Venezuela, Iran: Trump and the Deep State — Astute News

The new deal of the White House and the Pentagon The parliamentary elections of 6 November 2018 deprived President Trump of his majority in the House of Representatives. The Democratic Party assumed that this would lead inevitably to his destitution. Of course, he had done nothing to deserve it, but a flood of hysteria swamped […]

via Venezuela, Iran: Trump and the Deep State — Astute News

Venezuela isn’t Syria… but America’s war tactics are the same — In Gaza

May 14, 2019, RT.com -by Eva Bartlett

Since Juan Guaido declared himself Venezuela’s interim president, rhetoric emanating from Washington has grown increasingly familiar. It echoes the bombastic & hollow humanitarian-crisis type of war propaganda which has been used repeatedly in resource-rich nations, from Afghanistan to Iraq to Libya to Syria. And now we’re seeing it […]

via Venezuela isn’t Syria… but America’s war tactics are the same — In Gaza

What the Press Hides From You About Venezuela

What the Press Hides From You About Venezuela

Alfred de Zayas, human rights lawyer & UN independent expert on international order. His report on Venezuela has been buried by the MSM.

This news-report is being submitted to all US and allied news-media, and is being published by all honest ones, in order to inform you of crucial facts that the others — the dishonest ones, who hide such crucial facts — are hiding about Venezuela. These are facts that have received coverage only in one single British newspaper: the Independent, which published a summary account of them on January 26th. That newspaper’s account will be excerpted here at the end, but first will be highlights from its topic, the official report to the UN General Assembly in August of last year, which has been covered-up ever since. This is why that report’s author has now gone to the Independent, desperate to get the story out, finally, to the public.

THE COVERED-UP DOCUMENT

On 3 August 2018, the UN’s General Assembly received the report from the UN’s Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order, concerning his mission to Venezuela and Ecuador. His recent travel though both countries focused on “how best to enhance the enjoyment of all human rights by the populations of both countries.”

He “noted the eradication of illiteracy, free education from primary school to university, and programmes to reduce extreme poverty, provide housing to the homeless and vulnerable, phase out privilege and discrimination, and extend medical care to everyone.”

He noted “that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and Ecuador, both devote around 70 per cent of their national budgets to social services.” However (and here, key paragraphs from the report are now quoted):

22. Observers have identified errors committed by the Chávez and Maduro Governments, noting that there are too many ideologues and too few technocrats in public administration, resulting in government policies that lack coherence and professional management and discourage domestic investment, already crippled by inefficiency and corruption, which extend to government officials, transnational corporations and entrepreneurs. Critics warn about the undue influence of the military on government and on the running of enterprises like Petróleos de Venezuela. The lack of regular, publicly available data on nutrition, epidemiology and inflation are said to complicate efforts to provide humanitarian support.

23. Meanwhile, the Attorney General, Tarek Saab, has launched a vigorous anticorruption campaign, investigating the links between Venezuelan enterprises and tax havens, contracting scams, and deals by public officials with Odebrecht. It is estimated that corruption in the oil industry has cost the Government US$ 4.8 billion. The Attorney General’s Office informed the Independent Expert of pending investigations for embezzlement and extortion against 79 officials of Petróleos de Venezuela, including 22 senior managers. The Office also pointed to the arrest of two high-level oil executives, accused of money-laundering in Andorra. The Ministry of Justice estimates corruption losses at some US$ 15 billion. Other stakeholders, in contrast, assert that anti-corruption programmes are selective and have not sufficiently targeted State institutions, including the military.

29. …Over the past sixty years, non-conventional economic wars have been waged against Cuba, Chile, Nicaragua, the Syrian Arab Republic and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in order to make their economies fail, facilitate regime change and impose a neo-liberal socioeconomic model. In order to discredit selected governments, failures in the field of human rights are maximized so as to make violent overthrow more palatable. Human rights are being “weaponized” against rivals. Yet, human rights are the heritage of every human being and should never be instrumentalized as weapons of demonization.

30. The principles of non-intervention and non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign States belong to customary international law and have been reaffirmed in General Assembly resolutions, notably [a list is supplied].

31. In its judgment of 27 June 1986 concerning Nicaragua v. United States, the International Court of Justice quoted from [UN] resolution 2625 (XXV): “no State shall organize, assist, foment, finance, incite or tolerate subversive, terrorist or armed activities directed towards the violent overthrow of the regime of another State, or interfere in civil strife in another State”.

