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25819 Posts in 9911 Topics by 982 Members Latest Member: - Ferguson Most online today: 125 (July 03, 2005, 06:25:30 PM)
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 1 
 on: July 23, 2019, 01:34:27 PM 
Started by News - Last post by News
UN Report on Venezuela Fails to Reflect the Causes and Severity of the Economic Crisis – Why? (2/2)

July 14, 2019

Alfred de Zayas says the UN Human Rights Council's report on Venezuela left out essential aspects in its otherwise damning report on Venezuela because the council has increasingly fallen under the sway of the demands of the US government

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zHI35Uh8_y0

Story Transcript

GREG WILPERT It’s The Real News Network and I’m Greg Wilpert in Baltimore. You’re joining us for part two of our discussion about the UN human rights report that was recently released on Venezuela. And joining me to discuss this is Alfred de Zayas. He’s a retired senior lawyer with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights as well as a retired chief of the petitions department at the OHCHR. Thanks again, Alfred, for having joined us today.

ALFRED DE ZAYAS Pleasure.

GREG WILPERT So I think it’s very important, though, before we go onto the question of why this report has been so flawed, is to highlight again the issue of the degree of the severity of the situation in Venezuela. As a matter of fact, a recent opinion article by Francisco Rodriguez, who is an economist at Torino Capital, wrote an opinion article in The New York Times where he said, “Sanctions are now putting the country at risk of a humanitarian catastrophe. In the three months after sanctions were increased in January, Venezuela imported barely a third of what it imported in the same period last year and less than one-tenth of what it bought from the rest of the world back in 2012. Given that most of the population is already living at near-starvation levels and that the country depends on imports to feed itself, further cuts in foreign purchases risk producing the first Latin American famine in over a century. The risks of famine— and what needs to be done to stop it— are lost in the conversation among Washington policymakers and the Venezuelan opposition.”

Now that was Francisco Rodriguez highlighting the severity of the situation. Now, I find it a bit mind-boggling that I think the report itself— and you alluded to this in the first part— completely misses this severity of the sanctions. Now, what do you think about in terms of what the UN ought to be doing, first of all, and in terms of— and I’ve seen you say this before— in terms of the responsibility to protect? What does that mean in the context of Venezuela?

ALFRED DE ZAYAS Precisely, here we have a situation of an artificial crisis. A crisis that has been induced by the United States with the connivance of Canada, the European Union, other countries that have frozen Venezuelans’ money so Venezuela has no access to the money to buy food. Venezuela has billions and billions of dollars, but they’re frozen in the United States, in Great Britain, in European banks, in Portugal actually. In any event, responsibility to protect— that is the responsibility of all of us. The responsibility of all governments are to help a brother nation in trouble, a nation that is asking for help. Obviously, asking for help given without strings attached, without ulterior political purposes, because so-called American humanitarian aid is not humanitarian aid. It is a Trojan horse for regime change. And you cannot be the torturer, you cannot be the tormentor of the Venezuelan people, and suddenly be the benefactor, suddenly be the Good Samaritan who is offering humanitarian aid. Obviously, that humanitarian aid is not being given in good faith.

On the other hand, responsibility to protect means that all European countries and Canada and all countries engaged in the economic war against Venezuela, must end that economic war, must lift the sanctions. Now, the High Commissioner for Human Rights back in 2012— that was Navi Pillay— presented a very strong report which very strongly condemned sanctions. I can quote from that report. It is a report, I can show it there, and is a report of 2012. And among the conclusions we read very clearly, “States must refrain from adopting unilateral coercive measures that breach the human rights obligations under a treaty or customary international law.” Now, the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights specifically prohibits this kind of economic war because of its impact on the right to health, because of its impacts on the right food, etc., etc.

Now, The Human Rights Council has repeatedly condemned sanctions, including this year. Last month of March at the 40th session of the council, there was a resolution adopted condemning unilateral coercive measures. Not only those against Venezuela, but also those against Iran and those against Syria, etc., etc. because sanctions kill. And more and more professors of law, professors of political science have come to the conclusion, as I have, that if the victims of sanctions and financial blockades reaches a certain threshold, that would constitute crimes against humanity under Article 7 of the Statute of Rome. That is, the Statute of the International Criminal Court. And I had in my report already, back in September 2018, recommended that the issue be brought to the prosecutor. The prosecutor of the ICC should open an investigation into the deaths directly attributable to sanctions.

Mark Weisbrot and Professor Jeff Sachs concluded in their report that in the year 2018 alone, as many as 40,000 Venezuelans died as a result of the sanctions and financial blockade. Now, that has gotten worse since 2018. So responsibility to protect means responsibility to stop these artificial sanctions, which I compare with the siege of towns and cities in medieval times with the one purpose to starve them to death. To have them come out with the white flag and surrender. That is what the United States, that’s what Pompeo and Bolton and Abrams and Trump want. They—

GREG WILPERT Let me ask you something else though. I mean, you point out the difference between the 2012 report and that report that was just released. Now I’m wondering, what has happened to the office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights that such a report could be written? I mean, what kind of changes have happened there? I remember times when the United States was very critical of that commission, saying that they were coddling dictators and things like that. Now, it seems to have taken on a very different direction, even though the United States actually is officially withdrawing from the Human Rights Commission. So what’s going on there?

ALFRED DE ZAYAS Well, they twist a lot of arms behind the scenes. [laughs] Don’t think that the US has abandoned the Human Rights Council. They’re very much there, and they are very much bullying, and countries are afraid. There are consequences when you vote against the interests of the United States. There is a price to pay. Either you are going to suffer economic sanctions, or the United States will find a way to make you suffer for your independence, for your exercise of your sovereignty. But going back to the office, it’s not just the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The OAS, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights— they’ve all been hijacked. They’ve all redefined human rights: human rights are the rights to make money, the right to profit, the right to—What? Do your thing no matter who suffers, no matter what the consequences of your actions are.

It’s very weird how the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Luis Almagro, how Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have sold out basically to the establishment. I see them as an alibi to maintain the neoliberal status quo. So if you attempt an alternative social-economic model as Salvador Allende did in 1970, you’re odd man out. And human rights have been weaponized in order to defame you, to demonize you, and to make it palatable that a military intervention under the guise of a humanitarian intervention could be carried out. Now, this is almost blasphemy— how you can take the noble concept of human rights, how you can take the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of Eleanor Roosevelt, and then use it as a weapon.

I would like to see a comparison of the situation in Honduras, and in Guatemala, and in Colombia, and in Brazil where [the] Indigenous have been massacred and are still being massacred, where social leaders are being murdered every day, where there’s a very high level of homicide or criminality in the streets. But we focus only on Venezuela so that it becomes palatable for world public opinion to say, “No that has to change. We have to get rid of the government.” Now, I applaud the fact that Michelle Bachelet went to Venezuela, and part of the problem with her report is that obviously it’s not her report. The report was written long, long, long before she went to Venezuela. And 82% of the interviews conducted were not conducted in Venezuela. They were conducted outside Venezuela from individuals who are obviously opposition leaders and people who oppose the current government of Venezuela.

GREG WILPERT Okay.

ALFRED DE ZAYAS So the report is very unbalanced. It needs equilibrium. And if I want to see the silver lining: the High Commissioner has engaged, the High Commissioner has been there, the High Commissioner has left two of her staffers permanently in an office in Venezuela. Now, I am optimistic thanks to the reports of people like Jeffrey Sachs and Mark Weisbrot. Thanks to articles and books by Professor Tinker Salas and by Dan Kovalik and by Pasqualina Curcio. That gradually, people will come to understand that the situation is far more complex than we think, and that there is a responsibility to protect the Venezuelan people. To protect them from whom? From the United States. To protect them from sanctions. To protect them from the financial blockade.

