China, the World System and Brazilian dystopia

May 22, 2020

China, the World System and Brazilian dystopia

By Fábio Reis Vianna for the Saker Blog

When Admiral Cheng Ho ordered the retreat of his naval fleet around the year 1424, he left, in the words of the anthropologist Abu-Lughod, “a huge power vacuum”. The first great Chinese expansionist project, started during the Ming Dynasty, was prematurely interrupted there.

After impressive naval expeditions that reached territories as far away as the Indian Ocean and the coast of Africa, and in a decision not yet fully clarified by scholars of the subject, China would abruptly give up the first great expansionist project on a global scale.

It would take no more than 70 years for the Europeans to occupy the great void left by the Chinese and actually begin the adventure that gave rise to what we today call world system.

Six centuries later, China led by Xi Jinping finds itself in an unprecedented crisis in its recent successful history as the undisputed leader of the globalization process. The Covid-19 pandemic that abruptly hits the entire planet, for China in particular, was a hard blow that created an imbalance in its model of political and economic stability.

In the first three months of 2020, trade between China and the rest of the world fell by 6.4%, a figure unthinkable by Chinese standards. In particular, trade with the United States, the European Union and Japan declined 18.3%, 10.4% and 8.1% respectively.

Even with the strong decrease of contagion within Chinese territory, there is a great concern to accelerate the reopening of productive activities. The concern with increasing poverty and political destabilization are evident. In his recent visit to Shaanxi province, Xi Jinping made a point of underlining in his speech the importance of the fight against poverty.

In addition to incentives to businesses, investments in infrastructure and financial aid to the population, a series of structural reforms are planned to enable the country to overcome the terrible crisis triggered by Covid-19. An important annual session of the National People’s Congress is scheduled for May 22nd, and more details can be examined there.

Meanwhile, Brazil, one of the countries that in the recent past could be considered one of the most important allies of the Eurasian integration project outside Eurasia, is experiencing the greatest political-economic crisis in its entire history and is sinking deeper and deeper into an unprecedented internal war.

Something that is being discussed internally among the Chinese establishment is precisely the creation of mechanisms to contain the risk of instability that the social tensions arising from economic difficulties could trigger.

Brazil had already been experiencing cascading crises that had accumulated year after year since June 2013, when the country was the target of a destabilization process – or hybrid war – that triggered a series of other more or less orchestrated events (such as the lawfare against specific targets) that culminated in the weakening of institutions that had been strengthened since the enactment of the 1988 Constitution.

To make matters worse, and in contrast to the Chinese stance in seeking to contain internal instability, the country is astonished at the erratic attitudes of President Bolsonaro, under the consenting silence of his military orbits.

Having been chosen to occupy the highest position in the Republic, in all probability during the fateful visit of the then American secretary of defense, James Mattis “Mad Dog”, in August 2018 (two months before the presidential elections), when in a peculiar and closed meeting between the American and the High Command of the Armed Forces the password was given, and Bolsonaro was anointed to the mission to prevent the return of the left and realign Brazil to the satellite condition of the United States.

Everything leads us to believe that the crumbling of the Brazilian institutions has lit a warning signal within the Brazilian Armed Forces, which, in a mixture of sincere concern and sense of opportunity, took advantage of the power vacuum to move forward in the resumption of a protagonism that has been dormant for over 30 years.

Many forget, but the presence of the military – and especially the army – in the Brazilian political tradition dates back to the proclamation of the Republic in 1889, which opened the series of military coups that guided the entire Republican period to this day.

It is worth remembering that the occupation of strategic positions by the military became more visible when the current Minister of Defense, Fernando Azevedo e Silva, strangely, was appointed by the president of the Supreme Court, Dias Toffoli, to the position of special advisor.

Curiously, this has been happening in the month of September 2018 (between the visit of Secretary James Mattis and the election of Bolsonaro), where Dias Toffoli said he would have invited General Azevedo e Silva after requesting a nomination to the then commander of the army, General Eduardo Villas Bôas.

General Villas Bôas is the same man who, in April 2018, wrote on Twitter a veiled threat to the ministers of the Supreme Court if they found the habeas corpus request of former President Lula to be justified. The day after the constitutional remedy was judged, former President Lula would have his arrest ordered by then-judge Sergio Moro.

As a kind of Ayatollah, General Villas Bôas reproduces a classic character of Brazilian politics until the 1950s: the military chief.

At that time, personified by the figure of Brigadier Eduardo Gomes, the military chief was a kind of “guardian of morals and good customs” of the nation and justified the political action of the military as holders of an unwritten “moderating power”. In this way, the military attributed themselves to the exercise of the “veto power” of the Republic. In the context of the Cold War, the power of veto was invoked to curb the communist threat.

After more than 60 years, and when many thought that the Brazilian Armed Forces would be totally professionalized and away from politics, we find ourselves led by an Executive Power integrated by no less than 3 thousand military personnel; not to mention the eight ministries occupied by men in uniform.

As in a trench battle, the military had been advancing day after day in the control and tutelage of state organs and institutions of the Republic, but if there was a well articulated strategy of occupation of power, with the arrival of Covid-19 the pieces definitely shuffled.

Today Brazil is moving forward to become the world epicenter of Covid-19, and as the pandemic seems to get out of control, the more the military tries to control the internal systemic chaos.

Moreover, if before Covid-19 there was some cohesion in the Brazilian establishment around the neoliberal reforms carried out by the Ministry of Economy, with the bursting of the health crisis, it is every day more evident the split between business sectors, the big media, the National Congress and the Judiciary, which are now frontally positioned in opposition to the government.

The recent meetings between the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Rodrigo Maia, and the President of the Supreme Court, Dias Toffoli, with the Minister “eminence parda” of the Palácio do Planalto, General Braga Netto, were a subtle attempt at intimidation and framing of two of the most important civil authorities of the Republic by the Bolsonaro government.

At the same time that the basements of the government’s disinformation machine slanders adversaries and agitates the low ranks of the Armed Forces and the military police of the states (its faithful allies), the country sinks in what is certainly the greatest existential crisis in its history.

As if all this were not enough, the rest of the world coexists with the prospect of incurring a public debt only seen, according to the British magazine The Economist, “amid the rubble of 1945”.

Beyond the health crisis itself, the economic consequences of the post-Pandemic will be devastating from the fiscal point of view, because the compulsory closure of industry, offices and various segments of the service sector will certainly bring about a fall in government revenues.

As many analysts have already noted, the world is experiencing the exact moment of transition between what no longer exists and what is yet to be born.

Even before the pandemic, the acceleration of interstate competition is noticeable, which denotes the phenomenon of deconcentration of power that throughout the history of the world system always occurs in periods of decline in the long cycles of international politics.

Something that the Brazilian elites, especially the military elites – psychologically trapped in imaginary enemies such as Chinese communists and “cultural Marxists” – have not yet realized, is the dimension of Brazil’s importance in the geopolitical context of this new century that is beginning.

With the shattering of Bretton Woods institutions and the liberal order hegemonized by the United States, the world draws – and we are all characters – a systemic configuration that has not yet been defined. In process.

As it had happened between about 1550 and 1640, when the world, still dominated by the powerful Spain, saw the movements of contestation to the empire that had built its power in the newly discovered America flourish.

Trapped by the wealth of gold and the medieval system of government that no longer corresponded to reality, the Habsburgs – in their alliance with the papacy – fought so that their hegemony would not disintegrate amid the rise of the newest actors in the system, namely, France, Holland, Sweden and England.

At that time, Europe was swallowed up by an unprecedented escalation of wars stemming from those new realities of power whose new actors, emerging in the northwest of the old continent, were unwilling to submit to Spanish power.

The translation of that scenario was the deepening of the systemic chaos that would be pacified only with the advent of the Treaty of Westphalia. Any resemblance to the present world moment is no mere coincidence, at least for geopolitical scholars.

Going back to the year 2020, it is very likely that some aspects will prove to be clearer and bolder in the post-Pandemic. Technological competition, more visible around 5G, tends to radicalize in many other areas. And the search for natural/energy resources is already a reality and places not only Africa, but South America itself as the target of the new imperialist race that should also deepen.

For now, the Brazilian establishment is a mere spectator of the rapid changes that the world system will see in the coming years.

China, even though it has been severely hit by the Covid-19 meteor, is reinventing itself in its policy of global humanitarian aid to effectively combat the virus and is focusing its action on strengthening the Eurasian integration project; in particular the Belt and Road Initiative – BRI.

Demonstrating impressive resilience, despite the strong retraction in exports to central countries, the Chinese saw an increase of 3.2% with the New Silk Road countries. Although not comparable to previous years, it shows that BRI’s infrastructure projects have not been so strongly affected by the adverse effects of the health crisis.

Nothing more appropriate to the thought and conduct of Confucian cosmology, based beyond mere rambling, in a concrete act, an action.

Thus, the Chinese follow their journey towards the central helm of the world system, consciously absorbing the pillars of Western modernity, but without ever losing the essence of Confucian thought, the Tao-to that always seeks effectiveness beyond mere thought.

Next June marks seven years of uninterrupted political-institutional instability in Latin America’s largest country. May the history of the oldest peoples and the winds of change teach us to guide the helm of our own destiny.


Fabio Reis Vianna, lives in Rio de Janeiro, is a bachelor of laws ( LL.B), writer and geopolitical analyst. He is currently a columnist in international politics for the printed version of the centennial Brazilian newspaper Monitor Mercantil.

Interstate competition swallows Bolsonaro´s Government

February 18, 2020

Fabio Reis Vianna for The Saker Blog

When U.S. President Donald Trump announced on December 2 the taxation of Brazilian and Argentine steel, restoring the immediate effect of the “tariffs on all steel and aluminum sent to the United States by these countries,” the amateur members of Bolsonaro´s government were unable to hide their disbelief in their faces of disappointment.

Even with reality falling on their heads, the blindness of the upper echelons of the government regarding the current geopolitical moment is so great that the only character who has perhaps given any hint of understanding was Vice President General Hamilton Mourão, by drawing a parallel between what happened and what, according to his words, he would say about a “characteristic of this geopolitical tension that we are experiencing, which generates protectionism (and) is an anti-cyclical movement in relation to globalization.

Even if his words make sense, what seems to escape the understanding of the vice-president of the Republic and the members of the current government as a whole is the deepest reality of the multipolar world that has been gradually unveiling itself since the beginning of the new century and that, according to the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro(UFRJ) professor José Luís Fiori, intensified between the years 2012 and 2013 with the election of Vladimir Putin and the arrival to power of Xi Jinping.

It should be noted, however, that this multipolar world misunderstood by the strategists of the current Brazilian government (if they exist…), is in no way accepted by the current hegemonic power.

The comfortable hegemony in a unipolar world, conquered by the United States since the collapse of the Soviet Union, is now challenged by new actors that, as a consequence, tension and intensify interstate competition.

Demonstrating the total mismatch of the current Brazilian government with the reality of the international system at the beginning of the 21st century, the reaction of members of the team of the Minister of Economy, Paulo Guedes, to Trump’s words is symptomatic.

In the words of one of Guedes’ assistants, “Trump has always been clear in saying that Brazil is very closed. You need something like: ‘Brazil has come up with a better plan for American companies, so I’m going to go back on the decision to raise the rates’”.

In the logic, at the very least, naive of Mr. Guedes’ team, it would therefore suffice to present the US authorities with a well-developed plan for trade opening, and then Trump would retreat.

