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Jesse Jackson Comes to Aide of Venezuela Embassy Defenders

May 16th, 2019 - by ANSWER Coalition · United States

Jesse Jackson speaks to reporters across the street from the Venezuelan Embassy (Photo: teleSUR)

Rev. Jesse Jackson Helps Deliver Food to Venezuelan Embassy Protectors

ANSWER Coalition · United States 

What is happening at the embassy, said one activist, is “a microcosm of the what is taking place in Venezuela as the US continues to try and orchestrate a coup.”

WASHINGTON (May 15, 2019) — Civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson and others lead a bold and successful effort today to deliver food and supplies to the besieged anti-war activists who have been living inside the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC for over a month to prevent the seizure of the building by supporters of the US-orchestrated coup.

Showing they have truly no shame, right-wing supporters of the coup attacked Rev. Jackson as he was delivering the supplies. But their efforts failed and the food made it inside to the embassy protectors. 

View the dramatic video here!

ACTION ALERT: The Embassy Protection Collective is calling on all peace and social justice organizations and people from all over the United States to join together next Saturday, May 18, for a massive noon-time mobilization in Washington D.C. at the Venezuelan Embassy (1099 30th St. NW).

A pro-coup mob has laid siege to the Venezuelan Embassy. The electricity has been cut off. The water has been cut off and people attempting to bring food have been violently attacked and arrested. The Secret Service and the D.C. Police Department, under orders of the Trump Administration, have created a humanitarian crisis in the heart of Washington D.C. at a diplomatic compound that is protected by the Vienna Convention. 

Watch the new video on the struggle to protect the Venezuelan embassy

Momentum is building all over the country in defense of the Embassy Protection Collective and in opposition to the Trump Administration’s lawless attempt to seize Venezuela’s Embassy.

‘Dangerous and Appalling’: US Defenders of Venezuelan Embassy Demand Secret Service End Illegal Water and Power Shutoff

Eoin Higgins / Common Dreams

 (May 9, 2019) — Police in Washington, D.C. and Secret Service agents cut water and electricity to the Venezuelan embassy on Wednesday, the latest attempt by the US government to oust supporters of President Nicolas Maduro who are defending the building with his government’s blessing.

In response to the move, the activists inside—who for weeks have fended off anti-Maduro protesters outside—are demanding the water and electricity be turned back on.

The embassy occupation began in April, after other opposition activists attempted to take over the property for opposition leader Juan Guaidó—who has been recognized as the country’s leader by the US, Canada, and other countries—in the wake of a failed coup in Caracas against Maduro’s government.

“It is totally ILLEGAL and dangerous for the US cut off water and electricity, deny access to food, to those of us residing lawfully inside the embassy building as guests of the Venezuelan government,” Paki Weiland, an activist with the peace and human rights group CodePink, said in a statement. “It would also be totally illegal and dangerous to hand over the keys of the embassy to an unelected opposition.”

The embassy takeover has been as unsuccessful as the coup attempt, said CodePink’s Ariel Gold, who accused US security forces of helping the pro-Guaidó protesters.

“The Secret Service and D.C. police continue to assist opposition protesters in blockading all entrances and exits to the building, preventing medicine, food, and water from reaching the activists living inside,” Gold told Common Dreams in an email. “By refusing to arrest violent opposition protesters, the Secret Service is allowing Guaidó supporters to physically assault and gravely injure peaceful activists outside the building.”

CodePink will hold a press conference in front of the embassy at 1 PM Thursday.

Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CodePink, said the coalition inside the embassy is now at risk without power or access to running water.

“The violence and denial of access to food and water taking place at the Venezuelan Embassy in D.C. is a microcosm of the what is taking place in Venezuela as the US continues to try and orchestrate a coup,” said Benjamin. “It is dangerous and appalling.”

Benjamin added that the US government should both protect those within and without the building from the pro-coup protesters. 

