Venezuela – Still on the Brink?

April 17, 2019

by Peter Koenig for The Saker Blog

Venezuela – Still on the Brink?

The silence is almost deafening. Is it the quiet before the storm? – Or is the US giving up on Venezuela? I don’t think so. It’s more like a regrouping after a first defeat, well, it’s a multiple defeat, if we start counting since the failed coup attempt against Hugo Chavez on 11 April 2002.

However, Washington is not giving up. The first blows come flying. Pompeo to Maduro – open your borders for humanitarian aid, or else…. which implies the usual, “all options are on the table – ’humanitarian’ military intervention is an option”.

Washington – April 10, 2019, high level US and South American (members of the infamous and nefarious Lima Group, naturally) politicians and military held a secret meeting about the strategic next steps to subdue Venezuela, how to “regime-change” the Maduro Government, by ‘military options’, as reported by investigative journalist Max Blumenthal. The meeting was dubbed ‘Assessing the Use of Military Force in Venezuela.’ It was hosted by the DC-based neoliberal thinktank the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Venezuela’s ambassador to the UN, Samuel Moncada, denounces Trump’s preparations for war to the entire UN community. The UN Community is increasingly taking note of the atrocities and lawlessness of the one rogue UN member that has the arrogance of thinking and acting as if it were above the law, above every law, even the laws made by its own lawmakers, the United States of America. In the context of the failed coup attempt on Venezuela, a group of about 60 UN members formed, including Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Iran and many more, representing about half of the world population, in support of Venezuela and especially in support of the UN Charter. The group requests and will enhance actions for UN members to respect the UN principles, the laws and rules upon which the United Nations were created almost 75 years ago. This is a new twist within the UN body.

On 11 April, US Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, met in Washington with 16 ministers of finance and representatives of 20 countries (Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, France, Germany, Guatemala, Guyana, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Panama, Portugal, Peru, Spain, and the UK) – to enhance the support of some 50 countries of the self-declared president Juan Guaidó, and how to support Venezuela, once the Maduro Government “is gone”. – Hilarious, if it wasn’t so serious. It is as if these, otherwise smart people, were falling into the trap of Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Propaganda Minister – if a lie is repeated enough, it becomes the truth. Indeed, there is no other country in recent history that emulates Hitler and his approaches to world dominance by manipulation as well as Washington. And indeed, it is not quite clear, who was teaching whom.

Venezuela’s Vice-president, Delcy Rodriguez, denounces the preparation of a military intervention in Venezuela by the US, Colombia and Brazil. She warns the world from a humanitarian disaster if the global community, allows the United States and its minions to interfere in Venezuela.

Mexico’s new President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), also vehemently rejects any interference in Venezuela – and offers his Government’s services to mediate a dialogue between the Maduro Government and the opposition, a dialogue to which President Maduro has invited the opposition already many times. To no avail. Mostly because the orders from Washington are clear, no dialogue – no compromise, the Maduro Government must be go.

We will inject the necessary capital into the inefficient oil industry, and our petrol corporations are eager to revive Venezuela’s hydrocarbon industry and make it profitable again. These are the bold and honest words of John Bolton, US National security Adviser. Let’s see where all this hoopla may lead. If it sounds like wishful thinking, it is wishful thinking.
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Even though the true media hero, Julian Assange is for totally illegal reasons behind bars in the UK. And this because laws are made in Washington as Washington sees fit, as Trump signs papers, shows them on TV and they becomes law – and laws of the US are applied throughout the US vassalic world, and especially by its poodle puppets in London. Never mind this minor detail of human derailment. More importantly, it seems that Mr. Assange’s spirit and that of his creation of truth telling, Wikileaks, is increasingly reflected by politicians and journalists – who, though somehow coopted into the ‘system’, feel discomfort with this very system and decide to leak so-called classified information into the non-mainstream truth-telling media.

A classical case may be the secret ‘RoundTable’ that took place in Washington on 10 April to discuss the fate of Venezuela. The news about it was first published by the Grayzone portal on 13 April. Mr. Blumenthal has obtained the information along with a “check-in list” of the high-flying participants to this private ‘round-table’. When confronted and asked for interviews on the event, most members on the list were surprised, even stunned, and refused to talk. Somebody from inside must have leaked the information about the clandestine meeting.

On a totally different issue, but equally important for the concept and philosophy of leaking information to the outside world, is the recent disclosure – “leak” – by someone in the French military that sophisticated French weaponry was used by Saudi Arabia to attack and kill defenseless Yemenis. And this, although the French – and especially Roi Macron himself, has always denied that the French were participating offensively in this also illegal US-UK-NATO proxy war. The French narrative was and is that France’s weapons were only defensive. Sounds as stupid as calling the US War Ministry, the Ministry of Defense.

Are we entering a Leak-zone (no pun intended) – an epoch of leaking, of divulging ‘secret’ and classified information? Have we had enough impunity? It’s time to stop it. What is this “classified” and secret information anyway? In a so-called Democracy – why are the elected government officials privileged to hold on to secret information, unknown to the public who lives under the illusion that they elected them, and – more importantly, or even worse – the public, who pays for them. Can’t you see, dear People, what aberration of “democracy” we have moved into? – Please, just open your eyes and see all these contradictions, contradictions for us, but they serve the chosen- and you believe elected-by-you – elite, lining their pockets and increasing their power.

Now the public must know the truth. This new Leak-Culture may take hold. – If so, its high time, but never too late. It would be another sign towards the empire heaving on its last breath, or as Andrew Vltchek so adroitly puts it, when he describing the ultimate crime of the lawless London gang, the police manhandling a sick and defenseless Julian Assange, “By dragging him from the embassy into a police van, it [the empire] has admitted that it already has begun sewing its own funeral gown.”

Back to Venezuela. Has Washington given up? Most likely not. Although their first coup attempt has failed. The Venezuelan military did not defect. Despite Trump’s warning, even threats, they stood and still stand behind Nicolás Maduro. The humanitarian aid trucks at the border in Cúcuta did not cross into Venezuela. In fact, they were burned by the very opposition, hoping to make believe that Maduro’s troops put them on fire. No. They were indeed the opposition forces and their allies in Colombia. Ironically, the mayor of Cúcuta, after the humanitarian aid stayed stuck at the border, asked Colombian President Duque, whether he, the mayor, might distribute the aid among the poor people of Cúcuta, because this aid was more needed in Cúcuta than in Venezuela.

Second, Juan Guaidó was never able to mobilize the crowds as Washington expected. Guaidó, a US lackey in the first place, lacks any charisma. He does not appeal even to the majority of Venezuela’s opposition. So, he is a dead horse. Bad choice by Washington.

Third, a direct military intervention seems unlikely – at least at this point – as Russia quietly but with considerable force has made known her presence in the country. And so does China. Though China may not have sent military personnel, China’s position was and is: Don’t mess with Venezuela. China and Russia have both huge investments in Venezuela’s hydrocarbon industry.

In the meantime, Bolton and Pompeo have already accused, in addition to Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua as spreading ‘socialism’ in the region. That’s their crime. It’s now in the open – it’s not just the oil, it’s also ideology. They are going to be sanctioned. In Cuba invoking again the 1996 Helms–Burton Act, under which foreign companies are prohibited from doing business in Cuba, lest they are prevented from doing business in the US. In addition, the amount of money Cuban American’s may send home is again limited, after Obama lifted the restrictions. – And exile Cubans – mostly applying to those in Florida – may now sue Cuba in US courts for confiscated and nationalized land after the revolution. And that after 60 years. I wonder, what US courts have to meddle in Cuba. This latest US arrogance stinks to heaven.

Will the world smell it? – Is Washington at the end of the rope with Venezuela? – Will see. Not voluntarily; that’s for sure. But if leakers keep leaking, it’s a sign that even insiders have had it.

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.

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Maria Zakharova discusses US policies towards Venezuela (MUST READ!)

April 14, 2019Maria Zakharova discusses US policies towards Venezuela (MUST READ!)

Excerpt of the weekly MFA  briefing by Maria Zakharova:
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The UN Security Council held a meeting in New York yesterday at the initiative of the US to discuss the humanitarian situation in Venezuela. Russia’s position, whereby this is not the appropriate platform or format for discussing this topic, remains unchanged. We are not turning a blind eye to the challenging social, economic and humanitarian developments in Venezuela. Still, we do not see any threats to regional, let alone international, stability or security.