The concrete fact is that the Brazilian government seems lost and without understanding the new configuration of the multipolar world order, not being aware of the depth of the fierce interstate competition between what, in the words of Professor Fiori, would be “the three great powers fighting for global power at the beginning of the 21st century.

The last meeting of Brics, held in Brasilia in November, was symptomatic of the unpreparedness of the Brazilian authorities in dealing with the current scenario of global dispute.

Symptomatic and worrying, because the events that permeated that summit and the reaction (or non-reaction) of guest presidents Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin to those events demonstrated the subtlety and care with which Russia and China sought to place themselves in this “minefield” that is South America today. A territory so complex and essential to their expansionist interests.

Just three days before the Brics meeting began on Nov. 10, a coup d’état took place in Bolivia, one of the few countries in the region that still had a strategic relationship with the Eurasian axis, and especially Russia, which had planned with former ousted president Evo Morales the construction of a sophisticated nuclear plant in the Bolivian altiplano, as well as plans for lithium exploration and the development of local agriculture. The documents relating to the ambitious projects had been signed in July when Morales made a diplomatic visit to Moscow.

This could be mere coincidence, if the release of former President Lula had not occurred just two days earlier, on November 8.

In addition to being the biggest opponent of Jair Bolsonaro’s far-right government, Lula is directly responsible for the creation and success of Brics and the strengthening of relations among South American nations.

In short, former President Lula, besides remaining very popular among the less favored classes in Brazil, which automatically turns him into a threat, was directly responsible for raising the country to the status of a global player beyond its region and at the same time for articulating, from Brics, a more consistent entry of the Eurasian powers in the South American scenario.

On 13 November, the official opening of the Brics summit took place in the presence of Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Narendra Modi and Cyril Ramaphosa, who were received at the Itamaraty Palace by President Bolsonaro.

On the morning of that same day, November 13, the Venezuelan embassy in Brasilia would be invaded by a group linked to self-proclaimed President Juan Guaidó. This would somehow overshadow the beginning of the Brics summit.

In Brazil, some more hasty analysts even suggested that that invasion would have the tentacles of fundamentalist sectors of Bolsonaro´s government installed in the Brazilian chancellery, headed by the unbelievable Minister Ernesto Araújo.

However, when connecting the dots, we could suppose that there would be some connection between the events that occurred during that hectic month of November, even if this connection does not necessarily follow a linear logic or if the absence of one of the events annulled the occurrence of another.

From the perspective of the dispute for global power between competing states – which often takes off from economic logic itself – the events of November would make sense if looked at in a systemic way.

The new national security strategy of the United States – announced on December 18, 2017 – would make official what had been happening in practice since the emerging Russia, China, India and even Lula’s Brazil began the expansionist onslaughts in Africa and Latin America, and intensified when Russia, in an unprecedented show of force, decided in 2015 to intervene in Syria, defining the course of the war. For the United States it was necessary to put a brake on that. Whatever the cost.

Therefore, both the “classic” and undisguised military coup in Bolivia, the invasion of the Venezuelan embassy and even Trump’s announcement of steel taxation would be a message and would have the same subliminal message: either you move away from our opponents and align yourselves with our strategy or you will suffer the consequences.

Brazil is now at a serious historical crossroads. One of the most delicate issues in the current scenario is the technological warfare (disguised as a trade war) involving the Chinese giant Huawei.

The most visible representation of the advancement of competition in what could be called the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the dispute over 5G technology has become one of the spearheads of the expansive forces that clash as power and influence disputes in the world system intensify.

After having already missed the opportunity to participate in important markets such as Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Taiwan, which closed their doors due to restrictions imposed by the Americans, the auction for the introduction of 5G technology in Brazil, originally scheduled for the year 2020, would be a golden opportunity for the Chinese to put into practice, and in a large and important market, all their know-how for the construction of a vast network of fifth generation mobile Internet.

As the Chinese Ambassador to Brazil, Yang Wanming, rightly said last November: “I am confident in the sense of cooperation between China and Brazil in 5G technology. Brazil will take into account the interest in the country’s development”.

The Chinese rationality expressed in Ambassador Wanming’s words would fit perfectly if we were living in a period of normality in international relations; but we are not, and the technological war that has the 5G prominence race as its backdrop hides the challenging moment of transition between long cycles of international politics. This is a moment in which the world power, no longer fully capable of exercising leadership in the world political system, finds itself challenged by one or more emerging powers.

This has been the case since when, around 1560, the hegemonic power of the time, Portugal, was challenged by Spain, who then took the lead in the newborn world system, to be challenged by the Netherlands and so on until the present day.

In the midst of the tug-of-war between the Chinese and Americans, Brazil will have no choice but to invent a good technical excuse and postpone the 5G auction until, probably, 2021. The National Agency of Telecommunications (Anatel) has already been rehearsing the postponement by claiming that the 5G network would interfere with the signal of open TV in rural areas, because the transmission is made by satellite dish.

In the end, the pressure that the brazilian government is probably suffering behind the scenes from the Trump administration makes us feel that the announcement of the taxing of brazilian steel via Twitter would have a retaliatory bias with regard specifically to the 5G issue. This possibility is even admitted by the unsuspected brazilian economist linked to the financial market André Perfeito.

The fact is that the Brics meeting revealed a much more docile and receptive Bolsonaro to the presence of Eurasian powers than one could have imagined. Facing a serious recession, the brazilian government had no choice but to take advantage of that moment to seek investments from Brics’ partners.

As old and experienced players on the global board, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping were able to position their pawns strategically from their arrival in Brasilia until the last minute on Brazilian soil.

Even with the not friendly invasion of the Venezuelan embassy (a strategic ally of Russia and China) on the day they would be received by Bolsonaro at the Itamaraty Palace, the not at all naive Eurasian heads of state skillfully did not comment on what had happened and tried to reconcile, throughout the summit, the convergent positions among all the partners.

The clear attempt to sabotage the meeting, in the end, only served to highlight the extreme care with which Xi and Putin sewed the treaties, trying to avoid displeasing Bolsonaro on delicate issues such as the Venezuelan issue – which he did until they accepted that the traditional parallel meeting with countries in the region would not occur.

This posture is in line with what Professor Alexander Zhebit of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) said about a fundamental characteristic of Brics since its creation. According to Zhebit, the elements of agreement would be essential for the maintenance of the internal harmony of the group. In this way, the differences would be smoothed out by the constant negotiation of common points.

Not by chance, in the final declaration of the meeting, besides the fact that the Venezuelan question was not touched, any mention of support for Iran (also a strategic Sino-Russian ally in the Eurasian context) was even avoided.

China and Russia are fully aware of the role of subservience to the United States that the Bolsonaro´s Government plays and, as good old players, have the wisdom to understand the relationship with Brazil as a long-term one.

Old countries know that diplomacy and patience live together, and in a way – as researcher Oliver Stuenkel rightly said – Xi and Putin, strategically, know that the more isolated Brazil is on the international scene, the more important they will be.

Fabio Reis Vianna, lives in Rio de Janeiro, is a bachelor of laws ( LL.B), writer and geopolitical analyst. He is currently a columnist in international politics for the printed version of the centennial brazilian newspaper Monitor Mercantil

Latin America: New Old Hot Point On Geopolitical Battlefield

Written and produced by SF Team: J.Hawk, Daniel Deiss, Edwin Watson

Latin America has long been regarded as the exclusive stomping ground of US economic interests, US military, and US intelligence services for much of the 19th and 20th centuries, to the point that the US public has grown to view meddling in its neighbors’ domestic politics as some sort of birthright which is still faintly rooted in the 19th century “white man’s burden” racialist policies. That the majority of Democratic Party presidential candidates supports the military coup in Bolivia, the escalating repressions in Chile, and the plundering of Brazil by the Bolsonaro regime is actually unremarkable in that regard. Such policies have long been the norm.

However, if one were to take a quick survey of recent developments in the “information battlefield” in the United States, one would be struck by the rapid elevation of Latin America to a place where direct US military action is needed. It is not just Trump who, in the aftermath of an apparently cartel-related murder of an American Mormon family in Mexico, “offered” Mexico the “help” of the US military in fighting the cartels. The latest boy-wonder of the US Establishment, “Mayor Pete” Buttigieg likewise allowed that he is “open” to the idea of sending US troops to Mexico. Neither of these statements was seen as in any way controversial by the mainstream media—even though the US public is broadly anti-war and skeptical of additional international entanglements, the Washington Establishment views the sovereignty of other countries as nothing more than legal fiction.

These politicians’ statements do not stand in isolation. Hollywood has long been “joined at the hip” with the US national security establishment and can always be relied upon to propagate the latest set of Washington talking points. While Russian villains remain the staple of US movies and video games, Latin America is gradually reclaiming its role as a battlefield and source of threats to the United States – a status it had lost after 9/11. There are now at least two currently running US TV series which specifically focus on direct US interventions in Latin America. America’s favorite CIA analyst Jack Ryan (who, it should be noted, became President on the pages of Tom Clancy’s novels after the rest of the US government was conveniently eliminated by a Boeing 747 flown into the Capitol  by a suicide pilot) is now bravely thwarting Russian plots in Venezuela. Going considerably further, Last Ship’s current season actually posits the emergence of Gran Colombia, a veritable Latin American empire which launches a Pearl Harbor-style surprise air raid which destroys the just-rebuilt US Navy with the assistance of a cyber-strike. In retaliation, the United States employs the full range of its conventional capabilities, starting with CIA covert operatives working with some modern equivalent of the Nicaraguan Contras whose connections to the drug cartels are not even concealed, and ending with US Marines landing on the shores of Latin American countries in order to “liberate” them from their own governments.

There are other indications that the US establishment is bracing for a major deterioration of the political situation “south of the border”, up to and including a major refugee crisis comparable to that which Europe has experienced. While Donald Trump has been roundly condemned for his immigration policies, particularly the deportations of Latin American refugees, the construction of a major barrier on the US-Mexico border, and the efforts to transform Mexico into a holding tank for refugees seeking admission into the United States, no senior Democratic Party politician or candidate has promised to reverse these policies.

The rekindling of interest in Latin America is a logical consequences of the drift toward a global multi-polar system. It means, first, a retrenchment in the Middle East due to the demonstrated power of Russia and China which has proved sufficient to thwart not only covert US plots but also overt uses of economic and military capabilities. This power transition has meant that even long-standing US allies such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia are adopting a multi-vector foreign policy no longer wholly centered on their relationship with the United States. It certainly does not help that the United States has proved of limited utility in resolving the many international conflicts and rivalries in that region, not only the obvious Iran-Saudi Arabia one, but also the lower-intensity Saudi Arabia—Turkey one. Since Russia is literally the only international power capable of credibly negotiating with each of these three regional rivals, its reputation as an honest broker backed up by non-trivial “hard power” has elevated its standing in the region to the detriment of the United States.

The second implication is an even closer binding of Latin American countries to the United States, with the remarkably compliant Organization of American States (OAS) which has never seen a military coup it did not like, serving as the overt instrument of control. Conversely, regional organizations which have proven resistant to US control such as the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America-Trade between Peoples (ALBA-TCP) and  the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), both of which actually condemned the coup in Bolivia in strong terms, will find themselves the target of US pressure. Post-coup Bolivia’s announced departure from both of these organizations is unlikely to be an aberration, particularly since it follows on the heels of Lenin Moreno’s Ecuador’s departure from ALBA in 2018. The remaining ALBA states include Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela (in addition to several small island states), all of which are continuing targets of US regime change policies.

