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The Atlantic Council & Latin American Regime Change

Putting Northern interests first, Washington DC think tanks weaken democracy in the South

Brasil Wire

December 28, 2017

 

Founded in 1961, the Atlantic Council (AC) is part of the NATO offshoot Atlantic Treaty Association, described as an umbrella organization which acts as a network facilitator in the Euro-Atlantic and beyond, that claims to draw together “political leaders, academics, military officials, journalists and diplomats in an effort to further the values set forth in the North Atlantic Treaty, namely: democracy, freedom, liberty, peace, security, and the rule of law”.

Atlantic Council’s board members include Henry Kissinger, former CIA chiefs Michael Hayden and Mike Morell, and Bush-era head of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff. Its Digital Forensic Research Lab is led by a former Obama National Security Council advisor, and it is partnering with Facebook to carry out a purge of pages it deems to be “fake news”.

Together with the Americas Society/Council of the Americas (AS/COA), the Wilson Center and other  organisations (between which there is a revolving door for personnel), the Atlantic Council has been an international platform and promoter for both the controversial anti-corruption operation Lava Jato (Car Wash), which helped paralyse the Brazilian economy, and the 2016 removal of the Rousseff Government from power.

The organisation insists it is independent from both the US Government and NATO, however it receives the majority of its funding, of an undisclosed total, from various NATO member governments.

It was recently in the news for donating a million dollars, provided by the US State Department, to an opposition group in Venezuela, the latest in an estimated USD$45+ million in US funding to pro-opposition groups since 2008.

AC think tank funding

In October 2013, one year ahead of a crucial run of regional elections and after a burst of destabilisation in Brazil, the Atlantic Council launched its new Latin America effort, named the ‘Adrienne Arsht Center’, with a stated aim to “study, educate, and strengthen the trends transforming Latin America into a strong Western partner”.

The center was founded by Peter Schechter, a consultant who also hosts Altamar, a foreign policy podcast. Until June 2017 he was the Atlantic Council’s Senior Vice President for Strategic Initiatives as well as founding director of its latest Lat Am-focussed wing.

Born in 1959 in Rome, Schechter was raised in Italy, Bolivia, and Venezuela. In 1993, he co-founded Chlopak, Leonard, Schechter and Associates, a DC-based consultancy which advises politicians, companies, non-profits, and international organizations. Their clients’ tasks included fighting “regulatory encroachment” on US banks in Latin America, to spinning Hunt Oil’s Camisea project in Peru, which was threatened by protest from indigenous groups.

The bulk of his work, however, was serving as election advisor to conservative and neoliberal candidates across Latin America, including a number of current presidents. Clients included Venezuela opposition leader Henrique Capriles, Alvaro Uribe (his fourth client in Colombia), and 1994-2002 Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

His expertise in the region has made him a regular talking head on Latin American politics. He is a frequent guest analyst for television shows across the region as well as on US-based Spanish language networks Univision and Telemundo, noted for their right-wing bias.

In September 2009, Schechter’s firm signed a contract with the interim Honduran government of Roberto Micheletti to provide public relations services following the June 28, 2009 coup d’état. According to Foreign Agents Registration filings with the US Department of Justice, the firm received over $292,000 to boost the post-coup regime’s image in the US. His work for the Honduran putschists attracted negative publicity for Schechter’s company and sparked indignation both in Honduras and in the US, including letters of condemnation and a protest in front of the firm’s Washington, DC office.

On Brazil, Atlantic Council personnel could be found quoted in the press and on television networks eulogising Operation Lava Jato, normalising the judicial/parliamentary Coup d’état which removed Dilma Rousseff, and also promoting the neoliberal programme of Michel Temer’s post-coup government, such as fiercely resisted cuts to workers rights and a programme of pension reform which would raise retirement age as high as 74 for millions of ordinary Brazilians, which is above life expectancy in some areas of the country.

When these commentators would talk about “anti-corruption” and “poor economy” as the reasons for her impeachment, they would never indicate any relationship between the two. Yet Rousseff’s removal stemmed in part from both the public fervour generated by the partisan anti-corruption operation, and also perversely the economic effects it had created – with some economists estimating that the resulting Lava Jato mandated shutdown of economic sectors in 2015 accounted for half a million unemployed in construction alone, and 2.5% of GDP – turning a mild recession into something Wall Street talking heads in its corporate media could portray as the “worst economic crisis in a century“.