GREG WILPERT Okay. On that note, unfortunately we’re going to have to leave it there for now. I was speaking to Alfred de Zayas, retired senior lawyer with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Thanks again, Alfred, for having joined us today.

ALFRED DE ZAYAS Thanks for having me.

GREG WILPERT And thank you for joining The Real News Network.

https://therealnews.com/stories/un-report-on-venezuela-fails-to-reflect-the-causes-and-severity-of-the-economic-crisis-why-2-2

 2 
 on: July 23, 2019, 01:28:39 PM 
Started by News - Last post by News
De Zayas: UN Human Rights Council’s Report on Venezuela is ‘Unbalanced’De Zayas: UN Human Rights Council’s Report on Venezuela is ‘Unbalanced’ (1/2)

July 12, 2019

Former lawyer for the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, Alfred de Zayas, says that High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet's report on human rights in Venezuela mostly ignores the severity and responsibility of US sanctions against Venezuela

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zHI35Uh8_y0

Story Transcript

GREG WILPERT It’s The Real News Network and I’m GREG WILPERT in Baltimore. Last week, the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, released a report on the human rights situation in Venezuela. The report can safely be described as being quite scathing of the human rights situation. Here is an excerpt of Bachelet’s presentation of the report.

MICHELLE BACHELET, UN HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS As the report makes clear, essential institutions under the rule of law in Venezuela have been eroded. The exercise of freedom of opinion, expression, association, and assembly, and the right to participate in public life entails a risk of reprisals and repression. Our report notes attacks against actual or perceived political opponents and human rights defenders ranging from threats and smear campaigns to arbitrary detention, torture and ill treatment, sexual violence, killings, and forced disappearance.

GREG WILPERT The government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro slammed the report for being one-sided. The Foreign Ministry said the report mostly ignored the impact of US economic sanctions on Venezuela, as well as information presented by Venezuelan human rights NGOs that highlighted the violence committed by opposition supporters.

Joining me now to discuss the UN Human Rights report on Venezuela is ALFRED DE ZAYAS. He’s a retired senior lawyer with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights as well as a retired chief of the petitions department at the OHCHR. Back in late 2017, he visited Venezuela as an independent expert from the UN. So let’s start out with the report in general. What is your reaction to the report on Venezuela given what you know about the human rights situation there? Was it balanced?

ALFRED DE ZAYAS I’m rather disappointed because I had the opportunity of briefing Michelle Bachelet’s assistant for an hour and delivering a considerable amount of documentation. I also pointed out which were the conclusions, findings of my own report for the Human Rights Council, and how I thought that a constructive dialogue with the government of Venezuela should be conducted so as to help the Venezuelan people. It’s not a question of giving aid and comfort to the government. It’s a question of helping the people who are suffering. Why are they suffering? Primarily because there is a major economic crisis. What are the causes of the economic crisis? First of all, that drastic drop in the price of oil back in 2014. Venezuela has less than half the income that it used to have. But most importantly, the economic war, which is not new.

 The economic war started in 1999 when Chavez became President of Venezuela and there was, of course, a coup d’état of 2002. And then, the sanctions imposed by Obama and later by Trump. Now, these sanctions are the direct cause of death. The direct cause of death through malnutrition, death through lack of access to certain medicines. The government is bending over backwards to buy the necessary medicine, to buy the necessary food. Venezuela is not self-sufficient. This is not something that is the fault of the Chavez or the Maduro government. I mean, this has been the model of the Venezuelan economy for 100 years. They are dependent on the sale of oil. Now, if the United States confiscates or freezes billions and billions of dollars that belong to the Venezuelan people, if the bank in England similarly refuses to return $1.5 billion-worth of gold, and if some 40 bank institutions in the world have frozen more than $5 billion— how is Venezuela going to purchase the food and the medicines that it needs?

 It still does a remarkable job of doubling the available resources, but then, there is the problem of sanctions. Any businessman, any entrepreneur who wants to do business with Venezuela knows that he is risking major penalties. I’m not talking about $10,000. I’m talking about $50,000, $100,000, $200,000. So if you are an entrepreneur and you know it’s going to cost you that kind of money, why are you going to take the risk? So you pass over Venezuela. Going back to the report of Michelle Bachelet, on the optimistic side I can say bravo. She personally has been in Venezuela. She has spoken with both the opposition and the government, with many ministers. She has been given an enormous amount of information. Why is their report so deficient? And it is very deficient. It is very disappointing. Why? Because it was drafted by the same team that had drafted the reports of Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. Michelle Bachelet has inherited a team. In this team—

GREG WILPERT I want to get into that issue in a moment, but first, I just want to ask you something else about the report itself. I mean, one of the things, and you touched on this already, but I just want to quote from the report because I think it’s kind of interesting. One of the things that she says in the report, or I don’t know if it’s her, or her assistants say, “The government has not demonstrated that it has used all resources at its disposal to ensure the progressive realization of the right to food, nor that it has unsuccessfully sought international assistance to address gaps.” Then it goes on also to say that, “Violations of the right to health resulted from the Government’s failure to fulfill its core obligations, which are non-derogable, even for economic reasons.” And then finally, she does say something about the economic sanctions, but basically ends up dismissing them. Now one of the things, and I think it’s important to always keep in mind that the report also of course talks very scathingly about the political freedoms, and also about the 5,000 or plus people that have been killed in confrontations with the police, which it calls extrajudicial killings basically. Now that’s a very serious allegation, but on the other hand, from what I have just quoted, the report seems to ignore the sanctions for the most part. And according to one analysis that is by Mark Weisbrot and Jeffrey Sachs, as many as 40,000 people were killed or died due to a lack of access to medicine and to food. Now, given the—

ALFRED DE ZAYAS That was low in 2018. This year is much—

GREG WILPERT Right, right. Now given all of that, what would you say should actually be the UN’s role in dealing with this kind of a situation?

ALFRED DE ZAYAS Coordinating all the agencies. When I was in Venezuela, I called in the FAO, and WHO, UNHCR, UN Women, etc. to say, look, how can we help the Venezuelan people? Indeed, shortly after my visit, new arrangements were made between some of these United Nations agencies and the government, and they are helping the government. So do the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, so there is some progress. But the report is unfortunately, fundamentally flawed. The major problem is methodology. When you are a researcher, it doesn’t even have to be a legal investigation, even if you are a historian, you have to listen to all sides. You have to evaluate all of the evidence, and then you have to reflect it professionally.

 What has happened here is that an enormous amount of information that was made available to the High Commissioner—And not just during her visit because her team was there already in March. She went now for three days, but at least 50 nongovernmental organizations on the ground in Venezuela—Such as, Fundalatin, which is a very old Venezuelan NGO. It’s not a GONGO. It’s not a government NGO. Fundalatin, Grupo Sures, and Red Nacional de Derechos Humanos did give Michelle Bachelet material. But when did she receive that material, and why was it not taken into account? Because you don’t find a footnote in her report to any of these sources, nor do you find a footnote to my own report, or to my findings and conclusions, so there’s something wrong. And I attribute that—Because I am a former staffer of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and I know how things work. There are people with prejudices. They have an axe to grind and they grind it and they omit information that just doesn’t fit the matrix that they want to put forward.

 Now this, of course, is not just a problem of methodology. This is also a problem of ethics. I find that the professional ethics of a staff member must include a true reproduction of the information received from all sources. Obviously you can discard information if you think this just comes from the press, this is fake news, this is not serious. But the information given to the High Commissioner, I have seen much of that information, which also dates back to 2017, and none of it was ever reflected by Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, and is also not reflected by this new report. So that my recommendation— and I’ve already put it in writing, and I’ve already informed the office of my opinion— I think it is necessary for the credibility of the office to change the team that has been doing these reports in the past because they have proven not to be objective. They have proven not to follow what I would consider the minimum requirements of any serious research.

