Economics for Dummies: The real reasons for the lifting of the Cuba blockade?

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This is Puerto Mariel, Cuba. It looks pretty sleepy from the air right now, but don’t be fooled. What you’re looking at there is actually a sleeping giant with the potential to shake markets as far away as New York, if Telesur’s report (via Contrainjerencia) has anything to say. And if it reawakens before the Yanks come in with their suitcases full of money…

Mariel was built by Brazil and Cuba, during the government of Dilma Rousseff, with an investment of 957 million dollars, meaning that Brazil would become Cuba’s greatest economic partner.

In 2011, Brazil and Cuba obtained a combined market of $571 million, which surpassed the markets of China and Venezuela.

The port, which received $682 million from the National Development Bank of Brazil (BNDES) is considered to be one of the most modern ports, compared to those of Kingston (Jamaica) and Freeport (Bahamas). It has the capacity to receive large ships of the “Super Post Panamax” class.

Another benefit of the expected economic improvement of the Caribbean island, and especially for Brazil, is the geographic zone, which lies near the coast of the US, just 150 kilometres away; and it is from there that Brazilian companies could export to the US.

Translation mine.

Could this be what put a fire under the gringos’ butts? Oh, possibly. And if not that, there’s always a good chance that it would be that sweet, sweet, offshore Cuban crude oil that’s got them thinking that maybe, just maybe, an ideologically motivated anti-socialist blockade might not the the best thing for their capitalism, either:

Under the current embargo, Cuba cannot access U.S. oilfield equipment for both drilling and environmental protection. The embargo prohibits the exporting and re-exporting of items that contain more than 10 percent American components under the De Minimus Rule under Sections 734.4 and 736.2 (b)(2) of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR). What is particularly interesting about the embargo is the fact that Washington refued to allow an exemption for U.S. oil spill prevention and response companies even though the Obama Administration was very concerned about potential oil spills from drilling operations located relatively close to the U.S. – Cuba maritime boundary in 2012.   

Of course, with Venezuela firing up a plan to help Cuba exploit that oil itself, and with PDVSA’s significant presence in Cuba already, and with their access to equipment not of US provenance, well…that would put quite the crimp in the US’s blockade, not to mention any hopes Gringolandia’s oilmen might have of a future right to exploit those considerable offshore reserves!

And with Chavecito’s ALBA being nearly ten years old now, that means there’s been plenty of time for Cuba to strike up good mutual economic relations with not only Venezuela, but a number of other Latin American countries as well.

No wonder Gringolandia is out in the cold when it comes to the oilfields. And no wonder they want in now, before big, bad, socialistic-progressive Brazil and other Latin American countries gobble up all of that yummy, yummy Cuban economic pie.

So, THIS happened.

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Cuban students celebrating the release of the remaining three members of the Cuban Five — Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino and Antonio Guerrero — who were freed and arrived on the island today. They are now with their families, and according to all local reports, are well and enjoying an emotional reunion. Two others, René González and Fernando González (no relations), have already been released — the former in 2011, when he was paroled, and the latter in February of this year, when he completed his sentence.

All five men were accused and convicted of espionage, although none of them were what one could properly call spies; all were antiterrorist agents of the Cuban government, and had uncovered terrorist plotting on the part of right-wing anti-Castro organizations in Miami. Rather than receive their shared information with the gratitude it deserved, the FBI colluded with the wrong side, and sent them to prison instead. It was one of the worst miscarriages of justice in international history, and today it was finally put right. The US has straight-up admitted that its anti-communist Cuba policy has been an epic failure, and is now seeking normalized relations with its island neighbor. Hence the freeing of the three remaining members of the Five, in exchange for Cuba releasing USAID agent Alan Gross, who has been imprisoned there for five years. It’s a nice goodwill gesture on both parts, and one dares hope it will lead to a whole lot more in future. (I, for one, would really love to see the permanent closure of Gitmo. Get on it, you guys!)

Meanwhile, actual spies and terrorists who have never been punished are still walking free. Chief among them is an ugly old coot named Luis Posada Carriles, a.k.a. the CubanaBomber. Before September 11, 2001, he was the author of the worst airline terrorist incident in history, along with the late Orlando Bosch; together, they planted a bomb on a Cubana jetliner that killed 73 civilians. Posada is still stinking up the gutters of Miami, despite being in the US illegally. He remains a national embarrassment, and one that’s gone studiously unaddressed by at least two administrations. Will he now be handed over to Venezuela or Cuba, both of whom want him for crimes against humanity? No word yet; stay tuned. If His Barackness is smart, he’ll hand the old motherfucker over. Two countries have been waiting long enough to finally bring him to justice, so here’s hoping he picks one. (I’m guessing he’ll pick Cuba, since the current policy in Washington is still to punish Venezuela by isolation and sanctions for not selling all its oil to the Texas barons for a song. Venezuela is no more isolated than Cuba — in fact, it’s been THE key player in bringing Cuba back into the Latin American fold — so this is just way too fucking funny.)

Meanwhile, in Colombia, something even more momentous has happened: The FARC have announced a unilateral, indefinite ceasefire, following the news of this sudden thaw in US-Cuban relations. Given that they’ve been at war with various more or less right-wing governments there for over 60 years, pretty much ever since the Bogotazo, this is HUGE.

Oh yeah, and did I mention that they came to this decision, and made this announcement, during a peace summit in Havana? El Narco must be steaming like a well-brewed cup of coffee, having been denied his victory in office, and having failed at his repeated putsch attempts ever since. All those paramilitaries and peasant massacres and false positives for nothing, boooooo hooooooooo.

