, 2019) — The US Defense Department has issued a dire report on how climate change could affect the nation’s armed forces and security, warning that rising seas could inundate coastal bases and drought-fueled wildfires could endanger those that are inland.

The 22-page assessment delivered to Congress on Thursday says about two-thirds of 79 mission-essential military installations in the US that were reviewed are vulnerable now or in the future to flooding and more than half are at risk from drought. About half also are at risk from wildfires, including the threat of mudslides and erosion from rains after the blazes.

“The effects of a changing climate are a national security issue with potential impacts to DOD missions, operational plans and installations,” Defense Department spokeswoman Heather Babb said Friday in an email.

The report contradicts the view of President Donald Trump, who has rejected the scientific consensus that climate change is real and man-made. The report’s premise echoes the findings of the National Climate Assessment, written by 13 federal agencies and released in November. It concluded that the effects of global warming are accelerating and will cause widespread disruption.

Trump rejected those findings. “I don’t believe it,” he said at the time.

The new Defense Department report, which was mandated by Congress, describes widespread impacts, dispersed across the US, with more coastal flooding along the East coast and Hawaii.

US military facilities are already encountering some of the effects, the Pentagon says, noting that Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia has experienced 14 inches of sea-level rise since 1930. And Navy Base Coronado in California already is subject to flooding during tropical storms.

In the Washington area, several Defense Department sites — including Joint Base Andrews, home of Air Force One — are experiencing drought conditions that have been severe in the past 16 years, the report says. Those conditions can lead to ruptured utility lines and cracked roads, the Pentagon warns, as moisture disappears from soil.

The Defense Department stresses in its report that it is working with nations around the world “to understand and plan for future potential mission impacts” from climate change, describing it as “a global issue.”

But Democratic lawmakers said the Defense Department pulled its punches by listing what Senator Jack Reed, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, called a “phone book” of threats without offering a plan of action.

“It fails to even minimally discuss a mitigation plan to address the vulnerabilities,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith said in a statement. Committee member Jim Langevin said the Defense Department “for no apparent reason” omitted the threat to US bases abroad.

Pentagon History
The Pentagon has long expressed concern over climate change and its military implications worldwide.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who resigned last month, had been at odds with Trump over climate change, telling Senate Armed Services during his confirmation process that “the Department of Defense must pay attention to potential adverse impacts generated by this phenomenon.”

“Climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today,” Mattis wrote in written responses to questions from the committee. “It is appropriate for the Combatant Commands to incorporate drivers of instability that impact the security environment in their areas into their planning.”

In 2013, Republican Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, who now is chairman of the Senate panel, pressed Admiral Samuel Locklear, who was head of US Pacific Command, to say that his concerns about climate change were being misrepresented by “environmental extremists.”

Obama Administration
Instead, Locklear said about 280,000 people died in natural disasters in the Pacific region from 2008 to 2012. “Now, they weren’t all climate-change or weather-related, but a lot of them were,” the admiral said.

Under the Obama administration, responding to the effects of climate on the nation’s military was a top initiative, but the Trump administration has taken a different tack. Climate change was omitted in 2017 as a threat from the National Security Strategy, a list of the top dangers facing the nation.

“Given future global energy demand, much of the developing world will require fossil fuels, as well as other forms of energy, to power their economies and lift their people out of poverty,” the 2017 strategy said. “US leadership is indispensable to countering an anti-growth energy agenda.”

Shortly after taking office, Trump revoked a memorandum that Obama signed in 2016, directing the Defense Department to account for climate change in its decisions about where to build new facilities and how it prepares for future threats.

Senator Dick Durbin, the ranking Democrat on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, responded by calling Trump’s decision to rescind the memorandum “a security disaster.”

With assistance by Christopher Flavelle

A Case Study: Florence’s Path Shows Pentagon
Has to Fight Climate Threats Too

Eric Roston and Mark Niquette / Bloomberg

(September 17, 2018) — As warships, soldiers and aircraft make their way back to ports and bases emptied in advance of Hurricane Florence, planners are left to assess what the Pentagon has warned could become more frequent: large-scale evacuations driven by rising seas and increasingly severe storms.

Florence’s path took it through or by an extraordinary concentration of American military might, from the world’s largest navy base in Norfolk to one of the largest military bases of any kind, the US Army’s Fort Bragg. The Army, Navy and Air Force all have four-star commands in the region where the North Atlantic Treaty Organization maintains its five-star leadership. Even NASA maintains its Langley Research Center there.

In the days preceding Florence’s landfall, dozens of ships were ordered to sea, more than 100 airplanes flown out and tens of thousands of troops and their families were relocated.

Many of the biggest facilities were spared when the storm tacked southward, but the dress rehearsal came amid a growing awareness of the implications of climate change and sea-level rise on the nation’s military capabilities. Planners have already been tallying the potential costs of hardening facilities — and even asking if they shouldn’t be relocated.

“It’s a very serious threat if we don’t deal with it,” said Elizabeth Andrews, a professor and director of the Virginia Coastal Policy Center at William & Mary Law School. “We dodged a bullet, thank goodness, with Hurricane Florence, but we could have not dodged it.”

Even without a direct hit, the hurricane exacted a toll in a massive logistical operation to get personnel and equipment out of the way. Tens of thousands of troops were evacuated last week from at least five bases from Virginia to South Carolina, according to Military.com, which calls itself the largest military membership organization. Many were ordered back to base over the weekend.

