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Judi Lynn

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US-led sanctions on Venezuela "devastating" to human rights, says UN report

By Stefano Pozzebon and Caitlin Hu, CNN

Updated 7:17 PM ET, Fri February 12, 2021

(CNN)A United Nations Special Rapporteur has issued a scathing report on the international pressure campaign on Venezuela, calling on the United States, United Kingdom and European Union to lift "devastating" economic sanctions.

The comments conclude a 12-day trip in the country by Alina Douhan, Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures. Speaking in Caracas on Friday, she said foreign sanctions "constitute violations of international law" and have exacerbated Venezuela's economic crisis with "ineffective and insufficient" carve-outs for humanitarian issues.
Her preliminary report, released Friday, painted a grim picture of a nation trapped with insufficient food or electricity, water rationing and little or no access to medicines and vaccines.

Venezuela's state-controlled economy began to decline in 2014 with falling oil prices and has been corroded by mismanagement and corruption. By the time the US first imposed broad economic sanctions in 2017, Venezuela already had the highest inflation in the world and was experiencing chronic shortages of basic goods.

However, Douhan's report emphasizes that existing "calamities" were exacerbated by "unilateral sanctions increasingly imposed by the United States, the European Union and other countries."
Such sanctions, she said, wield "a devastating effect...on the broad scope of human rights, especially the right to food, right to health, right to life, right to education and right to development."

. . .

The impact of trade sanctions is particularly felt today in the Venezuelan countryside, where agricultural activities have all but stopped since imports of diesel fuel dried up. Venezuela is still capable of refining limited amounts of normal gasoline but cannot refine diesel, used in heavy trucks and agricultural machinery. Many farmers have been forced to leave their fields unattended as their machinery stood still.
Douhan was particularly critical of sanctions directed at Venezuelan oil exports. Because Venezuela depends on oil exports, a US-imposed embargo since early 2019 has effectively strangled the entire economy and hamstrung any policy solutions.
She also called on the US, the UK and Portugal to release frozen Venezuelan foreign assets -- estimated at $6 billion -- so that Maduro's government can purchase supplies needed to confront the Covid-19 pandemic.


The Media Myth of 'Once Prosperous' and Democratic Venezuela Before Chavez

AUGUST 26, 2021


The following piece is adapted from the authors’ new book, Extraordinary Threat: The US Empire, the Media and 20 Years of Coup Attempts in Venezuela, published by Monthly Review Press.

In his State of the Union address on February 6, 2019, Donald Trump said:

We stand with the Venezuelan people in their noble quest for freedom—and we condemn the brutality of the Maduro regime, whose socialist policies have turned that nation from being the wealthiest in South America into a state of abject poverty and despair.

Trump’s ridiculous comment was not considered controversial, because the Western media, including the anti-Trump outlets like the New York Times, have spent many years conveying a lie: that Venezuela had been very prosperous and democratic until Hugo Chávez, and then his successor Nicolás Maduro, came along and ruined everything. If readers believe that, then they may indeed wonder, “Why shouldn’t the US government help Venezuelans return to that prosperous state?”

But this attitude is the result of common deceptions about Venezuela’s economic history, and it ignores how the rise of Chávez actually brought democratic reform, not regression, to Venezuela. The story the Western media tell should instead make people wonder how Chavismo could have become the dominant political force if everything had once been wonderful in Venezuela.


Bolsonaro Is Criminalizing the Brazilian Left


With the help of liberals and centrists, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro has politicized the military and the courts to hold onto power. For Brazil’s establishment, authoritarianism is preferable to socialism.

President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro during a speech in Brasilia, Brazil, 2021. (Andressa Anholete / Getty Images)

Throughout his time in office, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has taken many pages from Donald Trump’s playbook. The most recent: the right-wing demagogue has repeatedly claimed that his opponents have rigged the electoral system, and that unless the country moves to a paper ballot, he will not recognize the legitimacy of a defeat. Although Brazil’s congress has managed to block this proposal, the authoritarianism behind Bolsonaro’s effort to change the law should worry us all.

Threats, intimidation, censorship, and criminalization have been the tools with which Bolsonaro has exercised power over individuals and organizations critical of his government. In the lead up to the vote, Bolsonaro attempted to drum up popular support for the electoral reform by staging a military parade in front of the Federal Congress in Brasília. Close ties between military and political leadership have been a hallmark of Bolsonaro’s authoritarianism since the start of his tenure.