So yes, Cuba is the big winner today, and on multiple fronts. The US has admitted that its unnaturally prolonged Cold War isolationist policy has failed. The bulk of Latin America, with one or two shameful exceptions (ahem, Colombia and Peru) has pulled behind Cuba, offering solidarity and fair trade through the ALBA alliance, as well as Mercosur. The dire climate of the post-Soviet Special Period, which the Miami mafia terrorists were hoping to capitalize on at the time the Cuban Five infiltrated their various rats’ nests, is long gone. Cuba is still surviving and thriving, albeit on a modest scale. They’re exporting doctors and educators and locally-made medicaments, and receiving Venezuelan oil (and Venezuelan oil expertise, too, as Cuba is sitting on some very promising offshore deposits that it’s looking to tap into).

Moreover, they have the political support of all the key Latin American leaders, while those who have tried to isolate Cuba remain isolated themselves, and are looking increasingly foolish for having done so. The Cuban government remains as it is, despite all US talk of “freedom” and “democracy” and “change” (note the quotes, there for a reason). Not one elected Cuban leader has been sacrificed in the making of this deal…and yes, they are all elected! This island nation will not end up like Puerto Rico, annexed and stripped of rights in exchange for — what, exactly? Creeping gringoization? The privilege of housing US naval bases? The fun of having to clean up after them, as the Puerto Ricans have had to do with Vieques?

Nope. Can’t happen. Won’t happen. The test of time has been stood. The Revolution has triumphed. Cuba is still Cuban, no matter what.

And that’s the way it’s going to stay, whatever comes next.

US asked Honduras to harbor old CIA asset, according to former president Zelaya

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Oh, oh. What have we here? Evidence that the United States of Amnesia (see no evil, hear no evil, admit no evil) was actually embarrassed enough about one of its old terrorist employees to try to fob him off on a Latin American country that wanted nothing to do with him? Yup, it sure looks that way…

The former president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, attested today in Ecuador that the United States is exercising a systematic plan of interference in the internal affairs of his land, something he personally witnessed while he was head of state. During the working sessions of the Latin American Progressive Meeting, which concludes today, the ex-leader explained that during his presidential period, the attempts at interference were many and constant, upon which he concluded that the person ordering them in Honduras was Washington’s ambassador.

Zelaya recalled that as soon as he was elected, the first call he received was from that diplomatic representative of the US government, who congratulated him, invited him to lunch, and after sharing a meal, handed him an envelope, to be opened later in his office.

Inside the package was a list of the ministers he was to nominate, who were persons close to him during the electoral campaign, but also infiltrated agents of the CIA.

Another of the initial incidents was that the US ambassador petitioned him for political asylum for Luis Posada Carriles, via the foreign minister. Zelaya described Posada as an international terrorist, author of multiple assassinations. Acceding to the request would have been considered a gesture favorable to rapprochement.

The former president, who was ousted from office via a coup in 2009, finally decided not to give asylum to Posada Carriles. He followed it up later with the resolution to withdraw concessions granted to US oil companies by previous administrations.

“And that is grave, because it is interfering with the economic interests of the imperialists,” Zelaya asserted.

Zelaya commented that because he had not permitted US interference, they began to accuse him of taking orders from the then Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez.

The situation arrived at such a point, he said, that in a meeting with the then president of the United States, George W. Bush, the latter asked him irately if he was giving Chávez what he wasn’t giving Washington.

The Honduran politician said that the decisive moment when the North American government decided against him was when they proposed to him that the city of San Pedro Sula become the site of a summit of the Organization of American States (OAS).

At that juncture, Zelaya recalled, “I accepted, but only if they would derogate the [legal] instruments approved decades ago to expel Cuba from that entity, which happened.

“I only wanted to repair an historic error that way,” Zelaya said, and added that this occurred on June 3, 2009. The coup d’état took place on the 28th of the same month.

Zelaya considers it necessary to analyze not only how subversive forces organize coups to expel progressive governments, but also the later effects of such events.

Relative to that, he mentioned the problems Honduras continues to live through following the coup, where for example violence has increased at impressive levels.

With the presence of the representatives of 35 parties and political movements from some 20 countries, the regional forum has been extended for two days to broach various questions over the progressive struggles of the area, as well as how to strengthen unity in the face of conservative restoration.

Translation mine.

So, it seems that the US interference in Honduras goes a lot deeper than just the coup of June 28, 2009. Even as soon as Mel Zelaya was elected, he was already facing the prospect of having to take instructions from Washington, relayed by the then US ambassador…or else. One of them was which government ministers to name; another was political asylum for the Bush the Elder’s nasty little dog, the CubanaBomber, Luis Posada Carriles (who is still stinking up Miami, predictably, though he is by all accounts a very illegal immigrant). Those two, I’m sure you’ll agree, are pretty damn shocking, and unacceptable to a democratically elected, sovereign head of state. And the third request, relatively benign, was to hold the OAS meeting in San Pedro Sula. That one was the only one Zelaya could agree to…on the condition that Cuba be let back into the OAS, after its expulsion following the 1959 revolution. Of course, as we well know, Cuba is still out of the OAS.

And Zelaya? Well, we all know what happened to him, too. Hustled out of country in his pajamas, en route to the Dominican Republic, in the wee hours of June 28, 2009. A military coup, covered up by a pseudo-democratic “parliamentary” veneer, in which a right-winger docile to all US commercial interests in Honduras was installed as “president”, while death squads dormant since the end of the 1980s were resurrected to wreak havoc and terror on progressive activists all over Honduras, and to silence the most vocal critics of Washington and its new, “democratic” Honduran puppets.

Other interesting notes: The oil concessions awarded by previous governments to US firms, which Zelaya no doubt knew were grossly exploitive and unfair to Honduras. He revoked those, probably with an eye to copying Chavecito’s very successful “sow the oil” scheme in Venezuela. Of course, duplicating an observed success is not the same thing as handing Honduran oil over to Venezuelan government interests! But to Washington’s paranoid mind, the two were one and the same. That no doubt helped seal Zelaya’s unholy fate, along with the equally unacceptable request that Cuba be brought back into the OAS.