Representatives of Donald Trump’s administration are obsessive in hammering home the message that “all options are on the table.” This is a matter of grave concern. Let me reiterate that the possible military scenario, if this is what representatives of the US establishment have in mind, would lead nowhere. It is dangerous, since it could bring about a civil war. We urge our US colleagues to review these irresponsible plans that are at odds with international law. I would like to draw the attention of our Western colleagues once again to what they have done in a number of countries around the world. Just look at the scenarios you have been trying to follow there, and what came out of it.

We will continue to do everything we can to prevent the dangerous scenarios that we witnessed in a number of countries from taking place in Venezuela. We are glad that there is little support for this option within the international community, even though Washington regrettably persists in its efforts.

It is also unfortunate that the US Security Council was not able to refrain from discussing the humanitarian situation in Venezuela. Vice President Mike Pence’s remarks went beyond the bounds of decency when he called for recognising Venezuela’s new leader, backing up his claims with ultimatums and threats of new sanctions.

Representatives of the US administration do not hesitate when it comes to breaking fundamental principles and norms of international and regional law as they seek to unseat the legitimate President of Venezuela. Aggressive rhetoric against official diplomatic representatives of the Venezuelan government, recognising appointees who appeared out of nowhere, illegal takeover of diplomatic property, financial assets and other acts of this kind are all reminiscent of gang warfare rather than what professional politicians and diplomats normally do. It is possible that the US is guided by its own experience when it promotes broad recognition and largely directs the appointment of so-called Venezuelan ambassadors and official representatives around the world. Over the past years, we have seen people without any prior experience in public service being appointed US ambassadors, be it in executive or legislative branches, let alone diplomatic work. These were people that were in good graces of one administration or another or contributed to an election campaign financially. They were rewarded by ambassador posts. This is how it happens in the US. This does not mean, however, that this approach, coupled with violations of international law, should be applied elsewhere.

Washington conceals its disdain for the decades-old international legal framework behind the opaque notion of a rules-based world order and imposes it everywhere, including in regional and international affairs. This fully applies to the call by Mike Pence on the UN Security Council to withdraw the mandate from Venezuela’s permanent representative, as well as to the prospect of the US putting forward a resolution recognising the legitimacy of this country’s alternative government and its representative.

There were new developments lately regarding this situation. In particular, the Permanent Council of the Organisation of American States, a prominent structure in the Western hemisphere, decided to accept the appointment of a permanent representative designated by Venezuela’s National Assembly. This is nothing short of an attempt to legitimise the dual rule in Venezuela. The fallout from this is not just hypothetical, but real, since it establishes the duality of power in a sovereign country. All the prerequisites are created for a major internal standoff in this country. Instead of promoting a settlement and building bridges between the political sides, they are doing just the opposite. The sides are being separated only to be pitted against one another so as to make it impossible to settle this conflict by political or diplomatic means.

In addition to this, having placed on the agenda the question of the status of Venezuelan government’s official representatives, the US delegation ignored all legal arguments of other countries that are members of the Organisation of American States. In particular, this related to the fact that the Permanent Council is not entitled to determine the powers of delegations, and questions of this kind cannot be decided by a simple majority. Instead, they must be reviewed by the General Assembly of the Organisation of American States, to say the least. Therefore, the decision taken by the Permanent Council directly contradicts the organisation’s statutory documents, undermines it and is detrimental to the status of this structure. But who cares when the stakes are so high?

We call on our partners in Latin America and the Caribbean to think about the fallout from this precedent and how it will affect the future work of the Organisation of American States. I want to ask our foreign partners: What will happen if the US tries to further promote the approach of recognising a representative of an impostor as tested within the Organisation of American States? Who will be targeted after Venezuela?

In this connection, I would like to remind you that there is no such notion as collective recognition of governments and their powers in international law. This is a sovereign right of every country. Only the head of state, head of government and foreign minister are entitled to appoint official representatives abroad. We firmly oppose all attempts by a number of countries to question the powers of the Venezuelan delegation within various frameworks, and remain committed to fending off any such attempts moving forward. The ongoing developments are merely an attempt to revert human development to a primitive state.

Regarding humanitarian aid to Venezuela, there are no objective reasons for imposing it on Caracas. There are no hostilities taking place in the country, there were no natural disasters or epidemic outbreaks. Once again, let me point out that the best way to help the people of Venezuela is to lift the illegal unilateral sanctions that target primarily the people of Venezuela. This is what Washington is after, going to great lengths in order to make sure that every Venezuelan suffers and shapes his or her political position accordingly. Washington tested these tactics in many regions of the world.

For example, efforts to block the access of regional and local authorities to financial resources constitute a serious challenge for the people, while no one is questioning the legitimacy of these resources. Just think about it: the cost of humanitarian aid Washington seeks to impose on Venezuela is in the tens of millions of dollars, while the overall effect of sanctions, according to Venezuela, is estimated at over 110 billion dollars. Just give them their money back, lift the sanctions and the country will be back on track. Even a small portion of this enormous amount would have helped deal with the shortage of medicine and other essential goods in Venezuela, and help launch the needed economic reforms. Let me reiterate what we have been saying all along: if the package of measures that is currently used in Venezuela were applied to any so-called developed Western country, let alone developing ones, the targeted country would collapse.

The use by Washington of restrictive measures and threats against countries that work with official Caracas, in particular Cuba, which has been suffering from a US blockade for more than 50 years, is extremely cynical. By the way, by failing to abide by the UN General Assembly resolution urging to end the embargo against Cuba is yet another example of the US showing disdain for UN resolutions.

As for Russia, we stand for strict compliance with norms and principles of international law in all aspects related to a settlement in Venezuela, against ratcheting up tension and imposing outside rule on a sovereign country.

Yellow Vest week in review: March 16 to be the biggest march in months

March 14, 2019

by Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker Blog

The fundamental problem with media coverage regarding regarding the Yellow Vests is that it fails to see it as an already-permanent movement, or even a possibly-permanent one: each week must be either the biggest one yet, or the very last one.

The Yellow Vests see it similarly, but differently: for them each week is the very last one, too… because they will FINALLY storm Élysée Palace (Act 16: “Insurrection”, Act 17: “Decisive Act”, and now Act 18 on March 16: “Ultimatum”.)

The Yellow Vests are like the Vietcong: it’s not that they are so innately tough, it’s that they have nowhere else to go. Ask a protesting Yellow Vester and they’ll tell you: they have no money to pay their bills, much less do anything fun on the weekends… so why not go protest and enjoy what you can’t buy – camaraderie?

As a journalist who has covered every medium- to major-sized protest movement in France in the last decade (and the small ones, i.e. pro-Palestine, anti-imperialism, anti-capitalism, etc.), I have come to deeply resent and fear the Yellow Vests.

What a damned long workout they impose on us! They are marching 10-15km every Saturday, with zero consideration for TV journalists who have to carry equipment. Furthermore, why on earth do they march so damned fast?! If Guinness keeps this record, the Yellow Vests must take the crown for “protester km/h”.

This is surely the legacy of the constant police attacks during the first six weeks – you can’t hit what you can’t catch.

It’s also more confirmation that so many of them have not been politically active (which is also why so many get arrested – they don’t know what they are doing): French demonstrations are supposed to be festive, leisurely, tipsy strolls. French union demonstrations are basically half-parties: you lose a day’s pay… but there will be loud music, lots of alcohol, cheap barbecue, and scatological signs instead of proper propaganda. “We didn’t get our political demands? Oh well, at least we had a good time.” But at Yellow Vest demos public intoxication is far, far rarer and political seriousness is far greater.

The most significant media polls about the Vesters (and there are crazily few polls about them) revolves around a majority of France now not wanting them to protest every Saturday. The effect of this can be summed up easily: So the hell what?

Since when did political protesters need the approval of the majority to practice the modern right to free assembly? Protesters are usually against the often-clueless majority. They wouldn’t be protesting if the majority was getting it right! It’s not as if the Yellow Vests are a clearly manipulated, virtue signalling, identity-based, hipster/bobomovement, like the recent anti-Semitism marches (excuse, me I meant the marches to pave the way for criminalising anti-Zionism).

