The 2017 Munich Security Report, published in advance
meeting, bears the title, "Post-Truth, Post-West, Post-Order?"
Wolfgang Ischinger, Chairman of the Munich Security Conference,
former German ambassador to the UK and United States and former
German Deputy Foreign Minister explained that the theme reflects
concern about the decline of U.S. leadership under the Trump
presidency. In the face of this, Germany should increase its
leadership role in the European Union and fill the void left by
the U.S., Ischinger and others contend.
This view was echoed at the Conference by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel. A February 20 report from german-foreign-policy.com states:
"At the Munich Security Conference last weekend, the German government assumed the role of an ally 'on a par' with the United States. The chancellor and several ministers of Germany formulated conditions for continued cooperation with the U.S. government, while holding out the prospect of a 'stronger Europe,' which, according to Germany's Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, should be capable of independently 'coping successfully' with the 'reality of crises and wars outside the bounds of the European Union.' Appropriate rearmament measures are being prepared. The chancellor conceives of a military budget increase of around eight percent annually, while the discussion on German-European nuclear arms is continuing. Publicists are hinting at the possibility of Berlin sharing influence over the Force de Frappe [French nuclear weapons force] through co-financing France's nuclear arms arsenal. Berlin is still relying on the alliance with Washington, at least for the time being, because rearmament and access to nuclear arms take time."
Merkel and Gabriel, while pledging to increase German defence spending, also said that the country's other initiatives, such as taking in Syrian and other refugees, should be considered part of their contribution as a NATO member. To reach the NATO target of two per cent of GDP spent on defence, Germany would have to spend an additional 25 billion euros in the coming years. Merkel reaffirmed Germany's commitment to this target but said that to expect it to be met too soon is unrealistic. Gabriel claimed that Germany is already spending 30-40 billion euros per year to house refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan "which are flooding into our country because military interventions some years ago went terribly wrong. If we take in these [refugees], integrate them, and prevent them from going to other parts of the world as foreign fighters, that is also part of the debate that we must have," Gabriel said.
At the same time, the speech of U.S. Vice President Mike Pence at the Conference on February 18 was said to signal that the U.S. will continue to lead NATO and the Europe of the monopolies. Some, including Britain's foreign minister, are calling on NATO members in Europe to close ranks around the U.S. and take measures to increase support for its leadership on the world scale. Pence stated:
"The president asked me to be here today to convey a message, a reassurance -- the U.S. strongly supports NATO and we will be unwavering in our commitment to this transatlantic alliance. Let no one doubt our commitment. [...] As you keep faith with us, under President Trump we will always keep faith with you. ... The fates of the United States and Europe are intertwined. Your struggles are our struggles. Your success is our success. And ultimately, we walk into the future together." Referring to the U.S. demand for increased military spending, Pence said, "The President of the United States expects our allies to keep their word, fulfill this commitment, and for most that means the time has come to do more."
Canada's effort to reconcile its full support for U.S. foreign policy under Trump with the neo-liberal imperialist humanitarianism it espouses was evident in the remark of Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland that "Our country continues to advocate for human rights and the rule of law, and the Munich Security Conference will provide an essential opportunity to reinforce Canada's enduring alliances."
On February 16, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau praised the approach of the Trump administration in remarks to the European Union Parliament in Strasbourg, France. "What I saw from the American president was a focus on getting things done for the people who supported him and who believe in him, while demonstrating that good relations with one's neighbours is a great way of getting things done," said Trudeau. He said it is a "positive example that everyone is going to benefit from around the world."
Promotion of Rearmament as a Solution
Despite the differences expressed by the U.S. and German leadership and their supporters, the solutions presented by both hinge on German rearmament and increases in the defence spending of NATO countries to "pay their fair share."
On Tuesday, February 21, German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen announced plans to increase the size of Germany's armed forces by around 10 per cent, from 178,000 to 198,000 by the year 2024. On the first day of the Munich Conference von der Leyen stated, "We are aware that we must shoulder a greater share of the transatlantic security burden. We want to grow, we want to do it as Europeans."
On February 16, von der Leyen said that "We Europeans, we Germans, we have to do more for our own security. We have to invest more. It isn't fair that the Americans contribute twice as much as all Europeans together." Von der Leyen said that Germany's foreign policy can only be sustained "if we continuously invest more in the Bundeswehr [German army]."