It’s things like this that make a joke of the US’s claims to be a supporter of “freedom” and “democracy”, not to mention war criminals of at least two US presidents and their Secretaries of State. When, oh when, will we see them brought to trial in The Hague?

25 years ago today, this happened in Venezuela

North Americans have a curious selective amnesia about the Caracazo of 1989, which began at 5 a.m. local time on this day 25 years ago. But the people of Venezuela, where it happened, haven’t forgotten:

The cruelest page in contemporary Venezuelan history was written by the government of Carlos Andrés Pérez on February 28, 1989, a day in which the indignant people took to the streets of Caracas to show their frustration with the neoliberal politics imposed by the IMF.

Pérez, who sought to liberate the economy of the land, which was already in trouble due to economic spirals which caused the devaluation of the national currency in 1983, set in motion a “package of economic measures” which comprised decisions over exchange policies, external debt, the financial system, fiscal policy, public services, and social policy.

This “parcel of penuries”, as it was popularly known, caused the fragmentation of the Venezuelan welfare state, CAP’s key electoral promise.

After announcing the “parcel”, on February 16 of that year, popular discontent grew, since the people had already lived through an odyssey for survival, while poverty and misery propagated like a virus throughout the land.

The reactions of the 27th of February, 1989, began on the buses of Trapichito, when the passengers found themselves faced with the speculation of the transport companies, who raised their prices by 300%, not 30% as ordered by the Pérez government. Reaction exploded there, in the Guarenas-Guatire terminal. Later the wave of protest expanded to Caracas and the inevitable followed: looting and riots in the land, in reaction to the “parcel of penuries”.

Faced with popular outrage, the Pérez government decided to suspend constitutional guarantees for ten days, and ordered the armed forces to repress the people. General Henry Rangel Silva, currently governor of the state of Trujillo, recalled that day as the one on which “the nation’s armed forces were obliged to take up arms against the people”.

As dusk fell on Tuesday, February 28, the cruelest curfew in Venezuelan history began. The “Caracazo” left an undetermined number of deaths, although official government figures put the number at barely 277 deceased.

With the arrival of Hugo Chávez Frias as president of the republic, who had a strong awareness of the miseries suffered by the people during the 40 years of “representative” democracy, there began a serious and detailed investigation of the events of the Caracazo, headed by the Attorney General of the Republic, Luisa Ortega Díaz.

In 2011, Ortega Díaz informed that 71 victims of the Caracazo had been buried in a common grave in La Peste, in Caracas, and the compensation of the victims’ families began.

Ortega Díaz also catalogued February 27, 1989 as the date on which the second largest genocide in the land began. The investigations of this hard page of contemporary Venezuelan history continue to this day.

Comandante Chávez considered the Caracazo as the seed that would germinate on February 4, 1992, when he led a military insurrection heralding the birth of a new country.

25 years after the events of the Caracazo, the protagonists of Puntofijismo, now installed in the lines of the opposition, and supported by the economic powers, are seeking once more to destabilize the economy of the land with hoarding, speculation, boycotts, and violent demonstrations.

However, today the Venezuelan economy is much stronger. the social politics set in motion by Comandante Chávez and continued by President Nicolás Maduro have significantly improved the quality of life among the people. Good nutrition, culture, education, health, work and sports are the backbone that sustains the Bolivarian Revolution.

Translation mine.

So now we see where that amnesia comes from, don’t we? And wouldn’t you know, it’s from the same massive blind spot in the gringo psyche that refuses to acknowledge just how disastrous “free market” capitalism really is. And how important Chavecito and 21st-century socialism have been in unravelling that Gordian knot of socioeconomic disasters.

The good work that Chavecito began continues now under his successors, and that’s why we’re seeing these temper tantrums on the part of the “opposition”. 25 years ago, those same people were not the opposition, but the government — or, more broadly, the traditional ruling class that had always taken its own undisputed supremacy for granted, and monopolized the economy accordingly. The Caracazo was a harsh wake-up call to them, the poor majority’s way of saying that things had gone too far, and it was now time to change direction…or else.

Clearly they haven’t learned their lesson yet; they seriously think they can get the country back under their thumbs by holding their breath and letting the economy turn blue. There’s just one problem with that little theory: Every single time it’s been tried since 1999, when Chavecito was elected (and ten years after the Caracazo), it’s been an epic failure. The people always came together, and always came together behind the man that the oligarchy pointed the finger at. He was the one who saw what needed to be done…and that meant circumventing the old economy by setting up a parallel, state-run one that sold all the necessities at fair prices, so that the people would no longer have to put up with the same hoarding, speculation and price gouging that caused such outrage in the lead-up to the Caracazo. In other words: not a free market, but a kind of freedom FROM the market. And by logical extension, a freedom from control by the traditional, rotten ruling classes.

The same ruling classes, of course, that are in such a tizzy today.

PS: Don’t miss this great docu-drama by Roman Chalbaud, now with English subtitles:

Powerful and moving. Well worth the time to see.

Venezuela: National Assembly president reveals right-wing criminal connections galore

Diosdado Cabello has been a busy boy lately. Not only is he the president of Venezuela’s National Assembly, he’s also a broadcaster with a weekly show on the public channel, VTV. And it was there that he dropped a big bunch of bombshells this week:

On Monday, the president of the Venezuelan national assembly, Diosdado Cabello, revealed a series of e-mails sent by political advisor Juan José Rendón and right-wing deputy María Corina Machado, revealing details about foreign support for destabilization plans against the national government.

On his weekly program Con el Mazo Dando, on VTV, Cabello showed a series of e-mails between Rendón and Ricardo Koesling, an anti-Castro Cuban, referring to connections between Colombian ex-president Álvaro Uribe Vélez and the violent actions of fascist groups in Venezuela during the last several days.