36. The effects of sanctions imposed by Presidents Obama and Trump and unilateral measures by Canada and the European Union have directly and indirectly aggravated the shortages in medicines such as insulin and anti-retroviral drugs. To the extent that economic sanctions have caused delays in distribution and thus contributed to many deaths, sanctions contravene the human rights obligations of the countries imposing them.Moreover, sanctions can amount to crimes against humanity under Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. An investigation by that Court would be appropriate, but the geopolitical submissiveness of the Court may prevent this.

37. Modern-day economic sanctions and blockades are comparable with medieval sieges of towns with the intention of forcing them to surrender. Twenty-first century sanctions attempt to bring not just a town, but sovereign countries to their knees. A difference, perhaps, is that twenty-first century sanctions are accompanied by the manipulation of public opinion through “fake news”, aggressive public relations and a pseudo-human rights rhetoric so as to give the impression that a human rights “end” justifies the criminal means.

39. Economic asphyxiation policies are comparable to those already practised in Chile, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Nicaragua and the Syrian Arab Republic. In January 2018, Middle East correspondent of The Financial Times and The Independent, Patrick Cockburn, wrote on the sanctions affecting Syria: There is usually a pretence that foodstuffs and medical equipment are being allowed through freely and no mention is made of the financial and other regulatory obstacles making it impossible to deliver them. An example of this is the draconian sanctions imposed on Syria by the US and EU which were meant to target President Bashar al-Assad and help remove him from power. They have wholly failed to do this, but a UN internal report leaked in 2016 shows all too convincingly the effect of the embargo in stopping the delivery of aid by international aid agencies. They cannot import the aid despite waivers because banks and commercial companies dare not risk being penalised for having anything to do with Syria. The report quotes a European doctor working in Syria as saying that “the indirect effect of sanctions … makes the import of the medical instruments and other medical supplies immensely difficult, near impossible”. In short: economic sanctions kill.

41. Bearing in mind that Venezuelan society is polarized, what is most needed is dialogue between the Government and the opposition, and it would be a noble task on the part of the Secretary-General of the United Nations to offer his good offices for such a dialogue. Yet, opposition leaders Antonio Ledezma and Julio Borges, during a trip through Europe to denounce the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, called for further sanctions as well as a military “humanitarian intervention”.

44. Although the situation in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has not yet reached the humanitarian crisis threshold, there is hunger, malnutrition, anxiety, anguish and emigration. What is crucial is to study the causes of the crisis, including neglected factors of sanctions, sabotage, hoarding, black market activities, induced inflation and contraband in food and medicines.

45. The “crisis” in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is an economic crisis, which cannot be compared with the humanitarian crises in Gaza, Yemen, Libya, the Syrian Arab Republic, Iraq, Haiti, Mali, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Somalia, or Myanmar, among others. It is significant that when, in 2017, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela requested medical aid from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the plea was rejected, because it ”is still a high-income country … and as such is not eligible”.

46. It is pertinent to recall the situation in the years prior to the election of Hugo Chávez. 118 Corruption was ubiquitous and in 1993, President Carlos Pérez was removed because of embezzlement. The Chávez election in 1998 reflected despair with the corruption and neo-liberal policies of the 1980s and 1990s, and rejection of the gulf between the super-rich and the abject poor.

47. Participatory democracy in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, called “protagónica”, is anchored in the Constitution of 1999 and relies on frequent elections and referendums. During the mission, the Independent Expert exchanged views with the Electoral Commission and learned that in the 19 years since Chávez, 25 elections and referendums had been conducted, 4 of them observed by the Carter Center. The Independent Expert met with the representative of the Carter Center in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, who recalled Carter’s positive assessment of the electoral system. They also discussed the constitutional objections raised by the opposition to the referendum held on 30 July 2017, resulting in the creation of a Constitutional Assembly. Over 8 million Venezuelans voted in the referendum, which was accompanied by international observers, including from the Council of Electoral Specialists of Latin America.