At times, the president has attempted to leverage his connections to the military in ways that have come close to parody. For instance, in March of this year, Bolsonaro ordered supersonic fighter jets to fly over Brazil’s Supreme Court and shatter the building’s windows as a show of force. The president eventually abandoned the plan but not before high-ranking members of the army, navy, and air force quit in protest.


The Best Way to Support Cubans Is to End the US Blockade

The Left’s approach to Cuba should be simple: oppose US attempts to devastate the country’s economy through the blockade.

COVID-19 has brought economic and social crises to much of the world, and nowhere more than the Third World, where poor infrastructure, poverty, resource export dependence, inequality, and lack of accountability are endemic. Protests against scarcity, structural violence, police brutality, and corruption erupted everywhere from the United States to Colombia, Haiti, Brazil, Guatemala, Ecuador, Chile, and Argentina, just to mention a few. That unrest in Latin America rarely merited notice in the US news media — until it happened in Cuba.

. . .

A Legacy of US Subversion

After the July 26, 1959, revolutionary victory in Cuba, US officials pondered how to respond. Could they control this revolution in the interests of US corporations, as they managed to do in Bolivia in 1954? They worried especially about the larger impacts of a successful revolution. One State Department official wrote that “there are indications that if the Cuban revolution is successful, other countries in Latin America and perhaps elsewhere will use it as a model. We should decide if we wish to have the Cuban Revolution succeed.” Another, a few months later, warned that “our attitude to date [could] be considered a sign of weakness and thus give encouragement to communist-nationalist elements elsewhere in Latin America who are trying to advance programs similar to those of Castro.”

They evinced much less concern for “the Cuban people,” who, the US ambassador at the time said, “appeared united in idolizing” the revolutionary leader Fidel Castro. “This is one-man rule with full approval of ‘masses,’” the ambassador concluded. Another, while committing the United States to establishing a “successor government” in Cuba, begrudgingly acknowledged “the impact that real honesty, especially at the working level, has made on the people” and “the fact that a great bulk of the Cubans . . . have awakened enthusiastically to the need for social and economic reform.”

One tool was the embargo. The goal, according to a State Department briefing paper, was to undermine Cuba’s economy, to “promote internal dissension; erode its internal political support . . . [and] seek to create conditions conducive to incipient rebellion.” The “only foreseeable means of alienating internal support,” the State Department offered, “is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship. . . . Every possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life of Cuba . . . [to deny] money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government.” While internal documents from recent administrations have not been declassified, the embargo continues to stand as a pillar of US policy, and it has been repeatedly strengthened and tightened.


Media continues to deny reality of the Cuba embargo

By Keith Bolender Last updated Aug 18, 2021

With few exceptions, corporate media has done its best to diminish the effects or ignore completely America’s regime change policies against Cuba.

The latest example of this ill-informed bias occurred last month during the protests throughout the island that generated considerable international attention. Overwhelmingly the media focused on the minority of protestors shouting anti-government slogans, providing much less coverage on the economic hardships, COVID restrictions and extended lockdowns that provided the underlying context to the protests. One issue that escaped serious analysis was the destructive impact of the United States embargo on Cuba’s social/economic conditions that played a predominant part in the protests.

The blockade, the main component of regime change strategy, has been used to punish the Cuban people for the past 60 years, with the United Nations reporting the economic damage has cost more than $130 billion. For the media, however, the embargo is something to be mentioned in passing, often at the end of articles. Or not at all. The lack of recognition is an attempt to deny the harm these policies impose on Cuba, and to shift the blame that all the revolution’s supposed inadequacies are the responsibility of the government.

During the reporting of the protests, a few mainstream outlets mentioned the embargo, with NBC News article a day after waiting till the last paragraph to even acknowledge the embargo, noting “the Cuban government attributes the economic crisis to US embargo against Cuba and sanctions, which former President Donald Trump intensified.” When corporate media devotes little credibility to the blockade by relegating it to the end of the article, or reduces the harm by claiming it’s only the Cuban government complaining, it creates the false perception that the blockade has little importance, as the Washington Post did in its editorial of July 12, alleging that the Cubans blame everything on the embargo for their economic problems.