Rendón said to Koesling: “Remember that AUV (Uribe) supplies resources and subcontracts with the State [Department]. You do as he says, or we’ll be left holding the bag. For him, the ‘Half Moon’ (Venezuela’s Andean states, plus Zulia) and the rest of the country for Venezuela. It’s better than nothing. Anyhow, those states are practically Colombian. He’ll be president of Colombia and his mission, I presume, is to do away with this cancer of a regime (in Venezuela), starting with the illegitimate [Maduro]. This objective will be obtained with regime change by whatever means, but for now, the idea is to strengthen one of the two, Leopoldo [López] or Henrique [Capriles].”

He adds that “whatever the scenario, there is no way that one of the two won’t come out on top, preferably Henrique [Capriles], since L.L. (Leopoldo López) has shown himself to be very competent, but with a high chance that he will slip out of control.”

Cabello said that this was the confession to “a coup d’état against the country, under the thumb of the ‘paraco’ Uribe. Our country is at stake, this is no small thing.”

Then, the National Assembly president read out a message from right-wing parliamentarian María Corina Machado to lawyer Gustavo Tarre Briceño, which points to US intervention in the violence generated by fascist groups in Venezuela.

In the message, dated February 20, Machado says: “On the 22nd (of February), decent Venezuela will give a demonstration in the great march we have called. This government has got to go, any which way. Its own censure will cause it to fall […] We will follow the example Táchira gave, but we won’t abandon for one minute the call to the streets and for peace, that’s the advice and recommendation from our friends in the Department [of State, in the US]…”

[…]

Cabello also showed photos of a cache of weapons presumably belonging to retired general Ángel Vivas Perdomo, accused of instigating violence and guarimba tactics via social networks.

“He’s going to prison, but we won’t put the lives of his children at risk, as he has done,” said Cabello, recalling that Vivas was director of finance for ex-general Raúl Isaías Baduel, in prison for administrative corruption.

Cabello also denounced that Alejandro Márquez, who died on Sunday, was murdered by right-wingers.

“They themselves [meaning right-wing shock troops] killed him because he wouldn’t do the job they demanded,” said Cabello, going on to say that Márquez had received paramilitary training and later “was contracted as an assassin and part of his job was to kill the president, Nicolás Maduro.”

Cabello showed various photos of Márquez dressed in a paramilitary uniform and holding up “rifles with telescopic sights” while he was training in the United States.

Cabello named the suspects in the case: Osman Moya, Reinaldo Daza, Manuel Medina, Gabriel Villegas and Luis Fabián Medina Rodríguez.

“I have no doubt that among this group is the killer of Alejandro Márquez. We are looking for these men because we are under threat from mercenaries, assassins, contract killers. It’s sad that the Venezuelan opposition has come to this. This is not a free agent, he was contracted for a specific job. Nobody’s life matters to them,” Cabello said.

Cabello denounced that the right is contracting Álvaro Uribe Vélez, “enemy of peace in our country and the continent, to bring in assassins to kill people during guarimbas and [opposition] demonstrations, and later claim it was the government.”

Cabello informed that the Executive has started an investigation into the case of Jayssam Mokded, a mercenary arrested yesterday in Maracay, Aragua, to uncover the connections behind the terrorist actions he was planning to perpetrate in Venezuela. “We will get behind all of it, have no doubt,” Cabello said.

Translation mine.

So we can see that all the usual suspects are at play i this latest wave of “spontaneous” demonstrations which have turned violent, quite by intention on the part of the planners, with a little — okay, a LOT — of help from their “friends” in the US State Dept. We have MariCori, Prettyboy Leo, Majunche Capriles, Jota-Jota the Crapaganda Samurai, plus a crooked ex-general (Vivas) with connections to another (Raúl Baduel, who decided that money and property mattered more to him than the common good of the land, and who is now in prison for embezzlement.) One would think that they could at least dig up some fresh meat, but this is the best they can do.

And we can also see that the oppos are true to an old, old script, following the same strategy that worked so well for them in 2002: set up a media campaign to “prove” that the president is an unhinged tyrant*, stage “peaceful” demonstrations with the collaboration of corporate media, plant hired assassins in covert locations to pick off random people of all political affiliations, let it turn into a riot, blame the president, stage a coup, install a puppet “leader”, and call in the US Marines for backup.

They have no qualms about killing anyone, not even their own. After all, they want to divide up the land as spoils amongst themselves, and hand a big chunk of western Venezuela (rich in oilfields, among other things) to their and the State Dept.’s best buddy in the region — El Narco Uribe. By way of thanks for all his paramilitary help, no doubt…

What a pity for them that the average Venezuelan hasn’t forgotten the events of 2002, and isn’t fooled in the least by this latest variation on the old theme.

Meanwhile, dear “liberal” friends in the US of Amnesia who are still standing with these fascist coup-plotters and calling for “humanitarian” intervention…when will YOU remember, and start holding your elected officials (and your unelected spooks) accountable? After all, this is their baby too…and the blood is on you.

*How very touching that the same Chicken Noodle Network, which was recently kicked out of Venezuela for its part in spreading lies and right-wing crapaganda depicting Madurito as a lunatic, has sent a flunkey from its Spanish-language service to support the beleaguered putschist ex-general, Vivas. These birds of a feather all have a distinct whiff of carrion about them.

Who is Leopoldo López?

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Leopoldo López, in his former capacity as mayor of Chacao, doing what he does best…leading “protests” that are nothing but riots.

If you think this pretty boy is some kind of hero or martyr in the cause of Venezuelan freedom, you’ve no doubt been eating stoopid sandwiches, served up by your friendly media under Operation Mockingbird — which, contrary to anything you may have been told, is still up and running to this day. Fortunately, I’ve got the antidote for that mental poison right here. A Canadian journalist in Cuba, Jean-Guy Allard, has the goods on Prettyboy Leo, and has written two blog entries on him. Cubainformación has helpfully compiled them into one piece at this link. Here’s the first one:

The international media are presenting Leopoldo López, right-wing leader and instigators of the recent wave of violence in Venezuela, as an innocent victim of what they call “the Chavista régime”.