In recent years, German soldiers have been deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, Lebanon, Lithuania Mali, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Turkey and Uzbekistan as well as the Mediterranean and Indian Oceans. The Bundeswehr also includes some Brigades of smaller NATO members such as the Netherlands, Czech Republic and Romania integrated directly into its command. This is considered preparation for a European military union.
Munich Security Conference Chairman Ischinger in an interview with German business newspaper Handelsblatt said, "The previous agreement was that the EU project is to be protected and that NATO is the shield." The EU must now "speak with one voice and has to become more able to act militarily," he said. He further called for a defence and security union within the EU and "pooling and sharing" weapons between EU member states. Ischinger suggested that foreign policy and security decisions should be made by majority vote of EU countries.
A February 1 Handelsblatt article noted, "Germany is arming itself again, with the support of all mainstream parties -- a novelty in the country's post-war history. Still, despite all these sharp figures, there's one number that looms over the German military more than any other: 2 percent.
"If U.S. President Donald Trump gets his way, Germany would need to spend an additional 20 billion per year on its armed forces. Despite last year's boost, the country's defense budget currently totals only about 1.2 percent of its gross domestic product -- far from the 2 percent that all 28 NATO members committed to aim for by 2024."
Contention Within U.S. Ruling Circles
U.S. Secretary of Defense Mattis in his remarks to the Conference on February 17 said that the "transatlantic bond remains our strongest bulwark against instability and violence." He said that NATO exists to protect the "way of life" of its member states. Mattis said that President Trump has "thrown his full support to NATO and believes in NATO's need to adapt to today's strategic situation for it to remain credible, capable and relevant," according to a Defense Department report.
Underlining the contention not just among big powers but within U.S. ruling circles, John McCain, the Republican head of the powerful U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee also spoke on the first day of the Conference. He began by stating, in what many saw as a reference to the U.S. President, "Not every American understands the absolutely vital role that Germany and its honorable Chancellor, Chancellor Merkel, are playing in defense of the idea and the conscience of the West. But for all of us who do, let me say thank you."
"The unprecedented period of security and prosperity that we have enjoyed for the past seven decades did not happen by accident. It happened not only because of the appeal of our values, but because we backed them with our power and persevered in their defense," McCain said. Most alarming, he said, is "a sense that many of our peoples, including in my own country, are giving up on the West."
Contrasting the Vice President and Secretaries to
Trump and his stated positions, McCain said, "I know there is
profound concern across Europe and the world that America is
laying down the mantle of global leadership. I can only speak for
myself, but I do not believe that is the message you will hear
from all of the American leaders who cared enough to travel here
to Munich this weekend. That is not the message you heard today
from Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. That is not the message you
will hear from Vice President Mike Pence. That is not the message
you will hear from Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly."
1. Participants included new UN Secretary-General António Guterres, European Council President Donald Tusk, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and a U.S. delegation including Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis. The Canadian delegation included Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland and Minister of Defence Harjit Sajjan. Around 450 attendees from around the world, described by Global Affairs Canada as "senior decision-makers," took part.
2. A Handelsblatt editorial by Donata Reidel dated February 16 further argued that "Germans' peace-loving attitude has amounted to near shirking in recent decades. Disarmament was only possible to such a degree because the U.S. was holding a protective military umbrella over Europe. [...] NATO partners' wish for more German involvement is thoroughly justified, and our political parties must convince their voters more actively of this necessity."
Reidel complained, "And though Berlin has focused on rearmament since the 2014 annexation of the Crimea by Russia, Germans continue to blithely ignore reality. The majority of Germans reject more military expenditures, according to a new survey by the Forsa Institute, commissioned by Stern magazine and the Pew Research Center ahead of the Munich Security Conference. While 70 percent of Germans agree that their country should 'assume international responsibility,' they consider that to mean building schools and wells in developing and war-torn countries, and not military intervention. Only 38 percent of respondents said they believe that the German military should engage in more combat missions against the extremist group Islamic State. Some 55 percent opposed a further military spending increase that Berlin promised NATO three years ago."
"It's no longer just a joke that German military airplanes are far too often unable to fly, or that ships stay docked and soldiers go untrained. Except for atomic weapons, the German military must quickly match the military capabilities of the British and French," Reidel said.
