July 16, 2016 - No. 29

All Out to Oppose the United States of North American
Monopolies and Its Program for War!

U.S. President's Warmongering Address to Joint Houses of Parliament

Protest at North American leaders summit, Ottawa, June 29, 2016.

Dangerous New Measures Tabled in Parliament

RIMPAC 2016 Naval Exercises
Canada's Participation in Massive U.S.-Led War Games
in the Pacific

U.S. War Preparations on Korean Peninsula
Support the Korean People's Opposition to U.S. Missile Defence System in South Korea!
- Philip Fernandez -
Koreans Militantly Oppose Anti-Missile System
Nefarious "Theory of North Korean Threat"

 No to Mexican State Terrorism and Criminalization of Resistance!
Peoples' Human Rights Observatory Calls for
Dialogue with Teachers

Letter to Organizations in Canada
- Peoples' Human Rights Observatory -

Venezuela Fights Back Against
U.S. Imperialist-Inspired Counter-Revolution

Workers Take Back Factory from U.S. Company After 1,000 Layoffs
Special Report: Hunger in Venezuela? A Look Beyond the Spin
- Christina Schiavoni and William Camacaro, Food First -
Reports of Attacks Against Food Distribution Trucks
Increase in Venezuela

- Jeanette Charles -

Note to Our Readers

80th Anniversary of the Spanish Civil War
Long Live the Memory of the Anti-Fascist Resistance in Spain

All Out to Oppose the
United States of North American Monopolies and Its Program for War!

U.S. President's Warmongering Address to
Joint Houses of Parliament

On June 29, U.S. President Barack Obama addressed a joint sitting of Parliament in the Canadian House of Commons following the end of the North American Leaders' Summit that day. Obama's speech comes in the twilight of his eight-year Presidency, at a time when U.S. society is mired more deeply than ever in a social crisis, with young black men and other sections of the people being killed with impunity by police while the U.S. is engaged in more wars and conflicts than ever. It also comes in the midst of the U.S. election campaign where the stated aim has become to "unite the nation" behind a war president capable of "Making America Great Again."

Despite the conditions facing the United States itself and the resistance of the peoples worldwide to its imposition through force of the neo-liberal program of the monopolies, Obama used the opportunity to present an image of himself as an elder statesman passing the torch of what is called "progressive values" to a younger Trudeau. CBC correspondent Murray Brewster put it this way: "U.S. President Barack Obama handed the torch of progressive politics to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Wednesday in a warm, rousing speech to Parliament, in which he also bluntly urged Canada to spend more on defence to meet its international obligations."

In his remarks Obama laid out a program for the United States of North American Monopolies and Canada's position within it which has already been worked out secretly behind closed doors between various officials of the two executives. In the arrangement, Canada as a servile entity is being given its new marching orders by the U.S. In this arrangement Trudeau is being hailed by Obama as a fitting successor to himself on the question of "rights" and so-called progressive values so as to disarm the people's movements, especially as concerns matters of war and peace in both countries. The speech laid the groundwork for a new arrangement for the United States of North American Monopolies in which Trudeau serves as the velvet glove covering the iron fist of neo-liberalism and war of the U.S. imperialists headed by the intended war President Hillary Clinton. Obama came to Canada to lay out for Canadians the role the country is to play in the service of U.S. imperialism's striving to maintain its dominant position and suppress any independent movement of the peoples for the New.

It is nonetheless disgusting to see a war president of Obama's calibre, who has authorized drone warfare and a policy of targeted assassinations in lieu of providing problems with political solutions, receive a sustained standing ovation and cheers when he entered the House of Commons to address the joint session of the Houses of  Parliament and special invited guests. During his speech he went on to receive some twenty more standing ovations from all parties and guests. Even after he finished,  shouts of "Four more years!" resounded through the House.

In this writer's opinion, it is reminiscent of the time when Hitler marched into Austria in the Anschluss of 1938 with the Nazi-installed head of the Austrian government welcoming him and his occupying army with open arms, voluntarily lifting the border gates to the Nazi army and in so doing offering up the country, its natural and human resources, territory and military to the Nazi war machine. This was a prelude to invasions and occupations of other lands and World War Two.

Talk of "Shared Values"

Obama's speech was riddled with references to shared U.S. and Canadian values, which he presented as universal, much like Trudeau's assertion that there is no core Canadian identity, just a set of shared values. In this way both Obama and Trudeau, through sleight of hand, seek to eliminate any notion of independent countries and peoples in the northern American hemisphere in favour of the establishment of a single North American state. Obama stated, "[O]ur history and our work together speak to a common set of values to build on, proven values, values that your prime minister spoke of in his introduction, values of pluralism and tolerance, rule of law, openness, global engagement, and commerce, and co-operation, coupled with equal opportunity and an investment in our people at home." At one point he referenced "the colours of the rainbow flag lighting up the White House and flying on Parliament Hill" as an example of the shared values of the two countries.

Shame on the political parties in attendance on Parliament Hill that day which were in total denial of the ongoing racist killings of black youth in the United States, the targeting and entrapment of Muslims, attacks on immigrant workers, pay-the-rich policies and massive war preparations. It was a declaration of support for the seizure of executive power in a striving to avert civil war and "make the U.S. great again." Obama added, "It's because we respect all people that the world looks to us as an example." All of it has the aim of making sure the anti-war movement is destroyed and the polity is depoliticized. With the support of the cartel party system, and all the "extra-parliamentary" wings and social organizations in their service, the peoples of the United States, Canada and Mexico are to be rendered powerless, incapable of waging the resistance struggle and upholding the rights of all. Not even the gullible believe that the U.S. imperialists can be trusted at home or abroad to defend the peoples' rights. Experience shows that our security lies in the fight for the rights of all.

Obama lauded Trudeau for his "moral leadership," giving as examples Trudeau's promise of reconciliation and a new relationship with Indigenous peoples, and receiving Syrian refugees at the airport. He spoke as if he was yearning to do the same in his own country. It was in this manner that through his speech Obama sought to pass the torch to Trudeau as the moral conscience of "Third Way" imperialism for the United States of North American Monopolies with Hillary Clinton the enforcer commander-in-chief.

Obama focused his promotion of Clinton as the next U.S. President on her being a woman to divert attention from the fact she seeks the post of war president. Referring to the few months in 1993 when Kim Campbell took over as Conservative Prime Minister after Brian Mulroney resigned, Obama said, "Here in Canada, a woman has already risen to the highest office in the land. In America, for the first time, a woman is the presumptive nominee of a major party, and perhaps president." He continued with the diversion, declaring, "[O]ur work won't be finished until all women in our country are truly equal, paid equally, treated equally, given the same opportunities as men; when our girls have the same opportunities as our boys."

Pushing Neo-Liberal Free Trade as "Progressive"

Obama also interfered directly in Canadian politics by trying to disinform the opposition in Canada to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). He said the TPP is necessary because of unfair tariffs and other practices used by countries in the Asia Pacific region which do not play by the rules. The TPP is allegedly necessary to be able to penetrate their markets like they penetrate ours. Obama then went on to rehash bogus arguments from the Bill Clinton era concerning the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas at that time, casting "free trade" as a progressive measure that will defend workers' rights and even limit the global monopolies' attacks on working people. Experience has proven otherwise. He tried to appeal to the moral conscience of Canadians, which Trudeau presumably champions: "[I]t also affords us the opportunity to increase protections for workers and the environment and promote human rights, including strong prohibitions against human trafficking and child labour," he said, adding, "And that way, our workers are competing on a level playing field and our businesses are less prone to pursue a race to the bottom" (TML Weekly emphasis).

Such sophistry is typical of the Obama presidency and has been taken up holus bolus by the Trudeau government which has become expert in presenting night as day and the violation of rights as progressive. It is precisely this role that Obama wants Trudeau to play in the new arrangements in hopes of destroying the people's resistance movements and their opposition to war and exploitation at home and abroad.

In keeping with the image of an idyllic partnership between the U.S. and Canada based on common values, Obama said, "the only forces crossing our borders are the armies of tourists and business people and families who are shopping and doing business and visiting loved ones. Our only battles take place inside the hockey rink." This he said as if there were not already U.S. security forces and troops operating openly and clandestinely on Canadian soil, and as if Canada's armed forces were not under U.S. command in NORAD and through other arrangements wherever the two militaries operate together around the world.

"Universal Values" to Push Imperialist War and Interference

After seeking to establish the "shared values" of Canada and the U.S. and telling tales to hide the massive U.S. imperialist intrusion into the lives of Canadians, Obama sought to breathe new life into the discredited colonial notion of white man's burden. This he recast for modern times as the "responsibility to protect," of which the Liberals have historically been eager champions. The U.S. is counting on Canada to once again provide the "moral" justifications for imperialist aggression and occupation in the name of "protecting innocents."

"In fact, both the United States and Canada believe our own security, and not just prosperity, is enhanced when we stand up for the rights of all nations and peoples to live in security and peace," he said. "I don't believe that these are American values or Canadian values or Western values. I believe and Justin believes and I hope all of you believe these are universal values and we must be bold in their defence at home and around the world, and not shy away from speaking up on behalf of these values of pluralism and tolerance and equality." Then, cutting to the chase of what Canada's role will be at this time within the imperialist system of states, Obama said, "I fear sometimes that we are timid in defence of these -- these values. That's why we'll continue to stand up for those inalienable rights here in our own hemisphere, in places like Cuba and Venezuela, but also in more distant lands, for the rights of citizens in civil society to speak their mind and work for change; for the rights of journalists to report the truth; for the rights of people of all faiths to practice their religion freely."

