BRICS Needs a Unified Front Against US Intervention in Venezuela

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Ramona Wadi
September 7, 2019

Venezuela’s destabilisation by the US is understood best by the countries that have faced imperialist interference. Cuba’s revolutionary process, for example, has produced consistent political solidarity with Venezuela and is actively urging countries to reconsider their stance as regards the US sanctions which are creating severe humanitarian consequences.

The recent executive order signed by US President Donald Trump encompasses all entities that do business with Venezuela, thus creating an embargo that will further isolate the nation, even as the US moves to open a “Venezuela Affairs Unit” unit in its embassy in Bogota, Colombia. The unit would engage in diplomacy with the US-backed Juan Guaido, who is recognised by the Trump administration and its allies as the purported interim Venezuelan president. Its aim, according to US Special Representative to Venezuela Elliot Abrams, is in anticipation of “the day this regime falls”.

In a report titled “Economic Sanctions as Collective Punishment: The Case of Venezuela”, it is estimated that 40,000 people have died as a result of the US-imposed sanctions from 2017 to 2018. According to the US, Venezuela poses “an unusual and extraordinary threat” to its national security – unfounded claims as Trump continues with overt attempts to bring down Maduro’s democratically-elected presidency.

Political pressure against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is instigated by the US, yet there is a backdrop of support from its allies in the region and, globally, from countries that spout the democracy line, even if there is nothing democratic about foreign interference.  While mostly in the background in comparison to the US, Canada has facilitated support for the Venezuelan opposition. In Europe, countries which have not explicitly backed Guaido have assumed an allegedly neutral stance which constitutes tacit agreement in terms of opposition support. The EU criticised US sanctions on Venezuela but has also threatened the country with similar punitive measures, as the European Parliament expressed its support for Guaido.

The international community is dominated by discourse that promotes foreign intervention according to the undemocratic agendas of the so-called democratic countries. Venezuela is urgently in need of a unified political strategy that stands in political solidarity against imperialist interests.

BRICS has positioned itself as one such alternative in terms of economic prospects, international security and stability. Russia and China have repeatedly affirmed their support for Maduro. South Africa and India have likewise followed suit. On the other hand, Brazil under President Jair Bolsonaro is preventing BRICS from promoting a political discourse that fully repudiates US interference in Venezuela.

Contrary to the rest of the BRICS countries, Brazil recognised Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president and it has expressed support for the international community to pay heed to “Venezuela’s cries for freedom”. Brazil has also adopting measures in line with the Lima Group, as well as prohibited Maduro and other senior Venezuelan officials from entering Brazil.

At the G20 summit in Japan, BRICS stated it supported dialogue between Maduro and the Venezuelan opposition to reach a solution. Yet the call is marred by the political divide between Brazil and the other BRICS members. This lack of consensus, including the divergence in terms of recognition of who is Venezuela’s legitimate leader, weakens its political diplomacy in the international arena. As Brazil aligns with the US, although reportedly holding back from endorsing military intervention in Venezuela, It is moving away from one of the organisation’s main aims, which is to establish itself in opposition to capitalist and imperialist exploitation.

In a recent interview, former Brazilian President Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva expressed his disappointment at BRICS not moving further politically. “BRICS was not created to be an instrument of defence, but to be an instrument of attack.” If this momentum is to be built, BRICS needs to find equilibrium in its politics, rather than allow itself to be swayed into a seemingly neutral position due to the US allegiances of Brazil under Bolsonaro. It is not enough to preach dialogue like the rest of the international community have done while weakening Venezuela’s autonomy. BRICS must evaluate its relevance, especially when it comes to one of its members demonstrating political opportunism that is contrary to the group’s aims.

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BRICS was created as a tool of attack: Lula

August 30, 2019

by Pepe Escobar, Curitiba, Brazil – posted with permission

Former Brazilian leader wishes emerging economies were closer, recalls Obama ‘crashing’ Copenhagen climate meet

Former Brazilian leader Lula holds hands with Chinese President Hu Jintao, left, at the BRICS summit in Brasilia on April 15, 2010. Lula wishes his country had a strategic partnership with Beijing. Photo: Dida Sampaio /Agencia Estado

In a wide-ranging, two-hour-plus, exclusive interview from a prison room in Curitiba in southern Brazil, former Brazilian president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva re-emerged for the first time, after more than 500 days in jail, and sent a clear message to the world.

Amid the 24/7 media frenzy of scripted sound bites and “fake news”, it’s virtually impossible to find a present or former head of state anywhere, in a conversation with journalists, willing to speak deep from his soul, to comment on all current political developments and relish telling stories about the corridors of power. And all that while still in prison.

The first part of this mini-series focused on the Amazon. Here, we will focus on Brazil’s relationship with BRICS and Beijing. BRICS is the grouping of major emerging economies – Brazil, Russia, India and China – that formed in 2006 and then included South Africa in their annual meetings from 2010.

My first question to Lula was about BRICS and the current geopolitical chessboard, with the US facing a Russia-China strategic partnership. As president, from 2003 to 2010, Lula was instrumental in formatting and expanding the influence of BRICS – in sharp contrast with Brazil’s current President, Jair Bolsonaro, who appears to be convinced that China is a threat.

Lula stressed that Brazil should have been getting closer to China in a mirror process of what occurred between Russia and China: “When there was a BRICS summit here in Ceará state in Brazil, I told comrade Dilma [Rousseff, the former president] that we should organize a pact like the Russia-China pact. A huge pact giving the Chinese part of what they wanted, which was Brazil’s capacity to produce food and energy and also the capacity to have access to technological knowledge. Brazil needed a lot of infrastructure. We needed high-speed rail, many things. But in the end that did not happen.”

Lula defined his top priorities as he supported the creation of BRICS: economic autonomy, and uniting a group of nations capable of helping what the Washington consensus describes as LDCs – least developed countries.

He emphasized: “BRICS was not created to be an instrument of defense, but to be an instrument of attack. So we could create our own currency to become independent from the US dollar in our trade relations; to create a development bank, which we did – but it is still too timid – to create something strong capable of helping the development of the poorest parts of the world.”

