Evo’s new diplomatic sweet spot

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Whoa, Evo’s lookin’ good…and I’m not just talking about those stylish threads he’s wearing (although those, too, are fabulous). With over 60% of the vote in the latest Bolivian presidential election, he’s riding higher than ever, and by now, only a fool would doubt that he is very much THE leader of his land. And it looks like Washington is taking notice, too, because now there’s talk of re-established diplomatic relations:

Bolivian president Evo Morales says that respect for the sovereignty of the land and the goodwill of Washington are keys for the re-establishment of diplomatic ties with the United States, given that bilateral relations have been marked by political tensions since 2008.

Bolivia and the US plan to restore ambassadors. “It’s not that we don’t want a new ambassador to come, but that they respect Bolivia. We will respect each other,” Morales said in an interview with public media.

The ambassador should not come to impose, nor to finance political parties of the opposition, Morales added. He was re-elected last Sunday with 61% of the vote, to govern the Andean-Amazonian country until 2020.

A few days ago, the US embassy in Bolivia also expressed its desire to re-establish a relationship of “mutual respect” with the Morales government.

“We hope with interest to work with the government of Bolivia in areas of common interest, in order to establish productive bilateral relations based in mutual respect and shared objectives, for the well-being of the people of Bolivia and of the United States,” said the US chargé d’affaires, Peter Brennan.

Translation mine.

Bear in mind that the last US ambassador to Bolivia, Philip Goldberg, was a spy. He was caught on camera holding clandestine meetings with leading figures of the Bolivian opposition, including the prefects of the then “breakaway” departments of the so-called “Media Luna” (Half Moon, for their roughly crescent shape when taken together; also called “Nación Camba”, for its mostly-white populace). And there is ample evidence that everyone from USAID to the Peace Corps and even Fulbright Scholars (!) was involved in some political interference or other, all of it directed at sponsoring or supporting the right-wing opposition. It was a huge scandal, and it totally blew up in the faces of all involved.

At the time, Evo’s popular support was at a bit more than 50%, and it was thought that it wouldn’t take much to tip things the other way again, to the liking of Goldilocks’s superiors in Washington. Then, in April 2009, a fascist terror cell comprised of half a dozen or so foreign mercenaries and would-be machos, found to have ties to those same opposition politicos, was literally shot to pieces before it could kill Evo, his vice-president Álvaro García Linera, and their cabinet, and who-knows-who-all-else. They had fortunately missed a seemingly golden opportunity when Evo headed up a floating parliament on Lake Titicaca; the cell’s leader was caught on cellphone video moaning about how cool it would have been if only they could have blown that Bolivian navy vessel sky-high, with all the MAS government members in it. Instead, it was the terror cell that got blown up, in a hotel where they were holing up and plotting their moves. The cell’s leader was killed by federal police, along with a couple of others; a couple more escaped; the rest were jailed. And the Media Luna’s rogue prefects went on the lam, where they remain to this day. With that, the opposition got a harsh object lesson on what kind of political gambits will no longer play in Bolivia.

And now, with Evo’s vote count at over 60% and still climbing, Bolivia’s economy likewise on the up-and-up, and no more terrorists in sight, Washington seems to have no choice but to start showing some respect for The Little Injun That Could. So they’re talking of a new, more “mutually” respectful relationship. And it seems that Evo is very well situated to hold them to it.

But you can be sure that no one will be letting their guard down. The huge popular support Evo enjoys is the backing for a very wise, very shrewd and vigilant government, which has already proved its mettle at putting paid to old-style fascist putschist politicking…which, as always, had the backing of Washington. And if anything should happen to Evo, the revolt will make the dramatic response to the Venezuelan coup-flop of ’02 look like a pleasant day’s outing in the park. Bolivian workers, the miners and farmers in particular, have decades of experience in fighting back at any cost, and they are Evo’s key base of support.

Moreover, thanks to Cuban help, Bolivia is now fully literate, politically awake, and therefore that much harder to deceive. There will not be any more docile acceptance of Yanqui interference and military dictatorship, as there was in decades past. The people of Bolivia are prospering, but they are not so prosperous yet that they are totally unprepared to fight, if they must.

And if they must, they WILL.

Majunche’s not-so-excellent foreign adventure

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Ah, Keanu. Well might you ask. It turns out that the answer may be as simple as that old biblical saying: By their fruits shall ye know them.