Right on cue, eight days later Canadian Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion issued a statement directly interfering in Venezuela's internal affairs, specifically in its judicial system. Dion called for the release of Venezuelan counterrevolutionary leader and convicted criminal Leopoldo López and others convicted of inciting violence and other crimes under Venezuelan law. He called them political prisoners to divert from their crimes and promote the lie that the government suppresses dissent.

Obama also spoke about Colombia and the peace process taking place in that country to end a decades-long war financed, armed and instigated by the U.S. under various pretexts, including the so-called War on Drugs. He spoke of "North America" being a partner, saying, "Colombia is poised to achieve a historic peace, and the nations of North America will be an important partner to Colombia going forward, including working to remove land mines." Then, again eight days later, International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau travelled to Colombia -- her first trip to Latin America -- to shill for various post-conflict projects Canada says it is going to undertake for "women and girls and demining."

Annexation of Canadian Embassies as Tools for Imperialism

Obama also discussed the program undertaken by the Liberals to complete the annexation of Canada's diplomatic corps into U.S. imperialism's schemes for destabilization and regime change. "Around the world, Canadian and American diplomats working together can make a difference," he stated. This alludes to the fact that the Trudeau government has mandated meddling in countries' internal affairs in the name of promoting "human rights and freedom" as a "core activity" for all ambassadors and other heads of mission. As announced by Minister of Global Affairs Stéphane Dion on May 17, all embassies will have their performance monitored and reviewed based on their promotion of "human rights, freedoms and inclusion" in foreign countries.

This coincides with the Liberal government's creation of the new Office of Human Rights, Freedom and Inclusion. It amounts to making Canadian embassies a kind of laboratory for promoting "Canadian values" and using social media to connect directly with and promote dubious "human rights activists" in targeted countries where the U.S. wants regime change. In Venezuela, Canada's ambassador specializes in this type of "direct diplomacy." In Syria it was recently revealed that a Canadian diplomat has been playing a key role in mobilizing and coordinating forces intent on regime change. It appears that under Trudeau such activities are being made the norm at a time when the world's people despise the role the U.S. embassies play as bases of foreign intervention.

U.S. Wants Canada to Play a Bigger Role in NATO

Halifax action, July 9, 2016 on the occasion of the NATO summit in Warsaw.

Obama appealed for increased resources and troops from Canada to be placed under its command through NATO to suppress the peoples of Eastern Europe and to threaten Russia and other non-NATO countries in the region. "Meanwhile, when nations violate international rules and norms, such as Russia's aggression against Ukraine, the United States and Canada stand united, along with our allies in defence of our collective security," he said.

"And doing so requires a range of tools, like economic sanctions. But it also requires that we keep our forces ready for 21st century missions and invest in new capabilities. And as your ally and as your friend, let me say that we'll be more secure when every NATO member, including Canada, contributes its full share to our common security. And if I can borrow a phrase, the world needs more Canada," which was met by one of the 20 standing ovations. During this ovation Obama added: "NATO needs more Canada. We need you. We need you."

Ten days later at NATO's Warsaw Summit, Canada announced a significant increase in the number of forces deployed to Eastern Europe and the Baltic states. This includes leading a battalion in Latvia and an increased naval and air force presence to harass and provoke Russia on land, in the air and on water.

Immediately following the NATO Summit, Prime Minister Trudeau and International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland visited Ukraine to sign a Free Trade Agreement as well as to observe Canadian troops in action alongside Ukrainian military forces. Canadian troops were taking part in war games targeting "Russian-backed rebels in Eastern Ukraine." In other words, suppressing Ukrainians' opposition and resistance to the regime installed in Ukraine by a U.S.-backed coup in 2014.

Obama also appealed for increased Canadian involvement in the perpetual "war on terror." "[W]ith Canada's additional contributions, including training Iraqi forces, our coalition is on the offensive across Iraq, across Syria, and we will destroy the terrorist group ISIL. We will destroy them. We'll continue helping local forces and sharing intelligence from Afghanistan to the Philippines so that we're pushing back comprehensively against terrorist networks."

Days later, Canada announced $465 million to continue funding Afghanistan's Security and Defence Forces, which the U.S. is training and accompanying on their combat missions, as well as "to support women's and girls' rights and empowerment, and to help meet the basic needs of Afghans." Canada's Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan also paid a visit to Iraq this week for meetings with "Iraqi and Kurdish" officials and to inspect Canadian troops put under U.S. command as part of its Global Coalition Against ISIL. The government noted that Sajjan will attend a summit of Coalition defence ministers.

Obama's passing of the torch to Trudeau and the sycophantic support this received in the House of Commons from MPs reveals the schemes afoot to further embroil Canada in the United States of North American Monopolies for the purposes of dominating rivals internationally through the use of force. This is the program Obama came to sell to Canada and that he is instructing Trudeau to implement. All of the smoke and mirrors reaffirms the importance of Canadians building the movement for an anti-war government to withdraw Canada from NATO and NORAD and other aggressive military alliances and arrangements which place Canadian troops and territory at the disposal of the U.S. 

Picket in Edmonton to Get Canada Out of NATO, July 9, 2016.

Whatever one thinks of Obama as an individual, or Trudeau for that matter, the fact remains that the Canadian, Quebec and Indigenous peoples have their own thinking and right to decide the direction of their society. They have common cause with the American people who also oppose wars of aggression and occupation and do not want their sons and daughters sent abroad to be used to slaughter others and to be slaughtered. Canadians must pursue peace by pursuing their own nation-building project which rejects being subsumed into the United States of North American Monopolies. The opposition of the workers of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico to neo-liberal free trade deals as well as to imperialist war makes this clear.

Canada must stand as a force for the peaceful resolution of conflicts, non-interference in the affairs of other nations and fraternal relations amongst all peoples of the world. This is the stand of Canadians which was completely hidden from view with the "warm welcome" Obama received from those who have usurped elected positions by manipulating their positions of privilege and power.

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Dangerous New Measures Tabled in Parliament

During its last two weeks of sitting, the Liberals introduced three new pieces of legislation in the House of Commons which are part of placing Canada firmly in the grip of U.S. security agencies while keeping hidden the black ops and dirty activities of police agencies against the peoples of Canada, the United States and Mexico. The Liberals are clinching Harper government measures that permit U.S. security agencies to operate permanently within Canada and command Canadian security agencies, grossly violating Canadians' privacy and civil rights. At the same time, the government is putting in place the means to keep all these activities secret and under wraps.

National Security and Intelligence Committee Unveiled

On June 16, the government tabled Bill C-22, An Act to establish the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians and to make consequential amendments to certain Acts. The legislation provides for the Liberals' "parliamentary oversight" of security agencies that are already implementing the arbitrary powers given to them by the Conservatives with Liberal support through Bill C-51, to which Canadians were overwhelmingly opposed. Instead of repealing that Act and the expanded arbitrary powers it gave police and security agencies to violate Canadians' basic rights, the Liberals are actually entrenching these powers and ensuring that dirty actions taken under the "anti-terror law" are kept secret while creating the illusion they are providing transparency through an "oversight" committee.

The Committee would be a statutory committee of parliamentarians appointed by and housed within the executive branch of the government. This is said to "give the committee a high degree of independence and access to classified government information, while providing for necessary controls on the use and disclosure of this information." In other words it would operate under the control of the executive.

It is said the Committee would "have a broad government-wide mandate and special access to highly classified information to review national security and intelligence activities." Who decides what it can and cannot review and what it can and cannot report is a serious matter.

The Committee would be made up of members of Parliament and Senators, all appointed by the Governor General on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. It will have nine members -- two from the Senate and seven from the House of Commons (with a maximum of four MPs from the governing party). The Liberals describe their committee as multi-partisan.

Committee members would be required to obtain a security clearance and swear an oath of secrecy before assuming their position on the Committee, and would need to maintain the confidentiality of information they receive. Committee members would be vetted for their security clearance by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the very agency they would be responsible for "overseeing." The oath of secrecy will have Committee members swear that they "...will be faithful and bear true loyalty to Canada and to its people, whose democratic beliefs I share, whose rights and freedoms I respect" but "not communicate or use without due authority any information obtained in confidence by me in [this] capacity." Anything that a minister decides is off-limits -- for whatever reason -- must be kept secret or the members could be brought up on charges under state secrets legislation. This is clear in the legislation: "Members would not be able to claim parliamentary immunity if they disclosed what is deemed classified information."

Revealing who decides what gets reviewed and what doesn't, the legislation says that a minister would have the authority to stop a review of the Committee if it would be injurious to national security. In addition ministers can withhold what they decide is "special operational information" if in the minister's opinion its disclosure would "harm national security." This means that  if a minister does not want something disclosed, even though she or he would have to provide reasons which prevent the disclosure, these are provided to a committee that cannot disclose anything deemed "classified." For instance, a "reason" can be that  disclosure would compromise our relations with the United States, and that  is that. Nothing further is required, and there is no accountability whatsoever.

In addition, once a report is completed by the Committee, the government will review it before it is tabled to ensure that it "[does] not contain classified information," which the government would decide and no one on the Committee could publicly challenge. This clearly shows the extent to which the whole aim is to provide an impression of accountability when in fact arbitrariness and secrecy are being made a principle of governance.

New Border Measures to Police Movement of People and Goods

The Liberals introduced on June 15 Bill C-21, An Act to amend the Customs Act. The legislation will allow the Canada Border Services Agency to be informed by the U.S. border agencies when anyone leaves Canada at a land border crossing, permit Canadian border agents to inspect goods normally exempt from controls under the Customs Act and share travel information about Canadians leaving Canada with the Department of Employment and Social Development for purposes of administering the Old Age Security Act. Though the details are not clear, this tracking of Canadians' movement across land borders may open the door for governments to use such information to deny or limit access to benefits under other social programs as well.