Former Brazilian leader Lula speaks from a room in a prison in southern Brazil. Photo: Editora Brasil 247

Lula made an explicit reference to the United States’ fears about a new currency:

“This was the logic behind BRICS, to do something different and not copy anybody. The US was very much afraid when I discussed a new currency and Obama called me, telling me, ‘Are you trying to create a new currency, a new euro?’ I said, ‘No, I’m just trying to get rid of the US dollar. I’m just trying not to be dependent.’”

One can imagine how this went down in Washington.

Obama may have been trying to warn Lula that the US ‘Deep State’ would never allow BRICS to invest in a currency or basket of currencies to bypass the US dollar. Later on, Vladimir Putin and Erdogan would warn President Dilma – before she was impeached – that Brazil would be mercilessly targeted. In the end, the leadership of the Workers’ Party was caught totally unprepared by a conjunction of sophisticated hybrid-war techniques.

One of the largest economies in the world was taken over by hardcore neoliberals, practically without any struggle. Lula confirmed it in the interview, saying: “We should look at where we got it wrong.”

Lula also hit a note of personal disappointment. He expected much more from BRICS.

“I imagined a more aggressive BRICS, more proactive and more creative. ‘The Soviet empire has already fallen; let’s create a democratic empire.’ I think we made some advances, but we advanced slowly. BRICS should be much stronger by now.”

Lula, Obama and China

It’s easy to imagine how what has followed went down in Beijing. That explains to a great extent the immense respect Lula enjoys among the Chinese leadership. And it’s also relevant to the current global debate about what’s happening in the Amazon. Let just Lula tell the story in his own, inimitable, Garcia Marquez-tinged way.

“One thing that the Chinese must remember, a lot of people were angry in Brazil when I recognized China as a market economy. Many of my friends were against it. But I said, ‘No, I want the Chinese at the negotiating table, not outside. Is there any discord? Put them inside the WTO, let’s legalize everything.’ I know that [Chinese President] Hu Jintao was much pleased.

“Another thing we did with China was at the COP-15 [Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change] in Copenhagen in 2009. Let me tell you something: I arrived at COP-15 and there was a list of people requesting audiences with me – Angela Markel, Sarkozy, Gordon Brown; Obama had already called twice – and I didn’t know why I was important. What did they all want? They all wanted us to agree, at COP-15, that China was the prime polluting evil on earth. Sarkozy came to talk to me with a cinematographic assembly line, there were 30 cameras, a real show: Lula accusing China. Then I had a series of meetings and I told them all, ‘Look, I know China is polluting. But who is going to pay for the historical pollution you perpetrated before China polluted? Where is the history commission to analyze English industrialization?’’

“Then something fantastic happened. An agreement was not in sight, I wanted Sarkozy to talk to Ahmadinejad – later I’ll tell you this thing about Iran [he did, later in the interview]. Ahmadinejad did not go to our dinner, so there was no meeting. But then, we were discussing, discussing, and I told Celso [Amorim, Brazil’s Foreign Minister], ‘Look,  Celso, there’s a problem, this meeting will end without an agreement, and they are going to blame Brazil, China, India, Russia. We need to find a solution.’ Then I proposed that Celso call the Chinese and set up a parallel meeting. That was between Brazil, China, India and perhaps South Africa. Russia, I think, was not there. And in this meeting, imagine our surprise when Hillary Clinton finds out about it and tries to get inside the meeting. The Chinese didn’t let her. All these Chinese, so nervous behind the door, and then comes Obama. Obama wanted to get in and the Chinese didn’t let him. China was being represented by Jiabao [Wen Jiabao, the prime minister].

Lula and US President Barack Obama, on left, attend a meeting with Chinese and other leaders in Copenhagen in December 2009 at the COP15 UN Climate Change Conference. AFP / Jewel Samad

“Then we let Obama in, Obama said, ‘I’m gonna sit down beside my friend Lula so I won’t be attacked here.’ So he sat by my side and started to talk about the agreement, and we said there is no agreement. And then there was this Chinese, a negotiator, he was so angry at Obama, he was standing up, speaking in Mandarin, nobody understood anything, we asked for a translation, Jiabao did not allow it, but the impression, by his gesticulation, was that the Chinese was hurling all sorts of names at Obama, he talked aggressively, pointing his finger, and Obama said, ‘He is angry.’ The Brazilian ambassador, who said she understood a little bit of Mandarin – she said he used some pretty heavy words.

“The concrete fact is that in this meeting we amassed a great deal of credibility, because we refused to blame the Chinese. I remember a plenary session where Sarkozy, Obama and myself were scheduled to speak. I was the last speaker. When I arrived at the plenary there was nothing, not a thing written on a piece of paper. I told one of my aides, please go out, prepare a few talking points for me, and when he left the room they called me to speak; they had inverted the schedule. I was very nervous. But that day I made a good speech. It got a standing ovation. I don’t know what kind of nonsense I said [laughs]. Then Obama started speaking. He didn’t have anything to say. So there was this mounting rumor in the plenary: He ended up making a speech that no one noticed. And then with Sarkozy, the same thing.

“What I had spoken about was the role of Brazil in the environmental question. I’ll get someone from the Workers’ Party to find this speech for you. The new trend in Brazil is to try to compare policies between myself and Bolsonaro. You cannot accept his line that NGOs are setting fire to the Amazon. Those burning the Amazon are his voters, businessmen, people with very bad blood, people who want to kill indigenous tribes, people who want to kill the poor.”

 

Lula tells world he’s back in the game from jail

Meanwhile, fires rage in the Amazon and Brazilian President Bolsonaro has become a target of global indignation.

By Pepe Escobar from Brazil – posted with permission

Former president Lula speaks with reporters from a prison room in Curitiba in southern Brazil. Photo: Editora Brasil 247

Brazil has always been a land of superlatives. Yet nothing beats the current, perverse configuration: a world statesman lingers in jail while a clownish thug is in power, his antics now considered a threat to the whole planet.