But they must keep broadcasting these very particular polls for a reason, and it was summed up by failed 2017 Macron-party candidate and sociologist Jean Viard, who said, “When there is a poll which says that 70% of France is fed up with the Yellow Vest demonstrations, we can stop the movement.”

Well that is certainly debatable, no?

Why should we choose 70%? How will they “stop the movement”? (Answer: reimpose a State of Emergency.) Isn’t 30% still a huge minority in a West European / liberal / bourgeois democracy, which gives some support for minority rights (the wealthy minorities more than others, of course)?

I give the reader that quote just to illustrate how France’s mainstream media and mainstream politicians are currently thinking, which is “When can we really pounce?”

Other polls show that while a majority wants the marches to stop, a majority still supports the Yellow Vests – these are two different things, and the latter is more significant in the long (and short!) term.

The main reason French people are increasingly against the marches themselves is the French tendency to get easily bored.

The French desire for sensation – “Something, anything… just not more ennui!” – is constant (and the basis of Western decadence). Combine that with the fact that these protests are not that fun unless you believe in the Yellow Vest movement. As I related, it’s long, hard work, and it’s in the cold. (The fact that France has a winter protest movement is truly unprecedented, and should have immediately put our gauges into the red.)

And it’s violent. Last Saturday, after a brief coffee my colleague and I had to insist that a cafe off the Champs-Elysées unlock their door to let us out. They wanted to block out the violence and enjoy their drinks, but we had to cover the impending, inevitable sundown attacking of the Yellow Vesters by cops. As the manager opened the door he wished us a loud and hearty “Bon gazage!” Or, “Enjoy getting tear gassed!” Tear gas is – and I have tasted many of France’s finest vintages – not a fun sensation. Most French today can’t even handle a few weeks of Lenten fastidiousness (rather minor, compared with Ramadan), much less four consecutive months of political piety.

However, the Yellow Vests absolutely do not care what anyone thinks, except their fellow Yellow Vests, and so they are not going to quit the field just because polls show a majority wants them to stay home. “These polls are all politically manipulated,” a Vester told me. She must be a right-wing, deplorable conspiracy theorist, of course.

No, she’s absolutely right. There is a revolving door between the government and the top polling institutes: Macron’s token Muslim minister (and a most half-hearted Muslim, at that) went from spokesperson for the president to a top spot at IPSOS, the nation’s top polling institute (and run by private interests, as it is not a public institute).

Relaying these in-bed-with-the-government polls is the job of the sycophantic mainstream media… and that’s why more than half of France says that the media has done a bad job covering the Yellow Vests. It is amusing to read this article (in French), because from the very lede paragraph the journalist writing it is defensive, accusatory and self-justifying. Anyway, 70%+ say coverage is too focused on violence, and too unbalanced, and too corporate-driven.

Basically they are saying – just as France doesn’t want massive opinion polling which is not manipulated by the private sector (like in China) – France doesn’t want a Western liberal / capitalist system of journalism but a state-controlled and state-supported one (like in China). Yellow Vesters will figure this out, Inshallah.

Vesters only trusting Vesters… that explains why they will, I believe, eventually form a political party, as no other political party can be trusted to try and implement their political demands.

Biggest march yet… until the next huge one

Haven’t the French finally realized that mere marches don’t get them anywhere? They only got any concessions after major violence. They need a general strike and a permanent encampment!

The tried the latter last week at the Eiffel Tower – shut down immediately, with extreme prejudice. At least Paris is consistent: they were against Tahrir Square in Egypt… until the protesters won, of course. And in all the revisionist history books / journalism accounts. Let’s not forget that Sarkozy’s foreign minister offered to send Tunisia security forces to put down their revolution in 2011.

March 16 will definitely see the biggest march in Paris in months – tens of thousands of people, guaranteed. Lately it has been 6-9,000, but I could be low because I can’t put eyes on every single Yellow Vest gathering in Paris on Saturdays. Of course, this is about 3 times what the government says, which is my general rule of thumb for crowd counting of anti-government protesters.

March 16 is indeed an “Ultimatum” because it has been expressly designed to give the Yellow Vests’ verdict on Macron’s two-month “National Debate”, which was the biggest and most attention-getting concession he made to the movement.

The National Debate, LOL.… Fidel Castro-sized speeches from Macron, minus a Fidel Castro-sized heart for his nation and for international solidarity.

What’s the most useless job in France in 2019? The guy or gal whose job it will be to condense all the data compiledfrom the many town hall meetings. That final report will be, in the best traditions of France’s (liberal bourgeois) bureaucracy, forever stuck in the limbo of en cours de traitement (being processed).

It’s going to be so big that Macron had to try and steal its thunder by extending the National Debate into April, hastily announcing a “Phase 2”. So, the fiction – that the government cares / is listening / will implement public opinion once they properly gather it – will continue for a few more weeks. What will be most interesting is when that stops.

(Interesting like – what happens with Eurozone Quantitive Easing stops? But that’s going to continue forever, per the recent and very surprising European Central Bank announcement. This was the only way they could prove me wrong in September 2017, when QE was first scheduled to stop: that European Sovereign Debt Crisis II will hit as soon as free money to high finance stops).

Truly, we can’t underestimate the significance for France of the end of the National Debate: because the protest are still going on, the government simply must do something… but now what?

However, the “debate” truly is over – Macron has gone back to business-as-usual – being Mack the Knife: He announced that he will rewrite the unemployment system by himself, ending 30+ years of collaborative efforts between unions and bosses.

While we’re talking about ancient history, let’s remind ourselves: It’s not like the pre-Yellow Vest era wasn’t full of regular anti-government protests…. The Vesters are adamant, mostly, that they remain aloof from politics. Fine, but politics will continue.

Yes, the Vesters have caused a four-month stop in the onslaught of “reforms”, but Macron’s return to his usual modus operandi means that we will soon be talking about unions during the week, Yellow Vests on the weekend. After all, unions marching during the week have been guaranteed sights during all of Macron’s era, and most of Hollande’s: we are merely now “regressing to normal” in West European (Strongman) Liberal Democracy in the EU / Eurozone age.

The National Debate never had a chance, all of France knew, because one cannot debate with a know-it-all; for some reason “public service” has become infested with individualism in the 21st century, which is why politicians and journalists all adopt this posture of arrogance, instead of one of subservience to the greater good. This is just the latest example of Macron personally rewriting (labor code, rail reform, policing reform, justice reform, etc.) a huge part of French socioeconomic culture in order to make it more like the inferior, more unequal US, UK and German models. Even though he has an absolute majority in Parliament, he’ll probably even make the unemployment system changes law by executive decree to give his party members plausible deniability during re-election.This of, course, will certainly provoke more protests by the traditional protesting groups, like unions, NGOs and a Roman Catholic clergy concerned for their members.

So Macron is going back to doing what he does – remaking France in the image of the neoliberal US – and unions will go back to making a big show of opposing him in the hopes of winning concessions for their dues-paying members, and also to water-down Macron’s decrees a tad for non-members. Just a tad, though.

‘Who’s in charge? We are!’ – chant of the Yellow Vests

And this is really the key of this article: the Yellow Vests have lodged an unprecedented foothold in politics; they have one-upped the unions, and thus they are now truly the ones who “represent the People / workers”. They are the ones setting the agenda, and the ones the government / bosses most fear. The Yellow Vests are a minor revolution, which is why the first question from every mainstream journalist to an analyst is, “When will they stop?”

(Of course, the question from every mainstream French journalist regarding the Algeria protests is: “How can we help them continue?”)

The only way the Yellow Vests could be compelled to take off their vests is for France to have true democracy… but such a thing is simply unprecedented and impossible in the West European liberal democratic system. The only way for that is to have a post-1917, socialist-inspired system. Look at all the millions of fingerprints on Cuba’s new constitution – contrarily, there will only be one set of prints on France’s new unemployment system: Macron’s.

