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Archive for the ‘State Department’ Category

They all just hang out together

Posted by Charles II on March 16, 2014

Robert Parry, The Consortium:

[Following the Iraq debacle,] You might have expected that the neocons would have been banished to the farthest reaches of U.S. policymaking, so far away that they would never be heard from again. However, instead of disappearing, the neocons have proved their staying power, now reemerging as the architects of the U.S. strategy toward Ukraine.

… the ultimate goal of the Ukraine gambit is not just “regime change” in Kiev but “regime change” in Moscow. By eliminating the independent-minded and strong-willed Putin, the neocons presumably fantasize about slipping one of their ciphers (perhaps a Russian version of Ahmed Chalabi) into the Kremlin.

Then, the neocons could press ahead, unencumbered, toward their original “regime change” scheme in the Middle East, with wars against Syria and Iran.

JP Sottile, The Consortium:

Behind the U.S.-backed coup that ousted the democratically elected president of Ukraine are the economic interests of giant corporations – from Cargill to Chevron – which see the country as a potential “gold mine” of profits from agricultural and energy exploitation, reports JP Sottile.

Despite the turmoil within Ukrainian politics after Yanukovych rejected a major trade deal with the European Union just seven weeks earlier, Cargill was confident enough about the future to fork over $200 million to buy a stake in Ukraine’s UkrLandFarming. According to Financial Times, UkrLandFarming is the world’s eighth-largest land cultivator and second biggest egg producer.

On Dec. 13, Cargill announced the purchase of a stake in a Black Sea port. Cargill’s port at Novorossiysk — to the east of Russia’s strategically significant and historically important Crimean naval base — gives them a major entry-point to Russian markets and adds them to the list of Big Ag companies investing in ports around the Black Sea, both in Russia and Ukraine.

Cargill was decidedly confident amidst the post-EU deal chaos.

Freedom House, the National Endowment for Democracy and National Democratic Institute helped fund and support the Ukrainian “Orange Revolution” in 2004. Freedom House is funded directly by the U.S. Government, the National Endowment for Democracy and the U.S. Department of State.

David Kramer is a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs and, according to his Freedom House bio page, formerly a “Senior Fellow at the Project for the New American Century.”

That puts Kramer and, by one degree of separation, Big Ag fixer Morgan Williams in the company of PNAC co-founder Robert Kagan who, as coincidence would have it, is married to Victoria “F*ck the EU” Nuland, the current Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs.

Interestingly enough, Ms. Nuland spoke to the U.S.-Ukrainian Foundation last Dec. 13, extolling the virtues of the Euromaidan movement as the embodiment of “the principles and values that are the cornerstones for all free democracies.”

These people hang out together, they have the same triumphalist world view in which America is the lamp to the world and capitalism = democracy, so they work together on common goals, even if those goals may contradict international law and those American values that are not commercial. It’s not a conspiracy, but neither is it the government that Americans voted for when they voted for Barack Obama. After all, what Cargill, Monsanto, and John Deere are doing in the Ukraine (using our State Department and the tax money collected by our government) is more akin to a hostile takeover of the kind that Mitt Romney pioneered.

Posted in impunity, Russia, State Department, The Plunderbund | 3 Comments »

Venezuela quickie

Posted by Charles II on February 19, 2014

Mark Weisbrot, The Guardian:

When is it considered legitimate to try and overthrow a democratically-elected government? In Washington, the answer has always been simple: when the US government says it is. Not surprisingly, that’s not the way Latin American governments generally see it.

On Sunday, the Mercosur governments (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Venezuela) released a statement on the past week’s demonstrations in Venezuela. They described “the recent violent acts” in Venezuela as “attempts to destabilize the democratic order”. They made it abundantly clear where they stood.

We may recall that when much larger demonstrations rocked Brazil last year, there were no statements from Mercosur or neighboring governments. That’s not because they didn’t love President Dilma Rousseff; it’s because these demonstrations did not seek to topple Brazil’s democratically-elected government.

. When Secretary of State John Kerry states that “We are particularly alarmed by reports that the Venezuelan government has arrested or detained scores of anti-government protestors,” he is taking a political position.

Let’s be clear. Venezuela has a lot of problems. It deserves a better government than it has. There is a genuine opposition, based on a principled (if ultimately selfish and misguided) belief that they could improve the lot of Venezuelans much more than the current government through neoliberal policies. But what is going on in Venezuela is not principled opposition. It isn’t even the sort of mass riot that Brazil experienced due to citizen frustration over government inability delivery of services. It isn’t even sanctioned by the leader of the principled opposition, Henrique Capriles.

