Trump: Ziofascist Imperial Front Man

By Stephen Lendman
Source

Trump fronts for imperial America; its military, industrial, security complex; Wall Street, and Israeli Zionist ideologues, fascist extremists, and religious fundamentalists.

His one-sided support for the Jewish state is more extreme than any of his predecessors. His so-called/yet to be released Israeli/Palestinian peace plan is so hostile to fundamental Palestinian rights, he’s too embarrassed to release what’s dead before arrival.

His hatemongering bombast and  bravado Big Lies, wrapped in the American flag, the national symbol Mark Twain once called for replacing with a “skull and cross-bones,” rages against Iran, Venezuela, and other sovereign states.

His President’s Day address in Miami was a call to arms against peace, equity and justice, focusing on Venezuela, sounding Hitlerian – how he always sounds when raging against independent governments he wants forcefully toppled.

He’s an embarrassment to the office he holds; disdainful of the rights of ordinary people, the rule of law, and democratic values; a threat to world peace and freedom-loving people everywhere, including at home.

He represents dark interests wanting planet earth colonized and controlled, all nations transformed into ruler/serf societies, enforced by militarized police state harshness – NATO serving as a global force against nonbelievers.

The America he supports is unsafe and unfit to live in. The same goes for all nations in his crosshairs, wanting US-controlled puppet regimes installed, replacing their sovereign independence and fundamental freedoms.

Iran and Venezuela are in the eye of his storm, Russia and China on deck for regime change if and when all other sovereign independent governments are eliminated – a prescription for potentially humanity destroying nuclear war.

He and other extremists running the US bear testimony to perhaps higher intelligence being more of a curse than blessing. Humans may become the only species ever to destroy itself – and all other life forms with it if things go too far, the way they’re ominously heading.

In Miami on President’s Day, a federal holiday commemorating national leaders responsible for genocidal imperial expansion for wealth, power, and privilege at the expense of ordinary people everywhere – a day of dishonor to mourn, not celebrate, Trump used the occasion to rage for regime change in Venezuela.

Threatening its military, he bellowed that they’re “risking their future. They are risking their lives,” adding “(i)f you (continue supporting Maduro), you will find no safe harbor, no easy exit and no way out. You will lose everything.”

He barely stopped short of declaring war on the country, an invasion perhaps to follow if he goes this far, perhaps supported by Pentagon terror-bombing, massacring civilians he pretends to support.

President Maduro asked “(w)ho is the commander of (Venezuela’s) armed forces, Donald Trump from Miami?” Calling his Monday address “Nazi-style discourse…to enslave us,” he added: 

“They think they own the country, (trumpeting, pun intended) arrogant orders, offen(ding) (the) dignity” of Venezuela’s military – mobilized to defend the nation against the scourge of US imperial designs for conquest and control.

Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez denounced Trump, tweeting: “The best thing (he) can offer to Venezuela is military aggression…(the same) imperial assistance) provided to Iraq, Libya…Syria” and other nations.

“The people of Venezuela will never allow any empire to threaten our national integrity again! (We’ll stay) free in peace forever.”

Her comments followed Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, saying “(g)iven  the evident failure of the coup agenda designed in Washington with the aim of establishing a puppet government in Venezuela to endorse the plundering of its resources, Donald Trump now intends to dictate direct orders to the Venezuelan military to ignore the Constitution.”

“The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela declares to the international community that US President Donald Trump has again threatened Venezuela with military aggression, clearly violating the principles established by the UN Charter, reiterating…that all options are being considered with respect to Venezuela, including a military scenario that has been planned since August 11, 2017.”

A separate Maduro government statement via Twitter said “Venezuela demands the immediate cessation of all unilateral violent actions against it, which constitute the illegal and criminal blockade of the Venezuelan people, and at the same time declares to the international community that the US chauvinistic government and its president will be responsible for any violation of peace in Venezuela.”

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez slammed the Trump regime, saying (h)umanitarian aid is a pretext for a war of oil plunder. (O)ffensive (rhetoric) confirms the threat of (US) military aggression against Venezuela.

Russia will deliver 300 tons of humanitarian aid to Venezuela on Wednesday, the real thing, not Trump regime cookies while enforcing crushing sanctions on the country, imposed to cause pain and suffering of its people.

Maduro announced Russian assistance, saying it’ll “be legally delivered to the international airport of Caracas.”

Moscow called US Trojan horse aid an interventionist plot, a provocation, part of the Trump regime’s scheme to topple Venezuela’s government. 

Last week, over 900 tons of medicines were delivered to Venezuela, mostly from China and Cuba.

US aid is fake. Venezuelan Vice President Planning Ricardo Menendez said US hostility toward the country cost $38 billion in the last three years alone – much more since 1999.

Menendez explained that US actions since 2016 cost Venezuela $23 billion in GDP growth, $15 billion related to its US-based CITGO affiliate – plus another $20 billion in sabotage to its oil operations, $58 billion overall in the past three years.

He called so-called US humanitarian aid “cynical” – coming against the backdrop of economic/sanctions war on the country.

Exacerbated by low oil prices, crisis conditions in Venezuelan have been largely made-in-the-USA – a diabolical plot to crush Bolivarian social democracy, wanting the country colonized and controlled, its valued oil and other resources plundered, its people exploited as serfs.

The fate of the nation hangs in the balance, its sovereign independence at stake, a freedom v. fascism struggle – the right of Venezuelans to live free or be dominated by the scourge of a rapacious/repressive imperial master.

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As US Laments Human Rights in Venezuela, US-Allied Colombia Descends into Drug-fueled Humanitarian Crisis

By Whitney Webb
Source

The dichotomy between Washington’s relationship with Venezuela and Colombia is yet another clear example that the public justifications for the U.S.’s Latin America policy are little more than window dressing for the U.S.-backed expansion of neo-fascist governments throughout Latin America.

BOGOTÁ, COLOMBIA (Analysis) — Several troubling situations are currently playing out across Colombia, yet the country’s continuing downward spiral into drug-fueled and politically-motivated violence has caused little concern in Washington, offering yet another clear indication that the U.S.’ current posturing on Venezuela is hardly motivated by concerns about “democracy,” “human rights,” or the welfare of the Venezuelan people.

