Bunker Mentality: Start Preparing for Ecological & Economic Disaster Free of Corporate Overlords – By Robert BRIDGE – (Strategic Culture Foundation)

Bunker Mentality: Start Preparing for Ecological & Economic Disaster Free of Corporate Overlords

Let’s face it: reading stories about the ongoing destruction of planet Earth, the life-sustaining blue marble that all of us – aside from maybe Elon Musk – are permanently trapped on, has got to be one of the least-favorite topics of all time. The reasons are understandable, but no longer feasible.

In the realm of politics, replete with its cast of colorful culprits, the possibility of radical change always hovers just over the horizon, which gives the subject much of its universal appeal. Stories devoted to environmental issues, on the other hand, inundate the reader with a dizzying array of mind-boggling statistics that are not only incredibly depressing, they seem impossible to do anything about.

For example, take what I consider to be the most depressing story in recent memory – the so-called ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch,’ a swirling garbage dump trapped in a vortex between Hawaii and California, estimated to be twice the size of Texas. How is anyone expected to wrap their brain around that modern monument to our collective stupidity over their morning cup of coffee? Somehow we always expected the oceans, due to their sheer size and vastness, to remain beyond the reach of mankind’s destructive tendencies. Yet the story of the slowly dying oceans and its vibrant sea life – despite some truly fantastic schemes to reverse the trend – proves not just how wrongheaded that belief is, it belies the destructive nature of our hedonistic and materialistic lifestyles.

This leads to yet another reason so many people shy away from apocalyptic stories of environmental degradation: their own collusion in the ongoing tale of planetary destruction, which is part and parcel of our inquisitive lifestyles. Whether we want to admit it or not, we are all deeply indebted consumers of the corporate cornucopia. The majority of us spend a disproportionate amount of our time earning a living just to feed the monkey of our worldly desires, which our corporate overlords happily provide in superabundance – at excessive interest rates, I might add.

In fact, when our situation is viewed critically and objectively, human beings now live like astronauts, totally cut off from the natural world, yet, at the same time, connected by a fragile umbilical cord to the corporate world. Such a scenario must give any thinking person tremendous pause, for it highlights our dangerous level of dependency on external economic forces – namely, the corporate world – to sustain us. Here is where the idea of ‘environmental destruction’ should really pique our interest.

It is not so difficult to conduct a thought experiment that involves the ramifications of a massive economic downturn, or some unexpected natural disaster (on the scale of Hurricane Katrina, for example, multiplied by 10,000) of such magnitude that corporations are no longer able or willing to provide for our most basic daily needs. It may be exceedingly difficult to imagine such a grim scenario, especially since we now take it for granted that grocery stores will always remain open for business and stocked full of goodies, but the majority of us would quickly perish in the event that some unexpected crisis brought the global economy down on our heads. Such a nightmare may be easier to imagine when it is considered that just 10 companies control the entire global food supply, while most people have no means or knowledge of tilling the land for their food supplies.

Perhaps it is on this point that the topic of ‘environmental destruction’ can become not only sexy, like the exciting world of politics, but vital for mankind’s continued existence. It’s time to stop acting like children and face an ugly truth: our current materialistic lifestyles are not sustainable in the long-term, and probably not in the short term either. Our incredible level ofwastefulness, compounded by Earth’s finite resources, guarantees that the planet’s 7 billion people are living on borrowed time. Exactly what ‘short-term’ means, however, is a question none of us can really answer. It may mean the day after tomorrow or another 500 years. Again, nobody can say. But given the upsurge of interest, for example, in “doomsday prepping” among people of average means (a topic that even the high-brow Financial Times reported on), to the construction of sprawling underground bunkers for the elite, there is a growing consensus among many people that it is time to start taking back some control of our lives.

Currently, I am living in Russia, where the difference between Russians and Americans when it comes to preparing for the ‘unknown’ could not be greater. While Americans spend untold hours per week mowing their lawns, pulling weeds and trimming the hedges, Russians are toiling at their ‘dachas’ (in Russia, it is common for people to own an apartment in the city and a piece of land in the countryside), growing fruit and vegetables in greenhouses, and collecting mushrooms in the forest (picking mushrooms is a veritable art form, where it can literally mean the difference between life and death to choose the correct variety among dozens of species). Every Russian I have met in the countryside also have their own private source of water from painstakingly dug wells on their land. This is no small consideration when it is remembered that corporations are gradually buying up, in addition to our food supplies, the rights to our water supplies as well.

The entire notion of ‘prepping’ in Russia is completely nonexistent since the knowledge of working the land, which became absolutely critical during the severe food shortages of the communist years, has been a traditional part of Russian life since the country’s inception. Although Russians, like any other people, would suffer grave hardships in the event of a severe economic downturn, many of them would still be able to feed themselves due to their time-tested ‘survival’ skills. I am not sure the same could be said of their American and European counterparts.

There is a memorable scene in the 2009 post-apocalyptic US film, The Road, where a father and son, forced to trek across a devastated American landscape following some sort of unspeakable disaster, stumble upon a discarded underground bunker that is loaded with food, allowing them to survive the next leg of their impossible journey.

It is film I would highly recommend every person watch to get a sense of what an unexpected turn of environmental and economic events could mean for them and their loved ones.

Since corporations not only greatly control to what extent the environment will remain viable for our survival, but also the keys to the corporate cornucopia, there is no better time than the present to consider what would happen if or when, to put the matter bluntly, the shit hits the fan.

Edward Curtin: The satanic nature of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – by Edward Curtain (Off Guardian) (SOTT)

Hiroshima and Nagasaki

© Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images

Ahab is forever Ahab, man. This whole act’s immutably decreed. ‘Twas rehearsed by thee and me billion years before this ocean rolled. Fool! I am the Fates’ lieutenant; I act under orders.” Herman Melville, Moby Dick

The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid ‘dens of crime’ that Dickens loved to paint…But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice.”C. S. Lewis, author’s preface, 1962, The Screwtape Letters

American history can only accurately be described as the story of demonic possession, however you choose to understand that phrase. Maybe radical “evil” will suffice. But right from the start the American colonizers were involved in massive killing because they considered themselves divinely blessed and guided, a chosen people whose mission would come to be called “manifest destiny.” Nothing stood in the way of this divine calling, which involved the need to enslave and kill millions and millions of innocent people that continues down to today.

“Others” have always been expendable since they have stood in the way of the imperial march ordained by the American god. This includes all the wars waged based on lies and false flag operations. It is not a secret, although most Americans, if they are aware of it, prefer to see it as a series of aberrations carried out by “bad apples.” Or something from the past.

Our best writers and prophets have told us the truth: Thoreau, Twain, William James, MLK, Fr. Daniel Berrigan, et al.: we are a nation of killers of the innocent. We are conscienceless. We are brutal. We are in the grip of evil forces.

The English writer D. H. Lawrence said it perfectly in 1923, “The American soul is hard, isolate, stoic and a killer. It has never yet melted.” It still hasn’t.

When on August 6 and 9, 1945 the United States killed 200-300 thousand innocent Japanese civilians with atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they did so intentionally. It was an act of sinister state terrorism, unprecedented by the nature of the weapons but not by the slaughter. The American terror bombings of Japanese cities that preceded the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – led by the infamous Major General Curtis LeMay – were also intentionally aimed at Japanese civilians and killed hundreds of thousands of them.

Is there an American artist’s painting of Tokyo destroyed by the firebombing to go next to Picasso’s Guernica, where estimates of the dead range between 800 and 1,600? In Tokyo alone more than 100,000 Japanese civilians were burnt to death by cluster bombs of napalm. All this killing was intentional. I repeat: Intentional. Is that not radical evil? Demonic? Only five Japanese cities were spared such bombing.

The atomic bombings were an intentional holocaust, not to end the war, as the historical record amply demonstrates, but to send a message to the Soviet Union that we could do to them what we did to the residents of Japan. President Truman made certain that the Japanese willingness to surrender in May 1945 was made unacceptable because he and his Secretary-of-State James Byrnes wanted to use the atomic bombs – “as quickly as possible to ‘show results'” in Byrnes’ words – to send a message to the Soviet Union. So “the Good War” was ended in the Pacific with the “good guys” killing hundreds of thousand Japanese civilians to make a point to the “bad guys,” who have been demonized ever since. Russia phobia is nothing new.

Satan always wears the other’s face.

Many Baby Boomers like to say they grew up with the bomb. They are lucky. They grew up. They got be scared. They got to hide under their desks and wax nostalgic about it. Do you remember dog tags? Those 1950s and 1960s? The scary movies?

The children of Hiroshima and Nagasaki who died under our bombs on August 6 and 9, 1945 didn’t get to grow up. They couldn’t hide. They just went under. To be accurate: we put them under. Or they were left to smolder for decades in pain and then die. But that it was necessary to save American lives is the lie. It’s always about American lives, as if the owners of the country actually cared about them. But to tender hearts and innocent minds, it’s a magic incantation. Poor us!

