Protests

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Iran: Oil Workers Reject Trade Unions

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 18/09/2021 - 9:27pm in

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Iran, Protests, strikes

image/jpeg iconprotest-organising-council-19.jpg

In the capitalist world, whatever the subject, it naturally only hits the headlines if the rulers of all factions are in control of it. If the news is about a war, climate change, economic downturn, regime change, elections, protests, immigration, in fact any issue where the working class as a class is absent, so it can be manipulated in a way that suits the ruling class, then not only is it covered by mass media, it also grabs the attention of “independent” media and journalists. They usually follow it up with tedious discussions, seminars, films and even more news.

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Iran: On Oil and Troubled Water

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 24/08/2021 - 10:35pm in

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Iran, Protests, strikes

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As we write, comrades are translating the bulletins emerging from the struggles of the oil workers’ strike committee in Iran which have now been ongoing for two months. They can be found on our website (and we publish Statement No. 12 below). The oil workers are not alone.

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South African Riots: The Social Crisis Erupts

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 19/08/2021 - 5:33am in

image/jpeg iconpietermaritzburg-riots.jpg

In mid-July the social crisis in South Africa (SA) exploded in a week of rioting, looting and arson which swept across the provinces of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. By the end of the month over 330 people had been killed and a trail of destruction left across the major cities and shopping centres.

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After the Cuban Protests: Discussion with Proletarios Cabreados

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 18/08/2021 - 1:51am in

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Cuba, Marxism, Protests

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We are publishing here our translation of a further document on the Cuban protests in July, entitled Análisis de la actual crisis y revuelta en Cuba desde la perspectiva comunista radical, by a group in Ecuador which goes under the name of Proletarios Cabreados (Pissed off Proletarians). You can find them at proletariosrevolucionarios.blogspot.com

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The Protests in Cuba

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 20/07/2021 - 9:55pm in

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Protests

In this episode, Neil, Natalia, and Niki discuss the mass protests in Cuba. Here are some links and references mentioned...

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The Bay of Tweets: Documents Point to US Hand in Cuba Protests

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 17/07/2021 - 4:00am in

HAVANA — Cuba was rocked by a series of anti-government street protests earlier this week. The U.S. establishment immediately hailed the events, putting its full weight behind the protestors. Yet documents suggest that Washington might be more involved in the events than it cares to publicly divulge.

As many have reported, the protests, which started on Sunday in the town of San Antonio de los Baños in the west of the island, were led and vocally supported by artists and musicians, particularly from its vibrant hip-hop scene.

“For those new to the issue of Cuba, the protests we are witnessing were started by artists, not politicians. This song ‘Patria y Vida’ powerfully explains how young Cubans feel. And its release was so impactful, you will go to jail if caught playing it in Cuba,” said Florida Senator Marco Rubio, referencing a track by rapper Yotuel.

Both NPR and The New York Times published in-depth features about the song and how it was galvanizing the movement. “The Hip-Hop Song That’s Driving Cuba’s Unprecedented Protests,” ran NPR’s headline. Yotuel himself led a sympathy demonstration in Miami.

But what these accounts did not mention was the remarkable extent to which Cuban rappers like Yotuel have been recruited by the American government in order to sow discontent in the Caribbean nation. The latest grant publications of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) — an organization established by the Reagan administration as a front group for the CIA — show that Washington is trying to infiltrate the Cuban arts scene in order to bring about regime change. “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA,” NED co-founder Allen Weinstein once told The Washington Post.

Yotuel Romero

Yotuel poses with workers, July 14, 2021, at at a Cuban restaurant in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood. Wilfredo Lee | AP

For instance, one project, entitled “Empowering Cuban Hip-Hop Artists as Leaders in Society,” states that its goal is to “promote citizen participation and social change,” and to “raise awareness about the role hip-hop artists have in strengthening democracy in the region.” Another, called “Promoting Freedom of Expression in Cuba through the Arts,” claims it is helping local artists on projects related to “democracy, human rights, and historical memory,” and to help “increase awareness about the Cuban reality.” This “reality,” as President Joe Biden himself stated this week, is that the Cuban government is an “authoritarian regime” that has meted out “decades of repression” while leaders only “enrich themselves.”

Other operations the NED is currently funding include enhancing Cuban civil society’s ability to “propose political alternatives” and to “transition to democracy.” The agency never divulges with whom it works inside Cuba, nor any more information beyond a couple of anodyne blurbs, leaving Cubans to wonder whether any group even vaguely challenging political or societal norms is secretly bankrolled by Washington.

“The State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the U.S. Agency for Global Media have all financed programs to support Cuban artists, journalists, bloggers and musicians,” Tracey Eaton, a journalist who runs The Cuba Money Project, told MintPress. “It’s impossible to say how many U.S. tax dollars have gone toward these programs over the years because details of many projects are kept secret,” he added.

A currently active grant offer from the NED’s sister organization, USAID, is offering $2 million worth of funding to groups that use culture to bring about social change in Cuba. Applicants have until July 30 to ask for up to $1 million each. The announcement itself references Yotuel’s song, noting, “Artists and musicians have taken to the streets to protest government repression, producing anthems such as ‘Patria y Vida,’ which has not only brought greater global awareness to the plight of the Cuban people but also served as a rallying cry for change on the island.”

The hip-hop scene in particular has long been a target for American agencies like the NED and USAID. Gaining popularity in the late 1990s, local rappers had a considerable impact on society, helping bring to the fore many previously under-discussed topics. The U.S. saw their biting critiques of racism as a wedge they could exploit, and attempted to recruit them into their ranks, although it is far from clear how far they got in this endeavor, as few in the rap community wanted to be part of such an operation.

The graphic below shows how much money various artists have received from the US government. Credit | Cuba Money Project

Writers, Artists, Performers

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MintPress also spoke with Professor Sujatha Fernandes, a sociologist at the University of Sydney and an expert in Cuban music culture. Fernandes stated:

For many years, under the banner of regime change, organizations like USAID have tried to infiltrate Cuban rap groups and fund covert operations to provoke youth protests. These programs have involved a frightening level of manipulation of Cuban artists, have put Cubans at risk, and threatened a closure of the critical spaces of artistic dialogue many worked hard to build.”