“The US administration must immediately turn water and electricity back on, allow food into the building, and protect activists outside from being physically assaulted,” Benjamin said.

Journalist Alex Rubinstein, who has been staying in the embassy as part of a collective invited by the Maduro government to block pro-coup protesters from overrunning the building, posted a video to his Twitter account Wednesday night showing the defiance of the occupation. 

In the video, an unnamed activist holds a candle and delivers a message of defiance.

“We are not leaving,” said the activist. “We are going to resist.”

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Feel free to republish and share widely.

US Told Not to Bully Venezuela

May 16th, 2019 - by Michelle Nichols / Reuters

US Wants UN to Revoke Credentials of Maduro’s Government

UNITED NATIONS (April 10, 2019) – US Vice President Mike Pence called on the United Nations on Wednesday to revoke the UN credentials of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government and recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s legitimate leader.

He said the United States had drafted a UN resolution and called on all states to support it.

“The time has come for the United Nations to recognize interim president Juan Guaido as the legitimate president of Venezuela and seat his representative in this body,” Pence told the UN Security Council.

Diplomats said it is unlikely Washington will get the support needed to adopt such a measure in the 193-member UN General Assembly. The United States and Russia both failed in rival bids to get the 15-member Security Council to adopt resolutions on Venezuela in February.

More than 50 countries have recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s leader. When asked if the United States thought it had enough backing to oust Maduro’s government at the United Nations, Pence said: “I think the momentum is on the side of freedom.”

Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia accused the United States of provoking an artificial crisis to oust Maduro and replace him “with their own pawn,” actions he described as a “lawless, thuggish violation of international law.”

“We call on the United States to once again recognize that the Venezuelan people and other peoples have the right to determine their own future,” Nebenzia said. “If you want to make America great again, and we are all sincerely interested in seeing that, stop interfering in the affairs of other states.”

The UN has previously had to address competing claims from other countries for representation at the world body.

Venezuelan UN Ambassador Samuel Moncada said he had been expecting such a move from the United States and Venezuela had been campaigning for months to ensure support for Maduro.

“I sound a warning bell … there is a clear move here again to undermine our rights and if they can undermine our rights, they can undermine the rights of all members of this organization,” he told the Security Council.

‘RELIEVE THE SUFFERING’

The United States called Wednesday’s meeting of the Security Council to discuss the humanitarian situation in Venezuela. UN aid chief Mark Lowcock told the council that there is a “very real humanitarian problem” in the country.

“The scale of need is significant and growing,” Lowcock said. “We can do more to relieve the suffering of the people of Venezuela, if we get more help and support from all stakeholders.”

He briefed the council on a recent UN report on the situation that estimates about a quarter of Venezuelans are in need of humanitarian assistance, and painted a dire picture of millions of people lacking food and basic services.

Some 3.4 million Venezuelans have left the country and the United Nations predicts that will rise to some 5 million by the end of the year.

Maduro, who has denied that Venezuela was experiencing a humanitarian crisis, said in an address on state television on Wednesday that the country had reached “an agreement” with the International Red Cross to work with the United Nations to bring in aid.

He said Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza was “negotiating a formal document” on the aid with the Red Cross.

Maduro blames US sanctions for the country’s economic problems, but has accepted aid from ally Russia. In February, Venezuelan troops blocked US-backed aid convoys trying to enter from Colombia and Brazil.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; Additional reporting by Shaylim Valderrama in Caracas; Editing by Steve Orlofsky, James Dalgleish and Sonya Hepinstall

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

It’s Time To Stop Arms Sales To Saudi Arabia

May 16th, 2019 - by William Hartung / LobeLog

How much do you want? (Photo: Al Jazeera)

(May 15, 2019) — The Senate’s failure to override President Trump’s veto of its effort to end US military support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen is not the end of the story. 

A way can and must be found to stop US assistance in refueling, targeting, and other activities that bolster the Saudi/United Arab Emirats (UAE) war effort, which has killed tens of thousands of civilians and left millions of Yemenis at risk of famine and fatal, war-induced diseases.

