The ironies of the Venezuelan opposition, part 38


Pablo Victoria Wilches of Colombia’s Conservative Party (standing) and neo-fascists Lorent Saleh and Diego Cubillos (seated, in insets also). Strange bedfellows right-wing politics makes, no?

Howdy, folks, and welcome to this long-overdue update of VenOpIronía. Well, how about those peaceful oppos, always and forever being repressed by the iron boot-heel of the Chavista state? Only, of course, it’s not quite like that. We’ve already seen how bloody and violent they are; Dr. Dawg has already picked apart all the fake memes they’ve been circulating via the Internets. What’s left for me to blog today? Well, how about some actual fucking neo-Nazis…in Venezuela and Colombia?

Lorent Saleh, one of the promoters of the protests against Chavismo in Venezuela, along with his chief, Leopoldo López, has connections to the neo-Nazi organizations in Colombia.

The student has been one of the visible faces of the latest marches against the government of Nicolás Maduro.


The reports are founded in an investigation by journalist Gustavo Regules, published in El Espectador on July 21, 2013. It reveals the presence of Saleh at a public event organized by the fascist movement “National Alliance for Freedom”, along with Diego Cubillos, known as “The Comandante”, of Third Power, a neo-Nazi organization operating in Bogotá and other Colombian cities.

The event, which took place at the UDES university north of Bogotá, featured speeches by Colombian ex-congress member and Conservative Party presidential precandidate Pablo Victoria Wilches, and Lorent Saleh, representing the Venezuelan opposition.

“We are very concerned by what is happening in Colombia. What will happen if the Castro-Chavista forces consolidate here? I’m here to tell you that we need your support, and you need ours,” said Saleh, who is president of the non-governmental organization “Operation Freedom” in Venezuela.

Saleh is part of the most radical right wing in Venezuela. The staunch opponent of Chavismo has also referred to opposition leader Henrique Capriles as “timid and weak in the struggle they are fighting”, as we see in this video of another meeting in Bogotá, where Pablo Victoria was also present. There, Saleh rejects Capriles for not staunchly supporting the student protests in Venezuela.

Translation mine. Here’s the video in question:

And yup, it’s incriminating. Lorent Saleh, the little punk speaking, is telling the audience that the opposition has planned a coup d’état starting with trumped-up “protests” in the first half of January. He tells exactly how it’s going to go down, how it’s going to escalate into violence. PLANNED violence, planned by the opposition and carried out by its fascist youth arm — led by him, among others. It’s all designed for the express purpose of provoking a state crackdown. And yup, he shits all over Caprichito and Prettyboy Leopoldo López, too.

Such peace! Such unity! Such…um…gringos, why are you supporting these guys, again? Because these enfants terribles are your babies, carrying out YOUR imperial missions in the region. Are you not ashamed? HAVE you no shame?

How many trolls does $1 billion a year buy?


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.

Tories have wrecked Canada’s refugee system


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.

A few random thoughts on women’s sexuality


“Feminine psychology is at times twisted: They have created in us the conviction that all the bad things in the world are lying in wait, trying to sneak in on us from between our legs.”

–Laura Restrepo, Colombian writer.

Lupita Domínguez sent me that quote this morning, so muchas gracias, hermana. She also asked what I think of it, and since I realized my reply would probably be too long for Facebook, here it is:

I have a hunch Laura Restrepo is being a bit sarcastic and mocking here, and she’s quite right. Not all the bad things in the world are trying to get into us ladies from between the legs. Some of them are trying to get into us via our eyes, ears, noses, mouths, hands, and hearts. Some are trying to get into us via our wallets. Some are trying to get into us via the media and the Internet. Some are trying to get into us via bad, simplistic books expounding all kinds of inane theories. There are a great many ways for trouble to find us, and sex is just one. So to reduce all female psychology to “what lies between the legs” is insulting and belittling, to say the least. We are more than just a vagina and a pair of breasts, and so is what’s on our minds.

Of course, there are guys out there who think we should be reduced in this fashion, and the more so, the better. They think our minds don’t matter, and that we should quit worrying about what we put into them, and turn them strictly to catering to Teh Menz. They’re calling themselves Men’s Rights Activists — oh, pardon me, Men’s Human Rights Activists, now. As though men have not been the only ones fully recognized as human throughout, oh, only all of human history. And their “human rights” activism seems to be take the form of things like this:


Yup, Man of the Year material right there.