Bill C-21 is part of Canada and the U.S. establishing a single security apparatus under U.S. control. All movement into North America and between countries within North America is to be tracked and fed into various "risk assesment" and other databases. Profiling of citizens and residents based on meta-data and travel habits will single them out for surveillance and persecution even though they have committed no crime.

Expanding Placement of U.S. Security Agents in Canada

On June 17, the Liberals introduced Bill C-23, An Act respecting the preclearance of persons and goods in Canada and the United States. The Bill would allow the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to designate "pre-clearance areas and perimeters" in Canada wherever the Minister decides. Pre-clearance refers to the concept of having goods and people screened and possibly held by Customs and Immigration before reaching a destination country's border. It is done in the name of eliminating backlogs at the border, however it is also used to justify placing U.S. security forces in Canada at border crossings, airports and ports. The new bill prepares conditions for the Minister to establish pre-clearance areas anywhere, including at points of production, which essentially means permitting U.S. security agents to be placed at workplaces or wherever else the Minister decides to establish a pre-clearance area. Up until now pre-clearance has been done on an ad-hoc pilot project basis. However, if passed, the bill would give the Minister the power to expand the program at his or her whim. The bill also establishes arrangements to set up pre-clearance by Canadian border officials in the United States -- which does not exist at the present time -- and to limit the ability of the Canadian government to request the extradition or arrest of a U.S. preclearance officer who has violated Canadian law. In other words, the legislation is part of establishing a new arrangement in which U.S. officers permanently placed inside Canada would not be subject to Canadian laws so long as they return to the United States after committing a crime.

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RIMPAC 2016 Naval Exercises

Canada's Participation in Massive U.S.-Led War Games in the Pacific

Warships in Pearl Harbour for RIMPAC war exercises. (U.S. Navy)

The U.S. imperialists, as part of increasing their war preparations worldwide, are leading the world's largest maritime war games known as the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2016 from June 30-August 4 in and around the Hawaiian Islands and southern California. Canada is participating in these war games again as it has every two years since they began in 1971.

This year RIMPAC involves 26 countries, 45 ships, five submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel. The 2016 edition is taking place in the context of the U.S. pivot to Asia started under the Obama regime, which includes the attempts to isolate the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) -- earlier this year the largest ever war games in Asia, Key Resolve/Foal Eagle 2016, were aimed directly at invading the DPRK. It also includes the threat to China, Russia and the DPRK posed by the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system to be installed in south Korea, as well as U.S. interference in the territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

RIMPAC is used by the U.S. to integrate command and control with other countries, embroil them in U.S. imperialist misadventures and as a show of force. The U.S. military presents these war preparations in a banal and misleading manner. It says that RIMPAC "provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world's oceans."

Opposition to RIMPAC

Anti-war activists, environmentalists, those demanding Hawaii's sovereignty (an independent kingdom before the U.S. annexed it in 1893) and others are holding actions to oppose RIMPAC 2016, as part of the broader movement to oppose the U.S. military presence in Hawaii. Similar to the U.S. Navy's 50 years abuse of the island Vieques in Puerto Rico, the U.S. military's Pohakuloa Training Area on the island of Hawaii, has caused serious environmental damage and the local people have long demanded that the military get out and ensure the land is rehabilitated. The Malu 'Aina (Land of Peace) Center for Non-Violent Education and Action pointed out in a June 29 statement:

"The U.S. is currently waging wars in at least six countries, and provoking and risking new wars with other countries, including possible nuclear war with Russia and China.

"Meanwhile, RIMPAC (Rim of the Pacific), the world's largest U.S.-led war game is now taking place in and around Hawaii. [...]

"During RIMPAC countries conduct live-fire operations that include surface-to-air weapons, air-to-air missiles, surface-to-surface weapons firing, laser-guided bombs, and rounds of naval gunfire from surface combatant warships. Units fly air sorties and drop bombs. Ground forces complete amphibious landings and conduct live-fire. In all, different training events are scheduled in all Hawaiian operations area, encompassing Kaneohe Bay, Bellows Air Force Station, the Pacific Missile Range Facility, and the Pohakuloa Training Area, etc.

"It has been confirmed that RIMPAC air and ground live-fire will be taking place at Pohakuloa in the center of Hawaii Island during the month of July. Pohakuloa is contaminated with Depleted Uranium (DU) radiation and a wide range of other military toxins. Continued bombing risks spreading the contamination downwind, endangering the lives of troops, residents and visitors alike. DU is particularly dangerous when small particles are inhaled and can cause cancer, birth defects and genetic damage. In short, RIMPAC is an attack on the air, land and sea environment of Hawai`i! We want it stopped!

"Free Hawaii & the World from the Curse of Militarism & War!"

RIMPAC 2016 Participants

RIMPAC is hosted by U.S. Pacific Fleet and led by U.S. Vice Admiral Nora Tyson, commander of the U.S. 3rd Fleet (C3F), who serves as the Combined Task Force (CTF) commander. Royal Canadian Navy Rear Admiral Scott Bishop serves as deputy commander of the CTF and Japan Maritime Self Defense Force Rear Admiral Koji Manabe as the vice commander. Other key leaders of the multinational force include Commodore Malcolm Wise of the Royal Australian Navy, who is in command of the maritime component; Brigadier General Blaise Frawley of the Royal Canadian Air Force, in command of the air component; and Royal New Zealand Navy Commodore James Gilmour, in command of the amphibious task force.

This year's exercise includes forces from Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, the Republic of Korea (south Korea), the Republic of the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Tonga, the United Kingdom and the United States. Australia, like Canada, has participated alongside the U.S. in every RIMPAC. Denmark, Germany and Italy are participating for the first time.

The U.S. Navy website conveys Brazil's absence as due to "unforeseen scheduling commitments." The most notable absence is that of the Russian navy, highlighting that these war games are aimed in part at Russia.

Also notable is the participation of several European countries that are located far from the Pacific Ocean. Why are they in RIMPAC if not because they are members of NATO?

Japan's participation in these aggressive war games is also notable given that the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is attempting to revise the country's constitution to remove the limitation on the deployment of Japanese forces beyond  national self-defence.

Regarding the  participation of China, Xinhua reported on June 29: "A Chinese fleet with about 1,200 soldiers and officers arrived in Pearl Harbor Wednesday [June 29] to take part in the Rim of the Pacific 2016 (RIMPAC 2016) multinational naval exercise. It is the second time the Chinese Navy has taken part in RIMPAC. The fleet, PLAN TG-XI'AN, is composed of missile destroyer Xi'an, missile frigate Hengshui, supply ship Gaoyouhu, hospital ship Peace Ark, submarine rescue vessel Changdao and three helicopters, as well as a marine squad and a diving squad.

"As previously agreed by China and the United States, the Chinese Navy will take part in drills including gunfire, damage control and rescue, anti-piracy, search and rescue, diving and submarine rescue. Sports events and exchanges will also be held.

"The fleet left on June 15 from a military port in Zhoushan City in east China's Zhejiang Province. At the sendoff at Zhoushan, deputy navy commander Wang Hai said the mission was important for the 'new type of major-country relationship' between China and the United States, in addition to promoting military-to-military cooperation and exchanges."

The absence of Russia, a large pacific rim country but the inclusion of China as well as the participation of European countries which are not anywhere near the Pacific underscores the true aims of RIMPAC which is to impose the U.S. as the gendarme in the Asia-Pacific and keep its rivals in check.

Canada's Participation

Canada has sent four warships, several aircraft and more than 1,500 Canadian sailors, soldiers, airmen and airwomen to RIMPAC 2016. The maritime component is comprised of the Halifax-class frigates HMCS Calgary and HMCS Vancouver, as well as the Kingston-class coastal defence vessels HMCS Saskatoon and HMCS Yellowknife, and a team of clearance divers. As noted above, Canadian military commanders have been put in various leadership positions.

Reporting on the departure of the Canadian vessels for RIMPAC on June 14, Xinhua wrote:

"Beyond their exercise responsibilities, the Kingston-class warships will also carry out testing and exercises using advanced mine countermeasure equipment, thereby reducing risks to sailors and warships while increasing interoperability with allied nations.

"HMCS Calgary and Vancouver will test weapon systems and upgrades to their equipment. RIMPAC will allow the Canadian warships to test electronic countermeasures designed to better protect sailors and warships operating in war zones, and fire Evolved Sea Sparrow and Harpoon missiles as well as heavyweight torpedoes to increase the warfighting capabilities of the Halifax-class warships."

Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan in a May 31 press release stated, "Canada has participated in every RIMPAC since 1971. Over the years, our participation has helped us build and foster collaborative relationships with our allies and partners in the region. RIMPAC 2016 will once again provide the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) with a valuable training opportunity, while demonstrating Canadian leadership and operational excellence abroad."

The Department of National Defence, in the same press release, outlined "Canada's Objectives" at RIMPAC 2016:

"The biennial exercise provides an opportunity for all services (Canadian Army, Royal Canadian Navy and Royal Canadian Air Force) to train in a joint environment along with international allies and partners.

"The joint forces deployed on RIMPAC comprise personnel and assets from across Canada, and may be drawn from any or all of the primary force-generators of the Canadian Armed Forces.

"The CAF objectives during RIMPAC are to:

- develop and implement plans to enable the army, navy and air force to operate as a joint force within a multinational coalition setting;
- enhance the CAF's ability to conduct international missions in accordance with the Government of Canada's objectives; and
- develop skills and procedures designed to foster operability, readiness, communications with partners and crisis response capabilities."