So, by Majunche’s fruits, what can we know about him? Well, a certain vice-president of Venezuela has some ideas:

Venezuelan vice-president Elías Jaua denounced on Saturday that the upcoming trip by opposition politician Henrique Capriles Radonski to Spain and the United States is part of a “destabilization campaign” to “interrupt democracy” in Venezuela.

Jaua pointed out that Capriles plans to travel between October 20 and 24 to Spain and the US to meet with representatives of the far right to receive “outlines and financial oxygen to continue the destabilization campaign against Venezuelan democracy.”

Jaua also informed that president Nicolás Maduro has ordered the Legislative Council of the state of Miranda, of which Capriles is governor, to demand explanations of the opposition politician as to why he is absenting himself from his functions for five days.

Jaua, also a former foreign minister, called the claim that Capriles is the most moderate of the Venezuelan opposition a lie, recalling that the governor of Miranda plays a principal role in “a game to interrupt democracy and the plan to destabilize our homeland.”

He also deemed “absolutely irresponsible” the declarations of Capriles over a supposed cutback in the Miranda state budget due to the fact that the price of oil established in the national budget does not correspond to the real prices established.

In this context, Jaua emphasized that Capriles, a representative of the opposition “Democratic Unity Table” (MUD) party, uses such allegations as excuses for not dedicating himself to his duties, such as attending to culture, sport and education in Miranda.

Venezuelan authorities have accused the sectors of the Venezuelan opposition on repeated occasions, supported from abroad, of plotting to launch a coup d’état against the Maduro government.

Translation mine.

It’s already well known that Spain and the US (and the far fascist right of both) have active, vested interests in seeing Venezuelan democracy kicked to the curb. Both were, in fact, found actively backing the coup of ’02. Does anyone seriously believe that they’ve since changed their stripes?

If you do, you might be as big a doofus as Bill. Or Ted.

If you don’t, keep watching Majunche. Or this space, which will certainly keep its eyes trained on him.

Open Carry gunbunny gets jacked

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Think you’ll be safer if you’re toting a firearm in plain sight? Think again. This “open carry” gun guy got robbed of his brand-new piece…at gunpoint:

A man practicing his open carry right was robbed of the gun he was openly carrying.

William Coleman III was robbed of his Walter- brand P22 just after 2:00 a.m. October 4 in Gresham by a young man who asked him for it — and flashed his own weapon as persuasion.

Coleman, 21, was talking to his cousin in the 17200 block of NE Glisan St., after purchasing the handgun earlier that day, when a young man asked him for a cigarette, police said.

The man then asked about the gun, pulled a gun from his own waistband and said “I like your gun. Give it to me.”

Coleman handed over the gun and the man fled on foot.

I’m guessing that the thief was NOT an Open Carrier. In that regard, he was smarter than his quarry.

So much for the idea that “an armed society is a safe society”, eh?

Robert Serra names his assassins

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Who says dead men tell no tales? Not I. And not the Argentine journalist Fernando Vicente Prieto, who wrote the following article for the Correo del Orinoco about the recently slain young Venezuelan deputy, Robert Serra:

It’s been 48 hours since they killed Robert Serra and, in the same criminal operation, María Herrera. Robert was a kid, a Venezuelan boy. He was a deputy for four years, and he was only 27. He was the youngest parliamentarian in Venezuela. His killers knew of his unwavering commitment, his firm and potent voice, because he represented the best of a revolutionary youth, prepared to go the full distance.

They thought they killed him completely in that cruel and, at the same time, perfectly rational act. They wanted to kill in him a generation, called by Hugo Chávez to the most difficult and beautiful task. But Robert Serra continues to speak after his death and from there, he points in his eternal gesture at the assassins. They wanted to kill him again and again, and on October 1 — sadly — they succeeded. But not completely.

Even though they killed him 48 hours ago in La Pastora, I turn on the TV and there’s Robert, talking again, and this time of his own death. He’s conversing on the show Zurda Konducta with other guys like him, some dressed like journalists. Robert is waving his hands and speaking clearly. He’s analyzing the moment of the Revolution, describing the job taken on by the youth after Chávez, and suddenly he begins to tell who assassinated him, why, and in what context.