(Photos: DFG-VK Würzburg, H.M. Vilsmeier)
Germany's Striving to Become Torchbearer
The G20 meeting also saw the first bilateral meetings between the new U.S. Secretary of State, former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, and his Russian, Chinese, British, French and German counterparts.
After meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Tillerson said, "the United States will consider working with Russia where we can find areas of practical cooperation that will benefit the American people. Where we do not see eye to eye, the United States will stand up for the interests and values of America and her allies. As we search for new common ground, we expect Russia to honor its commitment to the Minsk agreements and work to de-escalate the violence in the Ukraine." Lavrov called the meeting "pragmatic" and told media that among the topics discussed were Afghanistan, Syria and Ukraine and that "As soon as the teams in the State Department and the relevant agencies are formed, we expressed readiness to establish contacts."
The use of the G20 Foreign Ministers' Meeting to interfere in the sovereign affairs of various peoples was exemplified by a joint declaration of the foreign ministers of U.S., Japan and south Korea -- issued from the meeting -- denouncing the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). The statement called for an "even stronger" hostile response to the DPRK exercising its right as a sovereign country to develop its defence capabilities. Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministers of Russia and China met and called for the resumption of talks on denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi further told his counterpart that China and Russia should support each other amid uncertainty in international relations, media reports said.
1. The G20 describes itself as "the central forum for international cooperation on financial and economic questions." Germany, which holds the G20 presidency for 2017, will also host the G20 Leaders' Summit in July. The Foreign Ministers' Meeting took place at the former seat of the West German parliament before it was moved to Berlin following the annexation of the east.
The G20 members are Argentina, Australia, Brazil,
China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic
of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey,
United Kingdom, United States, and the European Union.
Provocations Against Cuba and Venezuela
Cuba's Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on February 22 that it took measures to counter an anti-Cuba provocation mounted by the Secretary General of the Washington, DC-based Organization of American States (OAS), anti-Cuba mercenaries and their foreign sponsors. An OAS-linked group, the "Latin American Youth Network for Democracy" announced plans to present an award in Havana to Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the OAS for his supposed outstanding performance in the "defence of democracy" and dealings with countries in crisis and where "democracy is in regression" in Latin America. Figures from previous neo-liberal regimes in Mexico and Chile were also invited. The prize Luis Almagro was to receive is named for a deceased anti-Cuban "dissident" whose Miami-based daughter heads up the network in question and a group to carry on the U.S. crusade for a "transition to democracy" in Cuba.
TML Weekly denounces
the attempt by the OAS Secretary General in collusion with enemies of
Cuba in the U.S. to institutionalize opposition to Cuba through the
OAS, an organization founded to facilitate U.S. domination over the
countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. While Almagro is reported
to have made the laughable assertion that by exercising its sovereignty
Cuba has shown it is "not yet ready to return to the OAS," Cuba upholds
its dignity and gives its sovereign no to those who would organize a
provocation on its soil. It is more than just. Furthermore, Cuban
President Raul Castro has affirmed time and time again that Cuba will
never rejoin the illegitimate OAS.
OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro is notorious for using his position to interfere in the sovereign affairs of countries that refuse to kowtow to the agenda of U.S. imperialism in the region. While crudely attempting to bait Cuba, he continues his dirty work against Venezuela and its people in close cooperation with pro-coup oligarchs in that country. This is despite being soundly rebuked in his June 2016 attempt to mobilize OAS member states to invoke the organization's Inter-American Democratic Charter against Venezuela which allows for the suspension of a member if it is deemed to have violated what the Charter terms democratic principles. At an extraordinary meeting of the organization's Permanent Council on June 1 the representatives of all 35 member states refused to consider the 132-page report he had prepared or to act on his proposal to punish Venezuela, instead adopting a resolution by consensus that urged Venezuela's government and opposition to engage in dialogue "with full respect for Venezuela's sovereignty." Two weeks later at the OAS General Assembly in Santo Domingo, in spite of the best efforts of the U.S. and a handful of other countries under its sway, including Canada, member countries voted 19 to 12 in support of a request by Venezuela to have the OAS Permanent Council evaluate Almagro's conduct which Venezuela said was outside the mandate of his office and in violation of the organization's own constitution.