Evacuation orders affected some iconic military bases, including the Marine Corps’ Parris Island Recruit Depot, just north of Hilton Head, South Carolina, where almost 20,000 recruits are trained each year. Non-essential military and civilian personnel were told to move at least 100 miles away, but no more than 400, and will be compensated for expenses. Graduation ceremonies were moved to other facilities, according to Military.com.

Joint Base Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina, also was ordered evacuated, as was Naval Air Station Oceana-Dam Neck Annex in Virginia, home of Seal Team Six. The commander of Camp Lejeune in North Carolina set off a social media firestorm when the decision was made for marines to shelter in place on base.

In 2013, in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, Congress ordered the Army to conduct an in-depth assessment of the northern East Coast’s vulnerability to rising seas. The study identified Norfolk, Virginia, as one of nine areas of major concern and a separate report is in the works to identify steps that should be taken to shore up its defenses against nature.

That’s sure to set off a debate over spending.

It’s difficult to get additional funding for the needed fortifications when there are $100 billion just in deferred maintenance needs at US military facilities, said John Conger, director of the Center for Climate & Security and a former assistant deputy under secretary of defense for installations & environment.

“Do you spend extra money protecting facilities when you haven’t paid to maintain them?” Conger said.

The military has taken some steps, such as minimizing new construction in flood plains, he said. While the vulnerability of bases is not at the top of the list of problems, it must be on the list, Conger said. “This is a risk that shouldn’t be ignored,” he said.

The Navy last year published a 193-page overview of climate change and how naval infrastructure planners may take new threats into consideration. The handbook provides guidance on risk analysis and decision-making, with tips on everything from levees to flood-proofing.

Sherri Goodman, a former Defense undersecretary for environmental security, asks a larger question likely to spark heated debates: “Given the extent of sea-level rise, coastal erosion and storm surge that’s occurring along the mid Atlantic coast, should we continue to have such a heavy concentration of military facilities in that area?”

Threat Multiplier
Goodman, who a decade ago coined the phrase “threat multiplier” to describe global warming’s impact on national security concerns, is now a senior adviser at the Center for Climate & Security and a senior fellow with the Wilson Center.

It’s a question that military leaders ask themselves, she said, but in the absence of authority to do anything about it, they don’t push it, and members of Congress are extremely protective of military bases in their districts, which are generally local engines of economic activity and points of civic pride.

Virginia has created the new position this year of special assistant to the governor for coastal adaptation and protection, said William & Mary’s Andrews. The vulnerability of military bases such as Norfolk could be a national security risk if it’s not addressed correctly, she said.

A draft study by the Army Corps of Engineers suggests $1.4 billion in projects that would help Norfolk and environs guide water away from where it wants to go or remove infrastructure likely to get in its way, according to Greg Steele, chief of the water resources division of the Corps’s Norfolk District.

‘Water Just Rises’
A defense authorization passed last month contains a clause that enables spending on road damage or risks from “recurrent flooding and sea level fluctuation.”

“This is not a political problem,” said Paul Olsen, former commander of the Norfolk District. “This is a problem of strategic engineering, of land-use planning, of preparedness, because the water doesn’t care about your political inclinations, or about a line on a map. The water just rises. It’s something we can track with the tidal gauges. This is an empirical fact for us in this area.”

He called sea-level rise “sort of like a disaster in very slow motion.”

Sea levels are rising almost 2.5 inches (6 centimeters) a decade in the Norfolk area, known as Hampton Roads. That’s about twice the global average, thanks to shifts in ocean currents and other factors. Pumping of freshwater for use in the region has led coastal Virginia’s aquifers to compact and the land on top of it to subside. All of this is occurring in a region with geology complicated by a meteor that struck the area 35 million years ago.

King Tide
Some 65,000 thousand people live or work in the 10 square miles of Naval Station Norfolk. “It’s a city within a city,” said Robert Clark, a former commanding officer of the base who now works at Old Dominion University.

The long-term dilemmas of climate change stretched beyond the daily decisions of Norfolk’s commanding officer, Clark said.

“At Naval Station Norfolk, we do experience flooding quite a bit, the tidal surges, especially if you have a high tide or a king tide, and you’ve got storm surge and wind blowing the tide in. That creates a problem.” Flooding of the installation quickly dissipates, he said. “It doesn’t really stick around.”

Naval Station Norfolk experienced no noteworthy impacts during Hurricane Florence, according to Beth Baker, public affairs officer for the Navy Region Mid-Atlantic. In the longer term, “The Navy works to ensure installations and infrastructure are resilient to a wide range of challenges, including climate and other environmental considerations,” said Lt. Cmdr. Ryan de Vera, a US Navy spokesperson. An email to the Pentagon press office wasn’t returned.

Infrastructure Development
The Defense Department’s Office of Economic Adjustment is supporting a study to help guide future infrastructure and development efforts in the area.

The economic anchor that military installations give to American communities ultimately are likely to solve the many coming issues in climate-change adaptation. Bases, and the communities around them, will become resilient, and continue economic growth, by becoming better equipped to deal with risks.

Eastern North Carolina, for example, has a concentration of military personnel among the highest in the country with more than 113,000 active military personnel and eight major bases.

“In many cases that’s going to be the answer,” said Goodman, the former Defense undersecretary. “The needs of insuring that our military installations and communities are resilient to a changing climate could in many cases raise all boats.”