In a wide-ranging, two-hour, world exclusive interview out of a prison room at the Federal Police building in Curitiba, southern Brazil, former president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva not only made the case to global public opinion for his innocence in the whole Car Wash corruption saga, confirmed by the bombshell leaks revealed by The Intercept, but also repositioned himself to resume his status as a global leader. Arguably sooner rather than later – depending on a fateful, upcoming decision by the Brazilian Supreme Court, for which Justice is not exactly blind.

The request for the interview was entered five months ago. Lula talked to journalists Mauro Lopes, Paulo Moreira Leite and myself, representing in all three cases the website Brasil247 and in my case Asia Times. A rough cut, with only one camera focusing on Lula, was released this past Thursday, the day of the interview. A full, edited version, with English subtitles, targeting global public opinion, should be released by the end of the week.

Asia Times writer Pepe Escobar, front left with scarf, meets Lula in prison. Photo: Editora Brazil 247

Lula is a visible embodiment of Nietzsche’s maxim: whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Fully fit (he hits the treadmill at least two hours a day), sharp, with plenty of time to read (his most recent was an essay on Alexander von Humboldt), he exhibited his trademark breadth, reach and command of multiple issues – sometimes rolled out as if part of a Garcia Marquez fantastic realism narrative.

The former president lives in a three-by-three-meter cell, with no bars, with the door open but always two Federal policemen outside, with no access to the internet or cable TV. One of his aides dutifully brings him a pen drive every day crammed with political news, and departs with myriad messages and letters.

The interview is even more astonishing when placed in the literally incendiary context of current Brazilian politics, actively flirting with a hybrid form of semi-dictatorship. While Lula talks essentials and is clearly recovering his voice, even in jail, President Jair Bolsonaro has framed himself as a target of global indignation, widely regarded as a threat to humanity that must be contained.

It’s all about the Day of Fire

Cut to the G7 in Biarritz: at best a sideshow, a talk-shop where the presumably liberal West basks in its lavish impotence to deal with serious global issues without the presence of leaders from the Global South.

And that brings us to the literally burning issue of Amazon forest fires. In our interview, Lula went straight to the point: by noting the absolute responsibility of Bolsonaro’s voter base.

The G7 did nothing but echo Lula’s words, with French President Emmanuel Macron stressing how NGOs and multiple judicial actors, for years, have been raising the question of defining an international statute for the Amazon – which Bolsonaro’s policies, single-handedly, have propelled to the top of the global agenda.

Yet the G7’s offer of an immediate $20 million aid package to help Amazon nations to fight wildfires and then launch a global initiative to protect the giant forest barely amounts to a raindrop.

[Brazil, after this article was written, rejected the proffered aid from G7 countries, with a top official telling France’s President Macron on Monday to take care of “his home and his colonies,” AFP reported. “Maybe those resources are more relevant to reforest Europe,” Onyx Lorenzoni, Bolsonaro’s chief of staff, told the G1 news website. “Macron cannot even avoid a foreseeable fire in a church that is a World Heritage site. What does he intend to teach our country?” He was referring to the fire in April that devastated the Notre-Dame Cathedral. “Brazil is a democratic, free nation that never had colonialist and imperialist practices, as perhaps is the objective of the Frenchman Macron,” Lorenzoni said. -eds.]

A fire burns out of control after spreading onto a farm in Nova Santa Helena in northern Mato Grosso State, in the southern Amazon basin in Brazil, on August 23, 2019. Photo: Joao Laet / AFP

Significantly, US President Donald Trump did not even attend the G7 session that covered climate change, attacks on the biodiversity and oceans – and Amazon deforestation. No wonder Paris simply gave up issuing a joint statement at the end of the summit.

In our interview, Lula stressed his landmark role at the Conference of Parties (COP-15) climate change summit in Copenhagen in 2009. Not only that, he told the inside story of how the negotiations proceeded, and how he intervened to defend China from US accusations of being the world’s largest polluter.

At the time Lula said: “It’s not necessary to fell a single tree in the Amazon to grow soybeans or for cattle grazing. If anyone is doing it, that is a crime – and a crime against the Brazilian economy.”

COP-15 was supposed to advance the targets established by the Kyoto Protocol, which were expiring in 2010. But the summit failed after the US – and the EU – refused to raise their projections of CO2 reduction while blaming Global South actors.

In a sharp contrast with Lula, Bolsonaro’s project actually amounts to a non-creative destruction of Brazilian assets such as the Amazon for the interests he represents.

Now the Bolsonaro clan is blaming the government’s own Cabinet of Institutional Security (GSI, in Portuguese) – the equivalent of the National Security Council – led by General Augusto Heleno, for failing to evaluate the scope and gravity of the current Amazon forest fires.

Heleno, incidentally, is on record defending a life sentence for Lula.

A Brazilian protests in Curitiba on August 23, 2019, against the spate of forest fires in the Amazon, with images of the people he blames: US President Trump and Brazilian President Bolsonaro. Photo: Henry Milleo / dpa

Still, that does not tell the whole story – even as Bolsonaro himself also kept blaming “NGOs” for the fires.

The real story confirms what Lula said in the interview. On August 10, a group of 70 wealthy farmers, all Bolsonaro voters, organized on WhatsApp a “Day of Fire” in the Altamira region in the vast state of Pará.

This happens to be the region with the highest number of wildfires in Brazil – infested with aggressive rural developers who are devoted to massive, hardcore deforestation; they’re invested in land occupation and a no-quarter war against landless peasants and small agricultural producers. “Day of Fire” was supposed to support Bolsonaro’s drive to finish off with official monitoring and erase fines over one of the “Bs” of the BBB lobby that elected him (Beef, Bullet, Bible).

Lula was evidently well informed: “You just need to look at the satellite photos, know who’s the landowner and go after him to know who’s burning. If the landowner did not complain, did not go to the police to tell them his land was burning, that’s because he’s responsible.”