I think that not giving appropriate weight to the violence of the guarimbas, of the opposition, not going into the dislocation, the disturbance of repeated attempts at overthrowing the government, the coup d’état, the unilateral declaration of the presidency of Guaido, followed by the so-called humanitarian aid that the United States was going to force from Colombia into Venezuela, followed by the call to the army to overthrow Maduro on the 30th of April last, etc., the attempts on the life of Maduro himself—All of these things have an impact on the functioning of any government. And you mentioned the figure of 5,000 persons who are said to have lost their lives in the context of resistance to state authority. My understanding is that that figure actually encompasses common criminals, encompasses persons engaged in sabotage, persons engaged in contraband who have of course resisted the government. But back in 2017, and I’ve seen the videos, the opposition used Molotov cocktails. The opposition used real bullets. The opposition burned alive seven human beings.

GREG WILPERT Okay. Well, we’re going to have to conclude this part one, this first part of our discussion with you. And I invite people to tune in for the second part where we will go into the details of why it is that this report has been flawed, according to you. So I was speaking to ALFRED DE ZAYAS, retired senior lawyer with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Thanks again, Alfred, for having joined us. And again, as I said, join us for part two.

https://therealnews.com/stories/de-zayas-un-human-rights-councils-report-on-venezuela-is-unbalanced-1-2

 3 
 on: May 20, 2019, 05:29:59 PM 
Started by News - Last post by News

By Chandra Muzaffar
May 20, 2019

https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/05/20/targeting-iran/

A dangerous flashpoint has emerged in world politics at the moment. There is widespread fear that the United States and its allies might launch a military operation against Iran at any time. A US aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers are already deployed in the region. The alleged sabotage of four oil tankers, two of them Saudi, and the attack on a major oil pipeline are being linked in certain circles without an iota of evidence to Tehran. There is no need to repeat that scenarios of this sort are often manufactured to justify military aggression.

For more than a year now since unilaterally repudiating the 2015 Iran nuclear deal forged between Iran and six world powers, the US has not only re-imposed economic sanctions upon Iran but has also forced other states that trade with Iran to reduce drastically their interaction with Tehran. US targeting of Iran is a grave travesty of justice for the simple reason that the UN’s nuclear inspection agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has reiterated over and over again that Iran has complied with the nuclear deal. It should not therefore be punished with old or new sanctions.  This is also the position adopted by the other signatories to the deal, namely, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.

But US president, Donald Trump is determined to act against Iran partly because of the growing influence of the Israeli government led by Benyamin Netanyahu and a segment of the Israeli lobby in the US upon his administration.  Though Israel has harbored deep distrust of the Iranian leadership since the 1979 Islamic Revolution because of the latter’s proven commitment to the Palestinian cause, it is only in recent years that it has begun to sense that a combination of three factors renders Iran and its people a formidable challenge to Israel’s goal of establishing its hegemonic power over West Asia. Iran’s oil and gas wealth has been reinforced by its scientific knowledge and capabilities underscored by a passionate devotion to the nation’s independence and sovereignty derived from both its historical experience and its attachment to a spiritual identity. Besides, the Iranian government is a staunch defender of the Syrian government which refuses to yield to Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights, in itself a gross violation of international law.  Iran is also linked to the Hezbollah which has successfully resisted Israeli attempts to gain control over Lebanon, thus threatening the tiny nation’s   sovereignty.

There is also perhaps another reason why Israel and the US are hell-bent on targeting Iran at this juncture. Very soon, leaders of these two states will announce the so-called “deal of the century”, a farcical attempt to resolve the longstanding Israel-Palestine conflict. Because the deal from what little is known of it, is so palpably unjust to the Palestinian people, the Palestinians and the majority of the people of West Asia are expected to reject it outright. According to various sources, the deal condemns the Palestinians to perpetual apartheid. Iran and its allies can be expected to spearhead the opposition. It explains to some extent why Iran has to be hobbled immediately.

As an aside, it is ironical that Israel is showing such hostility to Iran when the Iranian Constitution not only recognizes the Jews as a minority but also provides the community with representation in its legislature. This is unique in West Asia. Israel’s failure to appreciate this is perhaps proof that its real commitment is not so much to the well-being of the Jews as the triumph of its Zionist ideology with its goal of expansionism and hegemony.

It is not simply because of Zionism or Israel that the US Administration is seeking to emasculate Iran. Weakening and destroying Iran is foremost on the agenda of another of Trump’s close allies in the region. The Saudi ruling elite also saw the Iranian Revolution of 1979 as a mortal threat to its position and power because it overthrew a feudal monarch, was opposed to US dominance of the region and sought inspiration in a vision of Islam rooted in human dignity and social justice.  As Iranian influence in West Asia expanded especially after the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq, the Saudi elite became even more apprehensive of Iran and wanted the US to curb Iran’s role in the region.  In this regard it is worth observing that if Iran has become more influential in the region in the last 15 years or so, it is not only because of the astuteness of the Iranian leadership but also because of the follies of the Saudi and US ruling elite. The overthrow of Saddam Hussein through an Anglo-American invasion of Iraq in 2003 for instance paved the way for the ascendancy of Shia politicians more inclined towards Iran.

How and why Saudi and Israeli elite interests and ambitions are intertwined in the US push against Iran is not highlighted in the media including the new media. Consequently, only a small fraction of the public understands the real causes for the escalation of tensions in West Asia centering on Iran. It is largely because the media conceals and camouflages the truth, that a lot of people see the victim as the perpetrator and the perpetrator as the liberator. Or as Malcolm X once put it, “If you are not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”

https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/05/20/targeting-iran/

 4 
 on: March 27, 2019, 07:38:02 AM 
Started by News - Last post by News
Hypocrites Much? US Government to Assess Russian ‘Influence’ in Venezuela

March 26, 2019

The legislation would require for the U.S. State Department to provide a threat assessment and strategic approach for dealing with Russia’s military cooperation in Venezuela.

The House of Representatives of the U.S. Congress approved Monday a bill to assess Russia’s influence in Venezuela, as well as its implications for the U.S. and its allies.

The “Russia-Venezuelan Threat Mitigation Act” is a bi-partisan legislation introduced by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D), which would require for the U.S. State Department to provide a threat assessment and strategic approach for dealing with Russia’s military cooperation in Venezuela. The bill now must be passed by the Senate and then be signed by Donald Trump to become law.

This comes as two Russian air force planes landed in Caracas on Saturday carrying a Russian defense official and nearly 100 troops, according to media reports. An operation confirmed by National Constituent Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, which was part of the ongoing military technical and strategic cooperation program with the Bolivarian government.

Venezuelan Foreign Affairs Minister Jorge Arreaza criticized the U.S. position asserting that “such cynicism that a country with more than 800 military bases around the world, much of them in Latin America, and a growing military budget of more than US$700 billion, intends to interfere with the military-technical cooperation program between Russia and Venezuela.”

Yet it seems that, once again, this has to do more with Venezuela’s oil than “democracy”, as they put it. The legislation focuses the need to evaluate "the national security risks posed by potential Russian acquisition of Citgo’s energy infrastructure holdings in the U.S." The main shareholder of Citgo is Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA.

Russia has not been silent on this issue. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov denounced Monday that “Washington’s attempts to organize a coup d'état in Venezuela and (U.S.) threats against the legitimate government are in violation of the UN Charter.” And went on to say that the U.S. is conducting an “undisguised interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state.”