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Capitol Protests Condemn Trump’s Illegal Plan to Remove an Elected Government in Venezuela

January 28th, 2019 - by admin

John Zangas and Anne Meador/ DC Media Group & Popular Resistance – 2019-01-28 21:53:42

‘Hands Off Venezuela!’ Trump Denounced for Backing Coup d’Etát

“Hands Off Venezuela!”
Trump Denounced for Backing Coup d’etat

John Zangas and Anne Meador/ DC Media Group & Popular Resistance

Protest at White House against coup in Venezuela on July 26, 2019. (John Zangas, DC Media Group)

(January 27, 2019) — Peace groups held a rally at the White House on Saturday to denounce the Trump administration for meddling in Venezuela’s affairs and supporting the overthrow of the democratically elected government of President Nicolás Maduro.

On Wednesday, National Assembly leader Juan Guaido of the extreme right Popular Will Party declared himself the acting president of Venezuela. The United States, in what appeared to be a coordinated action, immediately recognized Guaido as head of state. Other countries followed in formally recognizing Guaido, including Canada, the UK, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Argentina.

Rally speakers accused the US of attempting to foment a coup d’etat and creating a civil war in Venezuela to facilitate a takeover by oligarchs there. The US, they said, is not interested in the welfare of Venezuelans but in its oil wealth.

Local activist Olivia Burlingame said she didn’t want her taxes going to support the undermining of democracy in Venezuela. She thinks favorably of President Maduro but recognizes that not everyone does. “Regardless of what you think of Maduro, we should respect democracy. If we do it here, we should do it there,” she said.

The Trump administration encouraged the opposition to boycott the May 2018 election but then would not recognize Maduro’s win. It has since tried to discredit Maduro’s presidency by calling his re-election illegitimate. Guaido is now taking the same tactic, said Eugene Puryear, a peace activist with the Party of Socialism and Liberation. “You have to look at the facts,” he said.

Some speakers cited Jimmy Carter, who called the election process in Venezuela “the best in the world” out of the 92 countries the Carter Foundation has observed. President Maduro was first elected in 2015.

Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODEPINK! Women for Peace, and expert on foreign policy, said that US meddling in Venezuela was like the Monroe Doctrine of the 1820s when the US did whatever it wanted in Central and South American countries.

She said it was strange that some countries in Europe were also supporting the attempt to overthrow Maduro. “You have, quote, ‘democratic’ countries that are supporting the most undemocratic moves of putting somebody in power who was not elected president by anyone–not one person,” said Benjamin.

Brian Becker, director of ANSWER Coalition, criticized corporate mainstream media for inaccurate reporting on Venezuela. He compared its coverage to the reporting on the Iraq War, which contributed to a general acceptance of destructive US foreign policy.

“The ideas of society are molded by those who have power, and they use the media to shape and mold opinions so they can form to the dominant narrative of the ruling class,” said Becker.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Breaking the Silence: On Venezuela and on Palestine

January 28th, 2019 - by admin

In These Times & The New York Times & Gulf News – 2019-01-28 21:41:45


Where Are Democratic 2020 Hopefuls on
The Trump-Backed Coup Attempt in Venezuela?

Marco Cartolano / In These Times

(January 24, 2019) — Update: Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), widely expected to seek the Democratic nomination, released the following statement Thursday:

The Maduro government in Venezuela has been waging a violent crackdown on Venezuelan civil society, violated the constitution by dissolving the National Assembly and was re-elected last year in an election that many observers said was fraudulent. Further, the economy is a disaster and millions are migrating.

The United States should support the rule of law, fair elections and self-determination for the Venezuelan people. We must condemn the use of violence against unarmed protesters and the suppression of dissent. However, we must learn the lessons of the past and not be in the business of regime change or supporting coups — as we have in Chile, Guatemala, Brazil, and the Dominican Republic. The United States has a long history of inappropriately intervening in Latin American countries; we must not go down that road again.

Update: Presidential candidate and congresswoman from Hawaii, Tulsi Gabbard, declared Thursday on Twitter, “The United States needs to stay out of Venezuela. Let the Venezuelan people determine their future. We don’t want other countries to choose our leaders — so we have to stop trying to choose theirs.”

Earlier: Every major Democrat or progressive who has declared — or is expected to declare — his or her candidacy for US president has been silent in the wake of Wednesday’s announcement that President Donald Trump will recognize Venezuela’s National Assembly president Juan Guaido as the interim president.

In These Times requested comment from Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) — but received no response. An email sent to Beto O’Rourke, a former Representative of Texas, bounced. Not a single top 2020 presidential hopeful on the Democrat side has released a statement — or even tweeted — about the development.

Trump called Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government “illegitimate” two weeks after Maduro’s inauguration for a second term. The declaration came after Guaido swore himself in as president with the support of several right-wing governments in Latin America.

The Lima Group, a coalition of mostly conservative-led Latin American countries, along with Canada, released a statement on January 4 denying the legitimacy of Venezuela’s May 2018 presidential election while recognizing the National Assembly as “a democratically elected constitutional body.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has participated in meetings with representatives of the Lima Group through video conference at least since last May. The developments, which are moving rapidly, are being denounced by some as a coup attempt.

Brazil, one of the group’s member nations, has ramped up its opposition to Maduro after far-right President Jair Bolsonaro was inaugurated at the start of January. Bolsonaro met with exiled Venezuelan opposition leaders and threatened Maduro that he would do “everything for democracy to be re-established.”

In spite of the Assembly’s support from right-wing governments, several Democratic legislators joined Trump in denouncing Maduro’s presidency. Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) released a statement praising Trump for “appropriately” recognizing Guaido, and several House Democrats announced in a video that they will introduce legislation to “support the people of Venezuela and hold the illegitimate President accountable for the crisis he created.” On Thursday, House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) called recognizing Guaido, “an appropriate step.”