Our State Department is siding with thugs.

Posted in State Department, Venezuela | 2 Comments »

One of these is not like the others

Posted by Charles II on February 6, 2014

Kim Ives, Haiti-Liberte

President Joseph Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly is shoveling money out of the national treasury to family and friends through expensive foreign junkets, aircraft rentals, vehicle acquisitions, and irregular withdrawals from Haiti’s central bank, according to Moïse Jean-Charles, a Senator representing Haiti’s North department.

From DemocracyNow:

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s talk about Michel Martelly for a minute, the new president of Haiti. We were down there all together, Dan and Kim, for this election. When Martelly came into power, within a few weeks, at least three camps, housing approximately a thousand Haitians displaced from the earthquake, were destroyed by police in the Delmas suburb of Port-au-Prince. And he has said he will restore the army. The significance of this?

KIM IVES: Yeah, I think he’s going to go after the people. He said in an interview that these people had homes, in fact, that they were using the camps to party. I think that’s what he was saying to an Al Jazeera crew. I mean, his cynicism on that front is incredible. And here’s a guy who was the principal cheerleader for the 1991 and the 2004 coups. I mean, he’s made no bones about it that he’s a representative and friend of the army.

State Dept.

SECRETARY KERRY: It is a great pleasure for me to welcome President Michel Martelly from Haiti, and really with great respect for the road that he has put Haiti on and the enormous commitment that he has made to transition from reconstruction into a long-term development program. And under his leadership, elections are now on the horizon, which could for the first time provide the filling out of all of the electoral positions to Haiti and begin to stabilize and hopefully build on the progress that he has achieved with respect to economic development, the improvement of the economy, the improvement of health. The indicators have gone up, and that’s the direction that we want to see it going.

Posted in Haiti, State Department | 3 Comments »

Today’s NSA trawl. US press, so far: crickets

Posted by Charles II on July 1, 2013

Ewen MacAskill and Julian Borger, The Guardian:

US intelligence services are spying on the European Union mission in New York and its embassy in Washington, according to the latest top secret US National Security Agency documents leaked by the whistleblower Edward Snowden.

One document lists 38 embassies and missions, describing them as “targets”. It details an extraordinary range of spying methods used against each target, from bugs implanted in electronic communications gear to taps into cables to the collection of transmissions with specialised antennae.

Along with traditional ideological adversaries and sensitive Middle Eastern countries, the list of targets includes the EU missions and the French, Italian and Greek embassies, as well as a number of other American allies, including Japan, Mexico, South Korea, India and Turkey.

One of the bugging methods mentioned is codenamed Dropmire, which, according to a 2007 document, is “implanted on the Cryptofax at the EU embassy, DC” – an apparent reference to a bug placed in a commercially available encrypted fax machine used at the mission.

Ian Traynor, The Guardian:

As further details emerged of the huge reach of US electronic snooping on Europe, Berlin accused Washington of treating it like the Soviet Union, “like a cold war enemy”

Less than three months before a German general election, the impact of the fresh disclosures is likely to be strongest in Germany which, it emerged, is by far the biggest target in Europe for the NSA’s Prism programme scanning phone and internet traffic and capturing and storing the metadata.

The documents reviewed by Der Spiegel showed that Germany was treated in the same US spying category as China, Iraq or Saudi Arabia, while the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand were deemed to be allies not subject to remotely the same level of surveillance.

Der Spiegel quoted the Snowden documents as revealing that the US taps half a billion phone calls, emails and text messages in Germany a month. “We can attack the signals of most foreign third-class partners, and we do,” Der Spiegel quoted a passage in the NSA document as saying.

Ian Traynor, Louise Osborne, and Jamie Doward, The Guardian:

The prospects for a new trade pact between the US and the European Union worth hundreds of billions have suffered a severe setback following allegations that Washington bugged key EU offices and intercepted phonecalls and emails from top officials.

Ed Pilkington, The Guardian:

Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, has warned the US government that no matter what it does to try and apprehend Edward Snowden, the revelations he has unearthed on secret digital surveillance of American citizens will see the light of day.

German leaders are a lot more sauced than The Guardian reporting would suggest. Claus Hecking and Stefan Schultz, Der Spiegel:

Elmar Brok, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in European Parliament added his opprobrium. “The spying has reached dimensions that I didn’t think were possible for a democratic country. Such behavior among allies is intolerable.” The US, he added, once the land of the free, “is suffering from a security syndrome,” added Brok, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats. “They have completely lost all balance. George Orwell is nothing by comparison.”