This, of course, can hardly be considered surprising, given that Colombia is a top U.S. ally whose government has long been closely aligned with Washington’s interests. However, although the lack of U.S. government or media attention to Colombia may effectively hide it from the American public, the country is becoming increasingly lawless, with cocaine production reaching new record levels and the government sanctioning the mass murder of the country’s largest indigenous group. Not only that but since Colombia’s new president, Iván Duque, came to power late last year, the number of indigenous social leaders who have been murdered has spiked to the highest levels in over a decade.

Ultimately, the lack of media coverage of Colombia’s humanitarian crises, which have large implications for the Americas as a whole, is a telling example of how such crises are regularly weaponized by governments and media to exclusively target governments it wishes to pressure or overthrow, while turning a blind eye to those same or worse acts when committed by an allied nation.

An absurdly double standard

Though it was Barack Obama who first deemed Venezuela a “national security threat” and reinitiated draconian sanctions against the oil-rich nation, the Trump administration has greatly increased the sanctions targeting Venezuela, often citing its government’s alleged participation in illegal drug trafficking as justification for doing so. However, the U.S. has offered little in the way of concrete evidence to back up those allegations.

During this same period, moreover, the Trump administration has expressed little concern for the booming illicit drug trade in neighboring Colombia, which has broken records for cocaine production for the last two years in a row. Though the Colombian government and military have been repeatedly tied to the country’s drug trade, the Trump administration – like previous U.S. administrations – hasn’t lifted a finger.

According to UN figures released last September, Colombia’s cocaine production has again broken records, with the country producing an estimated 1,379 tons of cocaine in 2017, the latest year for which such statistics exist. That figure is a 31 percent increase in cocaine production from 2016. 2016 itself was a record-breaking year with cocaine production gaining by 50 percent over 2015 levels.

Though Trump had threatened to decertify former Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos’ government over the rapid growth of cocaine production, he ultimately gave Colombia a pass in the U.S.’ annual determination of countries considered to be “major drug transit or major drug producing” areas “because the Colombian National Police and Armed Forces are close law enforcement and security partners of the United States in the Western Hemisphere.”

The document also described Venezuela, along with its regional ally Bolivia, as “countries that have failed demonstrably during the previous 12 months to adhere to their obligations under international counternarcotics agreements” despite the fact that Bolivia had the fewest illegal coca crops of any South American country that year.

Colombia | cocaine

Since getting a free pass from the Trump administration, Colombia’s current president, Iván Duque, has signaled his hopes to revive a failed, U.S.-backed program to indiscriminately spray suspected coca fields with the infamous Monsanto product glyphosate to reduce cocaine production.

Though the U.S. government and Western media have traditionally placed the blame on leftist guerillas in Colombia, like the FARC, the 2016 peace deal that saw the FARC abandon the drug trade has removed this convenient scapegoat and highlighted the long-standing role of the Colombian military and prominent right-wing politicians in cocaine production.

In fact, the United Nations Drug Control Program (UNDCP) has described the Colombian military — which has been armed and trained for decades by the U.S. under the Clinton era policy known as “Plan Colombia” — as being among “the biggest heroin and cocaine trading institutions.”

The Colombian government has also been intimately involved, particularly during the presidency of Álvaro Uribe, who allegedly served as the “head of Colombia’s paramilitary groups” both before and while in office. Uribe was once ranked by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency “on a list of 104 important narco-traffickers contracted by the Colombian narcotics cartels.”

There are also indications of the U.S. government’s own involvement in the Colombian cocaine trade. For example, Colombia’s most notorious drug trafficker, Pablo Escobar, at one point worked for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, according to Escobar’s own children. Escobar allegedly sold cocaine for the CIA to help the U.S. government finance its fight against communism and left-wing governments in Latin America.

As pointed out in the book Cocaine, Death Squads and the War on Terror: U.S. Imperialism and Class Struggle in Colombia, the U.S.’ anti-drug efforts in Colombia were never intended to eradicate cocaine, but instead alter the market share by ensuring that allies of the U.S. in Colombia – the Colombian government, paramilitaries and the wealthy elite who are favorable to U.S. business interests – could monopolize the drug trade with no competition from outsiders. Thus, it should hardly shock anyone that the U.S. continues to turn a blind eye to the country’s booming illegal drug trade and its associated violence, even as it continues to break records year after year.

Erasing the erasure of the Wayuú

As the long-standing, U.S.-backed plan to oust the Chavista regime in Venezuela has unfolded, Maduro’s government has been called out in Western media for “starving his own people,” despite the fact that U.S. sanctions imposed on Venezuela are a driving factor behind the country’s economic crisis. However, since 2011, Colombia has been the site of ongoing genocide against the country’s largest indigenous group – the Wayuú – in the country’s Guajira region, after the Colombian government diverted their only source of water to support the operations of the country’s – and continent’s – largest coal mine.

The suffering of the Wayuú, who have reported the deaths of at least 14,000 children due to the lack of clean water, has gone unreported by the same outlets that routinely raise concern about lack of essential goods in Venezuela. The Wayuú, who comprise around 20 percentof Colombia’s entire indigenous population and 48 percent of the Guajira region’s total inhabitants, are now on the brink of dying out completely seven years after the Ranchería river – their community’s only freshwater source – was diverted by the government-constructed Cercado dam in order to service the water needs of the Cerrejón coal mine.

An estimated 37,000 Wayuú now suffer from severe malnutrition, as they can no longer grow crops or raise livestock without a freshwater source. Each person in the community now lives off of less than 0.7 liters (24 oz.) of water a day while the Cerrejón mine guzzles more than 2.7 million liters of water in a 24-hour period – most of which is used to improve mine “visibility” by minimizing dust pollution. Despite the clear impact of the dam and mine on the humanitarian crisis facing the Wayuú, the Colombian government and supportive Western media have blamed “climate change” and weather patterns like El Niño for the situation.

The most likely reason for the erasure of the slow genocide of the Wayuú from Western media is the fact that the Cerrejón mine is largely a U.S.-backed operation, as the mine was originally founded by ExxonMobil and is now owned by a consortium of largely Western mining companies such as Anglo American and BHP Billiton. These same mining companies often work with right-wing paramilitary groups — who are also closely connected to the Colombian government — and who repeatedly threaten the lives of Wayuú who speak up about their people’s suffering, including their chief legal advocate, Javier Rojas Uriana.