On the road with the Pope

A vicious, post-truth, hybrid-war strategy may be at play in Brazil. Two days after the Lula interview, a fateful paella took place in Brasilia at the vice-presidential palace, with Bolsonaro meeting all the top generals including Vice President Hamilton Mourao. Independent analysts are seriously considering a working hypothesis of the sell-out of Brazil using global concern about the Amazon, the whole process veiled by fake nationalist rhetoric.

That would fit the recent pattern of selling the national aviation champion Embraer, privatizing large blocks of pre-salt reserves and leasing the Alcantara satellite-launching base to the United States. Brazilian sovereignty over the Amazon is definitely hanging in the balance.

Considering the wealth of information in Lula’s interview, not to mention his storytelling of how the corridors of power really work, Asia Times will publish further specific stories featuring Pope Francis, the BRICS, Bush and Obama, Iran, the UN and global governance. This was Lula’s first interview in jail where he has felt relaxed enough to relish telling stories about international relations.

What was clear is that Lula is Brazil’s only possible factor of stability. He’s ready, has an agenda not only for the nation but the world. He said that as soon as he leaves, he’ll hit the streets – and cash in frequent flyer miles: he wants to embark alongside Pope Francis on a global campaign against hunger, neoliberal destruction and the rise of neo-fascism.

Now compare a true statesman in jail with an incendiary thug roaming his own labyrinth.

Amazonia in Flames – Brazil’s Bolsonaro is a World Criminal – Encouraging Jungle Burning for Private Exploitation of Freed Land

August 25, 2019

Amazonia in Flames – Brazil’s Bolsonaro is a World Criminal – Encouraging Jungle Burning for Private Exploitation of Freed Land

by Peter Koenig for The Saker Blog

On 28 October 2018, Jair Bolsonaro was elected President of Brazil with 55.1% of the vote – and with a gigantic help from Cambridge Analytica.

At the World Economic Forum (WEF) in January 2019 in Davos Switzerland, Bolsonaro made a sumptuous presentation, “We Are Building a New Brazil”. He outlined a program that put literally Brazil up for sale, and especially the Brazilian part of Amazonia. He was talking particularly about Brazil’s water resources, the world’s largest, and the rain forest – offering a huge potential for agricultural development and mining.

None of the world leaders present at the WEF, precisely those that regularly meet pretending to save the planet, reacted to Bolsonaro’s statement on the Amazon region. They all new who Bolsonaro was and is – they knew that the man had no scruples and would destroy – literally – the world’s lungs. They did nothing. They stayed silent in words and deeds, applauding the neonazi for his openness to international business and globalization.

Today, on the occasion of another similar world event, the meeting of the G7 in Biarritz, France, French President Macron accused Bolsonaro of lying when he talked and pledged environmental consciousness after taking office, about protecting the Amazon area. Macron was joined by Germany in threatening Brazil with canceling the trade agreement with Mercosur, if he would not immediately undertake to stop the “wildfires”. They have most likely nothing to do with ‘wild’ – as they according to all circumstantial evidence were planted in a concerted effort to rid the rich Amazon territory of the life-sustaining jungle, so as to make the newly gained flame-deforested land accessible for private agri-business and mining.

Mind you, the G7 is another self-appointed totally illegal group of industrialized, rich countries (similar to the G20); illegal, because they have been approved by nobody, not by the UN or any international body. They became rich mostly on the back of poor developing nations that were and are still colonized for hundreds of years. The G7 count today about 10% of the world population and are controlling 40% of the globe’s GDP.

Despite the fact that nobody, other than themselves ratified their existence and their machinations, they believe they can call the shots of how the world should turn and function. They have no official backing by anybody, especially not the people across the globe, who, with a vast majority are fighting globalization. It’s a useless structure – RT refers to them as “The Unbearable Pointlessness of G7” – but their power lays in the rest of the world’s silence – their silent acceptance of the G7’s arrogant wielding of the scepter of power.

So, would Bolsonaro take them seriously, knowing that he is one of them and they are fully sharing his ideology of profit first, shoving environmental and social values down the muddy waters of the Amazon River? Hardly. He knows they are hypocrites. He knows that they make a bit of noise, because they have to. It makes for good public relation and propaganda – so people don’t go on the barricades. He knows that starting this coming Monday, 26 August, when the G7 summit will be history, that anything the Macrons of this world so impressively said, will fade away. The media will concentrate on other ‘news’ – and the forest fires will burn the life stream of Amazonia away – to make room for corporate profit making by the elite few.

Never mind the Constitutional protection of indigenous people and their land, Bolsonaro backed by evangelists and his military junta will rapidly dismantle any remaining protection for the ecosystem and native communities. His argument goes that the native people’s land is sitting on huge reserves of natural resources that belong to Brazil and may be concessioned to private corporations for mining, exploitation of agriculture and lumber.

The indigenous folks are people who have for thousands of years made a peaceful living in the Amazon. They are the gatekeepers of Amazonia; they are the people who may carry our genes from the present killer civilization to the next, hopefully less of a killer one, when mankind has finally managed to destroy itself. It will not destroy the planet. Never. The planet will just get rid of the nefarious elements of annihilation – mankind – and renew itself. As has happened many times in the past – a new civilization will eventually be born – and, yes, the world’s indigenous people, the likely only survivors, may carry on our DNA, possibly to the next attempt at humanity.

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The fires have so far in about 20 days since they were discovered, consumed at least 74,000 ha of tropical rain forest. The smoke is already trespassing the border to Argentina and affecting the provinces of Formosa, Jujuy, Corrientes, Catamarca, La Rioja, Santa Fe and may have already reached Buenos Aires. NASA reports that about 3.2 million square kilometers of South America are covered by smoke.

The flames are massive and are devastating the jungle at a rapid pace. Amazonia comprises one of the world’s largest rainforests, also known as Mother Earth’s lungs – without which humanity – and fauna and flora might not survive.

According to the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research (INPE), the fires increased by 83% – almost double – from what they were last year, and, not coincidentally, at least 68% of protected areas have been affected. The Brazilian Space Research spotted 72,000 fires, of which 9,000 last week alone. The Amazon is home to 34 million people, including over 350 indigenous groups.