(Interesting sidebar: the most poplar issue discussed at the massive debates over the content of Cuba’s new constitution was making marriage “between a man and a woman” into a “union between two persons”. What is depressing is that – even in Cuba, where the people have the best combination of political intelligence, political inspiration and political involvement – even they are obsessed by this totally useless, sectarian issue!

However, what’s amazing is how their vanguard leaders recognised that, “Overwhelmingly, the (average Cuban citizen’s) proposals were against the proposed change.” And… they actually took out this change from the constitution! In Cuba, the leaders actually listen to and then implement the democratic will, unlike in France – voila, socialist democracy versus liberal democracy.

In Cuba, the majority is not forced to be beholden to the demands of any 1%, whether that 1% is monetary or sexual.

With the UK now teaching transgenderism to schoolchildren (to Muslim kids first, of course) the less-than-1% (sexually and sartorially) is now often the main beneficiary of Western public policy.…)

Of course, mass state violence, arrests, trials and jailings are other methods to force their Vests off; physical and judicial repression is obviously being used by Macron to intimidate people from protesting. Every day newspapers urban and rural are filled with the latest sentences for Yellow Vesters, but it won’t be enough to stop them.

Not even the “Anti-Yellow Vest Law”, which the Orwellian Mainstream Media prefers to call the “Anti-Rioters Law” – which is being deftly manipulated by Macron past a possibly-meddling legislative branch – will stop the Vesters, either.

LOL at Macron! High unemployment and unprecedented discontent… and you want to roll back the jobless system this spring? (Pension rollbacks coming in autumn, so we have more to look forward to.) The guy is either oblivious, anti-democratic, or the puppet of someone else.

But look at all the coverage of Brexit, and the demand for a 2nd referendum – Leavers will only respect democracy when they get THEIR way. (Me, I’m telling my English friends to vote “Leave” in Brexit Vote #3 and “Remain” in Brexit Vote #4, with Brexit votes 5-7 possibly write-ins for Mickey Mouse, who would have surely respected the first democratic vote.) West Europeans simply ARE anti-democratic because they have never been trained in modern democracy, which is necessarily socialist-inspired.

Bourgeois, West European, liberal democracy is not democracy, and we all see that in the 21st century: True change in France can only come when they realize that French arrogance regarding their terrible institutions has been unmerited for all these decades.

However, that realisation only comes after adopting the internationalism of the socialist view – other ideas (Gasp! Even non-French ones!) are needed to survive in 2019.

Barring this epiphany, Paris will bunker down on March 16… and far beyond.

Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for PressTV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. His work has appeared in various journals, magazines and websites, as well as on radio and television. He can be reached on Facebook.

‘America First’: A Stronger Monroe Doctrine

‘America First’: A Stronger Monroe Doctrine

FEDERICO PIERACCINI | 07.03.2019 | WORLD / AMERICAS

‘America First’: A Stronger Monroe Doctrine

The previous articles (firstsecond) examined what appears to be a coordinated strategy between Moscow and Beijing to contain the damage wrought by the United States around the world. This strategy’s effectiveness relies heavily on the geographical position of the two countries vis-a-vis the United States and the area of contention. We have seen how the Sino-Russian strategy has been effective in Asia and the Middle-East, greatly stemming American disorder. Moscow and Beijing have less capacity to contain the US and influence events in Europe, given that much depends on the Europeans themselves, who are officially Washington’s allies but are in reality treated as colonies. With the new “America First” doctrine, it is the central and southern parts of the American continent that are on the receiving end of the US struggling to come to terms with the diminishment of its hitherto untrammelled influence in the world.

South and Central American countries blossomed under the reign of socialist or leftist anti-imperialist governments for the first decade of this century. Such terms as “21st-century socialism” were coined, as was documented in the 2010 Oliver Stone documentary film South of the Border. The list of countries with leftist governments was impressive: Fernando Lugo (Paraguay), Evo Morales (Bolivia), Lula da Silva (Brazil), Rafael Correa (Ecuador), Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (Argentina), Fidel Castro (Cuba), Daniel Ortega (Nicaragua) and Hugo Chávez (Venezuela).

We can establish a close correlation between Washington’s actions since 1989 and the political roller-coaster experienced in South America in the ensuing thirty years.

Washington, drunk on the experience of being the only superpower in the post-Soviet period, sought to lock in her commanding position through the establishment of full-spectrum dominance, a strategy that entails being able to deal with any event in any area of ​​the globe, treating the world as Washington’s oyster.

Washington’s endeavor to shape the world in her own image and likeness meant in practical terms the military apparatus increasing its power projection through carrier battle groups and a global missile defense, advancing towards the land and sea borders of Russia and China.

Taking advantage of the US dollar’s dominance in the economic, financial and commercial arenas, Washington cast aside the principles of the free market, leaving other countries to contend with an unfair playing field.

As later revealed by Edward Snowden, Washington exploited her technological dominance to establish a pervasive surveillance system. Guided by the principle of American exceptionalism, combined with a desire to “export democracy”, “human rights” became an enabling justification to intervene in and bomb dozens of countries over three decades, aided and abetted by a compliant and controlled media dominated by the intelligence and military apparatuses.

Central and South America enjoyed an unprecedented political space in the early 2000s as a result of Washington focusing on Russia, China, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Somalia, Georgia and Ukraine. The Latin Americans exploited this breathing space, with a dozen countries becoming outposts of anti-imperialism within a decade, advancing a strong socialist vision in opposition to free-market fundamentalism.

Both Washington and Moscow placed central importance on South America during the Cold War, which was part of the asymmetric and hybrid war that the two superpowers undertook against each other. The determination by the United States to deny the Soviet Union a presence in the American hemisphere had the world holding its collective breath during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

As any student of international relations knows, the first objective of a regional power is to prevent the emergence of another hegemon in any other part of the world. The reason behind this is to obviate the possibility that the new power may venture into other regions occupied by other hegemonic powers, thereby upsetting the status quo. The second primary objective is to prevent access by a foreign power to its own hemisphere. Washington abides by this principle through its Monroe Doctrine, set forth by President James Monroe, with the United States duly expelling the last European powers from the Americas in the early 19th century.

In analyzing the events in South America, one cannot ignore an obvious trend by Washington. While the United States was intent on expanding its empire around the world by consolidating more than 800 military bases in dozens of countries (numbering about 70), South America was experiencing a political rebirth, positioning itself at the opposite end of the spectrum from Washington, favoring socialism over capitalism and reclaiming the ancient anti-imperialist ideals of Simon Bolivar, a South American hero of the late 18th century.

Washington remained uncaring and indifferent to the political changes of South America, focusing instead on dominating the Middle East through bombs and wars. In Asia, the Chinese economy grew at an impressive rate, becoming the factory of the world. The Russian Federation, from the election of Putin in 2000, gradually returned to being a military power that commanded respect. And with the rise of Iran, destined to be the new regional power in the Middle East thanks to the unsuccessful US intervention in Iraq in 2003, Washington began to dig her own grave without even realizing it.

Meanwhile, South America united under the idea of a common market and a socialist ideology. The Mercosur organization was founded in 1991 by Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. But it was only when Venezuela, led by Chavez, became an associate member in 2004 that the organization assumed a very specific political tone, standing almost in direct opposition to Washington’s free-market template.

Meanwhile, China and Russia continued their political, military and economic growth, focusing with particular attention on South America and the vast possibilities of economic integration from 2010. Frequent meetings were held between Russia and China and various South American leaders, culminating in the creation of the BRICS organization (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). Brazil, first with Lula and then with Dilma Rousseff, was the unofficial spokesperson for the whole of South America, aligning the continent with the emerging Eurasian powers. It is during these years, from the birth of the BRICS organization (2008/2009), that the world began a profound transformation flowing from Washington’s progressive military decline, consumed as it was by endless wars that ended up eroding Washington’s status as a world power. These wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have deeply undermined US military prestige, opening unprecedented opportunities for alliances and future changes to the global order, especially with the rise of Iran’s influence in the region as a counterweight to US imperialism.

China, Russia and the South American continent were certainly among the first to understand the potential of this political and historical period; we can recall meetings between Putin and Chavez, or the presence of Chinese leaders at numerous events in South America. Beijing has always offered high-level economic assistance through important trade agreements, while Moscow has sold a lot of advanced military hardware to Venezuela and other South American countries.