Other areas in which U.S. organizations are focussing resources include sports journalism — which the NED hopes to use as a “vehicle to narrate the political, social, and cultural realities of Cuban society” — and gender and LGBTQ+ groups, the intersectional empire apparently seeing an opportunity to also use these issues to increase fissures in Cuban society.

The House Appropriations Budget, published earlier this month, also sets aside up to $20 million for “democracy programs” in Cuba, including those that support “free enterprise and private business organizations.” What is meant by “democracy” is made clear in the document, which states in no uncertain terms that “none of the funds made available under such paragraph may be used for assistance for the government of Cuba.” Thus, any mention of “democracy” in Cuba is all but synonymous with regime change.

 

Capitalizing on a battered economy

The protests began on Sunday after a power outage left residents in San Antonio de los Baños without electricity during the summer heat. That appeared to be the spark that led to hundreds of people marching in the street. However, Cuba’s economy has also taken a nosedive of late. As Professor Aviva Chomsky of Salem State University, author of “A History of the Cuban Revolution,” told MintPress:

Cuba’s current economic situation is pretty dire (as is, I should point out, almost all of the Third World’s). The U.S. embargo (or, as Cubans call it, blockade) has been yet another obstacle (on top of the obstacles faced by all poor countries) in Cuba’s fight against COVID-19. The collapse of tourism has been devastating to Cuba’s economy — again, as it has been in pretty much all tourism-heavy places.”

However, Chomsky also noted that it could be a mistake to label all the protestors as yearning for free-market shock therapy. “It’s interesting to note that many of the protesters are actually protesting Cuba’s capitalist reforms, rather than socialism. ‘They have money to build hotels but we have no money for food, we are starving,’ said one protester. That’s capitalism in a nutshell!” Chomsky said.

Rick Scott Cuba protests

Florida Sen. Rick Scott holds a photo of Cuban protesters during a press conference in DC, July 13, 2021. J. Scott Applewhite | AP

Eaton was skeptical of the idea that all those marching were in the pay of the U.S. “Certainly, much of the uprising was organic, driven by Cubans who are desperate, poor, hungry and fed up with their government’s inability to meet their basic needs,” he said. Yet there were signs that at least some were not simply making a point about the lack of food in stores or medicines in pharmacies. A number of demonstrators marched underneath the American flag and the events were immediately endorsed by the U.S. government.

“We stand with the Cuban people and their clarion call for freedom,” read an official statement from the White House. Julie Chung, Biden’s Acting Assistant Secretary for U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, added:

Cuba’s people continue to bravely express yearning for freedom in the face of repression. We call on Cuba’s government to: refrain from violence, listen to their citizens’ demands, respect protestor and journalist rights. The Cuban people have waited long enough for ¡Libertad!”

Republicans went much further. Mayor of Miami Francis Suarez demanded that the United States intervene militarily, telling Fox News that the U.S. should put together a “coalition of potential military action in Cuba.” Meanwhile, Florida Congressman Anthony Sabbatini called for regime change on the island, tweeting:

 

The corporate media cheering section

Corporate media were also extremely interested in the protests, devoting a great deal of column inches and air time to the demonstrations. This is extremely unusual for such actions in Latin America. Colombia has been living through months of general strikes against a repressive government, while there have been three years of near-daily protests in Haiti that were almost completely ignored until earlier this month, when U.S.-backed President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated.

The effect of U.S. sanctions was constantly downplayed or not even mentioned in reporting. For example, The Washington Post’s editorial board came out in favor of the protestors, claiming Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel was reacting “with predictable thuggishness…blaming everything on the United States and the U.S. trade embargo.” Other outlets did not even mention the embargo, leaving readers with the impression that the events could only be understood as a democratic uprising against a decaying dictatorship.

This is particularly pernicious because government documents explicitly state that the goal of the U.S. sanctions is to “decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and [the] overthrow of [the] government” — exactly the conditions brewing in Cuba right now. Professor Chomsky noted:

The U.S. embargo/blockade is one (not the only) cause of Cuba’s economic crisis. The U.S. has overtly and continuously said that the goal of the embargo is to destroy Cuba’s economy so that the government will collapse. So it’s not just reasonable, it’s obvious that the U.S. has some kind of hand in this.”

Chomsky also took issue with the media’s explanation of events, stating:

Look at coverage of Black Lives Matter or Occupy Wall Street protests in this country. One thing that we see consistently is that when people protest in capitalist countries, the media never explains the problems they are protesting as caused by capitalism. When people protest in communist or socialist countries, the media attributes the problems to communism or socialism.”

Media were at pains to emphasize how large and widespread the anti-government demonstrations were, insisting that the pro-government counter-demonstrations were smaller in number, despite images from the protests suggesting that the opposite might be true. As Reuters reported, “Thousands took to the streets in various parts of Havana on Sunday including the historic centre, drowning out groups of government supporters waving the Cuban flag and chanting Fidel.”

If this were the case, it is odd indeed that so many outlets used images of pro-government movements to illustrate the supposed size and scope of the anti-government action. The Guardian, Fox News, The Financial Times, NBC and Yahoo! News all falsely claimed a picture of a large socialist gathering was, in fact, an anti-government demo. The large red and black banners emblazoned with the words “26 Julio” (the name of Fidel Castro’s political party) should have been a dead giveaway to any editors or fact checkers. Meanwhile, CNN and National Geographic illustrated articles on the protests in Cuba with images of gatherings in Miami — gatherings that looked far better attended than any similar ones 90 miles to the south.

https://twitter.com/AlanRMacLeod/status/1415024072543592454

 

Social media meltdown

Social media also played a pivotal role in turning what was a localized protest into a nationwide event. NBC’s Director of Latin America, Mary Murray, noted that it was only when live streams of the events were picked up and signal-boosted by the expat community in Miami that it “started to catch fire,” something that suggests the growth of the movement was partially artificial. After the government blocked the internet, the protests died down.