48. An atmosphere of intimidation accompanied the mission, attempting to pressure the Independent Expert into a predetermined matrix. He received letters from NGOs asking him not to proceed because he was not the “relevant” rapporteur, and almost dictating what should be in the report. Weeks before his arrival, some called the mission a “fake investigation”. Social media insults bordered on “hate speech” and “incitement”. Mobbing before, during and after the mission bore a resemblance to the experience of two American journalists who visited the country in July 2017. Utilizing platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, critics questioned the Independent Expert’s integrity and accused him of bias, demonstrating a culture of intransigence and refusal to accept the duty of an independent expert to be neutral, objective, dispassionate and to apply his expertise free of external pressures.

67. The Independent Expert recommends that the General Assembly:

  • (g) Invoke article 96 of the Charter of the United Nations and refer the following questions to the International Court of Justice: Can unilateral coercive measures be compatible with international law? Can unilateral coercive measures amount to crimes against humanity when a large number of persons perish because of scarcity of food and medicines? What reparations are due to the victims of sanctions? Do sanctions and currency manipulations constitute geopolitical crimes?
  • (h) Adopt a resolution along the lines of the resolutions on the United States embargo against Cuba, declaring the sanctions against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela contrary to international law and human rights law. …

70. The Independent Expert recommends that the International Criminal Court investigate the problem of unilateral coercive measures that cause death from malnutrition, lack of medicines and medical equipment.

72. The Independent Expert recommends that, until the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court address the lethal outcomes of economic wars and sanctions regimes, the Permanent Peoples Tribunal, the Russell Tribunal and the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission undertake the task so as to facilitate future judicial pronouncements.

On January 26th, Britain’s Independent headlined “Venezuela crisis: Former UN rapporteur says US sanctions are killing citizens”, and Michael Selby-Green reported that:

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….

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….

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.

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….

Ivan Briscoe, Latin America and Caribbean programme director for Crisis Group, an international NGO, told The Independent that Venezuela is a polarising subject. … 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. … Briscoe acknowledged rising tensions and the likely presence of US personnel operating covertly in the country…

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…

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”…

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.

Other than readers of that single newspaper, where has the public been able to find these facts? If the public can have these facts hidden from them, then how much trust should the public reasonably have in the government, and in the news-media?

Important Notes

Zeid Raad Al Hussein, who “reportedly refused to meet Mr de Zayas after the visit,” is Prince Zeid Raad Al Hussein, a Jordanian Prince. Jordan is a vassal-state in the US empire. But Prince Hussein is a Jordanian diplomat who served as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights from 2014 to 2018 — hardly an unbiased or independent person in such a supposedly nonpartisan role.

Here is the garbage that a reader comes to, who is trying to find online Mr. de Zayas’s report on this matter. As intended, the document remains effectively hidden to the present day. Perhaps the UN needs to be replaced and located in Venezuela, Iran, or some other country that’s targeted for take-over by the people who effectively own the United States Government and control the UN’s bureaucracy. The hiding of this document was done not only by the press but by the UN itself.

On January 23rd, Germany’s Die Zeit headlined “Christoph Flügge: ‘I am deeply disturbed’: The UN International Criminal Court Judge Christoph Flügge Accuses Western Nations of Threatening the Independence of the Judges”. Flügge especially cited US President Trump’s agent, John Bolton. That same day, the Democratic Party and Labour Party organ, Britain’s Guardian, bannered “International criminal court: UN court judge quits The Hague citing political interference”.

This news-report said that, “A senior judge has resigned from one of the UN’s international courts in The Hague citing ‘shocking’ political interference from the White House and Turkey.” The judge especially criticised Bolton:

The American security adviser held his speech at a time when The Hague was planning preliminary investigations into American soldiers who had been accused of torturing people in Afghanistan. The American threats against international judges clearly show the new political climate. It is shocking. I had never heard such a threat.” Flügge said that the judges on the court had been “stunned” that “the US would roll out such heavy artillery.”

Flügge told the Guardian: “It is consistent with the new American line: ‘We are No 1 and we stand above the law’.”

On February 6th, a former UK Ambassador to Syria vented at an alt-news site, 21st Century Wire (since he couldn’t get any of the major-media sites to publish it), “A Guide to Decoding the Doublespeak on Syria”, and he brazenly exposed there the Doublespeak-Newspeak that the US Government and press (what he called America’s “frothing neocons and their liberal interventionist fellow travellers”) apply in order to report the ‘news’ about Syria.