These justifications and so-called objectives for Canada's participation are shameless attempts to cover up Canada's subservience to U.S. imperialist interests and the dictate of Might Makes Right that seeks to resolve all issues through the threat or the use of military force.

The working people of Canada and Quebec must vigorously reject Canada's participation in RIMPAC 2016 and all U.S. war preparations, aggression and war. They must ensure that Canada has an anti-war government so that it is a force for peace in the world that provides genuine security for all countries by upholding the principles of international law whose fundamental aim is to ensure the resolution of conflicts through peaceful means.

(With files from Voice of Revolution, Department of National Defence, Naval Today, Xinhua, Malu 'Aina)

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U.S. War Preparations on Korean Peninsula

Support the Korean People's Opposition to U.S. Missile Defence System in South Korea!

The United States and its puppet regime in south Korea announced on July 8 that the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system will be deployed in south Korea. South Korean press report that this was a sudden and unexpected announcement, with the public having been led to believe that any such decision would not come until the fall. The announcement also came a day after the U.S. expanded sanctions against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and its leadership and amidst hysteria and disinformation being whipped up against the DPRK as the cause of instability in the region, not the U.S. and its tens of thousands of troops and nuclear arsenal.

All peace- and justice-loving people in Canada and worldwide should resolutely oppose plans by the U.S. to install its THAAD anti-missile system in south Korea. These plans face broad opposition by the peace-loving Korean people, the peoples of Asia and the governments of the DPRK, China and Russia. Such systems, despite claims that they are defensive in nature, are part and parcel of bolstering the U.S. offensive nuclear arsenal. Far from serving the cause of peace and stability on the Korean peninsula, which is the aspiration of the Korean people and their neighbours, the THAAD system will increase tensions and further destabilize the Korean peninsula to a point where a thermonuclear war could break out that would engulf the region and endanger all humanity. It must not pass! The Canadian people must organize to do everything possible to avert such an outcome.

According to the U.S. administration, installation of THAAD is necessary to counter the nuclear missile threats from the DPRK. This "argument" is as bogus as it gets. History shows that immediately following the Second World War, all humanity led by the Soviet Union was organizing to ensure that never again would there be another catastrophic world war. In response, the Anglo-American imperialists led by the Truman administration launched the Cold War on the basis of the Hitlerite lie that the Soviet Union was arming itself to attack the "free world" and start World War Three. This disinformation, also propagated by the Canadian state, was then used by the U.S. to justify a massive nuclear arsenal to threaten with annihilation any people or nation that opposed U.S. imperialist dictate.

Those targeted by what continues to be the world's biggest nuclear arsenal include the Korean people. In the Korean War -- launched on May 25, 1950 under the Truman Administration's Cold War doctrine of the "containment of Communism" -- the U.S. and its allies, including Canada, unjustly intervened militarily to suppress the Korean people's striving for self-determination and reunification of their divided country. In that war, the U.S. threatened to use nuclear bombs against the DPRK and China, as it did in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That threat remains to this day.

The U.S. has never forgiven the DPRK for defeating it in the Korean War and forcing it to sign the Korean Armistice Agreement on July 27, 1953 that brought an end to the fighting in that brutal war. The U.S. has done everything to sabotage the Armistice Agreement and provoke another Korean War. The countless efforts by the DPRK in keeping with Article IV of the Armistice Agreement to have a peace treaty signed with the U.S. have been outright rejected by the latter. The massive annual war games carried out by the U.S. and south Korean forces and more recently between the U.S., south Korea and Japan, in which Canada has sometimes participated as an "observer," are all aimed at waging war and regime change against the DPRK. These facts alone show who is for peace and who is for war on the Korean peninsula. The THAAD system is part of these war preparations against the DPRK, as well as China and Russia.

Far from protecting south Korea from a nuclear attack from the DPRK, as the U.S. and the Park Geun-hye regime in south Korea are telling the world, THAAD is aimed at giving the U.S. imperialists and their allies a strategic advantage by enabling a preemptive nuclear strike against the DPRK, China or Russia while supposedly neutralizing counterstrikes. China and Russia have both expressed opposition to the U.S. placing the THAAD system in south Korea where it can be used to monitor the Chinese and Russian militaries. Furthermore, both China and Russia earlier this year announced that they have developed and successfully tested high-level supersonic gliders that can breech the THAAD system.

These big power rivalries have serious consequences for the Korean people. The Korean people have the right to live in peace and stability like everyone else so that they can flourish. The DPRK, which has historically and consistently defended the Korean nation, has stated that it will take all measures against the THAAD system and to prevent another Korean War including using its "nuclear deterrent force" in self-defence. The leadership of the DPRK continues to call on the U.S. to sign a peace treaty to end the Korean War. This is what is needed to stabilize the situation on the Korean peninsula and create the conditions for the peaceful, independent reunification of Korea so that it can take its rightful place as an honoured sovereign independent country among the nations of the world.

Protest against THAAD deployment in Seoul, July 13, 2016.

About the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System

The THAAD system was conceptualized in the 1990s and tested in 2005 by U.S. weapons monopoly Lockheed Martin, the primary manufacturer of the system for the U.S. military.

The THAAD system is aimed at destroying "all types of ballistic missile warheads including Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)" as they begin the terminal phase of their flight. The U.S. Department of Defense claims that the THAAD system has proven 100 per cent effective based on its tests, while other countries claim to have developed means to overcome it.

The THAAD interceptor uses kinetic energy rather than an explosive warhead to carry out a "kill." It is also touted as being easily transportable and effective even when facing "mass raids." The system is comprised of five components: interceptors, launchers, radar, a fire-control unit and support equipment.

Its range is said to be 200 km. South Korean press point out the proposed site for the system in Seongju is too far south to provide coverage for the capital. In a July 14 editorial, the south Korean newspaper Hankyoreh pointed out, "If THAAD is deployed in Seongju, Seoul, and most of its suburbs will fall outside of THAAD's 200km defence range. It is absurd for the Ministry [of Defense] to claim that it decided to deploy THAAD to protect the people from North Korean attacks when it leaves a densely populated area that is home to nearly half of South Koreans outside of THAAD's defense range.

"If THAAD is deployed in Seongju, the Seoul area will not be included in its protective range, while U.S. military bases in Pyeongtaek, Osan, Gunsan, Daegu and Chilgok will be included.

"The implications here are obvious: the campaign to deploy THAAD was purely organized and promoted by U.S. interests, and THAAD is a system designed to defend the U.S. military."

In the face of growing alarm that the electromagnetic radiation emissions from the THAAD would have averse effects on human health and the environment, the south Korean Ministry of Defense tried to deflect these concerns by stating that the Green Pine radar installation in the Chungcheong region and the Patriot missile defence system in the greater Seoul area have greater electromagnetic radiation emissions than THAAD. So, not to worry. The people have not been placated by this facile argument and have only stepped up their opposition.

The Hankyoreh writes, "Experts in the field point out that, even at such levels, exposure over the long term can be hazardous. Choi Ye-yong, director of the Asian Citizens' Center for Environment and Health, says, 'The Ministry of National Defense states that exposure is dangerous to the human body only when nearer than 100 meters and that within the restricted access zone of 3.5 kilometers distance one is safe. Within 100 meters, burns on the skin and ill effects to the organs are immediately apparent, but even at 3.5 kilometers away, continuous long-term exposure can be harmful. It's nonsense to say that there is no problem at all.'

"When the U.S. built a permanent THAAD installation on Guam last year, it issued an evaluation of environmental effects which stated that electromagnetic radiation, noise, and exhaust gases from power generators would affect the environment. U.S. THAAD systems are powered by military tactical generators with an output of from 420 kilowatts to 1.3 megawatts. The environmental report said that when such a generator is running, the noise and gases it emits can be harmful to the surrounding wildlife habitat. The report states that without soundproofing, the noise of a 1.3-megawatt generator measures 85 decibels at 30 meters and 60 decibels at 530 meters. Sixty decibels is only a little lower than the 65-decibel noise level permitted at construction sites."

Besides Guam, THAAD batteries have been installed in Hawaii and on mainland U.S. Internationally, several Gulf states allied with the U.S. imperialists have acquired the system. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) was the first "international partner" to procure the system in 2011, at the cost of U.S.$3.4 billion. Oman, placed an order in 2013. Recently Saudi Arabia also placed an order. Qatar has also expressed interest according to Lockheed Martin.

(With files from KCNA, Rodong Sinmun, Xinhua, Hankyoreh, Lockheed Martin. Photos; Xinhua)

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Koreans Militantly Oppose Anti-Missile System

Protest in Seoul, Korea, July 13, 2016 against deployment of THAAD.

The Korean people north and south are united in militantly opposing the decision of the U.S. and south Korean government to station a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile battery in Seongju, 296 kilometres south of Seoul. The lack of consultation and short notice of the decision were meant to undermine the people's opposition, but they are having none of it. The people, especially those in Seongju, are denouncing with increasing vehemence the Park Guen-hye government for its treachery in imposing THAAD.

Kim Hang-gon, the Mayor of Seongju, pointed out: "There should be sufficient discussion or consultation between the central government and provincial government for a consensus. Our Seongju residents, 50,000 of them, are outraged that the decision was made unilaterally without prior consultation or agreement." Mayor Kim and three local councillors used their own blood to write a protest letter to the government. On July 13, local residents filled five chartered buses to take their protest to Seoul. Given their proximity to the proposed installation, there is much concern that the strong electromagnetic waves will cause environmental damage and affect their health. Local farmers, who make up one-fifth of Seongju's population, are concerned about negative effects on their melon crops -- they supply about 70 per cent of the melons in Korea -- and that their livelihoods will be destroyed.