While China also weighed on the matter. A spokesman of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Geng Shuang, declared Tuesday that Latin American nations are sovereign countries, able to decide by their own account with which States to collaborate, adding that the region  “does not belong to any country and it is not anyone's backyard."

https://www.telesurenglish.net/news/Hypocrites-Much-US-Government-to-Assess-Russian-Influence-in-Venezuela-20190326-0029.html

 5 
 on: March 10, 2019, 03:01:18 PM 
Started by Nakandi - Last post by Nakandi
IS MINIMALISM A LUXURY OF THE RICH?

Owning few items used to be called poverty. But when one is able to purge, declutter, and own only long-lasting, good quality items, is this a luxury limited only to the wealthy?

A friend of mine spent several years teaching English as an additional language to adults; most of her students were new immigrants, and many of them, refugees. She saw a frequent phenomenon: an accumulation of stuff. Like, I'm talking: eight TVs kind of accumulation...

No, these folks aren't greedy, and they aren't individualists who are trying to accommodate each family member's personal show preferences! But, after living in want, in desperation, and in lack for so long, when faced with abundance, the scarcity mindset still rules. How can I give up this opportunity for a free XYZ? What if I never get that chance again?

You hear the same thing about people who lived through WW2 or the Great Depression (though, less frequently as people with memories of that time period age and pass away): these are the grandmas who save pencils down to the nub and have partially used notebooks that are 30 years old, waiting to be completed if needed.

The Minimalists have a phrase: you should purge everything that you could replace (if needed) in 20 minutes for $20 or less. One part of me thinks: sage advice! Keep it simple! The other part of me thinks: what arrogance! It assumes that our situation, wealth, access, etc. will never change.

This article, on the website Becoming Minimalist, has stuck with me for years. Patrick Rhone describes a sea change in his life:

"$18,685.00 is the gross total of what I made. Not the net. Not after taxes. That was it. Between August 2003 and August 2004 that was my gross income for a family of three [him as dad and his two boys].

That’s how I became a minimalist."

Rhone cuts through the BS to illustrate the privilege that many of us take for granted when we "decide" to pursue minimalism.

"To many of us, choosing to “live simply” is to others living in poverty and they may not have a choice. We should be mindful of this when we talk about it to others because, many times, we come off sounding like elitist jerks."

Yep.

It is often experienced that minimalism creates wealth (of time, of richness of experience, etc.), but do we acknowledge the implicit financial wealth that allows us to "pursue" minimalism?

Source: https://www.shopdignify.com/blogs/shopgoodblog/is-minimalism-a-luxury-of-the-rich

 6 
 on: February 18, 2019, 02:55:53 PM 
Started by News - Last post by News

By Jacob G. Hornberger
February 13, 2019 - fff.org


Two days ago, the New York Times carried an article by Times’ journalist Thomas Erdbrink entitled, “For Iran, a Grand Occasion to Bash the U.S.,” which was about Iran’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of its revolution in 1979. The article included the following sentence, “And like some evil doppelgänger, the United States was omnipresent, despite having broken all ties with Iran in 1981.”

Unfortunately, Erdbrink failed to point out two things: One, it is understandable why the Iranian people bash the U.S. government, and, two, while the U.S. government may have broken diplomatic ties with Iran, it has nonetheless continued to use economic sanctions to target the Iranian people with impoverishment and death as a way of hopefully effecting another regime change within the country.

First things first though. When the Times refers to “bashing the U.S.,” it makes a common mistake by conflating the U.S. government and our nation. Actually, they are two separate and distinct entities, a phenomenon best reflected by the Bill of Rights, which expressly protects the citizenry (i.e., our country) from the U.S. government.

The distinction is important because the Iranian people love Americans. They just hate the U.S. government. And when one considers what the U.S. government has done to Iranians and continues to do to Iranians, which, unfortunately, many Americans don’t like to think about, it is not difficult to understand the deep enmity that Iranians have toward the U.S. government.

In 1953, the CIA, which is one of three principal parts of the national-security branch of the federal government, secretly initiated a regime-change coup in Iran, one that not only ousted from power the democratically elected prime minister of the country, Mohammed Mossadegh, but also destroyed Iran’s experiment with democracy. That’s ironic, of course, given that U.S. officials are always reminding people how enamored they are with “democracy.”

Why did the CIA initiate this regime-change operation? Because the U.S. national-security establishment was convinced that there was a worldwide communist conspiracy to take over the United States and the rest of the world, a conspiracy that was supposedly based in Moscow, Russia. (Yes, that Russia!)

What did that supposed worldwide conspiracy have to do with Mossadegh? The CIA was convinced that Mossadegh was leaning left because he had nationalized British oil interests, which, needless to say, had not sat well with British oil companies. Therefore, the CIA concluded, Mossadegh could conceivably be a secret agent for this supposed worldwide communist conspiracy that was supposedly based in Russia.

Upon ousting Mossadegh from power, the CIA made the Shah of Iran its supreme dictator in Iran. He turned out to be one of the most cruel and brutal tyrants in the world, with the full support of the CIA and the rest of the U.S. national-security establishment. In fact, the CIA helped organize and train the Shah’s tyrannical enforcement agency, the SAVAK, which was a combination Gestapo, KGB, Pentagon, NSA, and CIA.

For the next 25 years, the Shah and the CIA-trained and CIA-supported SAVAK ruled Iran with a brutal and oppressive iron fist. Indefinite detention, brutal torture, kangaroo trials, and executions were hallmarks of the Shah’s regime. Of course, from the standpoint of the U.S. government, the Shah was a kind and friendly ruler, one who was a loyal partner and ally of the U.S. government. From the standpoint of U.S. officials, the Shah and his SAVAK were just displaying the “law and order” mentality within the country that characterized all U.S.-supported foreign dictators.

In 1979, the Iranian people had had enough of the Shah’s, the SAVAK’s, and the CIA’s brutal tyranny and oppression. That’s when they decided to revolt, violently. If their revolution had failed, there would have been a horrific backlash involving mass arrests, incarceration, torture, kangaroo trials, and executions at the hands of the Shah and his CIA-trained and CIA-supported SAVAK.

But the revolution succeeded, much to the chagrin of U.S. officials, who have never forgiven the Iranian people for ousting the CIA’s man from power. Unfortunately, however, the Iranian people were unable to restore the democratic experiment that the CIA had destroyed some 26 years before. Iranians ended up with another brutal dictatorship, this one a religious theocracy.

Ever since the Iranian revolution, U.S. officials have never ceased their efforts to effect another regime change in Iran, one that would bring another pro-U.S. dictator into power, one who would be permitted to wield totalitarian power over the Iranian people in return for loyal support of the U.S. Empire in foreign affairs.

That’s what the U.S. sanctions against Iran are all about. The sanctions target the Iranian people with impoverishment, suffering, and even death in the hopes that they will initiate a violent revolution against their government or, alternatively, in the hope of bringing a collapse of the Iranian government, or, alternatively, in the hope of inciting a pro-U.S. coup within the regime, or, alternatively, in the hope of provoking a regime-change war between Iran and the United States.

The Iranian people are obviously the pawns in this process. Like with other U.S. regime-change operations (e.g., Iraq, Chile, Guatemala, Libya, Afghanistan, etc.), no amount of death, suffering, and impoverishment among the Iranian people is considered too high. When asked in 1996 whether the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children (yes, children!) from the U.S. sanctions were worth U.S. regime-change efforts in Iraq, the response of U.S. Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright reflects the current mindset towards the massive suffering and death of the Iranian people from U.S. sanctions: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price–we think the price is worth it.”