Fat Man, Little Boy – how the words echo down the years to the now fat Americans who grew up in the 1950s and who think like little boys and girls about their country’s demonic nature. Innocence – it is wonderful! We are different now. “We are great because we are good,” that’s what Hillary Clinton told us. The Libyans can attest to that. We are exceptional, special. The next election will prove we can defeat Mr. Pumpkin Head and restore America to its “core values.”

Perhaps you think I am cynical. But understanding true evil is not child’s play. It seems beyond the grasp of most Americans who need their illusions. Evil is real. There is simply no way to understand the savage nature of American history without seeing its demonic nature. How else can we redeem ourselves at this late date, possessed as we are by delusions of our own God-blessed goodness?

But average Americans play at innocence. They excite themselves at the thought that with the next election the nation will be “restored” to the right course. Of course there never was a right course, unless might makes right, which has always been the way of America’s rulers. Today Trump is viewed by so many as an aberration. He is far from it. He’s straight out of a Twain short story. He’s Vaudeville. He’s Melville’s confidence man. He’s us.

Did it ever occur to those who are fixated on him that if those who own and run the country wanted him gone, he’d be gone in an instant? He can tweet and tweet idiotically, endlessly send out messages that he will contradict the next day, but as long as he protects the super-rich, accepts Israel’s control of him, and allows the CIA-military-industrial complex to do its world-wide killing and looting of the treasury, he will be allowed to entertain and excite the public – to get them worked up in a lather in pseudo-debates. And to make this more entertaining, he will be opposed by the “sane” Democratic opposition, whose intentions are as benign as an assassin’s smile.

Look back as far as you can to past U.S. presidents, the figureheads who “act under orders” (whose orders?), as did Ahab in his lust to kill the “evil” great white whale, and what do you see? You see servile killers in the grip of a sinister power. You see hyenas with polished faces. You see pasteboard masks. On the one occasion when one of these presidents dared to follow his conscience and rejected the devil’s pact that is the presidency’s killer-in-chief role, he – JFK – had his brains blown out in public view. An evil empire thrives on shedding blood, and it enforces its will through demonic messages. Resist and there will be blood on the streets, blood on the tracks, blood in your face.

Despite this, President Kennedy’s witness, his turn from cold warrior to an apostle of peace, remains to inspire a ray of hope in these dark days. As recounted by James Douglass in his masterful JFK and the Unspeakable, Kennedy agreed to a meeting in May 1962 with a group of Quakers who had been demonstrating outside the While House for total disarmament. They urged him to move in that direction.

Kennedy was sympathetic to their position. He said he wished it were easy to do so from the top down, but that he was being pressured by the Pentagon and others to never do that, although he had given a speech urging “a peace race” together with the Soviet Union. He told the Quakers it would have to come from below. According to the Quakers, JFK listened intently to their points, and before they left said with a smile, “You believe in redemption don’t you?” Soon Kennedy was shaken to his core by the Cuban missile crisis when the world teetered on the brink of extinction and his insane military and “intelligence” advisers urged him to wage a nuclear war. Not long after, he took a sharp top-down turn toward peace despite their fierce opposition, a turn so dramatic over the next year that it led to his martyrdom. And he knew it would. He knew it would.

So hope is not all lost. There are great souls like JFK to inspire us. Their examples flash here and there. But to even begin to hope to change the future, a confrontation with our demonic past (and present) is first necessary, a descent into the dark truth that is terrifying in its implications. False innocence must be abandoned. Carl Jung, in “On the Psychology of the Unconscious,” addressed this with the words:

It is a frightening thought that man also has a shadow side to him, consisting not just of little weaknesses – and foibles, but of a positively demonic dynamism. The individual seldom knows anything of this; to him, as an individual, it is incredible that he should ever in any circumstances go beyond himself.

But let these harmless creatures form a mass, and there emerges a raging monster; and each individual is only one tiny cell in the monster’s body, so that for better or worse he must accompany it on its bloody rampages and even assist it to the utmost. Having a dark suspicion of these grim possibilities, man turns a blind eye to the shadow-side of human nature. Blindly he strives against the salutary dogma of original sin, which is yet so prodigiously true.

Yes, he even hesitates to admit the conflict of which he is so painfully aware.

How can one describe men who would intentionally slaughter so many innocent people? American history is rife with such examples up to the present day. Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, etc. – the list is very long. Savage wars carried out by men and women who own and run the country, and who try to buy the souls of regular people to join them in their pact with the devil, to acquiesce to their ongoing wicked deeds. Such monstrous evil was never more evident than on August 6 and 9, 1945.

Unless we enter into deep contemplation of the evil that was released into the world with those bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we are lost in a living hell without escape. And we will pay. Nemesis always demands retribution. We have gradually been accepting rule by those for whom the killing of innocents is child’s play, and we have been masquerading as innocent and good children for whom the truth is too much to bear.

“Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the gradual one,” Screwtape the devil tells his nephew, Wormwood, a devil in training, “the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” That’s the road we’ve been traveling.

The projection of evil onto others works only so long. We must reclaim our shadows and withdraw our projections. Only the fate of the world depends on it.

Comment:

Andrés Obrador Becomes President of Mexico: Good Prospects for Russian-Mexican Relations – By Alex GORKA (Strategic Culture Foundation)

Andrés Obrador Becomes President of Mexico: Good Prospects for Russian-Mexican Relations
Alex GORKA | 04.07.2018 | WORLD / Americas

Until now, it has been generally believed that the era of left rulers in Latin America was over. In December 2017, Sebastián Piñera of the National Renewal party, won in Chile after right-wing forces came to power in Argentina (2015) and Brazil (2016). Three leading economies of the continent had right-wing governments. It all changed on July 1 with the sweeping victory held by Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the candidate representing the country’s Left. His party Morena, the National Regeneration Movement (Movimiento Regeneración Nacional), was formed only in 2014 to lead Obrador to victory over other candidates from political parties that have ruled the country for the entire century. Now he has enough power for implementing drastic changes. The Mexican revolution took place 101 years ago. This is the first time the Left have come to power.

One of the president-elect’s promises was standing up to Donald Trump if need be. His election is a blow to the United States influence in Latin America. The US and newly elected Mexican presidents don’t see eye-to-eye on NAFTA, bilateral trade and border security.

During the race, Obrador had to deny the rumors that originated from the United States, not Mexico, that he had received money from Moscow. As in the course of the 2016 US election, the invented stories were spread around. Then US National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said he had seen “signs” of Russia’s meddling into Mexican election campaign. The affirmation was left unconfirmed as the official offered no details but US Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and Tim Kaine (D-VA) lost no time to chime in. So did Enrique Ochoa Reza, the chairman of the Mexican Institutional Revolutionary Party that lost the election. Rumors remained rumors but media did its part to make people believe the concoctions were true. Andres Obrador used the strongest weapon against lies – humor. He jibed the stories to win even more popular support.

During the 128 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations there were few downturns to cloud Russia’s relations with Mexico, the second most populous nation in Latin America with as estimated population of over 120 million, which boasts the fifteenth largest nominal GDP in the world and the eleventh largest by purchasing power parity. Its economy is strongly linked to NAFTA – the economic union US President Trump wants to end so much, replacing it with separate deals. Perhaps, this is the time for Mexico to diversify its economic partners. Russia, China and other BRICS nations can offer a good alternative to the rocky relationship with the northern partner having become so unpredictable recently. Obrador’s victory may provide an impetus to the development of Russian-Mexican ties, including energy, security and political interaction on the global stage.

The sanctions imposed by the US and the EU have prompted Moscow to expand contacts with other world economies. Russia has a strong diplomatic presence in such countries as Brazil, Venezuela, Columbia, Argentina, Mexico, Chile, and Cuba. Promoting ties with the nations of the region through cooperation with CELAC is one of directions of Moscow’s foreign policy. Russia’s Foreign Policy Concept states that “Russia remains committed to the comprehensive strengthening of relations with the Latin American and Caribbean States taking into account the growing role of this region in global affairs.”

Russia’s strongest trade relationships are Brazil and Mexico, which together account for about half of all of Russian trade in the continent. The Russian twin-engine MC-21 short-to-mid-range airliner with a capacity for between 150-211 passengers offers a potential lucrative deal Mexico has paid interest in. In January, the Mexican Association of Importers and Exporters (ANIERM) opened its trade office in Moscow. Mexico is eager to explore a partnership with Russia to purchase and assemble helicopters. Mi-35M and the Mi-28NE combat helicopters as well as Mi-17 military transport rotary wing aircraft are under consideration. Russia’s Lukoil energy giant has won two tenders to expand its drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Grupo Maseca and Nemak are operating in Russia.

Experts believe that Obrador’s election is a good chance to spur the Russian-Mexican cooperation in all spheres. President Putin also expressed hope that with Andrés Obrador at the helm, the bilateral relationship will get a new impetus. The two leaders will meet at the upcoming G20 summit, scheduled for November 30–December 1 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Opponents of Mexico’s Leftist Presidential Frontrunner Turn to Assassination, Vote Buying and Intimidation – By José Luis Granados Ceja – (MINT PRESS)

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador could make history in Sunday’s presidential election in Mexico and his enemies are willing to stop him by any means necessary, including electoral fraud, but thousands of Mexicans are ready and willing to defend their vote.