The BBC show remarkable self-discipline in determining what their readers should understand about the protests when they ran a story listing three things that were responsible – number one the food shortages, number two the COVID situation, and number three the limitations of the internet in Cuba. What the report missed was reason number four – the devastating impact of America’s blockade and regime change strategies. It can only be missed if the BBC wanted its audience to give the embargo no consideration.

When the embargo is the focus of media attention, the mis-information can be even more egregious.

A New York Times article, August 7, had as its headline, “Cubans want more than end of embargo”. The report, written by two staunch anti-revolutionary authors, purported that the embargo was the end talking point, not the starting position where all other issues of Cuban government shortcomings and faults should be addressed.


Exxon's oil drilling gamble off Guyana coast 'poses major environmental risk'

Experts warn of potential for disaster as Exxon pursues 9bn barrels in sensitive marine ecosystem

Antonia Juhasz for Floodlight
Tue 17 Aug 2021 06.15 EDT

ExxonMobil’s huge new Guyana project faces charges of a disregard for safety from experts who claim the company has failed to adequately prepare for possible disaster, the Guardian and Floodlight have found.

Exxon has been extracting oil from Liza 1, an ultra-deepwater drilling operation, since 2019 – part of an expansive project spanning more than 6m acres off the coast of Guyana that includes 17 additional prospects in the exploration and preparatory phases.

By 2025, the company expects to produce 800,000 barrels of oil a day, surpassing estimates for its entire oil and natural gas production in the south-western US Permian basin by 100,000 barrels that year. Guyana would then represent Exxon’s largest single source of fossil fuel production anywhere in the world.

But experts claim that Exxon in Guyana appears to be taking advantage of an unprepared government in one of the lowest-income nations in South America, allowing the company to skirt necessary oversight. Worse, they also believe the company’s safety plans are inadequate and dangerous.


Also posted in Environment and energy:

Donziger: Facing Prison for Fighting Chevron

Rights Attorney Pays Price for Defending Indigenous in Ecuador Poisoned by Oil
by Greg Palast
August 6, 2021

Look at his face. Emergildo Criollo, Chief of the Cofan people of the Amazon in Ecuador. Determined, dignified, in war paint, bare-chested.

It was back in 2007, when I found him in his thatched stilt home in the rainforest. Criollo told me his 3-year-old son had jumped into a swimming hole, covered with an enticing shine. The shine was oil sludge, illegally dumped. His son came up vomiting blood, then dropped dead in the Chief’s arms.

I followed him to the courthouse in the dusty roustabout town of Lago Agrio (Bitter Lake) where, with a sheaf of papers, Criollo sought justice for his son.

Behind Criollo, the court clerks, in their white shirts and ties, were giggling and grinning at each other, nodding toward this “indio” painted up and half naked, thinking he can file a suit against a giant. A giant named Chevron.

In 2011, they stopped laughing. That’s when an Ecuadorian court ordered Chevron to pay Criollo and other indigenous co-plaintiffs $9.5 billion. The courts found that Chevron’s Texaco operation had illegally dumped 16 billion gallons of deadly oil waste.

What the gigglers didn’t know is that the Chief had a secret weapon: Steven Donziger, a US attorney, classmate of Barack Obama at Harvard law, who gave up everything — literally everything — to take on Criollo’s case.

It’s been a decade, and Chevron still hasn’t paid a dime. But Donziger has paid big time: For the last two years, he’s been under house arrest, longer than any American in history never convicted of a crime.

But weeks ago, he was convicted of contempt by a judge who denied him a jury. (The Constitution? Faggedaboudit.) And on October 1, this contemptible judge will sentence Donziger, and could put him behind bars.

Who was the prosecutor? Not the US government, but Chevron’s law firm. The first-ever criminal prosecution by a US corporation.


Mexico must protect the 'vaquita'

Mexico must protect the 'vaquita'

Mexico, Aug 15 (Prensa Latina) Faced with the risk of extinction of the vaquita, a porpoise endemic to the northern end of the Gulf of California in Baja California, Mexico, the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation (NACEC) demanded Mexico's protection of that species.

The agency asked to investigate the government's non-compliance with its fishing and trade laws, and to define if there is a violation of the tripartite free trade agreement with Canada and the United States. It recalled that only about 10 specimens are still alive.

The Center for Biological Diversity (CDB), for its part, recalled that NACEC was established to address trilateral environmental concerns and promote the enforcement of the environmental legislation.

The organization filed a petition to the commission to investigate and develop a formal factual record on Mexico's non-compliance, it reported.