The hashtag #SOSCuba trended for over a day. There are currently over 120,000 photos on Instagram using the hashtag. But as Arnold August, the writer of a host of books on Cuba and Cuban-American relations, told MintPress, much of the attention the protests was getting was the result of inauthentic activity:

The latest attempt of regime change also has its roots in Spain. Historically, the former colonizer of Cuba plays its role in all major attempts of regime change, not only for Cuba, but also, for example, in Venezuela. The July operation made intensive use of robots, algorithms and accounts recently created for the occasion.”

#soscuba hashtag

Within days the #SOSCUBA hashtag generated over 120,000 images on Instagram

August noted that the first account using #SOSCuba on Twitter was actually located in Spain. This account posted nearly 1,300 tweets on July 11. The hashtag was also buoyed by hundreds of accounts tweeting the exact same phrases in Spanish, replete with the same small typos. One common message read (translated from Spanish), “Cuba is going through the greatest humanitarian crisis since the start of the pandemic. Anyone who posts the hashtag #SOSCuba would help us a lot. Everyone who sees this should help with the hashtag.” Another text, reading “We Cubans don’t want the end of the embargo if that means the regime and dictatorship stays, we want them gone, no more communism,” was so overused that it became a meme in itself, with social media users parodying it, posting the text alongside pictures of demonstrations beside the Eiffel Tower, crowds at Disneyland, or pictures of Trump’s inauguration. Spanish journalist Julian Macías Tovar also cataloged the suspicious number of brand new accounts using the hashtag.

Much of the operation was so crude that it could not have failed to be discovered, and many of the accounts, including the first user of the #SOSCuba hashtag, have now been suspended for inauthentic behavior. Yet Twitter itself still chose to put the protests at the top of its “What’s Happening” for over 24 hours, meaning that every user would be notified, a decision that further amplified the astroturfed movement.

Twitter leadership has long displayed open hostility towards the Cuban government. In 2019, it took coordinated action to suspend virtually every Cuban state media account, as well as those belonging to the Communist Party. This was part of a wider trend of deleting or banning accounts favorable to governments the U.S. State Department considers enemies, including Venezuela, China and Russia.

In 2010, USAID secretly created a Cuban social media app called Zunzuneo, often described as Cuba’s Twitter. At its peak, it had 40,000 Cuban users — a very large number for that time on the famously Internet-sparse island. None of these users were aware that the app had been secretly designed and marketed to them by the U.S. government. The point was to create a great service that would slowly start to feed Cubans regime-change propaganda and direct them to protests and “smart mobs” aimed at triggering a color-style revolution.

In an effort to hide its ownership of the project, the U.S. government held a secret meeting with Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, aimed at getting him to invest in the project. It is unclear to what extent, if any, Dorsey helped, as he has declined to speak on the matter. This is not the only anti-government app the U.S. has funded in Cuba. Yet, considering both what happened this week and the increasingly close ties between Silicon Valley and the National Security State, it is possible the U.S. government considers further cloak-and-dagger apps unnecessary: Twitter already acts as an instrument for regime change.

 

Cuba in perennial crosshairs

By the end of the nineteenth century, the United States had effectively conquered its entire contiguous landmass; the frontier was declared closed in 1890. Almost immediately, it began to look for opportunities to expand westwards into the Pacific — to Hawaii, the Philippines and Guam. It also began looking southwards. In 1898, the U.S. intervened in the Cuban Independence War against Spain, using the mysterious sinking of the U.S.S. Maine as a pretext to invade and occupy Cuba. The U.S. operated Cuba as a client state for decades, until the Batista regime was overthrown in the 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power.

The U.S. launched a botched invasion of the island in 1961, the Bay of Pigs event driving Castro closer to the Soviet Union, laying the groundwork for the Cuban Missile Crisis the following year. The U.S. reportedly attempted to kill Castro hundreds of times, all without any luck. It did, however, carry out a bitter and protracted terroristic war against Cuba and its infrastructure, including using biological weapons against the island. Along with this came a long-standing economic war, the 60-year U.S. blockade of the island that throttled its development. In addition to this, it has attempted to bombard the Caribbean nation with anti-communist propaganda. TV Martí, a Florida-based media network, has cost the U.S. taxpayer well over half a billion dollars since its creation in 1990, despite the fact that the Cuban government successfully jams the signal, meaning virtually nobody watches its content.

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Cuba was left without its main trading partner, to which it had geared its economy. Without a guaranteed buyer for its sugar, and without subsidized Russian oil imports, the economy crashed. Sensing blood, the U.S. intensified the sanctions. Yet Cuba pulled through the grim time collectively known as the “Special Period.”

After a wave of left-wing, anti-imperialist governments came to power across Latin America in the 2000s, the Obama administration was forced to move towards normalizing diplomatic relations with the island. However, once in office, President Donald Trump reversed these actions, intensifying the blockade and halting vital remittances from Cuban-Americans to the island. Trump advisor John Bolton labeled Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua a “troika of tyranny” — a clear reference to George Bush’s “Axis of Evil” speech, implying that these three nations could expect military action against them soon. In its last days, the Trump administration also declared Cuba a state sponsor of terrorism.

While Biden had intimated that he might turn the U.S. Cuba policy back to the Obama days, he has, so far, done little to move away from the Trump line, his unequivocal endorsement of this week’s actions the latest example of this.

Despite monumental worldwide media coverage, encouragement and legitimation from world leaders, including the president of the United States himself, the recent action petered out after barely 24 hours. In most cases, counter-protests effectively diluted the protests, without the need for repressive forces to be deployed.

The U.S. government can cause economic misery for the Cuban people, but it cannot, it appears, convince them to overthrow their government. “The current events in Cuba constitute in reality the U.S.S. Maine of 2021,” August said. If this really was an attempted color revolution, as August is implying, it was not a very successful one, amounting to little more than a Bay of Tweets.

Feature photo | Floridians from Cuba’s ex-pat community in Hialeah, Fla., shout during a protest against the Cuban government, July 15, 2021. Marta Lavandier | AP

Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.orgThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams.

The post The Bay of Tweets: Documents Point to US Hand in Cuba Protests appeared first on MintPress News.