I think what this guy’s really trying to say here is “You’re not supposed to like books, and you’re not supposed to write them, you’re just supposed to be a convenient hole for me to plug into. I’m the one who’s supposed to like books! I’m the one who’s supposed to write them! How dare you usurp my privileges!”

Reductio ad absurdum, anyone?

And then there’s Miley Cyrus’s performance from the other night. Those who say critics are only “slut-shaming” her are missing the point. What she did there was not so much expressing her own sexuality, but rather faithfully enacting a cartoonish exaggeration of what men assume women’s sexuality to be: a submissive pose, wiggling a tiny heinie, ever ready to be penetrated by all comers. Again, reductio ad absurdum. Plus a creepy Pedobear-ish costume, which at some point gets removed to reveal what is NOT real skin, but rubbery plastic with no nipples, no labia, no pubic hair — in short, nothing that actual women have. “Female Sexuality” à la Barbie. And this weirdly puerile sex show is supposed to be Miley’s signal that she’s a woman now? Whoopdefuckingdoo!

Of course, I might be missing some element of irony here. If she was actually sending up this whole cartoonish image of what female sexuality is supposed to be, according to men, media and porn, then I may have to rethink Miley altogether, and give her some credit for being a wry social commentator, and not just a performer making bank at a pretty damn douchey gig. That wagging tongue ought to have been planted firmly in cheek, rather than hanging out for all the world to gawp at like Gene Simmons’s ugly appendage. But I don’t think this was actually the case, more’s the pity. It could have been a great performance if there had only been some indication that this was a joke on rape culture, and that nobody is really like this, or should be. But there was no punchline. Instead, it was meant to be taken exactly for what it appeared to be: a young woman casting aside “girlhood” (symbolized by teddy bears) and embracing “womanhood” (symbolized by fake nudity, submissive pose, and grinding her ass on a fully-clothed, and very sleazy, Robin Thicke.)

It all reconfirms everything Laura Restrepo was saying: Everything seems to be waiting to crawl in on us through our vaginas. We are limited to the roles they compel us to play: virgin, mother, whore. Nothing else about us exists. Miley isn’t expressing her own sexuality (she still has a long way to go in discovering that, since she’s just 20); she’s expressing how our culture sees all female sexuality, and by extension, all females. And the fact that she combined twerking with teddy bears (very icky teddy bears) seems to suggest that we are nothing but sex toys, and that our sexual objectification starts very young. Especially black women, who seem to get appropriated along with everything else when it comes to “empowered” upper-class white women’s ostensibly de-Disnified “sexuality”.

The fact that sexual evils aren’t the only ones besetting us is conveniently swept aside by the sexualized narrative. Most women are dealing with economic disadvantages tailored to gender lines. Every day, that deck gets stacked against us a bit further. We’re still only paid, on average, 70 cents to a man’s dollar, our clothes cost more than men’s, and we’re supposed to buy more of them to keep up with the Joneses. There’s even talk of charging women higher health insurance premiums in the States, “because they have breasts”. We’re facing sanctions against abortion that are more restrictive than what prevailed in Victorian times. And student loan debts are leaving young people, women especially, financially crippled before their careers even begin.

And good luck trying to dig your way out of the financial hole without resorting to stripping or prostitution; those are the two most lucrative professions for women, and you can bet the pimps are taking note; in Germany they and the state have conspired between them to make sure the women get it coming and going. Brothels charge low flat rates for all the sexual servicing a client demands, no limits. And women who work there are expected to fork over not only a heavy percentage of their direct earnings (supposedly, to defray the cost of living in such a dump), but taxes to the state as well. And since a lot of them come from the poorest parts of Eastern Europe and are supporting families, well…you can do the math. Poverty prostitution actually has its own word in German: Armutsprostitution. Most prostitutes in Germany are not Germans; they are not free-spirited Happy Hookers doing it for love of sex, either, but impoverished immigrants who have run out of options — and in many cases, are trafficked as well. Their problems began long before they started working in the sex trade; money, not sex, is the way the ills of the world have crept up on them. Worst of all, many of them don’t make it out alive, and any dreams they had of better lives and meaningful work in non-sex professions have been yanked out from under them.