“The country should observe what’s going on. Why was Álvaro Uribe Vélez the first one to come out in defence of Lorent Saleh? Because there are interests directly related, between the paramilitaries he personally directed and still directs in Colombia, and these despicable acts.”

“If we look retroactively at the fallen during the last guarimbas, [we see] a well-aimed shot to the head, with 9mm or high calibre bullets. A well-aimed shot. Not just any shooter has the ability to do that,” says Robert. “Let’s remember what happened in April 2002, with the coup against Comandante Chávez.”

And from that context, he comes back to talking about the present: “And look at this shameless Lorent Saleh, who says: ‘we have the diplomatic façade with this Operation Freedom’.” He is eloquently referring to the leader of Operation Freedom, one of the “peaceful students against Maduro”, as the private media call them.

“He says that, straight up, that crook says ‘we have the diplomatic façade of the altars of the defence of human rights’. And you see how when our state security corps come out to guarantee peace in the land, they are the ones who get converted into victimizers by the opinion shapers. I want to see CNN replay these videos that are coming out now. I want to see that woman-abuser Fernando del Rincón replaying that. I want to see Patricia Janiot. I want to see all of those who have initiated a media campaign against our country,” Robert insists.

He doesn’t stop; he keeps pointing out tactics and responsible parties. He recalls how the paramilitary groups planned to attack discos and bars in San Cristóbal: “Even their own guys,” he exclaims, “so that the social breakdown would be much greater.”

Later, he directly addresses Antonio Ledezma, the right-wing metropolitan mayor of Caracas. “I know you must be watching me,” he tells him. And reads one of many tweets Ledezma immediately put out to defend the paramilitary group.

He also reads out a tweet by María Corina Machado, which cynically affirms that “everybody knows what awaits Lorent Saleh and Gabriel Valles at the hands of the régime”. And Robert accuses: “No! Not everybody knows. You know it, shameless person, because you’re in the plan! You know it, Antonio Ledezma knows it, Leopoldo López knows it, and and Álvaro Uribe knows it, because they’re the ones who are in on the plan to destabilize our democracy. Now many of us know it.”

Robert looks into the camera. With his short, scrubby hairstyle, as always, and his neighborhood boy’s face, intelligent and naughty. Profound. Chavista. With all his life ahead of him. He thumps his chest and warns:

“And I’m certain, I’m certain, that in that macabre list I could be one of the names. Fine, let them do it. But it doesn’t matter. I’m certain that they plan to hold collectives and social movements responsible. What for? To generate the reaction that tells CNN that there is a ‘dogfight’ going on that they have set in motion for the gringos and other countries of the world to demonstrate that there is no governability here, that Nicolás Maduro doesn’t guarantee peace, and so the world’s police, the blessed gringos, have to intervene.”

And Robert goes on explaining, dead now but with his voice full of life: “We have to get to the root of this, my dear comrades. This was born at a party. I have the migratory register of many of them: how they came through Costa Rica, through Colombia, from where we denounce the so-called Mexican party. And what was the Mexican party? A party held in Mexico by a group of Venezuelan ex-bankers, fugitives from Venezuelan justice, who circulated instructions via a political operator named Gustavo Tovar Arroyo to unleash violence in our land.”

“I am convinced that they will banalize this denunciation tomorrow,” Robert continues. “They want to see the body of the president so they can say ‘Ah yes, the Chavistas were right’. And how will they banalize it? They’ll say that this is a smokescreen to cover up the problems of the land.”

The end of the program draws near. I hear [them read out] a tweet from a young right-winger which says: “I wish I had a pistol so I could shoot down all of those guys from Zurda Konducta.” Robert nods as if to say “exactly!” and says: “You see? This is a product of the hatred the right-wing has instilled.”

He adds: “Today history proves Nicolas Maduro to be right when he said: ‘Gentlemen, behind all of this lies the empire, and the hand of Álvaro Uribe’, who is thirsting for blood in Venezuela, a product of his failure in Colombia. He wants to destroy peace in our land and he has absolutely nothing to lose, because he doesn’t even have morality.”

Robert says goodbye. He talks about the importance of the 2015 legislative elections, in which the right-wing will try to take the majority so as later to deal a parliamentary coup, as in Honduras and Paraguay. “To win is to win well. Let’s build a majority with our people. What is at stake for us in the coming year will be the peace and the democracy of our land. Let us carry on the legacy of Hugo Chávez. If they ask this generation what our objective is, it’s not a term in office, comrade. It is to make irreversible the dreams of Hugo Chávez and his legacy in this homeland he built for us.”