So far, Representatives Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) have expressed opposition to Trump’s declaration. On Wednesday, Khanna accused the Trump administration of hypocrisy for attacking Maduro while continuing their support for the Saudi Arabian government. While Khanna criticized Maduro’s policies, he also warned that, “crippling sanctions or pushing for regime change will only make the situation worse.”

Omar shared Khanna’s tweet on Wednesday from her official congressional account and called for the universal application of human rights, “not just when it’s politically convenient.”

On Thursday, Ocasio-Cortez retweeted a response to Durbin from Khanna that reiterated his opposition to both his regime change and Trump’s sanctions while supporting “Uruguay, Mexico, & (sic.) the Vatican’s efforts for a negotiated settlement.”

The silence of potential challengers to Trump is especially noteworthy since the president has the authority to commit troops on the ground as commander in chief. It remains unclear if any of the candidates are willing to challenge Trump’s move or oppose a series of economic sanctions against Venezuela that cut off Venezuela from most international financial markets.

The Trump administration’s move follows bipartisan US efforts to oppose Venezuela’s government since it was first elected in 1998 ago by the Bolivarian socialist movement. The Obama administration funded some groups critical of the Venezuelan government, issued a 2015 executive order declaring Venezuelan crackdowns on protestors an “extraordinary threat” to US national security, and implemented sanctions against seven Venezuelan government officials.

Trump built on Obama’s sanctions to further block Venezuelan involvement in financial markets in 2017, despite warnings this would worsenthe food and medicine supply in Venezuela — and prevent the country from achieving economic recovery.

Democratic 2020 hopefuls’ silence on Venezuela contrasts with their willingness to discuss other interventions: Senator Bernie Sanders has criticized US military spendingand led the Senate’s push to end US support for the war in Yemen, and some have called for troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and Syria.

Time to Break the Silence on Palestine
Martin Luther King Jr. courageously
spoke out about the Vietnam War.
We must do the same when it comes
to this grave injustice of our time

Michelle Alexander / The New York Times [Excerpt]

(January 27, 2019) — On April 4, 1967, exactly one year before his assassination, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stepped up to the lectern at the Riverside Church in Manhattan. The United States had been in active combat in Vietnam for two years and tens of thousands of people had been killed, including some 10,000 American troops. The political establishment — from left to right — backed the war, and more than 400,000 American service members were in Vietnam, their lives on the line.

Many of King’s strongest allies urged him to remain silent about the war or at least to soft-pedal any criticism. They knew that if he told the whole truth about the unjust and disastrous war he would be falsely labeled a Communist, suffer retaliation and severe backlash, alienate supporters and threaten the fragile progress of the civil rights movement.

King rejected all the well-meaning advice and said, “I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice.” Quoting a statement by the Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam, he said, “A time comes when silence is betrayal” and added, “that time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.” . . .

Michelle Alexander Has Opened a Door on Palestine
Her column is a breathtaking indictment
of Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights

James J. Zogby / Special to Gulf News

(January 27, 2019) — This past Sunday, the New York Times featured on the front page of its Week in Review section a major column by Michelle Alexander – “Time to Break the Silence on Palestine.” It was, by any measure, an important article because of who wrote it, where it appeared, and its breathtaking indictment of both Israel’s history of violations of Palestinian rights and the silence of US policymakers to address these outrageous behaviours.

As a renowned civil rights attorney and author of the best-selling The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Alexander’s voice matters. While in the past the Times has run a few opinion pieces critical of Israel, the placement and promotion given to this article guaranteed that it would gain national attention. And it did. Millions read it, tens of thousands commented on it, and scores of others wrote columns favourably reviewing Alexander’s observations.

The reaction in Israel and among the American Jewish establishment was immediate and predictably hysterical. A former Israeli Ambassador to the US said that Alexander’s article “dangerously delegitimises us. It is a strategic threat . . .” The Anti-Defamation League, B’nai B’rith, and the American Jewish Committee in tweets and statements called the article: “dangerously flawed”; “anti-Semitic”; an “anti-Israel rant . . . filled with errors”; “a shameful appropriation” of the memory of Martin Luther King.

This panicked reaction to Alexander was unsurprising because it represents just one more indication that hard-line Israeli propagandists are losing their ability to shape political discourse on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

As Alexander notes in her article, in recent years we have seen: major US churches divesting from Israel, the growing support of young African American activists with the cause of justice for Palestinian; the backlash over the firing of a CNN commentator over his pro-Palestinian positions; and the election of pro-Palestinian Members of Congress.

Voices Have Been Silenced
Because these developments only scratch the surface of the change that is underway, the nervousness demonstrated by the Jewish establishment was to be expected. Polling shows that Israel has lost significant support among the young, the educated, and minority communities (African American, Latino, and Asian American — who together comprise about a third of the US population).

As a consequence, there is a debate on Israel/Palestine underway on campuses, among major Protestant churches, in the Black community, and in the Democratic Party. And, in this debate, arguments demanding justice for Palestinians are being heard and winning.

In challenging this drift, pro-Israel propagandists have drawn all their weapons. Pro-Palestinian activists and commentators have been smeared, intimidated, and threatened with dire repercussions. While some voices have been silenced, the movement away from accepting the Israeli line continues to grow.