MEXICO CITY — Mexico appears to be on the cusp of massive change. Leftist presidential candidate Andres Manuel López Obrador has a very good shot at winning the upcoming election but the threat of fraud looms over the vote. This election has already been witness to political assassinations, vote buying, and voter intimidation.

For several months, law professor John Ackerman has been diligently working with a team of intellectuals and activists on an effort to prevent fraud in the upcoming election. He is very excited about the prospect of change in the country but minces no words: in his view, Mexico is not a democracy…yet. He told MintPress News:

We’re still in this process of struggling for democracy. The hope is that July 1, 2018 will actually be the beginning of a democratic transition, that finally someone really from the opposition with mass popular support will become president based on elections.”

 

Mexican democracy still waiting to be born

That point-of-view may come as a surprise to some: mainstream analysts point to the 2000 election as the birth of Mexican democracy. Previous to that election — in which they were unseated by the right-wing National Action Party, or PAN as it is known by its Spanish acronym — the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, through clientelistic networks and electoral fraud, ruled Mexico uninterrupted for 71 years.

“The simple fact that the so-called opposition won in 2000 doesn’t mean that Mexico is a democracy because … what we see is the continuity of the authoritarian system,” said Ackerman who added:

Really the idea that somehow in the year 2000 there was a qualitative change in the equilibrium in politics is a myth.”


Read more by José Luis Granados Ceja


The PAN ruled Mexico for 12 years, first under Vicente Fox and then under Felipe Calderon, the latter seen as responsible for unleashing a wave of violence throughout the country that continues unabated today. Expectations that a change in leadership would resolve the issues plaguing the country – violence, inequality, corruption, extreme poverty and stagnant wages – were largely dashed and in 2012 the country voted the PRI back into power.

However, in this current election, Lopez Obrador — the leftist former mayor of Mexico City, who is now running for a third time — commands an overwhelming lead, with some polls giving him as much as 20 points over his nearest rival, Ricardo Anaya, who is running for the PAN as part of a left-right coalition.

 

Mexico’s flawed institutions

Lopez Obrador’s victory would mark the end of nearly a century of rule by two neoliberal parties, the PRI and the PAN, and would also mark the first leftist government in Mexico’s modern history.

That is why many ultimately consider the 2018 vote as the country’s most important election in recent history.

But Mexico’s political elites do not intend to go quietly and are utilizing every trick in the book to try to affect the outcome and prevent AMLO, as Lopez Obrador is commonly known, from winning.

Despite AMLO’s massive lead in the polls, successful electoral fraud is entirely possible. Most elections in Mexico have been marred by allegations of fraud. Notable examples include the 1988 election when early results indicated the ruling PRI was set to lose until the computer system tabulating the result “went down” — when it returned, the PRI was leading comfortably. The 2006 election, AMLO’s first attempt, was also condemned as fraudulent and led to weeks of protests, though ultimately electoral authorities did not allow for a total recount of the votes and the fraud was consolidated, allowing his rival, Felipe Calderon, to take office.

Lopez Obrador’s critics accuse him of being a demagogue who turns his nose up at the country’s institutions. Yet he has consistently turned to those institutions, seeking power through elections, despite the glaring flaws in the country’s system.

Those flaws are well-known to many Mexicans. Ackerman, a U.S.-born Mexican national and law professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, helped put together Dialogues for Democracy, a university initiative that trained thousands in election-related issues.

Law professor John Ackerman takes part in a livestream before delivering a letter to Mexico's National Electoral Institute demanding the authority take action against election fraud, Mexico City, June 21, 2018.

These citizen advocates of democracy are not placing blind faith in the country’s institutions.

“These guys are capable of anything, the corruption of the Mexican system is so deep, the institutions are in such profound crisis,” argued Ackerman.

The issue is that the very state institutions that AMLO’s critics say he does not respect, have not won the respect of Mexicans.

As Ackerman told MintPress News,

The electoral institutions are supposedly autonomous but they are part of the same system of corruption and institutional weakness and so very few people trust the National Electoral Institute or the electoral tribunal or the special electoral prosecutor for electoral crimes; lots of mistrust based on a history of frauds and illegalities.”

 

Vote buying, voter intimidation, and political assassinations

This election has already been witness to a number of irregularities, the kind practiced in previous elections — such as vote-buying, the conditioning of social programs based on party affiliation, and voter intimidation.

As Ackerman observed:

The PRI continues to be a very powerful machine system and it’s not just any kind of voter mobilization; this is corruption, this is direct vote-buying, this is threatening people that they will lose their government supports or access to education and healthcare if they don’t vote for the ruling party.”

In a country with rampant poverty, these vote-buying tactics are very effective. A report from Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity found that the election was awash in so-called “dirty money” — that is, money that comes from dubious sources and is not reported to electoral authorities.

Ackerman says Mexico’s political elites have engaged in a “dirty war” against Lopez Obrador, pulling out all the stops to prevent his victory.

Ackerman says he and his team have documented websites that promote “fake news” against AMLO. Millions of Mexicans have also received phone calls that masquerade as polling firms but are in fact attack ads against Lopez Obrador. Rival parties have even sent provocateurs to campaign rallies to provoke fist fights with AMLO’s supporters, and this week armed individuals stole over 11,000 ballots.

These tactics are, of course, illegal but the institutions involved do little to try to stop them or even mitigate their impact.

The National Electoral Institute and the country’s electoral court, known as the TEPJF, have made a number of decisions that have called into question their impartiality. Since the members of these bodies are appointed by Congress, which is presently comprised of political forces opposed to Lopez Obrador, Ackerman argues all these institutions are biased against AMLO.

He highlights the case of Jaime Rodriguez, an “independent” candidate that is running a distant last. The TEPJF forced him onto the ballot despite his failure to meet the requirements to register as an independent candidate. Ackerman believes he was put on the ballot solely to play the role of attack dog against Lopez Obrador. And neither the National Electoral Institute or the TEPJF have done anything substantial to stop the illegal anti-AMLO phone calls.

The New York Times also recently revealed that the PRI approached the scandal-plagued Cambridge Analytica, the firm behind Facebook’s data scandal, to help them in their reelection efforts. Ultimately the PRI decided not to work with the firm but did, nonetheless, pay them off in order to ensure the firm would not work with any other campaign.

This election has also been particularly violent: over 100 politicians, including dozens of candidates, have been assassinated throughout the course of the campaign. Most recently, five supporters of Lopez Obrador’s party were ambushed and killed in the state of Oaxaca.

Mexico’s political elites are also not averse to outright vote manipulation. Although the elections are coordinated by the National Electoral Institute, the voting centers are staffed by citizens who are selected at random. In previous elections, such as state elections in 2017, these poll workers and observers were bought off or scared off by nefarious actors, allowing unscrupulous activities to take place inside the voting booth, including ballot box stuffing and manipulation of tally sheets.

“There will be attempt at fraud, we’re already seeing it. The scientific estimations say that in Mexico you can steal about 6 percent of the vote,” said Ackerman.

 

Stopping fraud in its tracks

But it is not just Mexico’s politicians that oppose AMLO, there are powerful economic interests that are afraid of a Lopez Obrador victory.

Ackerman noted:

There are people who have received millions of dollars and are corrupt, and who are very afraid that if there is a democratic transition in Mexico there might be an investigation into their cases, so they’re willing to do anything possible, by any means necessary, to stop Lopez Obrador.”

That is why activists, lawyers, and academics have started the University and Citizen’s Network for Democracy, which is working with hundreds of election observers, including over 60 international visitors, to observe Sunday’s vote.

A supporter of the University and Citizen Network for Democracy addresses the media detailing their demands of the National Electoral Institute, Mexico City, June 21, 2018. José Luis Granados Ceja

The goal of the University and Citizen’s Network for Democracy is not to document fraud but rather actually to try to stop it. The recent alleged electoral fraud in Honduras proved to many in Mexico that international bodies like the Organization of American States, which is also sending an observation team to Mexico, are not capable of actually stopping fraud from happening or being ratified.

It is highly unlikely that Mexican society would be willing to swallow electoral fraud. With Lopez Obrador consistently running high in the polls, a result that does not reflect this trend would provoke mass social discontent. Ackerman believes that Mexico would be witness to a kind of political instability unseen in recent history.

Lopez Obrador has said that if the election is stolen, he would not try to contain the discontent (as he did after the 2006 election), which would prompt unpredictable consequences for Mexican society.

In other words, the stakes are incalculably high.

It is not clear if Mexico’s political and economic elites are willing to take that gamble.

However, Ackerman argues this election is different: in this case, the ruling class is divided and there are business elements supporting Lopez Obrador’s candidacy. He adds that in contrast to previous elections, other left-wing forces such as the Zapatistas are not actively promoting a null vote or voter abstention, as they previously have.

