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The Caesar Act: The Latest Western Attack on Syria Didn’t Drop From a Plane

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 20/06/2020 - 1:50am in

Talib Mu’alla served as a soldier in the Syrian Arab Army before he was wounded in Aleppo in 2014. As he described the multiple shots he took to his body, I thought it remarkable that he survived.

“A shot (bullet) to my chest, a shot to my stomach, three shots in my spine. My chest, stomach, and intestines ruptured, and I lost a kidney. I was also shot in the right side of my face,” he recounted. “I fell into a coma for 25 days, then woke for a few days and fell back into a coma for another 16 or 17 days. It took two years for me to be able to walk again.”

Talib was discharged from the army after his injuries and has since joined an auxiliary of the army. “From  2011 until now, I haven’t taken off my uniform. And I won’t take it off until the war is finished,” he said.

 

The media’s monsters

As a consequence of the war on Syria, there has been immeasurable loss: the destruction of historic places like Palmyra, Maaloula (the ancient Aramaic village northeast of Damascus), Aleppo’s souqs; and the destruction of city districts in the fight against terrorism. Aleppo’s souqs were being carefully restored when I traveled to Syria in March. Yet, there is still much rebuilding to do and thanks to the Caesar Act, that just got harder.

More appalling than the destruction of Syria’s historic places is the human loss, civilian and military alike. Regarding the latter, little concern is meted out by Western press over the deaths and maiming of members of Syria’s national army. On the contrary, the Syrian Arab Army is portrayed in Western media and by Western politicians as murderers and thugs personally belonging to President Assad and not to Syria.

Nothing could be further from the truth, and indeed countless videos and anecdotes of Syrian soldiers putting their lives on the line in order to protect and save civilians from terrorists are available for any who wish to see them. The army is a conscript army but also includes career soldiers and men and women who voluntarily joined in order to defend their country.

Last August, I interviewed the Syrian Arab Army’s Head of Political Administration, General Hassan Hassan. He noted that the Syrian army “includes in each of its formations, soldiers from all Syrian governorates, with no exception.” This defies Western media’s portrayal of the Syrian army as “Assad’s army” or their claims that those fighting “rebels” (terrorists) are only from the Alawi sect. These types of claims are put forth in an attempt to create the illusion that in Syria, it has been President Assad and “his forces” against disenchanted Sunnis, an utterly false claim.

This sectarianism exists largely in the minds of those backing terrorism in Syria, be they Saudi, Turkish, Qatari, or Western leaders.

When I asked General Hassan to speak more on the army, he replied:

The two greatest armies in modern history have failed to achieve what the Syrian Army has accomplished. In Afghanistan, fewer than 10 percent of the number of terrorists in Syria were able to defeat two armies: the Red Soviet Army and the U.S. Army.

But, the Syrian Army defeated such terrorism. The Syrian Army fought battles that can be classified as new in military science. The Syrian Army fought above ground and underground battles in addition to their battles against the media war, intelligence war, information war, economic war, gang and street-to-street wars. Despite all of that, the Syrian Army achieved victory. Therefore, can we imagine the magnitude of the sacrifices made in this respect by the Syrian Army?”

On various trips to and around Syria over the years I’ve encountered Syrian soldiers in hot zones where terrorists linger nearby and in liberated areas, at checkpoints and in hospitals. Many are young, and others are grey-haired, proud to be serving in the defense of their country and citizens.

Many drive taxis in their off-hours to compensate for the meager salary they receive, a salary that doesn’t compare to the hefty salaries paid to members of Gulf and Turkish-backed armed militants.

Together, and with the help of Syria’s allies, they staved off some of the most heinous and powerfully-backed terrorists the modern world has known, but at a great price.

The numbers of wounded soldiers, particularly critically-wounded, are not published, so it is hard to gauge just how large their numbers are. However, given that the war on Syria has raged for nearly a decade, with soldiers fighting well-armed terrorists from around the world–terrorists with the backing of the U.S.-led coalition in Syria — the numbers of martyred and maimed can only be tragically-high.

 

Wounded veterans prepare for life after war

Given that the U.S. government frequently criticizes the government of Syria for not taking care of its citizens, it’s worth reflecting on the shameful manner in which the U.S. neglects its own veterans of war. But in Syria, a myriad of associations work with war-wounded soldiers to provide prosthetic limbs and rehabilitate them after their injuries, giving them life skills to work or start their own businesses.

Jerih al-Watan (The Wounded of the Homeland), is a veteran support program founded in 2014 by the Syrian Presidency with the support of the Syrian Trust For Development and medical experts. The aim of Jerih al-Watan, according to its Facebook page, is “providing adequate care and appropriate rehabilitation to secure a decent life for the wounded,” from the army, popular defense forces, and internal security forces.”

Jerih al-Watan focuses on physical rehabilitation, social and psychological support as well as vocational training for jobs ranging from construction to food production.

The latter is what I saw last week when I traveled to the Qardaha region in northwestern Syria. A region I had not previously visited, Qardaha is a paradise that the average person may not associate with Syria, as many mistakenly imagine the country to be all desert. It is not, of course.

Traveling a familiar route from Damascus to the coast, I passed rows of greenhouses and the citrus and banana trees that are prevalent in the Tartous and Latakia region and finally moved up along a road lined with pine trees and wildflowers, winding up through the mountainous hills of Qardaha. Photos of martyred soldiers appeared when passing through Qardaha itself, as they do all over Syria.

I reached the training point, where, in the evening, a gorgeous pink sunset descended over the layered hills, the sea in the distance.

Soldiers were receiving training in the skills of cheese and yogurt making, staples of the Syrian diet. They were first shown how to make the products, then had a hand at making them themselves. The final results were the delicious spice-colored yogurt balls and black-sesame-laden cheeses that are ubiquitous in Syria’s restaurants.

Syria Wounded soldiers

Wounded soldiers learning to make dairy products. Photo | Eva Bartlett

Syria Wounded soldiers

Making yogurt balls, cheese and yogurt. Photo | Eva Bartlett

With these skills, the soldiers are able to start a small enterprise and support their families.

In between training sessions, wounded soldiers sat chatting in the shade. With their permission, I spoke with some of them about their injuries and feelings about having served in the army. With injuries ranging from vision and speech impairments to difficulties walking or loss of hands, I was struck by the graceful confidence of the injured soldiers.

Syria Wounded soldiers

Wounded soldiers discussing their options after receiving vocational training. Photo | Eva Bartlett

Instead of wallowing in their injuries, they looked to future prospects, improving their knowledge to improve their lives.

 
A reservist in the army, Ayet Yusef was wounded in 2013 while serving in Aleppo. “We were attacked at 2 am by armed terrorist gangs. A clash occurred, during which I was wounded by shrapnel in my left eye. I lost sight in that eye. But after treatment, it is now fine.” Yusef, like most wounded soldiers I’ve met, is proud of having served, and even prouder of his injury. “We raise our heads to the sky. We were in the Syrian Arab Army and that is an honor for us. And if they now asked me to serve again, no problem,” he said.

Another soldier, 30-year-old Du’a Ijna, had difficulty speaking as he explained how he was injured in 2011. “We were on patrol in Khan Sheikhoun (Idlib),” he recalled, “A terrorist group attacked and I was wounded by shrapnel to my brain. That affected my hands, legs, and speech. I was paralyzed for a month and a half, but after physiotherapy, it got a little better.”

Jaafar Badran was injured in 2016 while serving in Aleppo. His injury left him without his right hand or left leg. “We resisted the terrorism, and there will be martyrs and wounded among us, and that’s okay. What matters is the country returns to stability.”

Inad Ahmed was injured while serving in Tulul al-Himr, al-Qunaytra. “I was shot in my spinal column, and for three years I couldn’t walk.” Ahmed now walks with a severe limp but speaks with a smile. “I have to be optimistic about what I’m going through and keep looking ahead. What happened happened.”

Just beyond the training location, a beautiful sunset burst out and I thought about the many wounded soldiers, some whose lives were disrupted forever, others who overcame major injuries to the point they could walk, or at least hobble, again. They were all gracious. Some on the shy side, others — including men whose injuries were the worst — gregarious and humorous. Spending time with them was humbling, but also reaffirmed what I already knew about the army: they are some of the most courageous people I’ve met and those who write lies about them should hang their heads in shame for being so far from the truth.

Syria Wounded soldiers

Post-training photo of the group of soldiers who received vocational training. Photo | Eva Bartlett

Initiatives like this, teaching and encouraging economic self-reliance, are more critically-important than ever these days in Syria. After over nine years of war and relentless sanctions on the country, Syria’s economy is as shattered as the cities formerly occupied by terrorist groups. Neither would be devastated had the U.S. and allies not launched its clandestine war against Syria, but they did, and the economic war on Syria will only worsen.

The Syrian Trust, a nonprofit national development organization headed by the first lady of Syria, has been quietly helping soldiers with rehabilitation and prosthetics as well as giving them training, even supplying machinery and other equipment needed for small businesses.

In November 2016, after having visited Aleppo for the fourth time just weeks before the city was finally liberated from the array of terrorist gangs occupying its eastern and southern regions, freeing the people of the hell on earth they’d endured for years — I was back in Damascus and visited the Hamish Hospital in Barzeh, where Jarih al-Watan was manufacturing prosthetic limbs performing physiotherapy for wounded soldiers.