At the onset of the G7 conference, Mr. Macron twittered: “Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rain forest – the lungs which produces 20% of our planet’s oxygen – is on fire. It is an international crisis. Members of the G7 Summit, let’s discuss this emergency first order in two days!”

The destruction of the Amazon is indeed a crime of first degree. Accordingly, there are protests around the world against Bolsonaro’s “free for all” mining, lumbering, land and water grabbing policies. The eco-warriors Extinction Rebellion (XR) organize widespread protests, and in front of London’s Brazilian Embassy protesters chanted, “Hey hey, ho ho, Bolsonaro’s got to go!”.

While the Brazil fires catch world attention, there are jungle fires even larger than those in Amazonia burning down other parts of the world’s oxygen-generating lungs. Bloomberg cites NASA data, according to which last Thursday and Friday, 22 an 23 August – in two days alone – more than 6,900 fires were recorded in Angola and about 3,400 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), about 5 times as many as in the same two days in the Brazilian Amazon region. The destruction of the jungle in Africa progresses virtually unnoticed and is hardly reported in western media. Bloomberg is an exception. Whys is that?

Could it be that the same globalized corporations interested in Brazil’s natural resources underlaying the Amazon forests, are also interested in those enormous reserves of minerals and hydrocarbon resources of Central Africa? Have they – DRC, Angola and possibly others been encouraged tacitly or directly by Bolsonaro and his clan to let the jungle burn? There are plenty of Brazilian corporations which have a vivid interest in Angola, another former Portuguese colony.

Despite the G7 apparent concern to protect the world’s lungs in Amazonia, they seem to be oblivious about the Central African rain forest devastation. The massive African fires too advance rapidly and extinguish another part of the world’s lungs. But these fires are not on the G7 radar, or agenda for discussion, and nobody is threatened with sanctioning if the respective governments remain hapless onlookers.

In 2008, a so-called Amazon Fund, the first UN REDD+ initiative for the protection, preservation and monitoring of the Amazon region was created (UN REDD+ = reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and foster conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks).

Germany and Norway – and others – have accused Brazil for not having properly invested their contribution into the Fund. Norway has recently blocked a payment of US$ 30 million destined for the Fund. Germany had blocked already in early August the equivalent of US$ 39 million for different Amazon protection programs to be financed by the Fund. But Bolsonaro, in a nonchalant manner dismissed the blocked payments, suggesting that Germany should use the funds for reforestation of Germany.

In the case of Brazil, the threats by the Macron-Merkel duo – and others – seem to have had at least at the outset the effect that Bolsonaro is mobilizing the military to help extinguish the fires. Will he succeed? – Does he want to succeed? – In any case will the media continue reporting on progress once the G7 have gone home? – Will the world’s outcry be loud enough to force a concerted effort, possibly UN led – to fight and extinguish these fires that are menacing not only to destroy a key oxygen generator for life on mother earth, but also a UNESCO protected world heritage?

Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a water resources and environmental specialist. He worked for over 30 years with the World Bank and the World Health Organization around the world in the fields of environment and water. He lectures at universities in the US, Europe and South America. He writes regularly for Global Research; ICH; RT; Sputnik; PressTV; The 21st Century; TeleSUR; The Saker Blog, the New Eastern Outlook (NEO); and other internet sites. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe. He is also a co-author of The World Order and Revolution! – Essays from the Resistance.  Peter Koenig is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization.

Macron screams ‘fire!’ on a crowded planet as burning Amazon serves as ultimate G7 smokescreen

Image result for Macron screams ‘fire!’ on a crowded planet as burning Amazon serves as ultimate G7 smokescreen

Robert Bridge
August 24, 2019

Any chance of the seven most industrialized eco-trashers preventing the Amazon from going up in smoke is a bit like hoping Hollywood executives will find a way to stop sex and violence from appearing on the big screen. It’s probably not going to happen. The G7 wants to keep filling the seats for a show called ‘Capitalism’ and come next week few will remember the French president’s fiery, self-serving outburst.

For those dozen or so people who still have not been shunned, shadow-banned or otherwise disappeared from Twitter, you may have heard about Emmanuel Macron’s latest Napoleon impersonation on the global soap box.

“Our house is burning. Literally,” the former Rothschild investment banker warned in a tweet that carried the disturbing photo of a lush chunk of rainforest being engulfed in an inferno. “The Amazon rain forest – the lungs which produces 20% of our planet’s oxygen – is on fire. It is an international crisis. Members of the G7 Summit, let’s discuss this emergency first order in two days!”

Emmanuel Macron

@EmmanuelMacron

Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rain forest – the lungs which produces 20% of our planet’s oxygen – is on fire. It is an international crisis. Members of the G7 Summit, let’s discuss this emergency first order in two days!

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Once again, the French leader’s arrogance – he once told an unemployed man he could find work if he “crossed the street,” and referred to Paris protesters as “slackers” – is exceeded only by his stellar stupidity. By way of example, notice how his apocalyptic tweet didn’t begin with a diplomatic, ‘Dear Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, we really need to talk.’ Instead, Macron completely ignored the leader of the world’s fifth most-populated country, directing his ‘Brazil is burning’ meme to the G7 (Canada, Italy, France, Germany, Japan, the UK and the US). And make no mistake about it, there is cause for concern.

Satellite data released by the National Institute for Space research (Inpe) shows an increase of 85 percent this year in fires across Brazil, the majority in the Amazon region, which is crucial for absorbing a hefty part of consumer society’s massive carbon footprint. Such information will not play well with a public already feeling the effects of climate change.

Unfortunately, however, Macron’s very undiplomatic approach to a very serious problem caused the horses to stumble right out of the gates. In keeping with the technological tendencies of the times, Bolsonaro immediately fired up his own Twitter account, responding to Macron in equally coarse fashion.

“I regret that President Macron seeks to instrumentalize an internal issue of Brazil and other Amazonian countries for personal political gain,” the Brazilian leader wrote. “The sensationalist tone with which he refers to the Amazon (appealing even to fake photos) does nothing to solve the problem.”