For starters, Congress should work to close off the other main avenue of US support for the Saudi-led coalition—the sale of bombs, combat aircraft, armored vehicles, attack helicopters, and other equipment to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the two primary perpetrators of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. 

According to statistics from the Security Assistance Monitor, the United States has offered over $68 billion in weaponry to those two nations since the start of the current Yemen conflict in March 2015. As Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institution has noted, these US-supplied systems are the backbone of the Saudi military, and without those weapons and related maintenance and support they could not sustain their intervention in Yemen.

The Trump administration, the US arms industry, and the Saudi and UAE lobbies have made numerous arguments in favor of keeping US weapons flowing to its Gulf allies, but none of them holds up to scrutiny.

With respect to the sales of precision-guided bombs—whose use has been documented in the widespread killings of civilians—the argument of choice has been that even more civilians would die in Saudi/UAE air strikes if the coalition were limited to “dumb” bombs that could not be targeted as accurately. 

This assertion is premised on the idea that Saudi Arabia and the UAE are making good faith efforts to avoid hitting civilians. The sheer volume of strikes on targets like hospitals, a school bus, funerals, factories, water treatment plants, and other civilian infrastructure puts the lie to this argument. Air strikes on civilians are not “mistakes.” They are part and parcel of the Saudi/UAE strategy to bomb Yemenis into submission and end the war on terms favorable to their coalition.

Another popular argument for continuing arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE is “if we don’t do it, somebody else will.” But the United States and its European allies supply the Saudi air force and the majority of the arsenals of both Saudi Arabia and the UAE. 

The Saudi and UAE militaries could not turn on a dime and seek Russian or Chinese systems to substitute for any cutoff of US weaponry and support. It would take a decade or more for these nations to end their dependence on US arms. 

A few deals with Moscow or Beijing would have limited impact on Saudi and UAE military capabilities, if Russia and China were even willing to supply arms to two nations that are responsible for the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe, with the international opprobrium that would accompany any decision to do so.

President Trump’s favorite argument for keeping the weapons trade going is jobs, jobs, jobs. His claims of US jobs tied to Saudi arms sales and related deals have fluctuated widely, from 40,000 to as many as one million

But an analysis of actual deals concluded over the past two years suggests a figure that is a fraction of the president’s claims. And many of these jobs will be created in Saudi Arabia as part of that nation’s goal of having 50 percent of the value of its arms purchases produced in the kingdom by 2030.

Last but not least is the claim that stopping arms sales to the Saudi/UAE coalition will aid Iran. But the Houthi-led opposition is by no means a proxy for Tehran. They have longstanding grievances that have nothing to do with Iran’s limited military support and would be fighting no matter what posture Iran takes towards the conflict. If anything, the brutal Saudi/UAE intervention is driving the Houthi coalition closer to Tehran. The best way to undercut Iranian influence in Yemen is to support UN efforts to end the war.

There are several congressional initiatives to cut off US arms to the Saudi/UAE coalition, including a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Todd Young (R-IN), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Susan Collins (R-ME), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Chris Murphy (D-CT). 

That measure would, among other things, stop sales of precision-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia and the UAE for two years and condition other sales of offensive weapons on an end to the targeting of civilians and assurances that Saudi Arabia and the UAE will support the free passage of humanitarian aid.

And a bill sponsored by Rep Jim McGovern (D-MA) would immediately end all US arms sales and military aid to Saudi Arabia. It’s time for Congress to move on this and other initiatives that would once and for all end US support for the slaughter in Yemen.

William D. Hartung is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy and the author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex.