Notably, the Colombian Wayuú have been immigrating to the Wayuú community in Venezuela in order to avoid the slow death caused by malnutrition, lack of water, and waterborne illnesses from the polluted water from the community’s remaining wells. The Venezuelan Wayuú have been largely supportive of Chavismo and have backed the Maduro-led government, referring to U.S.-backed opposition protests as violent riots “intended to create chaos.” The Huffington Post noted in 2017 that the Wayuú’s support for Maduro had largely been erased by the Western media because it “does not match up with the media’s anti-Venezuelan government narrative.”

Liquidating social leaders, activists, human-rights advocates

While the fate of the Wayuú (and thus 20 percent of the country’s entire indigenous population) continues to hang in the balance, the plight of Colombia’s indigenous peoples has grown even worse since the recent inauguration of Colombian President Iván Duque.

Despite Duque’s having come to power just last August, El Tiempo recently reported that the murders of indigenous leaders in the country have spiked to levels unseen in over a decade since Duque became Colombia’s president. According to data cited by El Tiempo, 120 indigenous social leaders – as well as human-rights defenders — have been murdered in cold blood during Duque’s first 100 days in office.

Though the murder of social leaders by right-wing paramilitary groups has been a long standing problem in Colombia’s recent history, this level of targeted murder represents a spike over recent years — in which 226, 159, and 97 such murders occurred over the course of the entire years of 2018, 2017 and 2016, respectively. Notably, the Venezuelan government of Nicolás Maduro has been routinely accused by Western media of murdering opposition activists; yet, those same outlets have been silent on Colombia’s recent spike in activist murders.

Colombia | Slain Activists

Despite the jump, Duque’s government has expressed little concern. This is hardly surprising when one considers that Duque is the hand-picked successor and protégé of Álvaro Uribe, the former Colombian president who was once “the head of Colombia’s paramilitary groups,” according to former paramilitary group commanders of the right-wing death squad AUC, which has been funded by several prominent U.S. corporations.

Uribe, who was Colombia’s president from 2002 to 2010, and was a close ally of George W. Bush, was also personally implicated inorganizing a massacre conducted by a right-wing paramilitary group; and his cousin, Colombian politician Mario Uribe, was charged with mobilizing right-wing death squads in the country to help secure Uribe’s presidential victory in 2002. Uribe’s brother was also arrested for founding a right-wing paramilitary group in 2016.

Under Uribe’s presidency, the Colombian military massacred thousands of civilians — such as in the “false positives” scandal, where the Colombian military dressed up an estimated 5,000 civilians in guerilla clothing and killed them in cold blood, subsequently gaining a bonus from Uribe’s government for the sinister act. It should be no surprise then that, under Uribe, the murder rate of indigenous leaders and human-rights activists reached its all-time high at 1,912 murders in 2003.

Given Duque’s close relationship to Uribe, it is also little surprise that paramilitary groups have endorsed Duque following his election and have vowed to “exterminate” Duque’s opposition, calling prominent Colombian progressives “military targets.”

What to expect if US gets its way in Venezuela

If Washington’s publicly stated concerns about “human rights” and the welfare of a country’s people in Venezuela were genuine, it would be equally critical of Colombia’s government, given the numerous troubling situations currently unfolding in that country. Instead, the dichotomy between Washington’s relationship with Venezuela and Colombia is yet another clear example that the public justifications for the U.S.’s Latin America policy are little more than window dressing for the U.S.-backed expansion of neo-fascist governments throughout Latin America.

Indeed, if Juan Guaidó – the self-declared, U.S.-backed “president” of Venezuela – manages to seize power in the country, the current state of affairs in Colombia is a telling harbinger of what would likely manifest should Nicolás Maduro be overthrown and replaced with the same type of government that the U.S. has either backed or installed in several Latin American countries over the last few decades, and particularly in recent years.

‘We are like the living dead’: Citizens of Mosul in despair 1.5 years after liberation from ISIS

5c612746dda4c8c1228b45de.JPG
A Woman walks next to ruins in the Old City of Mosul © Khalid al-Mousily / Reuters

 

Chaos and misery – that’s what life in Mosul is like more than 1.5 years after Iraqi forces and the US-led coalition staged one of the deadliest battles in decades to liberate the city from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS).

What was once Iraq’s second-largest city and home to millions was reduced to ash in July 2017, when the US-led coalition dropped bombs and recaptured it from IS. More than 10,000 civilians are estimated to have been killed in the battle.

Thousands of dead bodies are still buried under the rubble amid the lack of recovery crews and equipment. Locals say fraud and corruption are halting the process.

“You can’t even imagine how difficult it is – no hospitals, no schools, no teachers. We are like the living dead. We have a cemetery over there, but here it’s a cemetery for the living. Pot holes are everywhere, there are still corpses everywhere and if anyone brings humanitarian aid here, the local officials just steal it, they are all corrupt,” a Mosul resident told RT.

There’s no reconstruction here, all their reconstruction efforts are just ink on paper.

There are fears that IS could return to the city and use the corruption and chaos to re-emerge. The US-led coalition spent billions of dollars when it bombed Mosul, but when it was done, it didn’t cash out on rebuilding.

Meanwhile, nearly 2 million Iraqis remain displaced, according to UN estimates. Nearly 700,000 of them are from Mosul.“There are no basic services in the city, no jobs – it’s terrible,” one local resident said. “We’re here battling all the hardships. We now regret that we ever came back.”

https://www.rt.com/news/451163-mosul-after-isil-reconstruction-chaos/video/5c611074fc7e9393288b45b0

Afghan Civilians Fear CIA-Backed Death Squads that Can Call In Airstrikes

By Alexander Rubinstein
Source

While the U.S. continues to conduct its mission of nation-building and “democracy promotion” in Afghanistan and attempts broker a peace deal between the Taliban and the government, bombing the country at unprecedented levels and being associated with de facto death squads on the ground could fuel distrust of the Americans.