There, I saw many soldiers going through differing degrees of physiotherapy and rehabilitation after having been injured. Many were without one or both legs, others missing hands and arms.

I met Ali, a 30-year-old soldier who lost both his legs in a mine blast a year prior on the Khanasser road to Aleppo. The first time I went to Aleppo in July, the taxi driver told me that Da’esh (ISIS) routinely creeps onto the road at night to lay mines and the SAA in the morning has to clear them so the road is safe for civilians and transport trucks.

Ali was a slight young man, and emblematic of the stoic, strong nature of Syrians fighting this war against terror and for their country. Ten days after losing his lower legs, Ali was walking on artificial ones. When I met him, he was finishing physiotherapy and wants to go back to defending Syria.

I am discharged from the army but I want to go back. We want this war to be over.”

He isn’t the only gravely wounded soldier I’ve met who wanted to return to service. In May 2018, Syrian soldier and incredible photographer Wassim Issa was gravely injured in a terrorist landmine blast that blew off both his lower legs and left him in a coma for two days. When I visited him in the hospital three days after his injury, he was sitting up in bed wearing a huge smile at my visit. Although I already knew him to be a courageous and gentle man, I was surprised at how upbeat he was, having just escaped death and lost his ability to walk.

In subsequent visits over the years, Wassim maintained his positivity that he would walk again. Indeed, by October 2018 Wassim had been fitted with prosthetic limbs and done the needed physio in order to walk again.

On one of my visits, he told me: “I don’t need money, I don’t need a house, I just need peace for my country.”

Syria Wounded soldiers

A screenshot from a news report shows Wassim Issa in January 2019 via the Facebook page, “Here Lattakia

I met Captain Ali, a Syrian pilot and soldier who was injured five times (more, actually, but he only counts the major injuries), several times in Latakia in July and August of 2016. He was shot by a sniper, the bullet going through his arm, sniped through his hip, shot in his head (requiring 26 stitches), received shrapnel in his chest, and finally lost his left leg to a Da’esh suicide bomber.

Captain Ali was awarded the Russian Medal of courage for his work in the Latakia countryside. He also had stories of the helicopter he was flying being hit on three different occasions but not being downed.

His personality was a mixture of humility, confidence, humor.

Syria Wounded soldiers

Meeting with Captain, Ali in a Latakia hospital in 2016. Photo | Eva Bartlett

And in Aleppo this past March, I met Ahmed Abo Alkef, 29, in then recently-liberated al-Zahra’a, Aleppo. Alkef joined the army in June 2010 and was close to fulfilling his conscription service when he was shot in the head by a terrorist sniper, leaving him in a coma for several months.

He is now paralyzed on one side of his body, the bullet still in his skull. Like other soldiers I’ve spoken with, Alkef without hesitation to my question replied he is proud of serving in the army and proud of his injury, life-shattering as it is.

In the Barzeh Center physiotherapy training hall, Ali walked with a young man who appeared to be around the same age, also missing his lower legs.

At the prosthetics factory, the Director, Dr. Yousef Sarraj, stressed that in his experience 25 percent of those patients they treat request artificial limbs specifically with the intent of returning to the battlefront to defend Syria, including the ten officers who are currently waiting for limbs so they return to the battlefront.

While there, the power briefly went out and roughly 20 seconds later, the generators kicked in. Dr. Sarraj noted: “We can overcome problems of power, but we can’t overcome the problem of getting raw materials for the prosthetics.”

Unsurprisingly, Western sanctions on Syria include prohibiting key materials needed in prosthetic limbs manufacturing, including (among many things) resin, the primary material used in the manufacture. According to Dr. Sarraj, to acquire 100 kg of resin would take around one year.

 

Meeting the needs of sanctions-ravaged Syrians

In addition to its work with injured soldiers, the Syrian Trust For Development also focuses on providing micro-credit, assisting disabled Syrians, supporting children with cancer, rural development, supporting families of missing persons, supporting victims of sexual violence, culture, and heritage, and children’s and women’s issues.

In October 2016, I visited a community center in Barzeh, Damascus, supported by the Syrian Trust. The community center manager, Ahmad al-Khodr told me the center had opened in 2015 and served a diverse community.

“There is a lot of political and religious diversity here in Barzeh, as many people from all over Syria left their homes, due to the war, and settled here in Barzeh. In this community center, you’ll see a small glimpse of Syrian communities around the country. Every day there are more than 400 beneficiaries here, between children, men, and women.

Barzeh and nearby Aysh al-Warwar had big battles. The FSA (Free Syrian Army) was there for a long time. In 2014, there was reconciliation here between the Syrian army and the FSA. This community center is very near the region under truce. So this place is more diverse than other regions of Damascus (in terms of political leanings).”

He explained the Trust’s approach to assisting those in need:

We study the cases to know what are the needs of the people here. We visit their houses. We don’t implement any plan without knowing what is needed and knowing that the plan will meet their needs.

We have a law department which, among other things, helps people who have lost their identity papers during the war.”

Vocational training is offered at the center, including teaching women to sew and men to paint homes.

Syria Wounded soldiers

Learning sewing skills at the Barzeh Community Centre, October 2016. Photo | Eva Bartlett

We also support them with courses on how they can start their own businesses, how to market their products and business. After the workshop we provide them money to start their own businesses, some are loans and others they don’t need to repay. After the courses, we connect the beneficiaries with factories or places of work. And others start their own small businesses.”

Khodr explained that psychological support is offered to women whose husbands were martyred or kidnapped by the FSA or other terrorist groups and to victims of domestic violence. “We teach them to know their rights,” he said.

Children also received psychological support, and for children who have left school because of the war, the Trust gives them special classes to get caught up enough to return to schools.

“This applies to children up to baccalaureate level. We also have classes for people who never studied, elderly who don’t know how to write or read. They receive a certificate from the Syrian government.”

I asked about the women whose husbands might have been members of the FSA or other terrorist groups. “Aren’t you worried that the women will earn money and give it to their husband, to the fighters?”

Khoder replied, “The people who live here are very poor, very in need. They want to live, eat, sleep in peace, they won’t be giving their money to fighters, they need it simply to live. Here we work with beneficiaries as people, not numbers. Other NGOs (UN etc) you’ll see them working in high-class clothing. Here we work with them as brothers and sisters. We work with them whatever their religious or political view. We work with them as humans. They are our brothers and sisters in Syria.”

This last point, about how the Trust deals with those it helps, I saw for myself when Trust employees were talking with the injured soldiers receiving vocational training. They indeed took an interest in the soldiers’ lives, engaging with them as fellow Syrians, to the point that when it was learned that it was the one year birthday of a soldier’s daughter, a cake was procured and we visited the family.

Over the tabbouleh and kibbeh the family offered, as the birthday girl wobbled around the room charming all, the grandfather, himself having served many years in the army, spoke with pride about his wounded son’s service. The personal insights gleaned from conversations and from seeing the state of homes helps the Trust to assess their needs, even needs not mentioned by recipients themselves.

 

More misery from the West: increased sanctions

In 2020, it’s no secret, and no longer debatable, that the misery Syria’s people have faced for almost a decade—the relentless, savage, terrorism of civilians and military alike—is a product of Western, particularly American, covert and overt meddling.

Western countries use forums like the United Nations as well as government-funded media to further their goals and distort the reality about events on the ground in Syria. The West supports terrorist gangs who have slaughtered and pillaged since the war on Syria started in 2011. In fact, the West and its Gulf allies instigated the non-revolution, flooding money and weapons into Syria before the first protests even emerged.

As I wrote on my personal blog in 2015:

In 2002, then-Under Secretary of State John Bolton added Syria (and Libya, Cuba) to the “rogue states” of George W Bush’s “Axis of Evil,”…meaning Syria was on the list of countries to “bring democracy to” (aka destroy) even back then.

Anthony Cartalucci’s “U.S. Planned Syrian Civilian Catastrophe Since 2007” laid out a number of pivotal statements and events regarding not only the war on Syria but also the events which would be falsely-dubbed the “Arab Spring.” Points include:

  • General Wesley Clark’s revelation of U.S. plans to destroy the governments of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Iran.
  • Seymour Hersh’s 2007 “The Redirection” on NATO and allies’ arming and training of sectarian extremists to create sectarian divide in Lebanon, Syria and beyond.

The 2009 Brookings Institution report, “Which Path to Persia?,” on plans to weaken Syria and Lebanon, to later attack Iran.

Further, asreported:

  • U.S. funding to the Syrian opposition began flowing under the Bush administration in 2005.
  • Since its founding in October 2011, the Syrian National Council has received $20.4 million from Libya, $15 million from Qatar, $5 million from the UAE.

Former French Minister for Foreign Affairs, Roland Dumas, in aJune 2013 TV interviewspoke of his meeting (two years prior) with British officials who confessed that:

Britain was organizing an invasion of rebels into Syria. This operation goes way back. It was prepared, preconceived and planned….”

 

The Caesar Act

The recent passage of the Caesar Act is the newest level of criminality targeting Syria, even the name of the act is based on a lie. An implementation of yet further brutal sanctions against the people of Syria, it will cause immense suffering, all under the premise of targeting Syria’s leadership and helping Syria’s people. The flawed and hypocritical logic is one which the U.S. has applied to tens of nations who have refused to cower to its hegemony.