Breaking through the Western Media Propaganda Coverage of Cuba Protests

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 16/07/2021 - 10:55pm in

Welcome to the MintCast Podcast — an interview series featuring dissenting voices the establishment would rather silence. I’m your host Mnar Adley.

A string of spontaneous protests in Cuba became the unlikely focus of worldwide media attention earlier this week, the story dominating headlines for two straight days. Political and media figures across the spectrum weighed in, including the President of the United States.

Joining me to discuss the protests, their causes, and the relationship between Cuba and the United States are Ben Norton and Alan MacLeod.

Ben Norton is a Nicaragua-based journalist, writer, and filmmaker. He is the assistant editor of investigative news outlet The Grayzone and the producer of the Moderate Rebels podcast, which he co-hosts with editor Max Blumenthal.

Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer at MintPress News. An expert in the media and Latin America, his first book, entitled “Bad News From Venezuela: 20 Years of Fake News and Misreporting,” was published in 2018. Alan has lectured on Latin American politics at a number of universities.

“We stand with the Cuban people and their clarion call for freedom and relief from the tragic grip of the pandemic and from the decades of repression and economic suffering to which they have been subjected by Cuba’s authoritarian regime,” read a statement from the White House. “The Cuban people are bravely asserting fundamental and universal rights…The United States calls on the Cuban regime to hear their people and serve their needs at this vital moment rather than enriching themselves,” it added.

But even this unqualified support for the demonstrations was not enough for many in the Republican Party, who presented President Biden as a secret communist sympathizer. Mayor of Miami Francis Suarez demanded that the United States intervene militarily, telling Fox News that the U.S. should put together a “coalition of potential military action in Cuba.” Meanwhile, Florida Congressman Anthony Sabbatini called for regime change on the island and demanded that the U.S. execute the communist leadership.

The demonstrations began in San Antonio de los Baños in the western province of Artemisa, close to Havana, after a power cut left residents without air conditioning in the hot summer. However, with the help of social media, amplified by the anti-government expatriate community in Florida, they soon began to spread to dozens of other areas across the country, as Cubans made their discontent with the shortages of food and goods heard.

While there are plenty of reasons for ordinary Cubans to currently feel disenchanted about life on the island, there are also strong suspicions that these protests were not quite the grassroots uprising they were made out to be in the U.S. press.

The protests were led by the artistic and musical communities, two groups that American agencies USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy have for years been pumping tens of millions of dollars into, in an explicit attempt to sow discord and promote regime change. The latest House Appropriations Budget allocates $20 million this year to projects devoted to overthrowing the Cuban government through soft-power means, many of which directly target musicians and artists.

Life in Cuba is particularly hard of late, owing to the coronavirus-related economic collapse, which has seen tourism dwindle to almost zero and depleted the government’s reserves of foreign cash. On top of this, the Trump administration’s tightening of illegal sanctions hit the island hard, with crucial remittances from abroad effectively stopped.

The blockade continues to cripple Cuba and hamper its development. In 2014, the United Nations estimated that the sanctions had caused over $1 trillion worth of damage to the Caribbean nation. The explicit goal of the American blockade — active since 1960 — is to “decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and [the] overthrow of [the] government,” in the words of then-Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs Lester D. Mallory.

“The U.S. has overtly and continuously said that the goal of the embargo is to destroy Cuba’s economy so that the government will collapse. So it’s not just reasonable, it’s obvious that the U.S. has some kind of hand in this,” Professor Aviva Chomsky, of Salem State University and author of “A History of the Cuban Revolution,” told MintPress.

Feature photo | Graphic by Antonio Cabrera

MintPress News is a fiercely independent, reader-supported outlet, with no billionaire owners or backers. You can support us by becoming a member on Patreon, bookmarking and whitelisting us, and by subscribing to our social media channels, including Twitch, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram.

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Mnar Muhawesh is founder, CEO and editor in chief of MintPress News, and is also a regular speaker on responsible journalism, sexism, neoconservativism within the media and journalism start-ups.

The post Breaking through the Western Media Propaganda Coverage of Cuba Protests appeared first on MintPress News.

Birds of a Fascist Feather: Why Israel Is Aiding Colombia’s Crackdown on Protesters

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 29/05/2021 - 6:59am in

BOGOTA — For exactly one month now, a nationwide strike has crippled Colombia and has been met with deadly repression by the far-right government of Ivan Duque. As trade unions have shut down major cities, halting mass transit and bringing economic gridlock to the country, government forces have responded with violence. According to government figures, at least 44 people have been killed in protests that began on April 28. A further 500 people have been “disappeared,” more than 100 shot with live fire, and at least 28 have been wounded in the eye by police, the notorious ESMAD riot squad, or by paramilitary organizations linked to the state.

The crackdown on dissent is being abetted by the Israeli government, which itself is dealing with widespread economic, military and social revolt from its captive Palestinian population. Outside of the United States, Israel is the Colombian military and paramilitaries’ chief weapons supplier, and the Colombian police and army have been putting their Israeli training and weapons to use against their own domestic revolt.

The state has essentially declared war on the citizenry, turning streets and neighborhoods into battlefields in an attempt to push through President Duque’s highly controversial neoliberal policies that would eliminate public healthcare, privatize pensions, reduce the minimum wage and levy a 19% tax on staple foods, moves which critics deem an all-out attack on Colombia’s working-class majority. The president is showing no sign of backing down, despite his approval rating slumping to 18%— an all-time low for Colombian heads of state.

 

Military connections

Pictures circulating on social media show government forces using Israeli weapons against protestors, while Israeli-made Sand Cat armored vehicles are on the streets of Colombia’s major cities. The standard issue rifles for all branches of the military and the police are Israeli; the Army uses the IMI Galil, Special Forces use the IWI Tavor, while the Air Force, Navy, and police favor the IWI Ace.

Embedded below is an image of Colombian police using the Israeli-made Tavor TAR-21 assault rifle on the streets.

https://twitter.com/DonPornHoli0/status/1389630131342282753

Duque has sent the army into many of Colombia’s largest cities to deal with the national strike, a decision condemned by human rights groups. These forces have been trained in “counterterrorism and combat techniques” by Israeli Defense Force (IDF) attachés to share their expertise in crushing domestic resistance. Thus, any Palestinians who dropped into Colombia right now might feel an eerie sense of familiarity with what is going on.