Is it any surprise why Iranians are bashing the U.S. government and President Trump as Iranians celebrate the 40th anniversary of the ouster of the cruel and brutal tyrant that the CIA installed and trained in their country?

https://www.fff.org/2019/02/13/understanding-why-iranians-bash-the-u-s-government/

 7 
 on: February 12, 2019, 06:36:48 AM 
Started by News - Last post by News
By Kim Ives
September 18, 2018 - ounterpunch.org


Haitians worldwide, both in Haiti and throughout its international diaspora, have been demonstrating over the past two months to demand: “Where is the PetroCaribe money?”

They are referring to a fund established in Haiti a decade ago by Venezuela, in conjunction with the Haitian government, which was supposed to finance projects to benefit the Haitian people. A November 2017 Haitian Senate investigatory report found that some $1.7 billion from the PetroCaribe Fund was either lost, squandered, or embezzled from 2008 to 2016. Its management “was marked by serious anomalies, irregularities, acts of malfeasance and fabrication,” the report said. Today, analysts estimate that some $3.8 billion of PetroCaribe money is missing or misspent.

The fund’s establishment was a remarkable act of international solidarity initiated by the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and it was bitterly opposed by Washington. Under an accord signed in 2006 but not finalized and implemented until 2008, Venezuela agreed to provide Haiti with cheap petroleum products – some 20,000 barrels a day – when oil was selling for about $100 per barrel. Furthermore, Haiti only had to pay 60% of its oil bill to Venezuela up front. The remaining 40% of petroleum revenues went into the PetroCaribe Fund, repayable to Venezuela after 25 years at only 1% interest.

But what happened to this fund which could have provided so much development to the Haitian people? In short, it was largely stolen. It happened like this.

Two years after the PetroCaribe accord began, Haiti was hit by the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake of Jan. 12, 2010. Washington used the disaster to virtually wrest control of Haiti from President René Préval. It rammed through the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), which made former U.S. President Bill Clinton Haiti’s de facto ruler and treasurer. Clinton and his acolytes decided how the $13 billion in post-quake international assistance to Haiti was to be spent.

Préval passively resisted, increasing Washington’s dismay with him. After the first-round of Haitian presidential elections were held in November 2010, then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton forced out Préval’s candidate, Jude Célestin, who had won a spot in the run-off, and replaced him with U.S.-friendly neo-Duvalierist candidate Joseph Michel Martelly, a pro-coup konpa musician known as “Sweet Micky.” Martelly won the Mar. 20, 2011 election with less than 23% of the electorate voting, the lowest turnout for a presidential election in not just Haitian but Latin American history until then (Haiti’s 2016 election would beat that record.)

In the short space of five years from May 2011 to January 2016, President Martelly, with different prime ministers, burned through about $1.256 billion (74% of all the money the Haitian government took over a decade from the PetroCaribe Fund) to finance projects which were either not finished or not real. Martelly’s close friend and longest-serving Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe himself declared, before the Haitian people chased him from office in December 2014, that 94% of his government’s projects were financed by the PetroCaribe Fund.

The 2016 Haitian presidential election was nominally won by Jovenel Moïse, Martelly’s protégé. With the largest campaign coffers (thanks to the PetroCaribe fund), he came into office under indictment for laundering millions of dollars through his banana exporting business Agritrans (money that many analysts believe came from the PetroCaribe fund).

As part of its growing war against Caracas, the Trump administration last year imposed financial sanctions on Venezuela, including limiting bank transactions. As a result, the PetroCaribe program in Haiti was stopped in October 2017 because the Bank of the Republic of Haiti (BRH) could no longer make payments in foreign currency. This has been a tremendous blow to the Haitian economy.

Over the last seven years, Martelly and Moïse let Haiti’s payments for Venezuelan petroleum fall into arrears, and Haiti now reportedly owes over $2 billion in addition to the $1.7 billion withdrawn from the PetroCaribe fund. In 2010, Venezuela forgave some $295 million that Haiti owed it. That represented about a quarter of Haiti’s total $1.25 billion foreign debt. In November 2017, Venezuela allowed Haiti to use $82 million of the debt it owes Venezuela for social projects in Haiti. In return, Haiti is to reimburse Venezuela with food products.

So during the five years from 2006 to 2010, we saw President Préval sign and begin a very promising oil and development program in conjunction with Venezuela. But from 2011 to 2018, we’ve seen Washington hijack the Haiti state, using two subservient administrations to plunder the PetroCaribe Fund and create the political and economic crisis Haiti faces today.

From Jul. 6-8, 2018, tens of thousands of Haitians took to the streets of Haiti, burning stores and stopping all activity, because the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Washington’s sheriff for neo-colonial finances, had ordered the Moïse government to slash oil price subsidies, drastically hiking fuel prices, up to 51% in the case of kerosene.

History has shown that it is unwise to try to take back a gain won by the Haitian people.

The Haitian people rose up and formed Latin America’s first independent nation in 1804 after Napoleon tried to reestablish slavery in the colony of St. Domingue.

They rose up again, after overthrowing dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier in 1986, when Washington tried to reestablish a neo-Duvalierist military dictatorship. That uprising culminated in the 1990 election of former anti-imperialist priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the first time modern U.S. election engineering was foiled in Latin America.

Today, again, the Haitian people are again rising up to demand a reckoning after the governments of Martelly and Moïse, in cahoots with Washington, France, and Canada, fronted by the IMF, try to take back the oil and development wealth that the Venezuelan people gave to Haiti, thanks to Hugo Chavez’s internationalist spirit.

Demonstrations are growing and spreading in Haiti, Montreal, and New York. A “Petro-demo” took place in Miami on Sep. 15. Demonstrators know that they will never get the truth about or justice for the theft of PetroCaribe funds from the Moïse government. That would be asking a thief to arrest himself.

But the call for transparency and restitution are fueling people’s growing conviction that the only way to break Haiti’s downward spiral of corruption and impoverishment is with a revolutionary movement to take back the government and treasury stolen from them in stages since the U.S.-backed coup d’état against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 2004.

Starting in 2005, Venezuela established the PetroCaribe alliance with 17 nations, mostly in the Caribbean. In many of those countries, the program has been curtailed in recent years under pressure from Washington’s aggressive sanctions and low worldwide oil prices.

Kim Ives is an editor of the weekly print newspaper Haiti Liberté, where this piece was first published. The newspaper is published in French and Kreyol with a weekly English-language page in Brooklyn and distributed throughout Haiti.

https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/09/18/the-roots-of-haitis-movement-for-petrocaribe-transparency/

 8 
 on: January 26, 2019, 12:49:53 PM 
Started by News - Last post by News
The CEPR’s Alex Main and TRNN’s Greg Wilpert discuss the trajectory of US regime change policy in Venezuela through to the present coup in progress backed by the Trump administration.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOMExpicTrg

By Alex Main & Greg Wilpert – The Real News
Jan 25th 2019 at 4.07pm

From economic sanctions to international pressure, how has the US strategy for regime change in Venezuela worked until now? An analysis with CEPR’s Alex Main and TRNN’s Greg Wilpert.


SHARMINI PERIES: It’s The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore.

On Wednesday, President Trump announced that the United States will recognize the Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the legitimate president of Venezuela. President Maduro, in response, announced that he is cutting off diplomatic ties and the embassy’s diplomatic staff has 72 hours to leave the country. All this was triggered shortly after Juan Guaido, who is the president of the National Assembly in Venezuela, swore himself in as the president.