On July 15, 3,000 residents of Seongju, wearing red headbands that said "Opposed to THAAD!" confronted south Korean Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn and Defense Minister Han Min-koo when they paid a visit to placate the people and to justify the decision to put the THAAD battery in their community. The protesters were joined by some 800 students, many of whom had boycotted classes that day to attend the rally. Outside the county office, when Hwang tried to suggest that the deployment of the THAAD was necessary because the DPRK is building nuclear weapons every day and posing a grave danger to the security of south Koreans, he was jeered and  pelted with eggs and water bottles and he and the  Defense Minister were forced to beat a hasty retreat under the protection of security police.

Protest letter written in blood by Mayor Kim and local councillors opposing THAAD.

At an action at the Ministry of Defence in Seoul, protester Oh Mi-jeong pointed out, "There is no 'best place' to deploy THAAD in South Korea. We strongly urge the government to withdraw the decision to deploy the THAAD system, which will destroy peace on the Korean peninsula and jeopardize our national security."

The organization Solidarity for Peace and Reunification of Korea (SPARK) also held an action and press conference on July 13 at the Ministry of Defence. SPARK pointed out that the government's decision to permit the deployment of THAAD in south Korea will make it an outpost of the U.S.-Japan military alliance, sour relations with neighbouring countries and worst of all increase the possibility of igniting a war on the Korean peninsula. SPARK urged the U.S. and south Korean governments to immediately rescind the plan and pledged that it will carry on protest actions until then.

In the north, the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK) denounced the Park regime for its subordination of the national interest to the U.S., escalating tensions between Korean compatriots in the south and north, and offering the Korean peninsula to foreign forces as a theatre for nuclear war. The CPRK demanded that the decision to install the THAAD system be annulled.

Farmers from Seongju return home after
Seoul actions, July 13, 2016.

To counter growing opposition against THAAD, the south Korean Ministry of Defence issued a statement trying to justify this unacceptable decision. It claimed that "By operating the U.S. THAAD battery in Seongju, we will be able to better protect one-half to two-thirds of our citizens from North Korean nuclear and missile threats" and "it will dramatically strengthen the military capabilities and readiness to defend critical national infrastructure such as nuclear power plants and oil storage facilities, as well as the military forces of the South Korea-U.S. alliance."

Attempts to justify THAAD will only strengthen the resolve of the Korean people to rid their country of the U.S. military occupiers and the servile Park Guen-hye government. It is precisely the south Korea-U.S. military alliance that began at the end of the Second World War that has posed the gravest danger to peace, security and stability on the Korean peninsula. The Korean people both north and south have more than 70 years of direct experience with U.S. imperialist military occupation and plunder of south Korea. They are stepping up their joint resistance aimed at getting rid of the U.S. imperialist occupiers of their homeland once and for all, which is the only way to guarantee a permanent peace on the Korean peninsula. All peace- and justice-loving people in Canada and around the world stand as one with the Korean people in demanding the repeal of the decision to place the THAAD missile system on Korean soil, and the withdrawal of all U.S. troops and armaments from the Korean peninsula.

Banners opposing deployment of the THAAD missile defence system in Chilgok, North
Gyeongsang Province, one of the possible sites, on July 8, the day South Korea and the U.S.
announced the decision.

(With files from Xinhua, Korean Central News Agency, CRIENGLISH.com. Photos; Hankyoreh, Xinhua)

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Nefarious "Theory of North Korean Threat"

On July 12, the Permanent Mission of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) to the United Nations issued a press release containing the text of an essay by Kim Kwang Hak, Research Fellow at the Institute for American Studies at the DPRK's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In this essay, entitled "The 'Theory of the North Korean Threat' and the True Intention of the U.S.," the author addresses U.S. allegations that the DPRK is the main threat to peace and security on the Korean peninsula, and postulates the U.S.'s real intentions in making these accusations.

The author begins by noting that in the wake of the DPRK's successful test-launch of the surface-to-surface intermediate-range strategic ballistic missile Hwasong-10 on June 23, the U.S. not only condemned the missile launch as a violation of UN Security Council resolutions, but claimed that it "escalates and increases tension and instability on the Korean peninsula and in the region." The author contends that these accusations are now being used by the U.S. to justify escalating the annual U.S.-south Korean joint military exercises, Ulchi Freedom Guardian, held in August, which target the DPRK for regime change.

The author argues that the self-defence measures the DPRK is taking cannot be construed as "threats" or "provocations" in the context of international law and real life given the escalating military threats by the U.S. against it. He affirms that "the DPRK's measures to consolidate its national defence power is a legitimate exercise of its self-defence rights which fully complies with the UN Charter and the other international laws."

As evidence, the author cites the "Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts" document adopted at the 53rd session of the UN committee of International Law proceedings in November 2001. Article 3 of Chapter 1, Part One states: "The characterization of an act of a State as internationally wrongful is governed by international law. Such characterization is not affected by the characterization of the same as lawful by internal law." He further cites Article 21 of Chapter 5: "The wrongfulness of an act of a State is precluded if the act constitutes a lawful measure of self-defence taken in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations."

The author points out that the Charter of the United Nations recognizes, among other things, the "sovereign equality" of all its member states, and the principle that member states are prohibited from threatening or using force "against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state." Given that the DPRK has never attacked or used force against another member state, he argues, there is no basis in international law to accuse the DPRK's "nuclear tests and the launch of ballistic missiles, and satellites" as grave 'threats' to international peace and security." Instead, these are "lawful measures of self defence" taken by a sovereign member state of the UN. Kim Kwang Hak also informs that the UN Secretariat has yet to respond to a written request by the DPRK's Permanent Representative to the UN for the legal basis on which the accusation that the DPRK is a threat to international peace and stability can be justified.

The author points out that if the nuclear tests of the DPRK can be called into question, the more than 1,000 nuclear tests conducted by the U.S. -- the country with the biggest nuclear arsenal in the world -- must also be called into question and condemned in the strongest terms.

Kim notes: "The DPRK's measures to consolidate its national defence power are legitimate self-defensive measures in view of the U.S.'s decade-long hostile policy towards the DPRK, of which the concentrated expression is its military threat and blackmail." He cites a report from the SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute) on June 13, which informs that the U.S. has a stockpile of 7,000 nuclear weapons and that the U.S. administration is planning to "appropriate U.S.$348 billion for the modernization of the nuclear weapons during the period 2015-2024." Such are the plans of the biggest nuclear power state in the world that has been threatening the DPRK for the last seven decades, the researcher points out.

The author further elaborates that the U.S. has never recognized the sovereignty of the DPRK since its founding in 1948, and has pursued a hostile policy towards that sovereign country on the political, economic and military fronts. The author emphasizes that the key element of U.S. hostile policy against the DPRK is on the military front with the key aspect being ongoing nuclear blackmail. The author states that the introduction of strategic bombers such as the "B-2" and "B-52H," the stealth fighter bomber "F-22" and "Ohio Class" nuclear power submarines into south Korea, as well as the annual staging of ever larger joint military drills aimed at the DPRK can only be seen as aggressive preparations for a pre-emptive military strike against the DPRK in the near future.

It is within these concrete circumstances that the DPRK, as a measure to "deter nuclear war threats posed by the U.S.," has pursued the development of its own ballistic missiles and "smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear weapons," the author notes. He points out that DPRK leader Kim Jong Un has emphasized that the purpose of the DPRK's nuclear self-defence program is to avert nuclear war itself.

Another noteworthy point made in the essay is that if a country were "to bring nuclear bombers, nuclear submarines, nuclear aircraft carriers and install a missile defence system around the U.S. and stage large scale joint military drills every year, the U.S. would make a fuss." The author references the Cuban Missile Crisis to make his point.

The author writes that in the face of these realities, to avert nuclear war and ensure its right to be, the DPRK has found it necessary to build a nuclear deterrent force that is strong enough to stay the hand of the U.S. nuclear warmongers.

The essay explains that U.S. disinformation about the supposed nuclear threat posed by the DPRK to regional and world peace and security is aimed at diverting attention from the U.S.'s own crimes and drive to dominate the Asia-Pacific region and the world. It is to provide a cover for the self-serving measures the U.S. itself is taking, such as the deployment of the THAAD battery in south Korea to keep China and Russia in check, as well as the strengthening of the U.S./south Korea/Japan military alliance. The author wryly notes that even if the DPRK quietly minds its own business, the U.S. will still create a pretext to justify a war so as to take over the entire Korean peninsula in pursuit of its geopolitical interests.

Kim Hwang Hak concludes the essay by stating that the DPRK's nuclear deterrent capacity has made it possible to check U.S. aggression and ensure a level of equilibrium on the Korean peninsula. In the event of another war breaking out on the Korean peninsula, "all responsibility will be borne by the U.S. because of its distorted attitude towards the DPRK." For its part, the DPRK will "wage a vigorous struggle to remove, by means of its powerful nuclear deterrent, the root cause of the threat of nuclear war created by the U.S. and to safeguard peace on the Korean peninsula and the rest of the world."

The domination by the big powers, particularly the U.S., of the United Nations -- especially at the Security Council -- has made it virtually impossible for small countries to get a fair hearing even as crimes are being committed against them and their people. The DPRK has been forced to take matters into its own hands, and protect its sovereignty and independence by developing its own nuclear deterrent capacity. Many times the government of the DPRK has pointed out that it would much prefer to invest its scarce financial resources in social programs that benefit the citizens of the DPRK rather than in weapons for self defence. All truth- and justice-loving people must stand with the DPRK and support its right to peace and a prosperous future.