Even U.S. envoy for Syria James Jeffrey has acknowledged America’s intentional destruction of Syria’s economy, allegedly stating recently that the sanctions, “contributed to the collapse of the value of the Syrian pound… the Syrian regime is no longer able to manage an effective economic policy… due to the economic crisis that is also affecting Lebanon. ”

In the same statement, Jeffrey claimed the sanctions will “protect” Syrians, a comment far from reality.

Recall that after the sanctions-induced murder of between one million-one and a half million civilians in Iraq, the Western narrative of sanctions as merely targeting leaders of nations has long been exposed for the malevolent lie that it is.

The website Sanctions Kill notes that “Sanctions are imposed by the United States and its junior partners against countries that resist their agendas. They are a weapon of Economic War, resulting in chronic shortages of basic necessities, economic dislocation, chaotic hyperinflation, artificial famines, disease, and poverty. In every country, the poorest and the weakest – infants, children, the chronically ill and the elderly – suffer the worst impact of sanctions.”

In Venezuela, sanctions led to the deaths of 40,000 Venezuelans in 2018 alone.

Heavily-sanctioned for years, Syria faces the same risks.

As Syrian-American activist, Johnny Achi, told me:

The sanctions on Syria have been imposed since I could remember. Firstly in 1979, when the U.S. first designated Syria as a state sponsor of terrorism for its roll in support of the PLO and the Palestinian cause.

‏In 2004, a new set of sanctions was imposed by Bush the son after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and after Syria refusing to kneel to the demands of the new world order.

Since the so-called “uprisings” began in March 2011, the Obama administration intensely pursued calibrated sanctions to deprive the Syrian government of the resources it needs to quell the terror and violence inflicted on the Syrian population by Obama’s supported Nusra and ISIS terror groups, and to pressure the Syrian president to give in and resign, “to allow for a democratic transition as the Syrian people demand.” Which could not be further away from the truth, since President Assad, by most Western reports, continued to enjoy no less than 70% popularity amongst all Syrians.

All these sanctions up to the new Caesar Act were bearable since Syria has always pride itself of being self-sufficient economically and never needed help from the international community, and refused to be in debt to the IMF or the World Bank.

The Caesar Act of 2019 came in direct response to the series of victories by the Syrian Army against terrorists across the whole country, setting the stage to the final battle of Idlib, the terrorists’ final hotbed.”

Under the sanctions levied by the Caesar Act, Syria cannot import vital medications or the materials to produce them, including for cancer, hypertension, and other critical ailments. Sanctioning Syria’s ability to import medicines, medical equipment, and among many other things, materials for rebuilding, is criminal and an act of terrorism.

As I wrote in a December 2019 editorial for RT:

When I was in Syria last October, a man told me his wife had been diagnosed with breast cancer, but because of the sanctions he couldn’t get her the conventional treatments most in the West would avail of.

In 2016, in Aleppo, before it was liberated of al-Qaeda and co, Dr. Nabil Antaki told me how –because of the sanctions– it had taken him well over a year to get a simple part for his gastroenterology practise.

In 2015, visiting Damascus’ University Hospital, where bed after bed was occupied by a child maimed by terrorists’ shelling (from Ghouta), a nurse told me:

“We have so many difficulties to ensure that we have antibiotics, specialized medicines, maintenance of the equipment… Because of the sanctions, many parts are not available, we have difficulties obtaining them.

In 2018, Syria’s Minister of Health told me that Syria had formerly been dubbed by the World Health Organization a “pioneer state” in providing health care.

“Syria had 60 pharmaceutical factories and was exporting medicine to 58 countries. Now, 16 of these factories are out of service. Terrorists partially or fully destroyed 46 hospitals and 620 medical centers,” he told me.

I asked the minister about the complex in Barzeh, targeted with missile strikes by the U.S. and its allies in April 2018. It turns out that it was part of the Ministry of Health and manufactured cancer treatment medications as well as antidotes for snake or scorpion bites and stings, the antidote also serving as a basic material in the manufacture of many other medicines.

Syrian-American doctor Hussam al-Samman told me about his efforts to send chemotherapy medications to Syria for cancer patients in remission. He jumped through the various hoops of America’s unforgiving bureaucracy to no avail. It was never possible in the first place.

We managed to get a meeting in the White House. We met Rob Malley, a top-notch assistant or adviser of Obama at that time. I asked them: ‘How in the world could your heart let you block chemotherapy from going to people with cancer in Syria?’

The U.S. and allied Western countries imposing the sanctions on Syria should be imprisoned for their crimes against humanity and their support of terrorism in Syria. Yet, there is never justice and the criminals run the show.

Fares Shehabi, a Syrian member of Parliament from Aleppo, highlighted the attack on his country’s economy in 2011:

…when EU backed “rebels” began a systematic campaign of burning & looting thousands of factories in Aleppo, including my own!” The EU, he continued, “sanctioned the Syrian economy to make things worse for our people!”

The latest round of sanctions against Syria, which came into effect on June 17, will target not only the people but also Syria’s ability to rebuild the country. This includes rebuilding the city of Raqqa, utterly destroyed by the U.S.-led coalition in Syria, whose presence is in violation of international law and of Syria’s sovereignty.

“Sanctions Kill” also notes, that, “Currencies are devalued and inflated when sanctions are levied. Countries are pressured to stop doing business with targeted countries. The first sectors affected are generally medicines, cost of food, power, water treatment and other essential human needs. Sanctions violate international law, the UN charter, Geneva and Nuremberg conventions because they target civilians by economic strangulation, creating famines, life threatening shortages, and economic chaos.”

According to the World Food Program, “7.9 million Syrians are food insecure – an increase of 22 percent in just one year. Syria is in the grip of a severe economic crisis, and this is driving levels of food insecurity. Rising food and fuel prices and a depreciating informal exchange rate are making it more difficult for families to access the food they need.”

This is precisely what is occurring in Syria, which, with the help of its allies, is attempting to rebuild. US sanctions will hinder the rebuilding process.

The other day I was chatting with a college student, Naji Kaskas, about how this new round of heightened sanctions affects him. He said:

I started working this year, my savings are in Syrian pounds. Now, they’ve lost half their value, or more. This Caesar Act, what it already has done to us is to contribute to the collapse of the Syrian currency.

We’re unable to buy food like chicken and meat, now, they’re way too expensive. Even milk. We’re not living a normal life, we have anxiety because our future is not stable.

Before, 500 Syrian pounds were equal to US$1 (Note: before 2011 it was around 50 Syrian pounds to the dollar). Now, it has reached 3,000 Syrian pounds, so our salaries are much less now.”

Jordanian political figures denounced the heightened sanctions appropriately as “economic terrorism”, calling them “one of the most dangerous types of crimes against humanity.”

Syrian-American activist Johnny Achi has been back to Syria countless times during the war, including since early 2011. He has seen the effects of the war and also the effects of the sanctions. He told me:

These final sanctions have broken the back of Syrians, whom after 10 years of war are exhausted, resources depleted, and simply put, were looking forward to the rebuilding process and the economic recovery. And that is precisely what these sanctions are meant to stop. Any country, or entity that attempts to help Syria gets back on its feet, will too become a target of the brutal US sanctions.

In a nutshell, what they could not take from us by force, they’re trying to take by punishing and starving an entire population.

But we will always remain resisting. After all that we’ve been through, and all the sacrifices we paid, we have no choice but to continue to live free or die free.”

Indeed, the people of Syria are fighting for their country, families and future, at great personal expense. Meanwhile, the US does everything in its power to destroy their future, country and livelihoods.

Who is really the terrorist state here?

Feature photo | A Syrian soldier who lost his legs while fighting in Syria’s war, helps his comrade after a physical therapy session, at the Ahmad Hamish Martyr hospital in Damascus, Syria. Hassan Ammar | AP

Eva Bartlett is a Canadian independent journalist and activist. She has spent years on the ground covering conflict zones in the Middle East, especially in Syria and Palestine. She is a recipient of the International Journalism Award for International Reporting and the Serena Shim Award For Uncompromised Integrity In Journalism. Visit her personal blog, In Gaza, and support her work on Patreon.

The post The Caesar Act: The Latest Western Attack on Syria Didn’t Drop From a Plane appeared first on MintPress News.

Trump Hammers Cuba While Cuba Cures the Sick

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 17/06/2020 - 12:58am in

A team of 85 Cuban doctors and nurses arrived in Peru on June 3 to help the Andean nation tackle the coronavirus pandemic. That same day, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced another tightening of the sanctions screws. This time he targeted seven Cuban entities, including Fincimex, one of the principal financial institutions handling remittances to the country. Also targeted was Marriott International, which was ordered to cease operations in Cuba, and other companies in the tourism sector, an industry that constitutes 10 percent of Cuba’s GDP and has been devastated globally by the pandemic.

It seems that the more Cuba helps the world, the more it gets hammered by the Trump administration. While Cuba has endured a U.S. embargo for nearly 60 years, Trump has revved up the stakes with a “maximum pressure” strategy that includes more than 90 economic measures placed against the nation since January 2019. Josefina Vidal, Cuba’s ambassador to Canada, called the measures “unprecedented in their level of aggression and scope” and designed to “deprive the country of income for the development of the economy.” Since its inception, the embargo has cost Cuba well over $130 billion dollars, according to a 2018 estimate. In 2018-2019 alone, the economic impact was $4 billion, a figure that does not include the impact of a June 2019 Trump administration travel ban aimed at harming the tourist industry.