Economic and military assistance are the real bargaining chips Moscow and Beijing offer to countries willing to transition to the multipolar revolution while having their backs covered at the same time.

The transformation of the world order from a unipolar to a multipolar system became a fact in 2014 with the return of Crimea to the Russian Federation following the NATO coup in Ukraine. The inability for the US to prevent this fundamental strategic defeat for Brussels and Washington marked the beginning of the end for the Pentagon still clinging on to a world order that disappeared in 1991.

As the multipolar mutation developed, Washington changed tactics, with Obama offering a different war strategy to the one advanced during the George W. Bush presidency. Projecting power around the globe with bombs, carrier battle groups and boots on the ground was no longer viable, with domestic populations being in no mood for any further major wars.

The use of soft power has always been part of the US toolkit for influencing events in other countries; but given the windfall of the unipolar moment, soft power was set aside in favor of hard power. However, following the failures of explicit hard power from 1990 to 2010, soft power was back in favor, and organizations like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the International Republican Institute (IRI) set about training and financing organizations in dozens of hostile countries to subvert governments by underhanded means (colour revolutions, the Arab Spring, etc.).

Among those on the receiving end of this soft-power onslaught were the South American countries deemed hostile to Washington, already under capitalist-imperialist pressure for a number of years in the form of sanctions.

It is during this time that South America suffered a side effect of the new multipolar world order. The United States started retreating home after losing influence around the globe. This effectively meant focusing once again on its own backyard: Central and South America.

Covert efforts to subvert governments with socialist ideas in the hemisphere increased. First, Kirchner’s Argentina saw the country pass into the hands of the neoliberal Macri, a friend of Washington. Then Dilma Rousseff was expelled as President of Brazil through the unlawful maneuvers of her own parliament, following which Lula was imprisoned, allowing for Bolsonaro, a fan of Washington, to win the presidential election.

In Ecuador, Lenin Moreno, the successor of Correa, betrayed his party and his people by being a cheerleader for the Pentagon, even protesting the asylum granted to Assange in Ecuador’s embassy in London. In Venezuela following Chavez’s suspicious death, Maduro was immediately targeted by the US establishment as the most prominent representative of an anti-imperialist and anti-American Chavismo. The increase in sanctions and the seizure of assets further worsened the situation in Venezuela, leading to the disaster we are seeing today.

South America finds itself in a peculiar position as a result of the world becoming more multipolar. The rest of the world now has more room to maneuver and greater independence from Washington as a result of the military and economic umbrella offered by Moscow and Beijing respectively.

But for geographic and logistical reasons, it is more difficult for China and Russia to extend the same guarantees and protections to South America as they do in Asia, the Middle East and Europe. We can nevertheless see how Beijing offers an indispensable lifeline to Caracas and other South American countries like Nicaragua and Haiti in order to enable them to withstand Washington’s immense economic pressure.

Beijing’s strategy aims to limit the damage Washington can inflict on the South American continent through Beijing’s economic power, without forgetting the numerous Chinese interests in the region, above all the new canal between the Atlantic and the Pacific that runs through Nicaragua (it is no coincidence that the country bears the banner of anti-imperialist socialism) that will be integrated into the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Moscow’s objective is more limited but just as refined and dangerous to Washington’s hegemony. A glimpse of Moscow’s asymmetrical military power was given when two Russian strategic bombers flew to Venezuela less than four months ago, sending an unmistakable signal to Washington. Moscow has the allies and the technical and military capacity to create an air base with nuclear bombers not all that far away from the coast of Florida.

Moscow and Beijing do not intend to allow Washington to mount an eventual armed intervention in Venezuela, which would open the gates of hell for the continent. Moscow and Beijing have few interlocutors left on the continent because of the political positions of several countries like Argentina, Brazil and Colombia, which far prefer an alliance with Washington over one with Moscow or Beijing. We can here see the tendency of the Trump administration to successfully combine its “America First” policy with the economic and military enforcement of the Monroe Doctrine, simultaneously pleasing his base and the hawks in his administration.

Leaving aside a possible strategy (Trump tends to improvise), it seems that Trump’s domestic political battle against the Democrats, declared lovers of socialism (naturally not as strident as the original Soviet or Chavist kind), has combined with a foreign-policy battle against South American countries that have embraced socialism.

The contribution from China and Russia to the survival of the South American continent is limited in comparison to what they have been able to do in countries like Syria, not to mention the deterrence created by Russia in Ukraine in defending the Donbass or with China vis-a-vis North Korea.

The multipolar revolution that is changing the world in which we live in will determine the rest of the century. One of the final battles is being played out in South America, in Venezuela, and its people and the Chavist revolution are at the center of the geopolitical chessboard, as is Syria in the Middle East, Donbass in Central Europe, Iran in the Persian Gulf, and the DPRK in Asia. These countries are at the center of the shift from a unipolar to a multipolar world order, and the success of this shift will be seen if these countries are able to resist US imperialism as a result of Moscow and Beijing respectively offering military help and deterrence and economic survival and alternatives.

Russia and China have all the necessary means to place limits on the United States, protecting the world from a possible thermonuclear war and progressively offering an economic, social and diplomatic umbrella to those countries that want to move away from Washington and enjoy the benefits of living in a multipolar reality, advancing their interests based on their needs and desires and favoring sovereignty and national interest over bending over to please Washington.

The Saker interviews Jorge Valero, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

Source

February 19, 2019

[This interview was made for the Unz Review]

I am continuing to try to understand what is really happening in Venezuela by talking to those who actually know that and, following my interview with Michael Hudson, it is today it is my immense privilege and honor to present you with a full interview I made with His Excellency Mr. Jorge Valero, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary. Permanent Representative of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva.

I am immensely grateful to Ambassador Valero for taking the time to answer my questions in extenso just a few days away from what might well turn out to be a US false flag or even invasion of Venezuela (promised to all by Trump and Guaido for the 23rd of February).  May God grant him and the Venezuelan people the wisdom, courage and strength to defeat the Empire!

The Saker
——-

The Saker: My first question is about you personally.  There is a Wikipedia entry under your name (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jorge_Valero) but since Wikipedia is, at best, a hit-and-miss kind of source, what could you tell our readers about yourself which they ought to know before we turn to the issue of the current situation in Venezuela?

Ambassador Valero: I was born in Valera, State of Trujillo, Venezuela on November 8th, 1946. I graduated from the University of Los Andes (ULA, for its acronym in Spanish) as a historian. I did my graduate studies at the University College London, in Latin American Studies. I am an expert in diplomatic archives. I was an undergraduate professor and the University of Los Andes and a graduate professor at the Central University of Venezuela (UCV, for its acronym in Spanish). I was elected as a Congressman to the Legislative Assembly of the State of Trujillo, and later Congressman to the National Congress. I was Venezuela’s Ambassador to the Korean Republic. When, President Chávez, was elected in 1998; he appointed me as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. I presided the Presidential Commission appointed by President Chávez, which was in charge of organizing the II OPEC Summit, in Caracas on September 2000. I have been Ambassador – Permanent Representative of Venezuela to the OAS; the UN – New York and currently to the UNOG. I have written a literary work in various genres. More than 20 essays; poetry; diplomacy and social-political analysis. Dozens of national and international conferences.

The Saker: One of the major efforts of Hugo Chavez was to establish a number of multi-lateral frameworks and agreements like the ALBA, CELAC, UNASUR, and projects like the SUCRE, the Petrocaribe, TeleSUR or PetroSUR.  How effective have these frameworks and projects been in supporting the Venezuelan struggle against US imperialism?  Do you feel that these entities are playing a helpful role or not?