It added that in the free trade agreement, the United States, Mexico and Canada pledged that no party will fail to effectively enforce its environmental laws.

The CDB also asked the Interdepartmental Committee for Environmental Monitoring and Compliance from the office of the United States Trade Representative to initiate enforcement actions against Mexico for violations of the agreement.

According to the demand, the government has repeatedly failed to enforce its own ban on fishing in the habitat of this marine mammal in the Gulf of California. Mexico has not yet responded, but its battle to protect the few surviving specimens is known.


Also posted in Environment and energy:

Christian Colonialism Then and Now Kills People and Our Planet Christian missionaries throughout the

Christian Colonialism Then and Now Kills People and Our Planet Christian missionaries throughout the United States worked vigorously to convert.

August 12, 2021
by Warren Blumenfeld

Outside the Bible Church in Wilson County, Tennessee, the pastor posted a large white sign stuck on the lawn with bold black letters announcing:

This is a MASK FREE Church Campus.

Kindly Remove Them or Stay in your car.

We Celebrate FAITH over FEAR.

On its website:

We would like to welcome you to our church. We accept everyone just as they are, but we love you too much to let you stay that way. Come and grow with us as we seek God’s will and show His love. — Pastor Greg and Taisha

My response to Pastor Greg and Taisha:

By your non-mask (possibly non-vaccine) policy, they come to you living but “[you] love [them] too much to let them stay that way [alive].” You are complicit in genocide. Shame on you!!!! — Warren Blumenfeld

I certainly felt no surprise by the statement that they were not going to let people stay “that way” since the entire history of the Christian church is based on changing people to be like, act like, believe like, and live like its concept of reality – the one and only possible reality. This has been the very basis of religious colonialism, and particularly Christian colonialism on each of the populated continents.

Christian Colonialism:
The verb “to colonize” can be described as the process of appropriating a place or domain to establish political and economic control. Throughout history, nations have invaded not only their neighbors’ lands, but also territories clear across the globe for their own use.

During the practice, the dominant nation attempts to colonize not only indigenous peoples’ domains (territorial imperialism), but also their minds, their customs, their language, in fact, their very way of life. In countries with a historical legacy of colonization, and even in those without this history, members of dominant groups have accumulated unearned privileges not accorded to others.

. . .

In 1790, the newly constituted United States Congress passed the Naturalization Act, which excluded all nonwhites from citizenship, including Asians, enslaved Africans, and Native Americans, the later whom they defined in oxymoronic terms as “domestic foreigners,” even though they had inhabited this land for thousands of years. The Congress did not grant Native Americans rights of citizenship until 1924 with the passage of the Indian Citizenship Act, though Asians continued to be denied naturalized citizenship status.


House Democrats demand Biden lift all sanctions against Venezuela's socialist regime

Democrats who signed the letter include Reps. Grijalva, Garcia, Ocasio-Cortez, Omar and Jayapal

By Nicholas Ballasy
Updated: August 13, 2021 - 5:16pm

Nineteen House Democrats wrote to Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday calling on the Biden administration to remove all sanctions against Venezuela, arguing that the "maximum pressure" campaign against the authoritarian regime of Nicolas Maduro hasn't worked.

Members of Congress who signed the letter include Raúl M. Grijalva of Arizona, Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García of Illinois, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, the chair fo the House Progressive Caucus.

"By any measure, the current 'maximum pressure' policy towards Venezuela has been a total failure," read the letter.

The lawmakers asked the Biden Administration to "immediately lift all U.S. financial and sectoral sanctions that exacerbate the humanitarian crisis" and "most urgently, the U.S. should reverse the Trump ban that prohibits Venezuela from exchanging crude oil for diesel, thereby hindering food production and distribution."

. . .

According to the U.S. State Department, the U.S. government currently recognizes Juan Guaidó as interim president of Venezuela.

In the letter, the lawmakers argued that the Trump administration’s "ill-conceived policies have only exacerbated the crisis and damaged U.S. credibility throughout the region.”

Grijalva said the Biden Administration "must abandon Trump's failed and destructive policies that only exacerbate the humanitarian crisis" in Venezuela.

“We can and must move from a sanctions-driven approach to one of constructive dialogue that brings in opposition actors who want a democratic, political solution, rather than a strategy of overthrow, violence, and collective punishment," he said in a press release.

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