(Quotations slightly edited for grammar by TML.)

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No to Mexican State Terrorism and Criminalization of Resistance!

Peoples' Human Rights Observatory Calls for
Dialogue with Teachers

State repression against the people of Oaxaca, Mexico, June 19, 2016.

In order to impose its reforms to the education system, the Mexican government has started a war against the democratic teachers, which has now broadened to all sectors of the population who support them. Amongst the outcomes of this repression can be counted ten deaths, the imprisonment of union leaders, attacks on whole communities and the undermining of the most essential human rights. The point has been reached where the defenders of human rights have been defamed, as has been the case with the monitors of the newly-founded Human Rights Observatory. This defamation aims to lay the groundwork for further repressive measures against human rights defenders, which has been denounced by the Council for Defence of the Rights of the People -- National People's Power Movement (CODEP-MNPP)

At this time, the rights that are recognized by the Mexican Constitution have been suspended without any official pronouncements. With this not only is article 29 of the Mexican Constitution [governing temporary suspension of constitutional provisions] violated but also the guarantees of the right to assembly of human beings and citizens included in the Constitution, which will soon have been in place for a century, but have rarely been put into effect.

The situation is extremely serious. The government relies upon brute force, outside any judicial orders (even though they invoke laws in their speeches). It is urgent to establish a negotiating table with the Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (CNTE) [teachers' union], with the aim of analyzing in public the true reach of the administrative and labour reforms which have been imposed on the teachers, and to advance towards true education reforms and not punitive measures. This is the root cause of the legitimate struggle of the teachers belonging to the CNTE. This struggle must lead to immediate freedom for the imprisoned teachers, re-hiring of those who have been fired and the payment of overdue salaries and normalization of the treatment of those who defend education which is public, general and free.

Report from Information Bulletin of the Oaxaca Chapter of Peoples' Human Rights Observatory on Repression of Teachers

Yesterday, Sunday, June 19, the federal police, the national gendarmerie and the state police of Mexico and Oaxaca carried out operations against the peoples of Oaxaca, on the Oaxaca-Mexico highway, at the entrance to Nochixtlán.

In the face of major repression leading to 10 deaths, 94 wounded and 22 disappeared, the population of the municipality of Nochixtlán, Oaxaca are outraged and [insistent] that this aggression was completely unjustified.

The community declared in an interview:

"President Enrique Peña Nieto refuses to talk with the teachers and the people because we do not accept the education reform being imposed on us, because if it is allowed it will deny the right of education to the children and youth of the state."

"The hospitals denied medical attention to the wounded population due to orders received from state and federal authorities. In this aggression paramilitaries beat up doctors and nurses who valiantly served the wounded population and teachers."

On account of this, the Oaxaca chapter of the Peoples' Human Rights Observatory declares:

1. The people of Oaxaca and the teachers have united in defence of public education, general and free, and against the reforms to privatize education, peacefully and in accordance with constitutional laws.

2. For the same reasons the people and the teachers continue to organize themselves peacefully to demand:

- The education reform proposed by the President of Mexico Enrique Peña Nieto be repealed.

- Justice in the face of the aggression against the people of Oaxaca and teachers.

- An end to the repression and to not permit Oaxaca to become a military camp.

- Respect for constitutional guarantees and human rights as laid out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenants on human rights.

In conclusion:

1. As witnesses of the Peoples' Human Rights Observatory we have seen the aggression of the federal and state police who, with hoods and civilian dress shot, beat, assassinated and disappeared civilians and teachers with impunity. Those in uniform fired from a helicopter, a plane and from the rooftops of the hotels and nearby buildings towards the site of the aggression.

The human rights observers of the people therefore call upon national and international human rights organizations to send their groups of observers to testify to all these crimes against humanity in Oaxaca.

(Oaxaca de Juarez, Oaxaca, Mexico, June 20, 2016)

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Letter to Organizations in Canada

Brothers and sisters of various organizations in Canada,

Please receive our fraternal greetings of solidarity in the name of the Peoples' Human Rights Observatory in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Mexico is living through the worst human rights crisis in recent history. The most serious attacks against human dignity have become the norm to the extent of disappearances of people; extrajudicial executions; the most cruel and inhuman torture; kidnapping; exploitation, slavery and expulsion of migrants; abductions, followed by the appearance of mutilated bodies; the emptying of communal lands to establish mega-businesses or projects of death; the forced removal of populations by organized crime; and the commission of crimes by the armed forces on the pretext of security.

All of these are also old practices which keep an immovable caste in power: electoral fraud, vote-buying, illicit campaign financing, universal corruption in the behaviour of the government and the repression of all forms of resistance. All this is called neo-liberalism and has enthroned the wealthy in power.

Recent events are outstanding for their paradigmatic character: the execution of more than 20 people in Tlatlaya, Mexico State, where the army intervened; the events in Apatzingan where federal police killed various people; the confrontation in Equaderno, and also in Michoacan; and the forced disappearance of 43 students in the rural normal school of Ayotzinapa, Iguala Guerrero on September 26 and 27, 2014. In the most recent event six more people were killed.

Oaxaca sees frequent human rights violations. This has been shown by the crimes committed by [former Governor of Oaxaca] Ulises Ruiz Ortiz against the people and the teachers of Oaxaca in 2006 and recently the massacre committed on June 19, 2016 in Nochtitxlan, Oaxaca by the government of Enrique Peña Nieto.

Indigenous peoples are thrown out of their territories through the imposition of deadly projects established by foreign businesses, backed up by sellout neo-liberal governments who favour them, promoting hunger, looting, destruction and confrontations between communities. These business interests and neo-liberal governments support open aggression from paramilitaries or hitmen, with the peoples suffering grave violations to their social, cultural and economic rights.

Indigenous peoples are facing perpetual violations of their collective rights to forge their collective and individual relations in accordance with their own social practices, the life of their community and their needs. Amongst these we can count the right to life, to peace, to their territory, to development and to a clean and healthy environment.

Against this dark background the Peoples' Human Rights Observatory was born on June 13 and 14 in Oaxaca, Mexico. The Observatory is an initiative of the people and the popular exercise of the people's human rights, participatory democracy and justice locally, nationally and internationally. It stands for the active building and deepening of resistance and the strengthening of people's power.

There is a great need to introduce the Peoples' Human Rights Observatory in Oaxaca, Mexico to the world. We would like to introduce Daniela González Lopez, coordinator of the observatory, as well as Soledad Ortiz of the Technical Secretariat which exposes and denounces systematic human rights violations against organizations and peoples, and would like to share our experiences.

We look forward to the opportunity to share our experiences in the work and the struggle with you very soon.

Yours in Solidarity,

The Peoples' Human Rights Observatory

(Oaxaca de Juarez, Oaxaca, Mexico, June 30, 2016)

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Venezuela Fights Back Against U.S. Imperialist-Inspired Counter-Revolution

Workers Take Back Factory from U.S. Company
After 1,000 Layoffs

Venezuelan Labour Minister Oswaldo Vera signs workers' petition to reopen the
Kimberley-Clark Plant.

Venezuela's Labour Ministry approved workers' request to occupy a paper products plant previously owned by the U.S. consumer products monopoly Kimberly-Clark after the company laid off its workers and closed the plant on July 9.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro condemned the transnational firm for its decision on state television on July 11: "Forty-eight hours ago, without notice, a U.S. company called Kimberly-Clark, violating national laws and the constitution, fired almost 1,000 workers from its production plant, closed the door and left the country."

Venezuela's 2012 Labour Law strictly prohibits mass firings and factories that shut their doors illegally are liable to be reopened under workers' control.

"Kimberly is now in the hands of the workers [...] and we are going to invest the necessary resources in order to consolidate [the plant]," Maduro added.

According to the Labour Ministry, the plant has a monthly output of 33 million diapers, 20 million sanitary pads, 27 million thin liners, and 17 million rolls of toilet paper -- all of which has been restored with the plant now operating at full capacity, the Ministry reported on July 12.

Plant operating at full production under workers' control.

In a press statement, Kimberly-Clark claimed its difficulties accessing raw materials and U.S. dollars for imports were the reason for the closure. Several other firms -- including Bridgestone, General Mills, and Procter & Gamble -- have made similar claims and scaled back operations in Venezuela in recent months.

Venezuelan Industry Minister Miguel Pérez Abad confirmed on July 15 that warehouses belonging to Kimberly-Clark Corporation were found to be full of raw materials, despite the factory owners' insistence that they could not produce goods.

"Kimberly-Clark will continue producing for all Venezuelans and is now in the hands of the workers," said Labour Minister Oswaldo Vera. Industry Minister Perez Abad added that the factory has enough raw materials to last until the end of the calendar year.

The president described these activities as "economic sabotage," pointing to the vast amount of U.S. dollars they have received from the Venezuelan state in exchange for production or imports.

Maduro pointed out that the economic warfare waged by transnational firms and foreign states against his government includes the financial blockade by major banks, credit agencies, and international financial institutions. He gave the recent example of Citibank's decision to close the account of Venezuela's Central Bank (BCV).

"With no warning, Citibank says that in 30 days it will close the Central Bank and the Bank of Venezuela's accounts," Maduro said in a speech, noting that the government uses the U.S. bank for a range of international transactions. Venezuela faces U.S.$8.3 billion in bond payments due later this year, which international creditors have refused to renegotiate.

"Do you think they're going to stop us with a financial blockade? ... No one stops Venezuela," said Maduro.

In February, Venezuela defied expectations by making U.S.$1.5 billion payment on the state oil company PDVSA's bonds.