“Private Israeli military contractors are heavily involved with the Colombian military in terms of military training, the conduct of counter-insurgency operations, intelligence gathering, targeted assassinations, cross-border military interventions into states like Venezuela, alongside hybrid warfare in general, and more. As the second most important military partner after the U.S.A., Israel can be characterized as a key supporter of Colombia’s proven record of state terrorism,” Oliver Dodd told MintPress by phone from Bogota. Dodd is a Ph.D. researcher at the University of Nottingham covering the Colombian Civil War.

Israeli drones have also been spotted in the skies over Colombia, as the government uses them for surveillance and military intelligence. AMnetpro SAS, a company started by two Israeli businessmen, also provides facial recognition and other security technology to Colombian forces.

Perhaps most worryingly, Israel has also directly trained far-right paramilitary groups responsible for much of the worst terror inside the country over the past half-century. Carlos Castaño, commander of the AUC, perhaps the most notorious and remorseless of them all, traveled to Israel to study and was trained by infamous Israeli mercenary and former IDF Lieutenant Colonel Yair Klein, who claims that he was invited to Colombia to train the national police. Dodd explained the attraction of using Israeli knowhow for the Colombian government:

IDF veterans are also heavily involved in Colombia’s conflict. The Colombian state relies on these Israeli mercenaries — called ‘private military contractors’ by apologists — a lot in the sense that they are recruited to import their vast counter-insurgency expertise developed in the fight against Palestinians. The fact that these mercenaries are not technically members of Colombia’s Armed Forces and do not wear the official uniforms of the military, allows them to lend the state plausible deniability for crimes of aggression against the revolutionary movement and other progressive forces.”

So normalized have Israeli mercenaries become in Colombian society that, while president Juan Manuel Santos appeared in an advertisement for Israeli mercenary firm Global CST. “They are people with a lot of experience. They have been helping us to work better,” he states.



 

Political ties

Palestine also has connections to Latin America, and the Palestinian community there has done well for itself. In recent times, a number of Palestinians have risen to high office across the region, including Carlos Roberto Flores, President of Honduras from 1998 to 2002, Antonio Saca, President of El Salvador from 2004 to 2009 and Yehude Simon, Prime Minister of Peru from 2008 to 2009.

As the continent moved leftwards in the 2000s, almost the entire region began to recognize Palestine as an independent state. For years, Colombia was the sole South American holdout, only doing so in 2018.

Yet, at the same time, President Duque was making it clear where he stood. Last year he spoke at AIPAC, America’s most powerful pro-Israel lobby group, where he announced that Colombia would open an “innovation office” in occupied Jerusalem, one step away from defying international law by moving the Colombian embassy there. He has also denounced a supposed Hezbollah presence in neighboring Venezuela, designating the Lebanese group and Israeli military foe a terrorist organization — a move likely more to do with garnering friends than genuine security fears.

Throughout this latest bombardment of Gaza, an action which has left around 250 in the strip dead, nearly 2,000 wounded and tens of thousands displaced, the Colombian government has stood side-by-side with its ally, condemning the firing of rockets into Israel. “Colombia expresses its deep concern over the terrorist acts and attacks against Israel and expresses its solidarity with the victims of these actions,” it wrote. There was no rebuke of the far more deadly Israeli missiles hitting Gaza.

 

A cycle of dependency

The burgeoning political alliance has brought with it deepening economic ties. In 2013, the two nations signed a free trade agreement. “This is a historic moment in the relationship between the State of Israel and the Republic of Colombia,” announced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “These decisions create a platform of cooperation between us that will bring our partnership, our friendship, our brotherhood…to new political and economic levels.”

For the most part, trade between the two states consists of Israeli weaponry and know-how going to Colombia in exchange for the South American nation’s mineral reserves. In 2011, military-grade arms comprised 49.6% of all Israeli exports to Colombia. Coal makes up around 89% of what goes back the other way. The rest is primarily agricultural produce (coffee, fruit, sugar, etc.).

Colombia’s mineral wealth is only exploitable after a decades-long push by the military and associated paramilitaries to clear black and indigenous people off their valuable land, making way for transnational agribusiness and energy corporations to set up shop. Israeli weaponry and technical advice have been crucial in achieving this. As a result, Israel is able to reap some of the benefits, keeping the lights on at home thanks to cheap Colombian coal in a deal that benefits them and big business but hurts the people and contributes to ethnic cleansing on both sides of the world.

 

“Key outposts of U.S. power”

Colombia and Israel are the U.S.’ most favored allies in their respective regions. Israel receives billions of dollars in military aid yearly, weapons which it often tests on civilian Palestinian populations and can thereafter be sold at arms fairs worldwide as “battle tested.”

Likewise, Colombia receives enormous sums of free American weapons (over $461 million worth in 2021) mainly under the guise of the discredited War on Drugs. Plan Colombia — the militarization of the drug war in Latin America — is most associated with the Bush administration. However, the brains of the operation was actually Joe Biden. “I’m the guy who put together Plan Colombia…straighten[ing] that government out for a long while,” he bragged last year. While in office, Biden plans to expand his policy from Colombia to Central America.

Neither Israel nor Colombia’s most recent repression has drawn censure from the Biden administration, with the president immediately announcing that “Israel has a right to defend itself,” as it was pummelling civilian targets in Gaza. Likewise, there has been no official word from Washington on the Colombian government’s deadly crackdown on protesters. Indeed, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin met with his Colombian counterpart Diego Molano earlier this week, where he “expressed his commitment to strengthening our defense relationship” in his own words.

“Israel and Colombia are key outposts of U.S. empire and as such are permitted to terrorize civilian populations in the name of fighting terror,” said Belén Fernández, a journalist who covers Middle East-Latin America relations closely. “The two states are firmly bound to the U.S. and each other in what amounts to a military-economic ménage à trois predicated on the perpetuation of insecurity, forced displacement, and right-wing tyranny,” she added.