So: how can the public, in a country such as the US, democratically control the Government, if the government and its press are lying to them, like that, all the time, and so routinely?

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.

What the Press Hides From You About Venezuela — A Case of News-Suppression

February 07, 2019

by Eric Zuesse for The Saker Blog

What the Press Hides From You About Venezuela — A Case of News-Suppression

INTRODUCTION

This news-report is being submitted to all U.S. and allied news-media, and is being published by all honest ones, in order to inform you of crucial facts that the others — the dishonest ones, who hude such crucial facts — are hiding about Venezuela. These are facts that have received coverage only in one single British newspaper: the Independent, which published a summary account of them on January 26th. That newspaper’s account will be excerpted here at the end, but first will be highlights from its topic, the official report to the U.N. General Assembly in August of last year, which has been covered-up ever since. This is why that report’s author has now gone to the Independent, desperate to get the story out, finally, to the public:

THE COVERED-UP DOCUMENT

On 3 August 2018, the U.N.’s General Assembly received the report from the U.N.s Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order, concerning his mission to Venezuela and Ecuador. His recent travel though both countries focused on “how best to enhance the enjoyment of all human rights by the populations of both countries.” He “noted the eradication of illiteracy, free education from primary school to university, and programmes to reduce extreme poverty, provide housing to the homeless and vulnerable, phase out privilege and discrimination, and extend medical care to everyone.” He noted “that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and Ecuador, both devote around 70 per cent of their national budgets to social services.” However (and here, key paragraphs from the report are now quoted):

22. Observers have identified errors committed by the Chávez and Maduro Governments, noting that there are too many ideologues and too few technocrats in public administration, resulting in government policies that lack coherence and professional management and discourage domestic investment, already crippled by inefficiency and corruption, which extend to government officials, transnational corporations and entrepreneurs. Critics warn about the undue influence of the military on government and on the running of enterprises like Petróleos de Venezuela. The lack of regular, publicly available data on nutrition, epidemiology and inflation are said to complicate efforts to provide humanitarian support.

23. Meanwhile, the Attorney General, Tarek Saab, has launched a vigorous anticorruption campaign, investigating the links between Venezuelan enterprises and tax havens, contracting scams, and deals by public officials with Odebrecht. It is estimated that corruption in the oil industry has cost the Government US$ 4.8 billion. The Attorney General’s Office informed the Independent Expert of pending investigations for embezzlement and extortion against 79 officials of Petróleos de Venezuela, including 22 senior managers. The Office also pointed to the arrest of two high-level oil executives, accused of money-laundering in Andorra. The Ministry of Justice estimates corruption losses at some US$ 15 billion. Other stakeholders, in contrast, assert that anti-corruption programmes are selective and have not sufficiently targeted State institutions, including the military. …

29. … Over the past sixty years, non-conventional economic wars have been waged against Cuba, Chile, Nicaragua, the Syrian Arab Republic and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in order to make their economies fail, facilitate regime change and impose a neo-liberal socioeconomic model. In order to discredit selected governments, failures in the field of human rights are maximized so as to make violent overthrow more palatable. Human rights are being “weaponized” against rivals. Yet, human rights are the heritage of every human being and should never be instrumentalized as weapons of demonization. …

30. The principles of non-intervention and non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign States belong to customary international law and have been reaffirmed in General Assembly resolutions, notably [a list is supplied]. …

31. In its judgment of 27 June 1986 concerning Nicaragua v. United States, the International Court of Justice quoted from [U.N.] resolution 2625 (XXV): “no State shall organize, assist, foment, finance, incite or tolerate subversive, terrorist or armed activities directed towards the violent overthrow of the regime of another State, or interfere in civil strife in another State”. …

36. The effects of sanctions imposed by Presidents Obama and Trump and unilateral measures by Canada and the European Union have directly and indirectly aggravated the shortages in medicines such as insulin and anti-retroviral drugs. To the extent that economic sanctions have caused delays in distribution and thus contributed to many deaths, sanctions contravene the human rights obligations of the countries imposing them.Moreover, sanctions can amount to crimes against humanity under Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. An investigation by that Court would be appropriate, but the geopolitical submissiveness of the Court may prevent this.