While he was busy publicly slandering the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Almagro had nothing to say against corrupt forces in Brazil, detested by the people, carrying out a coup against President Dilma Rousseff. The ongoing brutal attacks against the people and assassinations in Honduras, Colombia and other countries have also gone unmentioned. Almagro furthermore has nothing to say about the executive orders of the U.S. president that attack the rights of immigrants, refugees and citizens, including many citizens of Mexico and other OAS member states.
U.S. imperialism and its
instruments such as the OAS General
Secretary stand opposed to the victories of the peoples of Latin
America and the Caribbean and their governments, first and
foremost in Cuba, but also in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador,
Nicaragua and elsewhere. The people's fight for pro-social
arrangements that affirm their sovereignty and unity in action
with other peoples of the region continues irrespective of the
wishes and arrogant declarations of the U.S and its agents
despite the promises of the Trump administration that it will
step up its aggression. In light of this new U.S.-organized
provocation, Canada must continue the course it has maintained
since diplomatic relations were opened with Cuba in 1945 of
upholding Cuba's right to determine its own affairs itself.
Canada should not even think of trying to justify the
illegitimate activities of the OAS Secretary General and
proponents of the U.S. project for regime change or "transition
to democracy" in Cuba.
Over the last few weeks, international media have reported the intention of [Organization of American States (OAS)] General Secretary Luis Almagro Lemes to travel to Havana, in order to receive a "prize" invented by an illegal grouplet, which operates in concert with the ultra-right wing Foundation for Pan American Democracy, created in the days of the 7th Summit of the Americas in Panama, to channel efforts and resources in opposition to legitimate, independent governments in Our America.
The plan, plotted during several trips to Washington and other capitals of the region, consisted of mounting a serious, open provocation against the Cuban government in Havana, generating internal instability, damaging the country's international image, and at the same time, affecting the positive development of Cuba's diplomatic relations with other states. Perhaps some calculated poorly and thought that Cuba would sacrifice its fundamental principles to maintain appearances.
Drawn into the spectacle were Almagro himself and other right-wing figures who are members of the so-called Democratic Initiative for Spain and the Americas (IDEA), which has also behaved in an aggressive manner toward the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, over the last several years, as well as other Latin American and Caribbean countries with progressive and leftist governments.
Also conniving and supporting the attempted plan were other organizations with well-established anti-Cuban credentials, such as the Democracy and Community Center; the Latin American Development Research and Management Center (CADAL); and the Inter-American Institute for Democracy, run by the terrorist CIA agent Carlos Alberto Montaner. Additionally, since 2015, well known are the ties which exist between these groups and the United States' National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which receives funding from the government of this country to implement its subversive programs against Cuba.
Aware of these plans, and enforcing laws which sustain the country's sovereignty, the Cuban government decided to deny entry into national territory to foreign citizens linked to the acts described.
In an irreproachable act of transparency, in accordance with the principles which govern diplomatic relations between states, Cuban authorities contacted the governments of countries from which these persons would be traveling, and informed them, attempted to dissuade those involved, and prevent the consummation of these acts.
As international civil aviation regulations stipulate, the airlines cancelled the reservations of these passengers upon learning that they would not be welcome. Some were rerouted. There were some who attempted to manipulate the facts to serve strictly political interests within their own countries, given internal processes taking place there.
Abounding were statements by defenders of those who falsely claimed to have been persecuted, associates of dictatorships and unemployed politicians disposed to allying themselves with common mercenaries, at the service of and paid by foreign interests, which do not enjoy any recognition in Cuba, live off unsubstantiated slander, pose as victims, and act against the interests of the Cuban people and the political, economic, and social system they freely chose and have defended heroically.
In regards to Almagro and the OAS, we are not surprised by his declarations and openly anti-Cuban acts. Within a very short period of time as head of this organization, he has drawn attention by generating, with no mandate whatsoever from member states, an ambitious plan of self-promotion with attacks on progressive governments such as those in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador.
At this time, imperialist and oligarchic attacks have been redoubled against Latin American and Caribbean integration, and against democratic institutionality in several of our countries. In a neoliberal offensive, millions of Latin Americans have returned to poverty, hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs, they have been forced to emigrate, or were murdered or disappeared by mafias and traffickers -- while isolationist and protectionist ideas, environmental deterioration, deportations, religious and racial discrimination, insecurity, and brutal repression are expanding across the hemisphere.
