Monday, May 20, 2019

United States and Venezuela: A Historical Background







By Prof. James Petras
Global Research, May 18, 2019

“Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world and they own it and we want it” — (Anonymous Trump official)
Introduction
US hostility and efforts to overthrow the Venezuelan government forms parts of a long and inglorious history of US intervention in Latin America going back to the second decade of the 19th century.
In 1823 US President Monroe declared, in his name, the ‘Monroe Doctrine” – the US right to keep Europeans out of the region, but the right of the US to intervene in pursuit of its economic, political and military interests.
We will proceed to outline the historical phases of US political and military intervention on behalf of US corporate and banking interests in the region and the Latin American political and social movements which opposed it.
The first period runs from the late 19th century to the 1930’s, and includes Marine invasions , the installation of US client dictatorships and the resistance of popular revolutions led by several revolutionary leaders in El Salvador, (Farabundo Marti), Nicaragua, (Augusto Sandino), Cuba (Jose Marti) and Mexico [Lazaro C├írdenas].
We will then discuss the Post-WWII US interventions, the overthrow of popular governments and the repression of social movements, including Guatemala (1954), Chile coup (1973), US invasion of the Dominican Republic (1965), Grenada (1982),and Panama (1989).
We will then exam US efforts to overthrow the Venezuela government (1998 to the present).
US Policy to Latin America: Democracy, Dictatorship and Social Movements
US General Smedley Butler summarized his 33 years in the military as a ‘muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers . . . I helped Mexico safe for American oil interest in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for National City Bank to collect revenue . . . I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the . . . House of Brown Brothers in 1902 – 1912. I brought a light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interest in 2016. I helped make Honduras right for American fruit companies in 1903 . . . looking back on it, I could have given Al Capone a few hints’!
During the first 40 years of the 20th century the US invaded Cuba , converted it into a quasi-colony and repudiated its hero of independence Jose Marti; it provided advisers and military support to El Salvador’s dictator, assassinated its revolutionary leader Farabundo Marti and murdered 30,000 landless peasants seeking land reform. The US intervened in Nicaragua, fought against its patriotic leader Augusto Sandino and installed a dictatorial dynasty led by the Somoza regime until it was overthrown in 1979. The US intervened in Cuba to install a military dictatorship in 1933 to suppress an uprising of sugar workers. Between 1952 – 1958 Washington armed the Batista dictatorship to destroy the revolutionary July 26 Movement led by Fidel Castro. In the late 1930s the US threatened to invade Mexico when President Lazaro Cardenas nationalized the US oil companies and redistributed land to millions of landless peasants.
With the defeat of fascism (1941-45), there was an upsurge of social democratic governments in Latin America. But the US objected. In 1954 the US overthrew the elected Guatemala president Jacobo Arbenz for expropriating the banana plantations of United Fruit Company. It backed a military coup in Brazil in 1964; the military remained in power for 20 years. In 1963 the US overthrew the Dominican Republic’s democratically elected government of Juan Bosch and invaded in 1965 to prevent a popular uprising. In 1973 the US supported a military coup overthrowing democratic socialist president Salvador Allende and backed the military regime of General Augusto Pinochet for nearly 20 years.
Subsequently, the US intervened and occupied Grenada in 1983 and Panama in 1989.
US propped up rightwing regimes throughout the region which backed US banking and corporate oligarchs which exploited resources, workers and peasants.
But by the early 1990’s powerful social movements led by workers, peasants, middle class public employees/doctors and teachers challenged the alliance of domestic and US elite rulers. In Brazil the 300,000 strong rural workers movement (MST) succeeded in expropriating large fallow estates; in Bolivia indigenous miners and peasants including coca farmers overthrew the oligarchy. In Argentina general strikes and mass movements of unemployed workers overthrew corrupt rulers allied with City Bank. The success of the popular nationalist and populist movements led to democratic elections won by progressive and leftist Presidents throughout Latin America, especially Venezuela.
Venezuela: Democratic Election, Social Reforms and the Election of President Chavez