Bolsonaro even saw in Macron’s flatfooted remark a modern form of colonialism, which Brazil knows about firsthand.

“The French President’s suggestion that Amazonian issues be discussed at the G7 without the participation of the countries of the region evokes a misplaced colonialist mindset in the 21st century,” he wrote with some justification.

Macron, despite being infected with an elitist lack of self-awareness, probably knew what he was doing anyways.  By ignoring Brazil’s voice in a matter intimately connected to its own sovereignty, Macron managed to make a somewhat aggressive overture to BRICS, the economic powerhouse comprised of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Presently, there is fierce competition between the G7 and BRICS for a shrinking slab of global pie that is not often discussed in polite society. Suffice it to mention the deepening trade war unfolding between China and the United States, as well as the reckless, politically motivated Western sanctions slapped on Russian companies.

At the same time, Emmanuel Macron, picking up where so many other French leaders before him have left off, is revisiting the dream of turning France into some sort of regional political power that somehow always looks more like a bed and breakfast boutique. Just this week, Macron hosted Vladimir Putin at Fort de Bregancon, the official residence of the French president, followed up with a meeting with newly elected UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the question of Brexit. Now, with Macron set to play host to the G7 this week in Biarritz, he probably felt sufficiently empowered to jostle Brazil.

Jair M. Bolsonaro

@jairbolsonaro

– Lamento que o presidente Macron busque instrumentalizar uma questão interna do Brasil e de outros países amazônicos p/ ganhos políticos pessoais. O tom sensacionalista com que se refere à Amazônia (apelando até p/ fotos falsas) não contribui em nada para a solução do problema.

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Jair M. Bolsonaro

@jairbolsonaro

– Lamento que o presidente Macron busque instrumentalizar uma questão interna do Brasil e de outros países amazônicos p/ ganhos políticos pessoais. O tom sensacionalista com que se refere à Amazônia (apelando até p/ fotos falsas) não contribui em nada para a solução do problema.

Jair M. Bolsonaro

@jairbolsonaro

– O Governo brasileiro segue aberto ao diálogo, com base em dados objetivos e no respeito mútuo. A sugestão do presidente francês, de que assuntos amazônicos sejam discutidos no G7 sem a participação dos países da região, evoca mentalidade colonialista descabida no século XXI.

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As such, Macron missed a golden opportunity – if he really sought one in the first place – to mediate on a global issue of truly significant import. After all, it is hard to underestimate the necessity of protecting the world’s largest tropical rainforest. In addition to serving as the ‘lungs of the planet,’ the Amazon, through its immense biodiversity, is the fountainhead of medical remedies, many of which remain undiscovered. Only a fool would be unmoved by the wanton destruction of this life-supporting ecosystem.

Macron could have achieved something truly historic – hammering out a global initiative for protecting the Amazon – by inviting Jair Bolsonaro to the G7 as guest of honor. The Brazilian leader, overwhelmed by the outpouring of international attention and respect, would have been much more likely to agree to some immediate plan of action, like an international assembly of firefighters. After all, Bolsonaro has already admitted that Brazil lacks the necessary resources to protect the Amazon, which exceeds Europe in sheer size.

Instead, Macron behaved once again with supreme arrogance, humiliating Bolsonaro instead of placating him, thereby creating a schism between the international community and Brasilia that will further complicate any future effort at saving the Amazon, and even the planet.

It is almost as if Emmanuel Macron, who has been hounded by endless weeks of demonstrations by Yellow Vest protesters, who plan to convene on Bairritz during the G7, used the Amazon fires as a convenient smokescreen to conceal more burning issues closer to home. In that sense, Macron’s effort to politicize Brazil’s raging rainforest fires when the world’s attention will be focused on France is understandable, yet no less deplorable.

China must avoid a role in destruction of Amazon

July 23, 2019

by Pepe Escobar : Posted with permission

China must avoid a role in destruction of Amazon

China is South America’s top trading partner. Together, China’s policy banks – the China Development Bank and Export-Import Bank of China – are the top source of development finance for the whole of Latin America. 

Over the past few decades, the Brazilian government, leading national companies and multinational corporations have configured what Fernando Mires, already in 1990, defined as the “Amazon mode of production”: a terribly predatory, technological-intensive mode of production and destruction, including subjugation of indigenous populations in slave-based working conditions, with everything geared for export to global markets.

The Amazon is spread out over 6.5 million square kilometers covering two-fifths of Latin America – half of Peru, a third of Colombia, a great deal of Bolivia, Venezuela, Guyana, French Guyana and Suriname, and most of all, 3.5 million square kilometers in Brazil.

The original population diversity was staggering. Before the arrival of the Europeans in Brazil in 1500, there were no less than 1,400 tribes, 60% of them in the Amazon. Ethnologists marveled that nowhere else in the world compared to the linguistic diversity in tropical South America.

The Tupi-guarani tribe even constituted a sort of “empire”, occupying a huge territory from the Andes to the Pampas in southern Brazil. A sort of “proto-state” traded with the Andes and the Caribbean. This all laid to rest the Western-peddled myth of a “savage”, un-civilized Amazon.

Now let’s fast-forward to the current Western outcry over the Jair Bolsonaro government’s destruction of the Amazon.

Brazil, still under the second presidential term of Dilma Rousseff – later impeached under spurious charges – was a signatory of the 2015 Paris agreement on climate change. Article 5 of the agreement rules that parties “should take action” to preserve endangered forests. Brasilia pledged to protect the Amazon by restoring 12 million hectares of forests by 2030.   

And yet under Bolsonaro, “should take action” metastasized into “reverse previous action.” The new mantra is “Amazon development.” In fact, a turbo-charged and even more predatory 2.0 version of the “Amazon mode of production,” much to the horror of Western environmentalists, who fear an imminent transformation of the Amazon into a dry savanna, with dire consequences for the whole planet.

Staggering natural wealth

The Brazilian Army is fond of noting that the Amazon’s natural wealth has been evaluated at a staggering $23 trillion. This is a 2017 figure announced by General Eduardo Villas Boas, who added: “Brazil is a highly endowed individual imprisoned in the body of a teenager. The Amazon is practically abandoned, there’s no national project and density of thinking.”