Ambassador Valero: Hugo Chávez was a paradigm of Latin American and Caribbean integration. In this regard, he was a key factor in the creation of ALBA, UNASUR, CELAC, PETROCARIBE, and TELESUR. Chávez reclaimed the integrationist ideology of our Liberator Simón Bolívar, who prosed the creation of “La Patria Grande,Nuestroamericana” (Great Our American Homeland), to defend the interests of our peoples and face any foreign threat raising the flags of unity, peace, sovereignty and self-determination of the peoples. PETROCARIBE is a solidary initiative in favor of developing countries, notably, the countries of our Caribbean surroundings that benefit from an oil bill with discounts and with long payment terms. Chávez has also been a paradigm in the promotion of a multi-polar world, where foreign affairs are founded by sovereign equality of States, overcoming the decaying North American Empire unilateralism. Thus, the Empire’s fury has been unleashed against the Bolivarian Revolution: coups d’état, oil sabotage, the promotion of violence and terrorism against the Venezuelan people. Henceforth, the continuous coup d’état promoted by the supremacist-racist-xenophobic and war-mongering government of Donald Trump that aims to impose a governing puppet and the threats of a military invasion in our homeland, which are part of the above-described context.

Hugo Chávez advocated for a new type and renewed multilateralism. Respect for the founding principles of international law and the Charter of the United Nations. Multilateralism is disrupted by Trump’s government, which has disregarded universal agreements on climate change; withdrawn from both UNESCO and the Human Rights Council; disregarded the agreement on the peaceful use of atomic energy with Iran, signed by USA, Germany, France, United Kingdom, China and the European Union; retraced the path to normalizing the bilateral relations with Cuba; unleashes a commercial war against China, and threatens the Russian Federation with an atomic war in his dispute to control outer space. Vis-à-vis those reckless and aggressive policies that threaten human existence it is necessary to raise the flags of multilateralism even higher.

The Saker: The Empire has created the so-called “Lima Group” which is just a typical trick to bypass the UN or legitimate regional organizations.  This is exactly what the USA did with the so-called “friends of Syria,” and the goal is the same: to overthrow a democratically elected legitimate government and replace it with a vassal puppet regime.  Yet countries like Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, and Peru all agreed to participate in this anti-Venezuelan farce.  How do you explain such a betrayal by so many of these Latin American countries?  Does their agreement to betray Venezuela and serve the Empire’s interest not show that these states have no real sovereignty or foreign policy and that they are all de-facto US colonies?

Ambassador Valero: Certainly, the self-proclaimed “Lima Group” is a cartel made up of satellite governments of the imperial government to break Latin American and Caribbean unity, and, due to the failure of using the Ministry of the Colonies, which is the OAS to isolate Venezuela in this organization. The empire and its minions couldn’t approve Article 20 of Inter-American Democratic Charter of the Permanent Council of the OAS and resort to the United Nations Security Council, where they also failed. The creation of puppet governments by the US is not new. It has happened in Iraq, Iran, Libya, and Syria. The puppets imposed in those countries where supported by armed terrorist groups, including, mercenary armies trained and financed from abroad.

Nevertheless, in Venezuela, the puppet has no support from the people nor the military, since in our country there is a consistent and patriotic civilian-military alliance, which guarantees and will guarantee -come what may- the defense of the sovereign and sacred jurisdiction of Simon Bolivar’s homeland. The US satellite governments against Venezuela are a minority even in Latin America and the Caribbean. Of the 193 countries that make up the United Nations only 34 support the puppet, which translates into 17.6%. For example, a single country in Africa and there are 54. One in Oceania and there are 15. One in the Middle East and there are 16. 15 countries in Europe, and there are 50. And 16 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean and there are 35. You are right, the satellite countries that follow the Empire’s orders have no autonomous and sovereign foreign policy. Some of these governments, particularly, in Latin America are presided by people that have a criminal background: drug trafficking, corruption, genocide, paramilitarism, sexual offenses. Some are the result of a coup d’état.

The Saker: Another interesting initiative was the creation of Petro-cryptocurrency.  Now with the inflation making the Bolivar almost useless, how effective do you believe this alternative currency is to 1) bypass US sanctions, and sabotage and 2) serve as an alternative currency to help the Venezuelan economy recover from its current plight?

Ambassador Valero: The Petro-cryptocurrency was created to free us from the tyranny of the US dollar in the international financial market. Therefore, Trump’s government has established Draconian measures to block the flow of this cryptocurrency. Incidentally, the economic war and the unilateral coercive measures bring about galloping inflation, migration and relocation of people abroad. We are blocked from accessing the capital markets. They rob the Venezuelan State’s property in the US. They kidnap the Venezuelan State’s bank accounts in that country. The unilateral coercive measures and the sanctions cause, as expressed by the former UN Independent Expert, Alfred de Zayas, death and suffering. Measures against international law and the Charter of the United Nations and deny the Venezuelan people their human rights. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on unilateral coercive measures, Idriss Jazairy acknowledged this.

The Saker: Russia and China have been working on an alternative to the SWIFT.  Is that something the Venezuelan government is also looking into?

Ambassador Valero: Experts from China and Russia provide expert advice to the Venezuelan State to successfully overcome the financial blockage and criminal sanctions of Trump’s government.

The Saker: What can you tell us about the current state of the Venezuelan petrochemicals industry?  Now that the US has stolen 7 BILLION dollars belonging to PDVSA, how can the PDVSA continue to operate after being robbed from such a huge sum of money?  At what levels is Venezuela currently producing and refining oil?

Ambassador Valero: The damage caused to the Venezuelan economy surpasses 35 billion dollars in the blockade of assets and accounts. They try to rob the Venezuelan peoples from the company CITGO that operates in Dallas, Texas that distributes gasoline and fuels to thousands of gas stations in the US East Coast. The Bolivarian government will undertake all the necessary legal actions to avoid that the Trump government steals the national patrimony. PDVSA, our national oil company, is completely deployed to guarantee the production, distribution, and commercialization of our crude oil. We have found new partners in the hydrocarbon’s market in the world, mainly, China, Russia, India, and Turkey.

The Saker: Since the US-backed coup attempt by Guaido, there has been remarkably little actual violence in the streets of Venezuela, and all the signs point to the fact that Guaido does not have the support of a majority of the people.  Yet he sure does have enough support within some sectors of the Venezuelan society (the kind of folks who go and protest against Nicolas Maduro while carrying US flags).  How did the government succeed in preventing that minority from doing in Venezuela what was done in Libya and Syria: instigate enough violence to justify a “humanitarian” foreign intervention?  In Kiev, there were snipers shooting at both the security forces and the protestors (which also happened in Caracas in 2002 I believe), and I was expecting that to happen in Caracas, but it did not (at least so far).  How do you explain this?

Ambassador Valero: Since the National Constituent Assembly was elected peace reigns in the republic.

The puppet that the US aims to impose has neither the people nor the military’s support to disrupt public peace. In general, in Venezuela, there is peace and tranquility. The Venezuelan people love peace. Peace is an essential part of State policies. Nevertheless, terrorist and violent groups financed from abroad, especially, the USA and Colombia act in popular districts in some cities in the country. The puppet and the puppeteer, Trump’s government try to disrupt public peace. They call to destroy the democratic rule of law and justice in Venezuela. They refuse to dialogue and promote intolerance and violence. The puppet asks the puppeteer to send US troops to invade our homeland. Infertile calls since our people remain presto to defend our participatory and protagonist democracy, as well as, the democratic institutions.

Trump’s government tries to reproduce the format that the Empire used in Syria and Libya: a parallel transition government. Prepares mercenaries in neighboring countries to foray in the national territory. They aimed to use the OAS and the Human Rights Council. Remember that Libya was expelled from the Human Rights Council through a Resolution, which was later confirmed by the UN General Assembly immediately after a Resolution was approved in the Security Council, which approved the creation of a no-fly zone. What followed is well known: cask missiles against Libya that caused thousands of deaths and destruction in civilian and military infrastructure. Trump’s government wants to implement the same strategy against Venezuela. He has called upon the Security Council to validate his objective for a military invasion in Venezuela. Fortunately, for both world and regional peace, the governments of Russia and China declared that they would use their right to veto in the UN Security Council to block such criminal objective.

Peace in our region is crucial. CELAC proclaimed Latin America and the Caribbean as a zone of peace. A military invasion from Trump’s government in Venezuela will have continental and worldwide consequences. President Nicolás Maduro affirmed that a Yankee invasion would create a new Vietnam.

The Saker: Does Venezuela feel sufficiently supported at the UN in general and at the UNSC specifically by Russia and China or do you feel that Venezuela needs more help from these countries?