If I were to identify two main reasons for this erosion of support for Israel and increased support for Palestinians, I would point to the role that alternative media has played in making it possible for the reality of what is happening in the occupied territories to be better known and the role played by the virtual marriage of US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

My brother, John Zogby, observed in his important study of the changing attitudes of American demographic groups that as a direct result of the internet, young people and minority communities have developed a global consciousness — they are less tied to narrow parochial concerns. They have access to more sources of information and are more questioning of the “accepted dogma” of political elites.

As Israel continues its rightward drift, with ultra-nationalists in control now and for the foreseeable future, and as the Christian right-wing and nativists continue to dominate the Republican Party, it is to be expected that alliances would be formed in opposition to this bonding of US and Israeli hardline ideologues.

As I noted, this change has been brewing for some time now, but it was the Michelle Alexander article in the New York Times that has helped bring it to the surface. As important as this moment may be, I must admit that my delight was tempered by the feelings of regret that all of this change has come too late for so many.

I thought of the Nakba and the uprooting and dispossession of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes and how for decades they have been denied the right to return.

I thought of the horrors of the now 70-year occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem — the theft of their land, the economic strangulation to which they’ve been subjected, the demolition of their homes, the brutal unreported acts of collective punishment, the torture, the prolonged imprisonment of thousands without charges, and the daily humiliation they have endured at the hands of soldiers and colonists.

And I thought of the courageous intellectuals and activists, Arabs and Jews, here in the US and in Israel and Palestine, who over the decades paid a dear price for their efforts to elevate Palestinian rights in a less welcoming time.

And then I thought of the brilliant Palestinian Fayez Sayegh, who decades ago gave us hope that one day change would come — that the tide would turn when we didn’t expect it and we would discover that despite the power of our opponents, change was afoot and we would see a way forward.

Here it is — the moment he predicted. A door has opened, but knowing that our opponents will be working hard to slam it shut, we must redouble our efforts to build the movement that challenges Israel’s history of oppression.

We owe this much to those victims of the past and to those who are still suffering from dispossession and occupation. Alexander has shown us an open door. We have to have the courage and commitment to continue to keep it open.

Dr James J. Zogby is the president of Arab American Institute, a non-profit, non-partisan national leadership organisation.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

How Climate Change Is Causing a Health Crisis and a Wealth Crisis

January 28th, 2019 - by admin

Melissa Healy / The Los Angeles Times & Christopher Flavelle / Bloomberg – 2019-01-28 21:21:11


Doctors Warn Climate Change Is
Making Us Sicker and Shortening Our Lives

Melissa Healy / The Los Angeles Times

(January 23, 2019) — In the welter of daily demands upon physicians, it might be easy to imagine that weaning the world off its reliance on fossil fuels is asking a bit too much.

But preventing sickness and averting premature death are squarely in a physician’s wheelhouse. And dramatic increases in both sickness and death are projected for the foreseeable future as the world’s continued reliance on fossil fuels results in more air pollution, infectious diseases, malnutrition, wildfires, extreme heat and increasingly powerful weather events.

So combating climate change is clearly part of a doctor’s job description, argue a pair of articles published in last week’s edition of the New England Journal of Medicine. If there’s a failure to act, well over 250,000 people around the world will lose their lives each year between 2030 and 2050, according to estimates from the World Health Organization.

“Working to rapidly curtail greenhouse gas emissions is now essential to our healing mission,” wrote Dr. Caren G. Solomon of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and Dr. Regina C. LaRocque of Massachusetts General Hospital, both physicians and public health experts.

Doctors should use their trust and authority to educate colleagues, patients and students about the health consequences of climate change and the need for rapid reductions in fossil fuel use, Solomon and LaRocque wrote. “We can help motivate people to act by clarifying the links between environmental degradation and tangible problems.”

Conveniently, the widely circulated medical journal also published a review of current findings to help doctors get up to speed. In a comprehensive accounting, epidemiologist Andrew Haines and global health specialist Kristie Ebi reprised roughly 20 years’ worth of research on the effects that a warming environment can be expected to have on heat-related illnesses, diseases linked to poor air quality, food production, and scourges spread by such insects as ticks and mosquitoes.

None of that takes into account the fact that the US healthcare sector’s energy use is itself a major driver of global warming. One estimate blames hospitals, doctors’ offices, biomedical labs and pharmaceutical manufacturing for nearly one-tenth of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions; if the US healthcare sector were a country, it would rank seventh in the world, according to that calculation.

The array of health-related ills that flows from a reliance on fossil fuels is sprawling:

Nutrition: As the climate heats up and agricultural conditions shift, yields of vegetable and legume crops will suffer. In addition, rising concentrations of carbon dioxide will adversely affect the nutritional quality of such cereal crops as rice and wheat, lowering their levels of protein and B vitamins.

A 2016 estimate published in The Lancet reckons that by 2050, unchecked climate change will reduce food availability to the average person by 3.2% and will have led to the premature deaths of 529,000 adults worldwide compared with a world without global warming.

Infectious and Microbial Disease: Disease-spreading microbes and insects will proliferate as some of the planet’s hottest, wettest and poorest places grow hotter, wetter and poorer.

Sea-level rise and coastal flooding will do more than drown people and crops: they will also accelerate the spread of cholera, malaria, diarrheal disease, dengue fever, encephalitis and Zika virus. Bodies of water will be plagued by more and deadlier algal blooms (as seen in Florida last year) and tainted more often by cryptosporidiosis, cholera and leptospirosis, sickening more people.

Chronic Conditions: Unchecked air pollution and rising heat will cause and exacerbate asthma, allergies and cardiovascular disease. Worldwide, pollutants in the air are reckoned to be responsible for between 6.5 million and 10 million premature deaths annually. In the United States, it is estimated that approximately 58% of the excess deaths are attributable to the use of fossil fuel and arise particularly from traffic, power production and industry.