It seems to be only a matter of time before all of us find that our wallets are the main conduit between us and a similar fate. Lupita, who sent me that quote, knows it already, since need drove a lot of her friends from the Mexican nightclubs into stripping and prostitution. When I translated her book, one thing that leapt out at me was how many of them were forced into it by their own families. They are paying for their children’s food and clothing, their siblings’ educations, and their mothers’ houses. And they have to do so by taking money from strange men for acts that are often undignified.

And the worst indignity of all is that they have to deal with this double standard every day, every night, and pretend that it’s normal, and that they like it. The client gets to keep his suit on; the woman gets naked, or very nearly so. The power imbalance could not be more obvious. And neither is the twisting of psychology that says, on the one hand, that women’s bodies are “dirty”…but which, on the other hand, expects us to use them, and not our minds, to make the only living we are allowed to make, and to pretend that we are merely “exploring our sexuality”. We’re not supposed to be doctors, lawyers, astronauts, scientists or politicians, ever; when we grow up, we’re supposed to be either wives or whores. Y punto.

Reductio doesn’t get more ad absurdum than that, does it?

God hath spoken; Christians still not listening


Good morning! If you ever needed proof that God is NOT on the side of blind bigotry, just take a look at how close She came to wiping out one family that decided to try Her patience:

An Arizona family fed up with abortion, homosexuality, taxes and the “state-controlled church” will fly back home Sunday after being lost at sea for months.

Hannah Gastonguay told the Associated Press she and her husband “decided to take a leap of faith and see where God led us.” The family, which included two small children, abandoned the United States and set sail for the island nation of Kiribati in May. They ended up lost in the Pacific Ocean for 91 days.

During the voyage, their boat was damaged by “squall after, squall, after squall.” The damage forced them to head towards the nearer Marquesas Islands, but they made little progress.

Luckily, human mercy saved the day for these lost and benighted souls, who are gullible enough to think (with no evidence whatsoever to support it) that the US government is interfering with religion (actually, it’s quite the other way around, and has been for quite some time). If it had been up to God, they’d have been drowned in true Darwin Award style for their stupidity. As it is, the “God-hating” US government paid to get their sorry God-bothering asses back on home soil. But have they learned their lesson? Oh nooooo:

Hannah Gastonguay said the family will now “go back to Arizona” and “come up with a new plan.”

Please plan to stay put…and while you’re at it, plan to stop reproducing. Isn’t it bad enough that you nearly killed your own innocent kids for the sake of a religious delusion?

For Charles Koch, freedom is slavery

Really. What else can one conclude, after seeing this?

So, let’s break it down here: If you’re making barely enough to survive in the United States of Amnesia, and you’re in debt up to your eyeballs, and in constant danger of losing it all to the whims of some coked-up banker or Wall St. broker — Charles Fucking Koch thinks you should count yourself lucky to be a global 1%er. Be thankful you’re not a slave laborer in Rana Plaza, Bangladesh, in other words. Be thankful you’re not one of eleven hundred workers killed when an illegally built sweatshop complex collapsed on their heads, eclipsing the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire that basically sparked the entire workplace-safety movement in the US. Be thankful that you’re not living on the street, fighting off rats at night and bathing in raw sewage. Be thankful, in other words, that you’re not the poor soul who’s sewing those cheap, shoddy clothes you bought at Wal-Mart, or the Gap, or Old Navy, or wherever the hell you bought them. And where you will go on buying them because they are so poorly made that they look old and crappy after less than one year’s wear. And because quality costs, and you can’t really afford it, can you? Gee, for such a rich global 1%er, you sure are poor.

And Charles Fucking Koch, a billionaire 43 times over, wants you to forget all about that, and vote for politicians he can easily buy outright, so as to do away with the pesky, “job-killing” minimum wage and send even more of your hard-earned dollars flying into his own already overstuffed pockets, and to send you (and your children) into sweatshops right in your own neighborhood. Isn’t that lovely of him?

In fact, he spent $200,000 on this ad campaign alone. That’s nearly six times the “average” yearly income that he would have you believe puts you in the global 1%. And, to him, that amount is obviously chickenfeed.

Feel rich yet, serfs? Feel free yet, slaves?

A few more thoughts on rape culture (and the importance of naming it)


So I was chatting again with my friend from the West Coast today, and he’s still upset about the incident from the other day. He wonders if he was really sexually assaulted, and he’s beating himself up over it. Does inappropriate touching from a blind stranger really count as an assault, or is it just him being oversensitive about it?