While the embargo is supposed to have humanitarian exemptions, the health sector has not been spared. Cuba is known worldwide for its universal public healthcare system, but the embargo has led to shortages of medicines and medical supplies, particularly for patients with AIDS and cancer. Doctors at Cuba’s National Institute of Oncology have had to amputate the lower limbs of children with cancer because the American companies that have a monopoly on the technology can’t sell it to Cuba. In the midst of the pandemic, the U.S. blocked a donation of facemasks and COVID-19 diagnostic kits from Chinese billionaire Jack Ma.

Not content to sabotage Cuba’s domestic health sector, the Trump administration has been attacking Cuba’s international medical assistance, from the teams fighting coronavirus today to those who have traveled all over the world since the 1960’s providing services to underserved communities in 164 countries. The U.S. goal is to cut the island’s income now that the provision of these services has surpassed tourism as Cuba’s number one source of revenue. Labeling these volunteer medical teams “victims of human trafficking” because part of their salaries goes to pay for Cuba’s healthcare system, the Trump administration convinced Ecuador, Bolivia and Brazil to end their cooperation agreements with Cuban doctors. Pompeo then applauded the leaders of these countries for refusing “to turn a blind eye” to Cuba’s alleged abuses. The triumphalism was short-lived: a month after that quote, the Bolsonaro government in Brazil begged Cuba to resend its doctors amid the pandemic. U.S. allies all over the world, including in Qatar, Kuwait, South Africa, Italy, Honduras, and Peru have gratefully accepted this Cuban aid. So great is the admiration for Cuban doctors that a global campaign has sprung up to award them the Nobel Peace Prize.


A Cuban medical worker disinfectants his hands before he boards a bus at the Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, Cuba, June 8, 2020. Yamil Lage | AP

The Trump administration is not just libeling doctors, but the whole country.  In May, the State Department named Cuba as one of five countries “not cooperating fully” in U.S. counterterrorism efforts. The main pretext was the nation’s hosting of members of Colombia’s National Liberation Army (ELN). Yet even the State Department’s own press release notes that ELN members are in Cuba as a result of “peace negotiation protocols.” Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez called the charges dishonest and “facilitated by the ungrateful attitude of the Colombian government” that broke off talks with the ELN in 2019. It should also be noted that Ecuador was the original host of the ELN-Colombia talks, but Cuba was asked to step in after the Moreno government abdicated its responsibilities in 2018.

The classification of Cuba as “not cooperating” with counterterrorism could lead to Cuba being placed on the U.S. State Sponsors of Terrorism list, which carries tougher penalties. This idea was floated by a senior Trump administration official to Reuters last month. Cuba had been on this list from 1982 to 2015, despite that fact that, according to former State Department official Jason Blazakis, “it was legally determined that Cuba was not actively engaged in violence that could be defined as terrorism under any credible definition of the word.”

Of course, the United States is in no position to claim that other countries do not cooperate in counterterrorism. For years, the U.S. harbored Luis Posada Carriles, the mastermind of the bombing of a Cuban civilian airplane in 1976 that killed 73 people. More recently, the U.S. has yet to even comment on the April 30 attack on the Cuban Embassy in Washington D.C., when a man fired on the building with an automatic rifle.

While there are certainly right-wing ideologues like Secretary Pompeo and Senator Rubio orchestrating Trump’s maximum pressure campaign, for Trump himself, Cuba is all about the U.S. elections. His hard line against the tiny island nation may have helped swing the Florida gubernatorial campaign during the midterm elections, yet it’s not clear that this will serve him well in a presidential year. According to conventional wisdom and polls, younger Cuban-Americans – who like most young people, don’t tend to vote in midterms – are increasingly skeptical of the U.S. embargo, and overall, Cuba isn’t the overriding issue for Cuban-Americans. Trump won the Cuban-American vote in 2016, but Hillary Clinton took between 41 and 47% percent of that electorate, significantly higher than any Democrat in decades.

As an electoral strategy, these are signs that Trump’s aggression towards Cuba may not pay off. Of course, the strategy might not be just about votes but also about financing and ensuring that the Cuban-American political machinery is firmly behind Trump.

The strategy has certainly not paid off when it comes to achieving the goal of regime change. The Trump administration is arguably farther from achieving regime change in Cuba now than the U.S. has ever been in over 60 years of intervention. During Trump’s tenure, Cuba calmly transitioned from the presidency of Raul Castro to that of Miguel Díaz-Canel. In 2019, Cuban voters overwhelmingly ratified a new constitution. These aren’t signs of a country on the brink of collapse.

All Trump has achieved is making life more difficult for the island’s 11 million inhabitants, who, like people all over the world, have been battered by the economic impact from coronavirus. Tourism has collapsed. Income from remittances has tanked (both because of new U.S. restrictions and less income in the hands of the Cuban diaspora). Venezuela, once a major benefactor, is mired in its own crisis. But Cuba’s economy, which was forecast to contract by 3.7% before the pandemic hit, has been through worse, particularly during the 1991 to 2000 economic crisis known as the “special period” after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

A change in the White House would bring some relief, although Joe Biden has staked a rather ambivalent position, saying he would restore relations as President Obama did, but adding that he was open to using sanctions as punishment for Cuba’s support to the Venezuelan government.

It’s clear that from now until November, and perhaps for four more years, the Trump administration will pummel its island neighbor. Cuba will continue to seek global condemnation on the blockade (the 2019 UN vote was 187 against vs 3 in favor—the U.S., Brazil, and Israel) and continue to show what a good neighbor looks like. It responded to these latest provocations in the way that only Cuba does: with more global solidarity, sending Covid-19 healing brigades to Guinea and Kuwait a day after the June 3 round of sanctions. A total of 26 countries now have Cuban medical personnel caring for their sick.

That is the kind of goodwill that money just can’t buy and it greatly presents a stark contrast to the Trump administration’s shameful behavior during the pandemic. Back in March, as Cuban doctors arrived in Italy, former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa tweeted:

One day we will tell our children that, after decades of movies and propaganda, at the moment of truth, when humanity needed help at a time when the great powers were in hiding, Cuban doctors began to arrive, without asking anything in return.”

Feature photo | The first Cuban medical brigade of the Henry Reeve Contingent returns from Italy at the Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, Cuba, June 8, 2020. The Cuban doctors had gone to Italy on March 22 to help with the COVID-19 emergency in the Lombardy region. Ismael Francisco | AP

Medea Benjamin is an author/activist, and cofounder of the peace group CODEPINK.

Leonardo Flores is a Latin American policy expert and a campaign coordinator with CODEPINK. For more on the Nobel Prize for Cuban Doctors campaign, see www.cubanobel.org.

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Lawyers of George Floyd Family to Open UN Human Rights Case, Seek Sanctions Against US

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 02/06/2020 - 5:43am in

Tags 

News, sanctions

Over the past few months, the latest in a long history of extrajudicial killings of Black Americans has claimed the lives of three people: Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year old man gunned down in February by a gang of armed white men who chased him through a South Georgia neighborhood; Breonna Taylor, massacred in her own home by police officers who were serving a no-knock warrant on her apartment last March in relation to a drug case that had nothing to do with the budding 26-year old emergency room technician; and finally, George Floyd, whose murder by a Minneapolis police officer was graphically recorded on video and has now sparked national rage on a level never seen in this century.

The common denominator of all of these patently evil incidents is, of course, the color of the victims’ skin. Racial tension in this country is more American than apple pie and nothing confirms this more than the excruciatingly slow and protracted process to emerge from the foundational tenets of slavery, which built it.

It was only in the 1960s, a time still in living memory of most human beings currently inhabiting this planet, that African Americans were afforded some measure of civil rights beyond that of a house pet. Yet, even these meager advances have only been begrudgingly accepted by entrenched White supremacist attitudes, which don’t always require a matching dermal tint to manifest.

The police, however, are among the least subtle agents of the structural racism that courses through the veins of America. No one privy to their behavior since the merciless beating of Rodney King can deny just how bad things have always been for the African American community behind the camera lens. But now, with literally millions of cameras to catch these disgraceful acts of wonton, state-sponsored violence we have reached critical mass.

 

A Case for the Age

Lee Merritt and Benjamin Crump, attorneys for the families of the three victims of police brutality mentioned above, have announced that they intend to bring a case before the United Nation Human Rights Committee on behalf of their clients and seek sanctions against the United States for violating the human rights of African Americans.

Should they be successful in this legal endeavor, it would be almost unprecedented and significant. But certainly not new. Other minority groups have attempted a similar tack, such as the Native American community of Standing Rock, which tried – but failed – to bring a similar suit against the United States through the OAS in 2016. Another hurdle for Merritt, a civil rights attorney himself, and Crump, is the fact that Donald Trump pulled out of the UN human rights council in 2018, leaving the question of how far-reaching any potential judgment in favor of the families may ultimately be.

Nevertheless, taking advantage of the global spotlight that George Floyd’s murder and the subsequent social unrest that it has brought upon the U.S. to bring such a case before an international body like the UN may have a ripple effect throughout the world and open other avenues to hold the U.S. accountable for its continued treatment of African Americans and other minorities.