Now, Juan Guaido swore himself in on the claim that Nicolas Maduro, the current president of Venezuela, is illegitimate, and that given that the president and the vice president is illegitimate, that he is the next in line for the presidency. Yesterday, Vice President Mike Pence set the stage for all of this by making an announcement directed at Venezuelans, urging them to rise up against President Maduro.

MIKE PENCE: On behalf of President Donald Trump and all the American people, let me express the unwavering support of the United States, as you, the people of Venezuela, raise your voices in a call for freedom. Nicolas Maduro is a dictator with no legitimate claim to power. The United States joins with all freedom loving nations in recognizing the National Assembly as the last vestige of democracy in your country, for it’s the only body elected by you, the people. As such, the United States supports the courageous decision by Juan Guaido, the president of your National Assembly, to assert that body’s constitutional powers, declare Maduro a usurper and call for the establishment of a transitional government.

SHARMINI PERIES: Now, leading up to all of this, tens of thousands of Venezuelans had taken to the streets of Caracas on the 61st anniversary of the overthrow of Venezuela’s last dictator, Marcos Perez Jimenez. Now, supporters of President Maduro also took to the streets, because this is an annual event that both sides, or just Venezuelans in general, come to celebrate. But these demonstrations, and particularly the opposition demonstration, was manipulated to make it look like that these were large protests demonstrating the overthrow, or desire to overthrow, Nicolas Maduro.

Now, what is happening in Venezuela is of course the topic of this discussion. And joining us from New York today is Alex Main. He’s the director of the International Policy Department at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington DC. And also joining me here in our studio is Gregory Wilpert. He is our Managing Editor here at The Real News and he’s also the author of Changing Venezuela by Taking Power. Gentlemen, I thank you both for joining me.

GREG WILPERT: My pleasure.

ALEX MAIN: Thank you.

SHARMINI PERIES: All right, Alex let me start with you. You work for a CEPR directing policy, so you have a lot of hands on experience in Washington in terms of trying to make sense of the foreign policy of the U.S. towards Venezuela. And there has been some strategic efforts here on the part of the U.S. to cripple Venezuela’s economy, to of course, organize the region against Venezuela. Give us a sense of the strategies that the U.S. government and the Trump administration in particular has been up to in recent months.

ALEX MAIN: Well, this administration has been deploying a number of strategies over the last few years. Really, they sort of support an ongoing strategy of regime change in Venezuela that we’ve seen for a very long time, starting with the George W. Bush administration. And really it continued, to a great extent, under the Obama administration, though perhaps not quite as overtly as it’s become, again, very overt under President Trump. And particularly since August of 2017, when he put into place economic sanctions that have literally starved the economy of much needed international funding at a time when the economy, of course, has been in a serious crisis.

So it’s reminiscent of the sort of U.S. policy that we saw towards Chile in the early 1970s, when I think it’s Kissinger or Nixon who famously said, “We’re going to make the economy scream.” And certainly, the economy of Venezuela has been screaming. It has to do a lot with some of the flawed economic policies of the Maduro government itself, but it’s really grown much worse since these sanctions were put into place. And then there’s been a lot of talk of military intervention and of coups from people both within the administration, such as former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and people very close to the administration who have had a great deal of influence on Venezuela policy, such as Marco Rubio, who has entertained the idea of a coup to solve Venezuela’s problems, so to speak.

And now we’re seeing a strategy of complete nonrecognition. Really to be fair, this administration never really recognized the Maduro government. After the elections that took place that first elected Maduro, the Obama administration, of course, hadn’t really recognized the results and had sort of followed the hard line opposition in not recognizing the results of those elections. Then they sort of learned to live with the government, but now they are coming out saying that they no longer recognize the government as being legitimate. And I think what’s very clear is that with all these threats, with the sanctions and so on, they’re really trying to find breaches within Venezuela’s armed forces. Really, they are seen sort of as the arbiter, unfortunately, they’re seen sort of as the arbiter of political outcomes in Venezuela today. And I think there’s a very concerted effort to try to provoke the armed forces into supporting this newly heralded opposition leader who was unknown until really just weeks ago.

And of course, there are reports that came out earlier last year that very senior-level Trump administration officials have been meeting with dissident Venezuelan army officers, ones that were very clearly seeking support for a military coup. So I think that’s what’s happening here, and we’ll have to see. I mean, to date the armed forces, or at least the bulk of the armed forces and certainly the high command of the armed forces of Venezuela, has now wanted to get involved in this way in politics, and hopefully, that will remain the case. But obviously, we’re under a tremendous amount of pressure this time.

SHARMINI PERIES: All right, Greg. Now, for those who are just joining us and wasn’t a part of the previous Livestream we had done on Venezuela as this news broke, give us a sense of what are some of the events that have taken place in the recent past that has led to this situation today.

GREG WILPERT: Well first of all, as Alex mentioned, efforts to overthrow both the Chavez government and then the Maduro government go way back, and of course, found its most important expression in the 2002 coup attempt against Chavez. But more recently, these efforts, of course, have intensified, and I assume that the reasons they’ve intensified are several fold. First, there was the death of President Chavez, and that certainly looked like an opening for the opposition and for the U.S. government to overthrow the government, and that’s when they organized massive protests already, right after that election. Then the economic crisis, the decline in oil prices, misguided economic policies on the part of the Maduro government that led to hyperinflation, led I think to the sanctions, that further intensified the economic situation.

And then, of course, we also have, from a couple of months ago, the assassination attempt using bombs on drones that attacked Maduro during a military parade. And that was foiled, but that was the clearest indication yet of the efforts to overthrow Maduro. He himself, later on, went on to say that more attempts will be coming and he specifically identified Mike Pence and John Bolton and Marco Rubio as being behind these efforts. And this was then shortly later, I think, confirmed with both of their, that is, Pence’s and Bolton’s trip throughout Latin America, where they toured various governments and put pressure on them to turn against Venezuela, not that they needed much pushing, considering that they visited mostly conservative governments. Of course, Ecuador, I think, was an interesting exception that at least for a while wasn’t considered conservative, but now should be considered part of that conservative camp.

And then we also had some interesting events that showed fractures within the security apparatus of the Venezuelan government, first of the kind of arrest of the opposition leader, Juan Guaido, which turned out to be a fake arrest. Guaido himself said that they were actually sympathizers of his and they immediately let him free and were basically telling him to do something, basically. And then the incident of national guard soldiers basically trying to steal weapons, 27 of them ended up being arrested, this happened just yesterday. So we had a number of different incidents that really led up to this. And we knew that already, Juan Guaido, when he first took office of the National Assembly, he said that he was basically intending something like this, that he wasn’t recognizing President Maduro as the legitimate president of Venezuela, and already suggested that something like this would be coming sooner or later.

I think what took people by surprise more than anything, although we saw warning signs for this as well, was the recognition by the U.S. government by and by the OAS Secretary General, and now a whole bunch of other conservative governments in the region, that Maduro is not the legitimate president, according to them.

SHARMINI PERIES: All right, Alex. Give us a sense of the kind of support that the opposition in Venezuela, and I guess Juan Guido in particular, are getting from the international community, at least in the region now. U.S. has of course endorsed him swearing himself in as the president, as I said earlier, but at the same time we have countries that in the past may have remained neutral in the situation in Latin America coming forward and endorsing Juan Guaido. And this is very surprising, particularly coming from Canada, from Ecuador. We’re not surprised with both Bolsonaro in Brazil, given that he and the Trump administration has already declared an affinity with each other in terms of the region. But what do you make of the support that Juan Guaido is getting from the region?

