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There’s something happening here…

Posted by Charles II on February 20, 2014

A pattern.

There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there. Telling me I got to beware
I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound. Everybody look what’s going down.

A thousand people in the street. Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side. It’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
–Buffalo Springfield

The Ukraine

STEPHEN COHEN: … we are watching history being made, but history of the worst kind.
…And the longer-term outcome may be…the construction, the emergence of a new Cold War divide between West and East…. And if that happens, if that’s the new Cold War divide, it’s permanent instability and permanent potential for real war for decades to come. That’s what’s at stake.

One last point, also something that nobody in this country wants to talk about: The Western authorities, who bear some responsibility for what’s happened, and who therefore also have blood on their hands, are taking no responsibility.

let’s ask ourselves this: Who precipitated this crisis? The American media says it was Putin and the very bad, though democratically elected, president of Ukraine, Yanukovych. But it was the European Union, backed by Washington, that said in November to the democratically elected president of a profoundly divided country, Ukraine, “You must choose between Europe and Russia.” That was an ultimatum to Yanukovych. Remember—wasn’t reported here—at that moment, what did the much-despised Putin say? He said, “Why? Why does Ukraine have to choose? We are prepared to help Ukraine avoid economic collapse, along with you, the West. Let’s make it a tripartite package to Ukraine.” And it was rejected in Washington and in Brussels. That precipitated the protests in the streets.

What percent are the quasi-fascists of the opposition? Let’s say they’re 5 percent. I think they’re more, but let’s give them the break, 5 percent. But we know from history that when the moderates lose control of the situation, they don’t know what to do. The country descends in chaos. Five percent of a population that’s tough, resolute, ruthless, armed, well funded, and knows what it wants, can make history. [Cohen adds that it is precisely these forces that Washington is supporting]

at the beginning, there were hundreds of thousands, tens of thousands, of very decent, liberal, progressive, honorable people in the streets. But they’ve lost control of the situation. That’s the point now. And so, the Russians are saying, “Look, you’re trying to depose Yanukovych, who’s the elected government.” Think. If you overthrow—and, by the way, there’s a presidential election in a year. The Russians are saying wait ’til the next election. If you overthrow him—and that’s what Washington and Brussels are saying, that he must go—what are you doing to the possibility of democracy not only in Ukraine, but throughout this part of the world? And secondly, who do you think is going to come to power?

[In a leaked tape,] The highest-ranking State Department official [Victoria Nuland], who presumably represents the Obama administration, and the American ambassador in Kiev [Geoffrey Pyatt] are, to put it in blunt terms, plotting a coup d’état against the elected president of Ukraine.

in Washington and in Brussels, they lie: They’re talking about democracy now. They’re not talking about democracy now; they’re talking about a coup now.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And is it conceivable, if Ukraine descends into a further civil war, that Russia might intervene?

STEPHEN COHEN: It’s conceivable. It’s conceivable.[Emphasis added]


GEORGE CICCARIELLO-MAHER: Sure. Well, the Obama government continues to fund this opposition even more openly than did the Bush—than did the Bush regime. If you look at the budget there, you know, Obama specifically requested funding for these Venezuelan opposition groups despite—you know, despite anti-democratic activity in the past, despite the fact that López and others were involved in signatories of the coup in 2002 and engaged in violent actions that they were brought up on charges for in 2002. And so, for López to come now and to claim that he’s an actor for democracy in the streets is really quite—you know, quite laughable. But what he is trying to do is to really seize control of this opposition away from the more moderate elements.

AMY GOODMAN: And the U.S. role?

GEORGE CICCARIELLO-MAHER: The U.S. continues to fund this opposition. I think we’ll probably find out afterward, as we usually do, to what degree the U.S.’s hand has been actually involved in these processes. But the reality is this is a—this is a miscalculation by the opposition. I think it’s doubtful that the United States has told the opposition to take this tack, because it’s not a very strategic tack. But, you know, we know that this is an opposition that’s been in direct contact with the embassy, that it receives funding from the United States government. And so, this is—against the broad backdrop of U.S. intervention and the funding of the Venezuelan opposition, this is the action of an autonomous Venezuelan opposition that is going to, once again, it looks like, tear itself apart.

Cohen made a very good point. There aren’t many extremists. But when things break down to the point that the moderates are ineffective, extremists take over. The US is very good at funding opposition movements. But again and again, whether in Libya or in Syria or in Ukraine or in Venezuela, this has not empowered democratic forces, but rather reactionary, fascistic, and terrorist forces. In the case of the Ukraine, a leaked tape has made it clear that the US wants fascistic forces to come to power.