Leopoldo López is a typical example of a rich kid from the Venezuelan elite, tied to US interests. He studied at the exclusive Kenyon College in Ohio, and in the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, both well-known nurseries for the CIA.

In Venezuela, López was part of the elite which for years controlled the state oil company PDVSA, where he was an assistant to the chief economist. Recall that Hugo Chávez undertook a true renationalization of the oil industry, firing thousands of cadres who had built a state within a state, behind all social objectives.

Implicated in the failed coup d’état of 2002, in December 2007 Leopoldo López benefited from the amnesty offered by President Chávez himself.

López has been linked for years to the International Republican Institute (IRI), tied to the Republican Party of the United States, which furnishes strategic and financial support.

López has always gambled on violent actions against the Bolivarian Revolution. As mayor of the upper-crust Chacao district of Caracas, in 2004 he gave cover to the strategy known as “guarimbas”, acts of violence which caused many deaths at the time.

Founder of the right-wing Primero Justicia party, along with Henrique Capriles, Leopoldo López bet on the most expeditious and violent ways, for which he created his own party: Voluntad Popular. He promotes the so-called “Popular networks”, an initiative financed by USAID, a government agency of the US, for infiltrating the popular communities, close to the Revolution, and recruiting people there to be paid for destabilizing actions.

Personages like Leopoldo López do not arise spontaneously. Washington has its “leader” factories, which it provides with funding and strategies for the destabilization of inconvenient governments. In Libya, Bolivia, Syria, Ukraine, Cuba or Venezuela…nothing is down to political chance.

Translation mine. Here’s the second:

What do US general David Petraeus, former CIA director who recently stepped down, and Leopoldo López Mendoza, chief of the fascist hordes trying to do away with the achievements of Chávez, have in common? Both are linked to the Kennedy School of Government, at Harvard University, a known incubator of officials in the Central Intelligence Agency.

Many elements in López’s life, as well as his current activities as a putschist provocateur, tie him to the organs of US intelligence. Son of a family that always prospered in the highest spheres of the right-wing political fauna, he identified from an early age with the United States and the elites of the imperial universe.

Typical son of his father — of those who grow up over-protected behind the walls of opulent mansions in the most exclusive neighborhoods in Caracas — López was sent by his family, at the age of 18, where the privileged of the south send their heirs to buy themselves a future.

So it is that in 1989, young López washed up at the very exclusive Kenyon College, in Ohio, where he was to discover his new homeland. He spent nearly five years in this prestigious institution reserved for the rich: the annual cost of the prestigious academy for kids with money would come to $60,000 of Uncle Sam’s money today, a real fortune.

The CIA doesn’t recruit its people among the poor. It has always been known that the CIA controls elements among the professors of Kenyon College, whose task is to identify the students who could be useful, sooner or later, to the “Company”.

From the Cold War years, one knows of the famous case of the poet, John Crowe Ransom, who was considered by the CIA as an important “operative” when he taught at Kenyon College, according to experts in the matter.

The college’s literary magazine, the Kenyon Review, of great influence among US intellectuals, was even financed by the agency with the objectives of penetrating into this world of difficult access. There are witness accounts of Ransom helping to recruit potential CIA employees among the students. One of Ransom’s pupils, Robie Macauley, was on the agency payroll when he succeeded Ransom as editor.

Kenyon had such prestigen in the agency that Michael Morrell, number two man of the “Company”, as well has having twice served as an internal director, who recently retired after 33 years at Langley, chose to give his first conference of official retirement there. Among other things, Morrell spoke to the graduates about torture, specifically of simulated drowning (“waterboarding”).

It is hard to believe that López, a Latin American of wealthy family, was not monitored and in the files of the “operatives” of Kenyon.

It could not be a coincidence that López later reappeared at Harvard University — another venue for those with money — and specifically in the Kennedy School of Government, where he obtained a master’s degree in political science in 1996.

The Kennedy School is another hunting ground for the head-hunters of Langley. Several facts confirm it.

There is the somewhat piquant story of General David Petraeus, the CIA chief and confidant of Barack Obama in matters of intelligence, who stepped down not long ago after confessing his adulterous relations with Paula Broadwell.

Broadwell graduated from West Point Military Academy, and worked in military intelligence for a long time. She specialized in counterinsurgency and geopolitical analysis. Broadwell met Petraeus while working on a doctorate…at the Kennedy School of Government.

Petraeus frequented the institution for several years, and felt quite at home there; he gave conferences and frequently participated in debates where he met with high officials of the military command.

Retired general Petraeus soon found another job. He is now a professor at the Kennedy School.

The president of New Generations of the Spanish right-wing Popular Party, Pablo Casado Blanco, served as a CIA liaison to instruct his subaltern, Ángel Carromero, in his counterrevolutionary mission in Cuba. A mission that ended with the death of the Cuban “dissident” to whom he had handed over a hefty sum of money.

Casado, who put Carromero in contact with a mysterious correspondent in Sweden, who in turn connected with a right-wing Swedish director with whom she travelled, is a pure product of these big North American schools where the CIA recruits its agents, whom it later situates in the political hierarchy of their country of origin.

A lawyer educated in Madrid, Casado Blanco graduated drom the Kennedy School.

Upon return to Venezuela, López took a job as analyst, assistant to the chief economist and economic advisor in co-ordination and planning at PDVSA, the state oil company, thanks to his mother, Antonieta Mendoza de López, who was director of public affairs there.

There is also a donation from his mama, who diverted funds from PDVSA to benefit the political adventures of her son, which López later owed his presence before the tribunals where he had to explain this fraud.

Promptly, the politician connected with the CIA, or rather a known façade of the “Company”, the International Republican Institute (IRI), linked to the Republican Party, which later threw all its strategic and financial support behind him. With this proposition, starting in 2002, he made frequent trips to Washington and to the IRI’s headquarters to meet with functionaries of the government of George W. Bush.