If there ever was a clear cut case for human rights abuse, it is the ongoing and pervasive disregard for communities of color by the police and concomitant prison-judicial complex in America. It is high time that the world looks at this country’s track record on these issues and does everything possible to stop it.

 

Keep the Pressure On

Even as the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police receives non-stop national and international coverage, the same behind-the-scenes forces that perpetuate the problem are working to deprive Floyd’s family of the justice they deserve. From the outrageous coroner’s report that partially attributed the death of a man executed on video to “underlying health conditions, and any potential intoxicants in his system,” to the ridiculous third-degree murder charge initially levied on the killer, historical precedent demands that we not allow this to become another news story we remember the next time it happens.

 
In an interview about the case with RT at the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis, Lee Merritt expressed surprise that officer Chauvin, who killed George Floyd was arrested so quickly, but made sure to underscore the fact that he, as the attorney representing the Floyd family in the case, had yet to see Chauvin’s mug shot or any other evidence that the disgraced police officer had actually been apprehended. “I’m not even sure that the man is in custody,” said Merritt, adding that he questions whether the speedy announcement of his arrest was made to “pacify the crowds” instead of providing any kind of justice.

Feature photo | Lee Merritt, a lawyer representing the family of Ahmaud Arbery, poses for a photo by a mural in the likeness of Arbery painted by artist Theo Ponchaveli in Dallas, May 9, 2020. Tony Gutierrez | AP

Raul Diego is a MintPress News Staff Writer, independent photojournalist, researcher, writer and documentary filmmaker.

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As US Reels From COVID-19, Trump Turns to Sanctions, War Making and Threats

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 16/05/2020 - 2:06am in

Presiding over by far the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the world, the Trump administration is making it a key priority to escalate hostilities with its perceived international enemies. Last night President Trump suggested that he might “cut off” all trade with the People’s Republic of China. “Now, if you did, what would happen? You’d save $500 billion,” he told Fox Business, referring to the United States’ trade deficit with the Asian nation. Calling the action “drastic” would be an understatement; China is by far the U.S.’ largest trading partner, sending nearly three-quarters of a trillion dollars of goods and services to America yearly, according to the government’s own figures. And while the U.S. would “save” hundreds of billions of dollars, it would also be completely without Chinese electronics, machinery, toys, textiles, plastics, and food, all of which would be nearly impossible to re-source, especially at such short notice. The president has already imposed sanctions on Beijing and is actively looking to extend them. 

Washington’s ire has not been focused on China alone, however. On Wednesday, the State Department released a list of states that it claims are not cooperating fully with U.S. efforts to rid the world of terror. All of the countries on the list – Iran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, and Syria – are all currently facing U.S. sanctions, even during a pandemic. Most of them have also been the victims of massive U.S. terror campaigns. CIA agent Luis Posada Carriles, for example, blew up a Cuban airliner in 1976, while the U.S. Navy shot down an Iranian passenger plane in 1989, killing all 290 civilians onboard. Cuba has also been the subject of countless acts of chemical and biological warfare by the superpower to its north. Meanwhile, the U.S. government has supported at least five coup attempts in the previous 18 months in Venezuela, and in January, Trump threatened to carry out a detailed plan of war crimes against Iran. 

The Trump administration has also used more covert means of regime change. Since 2016, the National Endowment for Democracy, the government’s regime change arm, has spent more than $30 million on activities in Mainland China and Hong Kong, while funding anti-government groups and organizations in North Korea doubled between 2018 and 2019. Among its strategies is to bankroll “news” or “human rights” organizations like the China Digital Times, Daily NK, and NK Watch which more established news organizations use as expert sources for stories on the countries. On Venezuela, the NED virtually never even discloses the organizations it is giving money to. 

Sanctions, of course, are an act of war in themselves. United Nations Rapporteur Alfred de Zayas, himself an American, estimated that Trump’s Venezuela sanctions have killed over 100,000 people. “It’s quite clear that these sanctions actually amount to a crime against humanity under Article 7 of the Statute of the International Criminal Court,” he said earlier today. Officially, humanitarian items like medicine are excluded, but in practice, this is not the case, making the humanitarian case for sanctioning America’s enemies a “bad joke” in the words of Phyllis Bennis, a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies. No country was willing to sell or even donate medical equipment to Iran to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic for fear of Trump reprisals, making the outbreak significantly worse. In the end, the World Health Organization stepped in to supply them, one reason Washington has pulled all funding from the group. 

Thus, the Trump administration has decisively chosen war over peace and conflict over cooperation. Yet it appears less able than ever to coerce the world into following its lead. Few countries have lined up behind Trump in demonizing the WHO. Indeed, German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass reconfirmed his country’s commitment to the organization, stating it is one of the best investments Germany makes. Watching the country’s inept response to the virus, the direct impression given is that this is the erratic flailing of a dying empire. “It is almost surreal,” said world-renowned linguist and political philosopher Noam Chomsky on watching Trump’s recent actions, “We have a freak show in Washington…the country is simply run by sociopaths,” he added. 

Feature photo | President Donald Trump meets with senior military leaders and members of his national security team in the Cabinet Room of the White House, May 9, 2020, in Washington. Patrick Semansky | AP

Alan MacLeod is a 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. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

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Podcast: Dan Kovalik on How Sanctions and Humanitarian Interventions are Used to Plunder Nations

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 02/05/2020 - 12:33am in

Welcome to MintCast, the official MintPress News podcast hosted by Mnar Muhawesh. MintCast is an interview podcast featuring dissenting voices, independent researchers and journalists the establishment would rather silence.

In this episode, we are joined by human rights lawyer, journalist and author Dan Kovalik. Kovalik is an expert on U.S. empire, foreign policy and international human rights. 

He has shared his expertise in a long chain of books including, “The Plot to Attack Iran,” “The Plot to Attack Venezuela,” “The Plot to Control the World” and his most recent book, “No More War: How the West Violates International Law by Using ‘Humanitarian’ Intervention to Advance Economic and Strategic Interests.

Today, the Trump administration is capitalizing on the global coronavirus pandemic to increasing pressure against sanctioned nations including Venezuela, Cuba, Iran and Syria; adding to a long list of nations — including Russia, China, Nicaragua and North Korea — that now represent the quarter of the world’s population living under the boot of U.S. economic warfare.

No More War Book The continuation of these sanctions during a deadly pandemic has revealed the true nature of the maximum pressure campaign that is not only hurting economies but killing millions of people. 

Despite being on the receiving end of this deadly policy – which includes decades of crippling sanctions, threats of war, and attempted coups through the funding of extremist opposition groups – victims of Washington’s heavy-handed foreign policy are rising above the challenge to cope with the coronavirus.

Eight of these targeted nations have made an appeal to the international community, penning a letter to the United Nations Secretary-General, the UN’s High Commissioner on Human Rights and the Director-General of the World Health Organization calling for an end to the unilateral American economic blockade, calling U.S. sanctions “illegal” and a blatant violation of international law and the charter of the United Nations.

Dan Kovalik joins us to take a deep dive into the history of Washington’s policy of sanctions and humanitarian intervention, a policy that provides the framework for the mass pillaging of foreign nations on behalf of the U.S. establishment. Kovalik also discusses the trail of genocide, civil wars, and some of the worst humanitarian catastrophes in human history that this policy has left in its wake.

This program is 100 percent listener supported! You can join the hundreds of financial sponsors who make this show possible by becoming a member on our Patreon page

Subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, Spotify and SoundCloud. Please leave us a review and share this segment.

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 Podcast: Dan Kovalik on How Sanctions and Humanitarian Interventions are Used to Plunder Nations appeared first on MintPress News.

Sanctioned Countries Are Now Leading the World in the Fight Against Coronavirus

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 23/04/2020 - 4:35am in

After weeks of dismissing it as a liberal “hoax” designed to unseat the president, brushing the virus off as no big deal and under control, the Trump administration is clearly floundering in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite weeks of warning where it could have taken precautionary steps, the United States currently has four times the confirmed cases and twice the deaths of any other country. At the same time, the countries it is currently placing under economic siege, totaling around a quarter of the world’s population, are faring far better and leading the global fight against the coronavirus.

China, for instance, the first epicenter of the outbreak, has managed to slow its new COVID-19 cases to a trickle, reopening for business after losing 4,632 people – a number that, in the context of a stark April reality, appears impressively low. Although much of the discourse in the West condemns the Chinese government’s supposedly incompetent or slow response to COVID-19, the reality is that Beijing alerted the World Health Organization on December 31, when just 27 cases (and no deaths) had been identified, with authorities not yet even aware that the condition was a coronavirus.

The country is at the forefront of the production and distribution of protective and medical equipment throughout the world and, along with Russia (another sanctioned state) is one of the few nations to fly medical personnel around the world to help other countries. Russia even sent a planeload of cargo to the United States, despite the American sanctions hurting its economy. While their actions have been presented in corporate media as cynically trying to “curry favor” abroad, the aid has been much appreciated in countries suffering under the pandemic. In contrast, the U.S. has led the world in stealing or requisitioning supplies destined for other nations.