The conditions are in place for Lopez Obrador to make history on Sunday and for Mexico to mark a new democratic era.

“It’s not about Lopez Obrador, it’s about democracy — that’s what he’s been struggling for, and what the vast majority of the Mexican population want,” said Ackerman.

Top Photo | Presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the MORENA party speaks during a campaign rally in the Coyoacan district of Mexico City, May 7, 2018. Mexico will choose a new president in general elections on July 1. Rebecca Blackwell | AP

José Luis Granados Ceja is a writer and photojournalist based in Mexico City. He has previously written for outlets such as teleSUR and the Two Row Times and has also worked in radio as a host and producer. He specializes in contemporary political analysis and the role of media in influencing the public. He is particularly interested in covering the work of social movements and labor unions throughout Latin America.

Disclosure: John Ackerman is married to Irma Eréndira Sandoval, who has been proposed by Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador as his future Secretary for Public Service.

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Bolivia’s Evo Morales calls out US imperialism in Venezuela and Latin America: ‘We are no longer your backyard’ – By teleSUR (Sott)

Evo Morales

© EFE
Morales explained, however, that United States’ interventionism is not only militaristic.

The Bolivian President warned that the United States is trying to orchestrate a military coup in Venezuela.

Bolivian President Evo Morales said Saturday that Latin America “is no longer the United States’ backyard” while denouncing the United States’ attempt to convince its South American allies to help it orchestrate a military intervention or coup in Venezuela.

In an interview with news agency EFE, Morales explained that several Latin American leaders have confided in him that U.S. Vice president Mike Pence is “trying to convince some United States-friendly countries” help them seize control of the South American country and replace the current government led by Nicolas Maduro.

The real target, Morales explained, is not the Venezuelan president but “Venezuelan oil, and Venezuelans know that.”

Drawing parallels to 2011 military intervention in Libya, Morales said the U.S. isn’t interested in helping with alleged humanitarian crisis since, despite the current political and social turmoil in Libya, the U.S. will not intervene there since “the country’s oil is now owned by the U.S. and some European oil companies,” Morales asserted.

“One military intervention (in the region) would only create another armed conflict,” he added pointing to Colombia’s membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as a general sign of an escalation of “military aggression to all Latin America and the Caribbean” region.

Comment: Morales is correct in expressing this concerning development: NATO adds Colombia to its list of members, and it’s about more than just Venezuela

Morales explained, however, that U.S. interventionism is not only militaristic.

“When there are no military coups, they seek judicial or congressional coups” as in the case of former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment and the Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s imprisonment, which is barring him from running in the upcoming 2018 elections.

“I am certain we will free Lula. If he returns, some countries in Latin America will again strengthen the ideological, programmatic and liberation struggle against the North American empire,” Morales said.

Comment: The President of Bolivia can count himself as one of the world’s few (but ever growing number) of leaders who has the knowledge and the guts to speak out on the egregious and destructive behavior of the US. Viva Morales! See also:

Beyond Racism, Immigrant Mass Detention Is All About Profit – By Gabriel – (MINT PRESS)

A mural at the Casa Padre migrant children’s shelter in Brownsville, Texas, with a quote – in English and Spanish – from Donald Trump’s 1987 book, The Art of the Deal. Source | Department of Health and Human Services

Trump’s “Make America Great” policies have resulted in misery for thousands of poor migrants, but the rise in human suffering has resulted in jackpot prizes for players at the New York Stock Exchange.

Trump’s “Make America Great” policies have resulted in misery for thousands of poor migrants, but the rise in human suffering has resulted in jackpot prizes for players at the New York Stock Exchange.

BELLINGHAM, WA – While Donald Trump’s stepped-up repression of unauthorized migrants has been touted as a “get tough” policy meant to stem a flood of “animals” affiliated with transnational criminal groups, his draconian policies remain unlikely to deter desperate asylum-seekers from seeking entry to the United States. Instead, family separations and arbitrary prosecution and incarcerations are upping the scale of trauma suffered by refugees while asylum claims and border-crossings continue to increase.

Trump’s “Make America Great” policies may have resulted in misery for thousands of poor migrants, yet the rise in human suffering has resulted in jackpot prizes for some players at the New York Stock Exchange.

For Tomás A. Madrigal, a food systems researcher at Community to Community Development in Bellingham, Washington, these inhumane policies are all about dollars and cents.

“Under the Trump Administration, there are no ifs, ands, or buts – this is a class war,” Madrigal told MintPress News.

New York Times Immigration

Just as White House policies on taxes, land-use, military expenditures and foreign trade have overwhelmingly favored the financial sector, the Trump-era immigration enforcement regime has directly translated into a huge boost in dividends for those invested in industries reliant on the exploitation of immigrants, and especially the commercial prison industry.

It’s the latest sequel in a franchise that began with the War on Drugs, continued with the War on Terror, and found renewed purpose with the rise of a new super-villain: the MS-13 “animals” from El Salvador, whose mantra – we’re told – is “kill, rape, control.”

The political economy of the U.S. immigrant enforcement regime shows how white nationalist or “nativist” populism, the criminalization of immigrants, the “swamp” of private interest lobbyists, the national security state, and neoliberalism – the corporate takeover of public services by monopolistic capital – have combined to fuel an expanding model of profit-driven trade based on mass punishment, mass confinement, and the exploitation of poor people.

“The tearing apart of families, we see as a terror tactic in a desperate attempt by the Trump administration to force down poverty wages for immigrants across multiple industries,” Madrigal said.

 

“Prison-Industrial Complex”: cliché buzzword or apt description?

While the term “prison-industrial complex” smacks of an activist catch-phrase or academic buzzword, the term is an accurate descriptor of the manner in which the growth of the U.S. prison population has multiplied, spawning lucrative public-private partnerships benefiting public officials and for-profit entities alike.

The prison-industrial complex is the natural byproduct of neoliberalism, which became the ruling doctrine of the West in the 1970s amid sharp crises in the capitalist world-system. Uninhibited capitalism or the “free market” was depicted as the purest form of liberty, resulting in monopoly enterprises and multinational corporations being given the freedom not only to stifle smaller companies but also to shatter unions, stifle workers’ wages, and destroy large swathes of the public sector.

By the late ‘70s, governments on the state and federal level coped with prison overcrowding caused by mass incarceration through legislation allowing private companies to contract with public prisons for the sake of cutting costs and tapping into incarcerated inmate labor.

As Cristoph Scherrer and Anil Shah noted in an article for The Bullet & Global Labour Forum published last April:

From there it was only a small step to propose using prisoners’ labor power as a source of income. The discourse on financing prisons and detainees moved from ‘public assistance’ to ‘self-financing’. Under neoliberalism, detention itself is becoming a self-inflicted penalty for which the prisoner and the prisoner’s relatives literally have to pay: processing charges for visits, rents for beds, and co-financing for medical care. In many cases, prisoners are released with bills for prison services of several thousand dollars.”

Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch tours the prison factory at the Talladega Federal Correctional Institution in Talladega, Ala., Friday, April 29, 2016. Evan Vucci | AP

This has resulted, over the past decades, in the growth of a trend in profit accumulation where captive workforces face highly exploitative conditions where labor is deprived of the right to organize to better their conditions.

From Victoria’s Secret to Nintendo, Wisconsin cheese to Hawaiian papayas – as well as telecommunications and military industries – the prison economy has proven to be a boon to investors thanks to generous contracts from government and the extremely low cost of prison labor, which amounts to around $1 per hour for migrant detainees.

In the 2009 book The Prison-Industrial Complex & The Global Economy, authors Eve Goldberg and Linda Evans note:

For private business, prison labor is like a pot of gold. No strikes. No union organizing. No unemployment insurance or workers’ compensation to pay … New leviathan prisons are being built with thousands of eerie acres of factories inside the walls. … All at a fraction of the cost of ‘free labor’ … Even the 14th Amendment to the Constitution which abolished slavery, excludes prisoners from its protections.”

As was the case under slavery, for-profit prisons thrive on the capture of masses of people and their exploitation within the walls of the prison industry. For those immigrants who speak up against their mistreatment or who demand basic rights, the punishment is severe.

Madrigal sees a direct parallel to trends in the agricultural industry, where growers are increasingly relying on guestworkers – unfree laborers, primarily from rural and indigenous parts of Mexico, whose residence in the U.S. relies on the good graces of employers who are in regular contact with the Department of Homeland Security. Given the instantly revocable nature of guestworker visas, workers are effectively prevented from organizing, creating a coercive labor regime that has been compared to slavery.

“Slaving is a lucrative business and … the legalization of slavery is happening before our very eyes under the Trump administration,” Madrigal said.

“It is a bifurcated system that special interest groups seek to streamline and automate, with the support of both major parties domestically,” he added, describing these policies as a form of “Trumpian capitalism.”

 

Immigrants for Sale

U.S. private prisons are largely controlled by a handful of monopolistic firms or real estate investment trusts, with GEO Group and CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America, CCA) standing at the helm of the industry. For-profit prison operators threw their weight behind Trump’s “law and order” campaign in 2016. Following his election victory, both GEO and CoreCivic continued pouring cash into his till and each gave $250,000 toward the inauguration celebrations.