Robert Serra. 27 years old. Young Chavista deputy. A revolutionary who never will be silent. Those who have ears to hear, let them listen. Because Robert is still speaking loud and clear.

Translation mine.

So we can see that there is, indeed, a veritable rogues’ gallery of usual suspects behind Serra’s death: El Narco Uribe, the failed ex-president of Colombia, and head of the paramilitary death squads to which Lorent Saleh and Gabriel Valles are now well known to have belonged. Antonio Ledezma, alias “Grandpa Monster”, the reviled right-wing metropolitan mayor of Caracas, and a well-known collaborator in all the violent opposition guarimbas there. And the bottom-feeding right-wing “leaders”, María Corina Machado, alias Maricori, and Leopoldo López, the pretty boy who’s still sitting in jail, safe and sound, awaiting trial for his part in the recent failed putsch against Madurito. And a bunch of bankers, fugitives from justice all, who absconded with money belonging by rights to the Venezuelan people, who are currently squatting in Mexico. Serra names them all. The only person he doesn’t name is the one who pulled the trigger on him. But it hardly matters. He knows who wanted him dead. And he knows that they had the power and the cash to hire a very cold, clever sharpshooter to do their dirty work, too.

And if you wonder why I’m still writing about him in the present tense, it’s because Robert Serra, like Chavecito before him and Che Guevara before him, is the kind of person who never really dies. He left so much of himself behind, even in his short existence on Earth, that it doesn’t matter anymore where his body is. His spirit is the kind that won’t be silenced so soon. And that irony will be the final joke on his killers, because they will fade from existence as nonentities, even though they succeeded — but only partially, as the author of the piece says — in killing him.

Why was Robert Serra murdered?

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Robert Serra (at left, with hand raised) leads a PSUV delegation through a Caracas neighborhood. On Wednesday night, the parliamentarian — Venezuela’s youngest national-assembly deputy — was brutally murdered at home.

On Wednesday night, Venezuela lost a bright, promising young parliamentarian to a vicious targeted assassination. We don’t yet know exactly who did it. But their motive? That’s not in so much doubt…

Young Chavista deputy Robert Serra, assassinated on Wednesday night along with his girlfriend at his home in Caracas, was one of those who, along with the VTV program Zurda Konducta, denounced the videos linking Lorent Gómez Saleh with paramilitarism and with an attempted coup d’état against Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro.

So recounts journalist and Zurda Konducta host Pedro Carvajalino, who considers that the murder of Serra was meant to “demoralize the people”.

In an interview with the Venezuelan News Agency (AVN), in La Pastora, near the home of the murdered parliamentarian, Carvalino, who shared the show stage several times with Serra in the past few weeks, remembered the man affectionately known as “Machine Gun”, for his eloquent and energetic way of speaking.

Carvajalino pointed out that “in the almost two months that [Serra] was on Zurda Konducta, above all on the subject of the videos of Lorent Gómez Saleh and that of the economic battle, he came bringing a political team that very few people could have managed.”

“This was like how Bolívar received the news of when they murdered Sucre,” said Carvajalino, expressing the grief felt not only by the Zurda Konducta team, but also by his comrades and colleagues, over the brutal assassination of Serra. “He always had a close relationship with this neighborhood, in this community. He bought his house here, and led his political and personal life here,” said Carvajalino, emphasizing Serra’s down-to-earth ways.

“The plan to demoralize the people and get a reaction is still going on. They touched a sensitive nerve, a sensitive guy, with close ties to the 23 de Enero neighborhood and here in La Pastora. He wasn’t a guy who went from here to there, like others, one who could have lived in a fancy apartment [elsewhere]. He stayed here in La Pastora.”

Translation mine.

Serra denounced Lorent Saleh, the right-wing Venezuelan “youth leader” terrorist, and his putschist plans. Was that the reason he was murdered? Probably, but it was surely not the whole reason.

Serra was the youngest parliamentarian in the Venezuelan national assembly, and one of the brightest of its rising stars. A Chavista to the core, he showed what he was made of seven years ago when he took on the right wing’s then golden boy, Yon Goicoechea, on a TV talk show, and basically bowled right over him. Serra was just 20 years old at the time. Yon-Yon has since sunk back into obscurity, but Robert Serra kept right on going, from strength to strength…until now.