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

US Sanctions on Venezuela Have Killed Over 40,000 Since 2017

May 16th, 2019 - by Amy Goodman and Jeffrey Sachs / Democracy Now! & Pressenza

More than 40,000 people have died in Venezuela since 2017 as a result of US sanctions, according to a new report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research co-authored by economists Jeffrey Sachs and Mark Weisbrot. The report examines how US sanctions have reduced the availability of food and medicine in Venezuela and increased disease and mortality. We speak with Jeffrey Sachs in our New York studio. In the report, he writes, “American sanctions are deliberately aiming to wreck Venezuela’s economy and thereby lead to regime change. It’s a fruitless, heartless, illegal, and failed policy, causing grave harm to the Venezuelan people.”

(May 3, 2019) — This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman. Our guests are Miguel Tinker Salas, a Venezuelan professor at Pomona College in California; Jeffrey Sachs is with us here in New York, leading economist and director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University. He’s recently co-authored a report for the Center for Economic and Policy Research headlined “Economic Sanctions as Collective Punishment: The Case of Venezuela.”

So much is being used against the presidency of Maduro, saying he’s brought the country to an economic standstill. You make a different case, Jeffrey Sachs.

JEFFREY SACHS: Well, it’s not an economic standstill. It’s a complete economic collapse, a catastrophe, in Venezuela. There was a crisis, for sure, before Trump came to office, but the idea of the Trump administration, from the start, has been to overthrow Maduro. That’s not a hypothesis. Trump was very explicit in discussions with presidents of Latin America, where he asked them, “Why shouldn’t the US just invade?” He said that already in 2017. So the idea of the Trump administration has been to overthrow Maduro from the start. Well, the Latin leaders said, “No, no, that’s not a good idea. We don’t want military action.” So the US government has been trying to strangle the Venezuelan economy.

It started with sanctions in 2017 that prevented, essentially, the country from accessing international capital markets and the oil company from restructuring its loans. That put Venezuela into a hyperinflation. That was the utter collapse. Oil earnings plummeted. The earnings that are used to buy food and medicine collapsed. That’s when the social, humanitarian crisis went spiraling out of control. And then, in this year, with this idea, very naive, very stupid, in my view, that there would be this self-proclaimed president, which was all choreographed with the United States very, very closely, another round of even tighter sanctions, essentially confiscating the earnings and the assets of the Venezuelan government, took place.

Now Venezuela is in complete, utter catastrophe, a lot of it brought on by the United States deliberately, creating massive, massive suffering. We know there’s hunger. We know there’s a incredible shortage of medical supplies. We can only imagine, because we won’t know really until the dust settles and careful studies are done, how much excess mortality there is, but, surely, in a context like this, this is a catastrophe largely created by the US, because, as was said earlier, this is an all-or-nothing strategy. What the US—what Trump just doesn’t understand and what Bolton, of all, of course, never agrees to, is the idea of negotiations. This is an attempt at an overthrow. It’s very crude. It’s not working. And it’s very cruel, because it’s punishing 30 million people.

AMY GOODMAN: How did you come up with the number 40,000 dead as a result of these crippling US sanctions?

JEFFREY SACHS: Let me be clear: Nobody knows. This was a very basic, simple calculation based on estimates of universities in Venezuela that mortality had increased by a certain proportion after the sanctions. I don’t want anyone to think that there is precision in these numbers. What is certain, though, staring us in the face, is that there is a humanitarian catastrophe, deliberately caused by the United States, by what I would say are illegal sanctions, because they are deliberately trying to bring down a government and trying to create chaos for the purpose of an overthrow of a government.

AMY GOODMAN: Why?

JEFFREY SACHS: Why are they doing that? This is normal US right-wing foreign policy, nothing different. This is the same foreign policy that we saw throughout Latin America in the 20th century. It’s the same foreign policy that we saw catastrophically in the Middle East. This is Mr. Bolton. This is Mr. Bolton’s idea of diplomacy. This is Trump’s idea of diplomacy. You punch someone in the face. You crush your opponent. You try whatever way you can to get your way. It’s very simpleminded. It’s very crude. And, Amy, it never works. It just leads to catastrophe.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to bring Miguel Tinker Salas back into this conversation, professor at Pomona College. As these protests were taking place in—or this coup attempt was taking place in Venezuela, in Honduras there were massive protests against privatization, also huge demonstrations in Paris. You certainly don’t get the same kind of coverage.