Meanwhile, he joined the “civil association” Primero Justicia, which later became a political party now headed by his rival, Henrique Capriles Radonski. This other son of his father also makes up an element of the destabilization mechanism programmed by the CIA, the State Department, and their Embassy in Caracas.

On April 11, 2002, he led an opposition putschist march to Miraflores Palace, causing the death of dozens of persons and the kidnapping of President Hugo Chávez.

He was also implicated in the criminal “arrest” of the minister of the Interior and Justice, Ramón Rodríguez Chacín. The court case against López for these crimes ended on December 31, 2007, thanks to the amnesty offered by President Chávez himself.

Despite the failure of the CIA’s destabilization plan, López took up where he left off with his fascist provocations, inspired by Yankee intelligence manuals.

At the end of February 2004, he was one of the leaders of the guarimba in Chacao, where he was mayor, to “force” the resignation of President Chávez, provoking more deaths.

Frustrated at not occupying the leader’s position in other parties, López later created his own, called Voluntad Popular (Popular Will), where he gives free run to his extremist ideas, clearly inspired by Nazism. He also promotes the so-called “Popular Networks”, an initiative financed by USAID, with the objective of infiltrating communities and breaking their revolutionary lines, to recruit personnel paid for destabilizing actions, supposedly “spontaneous”.

López is a a cousin of another CIA agent, Thor Halvorssen, self-proclaimed head of the Human Rights Foundation, a CIA creation which had a hand in the failed coup against Bolivian president Evo Morales, in 2009. The Bolivian subsidiary of Halvorssen’s fake NGO was directed by the Cuban-American terrorist Armando Valladares, an old accomplice of US intelligence.

Personages like López, in Latin America and throughout the world, wherever the empire fights for its interests, rarely arise spontaneously. Nothing is owed to chance. Washington has its “leader” factories, which provide its intelligence mechanisms with the material necessary for their Machiavellian plans. “Leaders” trained in their academies of future destabilizers of all provenances, in the image of their imperial boss.

Again, translation mine. Linkage added.

Well. That was a fair chunk to bite off and digest, wasn’t it? Let’s see what we can filter out of that soup.

First off, big boos to Kenyon College for their part in all this. My opinion of John Crowe Ransom and the Kenyon Review just slipped and fell straight into the toilet as I was translating that. Suffice to say I don’t think I’ll be sending them any of my literary work. Assuming it even stands a chance there to begin with. American literary writing has been anemic for decades…not coincidentally, since about the time the CIA started putting its oar in the writing workshop business. You’ll see a lot of highly polished, mannered and strangely forgettable poetry and prose emanating from that era; determinedly apolitical, as though it were a dirty thing to have a political conscience and to dare to write from it. (Just as it’s considered vulgar for rich people to talk about money, no doubt.) If you wonder where that came about, here’s a little light reading. It doesn’t mention Kenyon, but any big lit-mag that regularly publishes polished literary mediocrities is almost certainly a beneficiary of similar influence.

And any author who “got big” despite a distinct lack of big ideas is suddenly just that wee bit more suspect, no? I think this may be why not a single poem by John Crowe Ransom, though he was much acclaimed, is even the least bit memorable to me. I do recall, very generally, that his material was highly polished, like a pebble out of a tumbler: perfectly smooth and featureless, with no angles or textures to grab onto. It just slips right back out of your hand the moment you try to feel for something about it. The poet in me is disgusted, but I can’t say she’s at all surprised.

Maybe this is why the last political poet of any real import in the US was Carl Sandburg, who could not have been further removed from the Kenyon College set if he tried. I could be all wet, but I get the distinct feeling that anything even slightly critical, or remotely of the people, gets very politely discouraged at the lit-mag level, and has been for decades. Just take a look at all the reams of apolitical literary blancmange yourself, if you have the stomach for it.

All the other personages in this tale are less the stuff of highbrow lit, and more that of a third-rate farce. Petraeus and Broadwell are a dirty joke that only just got stale. As for Valladares and Halvorssen, they are bit players who were never worth taking seriously in their self-assigned (or CIA-designed?) roles as human rights activists in the first place. (Although I did get a kick out of Fidel Castro’s legendary takedown of the “miraculous” cure of the allegedly paralyzed Valladares, who was so shameless as to publish a book of “critically acclaimed” poems titled From My Wheelchair — Fidel told him that he was free to leave Cuba if he just walked on and off the airplane…and Valladares did!)

All of this is background material, an insight into the world that produced Leopoldo López. Far from being an independent voice of freedom, as the media would have you believe, he is very much a churned-out product of the right-wing, Cold War operative factory of the CIA. And he’s not a very good one, either. The only question is why this ridiculous creature is still being taken seriously. But now that the emperor’s nudity has been pointed out (for the umpteenth time!) in plain English, it’s going to be that much harder, isn’t it?

How many trolls does $1 billion a year buy?

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I don’t know, and neither do you. But I bet the Koch Brothers do…

Conservative groups may have spent up to $1bn a year on the effort to deny science and oppose action on climate change, according to the first extensive study into the anatomy of the anti-climate effort.

The anti-climate effort has been largely underwritten by conservative billionaires, often working through secretive funding networks. They have displaced corporations as the prime supporters of 91 think tanks, advocacy groups and industry associations which have worked to block action on climate change. Such financial support has hardened conservative opposition to climate policy, ultimately dooming any chances of action from Congress to cut greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the planet, the study found.

“I call it the climate-change counter movement,” said the author of the study, Drexel University sociologist Robert Brulle. “It is not just a couple of rogue individuals doing this. This is a large-scale political effort.”

Billionaires spending billions to keep the gravy train rolling…and rolling right over any pesky government that would stand in their way. And how exactly does that work?

