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Judi Lynn

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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.


Bolsonaro Cuts City Funds and Creates Direct Vouchers for Private Day Care Centers

Measures are in the proposal that creates the Auxílio Brasil, a social program defended by the government to substitute for Bolsa Família

Aug.13.2021 2:16PM

The proposal for the government's new social program, Auxílio Brasil, sent by President Jair Bolsonaro (no party), withdraws resources destined to cities for the education of needy children.

The same proposal establishes the payment of vouchers directly to private day care centers. The government overturned one of the pillars of Brasil Carinhoso, a social program created in 2012 to guarantee children's access and permanence in early childhood education. The objective was to complement the income transfer policy for poor and extremely poor families, the Bolsa Família.

The revoked section required the Union to transfer additional financial aid to the municipalities for places in day care centers and educational development for children from zero to two years old who are from families benefiting from social programs. On the other hand, in the same proposal, which creates Auxílio Brasil, Bolsonaro wants public money to be transferred directly to day care centers accredited by the government, which may even be from the private sector.

Bolsonaro created Auxílio Brasil with an eye on the 2022 election. In addition to increasing spending in the social area, the objective is to replace Bolsa Família, a program associated with the PT administration.

(Short article, no more at link.)

The Significance of Latin America's Pink Tide

August 4, 2021 Yanis Iqbal

Pedro Castillo, second from left, is the newest president associated with the Pink TIde of
Latin America / Photo composition by Orinoco Tribune

The Latin American Left is regrouping. On July 19, 2021, Peru’s National Elections Jury announced the official results of the 2021 presidential elections, declaring Pedro Castillo as President of Peru. An important voting survey in Brazil has revealed that Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva would outperform neo-fascist President Jair Bolsonaro in all scenarios for the 2022 elections in the country. Colombia is in socio-economic turmoil, creating a potential opening for the election of Gustavo Petro – a left-wing politician. In Chile, the result of elections held on May 15-16, 2021, for the 155-member new constituent assembly has thrust progressive candidates to the forefront of national politics. All these dynamics will regionally strengthen the leftist governments already in power in Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. An anti-neoliberal shift in Latin America’s political compass carries global significance.


Large swathes of humanity who live in the peripheries of the world system have been witnessing a deadly process of absolute immiseration. Imperialism has restricted the economic growth of the periphery to mineral and agricultural sectors in order to assure raw materials for advanced capitalist nations. Hence, most Third World economies are heavily dependent on the export of primary commodities. In Latin America, such primary commodities account for the majority of exports for nearly all countries. While Latin American countries export primary goods to the Global North, they tend to re-import manufactured products from these same countries. The value added to these manufactured commodities – typically constructed from the primary inputs imported earlier – generates profit for northern countries while maintaining Latin American countries in a perpetual trade deficit.

While some countries in the periphery have facilitated a degree of industrialization through the surpluses accumulated from export-led growth, the disarticulated structures of these economies persists. The imperialist states’ monopolies – technological, financial, natural resources, communications, and military – has meant that there has been a lack of any significant indigenous technical development. Even to the extent that industrial growth has occurred, it has been based on the import of capital and technology, which has considerably reduced the dynamic effects on the economy that are usually associated with industrial growth. Moreover, a relocation of the locus of value creation from the core to the periphery means that the core relies less and less on the unprofitable exploitation of its own workers. Instead, the metropole increasingly divides the world into what has been labeled as Southern “production economies” and Northern “consumption economies.”

The main driver behind this process is undoubtedly the low wage level in the South. Entrenchment of extroverted economies like these has generated cut-throat competition amongst Southern firms for foreign capital. What we have now is a global race to the bottom, marked by a deathly spiral of exchange rate devaluations, hyper-low taxes and depressed wages. Multinational corporations based in the capitalist core have unendingly feasted on this wretchedness, fattening their profits from the extreme exploitation of the Third World’s large labor reserves. As such, the structure of today’s global economy has been profoundly shaped by the allocation of labor to industrial sectors according to differential rates of national exploitation. Thus, only the outward form of value transfers from the South to the North has changed, with the unequal exchange of products embodying different quantities of value steadily continuing. A large pool of precarized workers has been created, which consistently remains enmeshed in networks of informal economy, being forced by the productive configurations to enrich foreign capitalists and nourish the parasitic nature of the comprador bourgeoisie.


Modern Day Slavery in Brazil: A Report from the Field

By Binka Le Breton - 13 August 2021 HEALTH AND SOCIAL POLICY

This is part of a forthcoming Global Policy e-book on modern slavery. Contributions from leading experts highlighting practical and theoretical issues surrounding the persistence of slavery, human trafficking and forced labour are being serialised here over the coming months.

This chapter provides a brief overview of modern day slavery in Brazil, a clandestine, criminal activity found in every corner of the country and involving activities as varied as illegal logging of valuable timber to harvesting the coffee supplied to well-known chains of coffee houses, or keeping undocumented immigrants in illegal sweatshops to produce garments for the fashion industry. In a continental sized country, with glaring social inequality and a history of racism and exploitation, what measures are being taken to repress and eradicate slavery, how successful are they, and how can they be improved? What role is played by the government at local, state and federal level as well as international organizations? What is the role of the public and private sectors, and of civil society? And in a world where so many competing crises vie for our attention, how can we ensure that the fight for humane treatment of our most vulnerable populations remains as one of our most urgent ongoing priorities?

It is August 2020 and a loudspeaker car is patrolling the streets of the hot little town of Timbiras, Maranhão, in the interior of the dirt-poor northeast of Brazil, bringing good news in a place where jobs are hard to find. The offer is breathtaking: steady work harvesting onions at a salary of 3000 reais a month, almost three times the normal wage. Along with several of his friends, twenty-year old Antonio signs up on the spot.