Where has the OAS been? Remaining as always silent in the face of these realities. Why so silent? Only someone completely out of touch with the times would attempt to sell Cubans "the values and principles of the Inter-American system," given the harsh, anti-democratic reality created by this very system.
One must have a short memory to fail to recall that, in February of 1962, Cuba stood up alone before this "immoral conclave," as Fidel described it in the Second Declaration of Havana. Fifty-five years later, accompanied by peoples and governments from the entire world, it is worth reiterating that, as President Raúl Castro said, Cuba will never return to the OAS.
José Martí warned, "Neither peoples nor men respect those who do not demand respect ... men and peoples travel the world poking a finger into the flesh of others to see if it is soft, or if it resists. We must make our flesh hard, to repel the insolent fingers."
In Cuba, we do not forget history's lessons.
(February 22, 2017)
The Trump administration has lost no time in stepping up U.S. imperialism's policy of intervention in the sovereign affairs of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. On February 13, the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) declared the country's Executive Vice President Tareck El Aissami a "Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficker" under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act). It spuriously accused him along with another Venezuelan citizen it called his "frontman" of being part of an international drug trafficking and money laundering network and applied sanctions against both. No evidence was presented for any of the allegations nor was there mention of any criminal indictments.
On its website OFAC advises that U.S. persons are "generally prohibited from engaging in transactions or otherwise dealing with" those it designates under the Kingpin Act and that any assets or entities designated individuals may have under U.S. jurisdiction are frozen.
President Nicolás Maduro appointed Tareck El Aissami as Executive Vice President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela on January 4 and assigned a number of important duties to him, including heading up a new government counter-coup unit. He was previously Governor of Aragua State and from 2008 to 2012, served as Interior Minister in the government of Hugo Chávez Frías. Vice President El Aissami is reported to be the most senior foreign official ever targeted under the U.S. Kingpin Act.
Should President Maduro be removed from office by a recall referendum before the end of his current term less than two years from now, Venezuela's constitution calls for the vice president to serve out the remainder of his term until the next election. This was no doubt a factor in the U.S. decision to target Tareck El Aissami, as part of the U.S. gaining leverage for the "negotiated transition to democratic rule in Venezuela" that U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson proposed at his confirmation hearing, to be carried out in "close cooperation with our friends in the hemisphere, particularly ... Brazil and Colombia, as well as multilateral bodies such as the OAS."
The Venezuelan government immediately refuted the U.S. accusations and denounced the sanctions against the Vice President as a "political coup" against Venezuela's democratic institutions. In a February 14 statement it strongly rejected and condemned "the arbitrary and extraterritorial actions" taken by the U.S. government, saying the sanctions were based on grotesque lies and sought "to validate the vulgar and inadmissible existence of an imperial right, endowing special police powers to US government entities." Designating the country's Executive Vice President as a "drug trafficker" and applying sanctions against him represents a blatant violation of international law and the norms governing relations between nations and constitutes a serious act of aggression against Venezuela, the statement said.
Delcy Rodriguez, Minister of
the People's Power for External Relations said the sanctions were an
attempt to destroy the Venezuelan people's confidence in their
government and discredit it internationally in order to justify a coup
and foreign intervention. She also denounced CNN for the "war
propaganda" it was directing against Venezuela with reports of a
supposed network for the trafficking of Venezuelan passports out of its
embassy in Baghdad, and spuriously accusing Vice President El
Aissami of providing support for countries "linked to
international terrorism." Much has been made by CNN and certain other
monopoly-owned media sources about El Aissami being the son of Syrian
and Lebanese immigrants so as to arouse suspicion about him having
"links to Middle-Eastern terrorism."
On February 14, Rodriguez launched a diplomatic complaint and delivered a letter of protest to the U.S. Chargé d'Affaires in Venezuela and demanded that due respect be shown for the Vice President of the Republic. She pointed out that the U.S. embassy in Caracas and the Chargé d'Affaires himself were interfering directly in Venezuela's affairs in violation of the Code of Diplomacy and declared that this should stop.