NANGARHAR PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN — Elite CIA-backed special forces in Afghanistan are leaving a trail of carnage in the country. As such units do not operate under the umbrella of the Department of Defense, they have been given near-impunity despite standing accused of war crimes.

Last month, the New York Times cited “senior Afghan and international officials” who said that while most strike forces in Afghanistan have been put under the purview of Afghan intelligence since 2012, two of the most “ruthless” units are “still sponsored mainly by the CIA.”

On Friday, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism revealed that at least one of these units has the capability of calling in air strikes.

Of the two special forces units that remain primarily influenced by the CIA, the name of only one was revealed: a group called “02” in the Nangarhar Province. The name of the unit in the Khost Province was not revealed. The units are trained and equipped by CIA agents and CIA contractors, and their fighters make three times the salary of a regular Afghan soldier. The unit in Khost is believed to have between 3,000 and 10,000 fighters while 02 is believed to be about 1,000 fighters strong.

A former senior Afghan security official told the Times that the strike forces were guilty of war crimes, while the United Nations has “expressed concern” about “consistent, credible accounts of intentional destruction of civilian property, illegal detention, and other abuses.” The unnamed unit in Khost was even singled out by the UN, which said it operates “with an absence of transparency and ongoing impunity.”

Brutality worthy of ISIS

In September, elders from the three Nangarhar districts gathered for a press conference in which they claimed that 100 civilians were killed by 02 in August. Elders are putting the number of civilians slain by 02 in the following two months, September and October, at 260.

One man who spoke at the conference said he and his two brothers were detained for three months as 02 tried to force video confessions of Taliban affiliation from him with threats of driving over him with a tank. He said he was placed in handcuffs and that they used needles to puncture holes in his veins.

In one case investigated by the Times, two brothers were killed as they watered their fields. In another case, a unit pursuing an alleged Taliban member entered the wrong home and killed a dozen civilians. In yet another case, 02 placed two brothers in handcuffs and spit hoods and interrogated them in front of their wives and children. After they were done being questioned, 02 dragged the brothers away and executed them in the corner of a bedroom, and then detonated the building.

According to “several current and former Afghan officials,” Americans help the unit find targets and guide operations. Those detained by such units frequently claim they have been tortured and Afghan officials say that Americans have been present at bases during such abuses. In the Nangarhar province alone, human-rights workers registered 15 complaints of torture by 02, according to the Times.

One medical worker who lives in the Bati Kot district in Nangarhar said he initially mistook 02 for ISIS when they showed up at his village surrounded by orange orchards.

“I ran and got my weapon — I thought it was the caliphate people. I didn’t know it was the government,” Khoshal Khan said. “Then they started firing, and I heard the gate blown up. They were speaking English, also.”

Afghanistan | Nangarhar

First, one man in the village, Mohamed Taher, was shot. According to his 16-year-old grandson, Sekander, one of Taher’s sons was also shot while following orders to come out of the building with his hands up. Then, 02 shot one of the grandsons in the head. And then another one of Taher’s sons.

“The women started crying. They called to be quiet, then they blew up the gates and came in,” Sekandar told the Times.

As his father bled to death in the yard after being shot while following orders, Adel, Taher’s 10-year-old grandson, was forced to take shelter inside. “They said, ‘Don’t come out — if the airstrikes hit you, then don’t complain.’” Adel still has shrapnel wounds on his face from the raid.

A relative of some of the people killed in the raid, Mohibullah, said that he sees little difference between the Islamic State and 02, since they both attack civilians without warning.

More killing power than the Caliphate

But, as it turns out, the 02 group is far better equipped than the Caliphate ever was. That’s because they have something Daesh lacked: air support. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism found instances in which 02 raids were quickly followed by airstrikes. One man they spoke to said 16 civilians were killed in an 02 raid on his village, five of whom were family members.

“When my family members heard shots being fired outside, they went out to see what was going on and were hit by an airstrike that killed the five of them. The airstrike also destroyed part of our house,” he said. The outlet claims that 02 called in the strike.

“Numerous residents and relatives” said that one month later 02 killed 13 civilians, including four children, in a raid that included airstrikes. The Interior Ministry claimed that Islamic State fighters were killed, not civilians.

“First, they attacked us with bombs. Then they entered the living room and started to shoot around,” said one witness. “They didn’t care about who they were killing. They killed my uncle and his 9-year-old son. His wife and his other child were injured.” Another man told the outlet he lost seven family members in the raid.

Bombing and death squads a strange approach to nation-building

The CIA’s training, equipping, and support of 02 is reportedly stoking resentment of America’s 18-year occupation of the country, which has little to show in regard to net gains against the Taliban. Near the end of 2018 the Afghan government controlled the smallest amountof territory since a U.S. military watchdog — the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) — started keeping track in 2015. Meanwhile, the U.S. dropped more bombs in 2018 on Afghanistan than during any other year on SIGAR record, which goes back to 2009.

United States Air Forces Central Command Combined Air Operations Center

While the U.S. continues to conduct its mission of nation-building and “democracy promotion” in Afghanistan and attempts broker a peace deal between the Taliban and the government, bombing the country at unprecedented levels and being associated with de facto death squads on the ground could fuel distrust of the Americans.

“When the U.S. also takes on the mission of state-building, then the contradictions between the two approaches — stealth, black ops, and non-transparency vs. institution building, rule of law, and accountability — become extraordinarily difficult to resolve, and our standing as a nation suffers,” bemoaned Karl Eikenberry, a former U.S. commander in Afghanistan who later became a diplomat to the country.

Already, Afghans are beginning to suspect that the U.S. sought to prolong its occupation of their country as means of securing a position to spy on Russia, China and Iran.

Venezuela Is An Opportunity For Russia And China To Change The World

By Paul Craig Roberts

February 08, 2019 “Information Clearing House” –     Nothing better illustrates Washington’s opposition to democracy and self-determination than the blatantly public coup Washington has organized against the properly elected president of Venezuela.

Washington has been trying to overthrow the Venezuelan government for years. Washington wants the state owned oil company to be privatized so that it can fall into the hands of US oil companies. That would ensure Washington’s control over Venezuela. Transferring the wealth out of the country would prevent any economic development from inside the country. Every aspect of the economy would end up in the hands of US corporations. The exploitation would be ruthless and brutal.