The two companies enjoyed contracts with the federal government to build and operate detention facilities under Obama, yet the companies’ stock took a sharp hit in 2016 after the outgoing administration announced plans to scale back government reliance on private prisons. Washington had been plagued with public pressure over abuses at private prisons and migrant detention centers, and headlines covering hunger strikes, suicides, sexual abuse and pitiful medical care filled newspapers on an alarmingly regular basis.

A holding area for mostly Central American immigrant children at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Placement Center in Nogales, Ariz. July 17, 2014. Ross D. Franklin | AP

The private prison corporations’ investments in the Trump campaign were lucrative, to say the least. Upon coming to power, Trump swiftly followed through on his campaign promises to vastly boost ICE operations, with Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Department of Justice quickly implementing a “zero-tolerance policy” requiring an increase in immigration and border agents along with a funding surge for detention facilities.

By late February, 2017 – scarcely a month after Trump’s inauguration ball – the prison companies’ stock prices rallied to previously unheard-of heights, nearly doubling in  market value. Their profitability has continued to rise as market speculation and new influxes of taxpayer dollars, driven by overcrowding resulting from the exponential boost in migrant incarceration, fuels profits extracted from largely Latin American refugees fleeing conditions primarily created by U.S. imperialist policies in their home regions.

“The new regime is expanding quickly and utilizing all the tools left behind by the Obama administration,” immigrant rights activist and undocumented Bellingham-based community leader Maru Mora-Villalpando told MintPress News.

“They have made it easier for jails and now prisons to start detaining immigrants, plus [they are] looking at expanding or creating new private detentions centers for adults and children,” she added.

Watch | Private Prisons Back Trump

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/YXIo0fVxd6E?rel=0&showinfo=0

 

Janus-Faced Obama or the “Deporter-In-Chief”

During the mid-2010s, crime rates in the U.S. had dropped as social movements clamored for criminal justice reforms and the reduction of the racialized, disproportionate mass incarceration of primarily black and brown poor people. Increasingly, voters in states like California passed laws reducing sentences and reversing draconian laws like the “Three-Strikes” law. As a result, black communities have seen a modest decline in imprisonment rates.

However, the restive unauthorized migrant population – estimated to number anywhere between 11-12 million – had largely grown quiet in their demands for full rights following a period of intense political activity and mass mobilization in 2006 to resist the Sensenbrenner Bill, which sought to criminalize migrants and seek their wholesale removal.

This was a community that was on the receiving end of what Professor William I. Robinson called an “undeclared war” – and offshoot of the post-9/11 “war on terror” which, in the name of national security and anti-terrorism, sought to clamp down on migrant rights and install a militarized regime of immigrant detention and deportation.

Largely Latino and overwhelmingly Mexican and Central American, the immigrant community was also the most lucrative motor force for the U.S. economy, be it in agriculture, the hospitality industry, food service, childcare, domestic labor, retail, manufacturing, and so on.

As Robinson noted:

The super-exploitation of an immigrant workforce would not be possible if that workforce had the same rights as citizens, if it did not face the insecurities and vulnerabilities of being undocumented or ‘illegal.’ Granting full citizenship rights to the tens of millions of immigrants in the United States would undermine the division of the United States – and by extension, the global – working class into immigrants and citizens. That division is a central component of the new class relations of global capitalism, predicated on a “flexible” mass of workers who can be hired and fired at will, are de-unionized, and face precarious work conditions, job instability, a rollback of benefits and downward pressure on wages.

Watch | Immigrants For Sale

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/qJ20tIYirKg?rel=0&showinfo=0

While Democrat politicians expressed sympathies for migrants with honeyed slogans like “No Human Being Is Illegal,” the Obama administration continued to fuel the ICE dragnet mass deportation apparatus. Contracts with private prison corporations were renewed while the administration issued forms of administrative relief like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA.

Amid these contradictions, the administration of Obama – whom many began to describe as the “Deporter-In-Chief” – remained somewhat open to popular pressure.

“The main difference is that the Obama administration had shame, the Trump administration has no shame,” Madrigal said, noting that his group had some degree of success “speaking truth to power” and preventing local law enforcement from enforcing immigration law.

In Madrigal’s opinion, the “rule of law” as overseen by Obama and then-Attorney General Eric Holder at least allowed advocates the space to successfully fight for gains. He added:

If you pay close attention, the Trump administration are replacing rule of law with what they desperately plead is the ‘moral authority’ of nationalism, white supremacy, and patriarchy. But their true moral authority is the death and premature death that they produce through war and incarceration.”

 

Enter the white supremacist “nativists”

When Trump unleashed his campaign on the U.S. through loud promises to “Build the Wall” and keep Mexican “rapists” out of the country, it became clear that he was aiming to win the votes of white nativists, whose ideological aims coincided with the interests for-profit prison operators.

Indeed, Trump began to repeat dubious talking points from Breitbart that originated in the Washington, D.C. offices of anti-immigrant groups affiliated with the no-holds-barred white racialist far-right.

Such groups – NumbersUSA, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), and think-tank offshoot the Center for Immigration Studies – were founded either directly or indirectly by white nationalist leader John Tanton.

Barbie Miller, left, yells as she joins demonstrators outside the Mexican Consulate, July 18, 2014, in Houston, Texas. David J. Phillip | AP

Since 1979, these groups – known as the Tanton network – began embedding themselves in the Republican Party through the use of savvy demagogic talking-points that radicalized discourse over immigration policy. The groups’ messaging simultaneously played on white American insecurities over falling standards of living and unemployment resulting from neoliberal policies, as well as dog-whistles that played on the time-honored U.S. tradition of scapegoating communities of color and recently-arrived immigrants from the Global South.

In 1993, the population control-obsessed Tanton argued that a “European-American majority” was needed “for European-American society and culture to persist.” In his essay “Alien Invasion,” Tanton further described migrants as a parasitic, amoeba-like entity “that reproduces rapidly and eats everything in sight.” By 1997, Tanton said that the urgent closure of the border was needed to prevent immigrants “defecating and creating garbage and looking for jobs.”

Without using old-school racist slurs – at least not publicly – Tanton was clearly positioning non-European “aliens” as a threat to Judeo-Christian civilization and white “natives” in the U.S. Tanton and his network of groups like FAIR issued constant bulletins and studies reinforcing his lurid, dehumanizing depictions of feces-flinging migrants laying waste to the U.S., a precursor to Trump’s description of “American Carnage,” where Central American MS-13 hoodlums and their non-criminal relatives or “animals” run rampant in the U.S.

By 2016, Tanton network white nationalists had metastasized across the G.O.P. and were especially well-represented in the Trump campaign. Officials like then-Senator and now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his close comrade Stephen Miller were among the most prominent FAIR affiliates in Trump’s team.

Sessions had successfully led fights against modest immigration reform attempts under the Bush and Obama administrations and was a fierce proponent of integrating the federal immigration enforcement apparatus with state and local law enforcement agencies. He also demanded an end to the “catch and release” policy of President Obama, which allowed unauthorized migrants apprehended by ICE to reside in the U.S. free of incarceration until they could have their day in immigration court.

Upon coming to power, Trump and Sessions unleashed the floodgates of the Tanton network upon his cabinet while undoing Obama administration controls on ICE. Formerly considered the lunatic – perhaps neo-fascist – fringe of the conservative movement, these white nationalists instead grew to dominate policy discussions inside the Republican Party and their implementation by the executive branch.

As recently as last month, Trump tapped Ronald Mortensen – a notorious anti-immigrant extremist and fellow from the Center for Immigration Studies – to head the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration. Prior to being picked, Mortensen had accused undocumented migrants of “serious felonies that impact American men, women and children.”

Immigrant crime rate graphMortensen also claimed that “even the strongest supporters of illegal aliens acknowledge that 75 percent of illegal aliens routinely commit felonies” – a completely fabricated figure that flies in the face of reputable studies showing that undocumented immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than U.S. citizens.

Under Sessions and his Tanton-affiliated colleagues, the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security have vastly expanded the mandate of federal immigration agents to clamp down on dissent, as Mora-Villalpando found out in May when she received a deportation order after a Washington Department of Licensing employee sent her information to ICE.  The targeting of Mora-Villalpando caused a huge national uproar that ultimately resulted in the resignation of the department’s head.

Mora-Villalpando told MintPress News:

DOJ’s role is critical is criminalizing our immigrant communities and making it easier for ICE to detain and excuse deportations. It’s a clear attack on anyone that is an immigrant with or without papers, anyone having to flee and migrate, and anyone that dare speak against these practices.”

The new policies have also chilled popular dissent in immigrant communities, yet Mora-Villalpando stresses that the resistance won’t end.

“While many are more scared than before, there are some that will continue speaking up and organizing,” she said.