A report in Venezuela's state news agency, Agencia Venezolana de Noticias points to the glaring hypocrisy of the U.S. attempting to associate Venezuela's government with drug trafficking. The report notes that ever since the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was expelled from Venezuela in 2005 for acting as a front for U.S. espionage and drug trafficking, the U.S. government has insisted on trying to link Venezuela itself to drug trafficking. As recently as August 2016, the Treasury Department also accused the current Minister of Interior Relations, Justice and Peace, Nestor Reverol of "collaborating" with drug trafficking. From 2008-2010 Reverol was the Chair of Venezuela's National Anti-Drug Office, an entity that before the DEA's expulsion operated under its control, with no supervision or participation by the Venezuelan government or its anti-narcotics operatives allowed.
The Venezuelan government pointed out that the country's achievements in combating drug trafficking have grown dramatically since the expulsion of the DEA from Venezuela in 2005 by then-President Hugo Chávez, earning it recognition from the United Nations as one of the six countries with the highest rates of narcotics confiscation in the world and whose national territory is free of illicit crops.
President Maduro called the designation and sanctioning of El Aissami an illegal, vile act that was without precedent. He suggested that the targeting of El Aissami was an act of revenge by some members of U.S. government agencies who did not like and were affected by the powerful blows delivered against narcotrafficking in Venezuela that he led after the DEA was expelled. Maduro said all legal, diplomatic and political means would be used to counter the sanctions.
Tareck El Aissami vehemently denied all the U.S. accusations and said he took them as recognition of his being an anti-imperialist revolutionary.
The designation of Venezuela's second-highest office holder as a "drug kingpin" by the Trump administration is part of an escalating, concerted effort to pave the way for an all-out attack against the Venezuelan government. It came one week after 34 Republican and Democratic members of the U.S. Congress sent a letter to Donald Trump asking for stepped-up sanctions against Venezuela and singling out Tareck El Aissami in particular. It comes on the heels of the latest trip to Washington by the leader of an opposition party opposed to dialogue with the Venezuelan government that has repeatedly tried but failed to win the Venezuelan people over to its violent, coup methods. While in Washington, Freddy Guevara, the Coordinator of Voluntad Popular and current First Vice President of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, conspired with Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) and officials of the Trump administration regarding "next steps" for the regime change they are all working for.
Since taking office, Donald Trump has expressed
"concern" about Venezuela and the need to spread "democracy" in the
hemisphere in phone conversations with Presidents of neo-liberal
governments under U.S. tutelage in Latin America. In a transcript of
remarks by President Trump and President Pedro Pablo Kuczyski of Peru
on February 23 prior to a bilateral meeting, Trump said "And we have a
problem with Venezuela. They're doing very poorly. And so we'll be
talking about a lot of different things." The readout provided for his
February 12 conversation with President Kuczynski states that Trump
"expressed concerns about developments in Venezuela, including that
country's humanitarian situation" and that the two discussed "the need
to promote democratic governance throughout the Western Hemisphere."
A February 19 readout of the President's call with President Juan Carlos Verela of Panama reported "President Trump and President Varela also discussed Venezuela, including the importance of encouraging respect for democratic norms and processes in that country."
On February 13 he spoke with President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia, again expressing "concern about the situation in Venezuela," with the two discussing "the importance of promoting respect for democratic institutions and norms throughout the Western Hemisphere."
Trump has spoken more than once with Argentina's neo-liberal president, Mauricio Macri. A readout for their February 16 conversation indicates ominously that Trump "underscored the leadership role that he sees President Macri playing in the region." In a statement of his own, Macri emphasized that he shared with Trump his "concern" about Venezuela. Argentinian website Infobae reports that Trump and Macri spoke about Venezuela and that it had been assured by "official sources" that Trump expressed concern for "the humanitarian crisis" in Venezuela and that he and Macri agreed on "regional strategies to contain the situation in Venezuela." Macri, who since taking office in 2015 has incurred the wrath of Argentinians for unleashing a host of brutal neo-liberal austerity measures and privatizations, declared his empathy for the "suffering" of Venezuelans and said what is needed is a "firm stand."
Macri's dirty work has gone beyond a public slander campaign. He was also the chief instigator in a recent campaign of the so-called triple alliance of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay to try and force Venezuela out of the South American trade bloc Mercosur. The three countries, joined by Uruguay, voted in December to suspend Venezuela and bar it from holding the one-year rotating presidency of Mercosur that fell to it at the end of July, alleging Venezuela's "failure to fulfill its membership obligations including economic and human rights agreements."