Ambassador Valero: Russia and China are Venezuela’s strategic allies. With these two military, commercial, and technologic powers we have cooperation agreements in many fields. Likewise, Venezuela has abundant solidary backing and support from most of the countries in the world.

On January 26, 2019, Trump’s government indented to condemn Venezuela in the Security Council. They ran off with their tails between their legs, since no resolution was approved against our country. Most of the permanent and non-permanent members of this Council rejected the interventionist objective, and, contrarily approved to promote dialogue among Venezuelans. We are in a condition to overcome motu proprio our challenges. The dialogue between the government and the opposition, without preconditions, is the path to follow. Henceforth, our government has enthusiastically supported the “Montevideo Mechanism” proposed by the governments of Mexico, Uruguay, Bolivia and the member countries of CARICOM.

The Saker: It is pretty obvious that Mr. Guaido has committed a number of violations of the Venezuelan law ranging from calling for an illegal demonstration to being involved in an anti-constitutional coup attempt.  In a normal situation, that man ought to be legally charged and prosecuted for his crimes (including, in my opinion, subversion and treason).  Yet the USA threatened to go to war against Venezuela (aka “serious consequences“) if Guaido is arrested which, by itself, is a gross violation of international law and of the UN Charter.  What can, in your opinion, the Venezuelan government do to do what any other government would do and restore law in order without risking providing a pretext for a US invasion?

Ambassador Valero: The puppet has continuously violated the Bolivarian Constitution. Likewise, he disregarded the fundamental tenets of international law and the Charter of the United Nations. The Venezuelan State is made up of five powers. If something has characterized, the Bolivarian government is being a devoted defender of the independence of each of those powers. It will be the National Constituent Assembly and the Public Ministry who will make the necessary decisions. And you are right: these are crimes of subversion and treason. Breaking democratic legality and wrongfully usurping functions should not be tolerated.

The puppet’s permanent calls for violence and destabilization, his self-proclamation in a street in Caracas, and his call for a foreign military intervention place him against all nation and international law. Makes him a criminal that should be punished with the force of the Venezuelan laws.

The Saker: Speaking of a possible US invasion – do you believe that these are just the usual empty threat of Donald Trump or do you think that there is actually a real risk of overt US military aggression against your country?  How about the covert aggression already taking place?  What can you tell us about US/Colombian (some say Israeli?) covert operations against Venezuela?

Ambassador Valero: Donald Trump’s threats are not empty. The aggression is in full swing. Trump is the bombastic spokesman of war and foreign intervention. His threats are part of the Empire’s recolonizing goals. The government of Uncle Sam’s nation and its allies and lackeys impose neoliberal policies on the peoples of the world. Trump dusted off the Monroe Doctrine and the Roosevelt Corollary. Recruits and trains mercenaries in its military bases in Colombia. Prepares his arsenal to wage war against Venezuela. This is why we should turn a blind eye to provocations. The governments of the US and Colombia are experts creating false positives.

We insist: the threat of a military foray by the empire is a possibility that should not be ruled out. Both our people and our National Bolivarian Armed Forces (FANB, for its acronym in Spanish) are prepared to react with heroism and determination in case of such an event. Patriotism has rekindled as never before in history. We are ready to guarantee our definite independence.

Venezuela became the subject of discussion in the whole world. Our natural wealth, our geographic location in the American hemisphere, our political tenet of building a model of society where social justice prevails, our relations of solidarity and cooperation with the other countries of the world, our firm decision of being a free and sovereign country, emancipated from all sorts of domination make us –as people say- the crown jewel.

The Saker: It is pretty clear that the Israelis have never forgiven Hugo Chavez for speaking up for Palestinian rights and for openly denouncing Israeli policies.  As far as you know, are the Israelis currently involved in anti-Venezuelan activities including economic sabotage, political subversion, covert operations, etc.?  How relevant is Israel in what is going on today?

Ambassador Valero: The Israeli government has nothing to forgive us for. Our condition of sovereign country grants us the right to decide how we relate to other countries in the world. Defending the Palestinian cause is in the center of our foreign policy. We denounce in multilateral for Israel’s genocide against the Palestinian people. Demanded the cessation of the cessation of the occupation of the Gaza Strip, to end the extermination policy of Israel against Palestine and the Occupied Arab Territories. We recognize Palestine as a free and sovereign country with which we hold strong bonds of cooperation. There lies Israel’s hatred against the Bolivarian Revolution. It is no news that this government is involved in the interventionist plans against our country. The Israeli government bets on the overthrowing of President Nicolás Maduro, by Donald Trump’s government. It has recognized his puppet.

The Saker: Finally, what is your guess as to what will happen in the short-term to mid-term future?  Do you believe that the Guiado coup has already failed or do you believe that this was only a temporary setback for the Empire and that now we will see more and further attempts at crushing the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela and the rest of Latin America?

Ambassador Valero: The civilian-military union is categorically defeating the coup d’état. Nevertheless, the empire will not stop in its destabilizing and coup-mongering pretentions against the Bolivarian Revolution. As it has been demonstrated our people are inspired by the legacy of our liberators and the supreme commander Hugo Chávez Frías. And at the avant-garde of the fight for our sovereignty and self-determination is President Nicolás Maduro. Chavismo is the new face of being Venezuelan.

The Venezuelan people will resist with heroism and patriotic spirit the constant siege of Trump’s government. The Bolivarian Revolution conceived a new nation project, which aims to obtain happiness, equality, equity, freedom, and brotherhood of all Venezuelans. These are inherent principles of our democracy and the Venezuelan way of socialism.

The Venezuelan people have resisted with dignity and stoicism the terrible conditions it has been subjected to due to the imperial pretensions of impeding the advance of our revolutionary process. No foreign power and its domestic pawns will be able to stop the triumphal march of the Bolivarian Revolution.

The Saker:Your Excellency, thank you for granting me this interview!

Russian President warns West that deploying missile launchers in Europe could ignite ‘tit for tat’ response

Source

February 23, 2019Russian President warns West that deploying missile launchers in Europe could ignite ‘tit for tat’ response

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

President Putin’s state of the nation address to the Federal Assembly in Moscow this week was an extraordinary affair. While heavily focused on domestic social and economic development, Putin noted, predictably, the US decision to pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty and clearly outlined the red lines in regard to possible consequences of the move.

It would be naïve to believe that there would not be a serious counterpunch to the possibility of the US deploying launchers “suitable for using Tomahawk missiles” in Poland and Romania, only a 12-minute flight away from Russian territory.

Putin cut to the chase: “This is a very serious threat to us. In this case, we will be forced – I want to emphasize this – forced to take tit-for-tat steps.”

Later that night, many hours after his address, Putin detailed what was construed in the US, once again, as a threat.

“Is there some hard ideological confrontation now similar to what was [going on] during the Cold War? There is none. We surely have mutual complaints, conflicting approaches to some issues, but that is no reason to escalate things to a stand-off on the level of the Caribbean crisis of the early 1960s”.

This was a direct reference to the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 when President Kennedy confronted USSR’s Nikita Khrushchev over missiles deployed off the US mainland.

The Russian Defense Ministry, meanwhile, has discreetly assured that conference calls with the Pentagon are proceeding as scheduled, every week, and that this bilateral dialogue is “working”.

In parallel, tests of state-of-the-art Russian weaponry such as the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile and the hypersonic Khinzal also proceed, alongside mass production of the hypersonic Avangard. The first regiment of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces will get the Avangard before the end of this year.

And then there’s the Tsircon, a hypersonic missile capable of reaching US command centers in a mere five minutes – leaving the whole range of NATO military assets exposed.

What Putin meant in his address about Russia targeting “centers for decision-making” was fundamentally related to NATO, not the American mainland.

And once again, it’s crucial to underline that none of these disturbing developments mean that Russia would engage in a pre-emptive strike against the deployment of US missiles in Eastern Europe. Putin was adamant that there’s no need for it. Moreover, Russian nuclear doctrine forbids any sort of pre-emptive strikes, not to mention a nuclear first strike.

House of the Rising (Nuclear) Sun

To allow this new paradigm to sink in, I went on a long walk across Zamoskvorechye – “behind the Moskva river” – stopping on the way back in front of the Biblioteka Lenina to pay my respects to the Grandmaster Dostoevsky. And then it hit me; this was entirely connected to what had happened the day before.