Update: See here for “Yats”:

[Nuland and Pyatt] conclude that Arseniy Yatsenyuk of jailed billionaire oligarch Yulia Tymoshenko’s Fatherland Party should rule, conferring regularly with Oleh Tyahnybok of the fascist Svoboda Party, whose members and neo-Nazi allies provide most of the thugs fighting riot police in Kiev.

Posted in Russia, Venezuela | 2 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 »

Did Venezuelan opposition seek US coup?

Posted by Charles II on June 28, 2013

That’s what the Venezuelan government is claiming in releasing a recording of a conversation between two opposition figures.

Ryan Mallett-Outrim, Venezuela Analysis:

The Venezuelan government released a recording that allegedly shows that one of the leaders head of the country’s opposition coalition discussed a possible coup with U.S. State Department officials.

On Wednesday morning the Minister of Communication and Information, Ernesto Villegas and Caracas mayor Jorge Rodriguez released an audio recording that they alleged showed opposition legislator Maria Corina Machado speaking to a Venezuelan academic, Germán Carrera Damas.

In the recording, Machado discusses the outcome of the April 14 presidential election. She states that the head of the opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable’s (MUD) Ramon Guillermo Aveledo advocated for a “coup” or other destabilisation plan to overthrow the Venezuelan government.

When presenting the recording to Venezuelan media, Rodriguez stated that the material was handed to the him by an opposition activist, commenting that its content “violates the constitution in a terrifying way”.

The opposition has previously released a recording suggesting that General Diosdado Cabello is engaged in corruption and plotting against Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro. A journalist whose voice is heard in the recording says that the tape is “a set-up.”

Posted in Venezuela, wiretapping | 3 Comments »

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

The decline of American influence: Venezuelan case study

Posted by Charles II on April 25, 2013

Mark Weisbrot, The Guardian, via t/o

Washington’s efforts to de-legitimise the [Venezuelan] election mark a significant escalation of US efforts at regime change in Venezuela.

But the Obama team’s effort failed miserably. On Wednesday, the government of Spain, Washington’s only significant ally supporting a “100% audit” reversed its position and recognised Maduro’s election. Then the secretary general of the Organisation of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, backed off his prior alignment with the Obama administration and recognised the election result.

It was not just the left governments of Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Uruguay and others that had quickly congratulated Maduro on his victory; Mexico, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Haiti and other non-left governments had joined them. The Obama administration was completely isolated in the world.

Washington’s clumsy efforts also helped highlight the election as an issue of national sovereignty, something that is deeply cherished in the region.

The opposition representative on the national electoral council, Vicente Díaz, acknowledged that he had “no doubt” that the vote count was accurate.

I don’t expect my government to do something because it’s right or to abstain from doing it because it is wrong. But when they do something wrong in a way that damages even the greedy self-interest of the nation, then that government does not deserve to be in power.

Right now, Venezuela and all of Latam is giving us the finger.

Posted in election theft, Venezuela | 5 Comments »

Four Seven dead in Venezuela

Posted by Charles II on April 16, 2013

As today’s DemocracyNow interview reminds us, the murderous violence inflicted on innocents in Boston is an everyday occurrence in places like Mogadishu.

In Venezuela, four have died in street violence over the election. These murders were committed by the right, according to Telesur. Other people were wounded.

Update Now seven dead, 61 wounded.

Dave Zirin asks, Is this the world we want to live in? If not, it’s time to stop the violence emanating from the heart of the Empire.

More on this story now at Daily Kos.

Posted in Venezuela, violence and its connection to demagogues | 1 Comment »

Venezuela’s Maduro re-elected with 1.5% margin, 93% counted/updated

Posted by Charles II on April 15, 2013

So says Telesur.

He very nearly lost himself the election–he was tipped to win by double digits. Let’s hope Maduro is better at governing than at running for office.
Update: Oh, great. The loser, Henrique Capriles is apparently serious in refusing to recognize the election, and has called for street protests. He is demanding a 100% recount, which legal experts say is not envisioned in the law.

While we have learned to expect irredentist tactics from the right, this is truly moronic. And it is matched by our State Department, which has failed to join Latin America in congratulating Maduro on his victory, instead focusing on the recount and calling him “candidate Maduro.” They could have sprung for “president-elect,” but they apparently continue to believe that behaving like a–holes will win hearts and minds.

Marc Weisbrot has a column in The Guardian.