 

“There is hope as long as we continue fighting”

Continuing, Mora-Villalpando observed that not only Trump officials but the rank-and-file of ICE and the DHS Customs and Border Protection agency are of like mind with the present administration, and can be expected to use their powers for the purpose of stifling immigrant rights advocate.

She commented:

ICE has become a full political repression machine, and it wasn’t that difficult since they are already an agency intended to destroy our communities. They, along with CBP, jumped on the political anti-immigrant racist xenophobic wagon since the electoral year in 2016 by endorsing trump during his campaign.”

“What they didn’t expect after they started targeting us for our political work was that the community would fight back,” she added.

Mora-Villalpando doesn’t think that minor reforms or protections such as DACA or a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform can come close to ending the increasing use of private prisons or suffering her community has undergone following the targeting of immigrants following September 11, 2001.

For that very reason, she and like-minded organizers aren’t soft-stepping around the issue but are aiming at the heart of state terror and the campaign of mass confinement aimed at millions of undocumented U.S. residents.

When asked about her demands, Mora-Villalpando cuts to the chase:

The demand is simple: abolish ICE.

By doing so, the entire machine will fall apart – the private sector that benefits off criminalization [and] even the non-profits that also live off immigrants’ misery.

The agency has only been around for 15 years. It’s time for them to be gone and all the millions and millions of dollars that have been used to exploit and oppress our communities should be invested in education, housing, and healthcare.”

Mora-Villalpando doesn’t see the demand as unrealistic, nor does she see the Trump administration as capable of stifling migrant communities’ aspiration for dignified and just treatment rather than an open-ended war against them.

There is hope, as long as we continue fighting. Regardless of the retaliation and intimidation tactics [the government] uses against us, we won’t give up.”

Top Photo | A mural at the Casa Padre migrant children’s shelter in Brownsville, Texas, with a quote – in English and Spanish – from Donald Trump’s 1987 book, The Art of the Deal. Source | Department of Health and Human Services

Elliott Gabriel is a former staff writer for teleSUR English and a MintPress News contributor based in Quito, Ecuador. He has taken extensive part in advocacy and organizing in the pro-labor, migrant justice and police accountability movements of Southern California and the state’s Central Coast.

Republish our stories! MintPress News is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 International License.

OAS Panel Dutifully Ignores Zionist Abuses, Pushes Venezuela Regime Change – by Elliott Gabriel (MINT PRESS)

 

WASHINGTON — Venezuela is in the vise-grip of a deep crisis; this much was undeniable even prior to the release of a 400-page report by a dubious “independent panel of experts” at the Organization of American States (OAS).

For the past several years, the South American country has been mired in crippling inflation, major shortages of food and goods, and widespread political turmoil. Tens of thousands of desperate people have spilled across the border, multiplying the presence of unauthorized Venezuelan migrants across the Andes. Cities have witnessed violent clashes between the anti-Chavista­ U.S.-backed opposition and the elected government of President Nicolas Maduro and the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela, with opposition forces firebombing public transportation systems and children’s hospitals, and even burning alleged Chavistas alive in broad daylight.

Meanwhile, the streets themselves — deprived of economic security – have become the stage for a virtual war between criminal elements, both organized and unorganized, and state security forces.

Yet, lost amid the laser-sharp focus on the “violence” of the Bolivarian Republic, the structural violence of U.S. imperialist hegemony remains undiscussed, almost taboo, and thus escapes culpability for the ruinous plight of the people of Venezuela.

 

The OAS: Washington’s “Ministry of Colonies”

Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles speaks to the media following his meeting with Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General Luis Almagro, at the OAS building in Washington, March 31, 2017. (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Chief among the tools used by Washington in its withering economic siege on Venezuela is the OAS. Formed at the dawn of the Cold War in 1948, the OAS was conceived for the purpose of providing the nations of the Western Hemisphere with the ability to settle disputes through mediation, arbitration, dialogue and good-faith peace-building measures.

Since then, however, the Washington-based OAS has come to be regarded as a vulgar tool of U.S. imperialism – earning the title of the “U.S. Ministry of Colonies” from Havana following post-revolutionary Cuba’s expulsion from the body in 1961. As such, it is now being wielded for the express purpose of effecting “regime change” in Caracas, a move that would not only remove a major regional obstacle to U.S. domination of the region but would also open the door to the exploitation of Venezuela’s massive crude oil deposits – as well as its people – by Western multinational corporations.

On May 29, the OAS panel of “independent experts” convened in Washington to build the case for toppling the Bolivarian government and prosecuting Maduro at the International Criminal Court (ICC). As journalist Max Blumenthal said:

The panel comprised a collection of aggressive advocates of regime change in Venezuela. I attended the event to question the self-proclaimed experts on their ulterior agenda and the absurd contradictions behind their claims to support universal human rights.”

Let’s look at one example of such absurdity, as embodied by former Canadian Justice Minister, human rights celebrity, and “independent expert” Irwin Cotler.

 

An advocate for “universal” human rights … with exceptions

Cotler — an international human-rights lawyer and former Conservative, who recently joined Canada’s ruling Liberal Party — has long stood at the forefront of the West’s inquisitions against the governments of the Global South. While he has made questionable claims that he represented anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela in court, he has also championed right-wing Venezuelan coup leader Leopoldo Lopez.

Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez holds a Venezuelan national flag as he greets a group of opposition protesters outside his home in Caracas, Venezuela, July 8, 2017. (AP/Fernando Llano)

Speaking to The Canadian Jewish News upon his appointment to the OAS panel last October, Cotler said:

The international experts panel is as timely as it is necessary. As Venezuela slides into dictatorship … and the human suffering of the Venezuelan people intensifies, the restoration of democracy and human rights while combating the culture of impunity is an overriding priority.”

Yet while Cotler has spoken passionately about the plight of human rights victims in some parts of the world – earning the title of “Counsel for the Oppressed” from flagship Canadian magazine Maclean’s – the award-winning rights champion has simultaneously shown scant concern for the plight of the Palestinian people suffering genocide at the hands of an Israeli state that acts with complete impunity.

Surely the plight of Gaza – which has been subjected to 11 years of a suffocating siege by land, air, and sea – would elicit a twinge of sympathy from any supporter of “universal human rights”? Sadly, not only has this not been the case but Cotler’s antipathy toward extending “universal” rights to Palestinians was made shockingly clear in his unflinching accusation that resistance-movement Hamas was to blame for the shocking massacre of 62 unarmed protesters in the Gaza Strip last month.

If Cotler deserves distinction, it is for his fanatical devotion to the Zionist project, and his knee-jerk rallying to the defense of its actions on the basis of defending the right of the Jewish “original aboriginal people” to an ethno-religious colony built atop the freshly-bulldozed or bombed homes of Palestinians.

Israeli apartheid institutions deny the people of Palestine their own universal right to self-determination by imposing suffocating restrictions on their movement, travel, and trade. Israeli security forces have been criticized by rights organizations for resorting to the very kinds of excessive and wanton force for which Cotler has castigated Venezuela — including the extrajudicial killing and torture of unarmed Palestinians, including children. While Cotler has called on Western countries to intervene in cases of genocide, he is firmly against any criticism of Israeli apartheid or the construction of huge settlements within the occupied West Bank, which remains illegal under international law despite the apathy of Ottawa and Washington.


Read more from Elliott Gabriel


In the eyes of Cotler, the State of Israel and the Jewish People are one in the same. For this partisan of the universal application of human rights law, any criticism of Tel Aviv – whether its leadership is Labor or Likud, liberal-colonial or fascist-colonial – is a manifestation of the “new anti-Semitism” and the denial of Israel’s right to live as equals in the “Family of Nations,” as the tired old Zionist cliché goes.

It’s as if Cotler — whose ruling Liberal Party prime minister, Justin Trudeau, has apologized for Canada’s settler-colonial crimes against First Nations peoples — sees the “Family of Nations” as those countries — such as the U.S., Canada, and Australia — that completely did away with their indigenous populations. So now the European Jews who claim “Israel” as their home deserve a crack at it. Understood.

But what boundless cynicism does it require to claim with a straight face that the human-rights situation in Venezuela is even worse than that in the Gaza Strip – where Israeli bombings are routine, a blockade prevents medical goods and foodstuffs from entering the enclave, and the Israelis experiment with cruelly novel forms of repression and over a decade of collective punishment against a people guilty of resisting, and voting for what he calls “terror group Hamas”?

Palestinian protesters gather in front of burned tires while Israeli soldiers fire teargas during clashes with Israeli troops along Gaza's border with Israel, Friday, April 6, 2018. Palestinians torched piles of tires near Gaza's border with Israel on Friday, sending huge plumes of black smoke into the air and drawing Israeli fire that killed one man in the second large protest in the volatile area in a week. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Of course, Cotler has also explicitly called for the “Responsibility to Protect” the people of Syria from “mass atrocity crimes” committed by the “regime” of President Bashar al-Assad. What else could one expect from such a typically hypocritical Western human-rights imperialist?