MIGUEL TINKER SALAS: No, you don’t. And the reality is that what’s happening in Honduras is fundamental. You have an effort at privatization. You have layoffs of doctors and of professors and of teachers. And there’s massive street protests happening in Tegucigalpa and all the major cities. And the attention is all on Venezuela. And the same thing is happening, in other contexts, for Central America, the immigration that’s happening as a result of failed US policies. As a colleague was saying earlier, the reality is this was tried elsewhere. The regime change that’s being tried in Venezuela has been tried elsewhere in Latin America and has led to humanitarian crisis throughout Central America—Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, in Mexico until very recently. So, again, we know the formula. We know it doesn’t produce the change that most people want. And what it does is it aggravates conditions for the majority of the population. So, you have, in the case of Venezuela, mistakes made by the Maduro administration that are now exacerbated by the sanctions and that take a toll on humans and on the population of the country.

AMY GOODMAN: We’ve been showing, for our radio audience, video, just to let you know, of the tear-gassing of people in Paris and Honduras right now. Of course, Honduras is a US ally. We’re not getting as much coverage of this. Finally, I wanted to ask Jeffrey Sachs about this issue you raise of collective punishment, and saying that collective punishment of a civilian population, as described by both the Geneva and Hague international conventions, to which the US is a signatory—in that way.

JEFFREY SACHS: And, I would say, of the OAS also, which explicitly prohibits this kind of hostile action against another country. US sanctions are now being imposed to bring down governments everywhere. You have, similarly in Iran yesterday, a big announcement of the collapse of the Iranian economy, and the IMF attributed it to US sanctions. So, this is what the Trump administration is trying to do also vis-à-vis Nicaragua. Trump said yesterday, total blockade on Cuba, if they don’t smart up. This is pure bullying. It is completely against international law. It creates havoc. It’s hard enough to achieve economic progress, but when the US is using its political power to break other countries, the results absolutely can be devastating.

And we see it in Venezuela, that it was the kick that pushed Venezuela into this catastrophic, spiraling decline and hyperinflation. It’s always blamed in our press on Maduro, but people don’t even look and understand how the US has the instruments of sanctions blocking access to financial markets, pushing enterprises into default, blocking trade, confiscating the assets owned by the Venezuelan government, precisely to and with the design of creating this kind of crisis, because the idea is, if the pain is enough—in the thinking of people like Bolton—then there will be a military overthrow. So they’re trying to create absolute disaster.

Well, what’s so stupid about these American policies, these neocon policies, is they do create disaster, but they don’t achieve even the political goals of these nasty people like Bolton. It’s not as if they’re effective and nasty; they’re completely ineffective and totally nasty at the same time. But Congress, in our country, nobody looks. It’s unbelievable that you have this basically one-man show of Trump doing damage, rampaging around the world. There is no oversight at all. And in the international institutions, like the IMF, the Inter-American Development Bank, people are scared to even say the truth, that this bully, of the United States, especially with the kind of president we have right now—no one wants to speak the obvious facts of how much damage is being done, how many lives are being lost, how much suffering is being created, how many refugees are being created—deliberately. And then, of course, you get The New York Times or someone else saying it’s Maduro’s whatever, because they don’t even look at the obvious process.

AMY GOODMAN: And you Democratic leaders, as well, in Congress saying the same thing. And so, we’re going to turn right now to a Democrat in Congress. We want to thank Jeffrey Sachs, who is a leading economist, director of the Center for Sustainable Development, Columbia University. We’ll link to your report that you put out with the Center for Economic and Policy Research headlined “Economic Sanctions as Collective Punishment: The Case of Venezuela.” And, Miguel Tinker Salas, thanks for joining us, professor at Pomona College in California.

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

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