UNASUR also appears headed for extinction. As many as six countries, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay and Peru, suspended their membership in 2018. Chile moreover launched PROSUR, an organization explicitly intended to target Venezuela, with the initial states invited to join the new organization being  Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Uruguay, Paraguay, Peru, Guyana and Suriname, none of which can be described as pursuing policies contrary to US wishes.

The Trump Administration’s regional trade war that resulted in the launch of USMCA – a new trade pact by the US, Mexico and Canada intended to replace the North America Free Trade Association (NAFTA) is indicative of the future course of US policy. It’s doubtful that many in the region failed to note the new trade pact’s abbreviation is exactly the same as that of the US Marine Corps which has a long and dark history of invasions and occupations of Latin American states. Consistent with the plot of “Last Ship”, the US, Mexico and Canada will find themselves once again the final arbiter of trade arrangements in Latin America in the #MAGA era, an era that will not end with Trump.

Economic developments in countries that have suffered right-wing regime shifts in the last few years show the direction in which Latin America will evolve. In Brazil, Boeing was allowed to acquire the commercial aircraft division of EMBRAER which hitherto was able to compete, as an independent actor, against both Boeing and Airbus even in their own home markets. The move strengthens Boeing by making it more competitive against Airbus in certain niches that it lacked, and strips Brazil of a major industrial asset. Bolsonaro also aims to privatize another of Brazil’s economic “crown jewels”, the Petrobras energy firm which is all but guaranteed to fall into the hands of Washington-favored energy companies.  US interest in the lithium reserves in Bolivia and neighboring countries has also been well documented. Preventing Morales’ Bolivia from entering into a development deal with China was one of the main motives behind the coup. Like Bolsonaro’s Brazil, Moreno’s Ecuador is pursuing plans to allow oil drilling in the Amazon region.

The famed Argentinian revolutionary Che Guevara suffered a heroic death in Bolivia, attempting to mobilize an indigenous rebellion against the post-conquistador elite. The inevitable backlash to the ever more evident US efforts to ruthlessly exploit Latin America in order to compensate for the loss of influence and business elsewhere in the world means that the United States will find itself with several insurgencies and refugee crises not halfway around the world but in its own geopolitical backyard. Their intensity will eclipse the Cold War-era struggles.  Should the United States insist on pursuing its current course, it risks losing power and influence in Latin America in the same way  it did in the Middle East.

Related News

“IF YOU LIKED WHAT WE DID TO THE MIDDLE EAST, YOU’LL LOVE WHAT WE’RE ABOUT TO DO TO LATIN AMERICA”

“If You Liked What We Did To The Middle East, You’ll LOVE What We’re About To Do To Latin America”

Written by J.Hawk exclusively for SouthFront

Latin America in the Crosshairs

Latin America has been regarded as the exclusive stomping ground of US economic interests, US military, and US intelligence services for much of the 19th and 20th centuries, to the point that the US public has grown to view meddling in its neighbors’ domestic politics as some sort of birthright which is still faintly rooted in the 19th century “white man’s burden” racialist policies. That the majority of Democratic Party presidential candidates supports the military coup in Bolivia, the escalating repressions in Chile, and the plundering of Brazil by the Bolsonaro regime is actually unremarkable in that regard. Such policies have long been the norm.

However, if one were to take a quick survey of recent developments in the “information battlefield” in the United States, one would be struck by the rapid elevation of Latin America as a place where direct US military action is needed. It is not just Trump who, in the aftermath of an apparently cartel-related murder of an American Mormon family in Mexico, “offered” Mexico the “help” of the US military in fighting the cartels. The latest boy-wonder of the US Establishment, “Mayor Pete” Buttigieg likewise allowed he is “open” to the idea of sending US troops to Mexico. Neither of these statements was seen as in any way controversial by the mainstream media—even though the US public is broadly anti-war and skeptical of additional international entanglements, the Washington Establishment views the sovereignty of other countries as nothing more than legal fiction.

These politicians’ statements do not stand in isolation. Hollywood has long been “joined at the hip” with the US national security establishment and can be always relied upon to propagate the latest set of Washington talking points. While Russian villains remain the staple of US movies and video games, Latin America is gradually reclaiming its role as a battlefield and source of threats to the United States which it lost after 9/11. There are now at least two currently running US TV series which specifically focus on direct US interventions in Latin America. America’s favorite CIA analyst Jack Ryan (who, it should be noted, became President on the pages of Tom Clancy’s novels after the rest of the US government was conveniently eliminated by a Boeing 747 flown into the Capitol  by a suicide pilot) is now bravely thwarting Russian plots in Venezuela. Going considerably further, Last Ship’s current season actually posits the emergence of Gran Colombia, a veritable Latin American empire which launches a Pearl Harbor-style surprise air raid which destroys the just-rebuilt US Navy with the assistance of a cyber-strike. In retaliation, United States employs the full range of its conventional capabilities, starting with CIA covert operatives working with some modern equivalent of the Nicaraguan Contras whose connections to the drug cartels are not even concealed, and ending with US Marines landing on the shores of Latin American countries in order to “liberate” them from their own governments.

There are other indications US establishment is bracing for a major deterioration of the political situation “south of the border”, up to and including a major refugee crisis comparable to what Europe has experienced. While Donald Trump has been roundly condemned for his immigration policies, particularly the deportations of Latin American refugees, the construction of a major barrier on the US-Mexico border, and the efforts to transform Mexico into a holding tank for refugees seeking admission into the United States, no senior Democratic Party politician or candidate has promised to reverse these policies.

From the Shores of Tripoli to the Halls of Montezuma?

The rekindling of interest in Latin America is a logical consequences of the drift toward a global multi-polar system. It means, first, a retrenchment in the Middle East due to the demonstrated power of Russia and China which has proved sufficient to thwart not only covert US plots but also overt uses of economic and military capabilities. This power transition has meant that even long-standing US allies such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia are adopting a multi-vector foreign policy no longer wholly centered on their relationship with the United States. It certainly does not help that the United States has proved of limited utility in resolving the many international conflicts and rivalries in that region, not only the obvious Iran-Saudi Arabia one, but also the lower-intensity Saudi Arabia—Turkey one. Since Russia is literally the only international power capable to credibly negotiate with each of these three regional rivals, its reputation as an honest broker backed up by non-trivial “hard power” has elevated its standing in the region to the detriment of the United States.

The second implication is an even closer binding of Latin American states to the United States, with the remarkably compliant Organization of American States (OAS) which has never seen a military coup it did not like, serving as the overt instrument of control. Conversely, regional organizations which have proven resistant to US control such as Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America-Trade between Peoples (ALBA-TCP) and  the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), both of which actually condemned the coup in Bolivia in strong terms, will find themselves the target of US pressure. Post-coup Bolivia’s announced departure from both of these organizations is unlikely to be an aberration, particularly since it follows on the heels of Lenin Moreno’s Ecuador’s departure from ALBA in 2018. The remaining ALBA states include Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela (in addition to several small island states), all of which are continuing targets of US regime change policies.

UNASUR also appears headed for extinction. As many as six countries, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay and Peru, suspended their membership in 2018. Chile moreover launched PROSUR, an organization explicitly intended to target Venezuela, with the initial states invited to join the new organization being  Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Uruguay, Paraguay, Peru, Guyana and Suriname, none of which can be described as pursuing policies contrary to US wishes.

Good-bye NAFTA, Hello USMC!

Trump Administration’s regional trade war that resulted in the launch of the US, Mexico, Canada (hence the “USMC” abbreviation) intended to replace the North America Free Trade Association (NAFTA) is indicative of the future US policy course. It’s doubtful few in the region failed to note the new trade pact’s abbreviation is exactly the same as that of the US Marine Corps which has a long and dark history of invasions and occupations of Latin American states. Consistent with the plot of “Last Ship”, USMC will find itself once again the final arbiter of trade arrangements in Latin America in the #MAGA era that will not end with Trump.

Economic developments in countries that have suffered right-wing regime shifts in the last few years show the direction in which Latin America will evolve. In Brazil, Boeing was allowed to acquire the commercial aircraft division of EMBRAER which hitherto was able to compete, as an independent actor, against both Boeing and Airbus even in their own home markets. The more strengthens Boeing by making it more competitive against Airbus in certain niches it lacked, and strips Brazil of a major industrial asset. Bolsonaro also aims to privatize another of Brazil’s economic “crown jewels”, the Petrobras energy firm which is all but guaranteed to fall into the hands of Washington-favored energy firms.  US interest in the lithium reserves in Bolivia and neighboring countries has also been well documented. Preventing Morales’ Bolivia from entering into a development deal with China was one of the main motives behind the coup. Like Bolsonaro’s Brazil, Moreno’s Ecuador is pursuing plans to allow oil drilling in the Amazon region.

 The Ghost of Che

The famed Argentinian revolutionary Che Guevara suffered a heroic death in Bolivia, attempting to mobilize an indigenous rebellion against the post-conquistador elite. The inevitable backlash to the ever more evident US efforts to ruthlessly exploit Latin America in order to compensate for the loss of influence and business elsewhere in the world means that the United States will find itself with several insurgencies and refugee crises not halfway around the world but in its own geopolitical backyard, whose intensity will eclipse the Cold War-era struggles.  Should United States insist on pursuing its current course, it risks losing power and influence in Latin America in the same way as it did in the Middle East.

Militarization of South America, Coup in Bolivia and Argentina’s rapprochement with the Eurasian powers

Militarization of South America, Coup in Bolivia and Argentina’s rapprochement with the Eurasian powers

By Fabio Reis Vianna for The Saker Blog

On October 29th, the Cycle of Seminars on World Economy Analysis, organized by professors Monica Bruckmann and Franklin Trein, received in the Noble Hall of the IFCS-UFRJ, in Rio de Janeiro, the illustrious presence of the former vice-president of the BRICS Development Bank, Professor Paulo Nogueira Batista.

In the midst of the peculiar moment of social upheavals that are spreading throughout the world, the New Silk Road was discussed, a major Chinese project of geo-economic integration of Eurasia through vast road networks, high-speed trains, gas pipelines, fiber optic cables and ports, and that will benefit millions of people (including Western Europe, and incidentally, the African continent and Latin America itself).

To this end, three institutions created in the orbit of this project would play a key role: the Silk Road Fund, the AIIB (Asian Investment and Infrastructure Bank), and the NBD (BRICS Development Bank).

As the Brazilian State is a shareholder and founder of the NDB, many financing projects from this global institution could already have been approved and would be very welcome to the staggering Brazilian economy. However, despite the fact that in recent years, specifically from 2003 to June 2018, Chinese companies have invested almost 54 billion dollars in more than 100 projects, according to data from the Brazilian government itself, as of 2017, investments have fallen sharply.

According to a study by the Brazil-China Business Council (CBBC), Chinese investments in Brazil totaled 8.8 billion dollars in 2017 and no more than 3 billion dollars in 2018. A drop of 66%.

The deepening of the Brazilian framing of the US imperial orbit says a lot about this.

With the institutionalization of the New Defense Strategy of the United States, enacted on December 18, 2017, what had been happening in practice since mid-2012 was made official, with the acceleration of the interstate dispute and the escalation of global competition: the American repositioning in global geopolitical chess in an increasingly aggressive and unilateral manner.

Leaving aside the multilateralist rhetoric promoted over the last century, the Americans, faced with the strengthening of the “revisionist” powers Russia and China – questioners of the American centrality in the use of the rules and institutions created and managed unilaterally throughout the 20th century -, now seek to impose their will, without concessions, on the countries of the so-called Western Hemisphere. This is a region to which the United States rightfully attributes itself to the full exercise of sovereignty, for considering its zone of direct influence, thus inadmitting any contestation to its supremacy, not even any strategic alliance of countries that can create an alternative pole of power; much less in the Southern Cone of the continent.