There is no doubt that the energetic, charismatic and popular Robert Serra stood to be another Chavecito, given time. Of course, that’s why it was all taken away from him by an assassin with a high-powered rifle at his home in the modest Caracas district of La Pastora on Wednesday night. And if you wonder who was behind it, guess what: It’s the same bunch that’s ALWAYS backing the Venezuelan right-wing. And the authorities are onto them, right up to the president himself:

During memorial services for parliamentary deputy Robert Serra and [his girlfriend] María Herrera, Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro affirmed that his government has denounced the existence of multiple terrorist plans, many of them “financed by factors of the Miami far-right and paramilitary groups in Colombia.”

The president said that the opposition has “banalized” and “made fun of” the many denunciations the government has made of their destabilization plans, but that “you can see in the opaque gleam of their eyes an underlying desire for what has happened.

“We have aborted many of their plans before they began, sometimes beyond the borders of Venezuela, many times we detained them before we denounced them. One of them is Lorent Saleh, whom we caught with proof in hand. We have captured others from their networks the same way; I can tell you that recently, in the run-up to this weekend, we detained four different groups which were coming to wreak violence and carry out attacks in the centre of the land, including Caracas.

“We caught them with the evidence, with explosives, I denounced that and I hereby ratify it: Terrorist groups supported by elements of the Venezuelan far-right and Colombian paramilitary groups are behind the plans to bring violence into our land. We have succeeded in dissipating part of those plans, and we will continue to battle for peace in our land.”

The president exhorted the opposition to dissociate itself from the violent groups who have hidden behind political parties, and called upon members of his own party to “close the lines”: “Let us exercise revolutionary vigilance in communities and neighborhoods, the length and breadth of the country. I ask for the collaboration of all Venezuelans, so that together with the intelligence services, we will capture the assassins of Robert Serra and dissipate the terrorist groups. Locating them is a battle for all the people. It is a battle for all the people, the battle against terrorism, against criminal violence. It is a hard battle, elements of the imperial right-wing of Miami are behind this crime. We are close to dealing a heavy blow to this band of assassins and criminals.”

Maduro affirmed that the investigations into the killing of the parliamentarian are advancing, and that it is only a matter of time before the material and intellectual authors are found.

“The proofs are all lined up, advanced, to identify the material authors. And at this point, after having spoken with those directing the investigation, I believe that we are close to dealing a heavy blow to this band of assassins and criminals,” said Maduro.

The president assured that in the hours to come, the government will release further details, and that he personally is watching the development of the investigation. “There will be justice for these criminals, but the greatest justice there could be is that this revolution consolidate itself toward the future, and we will do it for this homeland, the homeland Robert Serra dreamed of,” Maduro exclaimed.

Translation, again, mine.

We know how Robert Serra was killed; we even have a fair idea of why. Now, it only remains to be seen who, exactly, is behind all this. I predict we’ll be seeing a fair number of Usual Suspects, and that their networks will be traced all the way back to Miami, just as Nicolás Maduro has said.

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?

Compare and Contrast: Hollywood vs. India

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This achievement is even more impressive when you consider what was entailed in the Indian Mars mission:

“We have gone beyond the boundaries of human enterprise and human imagination,” declared India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who watched from the space agency’s nerve center in Bangalore. “We have accurately navigated our spacecraft through a route known to a very few.”

The staff at the Indian Space Research Organization erupted into applause and cheers after learning that the Mars Orbiter Mission, also known as Mangalyaan, reached the planet’s orbit and made history.

Before Wednesday, only the United States, Europe and the Soviets have successfully sent spacecraft to Mars.

“The odds were stacked against us,” Modi said. “Of the 51 missions attempted so far, a mere 21 had succeeded. But we have prevailed.”

The CNN article goes on to make the same observation as the graphic above: that it cost more money to make a fictional movie about space exploration than it did for India to make it all the way to the Red Planet. Which begs the question: What do Indians know that the US does not? I suspect the answer is probably that they don’t out-contract to overpriced idiots as much, if at all. And that many centuries’ experience in doing much with little has stood them in excellent stead.