37. Modern-day economic sanctions and blockades are comparable with medieval sieges of towns with the intention of forcing them to surrender. Twenty-first century sanctions attempt to bring not just a town, but sovereign countries to their knees. A difference, perhaps, is that twenty-first century sanctions are accompanied by the manipulation of public opinion through “fake news”, aggressive public relations and a pseudo-human rights rhetoric so as to give the impression that a human rights “end” justifies the criminal means. …

39. Economic asphyxiation policies are comparable to those already practised in Chile, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Nicaragua and the Syrian Arab Republic. In January 2018, Middle East correspondent of The Financial Times and The Independent, Patrick Cockburn, wrote on the sanctions affecting Syria:

There is usually a pretence that foodstuffs and medical equipment are being allowed through freely and no mention is made of the financial and other regulatory obstacles making it impossible to deliver them. An example of this is the draconian sanctions imposed on Syria by the US and EU which were meant to target President Bashar al-Assad and help remove him from power. They have wholly failed to do this, but a UN internal report leaked in 2016 shows all too convincingly the effect of the embargo in stopping the delivery of aid by international aid agencies. They cannot import the aid despite waivers because banks and commercial companies dare not risk being penalised for having anything to do with Syria. The report quotes a European doctor working in Syria as saying that “the indirect effect of sanctions … makes the import of the medical instruments and other medical supplies immensely difficult, near impossible”. In short: economic sanctions kill. …

41. Bearing in mind that Venezuelan society is polarized, what is most needed is dialogue between the Government and the opposition, and it would be a noble task on the part of the Secretary-General of the United Nations to offer his good offices for such a dialogue. Yet, opposition leaders Antonio Ledezma and Julio Borges, during a trip through Europe to denounce the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, called for further sanctions as well as a military “humanitarian intervention”. …

44. Although the situation in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has not yet reached the humanitarian crisis threshold, there is hunger, malnutrition, anxiety, anguish and emigration. What is crucial is to study the causes of the crisis, including neglected factors of sanctions, sabotage, hoarding, black market activities, induced inflation and contraband in food and medicines.

45. The “crisis” in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is an economic crisis, which cannot be compared with the humanitarian crises in Gaza, Yemen, Libya, the Syrian Arab Republic, Iraq, Haiti, Mali, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Somalia, or Myanmar, among others. It is significant that when, in 2017, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela requested medical aid from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the plea was rejected, because it ”is still a high-income country … and as such is not eligible”. …

46. It is pertinent to recall the situation in the years prior to the election of Hugo Chávez. 118 Corruption was ubiquitous and in 1993, President Carlos Pérez was removed because of embezzlement. The Chávez election in 1998 reflected despair with the corruption and neo-liberal policies of the 1980s and 1990s, and rejection of the gulf between the super-rich and the abject poor.

47. Participatory democracy in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, called “protagónica”, is anchored in the Constitution of 1999 and relies on frequent elections and referendums. During the mission, the Independent Expert exchanged views with the Electoral Commission and learned that in the 19 years since Chávez, 25 elections and referendums had been conducted, 4 of them observed by the Carter Center. The Independent Expert met with the representative of the Carter Center in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, who recalled Carter’s positive assessment of the electoral system. They also discussed the constitutional objections raised by the opposition to the referendum held on 30 July 2017, resulting in the creation of a Constitutional Assembly. Over 8 million Venezuelans voted in the referendum, which was accompanied by international observers, including from the Council of Electoral Specialists of Latin America.

48. An atmosphere of intimidation accompanied the mission, attempting to pressure the Independent Expert into a predetermined matrix. He received letters from NGOs asking him not to proceed because he was not the “relevant” rapporteur, and almost dictating what should be in the report. Weeks before his arrival, some called the mission a “fake investigation”. Social media insults bordered on “hate speech” and “incitement”. Mobbing before, during and after the mission bore a resemblance to the experience of two American journalists who visited the country in July 2017. Utilizing platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, critics questioned the Independent Expert’s integrity and accused him of bias, demonstrating a culture of intransigence and refusal to accept the duty of an independent expert to be neutral, objective, dispassionate and to apply his expertise free of external pressures. …