Colombia Israel

Israel’s Shimon Peres, left, and Colombia’s Juan Santos smile at Israeli soldiers durizzng a ceremony in Jerusalem, June 10, 2013. Sebastian Scheiner | AP

MintPress also spoke with Manuel Rozental, a physician and longtime activist living in Cauca, where the recent repression has been most extreme. Rozental saw a number of parallels between Israel and Colombia.

“At the moment there is an uprising in Colombia from people fed up with a regime that only exploits and resorts to violence and force. The same is happening in Gaza,” he said.

In both cases, the U.S. either says nothing or it presents both sides as part of a process of polarization to cover up the fact there is one illegitimate regime suppressing and oppressing people. None of this violence in Colombia would be taking place if not for the support of the U.S. and its corporate interests. And such is the case as well in Israel.”

Colombia’s role in the system is distinctly similar to that of Israel’s, being the United States’ chief lieutenant in the region, attacking Venezuela, Bolivia, or any of its other progressive neighbors. It is also the chief location for American military bases in the area. For Rozental, the parallels between Colombia and the Israel-Palestine situation are “obvious”:

Israel spearheads U.S. interests in the Middle East in exchange for massive funding for the government for support for an increasingly fascist regime under the control of Benjamin Netanyahu as a strongman, like [former] President Uribe is in Colombia. This model generates enormous amounts of money for the U.S. military industry and transformed Israel into both a military superpower and a producer and exporter of security of war throughout the Middle East and the world.”

Protestors in both countries are being hit with tear gas that comes from the same Pennsylvania-based arms maker supplying both regimes. Both nations are also willing to do the dirty work that the United States would rather not get caught doing. Israel, for instance, became the main supplier of weapons to the Chilean fascist dictatorship under General Pinochet after public pressure forced the U.S. government to suspend military aid. It also supplied an estimated 95% of all arms to the pro-U.S. Argentinian military junta while it was in power (1976-1983).

Meanwhile, increased scrutiny of American training of tens of thousands of Latin American police and military officers in the tactics of repression has made the U.S. less keen to continue the practice, especially as many of the graduates of the infamous School of the Americas in Fort Benning, GA, have now been found guilty of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Evan King, Colombia Program Director for the Witness for Peace Solidarity Collective in Bogota, told MintPress:

Colombia is the Israel of South America because they have started to export these tactics throughout the region. The U.S. loves this, the offshoring of indoctrinating military forces abroad. They don’t have to do it because the Colombians now do it. So you see Colombian forces training Honduran, Salvadoran or Mexican police. Most recently, you saw Colombian special forces going to Haiti to train Haitian security forces, who are now also gunning down protestors in the streets.”

 

Settler colonial states

The phrase “the Israel of Latin America” was originally an epithet against Colombia by former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, highlighting how Colombia is a tool of American imperialism. However, former Colombian President Santos appropriated it as a compliment, declaring his people honorary Israelites, noting their similarities.

The two states are indeed far more similar than many realize. They are both highly militarized governments conducting seemingly endless wars against their indigenous populations, all the while using the rhetoric of pursuing a “peace process” which never seems to bring peace.

Likewise, both governments smear their opponents as “terrorists.” In Colombia, it is trade unions, leftist guerilla groups and indigenous and social leaders; in Israel, it is doctors, journalists and the Palestinian population more generally. Thus, essentially anyone standing in their way can be designated a terrorist and therefore, becomes a legitimate target.


Protesters block the entry of an Israeli Sand Cat, the same variety sold to Colombia, to a UK arms fair. Mark Kerrison | Alamy

“The kind of peace that the Israeli government would like is one where they could do whatever they wanted with the land and never give it back. And there is a similar approach to the conflict that continues here [in Colombia]. The government is in favor of the peace process, but mainly as a tool to open the country up to foreign investment,” King said, adding:

That’s where I think Colombia and Israel are very similar; counterinsurgency is no longer a tactic or a strategy to deal with a threat, but it is a way of governing and a reason for the state. The state is no longer to provide social services or guarantee people’s rights, but to protect against an internal enemy at all times and at all costs.”

The Colombian government under Duque’s mentor Alvaro Uribe oversaw a longstanding series of extrajudicial murders and massacres that resulted in as many as 10,000 deaths. Dubbed the “False Positives Scandal,” government forces would murder anyone they wished, later claiming their victims were members of narcoterrorist organizations. This allowed the government to eliminate opposition to it and intimidate other would-be foes into silence. This is why it was particularly notable when, last year, Prime Minister Netanyahu applauded Duque, stating: “Ivan, your leadership in the fight against terrorism sets an example for the rest of Latin America.” One week after the current protests were launched, Colombian Defense Minister Diego Molano stated that the country “faces the terrorist threat of criminal organizations.”

Both governments are also carrying out what amounts to settler colonial projects. In Colombia, it is a decidedly white elite attempting to clear the land of indigenous and Afro-Colombian farmers to make way for multinational corporations, while in Israel, it is the construction of a Jewish supremacist state on top of an already existing Palestinian one. Almost unknown in the West is the scale of the violence in Colombia; the United Nations estimates that there are currently 7.4 million displaced Colombians, a figure larger than even the highest estimates of Palestinian refugees.

“The treatment of indigenous and Afro-Colombians by the central government is as second-class citizens. They don’t really give them rights. It is not a formal thing, but if you go to black majority cities like port city Buenaventura, the difference is stark,” King said. “The way people are living there is, I assume, closer to the conditions in Gaza than in the rest of Colombia. There is no formal apartheid regime but it is clear that the whole point is for them to leave the land and create such extreme economic and humanitarian hardship that they will just depopulate the land themselves, without the need of force.”

 

Israel across Latin America

Throughout Latin America, Israel is a partisan issue. While leftist movements the continent over have offered their support to the Palestinians, seeing their struggle against imperialism as intertwined with theirs, the right have taken up Israel as their cause.

In 2010, President Chavez offered his full support towards Palestinian independence. “From the bottom of my soul, damn you, state of Israel! Terrorists and assassins! Long live the Palestinian people” he said. Four years later, in the wake of another Israeli attack on Gaza, Bolivian President Evo Morales formally declared Israel a “terrorist state.”