Another sanctioned state exporting doctors across the world during the pandemic is Cuba, the island nation is sending medical staff to neighbors like Haiti, Venezuela, Suriname and Jamaica and also further afield to Italy. “This is a global battle and we have to fight it together,” said nurse Carlos Armando Garcia Hernandez, capturing the medical internationalist spirit of Cuban medicine pioneered by Che Guevara, who quipped that, “The life of a single human being is worth a million times more than all the property of the richest man on earth.” A Cuban antiviral drug, Interferon Alpha 2b, has also proved successful in boosting patients’ immune systems, helping them fight off the coronavirus, and is now being used worldwide.

Venezuela, meanwhile, struggling under crippling U.S. sanctions that have claimed the lives of at least 100,000 people according to an American UN Special Rapporteur, has mobilized to fight the virus head on. The country has conducted twice as many tests as any other South American nation, but only 288 COVID-19 cases have been found, leading to only 10 deaths. Even before any cases were confirmed, President Maduro declared a health emergency, quickly closing public buildings like theaters and restaurants. His administration rapidly organized a huge online database where citizens could inform authorities of their symptoms. Medical professionals visited tens of thousands of people in their own homes, distributing test kits and advice. Maduro decreed the suspension of all rent and utility bills during the crisis, also banning the firing of workers.

A testament to the country’s efforts is that thousands of Venezuelan expats in the U.S., at least 92 percent of whom voted against Maduro in the 2013 elections, came back to the country during the pandemic, suggesting they are far more confident in Venezuela’s handling of the crisis.

Meanwhile, Vietnam, a country not currently sanctioned but having faced Washington’s wrath for decades, surely earns the top prize in handling the virus. Despite recording its first positive case just two days after the first American one, authorities have managed to limit the outbreak to just 268 cases and zero deaths. This is not because they are not testing, far from it. In fact, the country has designed, developed and mass produced multiple test kits all costing less than $20 each and giving dependable results in less than 90 minutes.

Those arriving from abroad are quarantined for two weeks while anyone coming to a major city or building has their temperature checked. Whole villages and towns have been fenced off due to one positive test. There is certainly an authoritarian element to their response; those lying about their past whereabouts or found to be spreading false information about the pandemic can face charges. However, the response has hinged upon the strong collective solidarity of the Vietnamese people, many of whom have likened the present events to the Tet Offensive, where millions united in secret to drive the American invaders back in a surprise attack.

In Iran, one of the first global hotspots and a country that planners in the U.S. were gleefully predicting would fall in on itself under the strain, has managed to get to grips with the pandemic. The number of new daily cases of COVID-19 has been falling day-on-day since March 30.

Ironically, Mohammad Morandi, a professor at the University of Tehran, claims the crippling sanctions that blocked Iranian oil exports have inadvertently better prepared them to deal with the total collapse in global oil prices than U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia, the UAE or Qatar.

While the sanctioned countries vary greatly in their level of human development and the democratic credentials of their governments, they all share one thing in common: they have refused to buy into a U.S.-led neoliberal economic order that appears totally unprepared and unable to come to terms with a globalized pandemic. Countries that have been the most enthusiastic adopters of neoliberalism have, not coincidentally, found their individualistic ideology that promotes greed and discourages collective solutions sorely lacking in tackling a public health crisis that threatens the entire world.

Feature photo | Staff work at a lab in an Iranian medical firm work on coronavirus testing kits just outside Tehran, Iran, April 11, 2020. Ebrahim Noroozi | AP

Alan MacLeod is a 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. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

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Solidarity in a Time of Pandemic, While the US Capitalizes on Disaster

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 13/04/2020 - 11:57pm in

Like most everyone else, I don’t get out much lately due to shelter-in-place. But when I walk around my community, I am heartened by neighbors asking if there is anything we might need. I suspect this scenario is taking place everywhere.

Around the world amidst the pandemic, people step out at a mutually designated evening hour to make noise in a collective show of gratitude for heroic frontline healthcare workers. In New York City and Rome, they bang pots and pans. They’re cheering from rooftops in London and Vancouver. Elsewhere they sing in harmony. Here in Marin County, just north of San Francisco, we emerge at dusk to howl like coyotes.

What we are seeing is not social distancing but people coming together… while maintaining the prescribed 6-foot physical distancing. Our enforced physical isolation has paradoxically awakened a deeper appreciation of our commonality and mutual dependence, echoed by the response of nations other than the US.

 

International solidarity

Cuba has sent over 700 health professionals all over the world to fight COVID-19. The antiviral recombinant Interferon alfa-2b, developed in Cuba, has been successfully used in China to treat the virus in its early stages and is being exported widely. The Cuban approach is: “we don’t just give what we have left over but share what we have.” In a word, solidarity.

The Venezuelan air force mobilized to carry Cuban medical brigades to Caribbean counties fighting COVID-19. Venezuelan soldiers mustered not to their guns but to sewing machines to stitch surgical masks for civilians to protect them from the virus. This is being done in the context of ever-tightening sanctions on Venezuela by the US, blockading Venezuela at a cost of over 100,000 lives.

China, having contained its own outbreak in an effort the World Health Organization (WHO) praised as unprecedented, sent critically needed respirators and other medical equipment to 35 other countries and regions. Responding to shortages in the US, China flew in tons of medical equipment to New York,  Illinois, Ohio, and other US states. Russia airlifted 60 tons of needed ventilators, masks, and respirators to the US and has aided other countries in the global effort to contain the pandemic.

In the same spirit, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for a global ceasefire: “There should be only one fight in our world today, our shared battle against COVID-19…[to] end the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world.” Over 70 nations have endorsed the ceasefire, as did Pope Francis and religious leaders of diverse faiths, but not the US.

“The war on this virus can only be successful if all nations can win this war together, and no affected nation is left behind,” wrote Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in an open letter to the American people.

“This is the other side of the globalization coin; a signal that happiness and calamity are both globalized.”

 

Washington sees an opportunity

The virus does not discriminate, attacking oppressed and oppressor alike. Unfortunately, the US government does more than discriminate. Washington has seen the pandemic as an opportunity.

The US government is exploiting the pandemic as an opportunity to increase misery in Iran, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, Syria and other countries the world’s hegemon doesn’t care for. And these besieged states are not alone. One-third of humanity is under ever-increasing US sanctions. These unilateral coercive measures, illegal under international and domestic law, are explicitly designed to cause the targeted people to suffer so much they will reject their leaders for those chosen for them by the US.

 
Filmmaker Oliver Stone and human rights law professor Dan Kovalik describe the US conduct as “weaponizing the virus” against targeted countries. As the US Peace Council reports, the countries targeted by the US “are finding it prohibitively difficult to protect and save the lives of their citizens in the face of the ongoing global emergency. These sanctions constitute crimes against humanity.” In short, sanctions kill.

The US has blocked medical aid to targeted countries. A shipment of test kits, masks, and respirators donated by the Chinese Alibaba group to Cuba had to be aborted, when the US transport company refused to deliver, fearing breaking the US blockade. Correspondingly the US has waged a campaign to force recipient countries to refuse Cuban medical assistance.

Venezuela, with COVID-19 already threatening, applied for an emergency $5 billion loan to combat the virus from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Under US pressure, the IMF denied the request.

Trump threatened to suspend the US contribution to the WHO, the main international body fighting the pandemic. WHO had appealed to the US to lift its sanctions preventing Iran from purchasing drugs and medical equipment. But the US had already rejected the binding but unenforceable ruling of the International Court of Justice (aka World Court) to lift sanctions on medical and humanitarian aid to Iran.

Likewise, the appeal by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet for the US to suspend sanctions amidst the pandemic, because the “impeding medical efforts in one country heightens the risk for all of us,” fell on deaf ears.

The punitive policies of the US government are having the effect of spreading the coronavirus. In response, even close US allies such as the UK, France, and Germany have used the alternative trading tool, INSTEX, to circumvent the US sanctions and deliver humanitarian medical supplies.

At a time when resources are supposedly inadequate to respond to the health crisis in the US, the US Navy is being sent off the Venezuelan coast in the largest regional US military deployment in 30 years. Washington’s bogus claim, that Venezuela is conspiring to “flood the United States with cocaine,” is contradicted by the government’s own statistics that prove that the illicit drugs are coming overwhelmingly out of US client state Colombia, which has received over $10 billion of US aid.

The positioning of the US armada of Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, among the world’s most expensive, is overkill for drug interdiction. But the warships, each armed with 56 Tomahawk cruise missiles, land-attack missiles, and anti-ship missiles, along with the deployment of ground Special Forces would be appropriate for threatening an invasion of Venezuela.

US officials claim that this spare-no-expense military exercise is necessary to “send a message” to Venezuelan President Maduro. But given Trump’s undeniable skills in the area, wouldn’t it be far more parsimonious to tweet him? Apparently not, because the US is also using the pandemic as a morbid backdrop for offensive actions in Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, and Yemen, to name a few of the more prominent flashpoints engaging the US military. Besides tweeting might not work so well. Twitter, in service of the empire, has suspended the accounts of the minister of health and other top Venezuelan officials.

 

Gone viral: now a description of the human condition

The critical difference between an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer and a ventilator used to treat COVID-19 is that there is no shortage of warships. This will remain the case so long as our bipartisan foreign policy persists. Working people will be neglected, come pandemics, economic collapse, or both.