ALEX MAIN: Well, on the one hand, as Greg was pointing out, there are a lot of conservative governments out there now in Latin America. There’s been a big swing to the right. And you have right wing and far right wing governments, such as in Brazil, that are completely aligned, really, with the U.S. strategy of regime change in Venezuela. And so, it’s a geopolitical context that is very difficult for Venezuela at the moment, it has very few allies. But what is surprising to me is to what extent they’re ready to accept such an intense level of intervention in internal politics. Because traditionally in Latin America, there’s been a very strong reticence to that sort of thing, coming obviously from the history of U.S. intervention in the region.

And so, there’s been actually–and I think the case of Cuba is sort of emblematic of that, of how Latin American governments both on the right and the left have been very much opposed to the U.S. strategy of regime change in Cuba for a very long time. So it’s surprising to see them go quite this far in the case of Venezuela, but I think it has something to do with the fact that Venezuela is not just an outlier in political terms in the region now, but is a country that. Represents a real threat to the right regionally, to the extent that if they recover economically, if oil prices go up again, it can become once again a regional powerhouse as it was under Chavez, it can have a great deal of influence politically around the region. And of course, Venezuela was a real leader in the sort of pink tide of left governments that emerged in the early 2000s, and they were quite strong until 2009, 2010.

And so, I think what’s going on in part is a real fear that Venezuela could make a comeback, so to speak. At the moment, they’re really crippled economically. I mean, they’re in a very, very difficult situation that the U.S. has made much more difficult. And no other countries have imposed these sorts of economic sanctions against Venezuela, but of course, since most of international financial institutions, private and public, works through the United States, United States sanctions have a tremendous amount of effect. So anyway, yeah, I’m on the one hand, not surprised, on the other hand, to a certain extent, surprised that they would accept this level of intervention. That’s a really bad precedent. And of course, it violates international law, it violates the OAS charter, interfering to this extent in the internal politics of another country.

SHARMINI PERIES: All right, Greg. Now, there’s been tremendous internal economic strife on the people of Venezuela for the last five, almost six years now, and this could lead the people, I mean the discontent is so great that the people would tend to support any change, even legitimate or not, but people are suffering. Now, what can the government do? I mean, we have to actually face the fact that a lot of this economic strife could’ve been evaded by the government if they had introduced certain economic policies sooner and addressed the problem more head on. So if you were advising the government, what would you be saying to them?

GREG WILPERT: Well, there’s kind of an issue that we discussed here on another report on The Real News with Mark Weisbrot, who points out that the current sanctions on Venezuela make it very difficult to do a course correction, not impossible, but extremely difficult. And the big problem is that Venezuela, that I think the Maduro government did not implement a sensible exchange rate policy, so it created a tremendous amount of opportunity for corruption. And when the political crisis hit, there was a tremendous amount of capital flight, which created a huge gap between the official exchange rate and the black market exchange rate, and this led to incredible opportunities for corruption in Venezuela. And that problem was never really fixed. The government has tried to various economic reforms, but none of them really went far enough to actually address this or resolve this fundamental problem. And so, that’s kind of the heart of the economic problem in my opinion and I think in the opinion of many other economists who have looked at this.

But right now, they’re facing, on top of this economic problem, this political problem, this geopolitical problem, really, which could lead to an actual civil war like situation. I think we have to be very clear on this, and that’s why I think, regardless of what you think of what the Maduro government has done economically or politically, it one should not allow things to come to the situation where a civil war actually begins. That is, as Alex mentioned, there is this hope on the part of the Trump administration and of the radical opposition–one should keep in mind that there’s also the moderate opposition that does not pursue this particular course of action and actually has not endorsed Guaido as the president. But this radical opposition and the Trump administration are pursuing a course where they’re hoping for a military uprising that will completely destroy the country would put everyone’s lives in danger. And the U.S. bears all the responsibility for this kind of situation, if it were to come to pass.

SHARMINI PERIES: All right, Alex. Now, the Trump administration seems to be very clear on where they are at. Where is Congress and Senate, are there members within these bodies that might take a different position than the Trump administration, and is there any hope that there is dissent in terms of endorsing Guaido in this way? And is there anything that Congress can do? Doesn’t some of this actual responsibility for this kind of foreign policy lie on the part of Congress?

ALEX MAIN: Well, to the extent that the Trump administration is engaging in sort of illegal, illegal under international law, illegal intervention, the Congress should try to serve as a check to that and hold the government accountable. Unfortunately, most of the leadership of Congress, I think, is really just about as bad on Venezuela, and this is for a variety of reasons. But I think one of the main ones is that there’s no pushback from any sectors. Certainly, a lot of the Venezuelans that are here in the U.S., the diaspora, are very often favorable to U.S. intervention. And it’s also the impact of Florida politics, where for a very long time, and unfortunately it continues to remain the case, essentially the very conservative Latino sectors that we find in South Florida and in other parts of the country, such as a more limited extent in New Jersey, for instance. They have an enormous influence on certain members of Congress.

And these members of Congress tend to congregate in the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where of course, they have a lot more leverage over U.S. policy in Latin America. And so, the priority for these sectors has been, traditionally, regime change in Cuba, but it’s shifted more and more towards Venezuela, in part because Venezuela is seen, I think mistakenly, as propping up the Cuban government somehow, but also because again, because of Venezuela’s enormous potential regional influence as an oil power. So they really have a bullseye on Venezuela and they have had for a very long time, and they’ve played a very big role in shaping policy.

Now, you do have certain progressive sectors that have opposed, really, both Obama and Trump, on certain policies towards Venezuela, and particularly sanctions, which they quite rightly identified as harmful to ordinary Venezuelans, but also having a polarizing effect in Venezuela and on Venezuelan politics, and sort of serving to bolster the more hard line forces on both sides of the political divide, thereby really undermining efforts to have dialogue. And there have been efforts that have been scuttled in the past by hard line sectors, with support from hardliners such as Senator Marco Rubio, and there are new efforts that are under way. And unfortunately, the position that the U.S. is taking, and that of course Brazil has followed and Canada has followed now, Ecuador as well, risks further polarizing things politically.

Certainly, there is a risk of civil war, particularly if there is a real breach within the armed forces. And that could occur, and things could get very violent, very ugly and they would have very detrimental effects, not just for the people of Venezuela, but really regionally Latin America. It would certainly have spillover effects.

SHARMINI PERIES: Greg, what is the responsibility of the military now? And a lot rests with the military and how they will act. In the past they have opted for keeping peace and the least amount of violence possible. Do you think that will be the case?

GREG WILPERT: Well, it’s very hard to say. I said in the previous segment that I think it varies, of course, according to rank, where I think the generals would probably hold with Maduro, but we don’t know. The big unknown is whether the midlevel and lower officers will perhaps organize something against Maduro. There are just too many of them, it’s too difficult to know what everybody’s thinking. And they are also suffering from the economic crisis, and so some of them might be motivated because of that. Plus, they’re not benefiting from–many of them actually are benefiting from corruption, but some of them don’t, because they don’t have access to those kinds of benefits. Or others might not care, and say that, “Well, we can make even more money under a corrupt opposition government, which is definitely a possibility.

So we just don’t know what’s going to happen to those. I think that’s really the big question. But the main thing, I think, really is that the opposition really needs to come to its senses in Venezuela and negotiate with the Maduro government. The Maduro government has offered to negotiate with the opposition. As a matter of fact, as I said, there’s moderate opposition figures who have offered to negotiate as well. And I think the government also needs to make real compromise, I mean in the sense that it needs to recognize how dangerous the situation is. I think Maduro should not just blithely believe that everything is going to be fine. This is a very, very serious situation at the moment, I think, and that means in order to prevent bloodshed, it means actually conceding something to the opposition. That’s my opinion. Because if they don’t, we could get into, like Alex and I have said, into a civil war situation.