As Blumenthal noted in a recent interview with The Real News:

Whenever Israel committed some kind of atrocity, the Mavi Marmara massacre or one war after another in Gaza, Cotler would rush out, just like Dershowitz, as Israel’s public advocate … So, he’s just a suspicious, sort of morally dubious, figure. And for him to be on this panel, I think they just deserved to be questioned about that.”

 

The OAS panel: a mouthpiece of imperialism

Cotler is far from alone among the morally dubious figures arrogating moral authority to themselves; OAS Secretary-General Luis Almagro has also praised the Israelis, favorably comparing the scandal-ridden Netanyahu government to that of Maduro, despite the latter head of state not having launched aggressive wars on his own population or neighboring states. In the meantime, Almagro has been relatively silent in respect to the Western Hemisphere’s most pressing human-rights crises — such as the Mexican government’s crackdowns on social movements resisting neoliberal structural reforms, assassinations of social movement leaders and paramilitary attacks on rural and Indigenous communities throughout Latin America, and the parliamentary coup against Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.

The OAS panel on crimes against humanity in Venezuela is overseen by Argentine lawyer Luis Moreno Ocampo, another friend of the Israelis. The former International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor has advised the Israelis on how to evade criminal charges for their perpetual expansion of illegal settlements — maintaining that the settler-colonial state could wage a successful defense by manipulating international perceptions through legal arguments justifying the displacement of Palestinians and expropriation of their land, “once [legal permission is] ratified by the [Israeli] top court,” which Ocampo called “highly respected internationally.”

Ocampo hasn’t met a regime-change operation he hasn’t liked: while heading the ICC prosecutor’s office, he has called for warrants to arrest Sudanese President Omar Bashir, late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and his officials, and Syria’s president. His seeming obsession with toppling leaders in the postcolonial world led Gambia Information Minister Sheriff Bojang to note in October 2016 that the ICC is, “in fact, an International Caucasian Court for the persecution and humiliation of people of color.”

As one can clearly see, the figures comprising the OAS panel are hardly “independent” and instead represent the White House and right-wing Latin America’s agenda to wage a violent coup against what remains of Venezuelan democracy.

Rather than serving the cause of humanitarianism and human rights, Cotler and his accomplices are selling their legal “expertise” to the cause of creating further suffering for the Venezuelan people through a stepped-up sanctions blockade – the preliminary step toward overthrowing the Bolivarian Republic and reducing a proudly independent nation to a state of neocolonial bondage.

Top Photo | Demonstrators gather in Bolivar Square to show their support of Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas, Venezuela and Palestinian medics evacuate a colleague wounded by Israeli troops along Gaza’s border with Israel (AP/Adel Hana).

Elliott Gabriel is a former staff writer for teleSUR English and a MintPress News contributor based in Quito, Ecuador. He has taken extensive part in advocacy and organizing in the pro-labor, migrant justice and police accountability movements of Southern California and the state’s Central Coast.

Republish our stories! MintPress News is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 International License.

Pleasing Investors at the Expense of the People, Argentina Sells out to the IMF – By Jon Jeter (MINT PRESS)

Latin America

President Mauricio Macri has put the country back on the neoliberal path with policies that favor big agricultural producers inside the country, and investors both inside and outside of Argentina.

BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA — Days before Christmas of 2001, a 54-year-old Argentine woman named Norma Cecilia Albino shoved her way past the throngs of demonstrators protesting the government’s new banking restrictions, walked into a bank branch in a northern Buenos Aires neighborhood, strolled to the counter, and asked to withdraw a few pesos from her account.

When the cashier explained to Albino that she’d already reached her limit and would not be able to withdraw more until the following month, Albino calmly rumbled through her purse for a bottle of alcohol, doused herself with it, and then, to the horror of a nation, set herself ablaze inside the bank lobby.

Albino survived after bank employees rushed to put out the flames with a fire extinguisher and clothing. But the traumatic moment is emblematic of the trauma inflicted on the country by a  deep economic downturn that rivaled the Great Depression; Argentines dubbed it “La Crisis.”

 

Snatching poverty from the jaws of prosperity

For most of the 20th century, Argentina’s was the most prosperous and industrialized economy in Latin America, and virtually everyone who wanted a job could find one. Israeli agents managed to kidnap the fugitive Nazi Adolf Eichmann in 1960 simply by waiting for him to finish his shift at a Buenos Aires water plant. Then in 1991 — with the encouragement of the world’s two most powerful financial institutions, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund — Argentina’s investor-friendly government decided to root out inflation by fixing the exchange rate of the local currency: one peso for one U.S. dollar.

People line up outside Norma Colque's home to fill their containers with free food. Colque, who gets food from the state to serve about 200 a day, says she has had to stretch the pasta and stew because twice as many people are lining up for food. Natacha Pisarenko | AP

Within two years, the peg had sharply curbed inflation, from an annual rate of 84 percent to one of 7.4 percent. But it also raised prices on locally produced goods, making Argentina’s products too expensive to sell abroad and goods shipped into the country artificially cheap. Brands made in Spain and the U.S. began to fly off the shelves and — much like the disillusioned, bankrupt protagonist of Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises — Argentina went broke, “gradually at first, and then suddenly.”

In the postwar period, the country had never seen its unemployment rate rise above 4 percent; by the time of Albino’s self-immolation, it was 22 percent. The percentage of Argentines living in poverty soared to 56 percent, more than the previous peak by a factor of 10.

 

Recovery through isolation

But, beginning with the 2002 devaluation of the peso and President Nestor Kirchner’s default on nearly $100 billion in government loans the following year, Argentina’s economy began to recover. With less money leaving the country to buy foreign-made goods and pay foreign bondholders, more was available for investment and poverty relief; Argentina’s economy grew by an average of 8 percent a year for the next five years, and continued even after Kirchner died unexpectedly and was succeeded as head-of-state by his widow, Cristina, in 2010. As a result of its default, Argentina was a pariah in the capital markets but a quarter of the population put poverty in their rearview mirror.

 

Back into the debtor-nation buzzsaw: a lesson apparently not learned

But now Argentines are beginning to worry that La Crisis is returning. On May 8, President Mauricio Macri announced that he is seeking a credit line worth at least $19.7 billion from the IMF to fund the government through the end of his first term in late 2019. Days later, Argentina’s central bank announced it would raise interest rates to 40 percent — the highest in the world — to curb runaway inflation.

The return to the international financial system sent thousands of angry Argentines into the streets this month, some with signs declaring “enough of the IMF.” Retail sales contracted by 3 percent in April; consulting houses, like the London-based Capital Economics, predict high interest rates will tip Argentina into a recession this year. Workers are demanding higher wages, Macri’s popularity has plummeted, and some data suggests that many Argentines have returned to the custom of hiding dollars underneath their mattresses: dollar deposits in Argentine banks fell 2 percent between April 27 and May 14, according to data obtained by Reuters.

Protesters stand behind a barrier with a sign bearing a message for the FMI, the Spanish acronym for International Monetary Fund, during a protest in Buenos Aires, Argentina, May 25, 2018. Victor R. Caivano | AP

Small-business owners like Maria Florencia Humano are closing for good. Unable to pay either the rent or the business loans she took out, she told Reuters that she has moved in with her sister to cut costs. Said Humano of Macri, who is the scion of one of the country’s wealthiest families:

I voted for him. I made a bet and believed in him. Now I don’t believe anyone.”

What is unfolding in Argentina is the third act of a sovereign-debt crisis that began in the late 1970s after a military junta introduced neoliberal trade policies, Paul Cooney, an economist at the National University of General Sarmiento in Buenos Aires, told Mintpress. The military’s reforms were quite mild, however, compared to those implemented by Carlos Saul Menem, who was elected president in 1989 and went on to effectively dismantle the modern industrial state in Argentina — a country that boasted its living standards were more comparable to those of France than to any of its South American neighbors, save perhaps Chile. The Kirchners represented a return to Keynesian macroeconomic policies, but Macri has put the country back on the neoliberal path with policies that favor big agricultural producers inside the country, and investors both inside and outside of Argentina. Said Cooney:

The same thing is happening again. Industry has really worsened and Argentina is once again on the edge of a likely transformative recession.”

Macri campaigned to reverse the Kirchners’ trade policies, which have isolated the country from the global marketplace. He settled with the nation’s remaining creditors and last year issued $2.75 billion of dollar-denominated bonds with a 100-year maturity; investors snapped them up.

Macri’s free-market credentials earned him a 2017 invitation to the White House to meet U.S. President Donald Trump, who earlier this month on Twitter hailed the Argentine leader’s “vision for transforming his country’s economy.”

 

A contraction that only global investors could love

This economy is not identical to the depression that began in 1998, Cooney said. That downturn was grounded in the 1-to-1 peg between the dollar and the Argentine peso, which effectively took an elephant gun to inflation. But the central bank’s interest rate hikes exert the same contractionary pressures on the economy by drying up lending to households and small businesses in Argentina. Buying power declines, businesses have to lay off employees, and the government, grappling with a shrinking tax base, has to borrow to make ends meet. Argentina is saddled with more than $320 billion in external debt, equivalent to 57 percent of Gross Domestic Product, much of it denominated in dollars.