Lava Jato not only had profound effects on Brazil’s economy and democracy, it has also indirectly enabled capture of the country’s strategic resources, and corporations such as Embraer, which is now a target of takeover by US competitor, Boeing, sparking outcry amongst Brazilian developmentalists, nationalists, and the left as a whole.

The roots of the operation can be traced back as far as a 2002 Bush-era initiative, encouraged by infamous Office of Public Diplomacy propagandist, former Venezuelan ambassador, and one time head of Council of the Americas, Otto Reich, which made anti-corruption the principal tool for enabling political and economic outcomes in the region.

Mr. Reich, like Schechter was also hired to propagandise on behalf of Honduras Post-Coup Government. Following the Coup, Reich sent his thoughts to members of Congress by e-mail. “We should rejoice,” he wrote to one member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “that one of the self-proclaimed 21st Century socialist allies of Chávez has been legally deposed by his own countrymen.”

Also in 2009, leaked cables reveal that Lava Jato’s main protagonist, inquisitorial prosecutor/judge Sergio Moro, was already in collaboration with the State Department and Department of Justice on an embryonic strategy which would evolve into Operation Lava Jato. Brazil, a one-time ally of Venezuela, has seen its democracy, economy and sovereignty severely impacted by the operation, which has been deemed “Lawfare” and “War by other means” by observers. The ongoing role of public relations from within or around organisations like Atlantic Council and AS/COA and their relationship with large commercial news organizations warrants maximum scrutiny, and is indicative of whom is directing the real power being wrought in the region.

Using these non-conventional weapons, the so called ‘Pink Tide’ of leftist governments across the continent has been reversed, to the delight of Washington, London and Wall Street. Corruption allegations are affecting the political scene across South America, in Chile, Argentina and Peru, and frontrunner for Brazil’s own 2018 election, former President Lula, faces an appeal on 24th January in what amounts to a kangaroo court, a trial which could shape the country’s future for a generation.

And the impact is not only economic and political but military and strategic. Joining its beachhead in Colombia, which is becoming an official NATO partner, comes the establishment of new US Military presences in ArgentinaParaguayPeru and now Brazil’s Amazon and North East. It is telling that Liliana Ayalde, US Ambassador to Brazil from September 2013, throughout the 2014 election and subsequent Coup d’état, is now serving as civilian deputy commander of US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM).

Camilo Mejia Analyzes the Soft Coup Attempt in Nicaragua

TeleSUR

August 28, 2018

By Rick Sterling

At the Oakland event, Camilo showed a torture video which demonstrates opposition violence. | Photo: Reuters

Camilo Mejía wrote an open letter condemning the Amnesty report for being biased and actually contributing to the chaos and violence.

Western media have described the unrest and violence in Nicaragua as a ‘campaign of terror’ by government police and paramilitary. This has also been asserted by large non-governmental organizations (NGOs). In May, for example, Amnesty International issued a report titled ‘Shoot to Kill: Nicaragua’s Strategy to Repress Protest.’

A Miami Herald op-ed summarized: “It’s not like there’s any confusion over who’s to blame for the recent killings amid Nicaragua’s political violence. Virtually all human rights groups agree that Ortega’s police-backed paramilitary goons are the culprits.”

Much less publicized, other analysts have challenged these assertions. They claim the situation is being distorted and the reality is very different. For example, Camilo Mejía wrote an open letter condemning the Amnesty report for being biased and actually contributing to the chaos and violence.

To learn more about the situation, Task Force on the Americas (TFA) invited Camilo Mejía to speak in the San Francisco Bay Area. TFA has a long history of work in Central and South America educating the public, lobbying around U.S. foreign policy and leading delegations to see the reality in Central and South America.

Veterans for Peace (VFP) quickly agreed to co-sponsor events with Camilo in San Francisco and Oakland. Veterans for Peace also has a long history with Nicaragua, having been founded partially in response to U.S. aggression in Central America. VFP members protested against U.S. shipments to the Nicaraguan Contras. VFP member Brian Willson had both legs cut off when a train carrying weapons destined for Central America ran over him. The current VFP president, Gerry Condon, was at that protest and helped stop the blood gushing from Willson’s severed legs. Brian Willson lives in Nicaragua today.