Over the last four months, the price of Venezuelan oil has steadily rallied from an historic low of U.S.$24 a barrel in February, reaching an average of nearly $40 a barrel in June. Venezuela's economy is highly reliant on crude oil exports.


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Special Report: Hunger in Venezuela?
A Look Beyond the Spin

Local food vendors at market in Caracas, Venezuela.

You may have seen the headlines about Venezuela -- headlines that allude to food scarcity, rioting, people eating stray animals to survive, and a country on the brink of starvation. These stories are not only alarming, but perplexing, too. Is this the same country that was recognized by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as recently as 2015 for having nearly eradicated hunger?[1] Is this the same country that has been the focus of international delegations and extensive alternative media coverage for its 'food sovereignty experiment' involving agrarian reform, food distribution programs, and direct citizen participation in the food system?[2] What's going on?

There is a nuanced story behind the current headlines on Venezuela. It's a challenging moment for average working class Venezuelans as they navigate long lines at the grocery store, a lack of key food staples, and inflated prices in order to feed their families.

But there's not an overall food shortage -- food is in abundance, with distribution serving a bottleneck.

There are numerous explanations coming from both government and citizens. What is driving the current 'scarcity amidst abundance' in Venezuela? How did the present situation come to be? How dire is it, and what are the responses coming from communities, social movements, and the government? To what extent is the present situation being distorted in the media, and why? This article attempts to delve behind the headlines to address these questions.

A Petroleum Economy and a Food System in the Balance

For nearly a century, Venezuela's economy has centered around oil, which accounts for the vast majority of its foreign earnings -- over 95% at present -- and national budget.[3] Since the 1930s, the orientation towards petroleum also meant a shift away from agriculture, which came with a massive price tag. As both the state and private capital withdrew from the countryside, Venezuela's peasant farmers and rural workers could no longer earn a living. Many flocked to Caracas and other urban hubs in search of work, making Venezuela one of the most urbanized countries in Latin America, with upwards of 90% of its population living in cities today.[4] It also became the first country in the region to be a net importer of food, as it was cheaper to import food with petroleum dollars than to produce it.[5] Such conditions facilitated development of a powerful food import and distribution complex, controlled by national and international corporate conglomerates.

Members of a Venezuelan commune
carrying produce for market.

As a producer of a high demand commodity and a voracious consumer of food imports, Venezuela became firmly inserted into the global economy in ways that have rendered it particularly vulnerable to fluctuations in global oil and food prices and to domestic inflation. The companies responsible for food imports and distribution have been able to use these conditions to their advantage in certain ways. For instance, since 1983, when the Venezuelan bolivar suffered a sharp devaluation against the US dollar, driving up inflation, a common practice has been to align product prices with black market currency rates as opposed to official (regulated) currency rates, further fueling inflation in the process.[6]

Venezuela's ability to import food through oil earnings in the past did not mean that its population was well fed. Indeed, the imports tended to be at prices well out of reach of the country's poor majority. In 1989, then-President Andrés Pérez signed a structural adjustment deal with the International Monetary Fund, causing abrupt surges in food and fuel prices; the price of bread rose by over 600%.[7] For the over 60% of the population already living in poverty, enough was enough. Hundreds of thousands of people poured into Caracas from surrounding impoverished hillside communities, protesting in the streets and looting shops. The government responded to this massive mobilization by ordering the military to open fire on the protesters. The official death toll was 276 civilians, with actual deaths estimated to be much higher.

Efforts Toward Change

At the beginning of Venezuela's Bolivarian Revolution in 1999, with still over half of the population facing hunger and poverty, both the government and citizens identified food production and provisioning as strategic priorities -- and significant strides have been made in the years since. On the production end, the state has made substantial reinvestments in agriculture, including an agrarian reform process to redistribute large landholdings and support small- and mid-scale farmers and fishers. On the distribution end, strategies have included increased availability of basic food items at subsidized and regulated prices and provision of free meals via school and workplace programs as well as community-based feeding sites.

These efforts have made historic gains in food security, as recognized by FAO, but they are mainly [isolated] projects rather than systemic shifts. That is, even with domestic production reinvigorated and the population better fed, the country's powerful longstanding food import and distribution complex has remained largely unaltered. Today, Venezuela's food and medicine supply is mostly controlled by twenty companies,[8] and one of these, Polar, is responsible for eight of the items in Venezuela's basic food basket, according to the Minister of Agriculture.[9] For instance, Polar is responsible for 62% of the market for pre-cooked corn flour used for corn patties, called arepas, that form an essential part of the Venezuelan diet.[10]

Scarcity Amidst Abundance?

What is going on in Venezuela today? While periodic food shortages are nothing new, particularly at politically heightened moments, for more than three years the country has experienced ongoing shortages of particular basic food products in addition to shortages of medicines and personal hygiene items such as soap, toilet paper, menstrual supplies, and diapers. It is the particularity of the missing items that is essential -- and often overlooked or distorted in media reports. There is no overall shortage of food and other basic goods in Venezuela. What is missing from supermarket shelves are particular essential items, while others are in abundance. There is a lack of milk, while dairy products such as yogurt and cheese are available. There is a lack of pre-cooked corn flour, while other corn-based products such as porridge are available. There is a lack of coffee, another Venezuelan essential, while teas, hot chocolate, and other hot beverage mixes abound. The plot thickens when one leaves the supermarket and goes out into the streets. Prepared coffee is available on every street corner, and in every cafe. Areperas selling arepas with all sorts of fillings are ubiquitous.

Why, then, are essential items missing from supermarket shelves? The two most common arguments of the distribution companies are that a) the regulated prices set by the government to ensure accessibility are too low, providing a disincentive to distributors and b) with the plummeting of oil prices, insufficient dollars are available for import of necessary primary materials. When Venezuelan economist and Universidad Simón Bolívar professor Pasqualina Curcio put these claims to the test in her extensive investigation of the country's current economic situation, she had some interesting findings.[11] First, several of the missing products have not been regulated since 2010, and among those that are regulated, the government has raised prices in an effort to incentivize distributors several times recently, but this has not resulted in increased availability. Second, the shortages began to intensify in 2013, before oil prices plummeted and while dollars were still readily available. Even once oil prices dropped and dollars became less available, the government continued to prioritize dollars for food import, and by their own accounting, the production levels of Venezuela's major food companies have been stable or have even increased in that time. Curcio also found a correlation between intensity of food shortages and politically important moments, such as the lead-up to elections. Could it be that the shortages are manufactured? Many food sovereignty activists see it as no coincidence that Polar, the country's largest food company, responsible for many of the items missing from shelves, is owned by a well-known member of the political opposition to the government.

Regardless of what is driving the shortages, there is no doubt they are taking a toll on the population. For most people, the only ways to access basic products are to wait in extremely long lines when and where they are available -- and it is important to note that this task falls disproportionately upon women. Another option is to buy basic products as contraband on the street through the parallel market, where they are sold at exponentially inflated prices. Here it bears emphasis again that the shortages are of specific products, so other food remains available. For instance, Venezuela is largely self-sufficient in fruits, vegetables and root crops, which are mostly produced by small- and mid-scale farmers. As these are distributed through decentralized networks, they have for the most part been unaffected by the shortages and are abundant in street markets around the country. However, as people substitute available products for unavailable ones (e.g., cassava, potatoes, and plantains in place of corn flour, pasta, and other processed carbohydrates), increased demand, together with high inflation and speculation, is driving up food prices overall, both in shops and on the streets. The result is an immensely challenging and stressful situation for most Venezuelans as they strive to feed their families.

A Look at Impacts

Beyond the psychological and economic impacts of the shortages, lines, and high prices, what are the physical effects? How are levels of hunger and nutrition being impacted? Here we will share both what we know and don't know. What we do know is that based on the most recent food intake statistics available at the end of 2015, Venezuelans were consuming a daily average of 3,092 calories, which is well above the FAO's recommendation of 2,720 for food security, but down from 2011 when average consumption was 3,221 calories.[12]

Local food and distribution networks (CLAPs) coordinate with government to organize distribution of food to those who need it.

There are several reflections to be made. First, averages do not tell us about impacts on the most vulnerable populations. The flip side, however, is that Venezuela has a host of social programs specifically targeted at most vulnerable populations, which has likely contributed to keeping the caloric averages high. Second, averages also do not tell us anything about food quality. Some argue current conditions are driving people toward more limited and less healthy dietary options, while others argue just the opposite -- that as processed options are less available, people are opting for more nutritious whole foods as replacements. Likely there is some of both happening, and data is not yet available to tell us much more. Finally, in the months since these statistics were released, shortages and price inflation have both intensified. Data is not yet available to tell us if average caloric intake has dropped further, but anecdotal evidence suggests that it likely has. According to the National Institute of Nutrition, however, the situation is being carefully monitored and Venezuelans' caloric intake as a whole continues to remain well above the recommended minimum.