Heat Exposure: The sheer weight of exposure to excessive heat will be deadly across the American South, Africa and East Asia. One modeling study that plumbed data from 451 locations in 23 countries showed that deaths from heat stroke are already occurring, and by the end of this century could rise by between 3% and 12% in hotter regions. Rising heat led to the loss of 153 billion hours of labor in 2017, 80% of it in the agricultural sector.

And this list does not take into account the injuries and deaths caused by hurricanes, mudslides, wildfires and extreme weather events — all of which are expected to increase as heat-trapping gases continue to build up in the Earth’s atmosphere.

The World Bank has estimated that unless governments and societies prepare to absorb climate shocks, global warming could force more than 100 million people into extreme poverty by 2030. That kind of deprivation carries serious implications for health as well.

The accounting in the New England Journal of Medicine was released on the same day that the Trump administration’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency promised to keep unwinding Obama-era regulations aimed at addressing climate change.

Asked whether he believed scientists’ warnings about the consequences of human-generated climate change, Andrew Wheeler told a Senate panel that he considered climate change “a huge issue that has to be addressed globally.” But, the former coal lobbyist said, “I would not call it the biggest crisis.”

In their essay, Solomon and LaRocque acknowledge that the sprawling studies, the dire numbers and the sheer magnitude of the world’s current reliance on greenhouse-gas-emitting substances are both frightening and overwhelming. But they have overcome despair and paralysis to work with medical students on climate action, encourage organizations (including the American Medical Assn.) to divest themselves of investments in fossil-fuel companies and educate lawmakers about why climate change is a public health issue.

“Our actions matter,” the doctors wrote. “When the next generation asks us, ‘What did you do about climate change?’ we want to have a good answer.”

Corporate America Is Getting
Ready to Monetize Climate Change

Christopher Flavelle / Bloomberg

(January 22, 2019) — Bank of America Corp. worries flooded homeowners will default on their mortgages. The Walt Disney Co. is concerned its theme parks will get too hot for vacationers, while AT&T Inc. fears hurricanes and wildfires may knock out its cell towers.

The Coca-Cola Co. wonders if there will still be enough water to make Coke.

As the Trump administration rolls back rules meant to curb global warming, new disclosures show that the country’s largest companies are already bracing for its effects. The documents reveal how widely climate change is expected to cascade through the economy — disrupting supply chains, disabling operations and driving away customers, but also offering new ways to make money.

The disclosures were collected by CDP, a U.K.-based nonprofit that asks companies to report their environmental impact, including the risks and opportunities they believe climate change presents for their businesses. More than 7,000 companies worldwide filed reports for 2018, including more than 1,800 from the US

On Tuesday, CDP, formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project, released letter grades for those companies that measure “how aware they are about the issue, how they’re managing it, how they’re progressing toward targets,”said Caroline Barraclough, a CDP spokeswoman.

Thirty US-based companies got an “A” grade, the most of any country; they include Apple Inc., Johnson & Johnson and Home Depot Inc. Next on the list were Japan, with 25 top-scoring companies, and France with 22.

The information companies provide to CDP about their climate risk is typically far more specific than what they include in their filings to the US Securities and Exchange Commission. And while the SEC requires companies to disclose material risks, it doesn’t ask them to address the specific threats associated with climate change.

Most of the largest US companies by market capitalization submitted information to CDP, and the vast majority say the threat is real and serious: Of the 25 companies whose submissions were reviewed by Bloomberg, 21 said they had identified “inherent climate-related risks with the potential to have a substantial financial or strategic impact” on their business.

Many of those risks related to the effects of climate change on companies’ ability to operate. One of the most commonly cited risks was not enough water.

“Many of Intel’s operations are located in semi-arid regions and water-stressed areas, such as Israel, China and the southwestern United States,” warned Intel Corp. If climate change causes longer droughts in those areas, it could “potentially lead to increased operational costs since the semiconductor manufacturing process relies on access to water.”

Water shortages could also threaten Coke’s business, the company said, because climate change “could limit water availability for the Coca-Cola system’s bottling operations.”

More frequent hurricanes and wildfires could force AT&T to spend more money on repairing damage to its network, as well as “proactively relocating equipment or additional network hardening.” The company noted that disasters cost it $627 million in 2017.

Rising temperatures are already affecting “the comfort and health and well being of customers” in its theme parks, Disney wrote. “If measures are not taken to ensure low cost alternatives for cooling and managing extreme temperatures, this will not only negatively impact our customers experience, it will also impact our ability to attract and retain visitor numbers.”

Other companies said climate change may affect their customers. Bank of America reported that 4 percent of its US real estate-secured loans are in flood zones, almost all of them residential.

“Increased flood incidence and severity could lead to our clients defaulting on their mortgage payments if, for example, flood insurance premiums become unaffordable,” the company wrote. “Clients may also find themselves in a negative equity situation due to housing values being impacted when insurance costs rise.”

Visa Inc. warns that global warming could increase global pandemics and armed conflict — problems that would in turn cause fewer people to travel.

“Any such decline in cross-border activity could impact the number of cross-border transactions we process and our foreign currency exchange activities, and in turn reduce our revenues,” Visa wrote.

Intel, Visa and Google didn’t respond to requests for comment. Bank of America and AT&T declined to comment beyond what’s in those companies’ reports.