Camilo Mejía

Camilo Mejía was born in Nicaragua, the son of famous musician Carlos Mejía Godoy. His mother was a staunch Sandinista activist but separated from the father soon after his birth. She brought Camilo to the United States as a single mother in 1994, four years after the Sandinista electoral defeat. Living in Florida, Camilo struggled to make ends meet and joined the U.S. Army to pay for college. Just a few months before completing his service, Camilo was ordered into the 2003 invasion of Iraq. After serving one tour of war duty, he refused to return and was imprisoned for nine months.

Camilo was honored as a ‘Prisoner of Conscience’ by Amnesty International. Thus Camilo’s criticism of the Amnesty report on Nicaragua has special significance. Camilo is Nicaraguan, a member of Veterans for Peace, and a hero to both VFP and Amnesty. He is also the author of the compelling autobiography, ‘Road From Ar Ramadi.’

As news of Camilo’s upcoming visit to San Francisco spread, we started to feel a reaction. There is a large and diverse Nicaraguan exile community in San Francisco. While some support the Sandinista government, others are adamantly opposed and some even supported the Contras decades ago. Anti-Ortega Nicaraguan exiles in San Francisco began organizing a protest.

Camilo’s visit to speak on Nicaragua also prompted a reaction from some Americans who had once supported the Sandinistas but now support the opposition. They campaigned to have their viewpoint presented at our events. TFA and VFP organizers thought there was no need to include the opposition voice, because their characterization of the conflict is widespread. However, Camilo wanted to be transparent and not exclude the opposition. He thought that if we allowed an opposition supporter to speak briefly, they were more likely to listen to his analysis and he could directly address their concerns.

At the San Francisco event, protesters arrived early in front of the War Memorial Veterans Building. When the event started, protesters flooded into the venue. As promised, an opposition supporter was invited to speak briefly.The audience of about 120 was split between those who wanted to hear Camilo and those who came to protest. Camilo’s talk was repeatedly interrupted and police arrived to prevent violence. Camilo asked what kind of “democracy” was this they claimed to want for Nicaragua when they would not listen or allow him to speak here in San Francisco?

Camilo showed two short video clips. The first video showed opposition activists torturing a Sandinista supporter under the oversight of a Catholic priest and the remains of a Sandinista burned alive.

A second video showed a statement from an American who has lived in Nicaragua for many years. He described how gangs had invaded his town, set up road blocks, intimidated and abused local civilians. He described the joy of the community when the roadblocks were removed and masked ‘protesters’ departed.

The audience got increasingly disruptive during the question period. A prominent Nicaraguan opposition supporter came forward, offering to quiet the disrupters. After receiving the microphone from Camilo, she did the opposite.The disruptions escalated and the event had to be ended early. The protesters had completed their mission: they had prevented Camilo from being able to present his perspective.

Organizers from TFA and Veterans for Peace decided the event in Oakland needed to be handled differently. Members of Veterans for Peace, including Chapter President Paul Cox and others, prevented the protesters from entering. Ultimately the venue was packed with interested listeners. The anti-Ortega crowd protested on the sidewalk and street but were not able to disrupt the event.

With the loud opposition outside, Camilo was introduced by VFP President Gerry Condon. He gave a clear and concise history of key events in Nicaraguan political history, including:

* Nicaragua was connected to the gold rush in California in the mid-1800s. That is when the idea of a trans-oceanic passage through Nicaragua was born.

* When Cesar Sandino launched guerrilla war in the 1920s and ’30s, there were two priorities: advancing the working class and anti-imperialism.

* The Frente Sandinista which carried out the 1979 revolution had nine commanders: three from each of three factions.

* After the Sandinistas lost the 1990 election, splits emerged and ultimately Sergio Ramirez formed the Movimiento Renovador Sandinista (MRS). The more affluent members plus intellectuals, writers and musicians gravitated toward it. But though they were well connected to Western solidarity activists, they had no popular platform nor base. They did poorly in elections and moved toward neoliberal policies and the NGO world.

* Since taking power in 2007, Daniel Ortega and Sandinistas have improved living conditions for the poor with free healthcare, free education and better economic policies. Nicaragua now supplies 80 to 90 percent of its own food.

* Up until April, Nicaragua was vastly safer than neighboring countries. Their ‘community policing’ is considered a model.

* Support for Ortega and the Frente Sandinista has steadily increased. In 2006, they won 38 percent of the vote; in 2011, it increased to 62 percent; in 2016 support increased to 72 percent, with 68 percent turnout.