Venezuelans understand this, which is why Washington, despite wrecking the Venezuelan economy and offering enormous bribes to the Venezuelan military, has not yet been able to turn the people and the troops against Maduro.

Moon of Alabama’s explanation of Washington’s attack on Venezuela gives you a truer picture that differs completely from the lies voiced by the American and European politicians and presstitute media, a collection of whores who are devoid of all integrity and all morality and lie for their living.

I am not as confident as Moon of Alabama that Venezuela’s effort dating back to Chavez to be a sovereign country independent of Washington’s control can survive. Washington is determined to teach all of Latin America that it is pointless to dream of self-determination. Washington simply will not permit it.

Maduro, despite being the duly elected president with the mass of the people and military behind him, apparently lacks the power to arrest the American puppet who, despite the absence of any law or election as a basis, has declared himself to be president, thus creating a Washington-backed “government” as an alternative to the elected one. The inability of Maduro to defend democracy from within is a sign of the weakness of his office. How can Maduro possibly be a dictator when he is helpless in the face of open sedition?

If Russia and China quickly established a military presence in Venezuela to protect their loans and oil investments, Venezuela could be saved, and other countries that would like to be independent would take heart that, although there is no support for self-determination anywhere in the Western World, the former authoritarian countries will support it. Other assertions of independence would arise, and the Empire would collapse.

Venezuela is an opportunity for Russia and China to assume the leadership of the world, but I doubt the Russian and Chinese governments have the vision to seize the opportunity and, thereby, fundamentally change the world.

Putin is wasting his breath when he correctly criticizes Washington for its violations of international law. In Washington’s view, law is what serves American interest.

Here is Moon of Alabama’s analysis: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/51062.htm

Dr. Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following. Roberts’ latest books are The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the WestHow America Was Lost, and The Neoconservative Threat to World Order.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.

Reporter’s Diary from Venezuela

February 08, 2019

Reporter’s Diary from Venezuela

Reporter’s Diary from Venezuela.

Georgy Zotov (author of AIF weekly)

This is the personal view of the correspondent on today’s life of Caracas.

Translated by Scott

 

Day one…

Our Air France flight was grounded in Paris for 5 hours; no one wants to land in Venezuela in the middle of the night, due to the “dangerous criminal situation.” The airliner is half empty, the passengers, judging by nervous conversations, are only Venezuelans. A taxi driver, while leaving the airport, locks the doors, and sweetly warns that after dark, bandits scatter spikes on the roads and rob the stranded cars. “Oh, don’t worry, Amigo, I have an old car. They are not interested in old, cars.” That’s where you understand why Caracas is ranked first in the ranking of the most dangerous cities in the world. It’s too late for supper, but I at least want to exchange my US dollars for Venezuelan bolivars. I ask my cab driver. He violently shakes his head: “No, no, no. I do not mess with such things, it’s illegal!” “Whatever,” I laugh at him. “Tomorrow, someone will take the dollars, maybe even with my hands torn off.” I was wrong…

The following morning, no one at the hotel wants to look at my dollars. The hotel employee tells me to go to one of the official “exchange stores” but honestly adds: “only Americans, or complete jerks go there.”

In Venezuela, the official dollar exchange rate is 200 bolivars, and the “black market” exchange rate is 2,715. And if you exchange your currency in a bank, then according to this calculation, a bottle of ordinary water will cost 330 rubles, and a modest lunch in an inexpensive cafe—7,000 rubles per person. Judging by the stories on the Internet, in Venezuelan people should simply kill each other for dollars, but this is not the case. There is also other things different from perception. On western news, it is shown that demonstrators fight with police daily, tens killed, hundreds wounded, the sea of blood. But in Caracas, all is quiet. In an afternoon, people are sitting in cafes and idly sipping rum with ice, while maintenance crews sweep the streets. It turns out that the world ‘s leading TV new sources (including CNN and the BBC) show some fantasy film about Venezuela. “Demonstrations?” yawns Alejandro, a street vendor selling corn. “Well, Saturday there will be one, sort of. On one end of the city will be a rally of opposition supporters, and on the other, Maduro supporters. The police keep them separate to prevent fights.” Amazing. You browse the Internet, you turn on the TV, and you see the revolution, the people dying on streets to overthrow the “evil dictator Maduro.” And you come here, and nobody cares.

Then it got even better. Never in my life have I had so many adventures while trying to exchange one currency for another. The country has a problem with cash money, long queues waiting for the ATM, and even the street dealers of “currency” have no “efectivo,” as they call cash. I wander inside a jewelry store and ask if they want some “green.” The answer is “No.” Everyone acts like law-abiding citizens. I am told that police recently started arresting people for private exchange, that’s why people don’t want to associate. One owner of the jewelry store almost agrees. “What do you have? Dollars? No, I won’t take that.” “Why now?” “I take only the Euros …dollar, man, is the currency of the aggressor, they try to tell us how to live!”

Damn it! I have money in my pocket, and I can’t even buy lunch! Finally, a certain woman, nursing a baby in a workplace, very reluctantly agrees to exchange 2,200 bolivars for a “buck.” I want to curse her out, but I have to live somehow. Bolivars seem like a beautiful, unattainable currency, which hides all the benefits of the world, that’s why they are so hard to get. I’m nodding in agreement. The woman calls somewhere, and asks to wait. After 15 minutes she tells me that “there is a problem.” Of course, money is not to be found. Her man couldn’t withdraw them from the ATM, everywhere the ATMs are on a strict daily rate. “President Maduro is fighting for the strengthening of the national currency,” explained the nursing mother. “We all use our cards to pay for everything.” I don’t know how it works, but yesterday an exchange rate was 3,200 bolívars for 1 dollar, and today the “bucks” fell to 2,700. I have started to realize that in the very next few days I’ll starve to death with dollars in my pocket. A unique fate, perhaps, that has never happen in history.