A spokesman for Coca-Cola, Max Davis, said in a statement that the company’s goal is to reduce the carbon footprint of its beverages by one-quarter between 2010 and 2020. He didn’t respond to a question about the severity of the threat that more intense droughts pose to Coca-Cola’s business.

‘Flashlight, Siren’
Climate change isn’t all downside for the largest US companies. Many of those that filed reports with CDP said they believe climate change can bolster demand for their products.

For one thing, more people will get sick. “As the climate changes, there will be expanded markets for products for tropical and weather related diseases including waterborne illness,” wrote Merck & Co. The company didn’t respond to a request for comment.

More disasters will make iPhones even more vital to people’s lives, Apple predicted.

“As people begin to experience severe weather events with greater frequency, we expect an increasing need for confidence and preparedness in the arena of personal safety and the well-being of loved ones,” the company wrote. Its mobile devices “can serve as a flashlight or a siren; they can provide first aid instructions; they can act as a radio; and they can be charged for many days via car batteries or even hand cranks.”

Apple didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Living with climate change is also going to cost money, which some banks see as an opening. “Preparation for and response to climate-change induced natural disasters result in greater construction, conservation and other business activities,” Wells Fargo and Co wrote, adding that it “has the opportunity to provide financing to support these efforts.”

More disasters will mean increased sales for Home Depot, the company wrote. And as temperatures get higher, people are going to need more air conditioners. Home Depot predicted that its ceiling fans and other appliances will see “higher demand should temperatures increase over time.”

A spokeswoman for Home Depot, Christina Cornell, declined to comment beyond what was in the company’s report.

Alphabet Inc.’s Google says it expects costs and benefits from climate change. “Fluctuating socio-economic conditions due to climate change” could reduce demand for online advertising, the company reported. Yet more people might use Google Earth.

“If customers value Google Earth Engine as a tool to examine the physical changes to the Earth’s natural resources and climate, this could result in increased customer loyalty or brand value,” Google wrote. “This opportunity driver could have a positive impact on our brands.”

Read more:
Climate and Cyber Risks Top Concerns in 2019

Climate Change Could Be Cash Cow for Some Industries: BI

Latest: Pentagon Warns of Risk to Bases, Troops From Climate Change

Even Coffee Is Endangered: Climate Changed Newsletter

Venezuela: US Professionals Condemn US for Meddling in a Foreign Election — And Dictating Who Should Lead the Country

January 28th, 2019 - by admin

Noam Chomsky, Boots Riley, John Pilger, Vijay Prashad et al. / Venezuela Analysis – 2019-01-28 01:20:26


70 Prominent Experts Sound an Alarm over US Plot against Venezuela
Noam Chomsky, Boots Riley, John Pilger, Vijay Prashad et al. / Venezuela Analysis

(January 27, 2019) — The United States government must cease interfering in Venezuela’s internal politics, especially for the purpose of overthrowing the country’s government. Actions by the Trump administration and its allies in the hemisphere are almost certain to make the situation in Venezuela worse, leading to unnecessary human suffering, violence, and instability.

Venezuela’s political polarization is not new; the country has long been divided along racial and socioeconomic lines. But the polarization has deepened in recent years. This is partly due to US support for an opposition strategy aimed at removing the government of Nicolas Maduro through extra-electoral means.

While the opposition has been divided on this strategy, US support has backed hardline opposition sectors in their goal of ousting the Maduro government through often-violent protests, a military coup d’etat, or other avenues that sidestep the ballot box.

Under the Trump administration, aggressive rhetoric against the Venezuelan government has ratcheted up to a more extreme and threatening level, with Trump administration officials talking of “military action” and condemning Venezuela, along with Cuba and Nicaragua, as part of a “troika of tyranny.”

Problems resulting from Venezuelan government policy have been worsened by US economic sanctions, illegal under the Organization of American States and the United Nations — as well as US law and other international treaties and conventions.

These sanctions have cut off the means by which the Venezuelan government could escape from its economic recession, while causing a dramatic falloff in oil production and worsening the economic crisis, and causing many people to die because they can’t get access to life-saving medicines. Meanwhile, the US and other governments continue to blame the Venezuelan government — solely — for the economic damage, even that caused by the US sanctions.

Now the US and its allies, including OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro and Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, have pushed Venezuela to the precipice. By recognizing National Assembly President Juan Guaido as the new president of Venezuela — something illegal under the OAS Charter — the Trump administration has sharply accelerated Venezuela’s political crisis in the hopes of dividing the Venezuelan military and further polarizing the populace, forcing them to choose sides. The obvious, and sometimes stated goal, is to force Maduro out via a coup d’etat.

The reality is that despite hyperinflation, shortages, and a deep depression, Venezuela remains a politically polarized country. The US and its allies must cease encouraging violence by pushing for violent, extralegal regime change. If the Trump administration and its allies continue to pursue their reckless course in Venezuela, the most likely result will be bloodshed, chaos, and instability.

The US should have learned something from its regime change ventures in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and its long, violent history of sponsoring regime change in Latin America.

Neither side in Venezuela can simply vanquish the other. The military, for example, has at least 235,000 frontline members, and there are at least 1.6 million in militias. Many of these people will fight, not only on the basis of a belief in national sovereignty that is widely held in Latin America — in the face of what increasingly appears to be a US-led intervention — but also to protect themselves from likely repression if the opposition topples the government by force.

In such situations, the only solution is a negotiated settlement, as has happened in the past in Latin American countries when politically polarized societies were unable to resolve their differences through elections.

There have been efforts, such as those led by the Vatican in the fall of 2016, that had potential, but they received no support from Washington and its allies who favored regime change. This strategy must change if there is to be any viable solution to the ongoing crisis in Venezuela.