* There has been much misinformation about the proposed changes in social security which sparked the protests in April. To stabilize the social security funding, the IMF wanted to implement an austerity plan which would have doubled the work requirements and raised the qualification age from 60 to 65. The Sandinista proposal was much more progressive, requiring wealthy individuals and businesses to pay much more with minor changes for others.

* The death count has been manipulated. Some deaths are counted twice; people who were said to be dead have turned up alive; dead Sandinista supporters have been counted as protesters. The first deaths on April 19 were one student, one police officer and one bystander killed by sniper fire. Camilo asks: Was this done by the government or by outside forces?

* The National Endowment for Democracy and other U.S. agencies have trained students and others in using social media, video and symbols to stir up dissent and destabilize Nicaragua.

Goal Accomplished

At the Oakland event, Camilo showed a torture video which demonstrates opposition violence. He also showed video of the huge July 19 celebration of the Sandinista revolution anniversary. His talk was followed by many questions, including from opposition supporters.

At times during the event, there was tension and concern about violence from the protesters outside. Some Nicaraguan families were afraid for their safety. After the event, they had to be escorted with protection to their cars. The car of one Nicaraguan family was besieged by the anti-Ortega crowd. Camilo and his young daughter had to be quickly taken away amid shouts and waving placards.

Ultimately, Camilo’s visit accomplished the goal. Media interviews in Spanish and English reached many thousands. In these and the public presentations, he brought information and analysis which has been largely censored or ignored in coverage of Nicaragua.

Camilo believes Nicaragua has temporarily defeated a ‘soft coup’ attempt but the danger is not over. The opposition forces internally and internationally are still there.

 

[Rick Sterling is an investigative journalist and current board president of Task Force on the Americas.]

WATCH: What is Really Happening in Nicaragua?

August 21, 2018

An interview with Camilo Mejía.

 

“Camilo Mejía was born in Nicaragua, the son of famous musician Carlos Mejía Godoy. His mother was a staunch Sandinista activist but separated from the father soon after his birth. She brought Camilo to the United States as a single mother in 1994, four years after the Sandinista electoral defeat. Living in Florida, Camilo struggled to make ends meet and joined the U.S. Army to pay for college. Just a few months before completing his service, Camilo was ordered into the 2003 invasion of Iraq. After serving one tour of war duty, he refused to return and was imprisoned for nine months.” [Source; Rick Sterling, TeleSUR]

“… to put it in simple terms Nicaragua right now it’s being the subject of a form of aggression by the United States known as a soft cool other people know this modality of regime changes color revolution it’s pretty much the same thing. It’s an NGO led financed and orchestrated 100% by the United States as you know under the guise of pro-democracy protests to overthrow the democratically elected government of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Maria in order to turn Nicaragua into a cheap market for transnational companies to ransack…”

WATCH: UKRAINE ON FIRE

UKRAINE ON FIRE – The Real Story. Full Documentary by Oliver Stone (Original English version)

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“Ukraine. Across its eastern border is Russia and to its west—Europe. For centuries, it has been at the center of a tug-of-war between powers seeking to control its rich lands and access to the Black Sea. 2014’s Maidan Massacre triggered a bloody uprising that ousted president Viktor Yanukovych and painted Russia as the perpetrator by Western media. But was it?

Ukraine on Fire by Igor Lopatonok provides a historical perspective for the deep divisions in the region which lead to the 2004 Orange Revolution, 2014 uprisings, and the violent overthrow of democratically elected Yanukovych. Covered by Western media as a people’s revolution, it was in fact a coup d’état scripted and staged by nationalist groups and the U.S. State Department. Investigative journalist Robert Parry reveals how U.S.-funded political NGOs and media companies have emerged since the 80s replacing the CIA in promoting America’s geopolitical agenda abroad.

Executive producer Oliver Stone gains unprecedented access to the inside story through his on-camera interviews with former President Viktor Yanukovych and Minister of Internal Affairs, Vitaliy Zakharchenko, who explain how the U.S. Ambassador and factions in Washington actively plotted for regime change. And, in his first meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Stone solicits Putin’s take on the significance of Crimea, NATO and the U. S’s history of interference in elections and regime change in the region.” [Source: Ukraine on Fire website]

 

9-11-73 | Never Forget | Remember Allende

Last Words : Ultimo Discurso (Salvador Allende)

In 1970, Salvador Allende was the people’s choice for the President of Chile. However, he was not the choice of the establishment, the armed forces or the CIA – who financed an 8 million dollar campaign to de-stabilise his democratically elected government, and provided logistical support to the military coup which deposed him and led to 17 years of military dictatorship under General Pinochet. This film recalls Allende’s last radio speech before he died in the Presidential Palace, Santiago de Chile, on the morning of the eleventh of September 1973.