I assured him that it yes, it really is an assault. I pointed out that if he’d been mugged, he’d have no trouble saying that’s what happened. I added that the ooky feeling it gave him was enough; it doesn’t have to leave a mark to be an assault. The uninvited, invasive touch is enough, especially if it leaves you guilt-stricken and queasy afterward. After all, he didn’t invite it. He merely got taken advantage of when his guard came down for a brief moment. He had not done the wrong; the other guy had! He finally agreed, and thanked me for that.

And that got me to thinking: Why are we so reluctant to call sexual assault by its right name, even when it happened to us and made us feel like shit? And the answer, again, comes back to rape culture.

Rape culture wouldn’t be such an all-pervasive problem if we were not awfully reluctant to talk about sex in the first place. Our puritanical culture sets up the vulnerable (women mainly, but again, not only) for all manner of indecencies, some of them admittedly grosser than others. But until relatively recently, we didn’t talk openly about sex.

And an awful lot of us still don’t. Just think of those who throw “purity balls” for their daughters, and make them take virginity pledges, and wear those dinky silver rings. Do they teach their sons not to grope, grab and paw other girls — not just those doing the Silver Ring Thing, but ANY girl (or guy, or trans person) at all? Do they teach their sons not to re-enact porn scenes or talk dirty? Do they teach their sons why it’s wrong to send dick pix via cellphone, or demand boobie pix from their girlfriends? Do they teach them proper respect for others?

I’m guessing they don’t. Just look at the statistics; even the most religiously conservative communities, far from being the best at preventing rape, are often the worst at it…and the worst when it comes to victim blaming and slut shaming, too.

After all, being scared of sex, and guarding one’s vulnerable body, is a Girl Thing. (As is the shame-inducing eventual despoliation of that body, assuming that one does not enter a convent — and maybe get raped by a priest in there.)

Real Men, on the other hand, are supposed to grab and grope and maul and manhandle every woman in sight. (Or, in the case of the blind guy who molested my friend, every gay or bi guy they can get their hands on.) They are supposed to, in the words of the odious pickup artist, Ken Hoinsky, act as the “leaders”, and “force her to say no”. (And disregard her as far as possible when she does, and tell her to come on, she really wants it, blah blah.)

And don’t even get me started on what happens at SF conventions, where a very nerdy, geeky, dorky brand of rape culture thrives, and claims social awkwardness on the part of the creepers as its excuse. Things like this make me kind of glad I’ve never gone to one. The last thing I need is for some Elder Statesman of the Genre to give me an unwanted pat-down in front of everyone, and then force me to be a “good sport” and laugh off what is actually not a bit funny. (Remember, the shame of being “the woman so-and-so molested on stage” never washes off.)

Our lack of frankness about sex enables all these and so many other double standards, mixed messages, and outright bullshit to thrive. Mold and mushrooms grow in the dark. So do toxic toadstools.

My friend and I got off “lightly”, if you can call all that second-guessing and self-recrimination “light”. But we did not come away unscathed. One does not have to be an infant in diapers or an eighty-year-old nun full of bullet holes to qualify as the victim of sexual violence. One has only be have been touched (and in my case, also talked to) in an inappropriate manner. And one has only to feel awful about it afterwards to know that yes, one has been a victim. (Fuck the MRAs and their “Don’t Be That Girl” campaign of mansplaining rape away as just “regretted sex”. That shit does not fly around here, motherfuckers.)

Rape culture is about wresting control away from the victims, erasing them, and negating their experiences. It’s no coincidence that not-talking-about-it is what’s the most enabling thing for perpetrators, and the most crippling thing for victims.

And no, victim is NOT a dirty word, so let’s say it loud, if not proud. Nobody wants to be one? Fine, then let nobody be a fucking perpetrator, either. See how simple that is?

And yes, let’s keep talking. And keep calling things by their right name. Even if it makes us feel icky and we’re terribly reluctant to do so. Sunshine is a great disinfectant, so drag that shit out into the light and watch it dry up! Nobody should have to spend 25 years in silence, as I did, trying to erase what happened from her memories. And nobody should have to second-guess himself constantly, as my friend is doing right now as he struggles to process what happened to him. Name it, and shame not the victim, but the system.

And work like hell to change the system when you’ve decided you’ve had enough.

The Bolivarian campaign against homophobia


“I am gay. I am lesbian. I am bisexual. I am transsexual. I am heterosexual. I am like you. I am human.”