Almost as soon as Morales was overthrown in a U.S.-backed coup in 2019, the new, far-right government re-established ties with the Middle Eastern state and immediately invited IDF officials to the country to help deal with the nationwide protests against the coup. “We’ve invited them to help us. They’re used to dealing with terrorists. They know how to handle them,” new Interior Minister Arturo Murillo said of his guests. Foreign Minister Israel Katz expressed his satisfaction that a new “friendly government” had taken charge in Bolivia. In Venezuela, one of the first things Juan Guaidó did after he announced himself president of the country was to reveal he is working on renormalizing relations with Israel.

In Brazil, far-right president Jair Bolsonaro seems almost obsessed with Israel, so much so that he is rarely to be seen at a rally without multiple Israeli flags nearby. The 66-year-old former army officer also opened a trade office in Jerusalem and hinted that the embassy would soon follow. Other right-wing states such as Honduras have promised to do the same. Bolsonaro’s children also allowed themselves to be photographed wearing IDF and Mossad shirts. Netanyahu expressed his appreciation, stating that his government had “no better friends than the people and government of Brazil.”

Israel Latin America

Jair Bolsonaro’s sons pictured wearing shirts glorifying the Israeli military. Photo | Twitter

The reason for the preoccupation with Israel across much of the region comes from the rise and power of the conservative Evangelical church. As journalist and ordained minister Chris Hedges explained to MintPress last week, many right-wing Christian prophecies about the end times include the Jews returning to the Holy Land and the destruction of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Only then will the righteous ascend to heaven and the damned (including the Jews and other non-believers) be cast into hell. Bolsonaro and other new right leaders draw their most loyal support from these groups.

Israel is also helping to prop up Chile’s beleaguered president Sebastian Piñera amid nationwide protests and widespread contempt, like it did with Pinochet 40 years ago. As Fernández noted, Israel has sold weapons and anti-riot gear to Chile, as well as training their army and police force, know-how that no doubt came in useful while dealing with a national revolt.

 

A better future?

While violence in Colombia and Palestine has captured headlines, there is some hope on the horizon for those suffering in both countries. Polls show that Duque’s government looks weakened as a political force and that former leftist guerilla Gustavo Petro is leagues ahead of his competitors for next year’s presidential election.

Petro lost in 2018, amid threats on his life, widespread vote buying, and rigging, and a generalized threat from far-right paramilitaries promising to kill anyone who dared vote for him. However, Duque’s disastrous handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and his all-out push for economic shock therapy has alienated much of his base. If Petro can stay alive until next year — not an easy task for progressive Colombian politicians — victory could be his.

On Palestine too, the mood appears to be shifting. Where once only unquestioning support for Israel was the norm, senior politicians, cable news presenters and columnists have unequivocally denounced Israeli aggression, with many echoing human rights organizations in labeling it an apartheid state. The Black Lives Matter movement has offered its support to Palestine, with many elected officials openly linking the violence against Palestinians with the violence against people of color in the United States.

“I rise today in solidarity with the Palestinian people,” began Rep. Cori Bush’s (D-MO) speech in Congress earlier this month, a statement unthinkable just a few years ago. “The equipment that they used to brutalize us [at Ferguson] is the same equipment that we send to the Israeli military and police to terrorize Palestinians,” she added. “The ethnic cleansing continues now,” said Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib at a protest outside the State Department. “What they are doing to the Palestinian people is what they continue to do to our black brothers and sisters here; …it is all interconnected.” With their myriad of links, we should also see the violence against Colombians and Palestinians as interconnected. Perhaps their liberation will be, too.

Feature photo | Graphic by Antonio Cabrera

Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.orgThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams.

The post Birds of a Fascist Feather: Why Israel Is Aiding Colombia’s Crackdown on Protesters appeared first on MintPress News.

Meet the Neo-Nazi Advising Colombian Police on How to Break the National Strike

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 11/05/2021 - 3:36am in



CALI, COLOMBIA (Transcript) — Colombia is on strike. And the police and military are terrorizing the population to crush it.

It kicked on when the far-right president President Ivan Duque announced a wildly unpopular tax reform imposing crushing austerity measures on middle class and poor Colombians. Duque’s proposal aimed to pay off debt in order to project stability and satisfy international investors. But that stability for international capital means more instability for the tens of millions of Colombians struggling to put food on the table.

The country is already in dire economic straits  – 43 percent of Colombians are in poverty and 15 percent are in extreme poverty – all of this has been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the tax reform proposal is the trigger for deep discontent.

The injustice for the 6,402 innocent civilians murdered by the military and paramilitaries, then covered up. What’s known as the False Positives scandal.

The Duque government’s attacks on the 2016 peace accord that ended the civil war with the left-wing guerrilla group known as the FARC.

The extermination of social leaders, indigenous leaders, human rights defenders, and ex-FARC combatants.

Mishandling of the COVID 19 pandemic. Sheer corruption and impunity.

 

Neo-nazi advises Colombian forces

All of this frustration was just bubbling beneath the surface, and Duque’s austerity proposal boiled the society over.

Facing this unrest, the Colombian government –  a supposed democracy – is acting much more like a far-right, even fascistic, dictatorship. That’s not hyperbole.

This is the figure that provided the intellectual framework for how Colombian police understand the protests.

Colombia Nazi

Source | Semana

His name is Alexis Lopez Tapia. He’s a former leader of a now-dissolved Chilean neo-fascist party called the New Homeland Society.

Colombia Nazi

Source | La Desdémona Blog

In February, he was invited by the Colombian military to give a presentation on how to defeat an uprising. He describes a pseudo-intellectual framework called “Dissipated Molecular Revolution.”

He describes an intercontinental communist conspiracy that has taken place over the last three-plus decades to take over Latin America in a post-modern framework.

It lumps together protesters, disparate social and indigenous movements, armed groups, human rights NGOs, civil society – anyone who dissents from the politics of the state – as part of a subversive conspiracy that the military is wholly unprepared for.