For the sake of the Venezuelan people, the region, and for the principle of national sovereignty, these international actors should instead support negotiations between the Venezuelan government and its opponents that will allow the country to finally emerge from its political and economic crisis.

Noam Chomsky, Professor Emeritus, MIT and Laureate Professor, University of Arizona

Laura Carlsen, Director, Americas Program, Center for International Policy

Greg Grandin, Professor of History, New York University

Miguel Tinker Salas, Professor of Latin American History and Chicano/a Latino/a Studies at Pomona College

Sujatha Fernandes, Professor of Political Economy and Sociology, University of Sydney

Steve Ellner, Associate Managing Editor of Latin American Perspectives

Alfred de Zayas, former UN Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order and only UN rapporteur to have visited Venezuela in 21 years

Boots Riley, Writer/Director of Sorry to Bother You, Musician

John Pilger, Journalist & Film-Maker

Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director, Center for Economic and Policy Research

Jared Abbott, PhD Candidate, Department of Government, Harvard University

Dr. Tim Anderson, Director, Centre for Counter Hegemonic Studies

Elisabeth Armstrong, Professor of the Study of Women and Gender, Smith College

Alexander Aviña, PhD, Associate Professor of History, Arizona State University

Marc Becker, Professor of History, Truman State University

Medea Benjamin, Cofounder, CODEPINK

Phyllis Bennis, Program Director, New Internationalism, Institute for Policy Studies

Dr. Robert E. Birt, Professor of Philosophy, Bowie State University

Aviva Chomsky, Professor of History, Salem State University

James Cohen, University of Paris 3 Sorbonne Nouvelle

Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, Associate Professor, George Mason University

Benjamin Dangl, PhD, Editor of Toward Freedom

Dr. Francisco Dominguez, Faculty of Professional and Social Sciences, Middlesex University, UK

Alex Dupuy, John E. Andrus Professor of Sociology Emeritus, Wesleyan University

Jodie Evans, Cofounder, CODEPINK

Vanessa Freije, Assistant Professor of International Studies, University of Washington

Gavin Fridell, Canada Research Chair and Associate Professor in International Development Studies, St. Mary’s University

Evelyn Gonzalez, Counselor, Montgomery College

Jeffrey L. Gould, Rudy Professor of History, Indiana University

Bret Gustafson, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Washington University in St. Louis

Peter Hallward, Professor of Philosophy, Kingston University

John L. Hammond, Professor of Sociology, CUNY

Mark Healey, Associate Professor of History, University of Connecticut

Gabriel Hetland, Assistant Professor of Latin American, Caribbean and U.S. Latino Studies, University of Albany

Forrest Hylton, Associate Professor of History, Universidad Nacional de Colombia-Medellín

Daniel James, Bernardo Mendel Chair of Latin American History

Chuck Kaufman, National Co-Coordinator, Alliance for Global Justice

Daniel Kovalik, Adjunct Professor of Law, University of Pittsburgh

Winnie Lem, Professor, International Development Studies, Trent University

Dr. Gilberto López y Rivas, Professor-Researcher, National University of Anthropology and History, Morelos, Mexico

Mary Ann Mahony, Professor of History, Central Connecticut State University

Jorge Mancini, Vice President, Foundation for Latin American Integration (FILA)

Luís Martin-Cabrera, Associate Professor of Literature and Latin American Studies, University of California San Diego

Teresa A. Meade, Florence B. Sherwood Professor of History and Culture, Union College

Frederick Mills, Professor of Philosophy, Bowie State University

Stephen Morris, Professor of Political Science and International Relations, Middle Tennessee State University

Liisa L. North, Professor Emeritus, York University

Paul Ortiz, Associate Professor of History, University of Florida

Christian Parenti, Associate Professor, Department of Economics, John Jay College CUNY

Nicole Phillips, Law Professor at the Université de la Foundation Dr. Aristide Faculté des Sciences Juridiques et Politiques and Adjunct Law Professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law

Beatrice Pita, Lecturer, Department of Literature, University of California San Diego

Margaret Power, Professor of History, Illinois Institute of Technology

Vijay Prashad, Editor, The TriContinental

Eleanora Quijada Cervoni FHEA, Staff Education Facilitator & EFS Mentor, Centre for Higher Education, Learning & Teaching at The Australian National University

Walter Riley, Attorney and Activist

William I. Robinson, Professor of Sociology, University of California, Santa Barbara

Mary Roldan, Dorothy Epstein Professor of Latin American History, Hunter College/ CUNY Graduate Center

Karin Rosemblatt, Professor of History, University of Maryland

Emir Sader, Professor of Sociology, University of the State of Rio de Janeiro

Rosaura Sanchez, Professor of Latin American Literature and Chicano Literature, University of California, San Diego

T.M. Scruggs Jr., Professor Emeritus, University of Iowa

Victor Silverman, Professor of History, Pomona College

Brad Simpson, Associate Professor of History, University of Connecticut

Jeb Sprague, Lecturer, University of Virginia

Christy Thornton, Assistant Professor of History, Johns Hopkins University

Sinclair S. Thomson, Associate Professor of History, New York University

Steven Topik, Professor of History, University of California, Irvine

Stephen Volk, Professor of History Emeritus, Oberlin College

Kirsten Weld, John. L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences, Department of History, Harvard University

Kevin Young, Assistant Professor of History, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Patricio Zamorano, Academic of Latin American Studies; Executive Director, InfoAmericas

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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