In the next kiosk cash for gold place I am offered a plastic debit card loaded with local money, and then I would try my luck withdrawing bills from neighboring ATMs. “Or, maybe not, if you’re not lucky.” Well, of course. By the way, an attempt to buy a SIM card for the phone also fails. They don’t sell them to foreigners, you need a Venezuelan ID card. Yes, and I have nothing to pay for it. The feeling is that the dollar is a gift that no one wants. Sadly, I walk by stores. People come out of there with packages of eggs, bread, packs of butter. The range is not like in Moscow, of course, but again, if you believe the news on TV, Venezuela is suffering from a terrible famine, supermarkets are empty, and people are fighting each other for food. Nothing like that. There are queues, but not kilometers long. In general, television stations in the United States and Europe (and ours too) created their own Venezuela, drawn like a terrible cartoon. I walk into a cafe at random. “Will you accept dollars for lunch?” I ask hopelessly. “Yes, at the rate of “black market” they whispered to me. “But the change will also be in dollars…sorry, no bolivars at all…we’ve been hunting for them ourselves for weeks.”

My first day in Venezuela is over. How unusual. I’ve been here for 24 hours, and I’ve not held a Bolivian bill in my hand. Oh, but there will be more…

 

Day two…

60 liters of gasoline here cost five cents, and a basket of basic food products — 50 rubles (about 90 cents).

“The gas station,” my driver reaches into his purse and takes out a banknote of 2 Bolivar. The exchange rate of the Venezuelan currency changes every day, and today it is 2 580 bolivars per one dollar. In Russian money, that is 10 cents. “We must now fill a full tank,” says the taxi driver. 60 liters of gasoline cost 1 bolívar, but we give the 2 bolivars bill, because there is no 1 bolivar bill.  I can’t believe that is a full tank of fuel costs FIVE CENTS? “And how much can you even fill at this price?” “Once a day for every citizen. And it’s enough for me.” All the way to the center city, the driver scolds President Maduro, and tells me how much he loves America, and how it will be good when the “guy with mustache” is finally overthrow by the Americans. I start to think that I don’t feel sorry for Maduro at all. He really corrupted en entire country with such generous handouts. And they are willingly take, but no one says “thank you,” just that they want more and more.

On the street there is a long line into a “social supermarket,” a place you can buy 400 types of goods at the solid low prices. These shops were established by the late President Hugo Chavez “to fight inflation and protect the poor.” The stores are funded by the Venezuelan government. The buyer comes with a passport, gets a number, and waits in line until they are allowed to enter and buy a certain set of products. The selection isn’t very impressive, only the essentials: chicken, bananas, pineapples, sausages, milk. A box of these food items costs of equivalent of 50 rubles. CNN and the BBC show videos of Venezuelans wrapped in rolls of toilet paper and sadly wandering across the border with Colombia. The toilet paper is found in absolutely every store, and without any problems. I am once again simply amazed: Western TV news is something from Hollywood, they are not reporting but making fantasy blockbusters. On the BBC website I read that hungry Venezuelan children after school go to take a look at the street vendors cooking meat. I’ve been all over the town. Restaurants, cafes, eateries, during the lunch hour are crowded, and people look well-dressed. The mass hunger, the Western media paints for us, doesn’t exist in reality.

I take a few pictures inside the supermarket, and I am immediately approached by the workers or “Maduro followers.” “It’s forbidden to take pictures here.” “Is this a military facility?” “Leave or we’ll call the police.” “Listen, everywhere on TV they tell us that there is hunger in Venezuela. I want to prove that the reality is different.” “We are not interested, we just work here: leave immediately!” I started to understand perfectly well why Nicolas Maduro lost the information war. Hugo Chavez was often praised even in private conversations, but even Chavez supporters find little positive to say about Maduro.  When people protested against Hugo’s endless nominations as the head of state, he used to meet them with the open arms, smiling and saying : “Guys, what’s the problem? I’m your President, I love you, let’s sit down and talk!” Maduro doesn’t have this image of being one of the guys. He is not able to communicate with the public, and his assistants, like the employees of the social store, can only push and ban and threaten with the police.

On the streets, provincial farmers sell fruits and vegetables: mango, tomatoes, cucumbers. All about the same price of 25 rubles per kilogram. Here, a dozen eggs from street vendors is 4,800 bolivars or about 130 rubles, and that is not cheap. During the peak of oil prices, when a barrel of oil was sold for $150, Venezuela lived on the principle of a rich fool. To develop domestic production? No, what is that nonsense?  We can buy every triviality abroad. Even the managers of the oil production weren’t local, they hired specialists from Europe, and paid them a lot of money. Food imports into the country reached 95 percent. And now the situation is not too different. When I order my meal in a cafe (incidentally, still paying in dollars, all attempts to change dollars to bolivars failed), I get excellent pork. “Where is it from?” “From Colombia.” “And chicken?” “From Brazil, that’s why it’s so expensive.” Even flour for bread comes from neighboring Guyana. Chavez and his successor Maduro wanted to be “people’s presidents,” handing out money left and right. But then oil prices collapsed, food shortages began, and people rebelled. People demand as before: cheap food in supermarkets, gasoline for nothing, and they don’t want to hear anything more or less.

“Chavez was a great guy!” says a fan of the former president, 75-year-old Raul Romero, dressed in a red “chavist” shirt. “Maduro is nothing like him! There is speculators on the streets, he does nothing. In his time, Chavez arrested the dealers raising food  prices, closed their shops, confiscated land from landowners, and gave it to the people. We need a firm hand, a real dictatorship!”

In the TV world, Maduro is portrayed as a dictator and executioner, although in Venezuela, he is openly scolded for being meek; they draw cartoon of him, and insult him as much as they can. But who cares about the truth? Much more colorful to show the suffering for the toilet paper.

Day three…

“I got robbed by a COP for my phone. I’m talking on the cell phone outside, he walks over to me, pokes in my side with his gun. “Give me your mobile.”I don’t understand immediately, and automatically continue the conversation. He cocks his gun, and says, “Kill.” I give him my phone. It’s still good, I love being robbed by cops. They are not bandits from the “Barrios,” the poor neighborhoods in the mountains, who can shoot you first and then rummage your corpse’s pockets. I’m lucky, I’ve lived in Venezuela for 27 years and this was the first time I was “hop-stopped.” A lot of people get robbed every year.

I am talking to Mikhail, a citizen of Russia living in Venezuela since the beginning of the nineties. He helps me move around Caracas and instructs me on how to visit the local slums.

