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UK Court Decision on Venezuela Gold Deals Blow to Regime Change Efforts

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 06/10/2020 - 3:27am in

A United Kingdom court has handed the Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro a major win today, overturning a previous ruling from a lower court that legitimized the British government’s decision to freeze Venezuelan government gold reserves held in the Bank of England. The English Court of Appeal ruled that the Conservative administration of Boris Johnson’s position that Juan Guaidó is the country’s legitimate ruler was far from equivocal, potentially paving the way for some $1.95 billion of the Central Bank of Venezuela’s gold to be accessed.

Following President Trump’s lead, in July, the U.K. government took the extraordinary step of derecognizing President Maduro in favor of the self-declared Guaidó, despite the fact that for nearly six months, he had not even been a member of his Popular Will party, let alone its leader. The move was labeled “highway robbery” by supporters of the Venezuelan government.

A nearly unheard of politician before his ascension to the role of head of the Venezuelan National Assembly (a post given out on a yearly rotational basis among all parties in the institution) in January 2019, Guaidó shocked the country by using his appointment to unilaterally declare himself president of the country. He then led a series of coup attempts throughout 2019 and 2020, the last of which involved paying Trump-linked American mercenaries to shoot their way into the presidential palace. However, the plan ended in complete disaster, with the Americans subsequently sentenced to 20 years of prison time.

Guaidó based his claim to power on Article 233 of the Venezuelan Constitution, which allows a president to be removed if he “abandons his position” or becomes “permanently unavailable to serve” for whatever reason. Maduro, however, had clearly not left his post. Regardless, if he had, Article 233 states that the vice-president would take charge until a new election by universal suffrage was held. Guaidó’s party was not even registered to stand in elections, having boycotted them the year previously under U.S. orders. The Trump administration had attempted to organize a total boycott from opposition parties, thereby undermining the process’ legitimacy, even threatening to sanction opposition presidential candidate Henri Falcón. Despite the partial boycott, turnout was relatively high. A larger percentage of the total electorate still cast their ballot for Maduro than Americans did for Trump in 2016 or Obama in 2012. The U.S. government is currently trying the same tactic in the upcoming December elections to the National Assembly, the State Department releasing a memo in September declaring that all opposition parties taking place were considered “puppet parties” participating in an “electoral charade,” and would therefore be sanctioned.

The United Kingdom and the United States have been leaders in a years-long economic and political campaign to oust Maduro from power, hitting the country with sanctions and attacking it politically. When Maduro attempted to use the impounded gold to buy humanitarian aid from the United Nations to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, the Johnson administration blocked it. Meanwhile, American sanctions, declared illegal by the U.N., have been responsible for over 100,000 Venezuelans’ death. The U.S. government is also continually provoking Venezuela militarily. Last week, it sent a warship — the U.S.S. William P. Lawrence — into the Caribbean, just 16 nautical miles from Venezuela’s coast. Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino described the action as “erratic and childish,” implying Trump was attempting to foment an “October Surprise” conflict to boost his reelection chances.

The U.S. has also funded and supported Guaidó throughout his coup attempts, grooming him since he was a student leader. Recently, they have been channeling money confiscated from the Venezuelan government to Guaidó so that he can personally pay every healthcare worker a huge stipend.

While the Maduro administration is very unpopular, the opposition has had little success shaking their image as elitists interested only in returning Venezuela to its former status as a U.S. client state. Guaidó is presented in Western media as a breath of fresh air and a break with that tradition. However, as the privately-educated son of an international airline pilot, and somebody who attended George Washington University (an impossible task for those who do not come from the elite), he has had little success persuading his countryfolk to get behind his vision for the country. A recent poll found that 3 percent of Venezuelans recognize him as president. Despite this, he has received virtually unanimous support in Washington and London. However, there is no doubt that today’s court ruling is a loss for him and a win for Maduro.

Feature photo | Self-declared Venezuelan President Juan Guiado meets with UK PM Boris Jonson in London in January, 2020. Photo | Public Release

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 UK Court Decision on Venezuela Gold Deals Blow to Regime Change Efforts appeared first on MintPress News.

Video Shows British Soldier Being Arrested for Opposing UK Arming of Saudi Arabia

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 27/08/2020 - 4:07am in

A British soldier has been arrested for opposing the United Kingdom’s role in the Saudi-led war against Yemen. Video shows Lance Corporal Ahmed Al-Babati of the Royal Signals being led away by military police from his protest outside Britain’s Ministry of Defense in London.