Posted in Election Day, Venezuela | 2 Comments »

Hugo Chavez’s successor publishes column in Guardian

Posted by Charles II on April 12, 2013

Nicolas Maduro, who is running to succeed Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, has published a thoughtful column in The Guardian. An excerpt:

The media myth that our political project would fall apart without Chávez was a fundamental misreading of Venezuela’s revolution. Chávez has left a solid edifice, its foundation a broad, united movement that supports the process of transformation. We’ve lost our extraordinary leader, but his project – built collectively by workers, farmers, women, indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants, and the young – is more alive than ever.

The media often portray Venezuela as on the brink of economic collapse – but our economy is stronger than ever. We have a low debt burden and a significant trade surplus, and have accumulated close to $30bn in international reserves.

I don’t know if Maduro will be a good or even an effective leader. But I do know that when the likely president of one our largest oil suppliers writes a calm, coherent statement of this kind, a free press would report it. What I read in the NYT is a bad joke, a parody of what a free press should look like (here, here, here)

The election is this Sunday.

Posted in Election Day, Latin America, Venezuela | 2 Comments »

US State Department: Incompetence wrapped within intolerance wrapped within cowardice

Posted by Charles II on March 7, 2013

The State Department did a special briefing on Venezuela today. This is how it opened.

Background Briefing on the Situation in Venezuela
Special Briefing
Senior State Department Officials
Via Teleconference
March 6, 2013
MODERATOR: Hello, everyone, and thanks for joining us this afternoon. Today we have with us two senior State Department officials to discuss the situation in Venezuela. We have with us [Senior State Department Official One] and [Senior State Department Official Two]. Hereafter for the rest of the call, they will be Senior State Department Official One and Senior State Department Official Two. This call is on background, so for all attribution we will refer to them as Senior State Department Officials.

So without further ado, I’m going to turn it over to Senior State Department Official Number One for some opening remarks before we get to your questions. Go ahead, Senior Official One.

Can anyone suggest a single reason why State Department officials should be allowed or encouraged to make anonymous comments about a foreign government? This is precisely the sort of thing that breeds distrust. Is one of those officials John Kerry, whose wife lost a lot of money in the Ketchup Coup?

It certainly sounds like it, when Elise Labott of CNN says, “We understand that Senior Official One put out a statement. If you could release that to the rest of the – of us, that would be great.” Who would put out a statement–withheld from at least part of the press– on such an issue? And there are certain Kerry verbal tics, like the repeated use of “if you will”” (it seems to be a Senate tic, since Senator Corker uses it repeatedly as well)

State Department Official Number Two sounds like SDO #1’s minder, probably a country specialist, who –unlike SDO #1– knows that the improbably-named Diosdado Cabello (“God-given Hair”) is not a narcotics kingpin.

SDO #1 has elevated Nicolas Maduro’s suggestion that Hugo Chavez was murdered to the level of a threat to US security (“after you have the kind of broadside, if you will, that Vice President Maduro launched against the United States yesterday, we obviously have security concerns, and we will remain very vigilant and review security issues regularly within our Embassy and here in Washington”) A much better response would have been to acknowledge that the relationship has been riddled with suspicion and that the US will do whatever it can to re-establish trust.

If the State Department wants to build trust, it will not repeat this sort of anonymous press conference. And, if I understand correctly, the White House failed to give routine condolences. That’s just shameful.
Added: It wasn’t just Nicolas Maduro who thought that Chavez might have been murdered. In La Jornada, referring to three top leftist Latin American leaders who have been stricken by cancer Astillero said, “Just look at the unusual carcinogenic marksmanship or recent years against South American leaders not aligned with the United States.” So, yes, conspiracism and paranoia, but not necessarily crazy.

Posted in Venezuela | Comments Off

The game of thorns. Chavez dead at 58. /updated with a must-read by Greg Grandin and an explanation of the cancer comment

Posted by Charles II on March 5, 2013

Tamara Pearson, Venezuela Analysis:

Merida, March 5th 2013 ( –After two years of battling cancer, President Hugo Chavez has died today at 4.25 pm.

Tamara Pearson, VA:

Merida, March 5th 2013 ( – Vice-president Nicolas Maduro today denounced destabilisation plans by the international and Venezuelan right wing, announcing the expulsion of two US officials for threatening military security. [Without any evidence whatsoever] He also implied that Chavez’s cancer was “caused by enemies of Venezuela”.

Maduro pronounced the expulsion of Air Attaché David Delmonaco, and assistant Air Attaché Devlin Costal of the US embassy in Caracas for being implicated in “conspiracy plans”.

“They have 24 hours to pack their bags and leave,” Maduro said.