Quotable: Franklin D. Roosevelt on Wall Street

Germ warfare, political coups, and the Venezuelan opposition’s latest gambit

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By now, any watcher of the situation in Venezuela is all too familiar with the tactics of the local right-wing — which is to say, pretty much everyone in opposition to the elected president. Start vicious rumors, tell improbable lies, and when that invariably fails, stage a violent “demonstration” in which a handful or so of people end up very conveniently dead. All this to force the hand of Washington, which, as everyone who’s been tracking events in Latin America for several decades knows, is all too happy to get involved in local politics. And when the dust settles, somehow a fascist always winds up in charge down there…or did, until recently. The fact that Washington’s grip is coming loose is the reason why the smell of desperation down there has gotten so strong of late.

And don’t think that the local authorities haven’t picked up on it, either. They have, and they’re not keeping quiet, as this Aporrea piece shows:

Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro announced on Sunday afternoon that physicians from several parts of the world and Cuban experts in bacterial warfare will be arriving in order to investigate occurrences at the Central Hospital of Maracay.

Ángel Sarmiento, director of the local College of Physicians, stated a week ago that eight persons had died there of an unidentified illness.

“We are investigating, friendly physicians from other parts of the world are arriving already, including our sister Cuba, which sent us experts in bacteriological warfare to determine what this fascist right-wing is trying to do in Aragua,” said Maduro, from Bolívar Avenue in Caracas, during a speech celebrating the International Day of Peace.

“Bacterial warfare, psychological warfare, international financial warfare — no and no, they won’t succeed, Venezuela is solid in all aspects of our social, economic, political and financial life,” Maduro declared.

The secretary of health for the state of Aragua, Luis López, denied the existence of any cases related to the Ebola virus, after completing an inspection of the Maracay hospital.

“it is absolutely false that there exists in the Central Hospital of Maracay or in the state of Aragua any case related to Ebola or meningococcemia,” stated López during a press conference there on September 12. “We are appealing for calm in the land, there is no case of that type anywhere in Venezuela.”

Translation mine.

So far, no word on what that mystery killer stalking the state of Aragua could be, but at least, two particularly nasty (and newsworthy) scares have already been ruled out: Ebola virus, and meningococcus.

International assistance, particularly from Cuba, should assure that they will get to the bottom of this problem. Venezuela’s healthcare system still has plenty of room for improvement, to be sure, but it’s already been radically transformed for the better since Chavecito was elected in 1998. The Cubans were instrumental in that, providing doctors in the poorest neighborhoods and bringing the preventive Cuban approach to long-standing problems in the Venezuelan system. And since their own country has been subject to constant coup attempts from Washington and Miami ever since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, it stands to reason that they have had germ warfare on their radar for the longest time, too.

One of the more than 600 attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro was, in fact, a germ warfare program, in which cancer-causing monkey viruses (SV40 in particular) were cultivated, and strengthened with the aid of a linear particle accelerator at the US Public Health Service Hospital in New Orleans. The irradiated monkey cancer viruses were first tested in mice, then marmosets, then African green monkeys, and finally, human “volunteers” supplied by the Louisiana state penitentiary at Angola. The human phase of the testing took place at the East Louisiana State Hospital in Jackson, LA. A number of men transferred from the Angola penitentiary to the state mental hospital in August of 1963 were first subjected to a huge overdose of x-rays to disable their immune systems, then injected with a “soup” containing living cancer cells…and the virus. The first “volunteer” to die of the induced galloping cancer took just under a month to succumb.

The “kill-Castro” project was uncovered in two books: Dr. Mary’s Monkey, by Edward Haslam, and Me and Lee, by Judyth Vary Baker. The first concerns the mysterious death of Dr. Mary Sherman, who headed up the practical part of the operation, and who had access to the linear particle accelerator (since dismantled and mysteriously vanished) at the Public Health Service Hospital. Dr. Sherman’s body was found, badly burned, on a smoldering mattress at her apartment in New Orleans, in 1964 — just hours before the Warren Commission was scheduled to begin local hearings into the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Haslam was unaware of the connections between the two at first, but then he met the author of the second book, who happened to have worked on the project herself as a technician, as well as becoming deeply intimate with Lee Harvey Oswald. Judy Baker was promised entry to Tulane Medical School by none other than Dr. Sherman’s superior, both officially and in secret: Dr. Alton Ochsner, the legendary “Surgeon of the South”. He was famous for his crusade against cigarettes at a time when the smoking habit was still being overtly glamorized in movies and on TV. Had he stuck strictly to his anti-cancer work, he would have gone down in history as an unalloyed hero.