A further Merkel ally in European Parliament, Markus Ferber, accused the US on Sunday of using methods akin to the feared East German secret police, the Stasi. Like Weber, Ferber is a member of the CSU. “A democratic constitutional state that uses Stasi methods sacrifices all credibility as a moral authority,” Ferber told the German daily Die Welt on Sunday. “It has destroyed trust.”

Green Party officials in Brussels are demanding far-reaching consequences. “This is meltdown of the constitutional state,” said Jan Philipp Albrecht, a Green Party representative in European Parliament. The NSA engaged in nothing less than “espionage against democratic countries and their institutions,” he added. Albrecht was deeply involved in negotiating the EU’s own policies on data privacy. He said that no one is safe from surveillance anymore and demanded that the EU open proceedings at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

Peter Lee, Asia Times:

Long story short, if Snowden has encrypted his laptops, even if the Russian and Chinese security services were able to copy the hard drives (access “all the digital information”) and get to work on them (and there is no evidence as yet that this has occurred), it is unlikely that they would be able to decrypt them (retrieve “all the documents”) unless they have sustained access to, and active cooperation from, Snowden.

If the United States is really concerned about this happening, that might be a good reason to make some deal with Snowden to bring him home, not to let him continue to hang around Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow under the interested eyes of Russia’s FSB.

The good news is, Snowden has encrypted the data on the insurance files he has salted around the Internet, and it is a safe assumption that he has done the same for his hard drives.
_________
OK, here it is the next day. This is what Google News shows as hits for the European reaction regarding a story by Laura Poitras et al. that came out in Der Spiegel on June 29th, about 36 hours ago:

Guardian 6 hrs ago (actually, the story was up well before that)
HuffPo 9 hrs ago, 22 hrs ago
WaPo 1 hr ago, buried in a story about Kerry
Time, 13 hrs ago
Yahoo, 17 hrs ago
Business Week, 17 hrs ago
NY Mag, 14 hrs ago (which, oddly, dismisses European reaction, saying everyone knew the US spied)
CNN, about 6 hrs ago to judge from comments
Global Post, about 36 hrs ago

On and on– and these results don’t include non-English language papers like El Pais. One major US newspaper is conspicuously missing from the list. The AP just issued a story about Francois Hollande, and had a brief, vaguef item about 4 hours ago. Otherwise, I can’t find anything from them.

Why don’t we just have the State Department run the foreign bureaus our newspapers? It might as well be.

Posted in NSA eavesdropping, State Department, wiretapping | 1 Comment »

Senate Dems’ letter on Honduras

Posted by Charles II on June 23, 2013

Via Adrienne:

We are writing to express our concern regarding the grave human rights situation and deterioration of the rule of law in Honduras. As the November 2013 elections draw near, we are particularly troubled by reports of corruption and extrajudicial killings.

Since June of 2009, international and Honduran human rights organizations have documented a pattern of violence and threats against journalists, human rights defenders, members of the clergy, union leaders, opposition figures, students, small farmers, and LGBT activists. There are also recent reports of death squads working with police….

…the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012 requires the State Department to investigate and report on whether the Honduran government “is implementing policies to protect freedom of expression and association, and due process of law,” whether it is “prosecuting military and police personnel who are credibly alleged to have violated human rights,” and whether the Honduran police and military “are cooperating with civilian judicial authorities in such cases” – prior to obligation of 20% of the funds designated for the Honduran military and police, with exceptions for the promotion of transparency, anti-corruption efforts, and the rule of law. Given the reported violence and impunity linked to state entities in Honduras, we have serious questions regarding the State Department’s certification that these conditions were met for Fiscal Year 2012.

As Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee you firmly denounced human rights abuses in Honduras. As Secretary of State, we hope you will continue to do the same.

signed by Ben Cardin (D-MD), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Pat Leahy (D-VT), Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Mark Udall (D-CO), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Michael F. Bennet (D-CO), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chris Coons (D-DE), Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Al Franken (D-MN) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).