Thus, the position of total alignment of the current Brazilian government with the interests of the Trump administration is very much related to this framing of the Western Hemisphere to the strategy of containing the expansionism of Eurasian actors.

If the deepening of the Eurasian project and the Sino-Russian strategic partnership – within Mackinder’s theory of heartland control – would already be inadmissible on its own, then the participation of a large Western Hemisphere country as a protagonist of an institution contesting old rules established and regulated by the hegemon would be too much: Brazil had to be separated from Russia and China at all costs, even if for this the country had to bear the price of seeing its institutions destroyed and involved in the labyrinth of a near military closure of the regime.

The last few months have been very hectic in many different parts of the world, particularly in South America.

Even if for not exactly similar reasons, especially in the specific cases of Peru and Bolivia, the popular protests that took place in Ecuador and Chile would have in common the characteristics of an almost natural reaction of self-protection of these societies to neoliberal restrictive policies.

As if it were an old irony of history, at the very moment when we are experiencing the shredding of interstate competition, there emerges a transmission belt spreading over several countries, as distant as they are disparate among themselves, the spark of social protests.

Curiously, this powerful and dangerous combination of social dissatisfaction and the escalation of conflicts between countries, in other periods of history, would end up being configured in that period of transition between the final cycles and of reconfiguration of the great board of the world system.

In view of this, it is important to highlight the risk of a characteristic in common that is gradually emerging in some South American countries: militarization.

With the escalation of global conflicts, the framing of South America to the North American strategy of containment of Eurasian adversaries and in the face of popular agitations to the deterioration of living standards, the lamentable option for the imposition of naked and crude order arises, bringing back to the political scenario of these countries the presence of the military as guarantors of institutional stability.

The region is moving towards a scenario in which elected governments, facing growing internal unrest, would depend on the military to survive.

The recent events in Peru, Ecuador and Chile do not allow us to lie. Apart from the fact that Brazil already lives under the shadow of a veiled military tutelage of its institutions.

The off-curve point of this story is Argentina and the impressive electoral victory of the Peronist opposition (at a time when the use of destabilizing tools has been frequent to interfere in electoral results, as in the case of the mass spread of fake news via Whatsapp in favor of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil).

Against all odds, in a region harassed by increasingly aggressive interference from the United States, Argentina is heading towards the resumption of a project of an autonomous and sovereign nation.

Faced with the successful destruction of the Brazil-Argentina strategic alliance, which had been strengthening since the re-democratization of the two nations in the mid-1980s, Argentina will face the complex challenge of seeking to expand its international insertion without its former Mercosur partner.

Something interesting said by Professor Paulo Nogueira Batista, in the Cycle of Seminars on Analysis of the World Economy, concerns the current Chinese position in the face of the aggressiveness and truculence of the Trump administration: paradoxically, such aggressiveness would be containing the Chinese expansionist impetus of recent years in South America, which, according to the professor, could open great opportunities for the countries of the region to bargain more favorable agreements for the Chinese. With the paralysis of Brazil and its blind alignment with the New Defense Strategy of the United States, Argentina has the opportunity not only to bargain for favorable trade agreements, but also to occupy the space left vacant by Brazil in the Eurasian integration project.

As Professor Paulo Nogueira Batista rightly said, the BRICS, and especially their development bank (NBD), would be heading toward a process of expansion of their participants.

In the new global geopolitical configuration, in which the intensification of the dispute increases the need of competing powers to guarantee their energy security, South America is already seen by many analysts as the new center of gravity of world oil production, replacing the Middle East. The Coup d’état in Bolivia is a very clear sign that the game will tend to be heavier from now on.

As Professor José Luís Fiori, Brazil’s leading expert on geopolitical issues, warned, “Oil is not the cause of all the conflicts in the international system. There is no doubt, however, that the great centralization of power that is underway in the interstate system is also transforming the permanent struggle for energy security of national states into a war between the great powers for the control of the new energy reserves that are being discovered in recent years. A war that is developing hand in hand, and in any corner of the world, be it in the tropical territory of Black Africa or in the icy lands of the Arctic Circle; be it in the turbulent waters of the mouth of the Amazon or in the inhospitable Kamchatka Peninsula”. https://jornalggn.com.br/geopolitica/geopolitica-e-fe-por-jose-luis-fiori/?fbclid=IwAR1IEPB6xbYL9BOpClmpyeUbonPPsIRPP-BQS7L_dqxZI0sr05jTHQ1Av64

Curiously, shortly before the violent classic coup d’état against President Evo Morales, the government of that country had announced plans to nationalize its production of Lithium.

Global demand for Lithium, essential in the production of cell phone batteries, laptops and electric cars, is expected to triple in the next 15 years.

Not coincidentally, Lithium’s world’s largest reserves are in Bolivia.

If this trend is confirmed, there is no other alternative for whale countries like Brazil and Argentina than to take over the South American strategic project at the risk of ending their days fragmented and swallowed up by the interests and disputes of powers outside the region.

For now, it is up to Argentina to walk alone and out of necessity, to expand economic and geopolitical ties with China and Russia because the tendency is for the country to become the target of the next destabilizing campaigns, “fourth generation” wars and economic suffocation caused by the hegemon.

Fabio Reis Vianna, lives in Rio de Janeiro, is a bachelor in law, writer and geopolitical analyst. He is currently a columnist in international politics for the printed version of the centennial Brazilian newspaper Monitor Mercantil.

 

Released Lula in for greatest fight of his life

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva greets his followers after his release from prison. Photo: Roberto Stuckert

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva greets his followers after his release from prison. Photo: Roberto Stuckert

November 11, 2019

By Pepe Escobar – Posted with permission

Better not mess with the former Brazilian president; Putin and Xi are his real top allies in the Global Left

He’s back. With a bang.

Only two days after his release from a federal prison in Curitiba, southern Brazil, following a narrow 6×5 decision by the Supreme Court, former President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva delivered a fiery, 45-minute long speech in front of the Metal Workers Union in Sao Bernardo, outside of Sao Paulo, and drawing on his unparalleled political capital, called all Brazilians to stage nothing short of a social revolution.

When my colleagues Mauro Lopes, Paulo Leite and myself interviewed Lula at the federal prison, it was his Day 502 in a cell. By August, it was impossible to predict that release would happen on Day 580, in early November.

His first speech to the nation after the prison saga – which is far from over – could never be solemn; in fact he promised a detailed address for the near future. What he did, in his trademark conversationalist style, was to immediately go on the offensive taking down a long list of every possible enemy in the book: those who have mired Brazil into an “anti-people agenda.” In terms of a fully improvised, passionate political address, this is already anthology material.

Lula detailed the current “terrible conditions” for Brazilian workers. He ripped to pieces the economic program – basically a monster sell-out – of Finance Minister Paulo Guedes, a Chicago boy and Pinochetist who’s applying the same failed hardcore neoliberal prescriptions now being denounced and scorned every day in the streets of Chile.

He detailed how the Brazilian right wing openly bet on neo-fascism, which is the form that neoliberalism recently took in Brazil. He blasted mainstream media, in the form of the so far all-powerful, ultra-reactionary Globo empire. In a stance of semiotic genius, Lula pointed to Globo’s helicopter hovering over the masses gathered for the speech, implying the organization is too cowardly to get close to him on ground level.

And, significantly, he got right into the heart of the Bolsonaro question: the militias. It’s no secret to informed Brazilians that the Bolsonaro clan, with its origins in the Veneto, is behaving as a sort of cheap, crude, eschatological carbon copy of the Sopranos, running a system heavy on militias and supported by the Brazilian military. Lula described the president of one of the top nations in the Global South as no less than a militia leader. That will stick – all around the world.

So much for “Lula peace and love,” which used to be one of his cherished mottos. No more conciliation. Bolsonaro now has to face real, fierce, solid opposition, and cannot run away from public debate any more.

Lula’s prison journey has been an extraordinary liberating experience – turning a previously wounded statesman into a fearless warrior mixing the Tao with Steppenwolf (as sketched in Herman Hesse’s book). He’s free like he’s never been before – and he said so, explicitly. The question is how he will be able to muster the organizational work, the method – and have enough time to change the dire conditions for democratic opposition in Brazil. The whole Global South is watching.

At least now the die is cast – and crystal clear: It’s social democracy against neo-fascism. Socially inclusive programs, civil society involved in setting public policy, the fight for  equality versus autocracy, state institutions linked to militias, racism and hate against all minorities. Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn, to their credit, have offered Lula their unconditional support. In contrast, Steve Bannon is losing sleep, qualifying Lula as “the poster boy of the globalist Left” across the world.

This all goes way beyond Left Populism – as Slavoj Zizek and Chantal Mouffe, among others, have been trying to conceptualize it. Lula, assuming he remains free, is now ready to be the supreme catalyst of an integrated, progressive, “pro-people” New Global Left.

‘Cocaine Evangelistan’

Now for the really nasty bits.

I saw Lula’s speech deep into the night in snow stormed Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan’s capital, in the heart of the steppes, a land trespassed against by the greatest nomad empires in history. The temptation was to picture Lula as a fearless snow leopard roaming the devastated steppes of urban wastelands.

Yet snow leopards, crucially, are a species threatened with extinction.

After the speech I had serious conversations with two top interlocutors, Bern-based analyst Romulus Maya and anthropologist Piero Leirner, a crack authority on the Brazilian military. The picture they painted was realistically gloomy. Here it is, in a nutshell.

When I visited Brasilia last August, several informed sources confirmed that the majority of the Brazilian Supreme Court is bought and paid for. After all, they de facto legitimized all the absurdities that have been taking place in Brazil since 2014. The absurdities were part of a hyper-complex, slow-motion, rolling hybrid war coup that, under the cloak of a corruption investigation, led to the dismantling of industrial national champions such as Petrobras; the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff on spurious charges; and the jailing of Lula, the work of judge, jury and executioner Sergio Moro, now Bolsonaro’s justice minister, who was completely unmasked by The Intercept’s revelations.

The Brazilian military are all over the Supreme Court. Remember, Lula’s liberation happened after a narrow 6 to 5 score. Legally, it was impossible to keep him in prison: the Supreme Court actually bothered to read the Brazilian Constitution.

But there are no structural changes whatsoever on the horizon. The project remains a Brazil sell-out – coupled with a thinly veiled military dictatorship. Brazil remains a lowly US colony. So Lula is out of jail essentially because this system allowed it.

The military abide by Bolsonaro’s abysmal incompetence because he cannot even go to the toilet without permission from General Heleno, the head of the GSI, the Brazilian version of the National Security Council. On Saturday, a scared Bolsonaro asked the top military brass for help after Lula’s release. And crucially, in a tweet, he defined Lula as a “scoundrel” who was “momentarily” free.

It’s this “momentarily” that gives away the game. Lula’s murky juridical situation is far from decided. In a harrowing but perfectly plausible short-term scenario, Lula could in fact be sent back to jail – but this time in isolation, in a maximum security federal prison, or even inside a military barracks; after all, he’s a former chief of the armed forces.

The full focus of Lula’s defense is now to have Moro disqualified. Anyone with a brain who’s been through The Intercept’s revelations can clearly identify Moro’s corruption. If that happens, and that’s a major “if,” Lula’s already existing convictions will be declared null and void. But there are others lawsuits, eight in total. This is total lawfare territory.