In 1989 the US backed President of Venezuela imposed austerity programs that provoked popular demonstrations which led to the government ordering the police and military to repress the demonstrators: several thousand were killed and wounded. Hugo Chavez, a military official, rebelled and supported the popular uprising. He was captured, arrested, later freed and ran for presidential office.. He was elected by a wide margin in 1999 on a program of social reforms, economic nationalism, an end of corruption and political independence.
Washington began a hostile campaign to pressure President Chavez to accept Washington’s (President Bush) global war agenda in Afghanistan and around the world. Chavez refused to submit. He declared, “You don’t fight terror with terror”. By late 2001 the US Ambassador met with the business elite and a sector of the military to oust President elect Chavez via a coup in April 2002. The coup lasted 24 hours ..Over a million people, mostly slum dwellers, marched to the Presidential palace, backed by military loyalists .They defeated the coup and restored President Chavez to power. He proceeded to win a dozen democratic elections and referendums over the following decade.
President Chavez succeeded in large part because of his comprehensive program of socio-economic reforms favoring the workers, unemployed and middle class.
Over 2 million houses and apartments were built and distributed free to the popular classes; hundreds of clinics and hospitals provided free health care in the populer neighborhoods; universities, training schools and medical centers for low income students were built with free tuition.
Thousands in neighborhood community centers and ‘local collectives’ discussed and voted on social and political issues – including criticism and recall of local politicians, even elected Chavez’ officials.
Between 1998 and 2012, President Chavez won four straight Presidential elections, several congressional majorities and two national referendums, garnering between 56% and over 60% of the popular vote. After Chavez died President Maduro won elections in 2013 and 2018 but by a narrower margin. Democracy flourished, elections were free and open to all parties.
As a result of the inability of US backed candidates to win elections, Washington resorted to violent street riots, and appealed to the military to revolt and reverse the electoral results. The US applied sanctions beginning with President Obama and deepen with President Trump. The US seized billions of dollars in Venezuelan assets, and oil refineries in the US. The US selected a (non-elected) new President (Guaido) who was directed to subvert the military to revolt and seize power.
They failed: about one hundred soldiers out of 267,000 and a few thousand rightwing supporters heeded the call. The “opposition” revolt was a failure.
US failures were predictable as the mass of voter defended their socio-economic gains; their control of local power; their dignity and respect. Over 80% of the population including the majority of the opposition – rejected a US invasion.
US sanctions contributed to hyper-inflation and the death of 40,000 Venezuelan citizens due to the scarcity of medical products.
Conclusion
The US and the CIA followed in the footsteps of the past century seeking to overthrow the Venezuelan government and seize control of its oil and mineral resources. As in the past the US sought to impose a submissive dictatorship which would repress the popular movements and subvert the democratic electoral processes. Washington sought to impose a electoral apparatus which would ensure the election of submissive rulers as it did in the past and as it has done in recent times in Paraguay, Brazil and Honduras.
So far Washington has failed, in great part because of the peoples’ defense of their historical gains. Most poor and working people are aware that a US invasion and occupation will lead to mass killing and the destruction of sovereignty and dignity.
The people are aware of US aggression as well as the mistakes of the government. They are demanding corrections and rectifications .The government of President Maduro favors a dialogue with the non-violent opposition; Venezuelans are developing economic ties with Russia, China, Iran, Turkey, Bolivia, Mexico and other independent countries.
Latin America has experienced decades of US exploitation and domination; but it has also created a history of successful popular resistance including revolutions in Mexico, Bolivia and Cuba; successful social movements and voting outcomes in recent years in Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador and Venezuela.
President Trump and his murderous cohort of Pompeo, Bolton and Abrams have declared war against the Venezuelan people but they have thus far been defeated.
The struggle continues.