“You don’t have protection? Oh, who would doubt that. Then leave your watch, phone, and camera at the hotel. Take some money for a taxi, you also have to have some cash in case you get ambushed, otherwise they might get offended and kill you. Sometimes, people get shot in an arm and a leg, that survivable.”

After such a nice story, I still go to the “Barrios.” It is there that the supporters of President Nicolas Maduro mainly live. According to CNN and BBC, impoverished people in Venezuela are revolting against the government. Nothing can be further from the truth; it’s a wealthy middle class that goes to demonstrate. Maduro is applauded in poor neighborhoods, because the President gives their residents free food sets enough for a month and gives free (!) apartments. Formally, they belong to the state, but people live in them for generations.

“I will cut a throat for the President,” a heavily-tattooed man smiles menacingly, and introduces himself as Emilio. “Who else would give me food and a ‘roof ‘ for free? He is our father and benefactor.” Maduro deliberately does not touch such people, which is why crime in Caracas gushes over the edge. I am advised not to stop on the street to look at anything, but just to keep going, otherwise bandits will have time to look closely at me. That’s why they have constant robberies on the streets, plus the police and the national guard can easily take away your favorite things. No one can be happy about all these. “I love Russians,” told me the businessman Carlos while conversing over coffee near the Plaza de Bolivar. “But you’d better send Maduro economic advisers. Teach him a lesson! He doesn’t know anything about economy. He has one recipe for everything, to give more money to the poor, more free apartments, free food, free gasoline, to build a full communism here. But with this, sorry, any state would collapse.”

The opposition rally in the Western part of Caracas is huge, at least 100 thousand people gathered. The protesters are friendly to me, Russia here is respected. It is not considered an enemy. Zero aggression at all… and then I  wonder about what I see on CNN, videos of the opposition being rolled into a pancake by tanks. The police keep the neutrality, it disappears from the streets, to not give a cause to provocateurs. People are happily waving flying in the sky military helicopter. Many-in t-shirts with the American flag, a man passes by, holding a hand-written poster with the altered slogan of Donald Trump -“Make Venezuela great again.” “Do you love the U.S.?” “Yes, adore it!” “I remember you already had a pro-American President in 1993, Carlos Andrés Pérez. He sharply raised the price of gasoline, 80% of the goods were imported, he drove the republic into billions of IMF debts. People went to demonstrations, and Pérez drowned them in blood, killing 2,000 people…then he fled to America.”

The man freezes, with his mouth open. Finally, he gets the gift of speech back. “I hope this time the pro-American President will be different.” “Are you sure?” “Sorry, I have nothing to say.” Asking the girl from the opposition how she feels about the US: “The US is our neighbor, let them change the power here.” “In countries where the US changed power like Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, hundreds of thousands people were killed. Are you ready for this?”

Again, she pauses and sighs.

“No, no, no. We are not Africa or Asia. All will go peacefully. Venezuelans will not kill each other.”

Where the opinions splits is the question of whether the free gasoline and free food packages will remain with an American-instilled government. Many are sincerely sure that the “freebies” will remain under a new president. How else? The minority that recognizes that state gifts will be canceled say that they at least “we will be free.” As I said, the protesters are mostly well-dressed, well-off people. By the way, the leader of the opposition, Juan Guido, also has no real economic program promising to “quadruple the oil production.” No one thinks that after that price will fall four times. In short, I get a feeling that neither the President, nor the opposition, know anything about the economy in Venezuela.

The demonstrations in support of Maduro take place at the other end of the city, to prevent the opponents from fighting. “You Americans are insolent!” screamed an old woman in a red t-shirt rushing towards me. “Bastards! You should be handed on a first tree! Cheers to socialism!” “I’m Russian, grandma.” The old lady recoils.  “Sorry, please.” “Don’t get that upset, senora.” Many people gathered here are joyful, dancing and singing.

A soldiers stands in front of me and doesn’t allow me to take any pictures. Not just me, but also other passers-by. “You can’t take pictures here.” “Says who?” “President Maduro.” No, Maduro is definitely doing everything he can to be disliked. Those gathering here are poor, blue-collared workers and farmers from the suburbs. I am interested , honestly, were you brought here on the busses? “Yes, he did!” says one grandfather, proudly displaying a portrait of Che Guevara. “But I would walk here for Maduro! It’s a lie that we were paid to be here.” Other people applaud him happily. I shake hands. “Russians are welcome! Venezuela loves you, you’re home.”

The day of rallies is over. The maintenance crews came to the sidewalk, strewn with plastic bottles, crumpled packs of cigarettes, and other debris left after by a cloud. At the entrance of an old house, old people drink coffee. “They say that today some general has defected to the side of the opposition,” says one of them. “Some significant person.” “What’s this guy’s name?” “Who knows?” Venezuela is split in half. And the situation there may change at any moment.

Leaked Doc Reveals US Military Use of IMF, World Bank as “Unconventional” Weapons

By Whitney Webb
Source

This “U.S. coup manual,” recently highlighted by WikiLeaks, serves as a reminder that the so-called “independence” of such financial institutions as The World Bank and IMF is an illusion and that they are among the many “financial weapons” regularly used by the U.S. government to bend countries to its will.

WASHINGTON – In a leaked military manual on “unconventional warfare” recently highlighted by WikiLeaks, the U.S. Army states that major global financial institutions — such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) — are used as unconventional, financial “weapons in times of conflict up to and including large-scale general war,” as well as in leveraging “the policies and cooperation of state governments.”

The document, officially titled “Field Manual (FM) 3-05.130, Army Special Operations Forces Unconventional Warfare” and originally written in September 2008, was recently highlighted by WikiLeaks on Twitter in light of recent events in Venezuela as well as the years-long, U.S.-led economic siege of that country through sanctions and other means of economic warfare. Though the document has generated new interest in recent days, it had originally been released by WikiLeaks in December 2008 and has been described as the military’s “regime change handbook.”

View image on Twitter

WikiLeaks’ recent tweets on the subject drew attention to a single section of the 248-page-long document, titled “Financial Instrument of U.S. National Power and Unconventional Warfare.” This section in particular notes that the U.S. government applies “unilateral and indirect financial power through persuasive influence to international and domestic financial institutions regarding availability and terms of loans, grants, or other financial assistance to foreign state and nonstate actors,” and specifically names the World Bank, IMF and The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), as well as the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), as “U.S. diplomatic-financial venues to accomplish” such goals.