In fact, there is a national (military) project to “develop” the Amazon at breakneck pace, while preventing, by all means, the “Balkanization of the Amazon” and the action of Western NGOs.

In April this year, one of Bolsonaro’s sons posted a video of Dad engaged in a “surprising” conversation with four indigenous people in Brasilia.

A deforested area in the middle of the Amazon jungle found in Para state, Brazil in 2014. Greenpeace said trucks carried illegally felled trees to sawmills at night, which were later exported. Photo: AFP / Raphael Alves

Top anthropologist Piero Leirner – a specialist on the Brazilian military and their activities in the Amazon – explains the context. The Bolsonaro government carefully picked four natives involved in the business of soybeans and mining. They spoke for themselves. Immediately after, an official indigenous people association released a letter disowning them. “That was classic Divide and Conquer,” Leirner argued. “Nobody paid attention to the letter. For most of Brazil, the case was closed in terms of ‘social communication’ – solidifying the government’s narrative of NGOs fighting for the internationalization of the Amazon.”

Mining giants in Brazil would rather have indigenous peoples as spokespersons instead of the military. In fact, it’s a maze of interlocking interests – as in captains and colonels in business with mining entrepreneurs acting in protected indigenous areas.

What happened during these past few years is that most indigenous peoples ended up figuring out they cannot win – whatever the scenario. As Leirner explained: “Belo Monte [the world’s third-largest dam] unveiled the real game: in the end, the dam practically works to the benefit of mining companies, and opened space for Belo Sun, which will excavate the whole of Xingu in search of gold.”

So that’s the perverse project inbuilt in the “development of the Amazon” – to turn indigenous peoples into a sub-proletarian workforce in mining operations.

And then there’s the crucial – for the industrialized West – niobium angle (a metal known for its hardness). Roughly 78% of Brazilian niobium reserves are located in the southeast, not in the Amazon, which accounts at best for 18%. The abundance of niobium in Brazil will last all the way to 2200 – even taking into consideration non-stop, exponential Chinese GDP growth. But the Amazon is not about niobium. It’s about gold – to be duly shipped to the West.

Rolling down the river

Bolsonaro is keen to bring roads, bridges and hydroelectric plants to the most remote areas of the Amazon. Under the “sovereignty” mantra, he has promised to impose the hand of the state in the strategic Triple-A area – Amazon, Andes, Atlantic Ocean – thus countering the alleged intent of Western NGOs of creating an independent strip for environmental preservation.

So, how does China fit into the Amazon puzzle? A recent report addresses some of the hard questions. 

Since last year, Beijing officially started to consider the whole of Latin America as a “natural extension” of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), as well as an “indispensable partner.” That was spelled out by Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the 2018 China-Community of Latin American and Caribbean States Ministerial Forum.

All of BRI’s guidelines now apply – and that includes the Amazon: policy cooperation, infrastructure development, investment and trade facilitation, financial integration, and cultural and social exchange.

China’s internal green drive – restricting coal production, supporting solar panel factories, remaking Hainan island into an eco-development zone – will have to be translated into its projects in the Amazon. That means Chinese companies will need to pay extremely close attention to local communities, especially indigenous people. And that also means that the Chinese will be under intense scrutiny by Western NGOs.

Brazil may have ratified the International Labor Organization’s Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, known as ILO 169, which enshrines the rights of indigenous communities to be consulted by the state on decisions that directly affect them.

Yet with less than seven months of Bolsonaro in power, all that is in effect null and void.

Indigenous people call for demarcation of lands in Sao Paulo in January 2019. People around the world have voiced concern over the policies of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Photo: AFP / Cris Faga / NurPhoto

There’s slim hope that an exhaustive set of guidelines for large projects in the Amazon established by the Center of Sustainability Studies at the Getulio Vargas Foundation in Sao Paulo, linked to the World Bank, may be respected by the government. But no one is holding their breath.

Key projects with Chinese involvement include the Amazon waterway in Peru, which featured prior consultations with over 400 indigenous villages, according to the government in Lima.

But most of all there’s the $2.8 billion, under construction 2,500 km-long Belo Monte Transmission Line, with an installed capacity of 11.2 gigawatts. China’s State Grid is part of the consortium, with financing coming from the Brazilian National Development Bank. The first and second transmission lines directly affect the Amazon ecosystem and run near 10 conservation areas and an array of ethnic groups.

The “China in the Amazon” report correctly notes that “Chinese companies are not well attuned to the importance of direct engagement with local non-governmental stakeholders, and have faced repeated costs, work stoppages, and delays as a result. Chinese deference to host-country policies should extend to the commitments by host countries to international treaties and law, such as ILO 169 and its standard of free, prior, and informed consent for indigenous peoples. Indigenous organizations and civil society organizations in the Amazon region have a long and strong trajectory of actively participating in government decisions relating to the use of indigenous territories and natural resources.”

The report suggests establishing a “multidisciplinary working group comprised of NGOs, local indigenous groups, academics, and scientists to review existing principles and standards” for sustainable infrastructure projects.

The chances of this being adopted by the Bolsonaro administration and endorsed by the Brazilian military are less than zero. The Big Picture in Brazil under Bolsonaro spells out neocolonial dependence, over-exploitation of workers, not to mention indigenous peoples, and the complete expropriation of Brazilian natural wealth.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro delivers a speech at Davos in January. His policies are seen as a major threat to forests in the Amazon. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

Only a pawn in their game

China may be Brazil’s top trade partner. But Beijing must tread carefully – and strictly enforce BRI guidelines when it comes to projects especially involving the Amazon.

There’s no way the UN Security Council, with climate change in mind, would ever sanction Brazil for the destruction of the Amazon. France and Britain would be for it. But Russia and China – both BRICS members – would certainly abstain, and the US under Trump would vote against it.

Brazil is now a privileged pawn in the most important geopolitical game of the 21st century: the clash between the US and the Russia-China strategic partnership.