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Ahmed has been taken in by the military police after 9 hours and 30 mins and 57 whistles later. A true hero. He is been kept by the military police and will be released within the few hours. His refusal to stay silent to the truth gained the respect and love of the people on social media and the people of London. A brave young man standing for Justice, with his head held high.

A post shared by SFJ (@standforjustice_sfj) on Aug 24, 2020 at 10:44am PDT

Al-Babati earlier released a video explaining his decision to risk his freedom rather than participate in what he feels is a grossly immoral war. “Our government continues to arm and support Saudi Arabia,” he said. “We tried to make our voices heard by protesting in London, Manchester, Liverpool and many other cities. We’ve even tried to email our MPs, but clearly our words mean nothing to [Prime Minister] Boris Johnson.”

I joined the army in 2017 and took an oath to protect and serve this country, not to be part of a corrupt government that continues to arm and support terrorism. What made this decision so easy for me and why I choose to sacrifice a lot of things including possibly my freedom is for the simple fact that me, myself as somebody that was born in Yemen, I could have easily fell victim to one of those air strikes or died out of hunger. I’ve seen enough not to speak out and I’d rather sleep peacefully in a cell than stay silent for a paycheck.”

Yemen is suffering through what the United Nations calls “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” the organization estimating that 14 million people — over half the country’s population — are at risk of famine, and 20.5 million need help accessing drinkable water. The situation is largely the result of the five year conflict, misleadingly labeled the Yemeni Civil War, which, in reality, is largely a Saudi-led struggle against the Houthi rebels, situated in the west of the country. Between 2014 and 2015, the Houthis overthrew the government of Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, with the Saudi government spending five years attempting to reinstall him as the leader of a united Yemen.

Eschewing diplomatic solutions or boots on the ground, however, the Saudis have largely resorted to sustained bombing campaigns, which have destroyed the country’s already limited infrastructure. A recent report from Oxfam calculated that there had been almost 200 air raids on hospitals, clinics, wells or water tanks since the conflict began in 2015, around one every ten days. As a result, Yemen is beset with twin epidemics of COVID-19 and cholera, their stretched medical system unable to cope with either. The war is estimated to have killed almost a quarter of a million people to date.

“It is clear this government has blood on their hands, so with that being said I refuse to continue my military service until the arms trade with Saudi Arabia has been put to an end. It is reported that a child dies every 10 minutes in Yemen, so I’ll be standing outside 10 Downing Street blowing a whistle every 10 minutes so that they can hear every time a child dies due to a war they continue to arm and support,” Al-Babati said. He was reportedly arrested after protesting for 9 hours and 30 minutes, blowing his whistle 57 times during that period.

The British role in Yemen’s anguish is well documented. The United Kingdom is a key ally of the Kingdom, supplying it with billions of dollars worth of military equipment. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Saudi Arabia is by far Britain’s most important arms customer, responsible for 49 percent of total weapons purchases, buoying the booming industry. In addition, Britain has around 200 military personnel in the country, responsible for training, repairing and maintaining the Saudis’ costly warplanes, keeping the conflict going. Former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn had promised to put an immediate end to U.K. sales to Saudi Arabia if elected. However, the Conservative victory in the December elections effectively put an end to the debate, sending the stocks of British weapons manufacturers soaring.

Al-Babati has now not been seen for two days, with the Army refusing to discuss the matter with the media. His fate remains unknown. However, Al-Babati clearly did not make the decision lightly and knew what his fate could be. In 2010, British soldier Joe Glenton was sentenced to 9 months in prison after he refused to return to Afghanistan on conscientious grounds. Whether Al-Babati is given the same treatment remains to be seen.

Feature photo | Screenshot from video posted to Instagram shows the arrest of Ahmed Al-Babati by Britsih military police outside of Britain’s Ministry of Defense in London.

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 Video Shows British Soldier Being Arrested for Opposing UK Arming of Saudi Arabia appeared first on MintPress News.