67. The Independent Expert recommends that the General Assembly: (g) Invoke article 96 of the Charter of the United Nations and refer the following questions to the International Court of Justice: Can unilateral coercive measures be compatible with international law? Can unilateral coercive measures amount to crimes against humanity when a large number of persons perish because of scarcity of food and medicines? What reparations are due to the victims of sanctions? Do sanctions and currency manipulations constitute geopolitical crimes? (h) Adopt a resolution along the lines of the resolutions on the United States embargo against Cuba, declaring the sanctions against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela contrary to international law and human rights law. …

70. The Independent Expert recommends that the International Criminal Court investigate the problem of unilateral coercive measures that cause death from malnutrition, lack of medicines and medical equipment. …

72. The Independent Expert recommends that, until the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court address the lethal outcomes of economic wars and sanctions regimes, the Permanent Peoples Tribunal, the Russell Tribunal and the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission undertake the task so as to facilitate future judicial pronouncements.

On January 26th, Britain’s Independent headlined “Venezuela crisis: Former UN rapporteur says US sanctions are killing citizens”, and Michael Selby-Green reported that:

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. …

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. …

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. …

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. …

Ivan Briscoe, Latin America and Caribbean programme director for Crisis Group, an international NGO, told The Independent that Venezuela is a polarising subject. … 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. … Briscoe acknowledged rising tensions and the likely presence of US personnel operating covertly in the country. …

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. …

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”….

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.

Other than readers of that single newspaper, where has the public been able to find these facts? If the public can have these facts hidden from them, then how much trust should the public reasonably have in the government, and in the news-media?

(NOTE: Zeid Raad Al Hussein, who “reportedly refused to meet Mr de Zayas after the visit,” is Prince Zeid Raad Al Hussein, a Jordanian Prince. Jordan is a vassal-state in the U.S. empire. But Prince Hussein is a Jordanian diplomat who served as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights from 2014 to 2018 — hardly an unbiased or independent person in such a supposedly nonpartisan role.)

(NOTE: Here is the garbage that a reader comes to, who is trying to find online Mr. de Zayas’s report on this matter: https://documents-dds-ny.un.. As intended, the document remains effectively hidden to the present day. Perhaps the U.N. needs to be replaced and located in Venezuela, Iran, or some other country that’s targeted for take-over by the people who effectively own the United States Government and control the U.N.’s bureaucracy. The hiding of this document was done not only by the press but by the U.N. itself.)

(NOTE: On January 23rd, Germany’s Die Zeit headlined

“Christoph Flügge: ‘I am deeply disturbed’: The U.N. International Criminal Court Judge Christoph Flügge Accuses Western Nations of Threatening the Independence of the Judges”. Flügge especially cited U.S. President Trump’s agent, John Bolton. That same day, the Democratic Party and Labour Party organ, Britain’s Guardian, bannered “International criminal court: UN court judge quits The Hague citing political interference”. This news-report said that, “A senior judge has resigned from one of the UN’s international courts in The Hague citing ‘shocking’ political interference from the White House and Turkey.” The judge especially criticised Bolton: “The American security adviser held his speech at a time when The Hague was planning preliminary investigations into American soldiers who had been accused of torturing people in Afghanistan. The American threats against international judges clearly show the new political climate. It is shocking. I had never heard such a threat.” Flügge said that the judges on the court had been “stunned” that “the US would roll out such heavy artillery”. Flügge told the Guardian: “It is consistent with the new American line: ‘We are No 1 and we stand above the law’.”)

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Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

 

If The World Understood Sovereignty, It Could End All Our Problems

By Caitlin Johnstone
Source

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My own Australia has of course joined the chorus of US lackeys who are refusing to recognize Venezuela’s only legitimate and elected government, recognizing instead the presidency of some guy named Juan who decided to name himself Venezuela’s president with the blessing of the United States government. A statement from our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marise Payne, reads as follows:

Australia recognises and supports the President of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, in assuming the position of interim president, in accordance with the Venezuelan constitution and until elections are held. Australia calls for a transition to democracy in Venezuela as soon as possible.

Australia supported the Lima Group’s early call for Nicolas Maduro to refrain from assuming the presidency on 10 January, relayed through our non-resident Ambassador to Venezuela.

We now urge all parties to work constructively towards a peaceful resolution of the situation, including a return to democracy, respect for the rule of law and upholding of human rights of the Venezuelan people.