In a victory for Venezuela, applauded by the government and members of the parliamentary opposition alike, on February 20 the Board of Directors of Mercosur's Parliament (Parlasur) unanimously rejected the country's suspension from Mercosur as illegitimate, saying there was no legal basis for it as Venezuela has maintained all along. The parliamentarians affirmed that Venezuela would continue with full rights and responsibilities in Parlasur and all of its commissions, and that a proposed resolution would be put to a vote of all its members at its next plenary session.
The Venezuelan government noted that it is unfortunate and dangerous for the U.S. bureaucracy, "in criminal collusion with violent and extreme elements of the Venezuelan opposition, to be directing the new administration's relations so as to perpetuate the historical errors committed against Venezuela by former President Barack Obama."
Mark Feierstein, who was
Obama's top national security adviser for Latin America called the
sanctioning of El Aissami "an overdue step to ratchet up pressure on
the Venezuelan regime and signal that top officials will suffer
consequences if they continue to engage in massive corruption, abuse
human rights and dismantle democracy." Confirming that regime change
has always been the aim, even if it has not been accomplished so far
thanks to the resistance of Venezuelans and the peoples of other
countries in the region who reject coup methods and foreign
interference, Feierstein said, "The sanctions in and of themselves will
not bring about a democratic transition. That will require the
Venezuelan opposition to remobilize its followers and U.S. diplomatic
efforts to marshal governments in the region to isolate Maduro."
One of Obama's last acts before leaving office on January 20 was extending for a second time his Executive Order of March 9, 2015 declaring a "national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by the situation in Venezuela." Although the decree was not due to expire until March 2017, a spokesman for the National Security Council is reported to have explained that Obama had decided to "renew all national emergencies" in order to guarantee "a smooth transition" for the Trump administration.
Immediately after the Trump administration imposed these new sanctions, Venezuela's National Assembly, controlled by a pro-U.S. opposition bloc, announced it would conduct its own "investigation" into the spurious U.S. accusations. It struck a Special Commission constituted entirely of legislators from the opposition MUD coalition, headed up by Voluntad Popular's Freddy Guevara, fresh off his visits to Washington and Peru as part of the U.S. effort to isolate the Venezuelan government. Guevara and Luis Florido, another member of the same party named to the commission to "investigate" the Vice President, were both part of a three-person delegation that visited Canada last year. The aim of the trip was to drum up support for international intervention in Venezuela based on wild, unfounded accusations and lies delivered to two parliamentary committees about a "humanitarian crisis" and the government's "human rights abuses."
On February 15 Donald Trump Tweeted a photo of himself and Vice President Pence standing with Lilian Tintori and Republican Senator from Florida, Marco Rubio taken in the Oval Office after an unannounced dinner meeting. Trump tweeted that "Venezuela should allow Leopoldo López, a political prisoner & husband of @liliantintori out of prison immediately."
López is the founder of Voluntad Popular, falsely called a "political prisoner" who is serving a 13-year jail term on a conviction of incitement to violence arising out of the violent actions launched by pro-coup forces in 2014 with the intent of forcing the "exit" of President Maduro. Those actions led to the deaths of 43 people and injured many others.
Canadians must unequivocally denounce the ongoing U.S. interference aimed at regime change in Venezuela and Canada's support for the same illegitimate end carried out in the name of "diplomacy" and "concern for human rights in Venezuela." Canadians must give full support to the people of Venezuela and their Bolivarian government in their courageous efforts to uphold their right to choose their own political and economic system and advance their nation-building project in the face of the all-sided attacks of imperialism and its agents inside Venezuela and internationally.
1. According to its website, "The Office of Foreign Assets Control ("OFAC") of the U.S. Department of the Treasury administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions based on U.S. foreign policy and national security goals against targeted foreign countries and regimes, terrorists, international narcotics traffickers, those engaged in activities related to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and other threats to the national security, foreign policy or economy of the United States." It also is the body that administers the economic, commercial and financial blockade against Cuba as well as sanctions against other countries and individuals.
2. Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela are members of Mercosur, the first four being founding members. Several other South American countries have the status of associate members.
(With files from AP, AFP, EFE, TeleSUR)
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