The military’s trump card is all about “terrorism” – associated with Lula and the Workers Party. If Lula, according to the harrowing scenario, is sent back to a federal prison, that could be in Brasilia, which not by accident holds the entire leadership of the PCC, or “First Command of the Capital”– the largest Brazilian criminal organization.

Maya and Leirner have shown how the PCC is allied with the military and the US Deep State, via their asset Moro, to establish not a Pax Brasilica but what they have described as a “Cocaine Evangelistan” – complete with terrorist false flags blamed on Lula’s command.

Leirner has exhaustively studied how the generals, for over a decade on their website, have been trying to associate the PCC with the Workers’ Party. And the association extends to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Hezbollah and the Bolivians. Yes, this all comes straight from His Masters’ Voice’s playbook.

Lula, Putin and Xi

With the military betting on a strategy of chaos, augmented by Lula’s immense social base all over Brazil fuming about his return to prison and the financial bubble finally burst, rendering the middle classes even poorer, the stage would be set for the ultimate toxic cocktail: social “commotion” allied with “terrorism” associated with “organized crime.”

That’s all the military needs to launch an extensive operation to restore “order” and finally force Congress to approve the Brazilian version of the Patriot Act (five separate bills are already making their way in Congress).

This is no conspiracy theory. This is a measure of how incendiary Brazil is at the moment, and Western mainstream media will make no effort whatsoever to explain the nasty, convoluted plot for a global audience.

Leirner goes to the heart of the matter when he says the current system has no reason to retreat because its side is winning. They are not afraid of Brazil turning into Chile. And even if that ends up happening, they already have a culprit: Lula. Brazilian mainstream media are already releasing trial balloons – blaming Lula for the spike of the US dollar and the rise of inflation.

Lula and the Brazilian Left should invest in a full spectrum offensive.

The 9th BRICS summit takes place in Brazil this week. A master counter-coup would be to organize an off-the-record, extremely discreet, heavily securitized meeting among Lula, Putin and Xi Jinping, for instance in an embassy in Brasilia. Putin and Xi are Lula’s real top allies on the global stage. They have been literally waiting for Lula, as diplomats have confirmed to me over and over again.

If Lula follows a restricted script of merely reorganizing the Left, in Brazil, Latin America and even the Global South, the military system currently in place will swallow him whole all over again. The Left is infiltrated – everywhere. Now it’s total war. Assuming Lula remains free, he most certainly won’t be allowed to run again for the presidency in 2022. But that’s no problem. He’s got to be extra-bold – and he will be. Better not mess with the Steppenwolf.

BRICS Needs a Unified Front Against US Intervention in Venezuela

Image result for BRICS Needs a Unified Front Against US Intervention in Venezuela
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.

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.

—-

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!

View image on Twitter
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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.

Brazilgate is Turning into Russiagate 2.0

June 22, 2019

By Pepe Escobar – with permission and cross-posted with Consortium News

Brazilgate is Turning into Russiagate 2.0

It was a leak, not a hack. Yes: Brazilgate, unleashed by a series of game-changing bombshells published by The Intercept, may be turning into a tropical Russiagate.

The Intercept’s Deep Throat – an anonymous source — has finally revealed in detail what anyone with half a brain in Brazil already knew: that the judicial/lawfare machinery of the one-sided Car Wash anti-corruption investigation was in fact a massive farce and criminal racket bent on accomplishing four objectives.

  • Create the conditions for the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff in 2016 and the subsequent ascension of her VP, elite-manipulated puppet, Michel Temer.
  •  Justify the imprisonment of former president Lula in 2018 – just as he was set to win the latest presidential election in a landslide.
  • Facilitate the ascension of the Brazilian extreme-right via Steve Bannon asset (he calls him “Captain”) Jair Bolsonaro.
  • Install former judge Sergio Moro as a justice minister on steroids capable of enacting a sort of Brazilian Patriot Act – heavy on espionage and light on civil liberties.

Moro, side by side with prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol, who was leading the Public Ministry’s 13-strong task force, are the vigilante stars of the lawfare racket. Over the past four years, hyper-concentrated Brazilian mainstream media, floundering in a swamp of fake news, duly glorified these two as Captain Marvel-worthy national heroes. Hubris finally caught up with the swamp.

The Brazilian Goodfellas

The Intercept has promised to release all the files in its possession; chats, audio, videos and pics, a treasure trove allegedly larger than Snowden’s. What has been published so far reveals Moro/Dallagnol as a strategic duo in synch, with Moro as a capo di tutti i capi, judge, jury and executioner rolled into one – replete with serial fabrications of evidence. This, in itself, is enough to nullify all the Car Wash cases in which he was involved – including Lula’s prosecution and successive convictions based on “evidence” that would never hold up in a serious court.

Moro: Installed as justice minister.
(Wikipedia/Marcos Oliveira/Agência Senado.)

In conjunction with a wealth of gory details, the Twin Peaks principle — the owls are not what they seem — fully applies to Brazilgate. Because the genesis of Car Wash involves none other than the United States government (USG). And not only the Department of Justice (DoJ) – as Lula has been stressing for years in every one of his interviews. The op was Deep State at its lowest.

WikiLeaks had already revealed it from the start, when the NSA started spying on energy giant Petrobras and even Rousseff’s smart phone. In parallel, countless nations and individuals have learned how the DoJ’s self-attributed extraterritoriality allows it to go after anyone, anyhow, anywhere.

It has never been about anti-corruption. Instead this is American “justice” interfering in the full geopolitical and geo-economic spheres. The most glaring, recent case, is Huawei’s.

Yet Mafiosi Moro/Dallagnol’s “malign behavior” (to invoke Pentagonese) reached a perverse new level in destroying the national economy of a powerful emerging nation, a BRICS member and acknowledged leader across the Global South.

Car Wash ravaged the chain of energy production in Brazil, which in turn generated the sale – below market prizes – of plenty of valuable pre-salt oil reserves, the biggest oil discovery of the 21stcentury.

Car Wash destroyed Brazilian national champions in engineering and civil construction as well as aeronautics (as in Boeing buying Embraer). And Car Wash fatally compromised important national security projects such as the construction of nuclear submarines, essential for the protection of the “Blue Amazon”.

For the Council of Americas – which Bolsonaro visited back in 2017 – as well as the Council on Foreign Relations—not to mention the “foreign investors”–to have neoliberal Chicago boy Paulo Guedes installed as finance minister was a wet dream. Guedes promised on the record to virtually put all of Brazil for sale. So far, his stint has been an unmitigated failure.

How to Wag the Dog

Mafiosi Moro/Dallagnol were “only a pawn in their game,” to quote Bob Dylan– a game both were oblivious to.

Lula has repeatedly stressed that the key question – for Brazil and the Global South – is sovereignty. Under Bolsonaro, Brazil has been reduced to the status of a banana neo-colony – with plenty of bananas. Leonardo Attuch, editor of the leading portal Brasil247, says “the plan was to destroy Lula, but what was destroyed was the nation.”

As it stands, the BRICS – a very dirty word in the Beltway – have lost their “B”. As much as they may treasure Brazil in Beijing and Moscow, what is delivering for the moment is the “RC” strategic partnership, although Putin and Xi are also doing their best to revive “RIC”, trying to show India’s Modi that Eurasian integration is the way to go, not playing a supporting role in Washington’s fuzzy Indo-Pacific strategy.

Dallagnol: Serial fabricator. (Wikimedia Commons/José Cruz/Agência Brasil)

And that brings us to the heart of the Brazilgate matter: how Brazil is the coveted prize in the master strategic narrative that conditions everything happening in the geopolitical chessboard for the foreseeable future—the no-holds-barred confrontation between the U.S. and Russia-China.

Already in the Obama era, the U.S. Deep State had identified that to cripple BRICS from the inside, the “weak” strategic node was Brazil. And yes; once again it’s the oil, stupid.

Brazil’s pre-salt oil reserves may be worth as much as a staggering $30 trillion. The point is not only that the USG wants a piece of the action; the point is how controlling most of Brazil’s oil ties up with interfering with powerful agribusiness interests. For the Deep State, control of Brazil’s oil flow to agribusiness equals containment/leverage against China.

The U.S., Brazil and Argentina, together, produce 82 percent of the world’s soybeans – and counting. China craves soybeans. These won’t come from Russia or Iran – which on the other hand may supply China with enough oil and natural gas (see, for instance, Power of Siberia I and II). Iran, after all, is one of the pillars of Eurasian integration. Russia may eventually become a soybean export power, but that may take as long as ten years.

The Brazilian military knows that close relations with China – their top trade partner, ahead of the U.S. — are essential, whatever Steve Bannon may rant about. But Russia is a completely different story. Vice-President Hamilton Mourao, in his recent visit to Beijing, where he met with Xi Jinping, sounded like he was reading from a Pentagon press release, telling Brazilian media that Russia is a “malign actor” deploying “hybrid war around the world.”

So the U.S. Deep State may be accomplishing at least part of the ultimate goal: to use Brazil in its Divide et Impera strategy of splitting the Russia-China strategic partnership.

It gets much spicier. Car Wash reconditioned as Leak Wash could also be decoded as a massive shadow play; a wag the dog, with the tail composed of two American assets.

Moro was a certified FBI, CIA, DoJ, Deep State asset. His uber-boss would ultimately be Robert Mueller (thus Russiagate). Yet for Team Trump, he would be easily expendable – even if he’s Captain Justice working under the real asset, Bannon boy Bolsonaro. If he falls, Moro would be assured the requisite golden parachute – complete with U.S. residency and talks in American universities.

The Intercept’s Greenwald is now celebrated by all strands of the Left as a sort of American/Brazilian Simon Bolivar on steroids – with and in may cases without any irony. Yet there’s a huge problem. The Intercept is owned by hardcore information-war practitioner Pierre Omidyar.

Whose Hybrid War?

The crucial question ahead is what the Brazilian military are really up to in this epic swamp – and how deep they are subordinated to Washington’s Divide et Impera.

It revolves around the all-powerful Cabinet of Institutional Security, known in Brazil by its acronym GSI. GSI stalwarts are all Washington consensus. After the “communist” Lula/Dilma years, these guys are now consolidating a Brazilian Deep State overseeing full spectrum political control, just like in the U.S..

GSI already controls the whole intel apparatus, as well as Foreign Policy and Defense, via a decree surreptitiously released in early June, only a few days before The Intercept’s bombshell. Even Captain Marvel Moro is subjected to the GSI; they must approve, for instance, everything Moro discusses with the DoJ and the U.S. Deep State.

As I’ve discussed with some of my top informed Brazilian interlocutors, crack anthropologist Piero Leirner, who knows in detail how the military think, and Swiss-based international lawyer and UN adviser Romulus Maya, the U.S. Deep Stateseems to be positioning itself as the spawning mechanism for the direct ascension of the Brazilian military to power, as well as their guarantors. As in, if you don’t follow our script to the letter – basic trade relations only with China; and isolation of Russia – we can swing the pendulum anytime.

After all, the only practical role the USG would see for the Brazilian military – in fact for all Latin America military – is as “war on drugs” shock troops.

 

Intercept Exclusive: Brazilian Judge in Car Wash Corruption Case Mocked Lula’s Defense and Secretly Directed Prosecutors’ Media Strategy During Trial.

There is no smoking gun – yet. But the scenario of Leak Wash as part of an extremely sophisticated, full spectrum dominance psyops, an advanced stage of Hybrid War, must be seriously considered.