Posted in Honduras, impunity, State Department | 2 Comments »

Kerry is a lost cause

Posted by Charles II on June 5, 2013

You may recall that former Guatemalan president Rios Montt was convicted of mass murder for directing the massacre of the Ixil Indians, part of the mass murder of 250,000 people in the roughly 40-year repression initiated by and abetted by the US. In the course of Montt’s trial, the bloody role of current Guatemalan president Otto Fernando Perez Molina emerged. The judge and prosecutor received very public death threats, but they and the witnesses bravely carried the trial to its inevitable end: Montt was convicted.

Then the Constitutional Court, presumably acting at the behest of Perez Molina and the other mass murderers who have not faced justice, arbitrarily reached in and annulled Montt’s conviction. Montt is unlikely to face any punishment greater than the inconvenience of having to go to court. And so Perez Molina is off the hook, too.

And so this is how John Kerry, meeting with Perez Molina, greeted him:

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. Thank you very much. Muchas gracias. Estoy encantando de estar aqui en Guatemala y (inaudible) con el Presidente Perez Molina. Gracias.

I want to begin, if I may, by expressing the condolences of all Americans for the loss of life of nine Guatemalans in Oklahoma City in the tornado last month. We know that that is a deep pain for the families, and I bring you the President’s condolences and the condolences of the American people.

… Let me begin by congratulating you, Mr. President, on the enormous progress that you have made with respect to your justice system, the strengthening of your justice system, the independence of that system. And obviously, we are appreciative for your reciprocal law enforcement initiatives that benefit both of us we believe.

I also would express our appreciation for the way in which you have led your internal – your security efforts and particularly citizen protection efforts.

I also want to thank you for your leadership with respect to the professionalization of police, which is very important, and also your efforts to make sure that we live up to the standards of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala. Needless to say, that is so important to Guatemala’s standing on a global basis and we appreciate your efforts.

I realize that diplomacy involves not saying things publicly that would lead to an irreconcilable break. But Kerry has just congratulated Perez Molina for having turned the justice system into a sham, for having demonstrated that Guatemalan impunity extends to confessing the crime and walking undisturbed away.

John Kerry was a man I deeply respected for a long time. He showed courage in battle and then he showed the courage to say that the war in which he fought was wrong.

And now, he’s saying that everything he said and did before was an opportunistic lie.

Posted in Democrats as cancer, impunity, Latin America, State Department | Comments Off

A medley of meddling: US undermines democracy throughout Latin America

Posted by Charles II on May 1, 2013

The first link is actually from 2010, but it’s an important one that I had missed.

Mark Weisbrot:

The United States actually intervened in Brazilian politics as recently as 2005, organizing a conference to promote a legal change that would make it more difficult for legislators to switch parties. This would have strengthened the opposition to Lula’s Workers’ Party (PT) government, since the PT has party discipline but many opposition politicians do not. This intervention by the U.S. government was only discovered last year through a Freedom of Information Act request filed in Washington.

Weisbrot, April 20th:

Recent events indicate that the Obama administration has stepped up its strategy of “regime change” against the left-of-center governments in Latin America, promoting conflict in ways not seen since the military coup that Washington supported in Venezuela in 2002. The most high-profile example is in Venezuela itself, during the past week. As this goes to press, Washington has grown increasingly isolated in its efforts to destabilize the newly elected government of Nicolas Maduro.

But Venezuela is not the only country to fall prey to Washington’s efforts to reverse the electoral results of the past 15 years in Latin America. It is now clear that last year’s ouster of President Fernando Lugo of Paraguay was also aided and abetted by the United States government. In a brilliant investigative work for Agência Pública, journalist Natalia Viana shows that the Obama administration funded the principal actors involved in the “parliamentary coup” against Lugo. Washington then helped organize international support for coup.

Daniel Kovalik, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

I just returned from Venezuela where I was one of 170 international election observers from around the world, including India, Brazil, Great Britain, Argentina, South Korea and France. Among the observers were two former presidents (of Guatemala and the Dominican Republic), judges, lawyers and high-ranking officials of national electoral councils.

What we found was a transparent, reliable, well-run and thoroughly audited electoral system.

Dawn Paley, Upside Down World:

There’s a new President in Latin America….

Horacio Cartes is his name,

Cartes’ link to drug traffickers was reported in the New York Times, and his implication in money laundering has been amply documented. “Through the utilization of a [Drug Enforcement Administration] [Buenos Aires Country Office] cooperating source and other DEA undercover personnel, agents have infiltrated CARTES’ money laundering enterprise, an organization believed to launder large quantities of United States currency generated through illegal means, including through the sale of narcotics, from the [Tri-Border Area of Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil] to the United States,” according to a State Department cable leaked by Wikileaks. As if that wasn’t enough, a recent report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists revealed that a bank owned by Cartes opened a secret locale in the offshore tax-haven of the Cook Islands.