The day before Putin’s state of the union address I went to visit Alexander Dugin at his office in the deliciously Soviet, art nouveau building of the former Central Post Office. Dugin, a political analyst and strategist with a refined philosophical mind, is vilified in Washington as Putin’s ideologue. He has also been targeted by US sanctions.

I was greeted in the lobby by his multi-talented daughter Daria – active in everything from philosophy and music to geopolitics. Dugin was being interviewed by RAI correspondent Sergio Paini. After the wrap-up, the three of us immediately engaged in a discussion on populism, Salvini, the Italian politician, and the Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests in France), in Italian. (Dugin is fluent in many languages).

Then we picked up on what we had left behind, when I was in Moscow last December and talked extensively with Daria. Dugin was in Shanghai teaching an international relations course at Fudan University (see here and here), and gave lectures at Tsinghua and Peking University. He returned quite impressed by Chinese academia’s interest in populism, plus German philosopher Martin Heidegger and the Gilets Jaunes, as well as the evolving paths of Russia and China’s strategic partnership.

Eurasia debate

So inevitably we delved into Eurasianism – and strategies towards Eurasian integration. Dugin sees China applying a sort of remixed Spykman outlook to the “Road” component of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which is maritime, along the rimland. He privileges the “Belt” component, which is overland, with one of the main corridors going through Russia via the upgraded Trans-Siberian railway. I tend to view it as a mix of Halford Mackinder, the famed English academic, and the influential American political scientist Nicholas Spykman; China advancing on the West, simultaneously in the heartland and the rimland.

Dugin’s office has the atmosphere of a revolving think tank. I was trying to inform him on how Brazil – under the ‘leadership’ of Steve Bannon, who walks and talks like he runs the Bolsonaro presidential clan – has been dragged to the frontline in the US in contrast to the Eurasian integration chessboard. Suddenly, none other than Alastair Crooke drops in. Serendipity or synchronicity?

Alastair, with his consummate diplomatic flair, is, of course, one of the world’s foremost experts in the Middle East and Europe – and much else. He’s in Moscow as a guest for one of the Valdai Club’s famed discussions, on the Middle East, along with key figures from Syria and Iran.

Soon the three of us are engaged in an absorbing conversation on the soul of Islam, the purity of Sufism, the Muslim Brotherhood (those fabled friends of the Clinton machine), what President Erdogan and the Qataris are really up to, and the sterility – intellectual and spiritual – of the Wahhabi House of Saud and the Emirates.

We tend to agree that discussions like this, going on in Moscow – and in Tehran, Istanbul, Shanghai – would greatly profit from the presence of a progressive Steve Bannon, capable of organizing and promoting a running, non-ideological debate on multipolarity.

A day before Putin’s stark reminder against any slip towards nuclear Armageddon, we were also discussing the post-INF world, but with emphasis on post-Mackinder (and post-Brzezinski) Eurasian integration. And that includes Russian and Chinese intellectual elites acutely aware that they can’t afford to be isolated by American hyperpower.

I walked Alastair to his hotel, past a gloriously illuminated Bolshoi. I kept going, and as Lubyanka disappeared from view, a sidewalk busker was playing ‘House of the Rising Sun’, the Animals version. In Russian.

Hopefully, it will not feature a rising nuclear sun.

Trump’s Demagoguery Goes Off the Rails

Trump’s Demagoguery Goes Off the Rails

FINIAN CUNNINGHAM | 20.02.2019 | WORLD / AMERICAS

Trump’s Demagoguery Goes Off the Rails

It may seem oxymoronic, but President Trump is living proof that lunatics can think big. Not content with “only” threatening regime change in Venezuela, the American leader is expanding his mission to rid the Western hemisphere of socialism, with Cuba and Nicaragua next in line for US “salvation”.

In a particularly unhinged speech last weekend in Miami, Florida, Trump declared Venezuelan President Nicolas Madura a “Cuban puppet” and “failed dictator”. Trump denounced socialism with a verve that has not been heard from a US president since the depth of the Cold War more than 30 years ago.

“In Venezuela, and across the Western hemisphere, socialism is dying and liberty, prosperity and democracy are being reborn,” said Trump inferring the “Troika of Tyranny” that his national security advisor John Bolton – another lunatic – previously coined to describe Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua.

The Miami Herald reported Trump’s speech as a “harbinger” for regime change in the three Latin American countries.

Trump’s claim of “democracy being reborn” is a bit hard to take at a time when this president is declaring state-of-emergency powers at home to push through his faltering border wall “vanity project”. Dozens of US states are suing Trump for “presidential over-reach of executive powers”. Constitutional scholars are warning of an incipient shift to fascism under Trump.

For Trump to then proclaim he is spearheading freedom and liberty for the entire Western hemisphere is a foreboding sign that his megalomania is spectacularly out of control.

The prospects of the US military fighting a war in Venezuela, let alone Cuba and Nicaragua as well, are in the realms of impossible fantasy. But with this Commander-in-Chief the fantasy is being entertained.

Trump in his Miami speech delivered a mafia-like ultimatum to the Venezuelan military. Either it supports the US-anointed minor opposition figure Juan Guaido who declared himself “acting president” of Venezuela almost a month ago, or the armed forces face obliteration, said Trump.

With the tone of an organized crime boss, Trump warned that Venezuela’s defense forces were “risking their lives” by supporting the “failed dictatorship” of “former” President Maduro. “If you choose this path, you will find no safe harbor, no easy exit and no way out. You will lose everything,” added Trump.

In response, President Maduro slammed Trump for his “Nazi-like speech” and for daring to threaten his country’s military with annihilation if it does not submit.

The criminality of the occupant in the American White House is astounding. The brazen threat of aggression against another nation – as well as implicitly against Cuba and Nicaragua – is on par with the fascism of the 1930s leading up to World War II.

The flying in of US military cargo planes to Colombia and Brazil purportedly laden with food aid for Venezuela is a flagrant cover for mounting an armed incursion. In close coordination with the CIA-groomed opposition figure Juan Guaido, the US is contriving a deadline of this weekend for the aid supplies to be allowed entrance into Venezuela.

President Maduro is refusing to permit the US material into his country. Venezuela’s armed forces are resolutely in support of the government in Caracas and therefore can be counted on to block any attempt to force the US aid across the borders from Colombia and Brazil. The impasse may, however, provide pretext for US military intervention.

The impending crisis whipped up by Trump with Venezuela seems insane. The South American country may be in economic turmoil, but it is hardly a humanitarian catastrophe meriting such drama. Besides the turmoil has largely been instigated by Washington slapping sanctions and asset freezes on Venezuela’s lifeline oil economy. If the US were to lift its illegal sanctions on the country then much of the chaos would subside.

For the Trump administration to declare a minor opposition figure as the “recognized president” of Venezuela is an audacious violation of international law and norms. Shamefully, several European states have sought to legitimize Washington’s subversion in Venezuela.

Of course, subverting the socialist government of Nicolas Maduro has the all-important prize of allowing US capital to get its hands on Venezuela’s colossal oil wealth.

Another motive is to eradicate any “threat of good example” in Uncle Sam’s presumed backyard. If Venezuela can be subjugated, then the Trump administration has Nicaragua and Cuba next in its cross-hairs for regime change. There is also the benefit of suppressing any political opposition domestically within the US, with a campaign against socialism in the Western hemisphere used to smear emerging socialists at home.

Still another motive for Trump is to desperately find a patriotic purpose with which to mobilize his support base. Despite his blustering campaign promises, Trump has delivered very little to his voters over the past two years. With his 2020 re-election bid in sight, Trump’s faltering border wall project is perhaps the most embarrassing failure. Not able to deliver on his “vanity project”, Trump is casting around for an alternative cause célèbre.

“Fighting socialism” in Venezuela and elsewhere in the Western hemisphere is Trump’s next star-turn. But how absurd can it get? Trump is presenting himself as more messianic than Cold War hawks in Washington during past decades when they could at least plausibly invoke Soviet expansionism as a propaganda threat.

Trump’s lunatic demagoguery is going big – off the rails.

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