For instance, the extreme-right, as well as powerful military sectors and the Globo media empire suddenly started spinning that The Intercept bombshell is a “Russian conspiracy.”

When one follows the premier military think tank website– featuring loads of stuff virtually copy and pasted straight from the U.S. Naval War College – it’s easy to be startled at how they fervently believe in a Russia-China Hybrid War against Brazil, where the beachhead is provided by “anti-national elements” such as the Left as a whole, Venezuelan Bolivarians, FARC, Hezbollah, LGBT, indigenous peoples, you name it.

After Leak Wash, a concerted fake news blitzkrieg blamed the Telegram app (“they are evil Russians!”) for hacking Moro and Dallagnol’s phones. Telegram officially debunked it in no time.

Then it surfaced that former president Dilma Rousseff and the current Workers’ Party president Gleisi Hoffmann paid a “secret” visit to Moscow only five days before the Leak Wash bombshell. I confirmed the visit with the Duma, as well as the fact that for the Kremlin, Brazil, at least for the moment, is not a priority. Eurasian integration is. That in itself debunks what the extreme-right in Brazil would spin as Dilma asking for Putin’s help, who then released his evil hackers.

Leak Wash – Car Wash’s season two – may be following the Netflix and HBO pattern. Remember that season three of True Detective was an absolute smash. We need Mahershala Ali-worthy trackers to sniff out patches of evidence suggesting the Brazilian military – with the full support of the U.S. Deep State – might be instrumentalizing a mix of Leak Wash and “the Russians” Hybrid War to criminalize the Left for good and orchestrate a silent coup to get rid of the Bolsonaro clan and their sub-zoology collective IQ. They want total control – no clownish intermediaries. Will they be biting more bananas than they can chew?

Pandering to Israel Means War with Iran

Global Research, May 09, 2019

The United States is moving dangerously forward in what appears to be a deliberate attempt to provoke a war with Iran, apparently based on threat intelligence provided by Israel. The claims made by National Security Advisor John Bolton and by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that there is solid evidence of Iran’s intention to attack US forces in the Persian Gulf region is almost certainly a fabrication, possibly deliberately contrived by Bolton and company in collaboration with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It will be used to justify sending bombers and additional naval air resources to confront any possible moves by Tehran to maintain its oil exports, which were blocked by Washington last week. If the US Navy tries to board ships carrying Iranian oil it will undoubtedly, and justifiably, provoke a violent response from Iran, which is precisely what Bolton, Pompeo and Netanyahu are seeking.

It would be difficult to find in the history books another example of a war fought for no reason whatsoever. As ignorant as President Donald Trump and his triumvirate or psychotics Bolton, Pompeo and Elliott Abrams are, even they surely know that Iran poses no threat to the United States. If they believe at all that a war is necessary, they no doubt base their judgment on the perception that the United States must maintain its number one position in the world by occasionally attacking and defeating someone to serve as an example of what might happen if one defies Washington. Understanding that, the Iranians would be wise to avoid confrontation until the sages in the White House move on to some easier target, which at the moment would appear to be Venezuela.

The influence of Israel over US foreign policy is undeniable, with Washington now declaring that it will “review ties” with other nations that are considered to be unfriendly to the Jewish state. For observers who might also believe that Israel and its allies in the US are the driving force behind America’s belligerency in the Middle East, there are possibly some other games that are in play, all involving Benjamin Netanyahu and his band of merry cutthroats. It is becoming increasingly apparent that foreign politicians have realized that the easiest way to gain Washington’s favor is to do something that will please Israel. In practical terms, the door to Capitol Hill and the White House is opened through the good offices of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Israel is desperate to confirm its legitimacy in international fora, where it has few friends in spite of an intensive lobbying campaign. It seeks to have countries that do not have an embassy in Israel to take steps to establish one, and it also wants more nations that do already have an embassy in Tel Aviv to move to Jerusalem, building on the White House’s decision taken last year to do just that. Not surprisingly, nations and political leaders who are on the make and want American support have drawn the correct conclusions and pander to Israel as a first step.

One only has to cite the example of Venezuela. Juan Guaido, the candidate favored by Washington for regime change, has undoubtedly a lot of things on his plate but he has proven willing to make some time to say what Benjamin Netanyahu wants to hear, as reported by the Israeli media. The Times of Israel describes how

“Venezuela’s self-proclaimed leader Juan Guaido is working to re-establish diplomatic relations with Israel and isn’t ruling out placing his country’s embassy in Jerusalem, according to an interview with an Israeli newspaper published Tuesday.”

One would think that Guaido would consider his interview sufficient, but he has also taken the pandering process one step farther, reportedly displaying huge video images of the flags of both Israel and the United States at his rallies.

This deference to Israel’s interests produced an almost immediate positive result with Netanyahu recognizing him as the legitimate Venezuelan head of state, followed by an echo chamber of effusive congratulations from US (sic) Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who praised the Jewish state for “standing with the people of Venezuela and the forces of freedom and democracy.” Donald Trump’s esteemed special envoy for international negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, also joined in, praising the Israeli government for its “courageous stand in solidarity with the Venezuelan people.”

A similar bonding took place regarding Brazil, where hard right conservative leader Jair Bolsonaro was recently elected president. Netanyahu attended the Bolsonaro inauguration last December and the two men benefit from strong support from Christian Evangelicals. Bolsonaro repaid the favor by promising that Israel would be his first foreign trip. In the event he went to Washington first, but the state visit to Israel took place in April, just before that country’s elections, in a bid to demonstrate international support for Netanyahu.

Brazilian Jews constitute a wealthy and powerful community which reacted positively to Bolsonaro’s pledges to fight corruption and high crime rates while also repairing a struggling economy. They also appreciated his stance on Israel. He committed to moving the Brazilian embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, though he has backpedaled a bit on that pledge. And he also promised to shut the Palestinian embassy in the capital Brasilia. He famously asked and answered his own question,

“Is Palestine a country? Palestine is not a country, so there should be no embassy here. You do not negotiate with terrorists.”

Bolsonaro’s pro-Israel anti-Venezuela credentials also endeared him to Donald Trump on a visit to Washington in mid-March which was described by the media as a “love fest.” The Brazilian leader’s visits to Israel and the US as well as Guaido’s promises to Israel reveal that the foreign policies of Tel Aviv and Washington have become inextricably intertwined, with supplicant nations and politicians wisely seeking to do homage to both regimes to gain favor. It is a development that would shock the Founding Fathers, most particularly George Washington, who warned against entangling alliances, and it means that American interests will be seen through an Israeli prism, a reality that has already produced very bad results.

*

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Philip M. Giraldi is a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer who served nineteen years overseas in Turkey, Italy, Germany, and Spain. He was the CIA Chief of Base for the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 and was one of the first Americans to enter Afghanistan in December 2001. Phil is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a Washington-based advocacy group that seeks to encourage and promote a U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East that is consistent with American values and interests.

When God is reduced into an Arsonist

April 22, 2019  /  Gilad Atzmon

arsonist god.jpg

 

By Gilad Atzmon

We learned last Wednesday that Shlomo Aviner, a prominent Zionist rabbi and Yeshiva leader, suggested the fire that gutted Notre-Dame may have been divine retribution for the burning of Jewish manuscripts in 1242.

In the eyes of His followers, the Jewish almighty is an elastic substance. He morphs occasionally to fit with the needs of His favourite sons and daughters. Early Zionists, for instance, demoted God into an ‘estate agent’ as they reduced the Torah into a ‘title deed’. The early Zionists were secular Jews, they didn’t believe in God but were happy to expel the indigenous Palestinians in ‘His name’ and on ‘His behalf.’  But Rabbi Aviner takes us one step further. He made the Jewish God into a lazy but revengeful arsonist. The rabbi practically makes the Jewish God into a church burner who takes eight centuries to ‘hit back.’

Shlomo Aviner is the rabbi of the Beit El settlement and head of the Ateret Yerushalayim yeshiva. He provides the ‘rational’ behind the divine retribution. “Christianity,” he says, “is our number one enemy throughout history. [They] tried to convert us by arguments and by force, carried out an inquisition against us, burned the Talmud, expulsions, pogroms. Western anti-Semitism draws from Christianity’s hatred of the ‘murderers of God.’ It also had a role in the Holocaust.”

It is needless to mention that many Israelis and Jews were appalled by Rabbi Aviner’s statement. Some Israeli politicians condemned the Rabbi and yet his blatant hatred towards Christianity is unfortunately engraved in both Jewish and Judaic thought.

Back in 2009, the Jerusalem Post reported on the growing tendency of Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem to spit on their Christian neighbours. Father Samuel Aghoyan, a senior Armenian Orthodox cleric in Jerusalem’s Old City, told the JPost “that he’s been spat at by young Haredi and Orthodox Jews ‘about 15 to 20 times’ in the past decade”. Similarly, Father Athanasius, a Texas-born Franciscan monk who heads the Christian Information Centre in Jerusalem’s Old City, said he’s been spat at by Orthodox Jews “about 15 times in the last six months”.

The Israeli professor Israel Shahak commented on Jewish hatred towards Christianity and its symbolism, suggesting that “dishonouring Christian religious symbols is an old religious duty in Judaism.” According to Shahak, “spitting on the cross, and especially on the Crucifix, and spitting when a Jew passes a church, have been obligatory from around AD 200 for pious Jews.”

As I am currently in Prague, I am obliged to add that church spitting has had an impact on the landscape of the city. The following can be read in a ‘Travel Guide for Jewish Europe’:

“In Prague’s Charles Bridge, the visitor will observe a great crucifix surrounded by huge gilded Hebrew letters that spell the traditional Hebrew sanctification Kadosh Kadosh Kadosh Adonai Tzvaot, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts.” According to various commentators, this piece, degrading to Jews, came about because in 1609 a Jew was accused of desecrating the crucifix. The Jewish community was forced to pay for putting up the Hebrew words in gold letters…”   (To read more: Travel Guide for Jewish Europe, pg 497)

Charles Bridge, Prague

Charles Bridge, Prague

Shahak maintains that “in the past, when the danger of anti-Semitic hostility was a real one, the pious Jews were commanded by their rabbis either to spit so that the reason for doing so would be unknown, or to spit onto their chests, not actually on a cross or openly before a church.”

But the anger towards the church extends well beyond the rabbinical realm. Some traces of it can be found in most secularised Jewish so-called ‘progressive’ circles. In a letter to his mother dated November 25 1937, Chaim Katz, a combatant within the Yiddish speaking Spanish International Brigade, writes “I took up arms against the persecutors of my people–the Jews–and my class–the Oppressed. I am fighting against those who establish an inquisition like that of their ideological ancestors several centuries ago, in Spain.” As we can see, Katz defines himself in the letter “as a Jew and a progressive” and sees the deadly civil war in Spain as a possible platform for Jewish retribution against the Catholic Church. It is hardly a secret that the battle in Spain escalated quickly into an orgy of burning churches.*

A week ago, we learned that the Jewish world was outraged by pro Israel Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s suggestion that the crimes of the Holocaust can be forgiven, though not forgotten. While Bolsonaro expressed the most basic Christian belief, both Yad Vashem and the Israeli president were quick to clarify that Jewish forgiveness is not an option. President Rivlin announced that “no one will enjoin the forgiveness of the Jewish people, and no interest will buy it.” Yad Vashem spokeswoman Dana Weiler-Polak said nobody can decide “if it is possible to forgive the crimes of the Holocaust.”