The last thing Beijing needs in terms of global public relations is to be branded as an accomplice in the destruction of the Amazon.

Russia-India-China share a room with a view

July 01, 2019

by Pepe Escobar : Posted with permission

Russia-India-China share a room with a view

The most important trilateral at the G20 in Osaka was confined to a shoddy environment unworthy of Japan’s unrivaled aesthetic minimalism.

Japan excels in perfect planning and execution. So it’s hard to take this setup as an unfortunate “accident.” At least the – unofficial – Russia-India-China summit at the sidelines of the G20 transcended the fate of an interior decorator deserving to commit seppuku.

Leaders of these three countries met in virtual secrecy. The very few media representatives present in the shabby room were soon invited to leave. Presidents Putin, Xi and Modi were flanked by streamlined teams who barely found enough space to sit down. There were no leaks. Cynics would rather joke that the room may have been bugged anyway. After all, Xi is able to call Putin and Modi to Beijing anytime he wants to discuss serious business.

New Delhi is spinning that Modi took the initiative to meet in Osaka. That’s not exactly the case. Osaka is a culmination of a long process led by Xi and Putin to seduce Modi into a serious Eurasia integration triangular road map, consolidated at their previous meeting last month at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Bishkek.

Now Russia-India-China (RIC) is fully back in business; the next meeting is set for the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok in September.

In their introductory remarks, Putin, Xi and Modi made it clear that RIC is all about configuring, in Putin’s words, an “indivisible security architecture” for Eurasia.

Modi – very much in a Macron vein – stressed the multilateral effort to fight climate change, and complained that the global economy is being ruled by a “one-sided” dictate, emphasizing the necessity of a reform of the World Trade Organization.

Putin went a step ahead, insisting, “our countries are in favor of preserving the system of international relations, whose core is the UN Charter and the rule of law. We uphold such important principles of interstate relations as respect for sovereignty and non-interference in domestic affairs.”

Putin clearly underlined the geopolitical interconnection of the UN, BRICS, SCO and G20, plus “strengthening the authority of the WTO” and the International Monetary Fund as the “paragon of a modern and just multipolar world that denies sanctions as legitimate actions.”

The Russia-India-China contrast with the Trump administration could not be starker.

Those ‘tremendous assets’

BRICS, as it stands, is dead. There was an “official,” pro-forma BRICS meeting before the RIC. But it’s no secret both Putin and Xi completely distrust Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, regarded as a Trump neocolonial asset.

Ahead of his bilateral with Trump, Bolsonaro peddled Brazil’s mineral wealth, claiming the country may now export “niobium trinkets.”

Well, that’s certainly less controversial than the Brazilian military sherpa arrested in Spain for carrying industrial quantities of cocaine (36kg) in the presidential plane, definitely ruining the after-hours party time in Osaka.

Later on, Trump eagerly praised Brazil’s “tremendous assets,” now being fully privatized to the benefit of US companies.

Xi, as he addressed the BRICS meeting, denounced protectionism and called for a stronger WTO. BRICS nations, he said, should “increase our resilience and capability to cope with external risks.”

Putin went one up. Apart from denouncing protectionist tendencies in global trade, he called for bilateral trade in national currencies bypassing the US dollar – mirroring a commitment by the Russia-China strategic partnership.

Russia-China, via Finance Minister Anton Siluanov and head of the People’s Bank of China, Yi Gang, have signed an agreement to switch to rubles and yuan in bilateral trade, starting with energy and agriculture, and increase cross-currency settlements by 50% in the next few years.

There will be a concerted effort to increasingly bypass SWIFT, using the Russian System for Transfer of Financial Messages (SPFS) and the Chinese Cross-Border Inter-Bank Payments System (CIPS).

Sooner or later Russia-China will entice India to join. Moscow has excellent bilateral relations with both Beijing and New Delhi, and is decisively playing the role of privileged messenger.

The mini-trade war against New Delhi launched by the Trump administration – including the loss of India’s special trade status and punishment for buying Russian S-400 missile systems – is quickening the pace of the process. India, by the way, will pay for the S-400s in euros.

There were no leaks whatsoever from Russia-India-China about Iran. But diplomats say that was a key theme of the discussion. Russia is already – covertly – helping Iran on myriad levels. India has an existential choice to make: keep buying Iranian oil or say goodbye to Iran’s strategic help, via the Chabahar port, to facilitate India’s mini-Silk Road to Afghanistan and Central Asia.

China sees Iran as a key node of the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative. Russia sees Iran as essential for strategic stability in Southwest Asia – a key theme of the Putin-Trump bilateral, which also discussed Syria and Ukraine.

The leaders of RIC – Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping – hold a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka on June 28, 2019. Photo: Mikhail Klimentyev / Sputnik / AFP

The leaders of RIC – Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping – hold a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka on June 28, 2019. Photo: Mikhail Klimentyev / Sputnik / AFP

RIC or Belt and Road?

Whatever the psyops tactics employed by Trump, Russia-India-China is also directly implicated in the massive short and long-term ramifications of the Trump-Xi bilateral in Osaka. The Big Picture is not going to change; the Trump administration is betting on re-routing global supply chains out of China, while Beijing advances full speed ahead with its Belt and Road Initiative.

Trump is heavily distrusted across Europe – as Brussels knows the EU is the target of another imminent trade war. Meanwhile, with over 60 nations committed to myriad Belt and Road projects, and with the Eurasia Economic Union also interlinked with Belt and Road, Beijing knows it’s just a matter of time before the whole of the EU hits the BRI highway.

There’s no evidence that India may suddenly join Belt and Road projects. The geopolitical lure of “Indo-Pacific” – essentially just another strategy for containment of China – looms large. That’s good old imperial Divide and Rule – and all the major players know it.

Yet India, now on the record, is starting to spin that Indo-Pacific is not “against somebody.” India getting deeper into RIC does not imply getting closer to Belt and Road.

It’s time for Modi to rise to the occasion; ultimately, he will decide which way the geoeconomic pendulum swings.

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