The manual also touts the “state manipulation of tax and interest rates” along with other “legal and bureaucratic measures” to “open, modify or close financial flows” and further states that the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) – which oversees U.S. sanctions on other nations, like Venezuela — “has a long history of conducting economic warfare valuable to any ARSOF [Army Special Operations Forces] UW [Unconventional Warfare] campaign.”

This section of the manual goes on to note that these financial weapons can be used by the U.S. military to create “financial incentives or disincentives to persuade adversaries, allies and surrogates to modify their behavior at the theater strategic, operational, and tactical levels” and that such unconventional warfare campaigns are highly coordinated with the State Department and the Intelligence Community in determining “which elements of the human terrain in UWOA [Unconventional Warfare Operations Area] are most susceptible to financial engagement.”

The role of these “independent” international financial institutions as extensions of U.S. imperial power is elaborated elsewhere in the manual and several of these institutions are described in detail in an appendix to the manual titled “The Financial Instrument of National Power.” Notably, the World Bank and the IMF are listed as both Financial Instruments and Diplomatic Instruments of U.S. National Power as well as integral parts of what the manual calls the “current global governance system.”

Furthermore, the manual states that the U.S. military “understand[s] that properly integrated manipulation of economic power can and should be a component of UW,” meaning that these weapons are a regular feature of unconventional warfare campaigns waged by the United States.

Another point of interest is that these financial weapons are largely governed by the National Security Council (NSC), which is currently headed by John Bolton. The document notes that the NSC “has primary responsibility for the integration of the economic and military instruments of national power abroad.”

“Independent” but controlled

Though the unconventional warfare manual is notable for stating so openly that “independent” financial institutions like the World Bank and the IMF are essentially extensions of U.S. government power, analysts have noted for decades that these institutions have consistently pushed U.S. geopolitical goals abroad.

Indeed, the myth of World Bank and IMF “independence” is quickly eroded by merely looking at the structure and funding of each institution. In the case of the World Bank, the institution is located in Washington and the organization’s president has always been a U.S. citizen chosen directly by the president of the United States. In the World Bank’s entire history, the institution’s Board of Governors has never rejected Washington’s pick.

This past Monday, it was reported that President Donald Trump nominated former Bear Stearns economist David Malpass to lead the World Bank. Malpass had famously failed to foresee the destruction of his former employer during the 2008 financial crisis and is likely to limit World Bank loans to China and to countries allied or allying with China, given his well-established reputation as a China hawk.

In addition to choosing its president, the U.S. is also the bank’s largest shareholder, making it the only member nation to have veto rights. Indeed, as the leaked unconventional warfare manual notes, “As major decisions require an 85% supermajority, the United States can block any major changes” to World Bank policy or the services it offers. Furthermore, the U.S. Treasury Secretary, former Goldman Sachs banker and “foreclosure king,” Steve Mnuchin, functions as the World Bank’s governor.

Though the IMF is different from the World Bank in several respects, such as its stated mission and focus, it too is largely dominated by U.S. government influence and funding. For instance, the IMF is also based in Washington and the U.S. is the company’s largest shareholder — the largest by far, owning 17.46 percent of the institution – and also pays the largest quota for the institution’s maintenance, paying $164 billion in IMF financial commitments annually. Though the U.S. does not choose the IMF’s top executive, it uses its privileged position as the institution’s largest funder to control IMF policy by threatening to withhold its IMF funding if the institution does not abide by Washington’s demands.

World Bank IMF | Protest

As a consequence of the lopsided influence of the U.S. on these institutions’ behavior, these organizations have used their loans and grants to “trap” nations in debt and have imposed “structural adjustment” programs on these debt-saddled governments that result in the mass privatization of state assets, deregulation, and austerity that routinely benefit foreign corporations over local economies. Frequently, these very institutions – by pressuring countries to deregulate their financial sector and through corrupt dealings with state actors – bring about the very economic problems that they then swoop in to “fix.”

Guaidó hits up IMF

Given the close relationship between the U.S. government and these international financial institutions, it should come as little surprise that – in Venezuela – the U.S.-backed “interim president” Juan Guaidó – has already requested IMF funds, and thus IMF-controlled debt, to fund his parallel government.

This is highly significant because it shows that top among Guaidó’s objectives, in addition to privatizing Venezuela’s massive oil reserves, is to again shackle the country to the U.S.-controlled debt machine.

As the Grayzone Project recently noted:

Venezuela’s previous elected socialist president, Hugo Chávez, broke ties with the IMF and World Bank, which he noted were “dominated by US imperialism.” Instead Venezuela and other left-wing governments in Latin America worked together to co-found the Bank of the South, as a counterbalance to the IMF and World Bank.”

However, Venezuela is far from the only country in Latin America being targeted by these financial weapons masquerading as “independent” financial institutions. For instance, Ecuador – whose current president has sought to bring the country back into Washington’s good graces – has gone so far as to conduct an “audit” of its asylum of journalist and WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange in order to win a $10 billion bailout from the IMF. Ecuador granted Assange asylum in 2012 and the U.S. has fervently sought his extradition for still sealed charges ever since.

In addition, last July, the U.S. threatened Ecuador with “punishing trade measures” if it introduced a measure at the UN to support breastfeeding over infant formula, in a move that stunned the international community but laid bare the willingness of the U.S. government to use “economic weapons” against Latin American nations.

Beyond Ecuador, other recent targets of massive IMF and World Bank “warfare” include Argentina, which awarded the largest IMF bailout loan in history just last year. That loan package was, unsurprisingly, heavily pushed by the U.S., according to a statement from Treasury Secretary Mnuchin released last year. Notably, the IMF was instrumental in causing the complete collapse of the Argentinian economy in 2001, sending a poor omen for last year’s approval of the record loan package.

Though it was released over a decade ago, this “U.S. coup manual” recently highlighted by WikiLeaks serves as a salient reminder that the so-called “independence” of these financial institutions is an illusion and that they are among the many “financial weapons” regularly used by the U.S. government to bend countries to its will and even overthrow U.S.-disfavored governments.

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