 If Christianity is all about forgiveness, Jewishness can be seen as an accumulative project of ‘Amalek’ characters. If Christianity is all about compassion, the ability to defy gravity by means of harmony and reconciliation, Judaism and Jewishness can be described metaphorically as gravitational forces. They are there to unite the tribe around the constant fear of an emerging enemy. I guess that those who insist on pushing the phantasmic notion of ‘Judeo-Christian values’ should bear in mind the clear ideological, spiritual, metaphysical contrast between the two distinct religious precepts that in fact have very little in common.

*Rather than taking Franco’s side I am dealing here with Jewish means of identifications.

My battle for truth and freedom involves some expensive legal services. I hope that you will consider committing to a monthly donation in whatever amount you can give. Regular contributions will enable me to avoid being pushed against a wall and to stay on top of the endless harassment by Zionist operators attempting to silence me.

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United Against Forgiveness

The Jewish world is outraged this morning with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who apparently said he believes the crimes of the Holocaust can be forgiven, but not forgotten.

The far-right leader made the comments on Thursday night at a meeting with evangelical pastors in Rio de Janeiro.

“We can forgive, but we cannot forget. That quote is mine. Those that forget their past are sentenced not to have a future,” Bolsonaro said, adding that actions are needed for the Holocaust not to be repeated.

Bolsonaro is probably not the most forgiving person around. He freely spews misogynistic, anti-LGBTQ, and racist statements. However, he  is a devout Christian and forgiveness is central to Christianity of all denominations.  Forgiveness is not an ‘option’ as far as Christianity is concerned, it is actually a must. Forgiveness in Christianity is a manifestation of submission to Christ. “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15).

I guess that those who subscribe to the Old Testament’s ‘eye for an eye’ paradigm see forgiveness as an existential threat or a sign of weakness. Otherwise it is hard to grasp the hostile reaction to Bolsonaro’s statement.

But Israelis have been forgiving the Germans for more than a while. Back in 1953 Israel signed a reparation agreement with the West German Government. According to the Agreement, West Germany was to “compensate” Israel “for losses in Jewish livelihood and property resulting from Nazi persecution.” The legendary Israeli diplomat Abba Eban coined the precious adage ‘there is no business like Shoa business’ in the light of the Israeli-German reparation agreement. Israel was happy to transform Germany’s guilt into hard cash, yet some may argue that forgiveness wasn’t part of the deal. As a matter of fact, more than seven decades after the liberation of Auschwitz, the Brazilian president is singled out  by Jewish and Israeli outlets for stating the true meaning of Christian ethics; forgive but don’t forget. Be merciful, however learn not to repeat your past sins.

It is also important to mention that from time to time Israelis and Jewish leaders explore forgiveness when there are clear political or material gains. Back in 2015 we learned from Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu that it was the Palestinian Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haji Amin al-Husseini, who gave Hitler the idea to exterminate the Jews. Needless to mention that Netanyahu’s claim was ludicrous and harshly criticised, but it practically confirmed that within certain political circumstances even Hitler could be vindicated as long as a Palestinian is there to take his place as the ‘ultimate evil.’

But Netanyahu was neither the first nor the last Israeli to forgive Hitler and the Germans. Back in 2014 we learned about Olim L’Berlin (Ascending to Berlin), a movement of young Israelis returning to the German capital because it was cheaper, cleaner and simply nicer. We would like the believe that Olim LeBerlin enthusiasts must have finally forgiven the Germans and even learned to love their new neighbours as much as they love themselves.

I am obviously not a supporter of the Brazilian president. However, I think that for us who dwell within the borders of the English-speaking empire, forgiveness and Christian values may as well be our last hope.  I would have liked to think that president Trump and his dedicated Evangelist vice president Mike Pence take Jesus’s teachings into account when they consider whether to pardon Julian Assange for telling the truth. They should explore Christian mercifulness and reject the barbarian Old Testament vengeance that has made it into the true ugly face of America’s new century.


My battle for truth and freedom involves some expensive legal services. I hope that you will consider committing to a monthly donation in whatever amount you can give. Regular contributions will enable me to avoid being pushed against a wall and to stay on top of the endless harassment by Zionist operators attempting to silence me.

Brazil’s Bolsonaro Arrives in ‘Israel’ for Pre-vote Visit

BrazilBolsonaro_netanyahu

Source

March 31, 2019

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro began a visit to the Zionist entity Sunday with a decision pending on fulfilling a promise to move his country’s embassy to occupied AL-Quds (Jerusalem), a policy change opposed by military officers in his cabinet.

The four-day visit by the far-right leader comes a week before the Israeli’s closely contested election in which the right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is battling a popular centrist candidate and corruption allegations, which he denies.

“I love Israel,” Bolsonaro said in Hebrew at a welcoming ceremony, with Netanyahu at his side, at Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion airport.

Netanyahu said he and Bolsonaro would sign “many agreements”, including security deals, and that the Brazilian leader would visit Judaism’s holy Western Wall, “in Jerusalem, our eternal capital.”

A leading Israeli financial news website, Calcalist, reported on Sunday that Brazilian state-run oil firm Petrobras was considering bidding in a new tender to explore for oil and gas offshore occupied Palestine and a final decision would be announced during Bolsonaro’s visit.

Earlier this month, a Brazilian government official told Reuters no decision had been made on the embassy move, but “something will have to be said about the embassy during the trip”.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, added that a formal announcement might not come during the visit.

Visiting Brazil for the Jan. 1 presidential inauguration, Netanyahu said Bolsonaro had told him that moving the Brazilian embassy in Israel to occupied Jerusalem from Tel Aviv was a matter of “when, not if”.

Source: Agencies

Insights on the Iran deal, BRICS and Venezuela

January 28, 2019

Insights on the Iran deal, BRICS and Venezuela

by Pepe Escobar (cross-posted with The Asia Times by special agreement with the author)

An exclusive interview with former Brazilian foreign minister Celso Amorim on how BRICS came into being, how the nuclear deal was done with Tehran and how the South dealt with Chavez

Brazil is once again in the eye of a political hurricane, after President Jair Bolsonaro’s appearance at Davos and explosive revelations directly linking his clan to a criminal organization in Rio de Janeiro.

With his administration barely a month old, Bolsonaro is already being seen as expendable to the elites that propelled him to power – from the powerful agribusiness lobby to the financial system and the military.

The new game among the elites of a major actor in the Global South, BRICS member and eighth biggest economy in the world consists of shaping a scenario capable of rescuing one the great frontiers where global capitalism is expanding from total irrelevancy.

That includes the possibility of a “soft coup”, with the Bolsonaro clan sidelined by the Brazilian military rallying around the vice-president, General Hamilton Mourao.

Under these circumstances, a conversation with former Brazilian foreign minister Celso Amorim is more than sobering. Amorim is universally recognized as one of the top diplomats of the young 21st century, a symbol of the recent past, under President Lula, when Brazil was at the top of its game as a resource-rich continental nation actively projecting power as a BRICS leader.

I had the pleasure of meeting Ambassador Amorim, who is also the author of ‘Acting Globally: Memoirs of Brazil’s Assertive Foreign Policy’ in Sao Paulo. Here are some highlights of our conversation – from the birth of BRICS to the current Venezuela crisis.

BRICS – the most important group in the drive towards a multipolar world – is a very dirty word in Washington. How did it all start?

I had met [British economist] Jim O’Neill a few times, who first talked about BRIC, which was not yet a group and nobody saw as a group. This may sound pretentious, but it’s a curious story. I told him, ‘It is you that invented the BRICS, right?’ He said, ‘Yes, of course, I’m very proud of it’. Then I replied, ‘Yes, but I’m the one who made it happen’. Well, it was not exactly me – under the Lula government and all that it entails. The first action in terms of creating the BRIC group – still without an “S” – came from Sergey Lavrov, in a meeting we had in New York in 2006. They had the RIC [Russia, India, China], but they did not hold many summits. And we had IBAS [India, Brazil, South Africa]. Both China and Russia were always trying to get into IBAS. There was the idea that these were three great democracies, each one in a continent and in a major developing country – so the Russians and Chinese might have thought, ‘we also want to get in, why not, because we are not democracies?’ IBAS was also present in the commercial G-20 at the WTO, and IBAS had similar ideas about reform of the UN Security Council; so the geopolitical interests were not the same.

Then Lavrov proposed BRIC as a forum, I think maybe to find some more equilibrium inside the RIC. I always talked in terms of BRICS, so one day he asked me ‘Why do you say BRICS?’ and I replied, “because it’s plural, in Portuguese’, so in a sense, we were already anticipating the entry of South Africa.

We first agreed we would have a meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. Lavrov and I already had something more substantial, the Indians and the Chinese just read a speech, so it looked like there would not be a consequential follow-up. Next year we met at the Brazilian UN mission, outside of the UN, and decided to do it later out of New York. Lavrov then offered Yekaterinburg, where we had the first ministerial meeting in 2008, and then next year the first presidential summit, also in Yekaterinburg, and in Brazil in 2010. It was here that the idea of BRIC was expanded into BRICS – through a dinner that concluded IBAS and inaugurated BRICS.

At the time, did you think about expanding to other top emerging economies, such as Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey, Iran?

IBAS was born on the second day of President Lula’s government [in January 2003], out of an idea to create a group of developing countries, around seven or eight. I thought a larger group would be very complicated, based on my experience – how to coordinate positions and engage in concrete projects. For instance, Egypt would have to be a member.

When did you start to seriously discuss practical steps towards the emergence of a multipolar world – such as trade in members’ currencies? Was it in 2010?

In 2010 certainly, we had the idea of trade using each member’s currency, not yet the idea – that happened under the Dilma government – of the BRICS bank. But we were already talking about the coordination of our development banks. The concept of multipolarity, the Russians may have been the first to outline it. What I do remember about the use of the concept was by the French, especially when there were serious divergences about the attack on Iraq.

Former French foreign minister Dominique de Villepin insisted on it.

Villepin, yes, but even Hubert Vedrine [foreign minister under Jacques Chirac from 1997-2002] before him, who came up with the concept of ‘hyperpower’. So the ones who spread the concept were the French, and we adhered to it, among developing countries. The French, when they talked about the expansion of the UN Security Council, they said they were in favor regarding Germany and Japan, but also ‘three great nations of the South’, Brazil included.

The Lula government started in January 2003. Geopolitics at the time was conditioned by the war on terror. We were already expecting the invasion of Iraq. How did you, in the first days of January 2003, knowing that Dick Cheney and the neocons were about to turn the Middle East upside down, with direct and indirect repercussions on the Global South, how did you start conceiving a multi-vector Brazilian foreign policy? Which were the priorities?

I think neither President Lula nor myself used the term “multipolar” – even though the concept was already on the table. We wanted to have good relations with the US but also with the largest developing countries. When we started the greatest problems were the Free Trade Area of the Americas [FTAA], so we had to look for other partners; the WTO and negotiations in the Doha round; and Iraq. The combination of all these led Brazil to get closer to India and South Africa, to a great extent via the WTO, and because of Iraq, we got closer to Russia, Germany and France. When President Lula went to Davos…

That was Lula’s first Davos, right?

Yes, but first he went to the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre [in Brazil], then he went to Davos. The message was the search for an equilibrium; to do business, of course, but based on the idea of democratic social change.

Were you discussing Iraq in detail with Russia, Germany and France?

Yes, we were, with Schroeder in Germany and Chirac, as well as Villepin at the Security Council. And there was a fourth problem: Venezuela. Lula had already talked about it with Chavez. During the inauguration of President Gutierrez of Ecuador, Lula’s first foreign trip, on January 15, Lula proposed, in a meeting in a room full of presidents, the creation of the Friends of Venezuela Group, at a moment when the crisis was acute, even though the country was not as debilitated as today.