But Dr. Ochsner was not only a cancer researcher; he was also a prominent anti-communist. He was a co-founder of INCA, the Information Council of the Americas, whose mission was to spread anticommunist propaganda (and provide a convenient smokescreen for the CIA, too, as it happens). He was friends with a number of wealthy, right-wing oil men, who generously supplied him with cars, land for his private cancer clinic, and the money to build it. He also treated a number of US-friendly Latin American leaders when they came down with cancer. There was no prominent anticommunist in Latin America or the US south that he did not work hand-in-glove with. And it was his meddling in politics that would wind up leaving him with blood on his hands. For it was he who tapped the not-yet-20-year-old Judy, whom he recognized as having a gift of “serendipity” when it came to infecting mice with cancer, to be the covert project’s technician. It was a brilliant move, strategically speaking; since she was so young and little-known, nobody would suspect that she was the one who developed the means to induce cancer in humans. She could easily be made to disappear from the official records. And for more than three decades, her part indeed remained a well-kept secret.

Judy Vary had started out with the goal of finding a cure for the disease which had killed her grandmother, her friend and mentor Georgia Watkins, and eventually would kill her grandfather as well. But to be able to cure cancer, one first has to be able to cause it in test animals; only that way can one determine the biochemical pathways by which cancer operates. While still in high school, Judy figured out a way to do just that: by irradiating lab mice with high doses of X-rays before injecting them with carcinogens. This would weaken their immune systems so that the cancer-causing agent — be it cigarette tar, other chemicals, or viruses — could take hold. And it was this research that brought her to the attention of various powerful entities: the US military, for one; Dr. Ochsner, for another. And US Senator George Smathers, a liberal anticommunist from her home state of Florida, who pulled strings to get her into university there, as well as mobilizing a great deal of material support from various locally based scientific corporations.

Ultimately, it was Ochsner who would take the reins of the project that ended up ruining Judy’s life, as well as terminating in the assassination of JFK, and the death of the falsely-accused Lee Oswald, who was Judy’s friend, confidant and lover in the summer of 1963. By dangling the prospect of a full scholarship to Tulane Medical School, Ochsner was able to hook the brightest and most promising young cancer researcher in the land right at a time when she was still below the nation’s radar. Prior to the project, a smattering of press clippings, most of them local, had recorded Judy’s meteoric progress as a scientist; after, they dropped off to almost none. The few that did come out, painted her as one who had rejected the feminist goal of becoming a great scientist, in favor of “fulfillment” as a housewife and mother of five. It was a ludicrous sham, but it worked; as long as Judy pretended to be just a “vanilla girl”, in the words of David Ferrie (another undercover scientist of the project), her life was safe. But the cost was terrible; not only did she lose the love of her life in Lee Oswald (whose end is all too familiar to the world), she also lost the chance to fulfill her life’s greatest goal. The girl who set out to cure cancer wound up with a much more dubious achievement to her credit: “eternal death” in the form of a cancer virus that, if the cell culture was cryogenically frozen, could live on indefinitely.

Why mention this? Because if the CIA could enlist top scientists to secretly cultivate a virus that could cause death by cancer within a month, and keep it alive indefinitely as far back as 1963, there is nothing they could not do today where germ warfare is concerned.

And Venezuela, as a “rogue” democracy and the world’s oil-richest nation, is most definitely a CIA target as far as coups and assassinations are concerned. Socialism continues to thrive there, much to the dismay of the oppos and Washington both. The cancer that killed Hugo Chávez has been described as of an “unknown” type. Could it have been descended from the same cancer-causing “chicken broth” that Lee Harvey Oswald tried, without success, to hand off to “dissident” Cubans in Mexico City two months before he was accused of the murder of JFK, in an effort to save his own president by destroying another? It would not surprise me if that turned out to be the case. Just as it would not surprise me to learn that a bacterial or viral agent heretofore unknown was unleashed on purpose in Maracay to destabilize the Venezuelan government. Neither the fascist opposition nor its US puppetmasters are above doing anything to achieve their ends, no matter how ridiculous, or how nefarious. A few propaganda-worthy deaths due to germ warfare are right up their alley, and right in line with their general pattern of misbehavior.

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