Add another stripe to that banner, one that reads “I am Bolivarian”. The LGBT movement in Venezuela has the support of no less than the president himself:

On Saturday, Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro reflected before the Great Patriotic Pole “Simón Bolívar” about the conduct of those who discriminate against others, and exhorted the revolutionary political groups to strengthen their socialist values of respect and inclusion.

“The worst discriminator is the one who denies his own nature and, with that, discriminates against himself. He is like the overseer on a slave estate, who was black like all the others, and was more of a slave-driver than the owner of the estate,” said the president, paraphrasing the words of Ingrid Varón, the spokesperson for the sex-diversity group.

During the swearing-in of the GPP in the Caracas Poliedro, Maduro spoke of the initiatives of the political coalition, which consists of 26 national organizations, among them the sex-diversity collective.

The president rejected the right-wing campaign to paint him as a “homophobe”.

“You know that the fascist J.J. Rendón, public enemy of Venezuela, launched a campaign saying that I was homophobic, but the truth is that the people cannot be homophobic, because we do not discriminate against anyone, much less our brothers and sisters of sexual diversity, whom we invite with dignity to come here to work for the nation,” said Maduro.

“You of the sex-diversity movement can count on our support, accompaniment and love,” Maduro added.

Translation mine. Linkage added.

So we see, too, that our old pal Jota-Jota is up to his old dirty tricks, slamming the big guy on sexual grounds this time. Too bad for him that Nicolás Maduro is a strong supporter of LGBT rights, like Chavecito. There is nothing there for that mud to stick to.

On the other hand, I’ve often heard it said that Henrique Capriles Radonski is gay. (I know for a fact that JAVU leader Julio Rivas is.) If that’s true, it’s a tremendous irony, since he has chosen to align himself with the most fascistic and homophobic elements in the country. And it’s quite possible that Maduro too has heard those rumors and is alluding to them in the interest of making his point: that a servant of fascism will deny his own identity in order to gain power over others at any cost.

Who is J.J. Rendón?


If you’ve been following Venezuelan politics, you’ve probably seen the handiwork of this man, even if you haven’t seen HIM. And if you find his habit of wearing black melodramatic and more than a little douchey, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. His campaigns are even more so…and now, their creepy author has been uncloaked:

His name is Juan José Rendón, and he calls himself J.J. Rendón. Although born a Venezuelan, he says he has no country, and in supposed mourning, always dresses in black. Rendón lives in Miami, Florida, and from there has been the creator of the dirty campaigns which have characterized the representatives of the South American right wing.

During the last 27 years, he has advised the presidential campaigns of Enrique Peña Nieto, Juan Manuel Santos, Alvaro Uribe Vélez, and Porfirio Lobo, among others. The discrediting and tarnishing of his clients’ adversaries is his principal strategy.

One strategy, which Rendón has openly admitted to applying, is the “Three Ss”, in which false information concerning the sexuality, health and salary of the targeted individual is created in a campaign of discredit.

In an interview with Colombian journalist María Jimena Duzán, Rendón said that his proposition is to “shatter” the adversary and that it is a business for him, one that brings to the table the latest campaign by sectors of the Venezuelan right.

The dirty campaign against the quality of drinking water, as well as the attacks questioning the health of Hugo Chávez, starting in July 2012 by various opposition parties and media, were the work of J. J. Rendón.

In the same interview with Duzán, Rendón admits to being an anti-ethical advisor because “that ethical thing is for the philosophers.”

As far as Venezuela is concerned, it appears that his only connection with it is his closeness to the opposition, directly with the “Democratic Unity Table” (MUD), for whom he designed campaigns of instigation, destabilization, and discreditation of the national government.

Even if the local opposition has wanted to conceal the intervening hand of Rendón in its constant wave of campaigns to promote destabilization, there is a very close link with Henrique Capriles Radonsky.

“Have you been working in the campaign of Henrique Capriles?” Jaime Bayly asked him, two days before the elections of October 7, to which the “king of black propaganda,” as the Mexican, Ramón Betancour, called him, replied: “What do you think?” “It’s gone very well for you since you’ve taken on the campaign of Henrique Capriles!” commented the Peruvian TV host, who constantly mocked the Venezuelan political process.

The planting of the idea of a supposed “electoral fraud” was another of Rendón’s ideas, and it was precisely that which brought him to public awareness in 2004, as a pusher of that line of propaganda after the opposition defeat in the recall referendum of 2004.