Posted in Brazil, Latin America, State Department, Venezuela | Comments Off

Act against the Keystone XL pipeline

Posted by Charles II on April 1, 2013

350.org is trying to get 1 million signatures against Keystone XL. It’s easy. Just click here and customize your own letter to the State Department. They’re going for 1 million signatures by April 22nd.

You can also co-sign a letter to President Obama here.

Posted in John Kerry, Oil, State Department | Comments Off

More Honduran follies

Posted by Charles II on March 27, 2013

The issue is how much money the US is giving to Juan Carlos Bonilla, head of the Honduran police, who is accused of running death squads.

Basically, the State Department spokesman refuses to answer a simple question (how much money does the US give to Honduras for security), provides data that are completely unhelpful ($500 million to Central America over 5 years, with half going to countries including Honduras), and refuses to provide any information on when the last review was done that concluded that US money was not flowing to entities that Bonilla controls [added: they also have a figure of zero for security aid to Honduras on their website].

To read the actual bafflegab, click below.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Honduras, State Department | 7 Comments »

Folies State Department, 3/25/13

Posted by Charles II on March 25, 2013

For full context on this story, see Dan Beeton at Upside Down World. But for now, simply marvel at the State Department’s response to a question about Juan Carlos “El Tigre” Bonilla, a fugitive in 2003, now Honduras’s head of the National Police.

Yikes.

Patrick Ventrell
Acting Deputy Spokesperson [State Department]
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
March 25, 2013

QUESTION: Okay. And I have a question about Honduras, if I may.

MR. VENTRELL: Okay.

QUESTION: If you were about to close the book, I’ll stop you right there.

MR. VENTRELL: Okay.

QUESTION: We had a story about the U.S. support for Honduran police –

MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.

QUESTION: — which you’d long said had nothing to do with the police chief Bonilla, and we’re saying that every single one of the units you claim was vetted reports directly to Bonilla. How do you square that with what you told Congress and what you’ve said publicly about this?

MR. VENTRELL: Just to say, first of all, Brad, that we remain concerned about high levels of impunity and corruption in Honduras, and we’re working in partnership with the Honduran Government and civil society to address these challenges, advance citizen security, build capacity within the rule of law and judicial institutions, and protect the human rights of all Hondurans.

I can tell you right now that there is a review process undergoing. It’s standard practice for the U.S. Government to form working groups and review and evaluate institutions that receive U.S. assistance. So we review all relevant information that may affect assistance the United States can provide to Honduras, including under the provisions of the Leahy Law. So I can’t comment on the internal deliberations, but we remain in close communication with the U.S. Congress, in compliance with the legal requirements of the Leahy Law.

QUESTION: How did you vet these people if – I mean, they are police units under the police chief, and you say they have no – nothing to do with the police chief.

MR. VENTRELL: I mean, again, I can’t get into the actual vetting procedures other than to say we absolutely comply with congressional mandates and congressional requirements.

QUESTION: Are you urging the Honduran Government to relieve Mr. Bonilla of his duties, since you’ve essentially raised the allegations of extrajudicial killings and various human rights violations by him and his alleged death squads?

MR. VENTRELL: I’m not aware that we’ve taken a position before this review is finished, so I think we’re going to conduct a thorough review and then take a look and be back in communication not only with Honduras but with the U.S. Congress.

QUESTION: You specifically said that you’re withholding money from anything that he touches.

MR. VENTRELL: Right, but –

QUESTION: So I would wonder why you would not urge that he then be removed if he’s an obstacle of your cooperation.

MR. VENTRELL: We’ve got to get to the bottom of this through our review before we make any decisions.

QUESTION: Do you know how much – I can’t seem to find anywhere that says how much money you guys are actually providing the Honduran security sector. According to, I think, like, the State Department/USAID website it was zero, which can’t be correct since –

MR. VENTRELL: Yeah, we have large security cooperation with a number of Central American partners.

QUESTION: Could you get back to me with how much you provide?

MR. VENTRELL: I will endeavor this afternoon to get you –

QUESTION: I imagine it’s more than zero.

MR. VENTRELL: I will endeavor to get you an expert this afternoon.

QUESTION: Thank you.

Your tax dollars at work.

Posted in corruption, Honduras, State Department | 2 Comments »

 
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