While this might sound like a crackpot conspiracy theory to the average viewer, it resonated with the most powerful figure in Colombia: former president Alvaro Uribe.

Uribe referenced the neo-fascist Alexis Lopez’s “Dissipated Molecular Revolution” theory on Twitter.

Uribe is the mastermind behind the bloodbath in Colombia. He’s widely known to be a puppet master of the current president, Iván Duque, the figure giving the orders to beat and kill protesters.

 

Colombian police ultra-violence

Here a cop chases down a protester and shoots him point-blank.

After a day of initial protests, Uribe sent out a tweet calling on police and soldiers to use their weapons to “defend their integrity.”

Hours later, after a massive online campaign, Twitter deleted his tweet because it was clear incitement to violence.

But it was too late. Colombian forces clearly understood Uribe’s tweet as a green light, a license to kill. And that’s exactly what they did. Police massacred 7 people in the city of Cali, a hotbed of protests.

 

Duque, Uribe and the narco-state

The U.S. gave these helicopters, free of charge, to Colombia as part of what’s known as Plan Colombia – a massive military aid package that was ostensibly about fighting drug traffickers, but was really about defeating the leftist FARC counterinsurgency and punishing their base of support among peasants in rural areas.

In 2016, the FARC and government made a peace deal, so aside from a few holdouts, the FARC doesn’t exist.

Meanwhile, there’s more cocaine coming out of Colombia than ever, and the international drug cartels are more powerful than ever.

They control nearly every aspect of the state, police, and military. How do we know this?

A powerful drug trafficker named Jose Hernandez Aponte AKA ‘El Ñeñe’ coordinated a campaign to buy votes for president Duque using stolen money.

This was ordered by Alvaro Uribe. And the legal system has never brought charges against Duque for this because it’s under his and Uribe’s control.

Ñeñe was close with top figures from the military and police too.  The same state forces that are supposed to be battling drug cartels. This is publicly available information, so the U.S. government knows it, even if the corporate-owned media ignores it.

 

Duque orders full militarization

Colombia is a narco-state posing as a democracy. But with the ultra-violent crackdown on the protests, it’s shedding the “democratic” facade.

After four days of mass mobilizations all over the country, Duque announced the withdrawal of the proposal but said another one would be announced in the coming days, a clear attempt to placate the protesters that failed.

Hours after the announcement, Duque declared he is sending the military to the streets.

“Our military forces, trained to act in urban settings, are supporting the work of the national police,” he declared.

At Duque’s side was the army commander Enrique Zapateiro, a hardline who has been involved in the murder and cover-up of innocent civilians, known to be among the most extreme right-wing elements of the military and an instrument of Uribe.

“A friend of mine who is a psychiatrist and had to interview Zapateiro once told me he is psychotic, he has mental issues,” commented journalist Abeldaro Gomez Molina. “And truth be told you can see some imbalances in his way of thinking which is troubling because he is an instrment of Uribe, so we can only expect the worst from him.”

Soon after, police and military killed two more protesters.

In the city of Cali – where protests have been the biggest –  police shot a young protester named Nicolas Guerrero in the head. A popular Colombian DJ was live streaming from the protest so some 70,000 people watched Guerrero bleed to death. That DJ said his phone, Instagram, and Facebook accounts had been hacked, and his friends and family are receiving strange calls asking for his location, forcing him to flee Cali.

 

Paramilitaries attack protesters

As protesters were being massacred In the city of Pereira, another center of protests, the mayor Carlos Maya called on private security to collaborate with the military and police.

“We will call on all business groups and private security forces to create a united front with the police and military to reestablish order and citizens’ security,” Maya announced.

This is an implicit call for paramilitaries to take to the streets explains Lina Maria Montilla Diaz, an official in the Central Union of Workers. “We have the problem of paramilitarism and with these types of declarations they are inviting these paramilitary groups to start working and strengthening their ranks,” she told me.

Meanwhile, vehicles with hidden license plates and men in high rubber boots –  telltale signs of paramilitary activity –  began to appear.

Dead chickens were left outside the headquarters of the left-wing Alternative Democratic Pole party – an unmistakable death threat.

Shadowy groups began to circulate explicit threats against protesters.

Just days after the mayor of Periera’s call for private security to take control of the city, plain-clothed gunmen pulled up in a car and opened fire on Lucas Villa, a university student and yoga teacher.

Lucas Villa has been a highly visible figure in the protests and was apparently targeted for his activism.

“It’s a tax deficit taken from the rich people, the middle class, and the poor. Now we are going to have to pay more for water, internet, coffee, and phone service because we’ve been naive,” he explained to a group of people on a public bus.

At the time of this recording, 34 people have been reported killed. But that’s certainly way below the actual number. According to Colombian journalist Laura Sofia Mejia, the government is covering the real number up.

“Something important is that we contacted one of the institutions trying to get information on how many were killed on a certain night and we were told off the record by an official that the order is not to reveal any information to the press,” she said.

 

Police facilitate paramilitaries

Throughout the strike, the Duque government has insisted that it’s allowing peaceful protest and that the militarization is necessary to battle vandals and terrorists. Generating fear and portraying its heavy hand as the answer seems to be the government’s only chance at subduing the strike. While it was clear that the “vandals and terrorists” narrative was a lie from the start, it all came crashing down on Thursday when a group of men in civilian clothes got out of a vehicle in Cali and opened fire on a demonstration.

Other demonstrators nearby managed to search the vehicle and found police gear inside.

Caught red-handed, the police were forced to admit the vehicle belonged to them.

With their scare tactics failing, Duque and Uribe’s murderous iron fist failing to break the strike, there’s no telling where this goes. Anything could happen.

Feature photo | Graphic by Antonio Cabrera

Dan Cohen is the Washington DC correspondent for Behind The Headlines. He has produced widely distributed video reports and print dispatches from across Israel-Palestine. He tweets at @DanCohen3000

The post Meet the Neo-Nazi Advising Colombian Police on How to Break the National Strike appeared first on MintPress News.

Rank-and-File Revolt

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 02/07/2020 - 12:30am in

Tags 

Labor, Police, Protests

While labor leaders drag their feet about police unions, members demand radical change.

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