Award winning author Prof. James Petras is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

A shocking press freedom violation by San Francisco police



In a shocking press freedom violation, San Francisco police raided journalist Bryan Carmody’s home as part of an investigation into his confidential sources last weekend. The officers handcuffed and detained Carmody while searching his home with guns drawn.

This move is an unconscionable attack on Carmody’s rights as a reporter. Not only do leak investigations necessarily chill reporting, but by taking a virtually unprecedented move of raiding a journalist’s home, the police likely violated the law. California has a strong journalist shield law, which explicitly bans search warrants for journalistic materials that “applies to all material obtained by a journalist in their role as a journalist.”

As the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board wrote in a piece condemning the incident: “Such an assault on a journalist should be regarded as an intolerable assault on journalism itself.”

Saturday, May 11, 2019

‘A Nice Guy, Everybody Loved Him’ - With San Diego synagogue shooter, media once again normalize white male violence

After opening fire at worshipers celebrating the Jewish holiday of Passover at the Poway Synagogue near San Diego, California, 19-year-old John T. Earnest was arrested. Earnest killed one woman and injured three other worshippers before his semi-automatic weapon jammed and he fled the scene, calling 911 himself to report the shooting.
The shooter published an open letter online explaining that his actions were designed to defend the United States and preserve his race from “cultural Marxism,” an idea drawn from the Nazi term “cultural Bolshevism” and propagated by the likes of neo-Nazi mass murderer Anders Breivik and far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro . Earnest claimed to have been radicalized on online forums, and inspired by Christchurch shooter Brenton Tarrant and the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting of October 2018. He also took credit for a March 2019 arson attack at a nearby mosque as well.
This Associated Press
headline appeared in outlets
across the country—in this case,
 the Colorado Springs Gazette (4/30/19).
Yet much of the media have taken pains to present him in a relatively positive light. In a widely republished article, the Associated Press (CBS4/30/19) presented him as a lover of music who was “a nice guy…. Everybody loved him,” according to one source, who said of his family, “They are outstanding. Some of the finest people I’ve ever met.”
The article insisted that he “counted Jews and black people among his friends,” as though to claim the Hitler-idolizing attacker of a mosque and a synagogue might not be a racist. It took pains to present him as a musical genius whose performances “drew audiences to their feet…. Crowds would be cheering his name.”

The original headline on the AP piece, reprinted by many outlets (e.g., MSN4/30/19) informed us Earnest was a “Star Scholar and Athlete.” Meanwhile, USA Today‘s headline (4/28/19) read, “California Synagogue Shooting: Suspect Known as Quiet, Smart While Authorities Question if He Was Hateful.”

Even if you have not followed the story at all, I am sure you can guess the shooter’s race by now. The San Diego shooting is merely the latest example of corporate media normalizing white male extremism, something we at FAIR (e.g., 11/23/16, 11/27/17) have cataloged.

For example, Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock, who killed 58 people and wounded over 400 others in 2017, was not depicted as a monster in the press, but as a “lone wolf” (New York Times, 10/2/17; London Independent10/2/17)—a racialized code word for “white terrorist”—who “does not fit the mass shooter profile” (NPR, 10/6/17 ), despite the fact that white men commit far more mass shootings than any other group. If white privilege is anything, it is being responsible for one of the worst atrocities in modern American history and being eulogized by major media such as Newsweek (10/2/17) and the Washington Post (10/2/17 ) as a quiet man who enjoyed gambling and country music.

The New York Times (11/29/15) described the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooter as being “dedicated to his family,” “artistic” and “good to his son,” allowing one source to claim he was “pleasant” and a “good role model,” and even used the word “gentle” to describe the killer of three people (FAIR.org, 11/30/15).

The incongruous idea of a “gentle” killer is a surprisingly common trope for the Times, when discussing (white) shooters. In 2014  (8/25/14), it described Michael Brown’s killer, Officer Darren Wilson, as “well-mannered” and “soft-spoken,” and quoted one source describing him as “a gentle, quiet man.” Wilson’s “gentle” actions sparked months-long protests in Ferguson, Missouri.