“This is how wealthy individuals or corporations translate their economic power into political and cultural power,” he said. “They have their profits and they hire people to write books that say climate change is not real. They hear people to go on TV and say climate change is not real. It ends up that people without economic power don’t have the same size voice as the people who have economic power, and so it ends up distorting democracy.

“That is the bottom line here. These are unaccountable organisations deciding what our politics should be. They put their thumbs on the scale … It is more one dollar one vote than one person one vote.”

Apparently, in the United States of Amnesia, any billionaire can set himself up as a charitable cause, hiring mouthpieces so that the money keeps on rolling…right back to him.

The vast majority of the 91 groups on Brulle’s list – 79% – were registered as charitable organisations and enjoyed considerable tax breaks. Those 91 groups included trade organisations, think tanks and campaign groups. The groups collectively received more than $7bn over the eight years of Brulle’s study – or about $900m a year from 2003 to 2010. Conservative think tanks and advocacy groups occupied the core of that effort.

The funding was dispersed to top-tier conservative think tanks in Washington, such as the AEI and Heritage Foundation, which focus on a range of issues, as well as more obscure organisations such as the Atlas Economic Research Foundation and the John Locke Foundation.

Funding also went to groups that took on climate change denial as a core mission – such as the Heartland Institute, which held regular conclaves dedicated to undermining the United Nations climate panel’s reports, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which tried and failed to prosecute a climate scientist, Michael Mann, for academic fraud.

AEI was by far the top recipient of such funds, receiving 16% of total funding over the eight years, or $86.7m. Heartland Institute, in contrast, received just 3% of the total, $16.7m. There was also generous support to Americans for Prosperity, the advocacy group affiliated with the conservative Koch billionaires, which received $22.7m.

And if you thought Conrad Black was adept at setting up shell corporations to funnel money back into his own overstuffed coffers, that’s nothing…just look at these guys, who money-launder their own “charitable” donations:

The leading venue for those underground donations was the Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund, which alone accounted for 25% of funding of the groups opposed to climate action. An investigation by the Guardian last February found that the Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund had distributed nearly $120m to more than 100 anti-climate groups from 2002-2010. The Donors group has now displaced such previous prominent supporters of the climate denial movement as the Koch-affiliated foundations and corporations like Exxon Mobil, Brulle said.

Other conservative foundations funding climate denial efforts include: the Searle Freedom Trust, the John William Pope Foundation, the Howard Charitable Foundation and the Sarah Scaife Foundation, which also promote a free-market approach on other issues.

The sad part is, all this chicanery is apparently perfectly legal. Nobody has closed the loopholes on them…yet.

And in a comic twist, the climate-change deniers are even in the business of denying that they’re all paid hacks:

A number of the groups on Brulle’s list – both as funders and recipients – refused to comment on his findings or disputed his contention that they were part of a movement to block action on climate change.

Whitney Ball, the president of the Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund, said the organisation had no say in deciding which projects would receive funding. However, Ball told the Guardian last February that Donors offered funders the assurance their money would never go to Greenpeace. “It won’t be going to liberals,” she said at that time.

“We do not otherwise drive the selection of grantees, nor do we conduct in-depth analyses of projects or grantees unless an account holder specifically requests that service,” Ball said in an email. “Neither Donors Trust nor Donors Capital Fund as institutions take positions with respect to any issue advocated by its grantees.”

Why do I get the feeling that Whitney Ball is lying through her teeth? Oh, maybe because that’s what they all do. That’s what they’re all paid to do. They are being paid extravagantly to lie. And the lies are downright risible:

“Each of the scholars that work on any particular issue speaks for his or hers own work,” said Judy Mayka Stecker, director of media relations at AEI, in an email. She went on to write, however, that most of the AEI scholars who have worked on energy and climate change have moved on and would be unavailable to comment.

Well, that’s convenient!

“We do believe that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and that man-made emissions will lead to some warming,” said David Kreutzer, an energy and climate-change fellow at the Heritage Foundation. “We are opposed to mandatory greenhouse gas emissions cuts.”

He said many conservatives saw a carbon tax, cap-and-trade and other climate policies as a government takeover by stealth.

“What we are not interested in doing is a huge shift of power to the government under the guise of preventing some climate problem,” he said.

Even though the government is the one entity powerful enough to effect any change that would actually stick — and work? Again, how convenient.

The Hoover Institution, which received about $45m, claimed to produce no work on climate change – while displaying on its website an article by a Hoover research fellow on an August 2013 Hoover poll on economic, energy and environmental issues.

“Hoover has no institutional initiatives on climate change,” a spokeswoman, Eryn Witcher, wrote in an email. “Individual Hoover fellows research and write on a wide variety of topics of their own choosing, but we’re not aware of any who are working in that field at this time, nor are we aware of any gifts or grants that have been received for that purpose.”

In the article, the Hoover fellow, Jeremy Carl, who works extensively on energy and climate issues, discussed climate change and fracking, concluding: “Many Democrats and liberals are in denial when it comes to reality on energy and climate policy, endorsing both science and political fiction.”

Funny, Mr. Carl, but any reputable scientist would say the same about YOU.

And, unlike you, they would be right.

PS: Barry Ritholtz has a very helpful map here. It’s a little out of date now, as it leaves the Donors’ Trust layer out of the picture. It would be located between the top tier and the conservative think-tanks (and maybe also between them and the front groups). Perhaps an update would be in order.

You have GOT to hear this speech

El Ecuadorable is absolutely awesome here:

And in case you don’t understand Spanish, or are reduced to a giggling jelly by the sight and sound of the world’s cutest president, here’s the story:

The president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, gave the final speech in the Second Extraordinary ALBA-Petrocaribe Summit, and underscored the necessity for states to work together to place humanity above capital and also denounce the role played by the transnational Chevron in Ecuador.

“To speak of Bolívar is to speak of unity, and it’s true, only unity can help us move forward in the face of a global order which is not only unjust, but immoral,” said the head of state in the plenary, held in commemoration of the 183rd anniversary of the Liberator’s death.