UK Govt Loaning Troops to Oman to Prop up Dictatorship

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 21/07/2020 - 5:04am in

The United Kingdom keeps dozens of army operatives — “respectable mercenaries” in its own words — to help prop up the Omani dictatorship, a new report from the investigative team at Declassified U.K. has found. Rooted in half a century of covert cooperation between the two countries that receives virtually no public attention, 91 British operatives, paid for by the Sultan of Oman, wearing Omani uniforms, but still remaining part of the British military, hold key positions, training and leading local forces to help the monarchy stay in power.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has refused to inform parliament on what the rules of engagement are for these secret soldiers, leading to increased speculation, particularly over the roles of the air force pilots in the country flying the 12 extremely costly, British-made Typhoon fighter jets Oman purchased in 2012 for 3.75 billion U.S. Dollars. Neither Britain’s Royal Air Force nor arms manufacturer BAE Systems would tell investigative journalist Phil Miller, who broke the story, if the pilots were contracted to fly the planes at times of conflict.

In 2019 the United Kingdom overtook Russia to become the world’s second largest arms exporter, capturing around 19 percent of all international sales. After Johnson defeated Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn in the December general election, shares of British weapons manufacturers rocketed on the expectation of increased sales. Corbyn, a lifelong anti-war activist, had promised to halt arms transfers to Middle Eastern dictatorships, the destination for nearly 80 percent of British arms sales. According to data from the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, Oman is the United Kingdom’s third largest customer, behind only Saudi Arabia and the United States, buying $1.5 billion worth of hardware since January 2017. Considering its tiny population of under 5 million people, however, the country is by far the most loyal customer London has. Aircraft, including drones, are the number one purchase, in terms of value, followed by small arms and ammunition.

Virtually the entire Omani military comes equipped with some form of British weaponry. Apart from the Typhoon, the Air Force also flies BAE Hawks. Oman also sails three Khareef class corvette warships, built in Portsmouth, England, and commissioned between 2013 and 2014. Meanwhile, the Army continues to field 38 BAE Challenger II battle tanks, vehicles that cost them almost $400 million.

Scottish journalist Adam Ramsay has described Oman as, “effectively, although not formally, part of the British Empire,” suggesting that in any future offensive against Iran, the country would play an “absolutely vital role” in it, (even though the two states have maintained cordial relations). Situated just across the Strait of Hormuz from Iran, Oman is home to both U.S. and U.K. military sites, including newly built army and navy bases.

The neocolonial relationship between the two nations stretches back at least 50 years. In 1970, Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said came to the throne in a British-backed coup. Qaboos was very much Britain’s man, having grown up and been educated in England. Entering the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst at age 20, he even served in the British Army for a year. With the help of U.K. special forces, he managed to suppress a socialist uprising in the southern region of Dhofar. He would go on to rule with an iron fist for 50 years until his death in January this year when flags across Britain were lowered to half mast in mourning. In their obituary, The Guardian, the outlet marking the left-wing extreme of the U.K. corporate press, described him as a “relatively benevolent and popular absolute monarch,” who transformed his country for the better.

Qaboos also used his British weaponry to violently suppress the 2011 Arab Spring in his country, sending troops in to fire live ammunition at demonstrators. To this day, public gatherings of 10 or more people remain prohibited. The U.K. government immediately expressed its concern – not at the suppression of human rights, but that they might lose a valuable client ruler. Prime Minister David Cameron rushed to the Middle East, offering new shipments of weapons. Since then, the sultan’s newly bolstered police and military received anti-riot training in the U.K.

In discussions of problematic regimes that abuse human rights, Oman is almost never brought up, precisely because, in the eyes of the West, it is behaving itself, making the world safe for Western oil companies. To many in Washington, D.C. and London, they are the only ones whose rights matter.

Feature photo | In this photo made available by Oman News Agency, Oman’s new sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al Said, right, receives Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson after his arrival to attend an official mourning ceremony for the late Sultan Qaboos, in Muscat, Oman, Jan. 12, 2020. Photo | Oman News Agency via 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 UK Govt Loaning Troops to Oman to Prop up Dictatorship appeared first on MintPress News.

How Did Corporations Spread CSR from the US to the Rest of the World?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 30/05/2020 - 2:38am in

by Rami Kaplan & Daniel Kinderman* Why do firms adopt Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) practices? How does CSR spread across the globe? Our paper “The Business-Led Globalization of CSR” provides surprising answers to these most fundamental questions, based on the … Continue reading →

New Charity Watchdog Bites in UK

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 08/10/2015 - 9:46am in