The larger question for our times, when “gone viral” is more than a figure of speech but is a description of the human condition, is posed by the New York Times: “Everything is awful. So why is the stock market booming?” The wealthiest member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and its chair, Jerome Powell, is similarly bullish: “There is nothing fundamentally wrong.”

Heidi Shierholz with the Economic Policy Institute looked at precisely the same indicators as did Powell, but from the perspective of the other 99% of humanity, and exclaimed:

I don’t usually look at data releases and just start shaking…This is a portrait of disaster…It represents just incredible amounts of grief and suffering.”

The answer to the Times’ query is that the US empire, as leader of the capitalist world, finds ways to exploit disasters while failing to meet human needs.

Feature photo | Cuban doctors form up during a farewell ceremony as they get ready to leave for Italy to help with the new coronavirus pandemic, in Havana, Cuba, April 12, 2020. Ismael Francisco | AP

Roger D. Harris is with the Task Force on the Americas, a human rights group working in solidarity with the social justice movements in Latin America and the Caribbean since 1985.

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COVID-19: How the Media Hyped the Public Into an Anti-China Frenzy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 11/04/2020 - 5:28am in

A new Harris poll has found that, amidst the crisis, the American public’s attitude towards China has turned from frosty to outright hostile. 77 percent of the country blames China for the outbreak, with 54 percent stating that it owes the U.S. reparations for being the epicenter of the outbreak. The public also believes that China has acted highly irresponsibly: only 23 percent think President Xi Jinping is a trustworthy source for information on the virus, and, if proven that it has underreported its cases, over 80 percent demand a full-scale economic war against the country.

Virtually every country in the world is likely underplaying their figures, including the United States. For example, eight times as many New Yorkers have died in their homes compared with last year. Many are strongly suspected of having died from COVID-19, but because they did not die in a hospital, they are not added to the official count. The results of the poll are relatively bipartisan, with 88 percent of Republicans and 78 percent of Democrats favoring imposing wide-scale economic sanctions; the difference is Republicans want Trump to do it unilaterally, Democrats wanting congressional approval. As such, the two positions represent a perfect microcosm of decades of U.S. foreign policy.

Despite the Trump administration’s incompetent handling of the pandemic (for weeks Trump claimed was a liberal “hoax” and no big deal) 58 percent of the public blamed China for the spread of the coronavirus within the United States; only 42 percent blaming their own government. 50 percent of Americans wanted Trump to get “tough” with China, compared to only 17 percent who favored a softer approach.

The U.S. public’s condemnation of China could barely contrast more with the reaction of international health bodies like the World Health Organization (WHO), who have had teams on the ground for months. The WHO has been effusive in its praise for China’s “commitment to transparency,” lauding how quickly it identified the virus and shared it with the world. “I have never seen the scale and commitment of an epidemic response at this level in terms of all of government involvement,” said Dr. Michael Ryan, the WHO’s Chief Executive Director for Health Emergencies, praising the organization of the Chinese state. “The challenge is great, but the response has been massive and the Chinese government deserve huge credit for that response and for the transparency in which they have dealt with this.”

Where, then, is the public getting this attitude from? One source has been politicians like Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, who suggested without evidence that the novel coronavirus actually began life in a Chinese “super laboratory,” presumably then unleashed or accidentally discharged on to the population. Three out of ten Americans agree with Cotton’s theory, according to research published Wednesday by the Pew Research Center. Only four in ten believe that the virus came about naturally.

Another driver of anti-Chinese sentiment has been the media. Even when China does something unquestionably positive, such as donate planeloads of medical equipment to European countries, CNN presented it as a scheming Beijing merely trying to “deflect blame” and “curry favor.”

Meanwhile, the Washington Post writes that “Working together to confront China’s bad behavior is not just a national security imperative. It’s also smart politics,” claiming that only the “far-left” could possibly want a more amicable relationship with China, even red-baiting Joe Biden for not being sufficiently condemnatory of Beijing.

As a result of the media coverage, an epidemic of anti-Chinese xenophobia has also spread across the U.S., even negatively affecting many non-Chinese Asian communities. A Thai woman was racially abused on the Los Angeles subway, Indiana hotels refused to serve two Hmong men on the grounds that they probably had coronavirus and Vietnamese students in California have been bullied and abused at school by gangs yelling “coronavirus.” Racists are not known for their precise knowledge of culture and geography.

The targeting of China for blame is not purely a means to deflect attention away from Washington’s lackluster response to the pandemic, however. As MintPress reported in February, the Pentagon’s 2021 budget request demanded $705 billion to “shift focus from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a greater emphasis on the types of weapons that could be used to confront nuclear giants like Russia and China.”

Joe Biden’s foreign policy team also favors a ramping up of Obama’s “pivot to Asia” – an attempt to militarily encircle and asphyxiate the emerging Asian nation. His “top priority” if he gets into power, according to a recent article, is to counter the “China challenge,” deciding “what level of sanctions the United States impose” on Beijing and “how far the U.S. should go.” Taken for granted is that Washington has the legal or moral right to take such actions.

While the new attack on China from politicians and press alike could be seen as an attempt to shift blame away from the Trump administration and to avoid self-reflection, it can also be read as a cynical attempt to manufacture consent for a war with Beijing that has been years in the making. And, according to the Harris poll, it is working. “Blame China” could turn into calls to “bomb China” sooner than we think.

Feature photo | A medical worker from China’s Jilin Province wears a sticker in the shape of China on her face mask as she prepares to return home at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei Province, April 8, 2020. Ng Han Guan | AP

Alan MacLeod is a 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. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post COVID-19: How the Media Hyped the Public Into an Anti-China Frenzy appeared first on MintPress News.

Trump Should Fight COVID-19, Not Venezuela

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 08/04/2020 - 3:05am in

On April 1, the Trump administration hijacked a COVID-19 press conference to announce the deployment of U.S. Navy vessels and other military assets towards Venezuela. According to Defense Secretary Mark Esper, “included in this force package are Navy destroyers and littoral combat ships, Coast Guard Cutters, P.A. patrol aircraft, and elements of an Army security force assistance brigade,” while General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, added that there are “thousands of sailors, Coast Guardsman, soldiers, airmen, Marines involved in this operation.” The pretext is a counter-narcotics operation to follow up on the Department of Justice’s March 26 indictment of President Nicolás Maduro and 13 others on narcoterrorism charges. This indictment is politically motivated and has been critiqued in depth.

In between the sticks of indictments and the deployment, the Trump administration seemingly offered a carrot: a proposed “democratic transition framework” that would progressively see the sanctions lifted after the resignations of Maduro and Juan Guaidó, the installation of a “Council of State” and elections in which neither Maduro nor Guaidó can participate. This proposal, which is more of a poison pill than a carrot, was immediately rejected by Venezuelan opposition politicians and the government. The plan is unconstitutional, it violates Venezuelan sovereignty (insofar as it is a tacit acceptance that illegal sanctions imposed on the U.S. should be allowed to dictate the country’s domestic affairs), and it runs counter to the ongoing dialogue in Venezuela that is getting closer every day to establishing a new National Electoral Council and setting a date for legislative elections. Henri Falcón – a former opposition presidential candidate – criticized the plan and said an agreement cannot be imposed, that a “solution in Venezuela is between Venezuelans.” It was also called into question by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Eliot Engel, who called the approach “an utterly incoherent policy”, as it came days after the Department of Justice said nothing would stop them from moving forward with the narcoterrorism case.

 

The weaponization of COVID-19

It seemed as though Venezuela was finally moving forward towards a negotiated solution to its political crisis, yet the naval deployment may sabotage the dialogue, as it was partially designed to do. The other purposes of the deployment were to distract from COVID-19 at home and to take advantage of the epidemic in order to increase the pressure on the Maduro government.

It was a bizarre scene that played out on April 1 during the press conference announcing the deployment. CNN was covering the conference live, believing it to be about the pandemic; this belief was reasonable, as it was marketed as a coronavirus briefing and it came a day after that the government released an estimated COVID-19 death toll of anywhere between 100,000 to 240,000. As the White House argued that drug traffickers might exploit the virus, CNN cut away from the discussion of the “seemingly unrelated counternarcotics operations.” That night Twitter was flooded with #WagTheDog tweets, a hashtag indicating that Trump was trying to drum up a war to distract from the incompetent handling of the pandemic.

senior Pentagon official even told Newsweek that Trump was “using the operation to redirect attention.” By April 3, the White House was pitching the idea that fighting the drug trade would somehow help fight the coronavirus, leading military officials to express “shock” at the conflation between the war on drugs and COVID-19. Of course, as shown by recent events onboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, whose captain was dismissed after the virus rapidly spread amongst his sailors, U.S. service members are being exposed to greater risk of contagion by this massive deployment to the Caribbean. They are exposed on crowded ships and they are exposed on land at the nine U.S. military bases in Colombia. This is especially true considering that in Colombia, the COVID-19 response has been so poor that in late March, one of the country’s two machines for analyzing the results of coronavirus testing was knocked offline for 24 hours.

Apparently, this risk is acceptable to the Trump administration, as it sees an opportunity to weaponize the pandemic, using the instability and chaos it is causing to further its regime change goals. William Brownfield, former U.S. ambassador to Venezuela and one of the architects of the regime change policy, characterized “the sanctions, the price of oil, the pandemic, the humanitarian crisis” and the migration of so many Venezuelans as a “perfect storm” to pressure Maduro with the “non-negotiable” offer that he must leave.