Rendón has worked on 22 campaigns and claims he has only lost one. His most famous defeat was that same recall referendum of 2004, against Comandante Hugo Chávez. After that he abandoned Venezuela to take up residence in the United States.

Translation mine.

Well, now you know why he wears black (and probably doesn’t cast a reflection or a shadow, either). Chavecito pretty much drove a stake through his heart, or rather the shrunken remnant thereof. Yet, perversely, he’s still walking this Earth, while Chavecito has gone on to blessed immortality. Unlike most vampires, Rendón hasn’t yet bitten the dust. But maybe shining a bright light on him will send him scuttling back under the rock from whence he came.

We can only hope, eh?

Cuban “dissidents” get a taste of Spanish capitalism


A Cuban woman being evicted from her home in Spain. Scenes like this are becoming more common as Spain’s economic woes deepen. They’re also putting the bitter lie to the idea that a capitalist economy spells more freedom, as one Cuban family found out the hard way after no longer being able to pay their own rent:

A man and a woman have been detained by the Spanish national police after opposing the eviction of a family of five Cubans from their home in Alicante for not paying the rent as of last July.

Police sources indicated to the EFE press agency that the detainees, also Cuban, have been transferred to the Commissary of Benalua, accused of “assaulting agents of authority, resistance, and disobedience”, and state that two police officers have been “slightly injured” during the eviction.

The incident occurred when police intervened to speed up the eviction of a family composed of two dissident Cubans and their three children, two of them minors, from their home in the area of Gran Vía and Novelda Avenue.

At the time the police tried to enter the house, about a hundred people, most of them members of the group “Stop Evictions”, who had been gathered around the block, sat down on the ground to prevent them from entering.

The police began to remove the demonstrators, who had locked arms and legs for greater resistance, so that many of them had to be removed as a string.

There was a moment of heightened tension when the agents removed a disabled person who was participating in the demonstration in a small adapted vehicle. The demonstrators then began to advance on the agents, hurling insults.

The police also removed one of the daughters of the evicted family, a minor, by force, causing bruises to one of her hands.

When the agents gained access to the door, there was a struggle with the persons inside, resulting in several broken windows to the door.

Finally, the police entered the home of the family, who began to empty the house of their personal belongings and bring them to the street, assisted by members of the “Stop Evictions” group.

“We won’t stay in the street, nor will they take our children to Social Services, because I am a mother, and I didn’t come to Spain to have problems with the justice system,” said the mother of the family, Ismara Sánchez, to the media, minutes after having to vacate her home.

The family moved to Spain in 2011, thanks to a plan in which the Catholic church and the Spanish government collaborated to evacuate various political dissidents from Cuba.

According to a friend of the family, Juan Francisco Marimón, this plan brought 600 Cuban families to Spain, promising them a residency and work permit for five years, and economic aid of some 300 euros a month.

Marimón said that the family enjoyed subsidized protection in Spain as “political refugees”, since they belonged to a “national civic movement” in Cuba, for which they had been “incarcerated for seven and a half years.”

“When we came to Spain, the ambassador himself told us that as long as we didn’t find jobs here, they would give us economic aid from the European Fund for Refugees,” said Marimón.

However, the evicted family could not find work in Spain, and stopped paying the rent on their home last July, which was the reason for their eviction.

Translation mine.

The irony of the situation could not be more clear. These unfortunate souls were “evacuated” from Cuba after allegedly being imprisoned for belonging to an anti-communist movement of some sort (which one is unknown at this time). If they thought they could find more freedom (or at least, more money) in Spain, they have been harshly disabused of that notion by the bankers of the European Union, who, like their landlords, couldn’t care less that they were not able to pay their own way. In the end, these celebrated “dissidents” became just one more economic burden on the cash-strapped Spanish state. And so in the land of capitalist “freedom”, they once again find themselves on the wrong side of the law. Along with a great many Spaniards…who, ironically, may be taking a fresh look at communism and socialism now that capitalism has proved itself unable to keep its own promises. And who, if they still remember what Spain was like in Republican times, might well be feeling some nostalgia for those pre-Civil War days…or even eyeing Cuba with sighs of envy. Because the problems of Spain are threatening to become worse than anything Cuba has ever seen since the Revolution, and even the terrible Special Period is starting to pale by comparison…

¡Cuba y España…nunca se engaña!