It was only a matter of time before such a statement was issued. Australia has long served as Washington’s basement gimp, marching to the beat of US foreign policy on all issues no matter how idiotic or dangerous for as far back as I can remember. My country has seamlessly transitioned from British colony to US military/intelligence asset without ever once raising its head toward anything resembling national sovereignty except once briefly in the mid-seventies, which saw a CIA/MI6 coup oust our elected leadership here. This coup was preceded by our then-Prime Minister’s discovery that Australian intelligence officers had been operating as proxies of the CIA to overthrow the Allende government in Chile in yet another sovereignty-violating coup, one which has often been compared to what we’re seeing in Venezuela today.

The US government and its assorted client states have no business whatsoever issuing orders and ultimatums decreeing that a government of a sovereign nation must restructure itself, but here we are. Sovereignty is such an alien concept in a collective reality tunnel that has been shaped by propaganda to view imperialism, American exceptionalism and nonstop interventionism as perfectly normal that we now have the American establishment simultaneously (A) shrieking about Russian clickbait on Facebook as an unforgivable act of war, and (B) using crushing sanctionsCIA covert ops, and an active campaign to delegitimize a nation’s leadership in order to topple an entire government. This wild discrepancy is justified with the unquestioned assumption that the US has something called “moral authority” in the world, while Russia and Venezuela lack moral authority, despite the US being responsible for innumerable acts of butchery and destruction which are grossly immoral by any metric.

In a recent talk with Fox’s Ann Coulter, sniveling war pundit Bill Maher cited the Monroe Doctrine to argue that the US has every right to tell Venezuela what it’s allowed to do with its own country and its own allies because South America is “our backyard.”

“Today, Venezuela — this is the front page of the New York Times — Venezuela, okay, they have a guy, an opposition leader who finally stood up, and we are backing him,” Maher said. “And Russia warned us to back off because they’re backing the dictator. This was the Monroe Doctrine! This is our backyard! And Russia is now telling us to back off of what goes on in Venezuela, because they know they can? Because they’re so emboldened? That doesn’t bother you?”

 

This freaky slave owner talk is so normalized for reasons which are inseparable from the reasons why our world is as messed up as it is.

Imagine a world wherein sovereignty was truly understood and honored. What would change?

Well, obviously we’d no longer see the most powerful nations interceding in the affairs of others, bursting in and treating a weaker country like property because it has resources it wants or a style of government it doesn’t. The idea that there are people in the world whose lives you don’t get to control would be seen not as some outlandish, fringe notion to be dismissed as wacky crackpottery, but as a self-evident truth which forms the guiding principles of the way different parts of the world interact with each other.

But it goes so much further than that, if you think about it. With a solid understanding of sovereignty, perhaps the single most important thing that would change is that people would no longer think it’s okay to manipulate the thoughts of other people for their own interests. A political/media class would no longer have the permission nor the desire to keep slipping their rapey fingers into our minds and working to control the ways we think, vote and behave, which would enable us to construct a society based on truth and compassion rather than on power-facilitating belief structures placed in our heads by the plutocratic media and plutocracy-serving politicians.

In such a society we wouldn’t have murder, which is the gravest violation of personal sovereignty, nor would we have rape or assault for the same reason. It’s entirely possible that government as we know it would cease to exist and people could design an entirely new way of functioning, though government could also exist in some form that was fully accountable to the people if it turned out that that’s what we wanted. Nobody would see anyone else as property, or as a resource to be exploited, or as a pawn to be manipulated, or as part of a world that must be fully dominated and controlled, if we could just as a species evolve a mature relationship with the concept of sovereignty.

The current US-led coup against Venezuela is a violation not just of the sovereignty of Venezuela, but of the sovereignty of all the nations which have been bullied into and pushed along with it by a much more powerful nation and by the power-serving goons in their own governments. The United States government is the very last organization which should be “helping” a nation topple its government; US interventionism is so consistently disastrous that wanting them to “help” in Venezuela is dumber than wanting Edward Scissorhands to help change diapers at the local daycare center. Everyone knows this on some level, but the servile relationship the world has with the US empire has normalized complicity in absolutely insane agendas all around the world.

One of the most beneficial things anyone can do to help move humanity in a sane direction is to develop a deep, visceral understanding of and respect for the concept of sovereignty. Let this deep understanding inform your life, then let that understanding bleed out into the world. I’ll hold up my end, you hold up yours, and with a small stack of miracles we can help carry this whole thing home

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