A woman looks up at a board showing the exchange rates between the Argentine peso and the U.S. dollar, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, May 15, 2018. Natacha Pisarenko | AP

French Supermarket chain Carrefour, which employs 19,000 people in Argentina, announced in April a plan to lay off an unspecified number of workers as part of a “crisis prevention plan.”

Eduardo Fernandez — head of an organization known by its Spanish acronym, APYME, which represents about 10,000 small firms nationwide — told Reuters that Argentina’s return to the IMF represents a failure of Macri’s economic policies, which are now clobbering mom-and-pop operators. He said:

With this rate increase, we can’t request credit; we are in a very difficult situation.”

Fabian Castillo, owner of a Buenos Aires shoe factory, told Reuters that with the cost of essentials like rent, food, and utilities rising, Argentines are simply doing without extras.

Anyone selling perfume, clothes or shoes is having a hard time getting to the end of the month.”

Whether through raising interest rates or pegging domestic currencies to the U.S. dollar, the objective is to reduce inflation, which is, to be sure, not good for anyone. Poor people hate to see higher prices for a loaf of bread or a bag of rice, but studies have shown that moderate levels of inflation don’t adversely impact economic growth. It does, however, impact profits, which is why financiers have been obsessed with inflation since the 1973 stagflation crisis in the U.S. that was driven by high wages and high commodity prices. Milton Friedman and his coterie of advisors from the University of Chicago — the Chicago Boys as they were famously dubbed — coaxed the dictator Augusto Pinochet to fix the exchange rate of the Chilean peso at 1.4 to the U.S. dollar in 1974, months after the General led a military coup that overthrew the Socialist president, Salvador Allende.

The country’s jobless rate climbed to 33 percent.

Today, Chileans of a certain age jokingly refer to the Chicago Boys derisively in Spanish as “Si, Cago, Voy,” which translates as “Yes, I shit, I go.

Top Photo | A demonstrator wearing a mask showing a detail of a U.S. dollar bill protests the government’s plans to make a deal with the IMF and increase the price of services such as gas and electricity in Buenos Aires, Argentina, May 14, 2018. President Mauricio Macri announced that he will seek a financing deal with the IMF following a sharp devaluation of its currency. Natacha Pisarenko | AP

 Jon Jeter is a published book author and two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist with more than 20 years of journalistic experience. He is a former Washington Post bureau chief and award-winning foreign correspondent on two continents, as well as a former radio and television producer for Chicago Public Media’s “This American Life.”

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Haley, Pence Convey US Message on Venezuela: Only Election Worth Holding is One that Results in Regime Change – By Elliott Gabriel (MINT PRESS)

A Venezuelan man dressed as Uncle Sam, a personification of the U.S government, holding a fake nuke and a placard showing OAS president as a dog 

Last Friday, former CIA chief and newly-appointed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo contributed his own venomous input to the conversation, stating that “a dictator today in Venezuela cripples his economy and starves his people” and that the State Department must take action to assist the hundreds of thousands of migrants who have fled the economically besieged South American nation.

Noting the hypocrisy of Washington waxing sympathy for the very people afflicted by the steady torrent of sanctions unleashed by the White House, Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry said:

Mr. Pompeo shows false concern for the reality of Venezuela while hiding the perverse effects of the unilateral coercive measures of his government … [The Trump administration] has launched erratic maneuvers, typical of the arrogance and despair of imperialist politics, after having failed once and again in the face of the will of a free and independent people.”

 

U.S. pressure continues unabated

Government supporters perform a parody involving a Venezuelan militia up against Uncle Sam, a personification of the U.S government, during an anti-imperialist march to denounce Trump's talk of a "military option" for resolving the country's political crisis, in Caracas, Venezuela, Aug. 14, 2017. (AP/Ariana Cubillos)

While opposition politician Henri Falcon will take part in the election duel with Maduro, opposition figures aligned with the U.S.-backed M.U.D. (Democratic Unity Roundtable), such as Julio Borges and Carlos Vecchio, have embarked on an international tour, calling on officials in neighboring states and Western capitals to tighten their stranglehold on oil-rich Venezuela.

The U.S. has also redoubled its accusation that in addition to corruption, the socialist government is involved in narcotics trafficking.

The accusation was at the core of Pence’s Monday announcement that Washington would slap sanctions on three Venezuelans and 20 companies with ties to the Maduro government, adding further force to a siege primarily impacting the poorest people in a county already facing massive recession, hyperinflation, scarce food supplies and medicine shortages.

“I think the [Trump] administration is willing to do anything, whatever it takes, to make sure that Venezuelan people get to enjoy democracy and the liberties that come with it,” U.S. Ambassador to the OAS Carlos Trujillo told the press.

Venezuela’s government remains defiant and insists that it won’t bow to the “colonialism” that Latin America’s anti-colonial revolutionaries defeated over two hundred years ago. Its Foreign Ministry stated:

On May 20, without fail, presidential elections will take place in Venezuela and the people will defend their right to decide with votes, without interventions of any kind. The whole world will witness a new popular expression which will reaffirm the democratic character of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. No empire can go up against the will of the Venezuelans, worthy heirs of the Liberator Simón Bolívar in his ongoing effort to build nations and free, sovereign, independent and deeply anti-imperialist societies.”

Top Image | A Venezuelan man dressed as Uncle Sam, a personification of the U.S government, holding a fake nuke and a placard showing OAS president as a dog, participates in an anti-imperialist march to denounce Trump’s talk of a “military option” for resolving the country’s political crisis, in Caracas, Venezuela, Aug. 14, 2017. (AP/Ariana Cubillos)

Elliott Gabriel is a former staff writer for teleSUR English and a MintPress News contributor based in Quito, Ecuador. He has taken extensive part in advocacy and organizing in the pro-labor, migrant justice and police accountability movements of Southern California and the state’s Central Coast.

Financial Experts: US Will Fail to Undermine China-South America Free Trade Deal – By SPUTNIK

A US 100-dollar banknote with a portrait of Benjamin Franklin and Chinese 100-yuan banknotes with portrait of late Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong are seen in the picture illustration in Beijing, China

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Financial experts discussed with Sputnik remarks by Argentine Ambassador to China Diego Ramiro Guelar, who said recently that talks about a possible free-trade deal between China and South America’s major economies could start as early as next year.

Following the Summit of the Americas held in Lima, Peru, earlier in April, the ambassador said that China’s investments were essential for Argentina, which is struggling to reform its isolated economy and regain access to the international capital market.

“China is as important as the US and sometimes it is more important than the US,” Guelar told the South China Morning Post, adding that “the Americans might be worried because they used to think that they would be hegemonic in the region.”

Financial experts told Sputnik that while the Latin American Market apparently seeks to strengthen economic ties with China and it is very likely that the free-trade deal will be reached, the US will certainly hinder the negotiations, pile political pressure on certain countries and try to unravel regional organizations.

Bian Yongzu, a researcher with the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at the People’s University of China, told Sputnik that the beginning of free trade zone negotiations between China, Argentina and other South American states has been greatly anticipated.

READ MORE: Pentagon Chief Pushes to Waive Sanctions for US Allies That Buy Russian S-400s

“In recent years, trade and economic cooperation between [these parties] has been tightening. The project is predetermined by the structure and interrelatedness of the region’s economic paradigms,” the expert said.

He explained that China, for instance, has invested in the extraction of mineral resources, infrastructure and agriculture of South America. In its turn, South America exports minerals and agricultural products to China; and the volume of trade between the regions has been consistently growing.

“On the other hand, South America has traditionally been the United States’ backyard. [The US] interferes in South America’s politics and economy, sanctioning some of the region’s states at every given opportunity,” Bian said. “Meanwhile, China’s economic clout in the world has been growing, which allows South American nations to consider other ways of cooperation on development.”

“All indications are that China’s development provides South America with a chance to solidify its positions in dialogue with the US. It is safe to say that negotiations between China and South America on a free-trade zone are exigencies of modern times,” the expert said.

Bian cautioned that the US may still try to slow the process down with a demonstration of power, but in the end it cannot do anything to stop the growing trend away from American dominance of the region, given the numerous and growing alternatives.

READ MORE: Grab the Popcorn: Trump Promises to ‘Take On’ EU in New Trade War

Alexander Kharlamenko, an expert from Russia’s Institute of Latin America, told Sputnik that China has long and successfully been developing relations with Cuba, Venezuela and some of the other countries in the region, and these countries will have to deal with political blows aimed at disrupting the unity of Latin America.

The expert suggested that the US will likely continue to pressure some of the region’s right-wing governments, seeking to undermine the system of regional organizations, including MERCOSUR [Southern Common Market].

“China will counter with its economic power,” the expert said. “It obviously seeks to avoid an open politicization of relations with countries in this region, securing normal relations and economic cooperation even amid regime changes.”

“China will rely upon its traditional flexibility, the policy of non-interference in internal affairs, supporting the independence of states in the region. That is a traditional Chinese policy to counter hegemonism,” Kharlamenko concluded.    

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