On May 6, President Trump pardoned Lt. Michael Behenna, convicted of the murder of Iraqi prisoner Ali Mansur. Mansur was taken into the desert, blindfolded, bound, stripped naked and shot in the head by Behenna, who claimed he felt no remorse and “would do it again,” as he was acting in “self-defense.”

Major media outlets like the Washington Post (5/6/19) and NBC (5/7/19) illustrated their stories with touching images of Behenna embracing loved ones, while the New York Times (5/6/19) featured an artistic shot of him staring thoughtfully in a field. Conservative media were more forthright. Fox News host Sean Hannity described him as “an American hero” who was “defending himself” (5/7/19 ), as Behenna discussed how he stripped, cuffed, tortured and shot Mansur. Meanwhile, Newsmax (5/7/19 ) claimed the “brave” Behenna had “finally found some form of justice.”

The Demonization of Black Victims

In comparison, African-American victims of violence are rarely treated with similar respect by the media, especially if the perpetrators are agents of state power. On the same day it was portraying Wilson positively, the Times (8/25/14) smeared Brown as “no angel”; someone who “dabbled in drugs and alcohol” while writing “vulgar” rap lyrics. Thus the Times presented the white killer more favorably than his deceased black victim. If the racial disparity weren’t blatant enough, one guest on CNN (10/26/15) described Brown as a “thug” who “set upon” a police officer.
Freddie Gray, who died of spinal injuries after being brutalized by Baltimore police in 2015, was also dismissed as the “son of an illiterate heroin addict” by CNN (11/30/15), before apublic outcry shamed the latter into changing the story.

It’s long been noted that if an African-American or Muslim person commits an act of violence, the media tend to hold their entire group responsible, while white male violence is rarely pathologized in the same way. Earnest’s strong Presbyterian faith will not be postulated as a driver of his actions to the same extent as Muslim terrorists’ religion have been. There will be no ban on white males entering the country to keep us safe. Indeed, when white men like Dylann Roof commit acts of violence, media often frame it as a mental health problem (New York Times2/2/17NBC2/3/17LA Times2/2/17 ).

The point is not that white people should be described as “terrorists,” “thugs” or other racialized words, but to underline the racial biases inherent in mainstream reporting, where corporate media promote sympathy for white mass killers while stoking suspicion, mistrust, or even hatred for black victims of violence.




Wednesday, May 8, 2019

REPORT FROM ODESSA



May 1st  – 2nd 2019
By Joe Lombardo

After taking an overnight train from Kiev, we arrived in Odessa and were met by two anti-Maidan supporters who have been our very kind hosts.  After resting for a while, we met with Alex Meyevski, who was a survivor of the attack on the protesters in Kulikovo Field at the House of Trade Unions on May 2, 2014.

The details of the attack are somewhat confusing but basically on May 2nd there was a football (Soccer) game between two Ukrainian cities that brought fans from around the country to Odessa including many right-wing, pro-Maidan, fascist minded people from the Right-Sector, which was a coalition of right-wing groups.  Odessa is a Russian speaking city that mostly was opposed to the events in Kiev at Maidan Square. EuroMaidan and anti-Maidan people confronted each other at the city center about 1 mile from Kulikovo Field where the majority of the killings took place. 

There is confusion and different stories about what took place at the city center but there seemed to have been collaboration between the police and people who arrived by bus with guns and started shooting, killing 3 of the EuroMaidan supporters.  The anti-Maidan supporters say the shooters were provocateurs bused in to incite the situation that led to the later killings in Kulikovo Field at the House of Trade Unions.  With the help of the police, the provocateurs from the city center who arrived by bus were allowed to leave the area.   Their identities are not known, and none were arrested or prosecuted.