He explained that Monaco had, for the last few weeks, been contacting members of the Venezuelan military in order to bring about a destabilisation plan in Venezuela.

So one of the thorns in Washington’s paw is gone. One just hopes that the next president is even as competent and honest as Chavez (and Chavez had plenty of faults).

Oscar Guardiola-Rivera, The Guardian:

The facts speak for themselves: the percentage of households in poverty fell from 55% in 1995 to 26.4% in 2009. When Chávez was sworn into office unemployment was 15%, in June 2009 it was 7.8%. Compare that to current unemployment figures in Europe. In that period Chávez won 56% of the vote in 1998, 60% in 2000, survived a coup d’état in 2002, got over 7m votes in 2006 and secured 54.4% of the vote last October.

Greg Grandin, Venezuela Analysis:

Latin American populists, from Argentina’s Juan Perón to, most recently, Chávez, have long served as characters in a story the US tells about itself, reaffirming the maturity of its electorate and the moderation of its political culture. There are at most eleven political prisoners in Venezuela, and that’s taking the opposition’s broad definition of the term, which includes individuals who worked to overthrow the government in 2002, and yet it is not just the right in this country who regularly compared Chávez to the worst mass murderers and dictators in history.

In 1958, political elites negotiated a pact that maintained the trappings of democratic rule for four decades, as two ideological indistinguishable parties traded the presidency back and forth (sound familiar?). Where the State Department and its allied policy intellectuals isolated and condemned Havana, they celebrated Caracas as the end point of development.

We know now that its institutions were rotting from the inside out. Every sin that Chávez was accused of committing—governing without accountability, marginalizing the opposition, appointing partisan supporters to the judiciary, dominating labor unions, professional organizations and civil society, corruption and using oil revenue to dispense patronage—flourished in a system the US held up as exemplary.

There’s been great work done on the ground by scholars such as Alejandro Velasco, Sujatha Fernandes, Naomi Schiller and George Ciccariello-Maher on these social movements that, taken together, lead to the conclusion that Venezuela might be the most democratic country in the Western Hemisphere. One study found that organized Chavistas held to “liberal conceptions of democracy and held pluralistic norms,” believed in peaceful methods of conflict resolution and worked to ensure that their organizations functioned with high levels of “horizontal or non-hierarchical” democracy.

Chávez was a strongman. He packed the courts, hounded the corporate media, legislated by decree and pretty much did away with any effective system of institutional checks or balances [in reconciling this to the previous paragraph, it should be noted that the US president has just asserted the right to kill US citizens on US soil without any due process. There is a democracy deficit across the hemisphere].

Rather than forming a single-party dictatorship with an interventionist state bureaucracy controlling people’s lives, Chavismo has been pretty wide open and chaotic.

The high point of Chávez’s international agenda was his relationship with Brazil’s [president] Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva….

For a good eight years they worked something like a Laurel and Hardy routine, with Chávez acting the buffoon and Lula the straight man.

The whole article is worth reading, since it provides the positive perspective on Chavez that is sadly lacking in the US press, whose negative view cannot explain why Chavez was elected and re-elected, and is mourned throughout Latin America.

FWIW, my major criticisms of Chavez are that he failed to develop a second rank of leadership to make sure that the improvements to education and health that he introduced become permanent, that he failed to develop a refining industry to give Venezuela real alternatives to selling to the US, that he failed to diversify Venezuela’s economy, and that he failed to make a sufficient dent in corruption. Had he accomplished just the latter, he would have broadened his base of support to make opposition to his reforms impossible. But of course I know that Venezuela was such a total mess when he was elected that accomplishing anything was a minor miracle.
Update: It was puzzling why vice-president Nicolas Maduro should have accused Venezuela’s “historical enemies” (i.e., the CIA) of causing Chavez’ cancer. But it turns out that Chavez himself mentioned the possibility in 2011, and for an interesting reason: three of Latin America’s eleven left-wing leaders were stricken with cancer: Chavez, Lula, and Lugo (this is not counting Fidel Castro, who suffered some kind of intestinal illness). Three were removed in coups (Aristide, Zelaya, and Chavez, with Chavez surviving), and the Kirschners both had serious health problems, with Nestor dying of cardiovascular disease and Cristina being misdiagnosed with thyroid cancer. So there has been what looks like a cancer cluster among Latin American leftists and, more generally, a lot of very bad luck. So it’s not entirely tin foil to suspect foul play.
Update: Jo6Pac draws our attention to Greg Palast’s eulogy. He calls Nicolas Maduro good and decent. Venezuela needs that.

Posted in Venezuela | 11 Comments »

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