He took a moment to congratulate the Venezuelan people for their recent victory at the polls, and also Michelle Bachelet of Chile, who won the recent elections in her country.

[…]

He also criticized again the role played by the International System of Human Rights, and the Commission whose vision is in agreement with the politics of the seventies, which omits several risks of assault on said rights. “There needs to be a change of mentality in the Inter-American Human Rights Commission…and they have to change their headquarters,” he added, emphasizing the necessity that these topics continue to be discussed in groups such as ALBA and CELAC.

He denounced the blockade against Cuba, calling it “criminal”, and the ongoing colonialism in the Malvinas.

He also rejected what he calls “NGO-ism”, the influence of foreign organizations with the intent of destabilizing democratically elected governments, such as has occurred in Ecuador. “It’s all in the function of power, of the unjust relationship of power at the global level.”

He also spoke of the great struggle Ecuador is waging against one of the largest oil companies in the world, Chevron-Texaco, which, due to its proven environmental devastation in the zones where it operates in Amazonia, has dedicated itself to delegitimizing the Ecuadorian state via sophistries in an attempt to evade responsibility.

“We invite them to come to Ecuador, to Amazonia, and put their hands in the pools left by Chevron, and twenty or thirty years after Chevron-Texaco has ceased to operate, that hand will still come out black with mud and oil, that’s the Dirty Hand of Chevron,” Correa added.

Translation mine.

Coming on the heels of yesterday’s judgment by the Supreme Court of Ontario against Chevron, you must admit that this is mighty satisfying.

Ecuador wins Canadian case against Chevron Texaco

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Big Polluting Oil just lost a major judgment in the last place I expected it to: right here, in Harpolandia. How about THESE apples?

Pablo Fajardo, attorney for the Union of Those Affected by Texaco Operations, announced that the group won a legal case yesterday in Canada, when the Appeals Court of Ontario unanimously recognized that it had jurisdiction and competency to validate the Ecuadorian sentence and execute it in that country.

Fajardo specified that with this recognition, which three trial judges gave, it would be “an important step” to embargo Chevron assets in Canada and make the transnational pay for the judgment in Ecuador. He commented that the multinational has an investment there; that is, it extracts petroleum, an investment worth more than 10 billion dollars.

“This case opens the doors to make the business pay,” Fajardo said.

Fajardo says that this was an appeal presented by the multinational in Canada, and that the corporation could seek another recourse, before the Supreme Court at the federal level, but that it would be “very difficult for them to succeed at the Supreme Court; this case is very important in the battle with Chevron-Texaco.”

The lawyer maintains that the Canadian recognition opens the doors so that those affected can file suits in countries such as Australia, one of the nations in which the multinational has more assets. Of the 60 countries in which Chevron has assets, the Union of Those Affected has filed suit in three: Canada, Brazil and Argentina.

Translation mine.

$10 billion in assets. Of course they’re going to appeal this at the highest level, but if they lose…that’s gonna clean up an awful lot of rainforest in Ecuador. Which, by coincidence, is just what these big-time polluters mucked up.

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Tories have wrecked Canada’s refugee system

asiatic-exclusion-riot-damage

Damage to a downtown Vancouver neighborhood by the racist Asiatic Exclusion League, September, 1907. In the last hundred or so years, it’s astonishing how little has changed, at least in the way our government treats non-white immigrants.

If you ever wondered how fucked-up our immigration policy has become, wonder no more. Just look at how our lovely right-wing government treats refugees from what is surely the most despised and ridiculed régime on the planet right now:

A recent decision by the refugee appeal tribunal to side with Ottawa and overturn a North Korean woman’s refugee status has sent shockwaves among asylum seekers who fled the Communist regime.

Minseo Kim, 45, and her daughter, Sangah Rhee, 2, came to Canada via South Korea in early 2013 and were granted asylum by the Immigration and Refugee Board in April.

However, Immigration Minister Chris Alexander successfully appealed the decision with the board’s newly established refugee appeal division, arguing that Kim and Rhee should not be recognized as refugees because North Koreans are automatically South Korean citizens.

Gee, you’d think such a bunch of fascists as we have in government here would never miss a chance to stick their fingers in the eye of Kim Jong-un. After all, he’s a dirty commie. But no, their own cheapskate capitalist tendencies have got the better of them:

Historically, North Korean refugees have had an acceptance rate over 50 per cent, peaking at 72 per cent in 2010. However, the number of claims has been steadily creeping up. In 2012 alone, 718 new claims were received, prompting concern from the federal government.

“Concern”? A few hundred refugee claims, back in the old days, wouldn’t have been cause for batting an eyelash. If these had been white Eastern Europeans back in the Cold War era, the government would have waved them though, and maybe even discreetly pumped them for sensitive information on their countries of origin, if they seemed in a position to give any.

As it is, this government is only too happy to import cheap Chinese labor for the tar sands and its associated pipeline projects. It’s hardly “concerned” about all the jobs Canadian workers stand to lose under those circumstance. So why make an issue of a few little Korean refugees? How much taxpayer money could they possibly eat up? Why are they so “concerned” that we are a more popular refugee destination of choice than our neighbor to the south?

At this rate, one wonders why we have a refugee policy at all. Why not bring back the old anti-Asian exclusion laws, if you’re going to be this irrational and hateful?

A pregnant woman from North Korea who is still waiting for a refugee hearing had her interim federal health coverage stripped in November, said Wright, because immigration officials deemed her a South Korean national. She gave birth at Sunnybrook hospital and is now $3,000 in debt.

“This is outrageous,” said Wright. “It just shows the mean-spiritedness of the government.”

Over the past year, Ottawa has designated 35 countries as “safe” for refugees and added South Korea to the list in May. It said it has no plan to put the “safe country” label on North Korea.

Given that North Korean refugees are treated as spies and enemy aliens in the “safe” South, this move could hardly be more cynical.