The Right-Sector people at the football game got word through text messages that they were marching on Kulikovo Field to clear out the anti-Maidan protesters and they left the game early to join the attack.  Cell phone videos show them attacking the people at Kulikovo Square who were having a protest vigil against the Maidan coup in Kiev.  Many of the people at the Kulikovo encampment took refuge in the House of Trade Unions building.  The right-wing attacker them, beat them with bats, shot at them and Molotov cocktails were thrown.  The building was set on fire.  Although the fire station is only about 1 block away, the fire brigade did not arrive for three hours.  Police did not try to stop the attackers. Some of the attackers entered the building and released gas.  Many of the anti-Maidan protesters jumped from the windows and were beaten, some to death on the ground.  The official figure is that 48 people were killed and over 100 wounded but many of the anti-Maidan people say this is a low number because if there were over 50, automatic investigations by international organizations would have had to be conducted.

People told us they believe that the authorities wanted this confrontation to try and stop the anti-Maidan protests that were happening in Odessa and elsewhere.

Although the faces of those shooting and those making and throwing Molotov cocktails are seen in many videos, none of them have been arrested.  Although none of the perpetrators of the massacre were arrested, several of the survivors of the massacre were arrested.  The next day as people came and saw the burnt bodies, about 25,000 Odessans marched to the police station and freed the arrested survivors.

Each week the people of Odessa hold a vigil to remember those killed and once a year on May 2nd they come in numbers to lay flowers and remember the killings.

Alex Meyevski told us how he survived by going into the House of Trade Unions building and going to higher floors, feeling his way along the wall when smoke made it impossible to see and finally being rescued. 

This is the fifth year of the May 2nd commemorations.  UNAC has sent a delegation of people here in the past.  They were international observers and express solidarity with those killed and told their stories.  Each year small groups of right-wingers have made threats and have tried to disrupt the proceedings.  To them, the killings are a victory.

This year we heard that the right-wing was coming in numbers and bringing people from around the country.  They planned to have a march and rally at 7 PM.  We went early to Kulikovo Field on May 2nd to see the steady stream of people from Odessa come all day long to deliver flowers in front of the blocked off and burned out House of Trade Unions.  When we got there, we noted there were some people wearing swastikas.  We approached them and they started saying that all the people there were Russians and the people who had been killed were Russians.  In reality, all the people killed were Ukrainians not Russians. As people heard them talking, they gathered around and confronted them.  Our hosts were afraid that a big incident could occur and insisted that we leave.  We did leave but came back at around 4 PM when a big crowd was expected because the family members of those killed were expected at 4 PM.  When we got back to Kilikovo Field, there was a big crowd and also small groups of fascists who were there to deny the families their right to mourn their dead.  They chanted fascist slogans and the crowd responded with chants such as “fascism never again.”  At one point I saw a pushing match between the two groups.  The Fascists there only numbered about 40 or so and were badly out numbered.  The police were all around but stayed back and did not try to block the fascists. The police told the family members that they could not use their sound system to address the crowd.  Balloons were released to remember those killed. 

At 7 PM the fascist groups gathered and marched to a rally at the City Center.  There were about 1000 of them, and they had mobilized and come into Odessa from around the country.  Their 1000 did not compare to the all-day steady stream of Odessans who came to the House of Trade Unions.  The fascists marched noisily through the city.  One chant we heard was “Hang communists from the trees.”  When they got to their rally site, they were allowed to use their sound system to give speeches and play militaristic music.  Most people in the city ignored them and went about their business.


The anti-Maidan people in Odessa have been demanding an investigation into what happened on May 2nd, 2014 but the authorities have not done one.  They did not cordoned the area at the time or collect evidence, and have refused to even prosecute those visibly carrying out murder and criminal acts in the many videos that were taken.  This year the UN has called for an investigation.  See: here.  This is great, but 5 years too late.

The events of May 2nd, 2014 in Odessa were a direct result of the US supported coup that developed in Kiev on Maidan Square.  The US encouraged and helped organize the Maidan events that turned violent as right-wingers from around the country descended on Maidan Square, intent on overthrowing the elected government.  It is reported by many that they received money from the US to stay in the square.  US politicians showed up to encourage them and set plans in motion for who would be the next leader of Ukraine.  The leadership after the coup formed a government in which members of the right-wing Svoboda party and the Right Sector held prominent positions.  One of the leaders of the right-wing armed movement at Maidan, Andriy Parubiy who is also seen on videos delivering weapons to right-wingers in Odessa, is today the Speaker of the Ukrainian Parliament. The Ukrainian Nazi, Stephen Bandera gained new prominence, and the fascist movement was encouraged and grew and became very public.