 

The possible consequences of the naval deployment

The Trump administration has not given details as to what “counter-narcotics operations” might look like off Venezuelan waters, but it is very clearly a provocation. There is also the possibility of false flag or false positives, in which any incident between the U.S. and Venezuelan navies could be used as a pretext to war, much like the Gulf of Tonkin incident was used to draw the U.S. into Vietnam.

There are other possible scenarios that could have devastating economic consequences. The Venezuelan government is concerned that everything from imports to oil exports could be intercepted or seized by the U.S. Navy. This is a valid concern, as the Pentagon has claimed – without offering any evidence – that drugs are trafficked “using naval vessels from Venezuela to Cuba.” Given the U.S. government’s targeting and sanction of ships that transport oil from Cuba to Venezuela, it hardly beggars belief that Venezuelan oil tankers could be boarded by the U.S. military.

As piracy is apparently back in fashion, with the U.S., among other countries, seizing COVID-19 equipment that has already been paid for by smaller countries, it would not be surprising to see the U.S. seize Venezuelan oil or other assets on the high seas, particularly given Trump’s penchant for saying that other countries will pay for U.S. military expenditures (whether it’s the wall on the Mexico border, NATO security spending or the threatened plundering of Iraqi or Syrian oil). It is an open question whether the world would allow the Venezuelan people to essentially be starved by this type of blockade.

 

The danger of military action

Trump has been threatening military action against Venezuela since August 2017 and a naval blockade since August 2019. The deployment of the Navy towards Venezuela is the first step in backing up both threats. According to the AP, it is “one of the largest U.S. military operations in the region since the 1989 invasion of Panama to remove Gen. Manuel Noriega from power and bring him to the U.S. to face drug charges.” The indictment of Maduro also draws comparisons to Noriega, himself indicted on similar charges. Senator Marco Rubio – arguably the biggest backer of violent regime change in Washington – tweeted pictures of Noriega in a not-so-veiled threat to President Maduro last year. The ties to Panama go even deeper: Attorney General William Barr and Trump’s Special Representative on Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, both worked for the Bush administration as it ramped the pressure up on Noriega.

Yet the overthrow of Noriega wasn’t achieved with sanctions, indictments or a naval deployment, it was achieved by a U.S. invasion. Furthermore, Venezuela isn’t Panama. It is a substantially bigger country, it is stronger militarily, it has important allies in China and Russia, and it counts with a 3-million-person militia.

This latter point is often overlooked or dismissed but understanding the seriousness of this militia is key to understanding the political landscape of Venezuela. In February 2019, as rumors swirled of a possible invasion from Colombia, members of the militia occupied key bridges along the border, fully prepared to risk their lives, as one militia member said in a recent documentary. The militia is part of the identity of chavismo, the left-wing revolutionary movement that backs Maduro and takes its inspiration from former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. For most on the left in Venezuela, there are no more than two degrees of separation from the militia: they either form part of it, they know someone in the militia, or they know someone who knows someone in the militia.

The implications of this should be evident: Venezuela has a substantial population that will resist any invasion or coup. This isn’t mere rhetoric; the biggest popular uprising in Venezuela of the past 30 years occurred on April 12 and 13, 2002, when Venezuela’s poor, working class, black, brown and indigenous people took to the streets to demand the return of ousted president Hugo Chávez, reversing a right-wing coup within 48 hours. (Of note: Elliott Abrams was in the George W. Bush administration at the time and “gave a nod” to the coup, according to The Guardian.)

What this all means is that Venezuela won’t be like Panama, where there was little resistance. If the worst happens and a war breaks out, more apt comparisons would be Afghanistan, Syria or Iraq, countries in which the U.S. spent billions for regime change at a disastrous cost to human lives and regional stability. The Trump administration’s dangerous deployment should be challenged by Democrats and Republicans alike, but so far, no major politician has criticized the maneuver. Hopefully the American people will read the message of peace sent by President Maduro and urge the U.S. government to fight covid, not Venezuela.

Feature photo | President Donald Trump listens to a question from a reporter as he speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, April 6, 2020, in Washington. Alex Brandon | AP

Leonardo Flores is Latin American policy expert and campaigner with CODEPINK.

The post Trump Should Fight COVID-19, Not Venezuela appeared first on MintPress News.

Coronavirus Aid for Regime Change: Washington’s 13 Point Plan for Venezuela

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 02/04/2020 - 4:20am in

The State Department released what it called its “democratic transition framework for Venezuela” yesterday; a 13-point plan for the removal of Nicolas Maduro and a radical overhaul of the country’s political system. The principal and most fundamental change Washington proposes is to “restore all powers to the National Assembly,” the one branch of government the right-wing pro-U.S. opposition coalition currently holds. This would place the entire country under the control of political groups that have not won a general election in Venezuela since 1993.

In point number three, the U.S. also demands that “all foreign security forces depart immediately.” Here, they are presumably not speaking about the U.S.-linked far-right Colombian death squads that have been known to penetrate the countries’ long and porous border, but about Cuban security advisors and medical personnel. The United States is currently waging a silent war against the Caribbean island, pressuring countries to refuse its medical aid during the coronavirus pandemic. U.S.-backed regimes in Brazil and Bolivia both expelled Cuban doctors from their countries upon coming to power, with Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro claiming that they were “costumed doctors” who were there to “create guerilla cells and indoctrinate people.” Brazil’s Health Ministry is now asking them to return even as its president continues to deny COVID-19 is a serious problem.

According to the State Department’s transition plan, all political offices in Venezuela will be liquidated and their positions filled with people chosen by the National Assembly – i.e. the Venezuelan opposition. This includes the National Electoral Council, the Supreme Court, the Council of State and the presidency. The National Assembly has been in limbo ever since 2017 when the Supreme Court ruled it was in contempt of court. During the previous elections, a few new members of the National Assembly were tried for vote buying, but the institution refused to recognize the Supreme Court, instead demanding all power be given to it, hence the three-year-long constitutional crisis. Only after the National Assembly has handpicked the new Council of State, who, in turn, choose the president, will the U.S. begin to lift sanctions, the State Department claims. However, it promises, the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Inter-American Development Bank (all institutions that have attempted to overthrow the socialist government) will be there to flood the country with foreign loans. The IMF recently refused an emergency COVID–19 loan to Venezuela unless Maduro stepped down.

The American proposal is unlikely to attract interest from Venezuela. “It’s a little hard to see how this is going to be convincing to the major players in the government,” said David Smilde, an anti-Maduro academic at the Washington Office for Latin America. Steve Ellner, a government-sympathetic professor at the Universidad de Oriente in Puerto La Cruz, suggested that the IMF’s actions would only “add to resentment against Washington” worldwide, also noting that many in the opposition coalition actually favor dialogue and working with the government during the pandemic.

The American proposal has not attracted interest from the Venezuelan government, President Maduro dismissing it outright. While Maduro holds very low approval ratings, he was democratically elected in 2013 and 2018 in some of the most internationally monitored elections in the world. Around 150 foreign observers, including three teams of seasoned election officials who produced reports, watched the 2018 vote. Among them was former Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, who said, “I do not have any doubt about the voting process. It is an advanced automatic voting system.” Former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa agreed, praising its “impeccable” organization. In 2012 former president Jimmy Carter described Venezuela’s system as “the best in the world.”

Nevertheless, the U.S. government refused to recognize the results, imposing sanctions on the country. An American Special Rapporteur for the U.N., Alfred de Zayas, visited Venezuela and denounced them, accusing Trump of “crimes against humanity” and estimating that they were responsible for over 100,000 deaths. The international community has called for all U.S. sanctions to be halted.

After a series of secret negotiations, the U.S. government immediately backed self-declared president Juan Guaidó’s audacious coup attempts last year. Guaidó, head of the National Assembly, insisted that Maduro was illegitimate and he should be made president. While he was lauded in Washington, even receiving a standing ovation from both Republicans and Democrats at Trump’s state of the union address, his attempts were largely rejected by the Venezuelan public. The most recent poll showed him with a 10 percent approval rate and a 68.5 disapproval rating among his country folk. He was unceremoniously removed from his position as National Assembly chair by his own coalition in January.

The State Department’s most recent announcement is another in a long line of efforts by Washington to unseat the ruling socialist party – a chain of attempts going back to at least 2002. This was made explicit by special Venezuela representative Elliott Abrams: “The plan is not so much an effort to change Nicolas Maduro’s mind as it is to appeal to everyone else in Venezuela to change his mind for him,” he told a briefing. However, it is far from clear whether it will have this effect. Steve Ellner, a government-sympathetic professor at the Universidad de Oriente in Puerto La Cruz, suggested that recent actions would only “add to resentment against Washington” worldwide, also noting that many in the opposition coalition actually favor dialogue and working with the government during the pandemic. Like Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo’s previous calls for the military to rebel and overthrow Maduro, the State Department’s transition plan will likely be ignored inside Venezuela. With a global pandemic threatening to hit the country, Venezuelans likely have more important things to think about.

Feature photo | Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams, right, accompanied by State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus, left, speaks at a news conference, March 31, 2020, in Washington. Andrew Harnik | AP

Alan MacLeod is a 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. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post Coronavirus Aid for Regime Change: Washington’s 13 Point Plan for Venezuela appeared first on MintPress News.

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