SHARMINI PERIES: What does that look like, conceding to the opposition?

GREG WILPERT: It’s hard to say. I mean, it could even involve another presidential election, perhaps. I mean, something like that, something dramatic. I know that sounds crazy for some people on the Chavista side to contemplate, but it would have to be a managed transition, which it would be, I think, if there is an election. Even if the opposition were to win, it would not mean a total loss of power. They still have many other institutions. It would be a managed transition, whereas if the course that the radical opposition and the course that the Trump administration is seeking is a complete break. They want to get rid of, wipe Chavismo off the face of the earth, and that would probably only happen with bloodshed. And that’s why I’m saying in order to prevent that, it would mean a compromise that has to be made by the government.

SHARMINI PERIES: All right, Alex. Let me give you the last word. As far as Washington is concerned, and if there are people in Congress that want to evade bloodshed and this worsening of the situation in Venezuela, what should happen now?

ALEX MAIN: Well, more people need to be paying attention in Congress, because like I said, unfortunately, they’ve allowed sort of the radical right wingers with a radical interventionist agenda in Latin America to have the upper hand in the discussion on Latin America, to really shape the policy agenda. So there just needs to be more involvement of progressives. They should have been more involved earlier, and they have spoken out occasionally. But really, what we’re seeing now, there was so much support for the normalization effort of Obama that came from the bulk of Democrats and even a number of Republicans. And that was obviously rational, reasonable policy. And yet, we’re not seeing that in the case of Venezuela. People turned a blind eye, they just haven’t felt any need, any pressure to do so.

But we’re seeing a real conflagration, a situation that could become a huge problem, ultimately, for the United States. You destabilize Venezuela, you end up destabilizing, frankly, a big part of the region, certainly the Andean region. And that’s something that should be of concern, and members of Congress should want to preempt what we could really characterize as destabilization tactics that are being employed by the Trump administration.

SHARMINI PERIES: All right. We here at The Real News will continue to have this discussion about what’s unfolding in Venezuela and what can be done about it. I have been speaking with Alex Main, he’s the Director of International Policy at the Center for Economic Policy and Research in Washington, DC. And I’ve been speaking with our Managing Editor here at The Real News Network. And his book, Changing Venezuela by Taking Power, is to be noted in this situation. I thank you so much for joining us, both Alex and Greg.

GREG WILPERT: Thanks.

ALEX MAIN: Thank you.

SHARMINI PERIES: And we’ll continue this discussion tomorrow here on The Real News Network, so do join us and thank you for joining us.

Source: https://therealnews.com/stories/the-us-strategy-for-regime-change-in-venezuela-trnn-liveThe Real News Network

https://venezuelanalysis.com/video/14253


 9 
 on: November 06, 2018, 04:34:29 PM 
Started by Tyehimba - Last post by Tyehimba
Black Stalin - Sufferers

 10 
 on: October 24, 2018, 12:58:07 PM 
Started by Mukasa - Last post by Nakandi
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“Today, as I've seen elsewhere on this forum, there is preferential treatment to children of rich parents or those that have an 'exoticness' to them, those with Asian straight hair. They are given special permission to keep their hair where every other black student is supposed to keep theirs close shaven! This double standard had always irked me but I never questioned it enough to see the colonial roots of it all.”

When I attended private school in my country of origin, one was allowed to keep their hair as long as it could all be held in a ponytail/puff - and it had to be styled that way alone. Braids, twists or other African styles were not allowed. White and Indian kids, on the other hand, could have “bobs” and other hairstyles without being required to cut theirs off. I felt like we all had an unspoken understanding that non-African hair, like light skin, was more precious/sacred and that is why we as pupils accepted and never questioned these double standards.

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“Later on, post-secondary school, away from the clutches of school rules, while the girls braided or plaited their hair so that it is long enough to straighten it, we the guys let it grow wild. And for me, other than for the excitement of rebellion, it was a celebration that my hair was thick and wild. When it grew some more, it began browning on top. This meant that I had to trim it to maintain its blackness as seen from images from icons such as the Hip Hop musicians like Ludacris.”

I find that this is a component of the African hair topic rarely discussed as most think it is a female-only issue. However, males are as affected by this as females are. Just like colorism affects males and females, so does featurism. One of the reasons many Africans cannot stand an Afro, regardless of size, or traditional African hairstyles is because they tend to accentuate one’s African features. This goes for males and females alike.

Many societies have accepted that males = short hair and brush off the African male’s religious hair trim as just that. We know though that under white pseudo-supremacy anti-Africanness is always a component. Many Africans, males and females, don’t need school or workplace dress codes to alter their hair. In fact, I would argue the majority don’t. Because of the racial hierarchy, African-American associated features are more desired and accepted than continental ones. Haircut styles being one of them. Native Africans have numerous short hairstyles, but you will rarely see these outside villages. They make one that much more 'continental' looking than the Ludacris/low-top fade/low cut look. African males tend to equally be against their kinky hair as their female counterparts.

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“…it used to brown at the edges which to my guardians signified poverty and/or the lack of care.”

This is indeed one of the many misconceptions of black hair. Some of us have not been around Africans with natural hair long enough and/or continuously to observe its characteristics. I too learned that brown hair on Africans was a sign of illness via way of poverty (kwashiorkor). There was also the added component of what I now recognize as blatant colorism. Brown hair, or hair generally lighter than one's dark complexion, was mostly associated with the Nilotes. Meaning the "wrong" end of the racial spectrum. It was not until my adult years I became aware that African hair varies in texture and color just like other races’. Additionally, it reacts to its environment just like any other type. Including the sun!

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“On why black hair isn't manageable, this is a result of imbibing western/colonial beauty standards through media.”

Yes. People have illogical expectations of their kinky hair. Traditional hairstyles - styles actually adapted to African hair - might take time during the process, but the styles can last a good while and the upkeep is minimal. I do not see how that can be time-consuming and not manageable in the long haul. But if one wants their kinky hair to ‘naturally’ do straight hair things, then of course it is going to be challenging. It is self-explanatory. Also, many think that because ancient Africans had combs, they must have had the same routines we see with Europeans today. When the tightly kinky strands with knots (because that is very much part of the physiology of kinky hair) naturally arrest the brush or the comb, we blame our ignorance on the African genes.

The current natural hair movement is also ironically part of maintaining the myth that African hair is hard to manage and also very time-consuming. A huge part of the movement, particularly the kinky/type 4 chapter, is about “curl defining”. In other words, how to naturally hide one’s kink to achieve the "good hair" look. Since these are very temporary styles, one needs to do the time and money consuming process quite often.

About administrative changes. Anti-colonial fights aren’t synonymous with pro-Africaness. Examining attitudes should be at the centre of those fights. For instance, for a materially rich family, and a very westernised family, the interests of dealing away with colonial dress codes might have nothing to do with fighting racism. Hair is another outlet to flaunt one’s wealth. It is also another outlet to ‘dilute’ one’s Africaness. Thus, wealthy parents might support the idea of moving away from colonial dress codes only to have African kids with white-like hairstyles. Be it long straightened hair or extensions in the form of braids. Rarely will you see a parent chose an afro for their child (or themselves). They want kids with Western English accents with flowing hair. They want kids with acquired whiteness.

A poor family might not be too bothered with the idea of keeping hair short and this needn't be pro-colonialism/whiteness.  Short hair can indeed be both economic and time effective, making it an attractive cheap alternative.

Regardless of the hairstyle one chooses for themselves or forces onto children, I think the real root of this all too common attitude needs to be addressed;
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“…whenever I meet a student whose hair is browning near the forehead, I have severally reprimanded them for allowing their hair to grow as it doesn't look good and asked them to shave it off!”

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