This is the government which the US helped create and supports.  American Natalie Jeresko became the new finance minister in Ukraine, and the son of Joe Biden, the leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, took a role on the board of the largest natural gas company in the country.

We have seen US sponsored coups in the image of what happened in Ukraine many times throughout history.  Today, they are trying to make such a coup in Venezuela, which can only lead to misery for the Venezuelan people as the neo-liberal policies of privatization and extreme pressure on workers to make more profit for the Wall Street backers is imposed. 

This neo-liberal model has been a complete failure in Ukraine and has brought none of the gains that were promised.  As the US claims that people are leaving Venezuela in large numbers – which is due to harsh sanctions that have been imposed – they do not speak about the numbers leaving Ukraine.  In the past years the population of Ukraine has gone from 56 million to around 35 million as people leave to seek jobs and a future in other European countries.

We must demand of the US government:
US out of Ukraine!
No Ukraine membership in NATO!
Stop fascism from Charlottesville to Odessa!
Investigate the killings of May 2nd, 2014!
Hands off Venezuela!

DEVASTATING ATTACKS ON PUBLIC EDUCATION IN FLORIDA




Here's what you need to know this week:
This is the last week of the 2019 Legislative Session, and with it comes one of the most significant attacks on public education in Florida, to date. On Tuesday, SB 7070 passed in the house to be sent to the desk of Governor DeSantis. This massive voucher scheme takes $130 million dollars in public money and diverts them to private schools in the form of tuition vouchers. This money could have been used to properly fund our public schools and help meet the needs of the millions of students attending them, but instead, it will be funneled into the pockets of charter school owners hoping to strike it rich on taxpayer money. In addition, the bill also raises the income threshold for approval, meaning that  those that could likely afford  private schools will be able to use tax dollars, which could instead be being used to repair some of our schools in the greatest need of assistance.


While legislation like this was previously ruled unconstitutional, the legislature is hoping that the newly appointed court by Governor DeSantis will overturn this. All of these interworking pieces are a somber reminder that all elections on the ballot have consequences, and that remaining disengaged comes at a price. 

Here's what's coming up:
- Tomorrow (3/3) our Florida Future Labor Leaders chapter will be rallying for worker's rights outside Hillsborough School Employees Federation (5126 N Florida Ave) at 5PM. They will be speaking out against attempts to privatize the custodial staff at our public schools, attacks on public education, and other issues that hurt working people today.


- Tuesday (3/7), our sisters and brothers from Hillsborough School Employees Federation (HSEF) will be rallying at the school board (901 E Kennedy Blvd, Tampa) in opposition to privatization of custodial services in Hillsborough County Schools. There will be a rally at 9AM with night shift employees who will be working during the school board meeting and a second rally at 3:30PM during the actual meeting. More info about this effort can be found by CLICKING HERE, and a printable flyer for the event can be found HERE.

- After the rally on Tuesday (3/7) swing by our CLC Meeting at IBEW 824 (6603 E Chelsea St, Tampa) at 7PM to be a part of everything we've got going on in our CLC!


Keep in Mind:
The national AFL-CIO is still opposing a vote on the new NAFTA deal until it is fixed. While the labor movement has been asking for renegotiation for years, this new deal lacks protections for workers and does little or nothing to foster an inclusive and sustainable economy. Sign the petition from the AFL-CIO by CLICKING HERE.

That's all for this week! Check out our website at wcflc.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more updates. If you would like to receive text message alerts from the Florida AFL-CIO (Msg & data rates may apply), text FLUNION to 235246!
In Solidarity,
West Central Florida Labor Council