Two days later they join a busload of forty-two young men bound for Ituporanga in the distant state of Santa Catarina. After a five-day journey they arrive, full of hope and excitement and head for one of the local farms to start the great adventure. But the reality is very different from the dream. It is winter in the south, and there is frost on the ground. The men have no warm clothes, the work is grindingly hard, the overseers drive them relentlessly, and they sleep on old mattresses on the dirt floor of the barn. When payday comes around, they are presented with a steep bill for their bus fare, their food and their work tools, and the contractor brooks no argument. Although he doesn’t know it, Antonio has become a victim of modern day slavery, and It takes several weeks before he admits to himself that he has been tricked. So he does the only thing he can think of. He sends an audio message to his mother by Whatsapp, begging for help.

It’s a sad old story that has changed very little since the late nineteenth century rubber boom, when young men like Antonio were lured into the farthest reaches of the Amazon forest to tap rubber in exchange for their supplies, in a never ending cycle of debt. Or the 1970s when the military government was opening the vast regions of Amazonia promising “land without men” for “men without land,” and proposing a model of economic development based on logging, ranching and mining. All of these activities required a large amount of manpower easily available, then as now, from the impoverished northeastern states.

In response to the government's promise of land, waves of migrants swept into the region, some to make their fortunes, others to eke out a hardscrabble existence in the unfamiliar jungle, and yet others to trade the only thing they had, their labor, for some sort of a living.

When the Amazon frontier was opening up, this is how the system worked, and fifty years later little has changed. Young men like Antonio are still enticed with promises of adventure and good money. To sweeten the deal, they are given a cash advance, and, from that moment on, they are trapped. They are then transported to their workplace, by truck, bus, train or even by plane. Conditions on the job are generally precarious in the extreme. If they are in the forest, they will likely string their hammocks under a plastic sheet, work from dawn to dusk, eat a poor diet, drink dirty water, and suffer from mosquito bites, malaria, and work-related accidents. Divided up into small teams to keep them from any thoughts of rebelling, they are “protected” by armed overseers under the guise of security guards.


'Economic Warfare [Is] Designed to Starve the Cuban People Into Rebellion'

AUGUST 10, 2021

CounterSpin interview with James Early on Cuban blockade

Janine Jackson interviewed IPS’s James Early about the Cuban blockade for the August 6, 2021, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.

Janine Jackson: In the wake of Black Lives Matter and George Floyd protests, lawmakers in Florida—as elsewhere—passed legislation increasing penalties for blocking public streets, and offering protection to people who hit protesters with their car. But when people took to the street to show support for anti-government demonstrations in Cuba, the Florida Highway Patrol allowed them to block an expressway in both directions for nine hours. And the Miami police chief marched alongside them.

Anti-government demonstrations in Cuba have received a good deal of glorifying US media attention—in contrast to other, larger movements elsewhere in Latin America. The truth is, neither US governments nor corporate media make much pretense of projecting a single standard when it comes to Official Enemies. And Cuba has been high on that list for 60 years.

So little do the rules apply, multiple US outlets, from the New York Times to the Today Show, illustrated stories on Cuba’s anti-government protests with photos of huge crowds at a pro-government rally. CNN illustrated an article headlined “Cubans Take to the Streets” with a photo of a rally in Miami.

Accuracy—who cares? This is Cuba we’re talking about.

James Early has been writing about Cuba and US/Cuba policy for many years now. Currently a board member at the Institute for Policy Studies, he’s the former assistant secretary for education and public service at the Smithsonian Institution.

He joins us now by phone from Washington, DC. Welcome to CounterSpin, James Early.

James Early: Thank you. It’s my pleasure to be with you.

JJ: The fog around Cuba is so dense, and of such long standing, that it can be hard to get a sense of what is even happening—much less why it’s happening. What would you say are the primary factors driving the anti-government protests that we saw in Cuba this past month?

JE: The primary factors are both historical, dating back to 1898, when the US took over Cuba after forcing its secession from Spain, and actually invading Cuba on a number of occasions. And so, over the course of 60-some odd years, up until 1959, the US — in direct and indirect ways — dominated the sovereignty and independence and self-determination of Cuba, in alliance with some of its own elites, turning it into a playground for casinos and gambling and prostitution, and the addition of US racism with the historical racism of colonial Cuba, as is the case across the Americas. That’s one deep historical factor.

Sixty-some years later, in 1959, with the Cuban Revolution, it was the first time that Cuba took full control of its sovereignty and independence, and its own determination of how it wanted to direct its economy and its governance system, which was reinforced in 2019, with a new constitution endorsing—I believe some percentage of Cubans—endorsing Cuba as a socialist republic.

Keeping in mind that since 1959, starting with President Eisenhower, with — CIA report, people can simply go online and find this, don’t take my word for it—a document sent in March 1960 to President Eisenhower about the potential for invading Cuba, and stopping it from having its sovereignty and independence and self-determination. And many noted and acknowledged attempts at the assassination of Fidel Castro, when he was alive, over the years.

The coddling of terrorists in the bedrock of American terrorism in the Americas—which is Miami, Florida—with right-wing Cubans, right-wing Venezuelans, right-wing Colombians, right-wing Brazilians, etc. who have been coddled by the US state—some of them known terrorists—having bombed planes, killing Cuban citizens, citizens from Barbados and other areas of the Americas.

. . .

Specifically, we should dismantle the US government legislation called “the embargo” on this side, and called “the blockade” from the Cuban side. It violates international law. It violates any principles of humanity.

We should also abandon sanctions. We should call for the freedom of US citizens to free travel, to go and see Cuba for themselves, and to have their own interactions. We are denied that opportunity.

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