The bottom line? Indeed, people are having a harder time accessing food right now in Venezuela. The situation is serious and needs to be addressed urgently. Is Venezuela in the midst of a humanitarian crisis? No, not according to Venezuela's Department of Health, international authorities such as the FAO, or our own observations and numerous interviews with community organizers and citizens. Are people eating dogs? We recently asked people in working class rural and urban communities in six different states about this rumor; a common response, after initial shock, was "well, hot dogs, sure " And rioting? So far riots have been isolated incidents and disproportionately in opposition-led areas, although the situation merits close monitoring and further investigation.[13]

Why, then, the extreme media distortion? Here it is important to look at the broader picture. While the media is painting a desperate situation in Venezuela, the opposition-controlled national assembly is calling for the ousting of President Maduro and the US is calling to extend economic sanctions. Both are using the "humanitarian crisis" as justification -- and the media is reflecting these claims rather than the much more complex reality on the ground.[14]


While the government can still do more in its campaign to root out corruption in both the private and public sectors as well as implement further reforms in the currency exchange system, it certainly has not been sitting back in the face of the shortages. On the contrary, both the government and communities are taking the situation seriously, ramping up existing social protections while piloting new approaches. Among the latter are Local Provisioning and Production Committees, known as CLAPs, which have rapidly formed across the country in recent months. CLAPs are partnerships between grassroots organizations and the government to provide an alternative food distribution network in all 24 states. CLAPs have a twofold purpose. In the immediate term, they are working to combat lines, shortages, and speculation by delivering basic food products directly to people. The government purchases goods directly from both private and state enterprises, which the CLAPs distribute house to house based on community censuses. The project is seen as a temporary stop-gap solution to the current shortages, aimed at the most vulnerable fifth of the population. In the longer term, CLAPs are also intended to engage in local food production and processing. In tandem is a major push for urban agriculture, overseen by a newly formed Ministry of Urban Agriculture. A recent hundred-day planting campaign involving 29,000 urban productive spaces throughout the country aims to increase the amount of fresh produce, eggs, fish, and animal protein available locally.[15] These efforts are complemented by a renewed push for production in the countryside.

Meanwhile, social movements are seizing the moment to forge deeper transformation toward food sovereignty. Driven by necessity, unprecedented numbers of people are engaging and re-engaging in agriculture, from community farms to backyard patios, and in the process, exchanging seeds, bartering goods, and creating new local enterprises. A reduced supply of industrial agriculture inputs is also driving a transition toward organic practices and agroecology, in what some are likening to Cuba's special period. The shortages are also causing a shift from processed foods and a renewed appreciation of local foods and traditional foodways. Many activists see these developments as elements of a new food system, a project they have been trying to advance for many years.

This transformative vision is reflected in the country's newly adopted seed law, pushed forward by social movements, which bans GMOs while protecting locally-produced seeds of Venezuela's peasant, Indigenous, and Afro-descendent communities.[16] It is also reflected in the Feria Conuqera, a highly popular monthly alternative market held in Caracas, featuring agroecological and artisanal alternatives to many of the products missing from supermarket shelves, from arepa mixes made from plantains, cassava, and fresh corn, to homemade soaps, deodorants, and other basic goods. Plan Pueblo a Pueblo, a grassroots project to forge direct people-to-people links between urban and rural communities, is also having success: in just over a year, this initiative has reached more than 40,000 urban families with affordable fresh foods while working to build a new food system across the urban-rural divide. A key mechanism enabling this effort to expand so rapidly is that it works through already established citizen-led social institutions known as comunas. According to food activist Gabriel Gil, "the current crisis is pushing us to organize -- and the comunas are key vehicles for doing so."

Questioning the Headlines

While hunger anywhere deserves high-level media coverage, it bears asking why Venezuela, a country which, by many indicators, has made important advances against hunger and poverty, is being targeted daily for dire coverage that does not reflect reality on the ground. Furthermore, why are the challenges being covered (albeit in a distorted manner), but not the many innovative and successful responses, from an explosion of urban agriculture, to an agroecological transition, to unprecedented levels of citizen organization around food production and provisioning? The answers to this are multifold, complex, and subject to different perspectives and interpretations, but we hope readers are encouraged to seek out more information before taking current news reports at face value.


1. FAO (2015) 'Venezuela and FAO create SANA, a new cooperation programme to eliminate hunger.'

2. Schiavoni, C. (2015) "The Venezuelan Food Sovereignty Experiment."

3. Lander, E. (2014) "Venezuela: Terminal crisis of the rentier petro-state model?"

4. Wilpert, G. (2006) 'Land for People Not for Profit in Venezuela,' Rosset, P. Patel, R. and M. Courville, eds., Promised Land, 249-264. Oakland, CA: Food First Books.

5. Ibid.

6. Boza, T. (2014) La Guerra contra el Pueblo: Reflexiones para el Contraataque Popular. Maracaibo: Fundación Construyendo Ciudadanía.

7. Hardy, C. (2007). Cowboy in Caracas: A North American's Memoir of Venezuela's Democratic Revolution. Willimantic, CT: Curbstone Books.

8. Curcio, P. (2016). "Apenas 20 empresas controlan la oferta de alimentos y medicinas en el país."

9. Edgard, R. (2016) "Los Clap: El resuelve de los pobres."

10. Curcio, P. (2016). "Apenas 20 empresas controlan la oferta de alimentos y medicinas en el país."

11. Personal communication with Pasqualina Curcio on 23 June 2016. Also see: Curcio, P. (2016) "Los CLAP'S: ¿camino para la paz económica?"

12. Personal communication with National Nutrition Institute representatives on 27 June 2015. See also "Memoria y Cuenta 2015, Ministerio del Poder Popular para la Alimentación (MINPPAL) -- Tomo I."

13. Misión Verdad (2016) "Cartografía de los saqueos: actores, tácticas y métodos."

14. See here.  Also, for a news clip (in Spanish) of former commander of US Southern Command John Kelly saying that the US would consider intervening in Venezuela to avert a "humanitarian crisis" involving lack of food and water, see minute 3 of this video by CNN.

15. See here.

16. Camacaro, W., Mills, F. and C. Schiavoni (2016) "Venezuela Passes Law Banning GMOs, by Popular Demand."

* Food First, also known as the Institute for Food and Development Policy, is a nonprofit organization based in Oakland, California, USA. Founded in 1975 by Frances Moore Lappé and Joseph Collins, it describes itself as a "people's think tank and education-for-action centre".

Food First believes that world hunger is not an inevitable phenomenon that occurs simply because there is not enough food produced worldwide. Instead, it argues that there is an enormous surplus of food produced by corporate agri-businesses based in wealthy developed nations. Essentially, this enormous surplus of food is a reflection of broader global inequalities that deeply impact and harm marginalized third-world countries worldwide. While challenging the myth that world hunger exists because there is simply not enough food produced or available, Food First's executive director Eric Holz-Gimenez and expert on the world food system Raj Patel explain that, "according to the FAO, with record grain harvests in 2007, there was more than enough food in the world to feed everyone -- at least 1.5 times current demand."

Food First strongly opposes the policies of institutions such as the World Trade Organization, World Bank, and International Monetary Fund. It also played an active role in the campaign against the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas.

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Reports of Attacks Against Food Distribution
Trucks Increase in Venezuela

Venezuelan media outlet Últimas Noticias reported July 14 that in the last three months there have been 18 robberies along the country's Central Regional Highway, negatively affecting national food distribution. The recent surge in attacks against producers and their distributors are allegedly carried out by bachaqueros, buyers and re-sellers of food as well as other products, in addition to organized gangs.

The Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) post in Tazón, Caracas officially documented the 18 robberies and five unsuccessful attempts against trucks carrying vegetables and fruits along the Central Regional Highway. In 2015, four trucks were the victims of robberies between September and December representing a significant spike in attacks.

Community Council "The Breeze" from Miranda State researched bachaqueo networks in their own sector, Rebirth. Their study found that, "they [bachaqueros] have two trucks where they stock the food. They sell this food to informal workers and these [workers] re-sell the goods to the people of Ocumare del Tuy."

Arelis Prado, representative of the Collective "Awakening 2021" from Minas de Baruta has worked with national producers from Tachira State to deliver and distribute vegetables in their community. However, constant attacks along roads have caused delays he expressed.

"The first time the truck carried 150 bags of five kilos of different vegetables and fruits. They tried to rob the truck when it passed through Aragua State. They [the producers] decided to return and come two days later," he explained.

Not only have local networks been targeted but also government initiatives such as the Sardine Caravan coming out of Sucre state.

Enio Aguilera, an owner of a truck that was wrecked during an attack, reported that seven vehicles were damaged on their way to the Socialist Fish Fair with the Sardine Caravan. "It was direct sabotage because we could not transport the fish to other parts of the country in the following days," he explained.

Likewise, reports of damaged trucks and slashed tires but untouched and unstolen food have arisen indicating that intimidation and not only re-selling are among the reasons behind attacks.

"The cruelty they show toward Sucre state is because we are the state with the greatest fish production and we are solving part of the food crisis due to the economic war," said Aguilera.

Both of these former cases have been reported to the Socialist Fishing and Agricultural Institute (Insopesca) which has assumed part of the repair costs and is currently carrying out an investigation regarding the incidents.

Last month, 400 people were arrested in Cumaná, Sucre for ransacking local stores out of frustrations with the current economic situation and inaccessibility of certain goods. Since then, the government has signed agreements with Trinidad and Tobago to provide food and other basic goods to locations across the country, including the Caribbean coastal state.

The national government continues to search for answers to resolve the ongoing issues facing the country's producers and distribution networks.

Vice president Aristóbulo Istúriz said earlier this year that, "[farmers] cannot produce in the countryside if there is insecurity. We will give special attention to the countryside in regard to all the work we are doing. This is a security issue that the State must resolve."

The Venezuelan government has implemented several strategies to address the country's access to food. Recent commercial agreements with neighboring countries along with local food distribution networks, known as CLAPs, have formed.

This week, President Nicolás Maduro also confirmed the creation of the Great Sovereign and Secure Supply Mission, a national program targeted at promoting agricultural, industrial, and pharmaceutical production.

The government is also trying to crack down on bachaqueo networks and corruption. Last week, 21 people were arrested in Mérida State, along the border with Colombia, for allegedly participating in a bachaqueo network confirmed Venezuelan Secretary General Gerardo Molina.

(venezuelanalysis.com, July 14, 2016)

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