Already in January 2003 was there neocon pressure on Brazil in relation to Venezuela?

I think they did not know how to deal with Lula and the new government. But they were very strong on Venezuela – especially [US diplomat] Roger Noriega. And yet they saw Brazil was proposing something and accepted it. Fidel was against it, but Chavez, in the end, was convinced by Lula. And this is also relevant for today. Lula said it in so many words; this is not a Friends of Chavez group, it’s a Friends of Venezuela group. So this must also include the United States, Spain and Portugal – under conservative administrations. That was a way to escape from the OAS [Organisation of American States] and its penchant for the Monroe doctrine [the US policy of opposing European colonialism in the Americas].

I used to talk to Colin Powell quite frequently – and not to receive instructions. There were many issues he wanted to know about, and he trusted Brazil. He had a notion of the importance of Brazil, our capacity for dialogue.

Switching to the Obama era, tell us about the role of Brazil, alongside Turkey, in the Iran nuclear negotiation, when you clinched a deal in Tehran in less than 24 hours, only for it to be smashed by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton the next day.

It was a long process, followed by 19 hours of negotiations, the Iranians tried to reopen one of the issues, both Lula and Erdogan refused. What facilitated our role as mediators was that the US had its hands full in the Middle East. I already had contacts with Javier Solana, then a sort of Foreign Affairs Minister of the EU, and also [Egyptian diplomat] ElBaradei, from my time at the UN. Obama, in a meeting of the G-8 + 5 in Italy, during a bilateral with us, he said three things: ‘I extended my hand and they did not answer’; ‘We need to solve the nuclear dossier’; ‘And I need friends to say what I cannot say’. What we did in the end, because we thought it was the right thing to do, with a lot of work and facing hardships, was exactly what the Americans wanted. One month before the deal I thought it would not happen. But then we received a letter from Obama, and to my greatest surprise, that was a reiteration of the same initial three points.

Hillary always had a different position. I foresaw her reaction as a possibility. We talked on the phone, in Madrid, when I was coming back from Iran, and I said, ‘Look, in Brazil we have this expression, ‘I didn’t read it, and I didn’t like it’. She did not want a deal. In a phone call before my trip, she was adding some other points of discussion and I said, ‘Hillary, this is a trust-building agreement. And these points that you mention were not in the letter delivered by your own President’. I’m not exaggerating, what followed was a silence lasting half a minute. So I thought; did she read the letter? Or she read it, and because they are a great power they can do what they want, and we have to take it, and adapt to it?

So what about China and Russia accepting the American line – no deal, more sanctions?

I know the sweeteners that made them accept it – concessions on the sanctions front. But geopolitically…

What’s your informed hypothesis?

There are two. This was a problem they did not solve. Who’s part of the global directory? The five permanent members of the Security Council. Now we have two developing countries, who are not even part of the Security Council, and they solve it? By coincidence, both were non-permanent members of the Security Council at the time. The other thing is whenever we are discussing a nuclear issue, the five get closer, because they are all nuclear powers.

What’s your insider view, as a statesman, of Vladimir Putin, demonized 24/7 in the US as a major existential threat to the West?

The first time I saw Putin face to face was when he received three nations from the Group of Rio, and the main topic of discussion was Iraq. That was before the invasion in March 2003. What most impressed me was his great knowledge of the dossiers – something you usually don’t expect from presidents. He’s extremely sharp, very intelligent, obviously cares for Russian interests but at the same time pays attention to the balance of power. A very realist politician. I don’t see him as a great idealist. He’s like a 19th-century politician, very conscious geopolitically.

Now, in the South American chessboard, regarding the Venezuelan crisis, we are seeing a direct confrontation between the four major poles of Eurasia – Russia, China, Iran, Turkey – against the US. And with another BRICS member, Brazil, siding against Russia and China.

In a multipolar world, we now have a huge test, because Brazil presides over the BRICS in 2019. How is Brazil going to be seen inside BRICS? There used to be an atmosphere of trust inside BRICS.

I’ve got to say that based on my experience at the Security Council, when I was ambassador, during the government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso [from 1995 to 2003], the Russians and the Chinese gave immense weight to respect for national sovereignty. In terms of international law, they always stress non-intervention. I hope we won’t have a confrontation like Vietnam in our region. But when President Trump says that all options are on the table, he’s obviously accepting a military solution. This is very dangerous. I see a very sound Brazilian position coming from General Mourao [the Brazilian vice-president]. And yet the Foreign Ministry says Brazil will support politically and economically a government that does not exist – so that already means intervention.

On a personal level, in the drive towards multipolarity, what is the most important story in the world for the next 10 or 20 years? What is the issue that drives you the most?

I think that the fundamental theme is psychological – and also civilizational. It’s respect for The Other – and the acceptance of alterity. And this also concerns international relations. We need to understand that the common good is part of our well-being. This reflects on individual attitudes, in internal attitudes in politics, and in international relations. Look at the current, violent attack on multilateralism. We should see that it’s better to work multilaterally than capitulate to the law of the jungle.

“RIC”: BRICS after Bolsonaro

November 08, 2018

by Ghassan Kadi for The Saker Blog

BRICS is the acronym of the “alliance” that includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

In reality, and with all due respect to Brazil and South Africa, BRICS is about RIC.

With Russia, India and China, in any order, there lies the future of Eurasia; the virtually unchartered quarter that houses over one third of the entire world population; a huge chunk of landmass, rich in resources, not only human resources, and just waiting for the right moment to make its mark in history.

The so-called “Silk Road”, or in reality silk roads, was historically the network of caravan paths that ancient traders took on their journeys from east to west, linking worlds largely unknown to each other, long before Vasco da Gama’s highly documented trips.

And whilst the ancient cultures of India and China flourished in their own right, apart from Alexander’s conquest, the Muslim and subsequent Mongol conquests, there was little historic geopolitical interaction between that far Far East and the Middle East; let alone Europe. The long icy and hard terrain made it very difficult, even for the brave at heart, to take the journey from Beijing to Vienna. The temptations to make that trip did not match the hardship of the journey for the averagely motivated traveler.

But this is all about to change. The new “Silk Road”, the network of super highways that the “RIC” nations are intent to build is going to change this status quo and shorten land distances.

The Trans-Siberian railway is a Russian route and constructing it linked Vladivostok with Moscow, but it was not intended to link China with Europe. If anything, it helped bolster the isolation of the USSR. But the new “Silk Road” project will change the transportation map of the world upside down once and for ever.

The determination to build this massive road network does not need either Brazil or South Africa; again with all due respect to both nations.

By taking many considerations into account, we must be realistic and say that the electoral win of Brazilian candidate Bolsonaro will not affect the prospect of the “Silk Road” one way or the other. The repercussions of his election will affect Brazil more than any other country. Purportedly, his policies will affect global climate, but this is another issue. His fiscal and international policy making decisions may put Brazil under the American sphere of influence, and this unfortunately can and will affect Brazil very adversely, but the damage is likely to be restricted to Brazil only.

With or without Brazil, BRICS can survive, but for it to survive and make a difference, it will need to become more serious about conducting its business.

The first step towards becoming more proactive is best done by establishing proper trust and conciliation between the three major players; Russia, China and India.

The love-hate relationship that marred the Soviet-Maoist era took a while to heal. The Russians and the Chinese seem to have gone many steps ahead towards establishing trust and confidence in each other. But China and India continue to have serious problems, and for as long as they have border and sovereignty disputes, this hinders them from becoming effective partners in every way.

Furthermore, BRICS needs a preamble and a Statement of Purpose. At the moment, it doesn’t have one. With all of its hypocrisies, the Western alliance camouflages itself behind the veil of Christian values, democracy and the “free world” slogans. Thus far, the only undeclared statement of purpose for BRICS seems to be that of defiance to the Western alliance.

The BRICS alliance will face a struggle founding an attractive preamble. Orthodox Christian Russia, predominantly Hindu India and Communist/Taoist/Buddhist China have little in common religiously speaking. Perhaps the BRICS leaders should be using common political grounds instead. They certainly cannot use democracy; not only because such an adoption would make them look as copycats, but also because they have different ideas about democracy, and Russia and China definitely do not endorse Western-style democracy.

In reality however, BRICS can use abstract lofty principles as their preamble; principles such as morality, honesty, and if they want to be less “theological” as it were, they could use principles such as “International law”, “International equality” and the like.

Apart from accumulating gold, building bridges and super road networks, planning fiscal measures to cushion the effects of a possible collapse of the Western economy on their own economies, developing state-of-the-art hypersonic weaponry and giving a clear message announcing that the world is no longer unipolar, the BRICS alliance ought to make clear statements about what kind of alternative world it envisions.

This is very important, because a significant percentage of the world population does not know what to expect if the BRICS alliance becomes the new dominant financial and military power. They have special concerns about China because they don’t know much about China, and they worry not only about whether or not China will be a new colonial super power, but they also worry about one day waking up and seeing traffic signals in Mandarin; so to speak.

To many people across the globe, the Chinese culture, language and modus operandi look like something from another planet.

The Cyrillic Russian and the Devanagari Indian scripts are no less daunting than the Mandarin script, but many Indians and Russians speak English and the West has had much more cultural interaction with both Russia and India than it ever did with China.

Furthermore, for the BRICS alliance to become more viable, it will need to develop a military alliance akin to that of NATO. When and if such an alliance is forged, then members will be protected as any attack on one will be considered as an attack on the whole coalition. Such an alliance will not increase the chances of war. Quite the contrary in fact, as it can lead to much needed stability. If for argument sake North Korea were a member, it would not be in a situation where it can claim that it needs nuclear weapons for self-defense, and secondly, the West would not be threatening to attack for fear of a major global escalation. The Cold-War, costly and potentially disastrous as it was, presents a successful model of nuclear deterrence. And in retrospect, had Vietnam been a member of the Warsaw Pact (or a similar one that included the USSR), it is possible that America’s war on Vietnam would have been averted. A more realistically plausible scenario is the case of former Yugoslavia. Had the Warsaw Pact been still standing, NATO would have never attacked Serbia back in 1999.

To be able to afford a more effective military deterrent, be a viable stand-alone economic power and to be attractive to the rest of the world, the BRICS coalition will ultimately need more member nations. Ideally, it would be of huge significance if Japan could be convinced to join it. The inclusion of Japan will not only add a huge financial power to the group, but it will also generate an in-house regional security to the China Sea region. Baby steps have been recently made between China and Japan towards conciliation, and much more needs to be done. It will take a lot of work and good intentions on both sides to undo a long history of hostilities and distrust.

Other nations that can and arguably should enter the coalition are; Venezuela, Mexico, Argentina, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Korea, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, and post Erdogan Turkey. Why post Erdogan? Because Erdogan’s Turkey can turn BRICS into a bag of TRICS.

Resource-rich Australia has much to gain in joining such an alliance as this will not only bolster its own security, but it will also secure economic stability and on-going trade.

Thus far, all the official visits that the RIC leaders have exchanged, all the business deals they made, all the projects they are embarking on, huge as they are, are only baby steps towards turning their alliance into one that can lead the world and establish the necessary moral, financial and security foundations that are capable of underpinning it.

Over and above establishing a new world reserve currency, setting up an alternative to the US-based Internet and WWW, SWIFT, etc, the brave new world will need hope, trust, morality and concrete assurances for a long-awaited change for the better. These are the real challenges facing the BRICS alliance now; not the Bolsonaro win.

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