USAID’s Dubious Allies in Paraguay

USAID’s Dubious Allies in Paraguay

Congress Democrats

Graffiti in Asunción (Natalia Viana)

Agência Pública | AGÊNCIA DE REPORTAGEM E JORNALISMO INVESTIGATIVO

| Por Natalia Viana: Para justificar assistência militar à ditadura, EUA diziam que tortura era exceção

by Natalia Viana

April 10, 2013  | The Nation

In the usually tranquil streets of Asunción, the capital of Paraguay, there is a growing sense of unease. The death of retired general and presidential candidate Lino Oviedo in February, in a suspicious helicopter crash, has heightened the tension marking an already fraught transition following the impeachment of the left-leaning President Fernando Lugo last June. On city walls, graffiti demands an answer to the question “Que pasó en Curuguaty?”—the rallying cry at a protest of 5,000 people last December, which refers to the rural border region where a clash between police forces and landless peasants culminated in the death of seventeen people (eleven civilians and six policemen) last year. The tragedy, which took place just one week before Lugo’s impeachment, was seized upon by his opponents, who pushed for his ouster on the grounds that the president had fomented “the fight between rich and poor” by holding talks with peasant leaders. As Paraguay prepares to elect a new president on April 21, a growing number of citizens believe that answering the question of what happened in Curuguaty is the key to the truth behind Lugo’s impeachment.

SPECIAL REPORT: EXPOSING U.S. AGENTS OF LOW-INTENSITY WARFARE IN AFRICA

The “Policy Wonks” Behind Covert Warfare & Humanitarian Fascism

August 8, 2012
by Keith Harmon Snow

Conscious Being Alliance

This special report includes three unpublished video clips of interviewees from the Politics of Genocide documentary film project: Ugandan dignitary Remigius Kintu, former Rwandan prime minister Fautisn Twagiramungu, and Nobel peace prize nominee Juan Carrero Saralegui.

               From the 1980s to today, an elite group of Western intelligence operatives have backed low-intensity guerrilla warfare in certain African ‘hotspots’.  Mass atrocities in the Great Lakes and Sudan can be linked to Roger Winter, a pivotal U.S. operative whose ‘team’ was recently applauded for birthing the world’s newest nation, South Sudan.  Behind the fairytale we find a long trail of blood and skeletons from Uganda to Sudan, Rwanda and Congo.  While the mass media has covered their tracks, their misplaced moralism has simultaneously helped birth a new left-liberal ‘humanitarian’ fascism.  In this falsification of consciousness, Western human rights crusaders and organizations, funded by governments, multinational corporations and private donors, cheer the killers and blame the victims—and pat themselves on the back for saving Africa from itself.  Meanwhile, the “Arab Spring” has spread to (north) Sudan.  Following the NATO-Israeli model of regime change being used in Central & North Africa, it won’t be long before the fall of Khartoum. 

SPLA tank South Sudan LR.jpg

SPLA Tank in South Sudan: An old SPLA army tank sits in the bush in Pochalla, Jonglei State, south Sudan in 2004.  Israel, the United States, Britain and Norway have been the main suppliers of the covert low-intensity war in Sudan, organized by gunrunners and policy ‘wonks’.  Photo c. keith harmon snow, 2004.


It is, oh! such a happy fairy tale!  It begins as all happy fairy tales do, in fantasy land.  The fantasy is one of human rights princes and policy ‘wonks’ in shining armor and the new kingdom of peace and tranquility, democracy and human rights, that they have created.  That is what the United States foreign policy establishment and the corporate mass media—and not a few so-called ‘human rights activists’—would have us believe about the genesis of the world’s newest nation, South Sudan.

“In the mid-1980s, a small band of policy wonks began convening for lunch in the back corner of a dimly lit Italian bistro in the U.S. capital,” wrote Rebecca Hamilton in the recent fairytale: “The Wonks Who Sold Washington on South Sudan.”  Hamilton is a budding think-tank activist-advocate-agent whose whitewash of the low intensity war for Sudan (and some Western architects of it), distilled from her book Fighting for Darfur, was splashed all over the Western press on 11 July 2012. [1]

The photos accompanying Hamilton’s story show a happy fraternity of ‘wonks’—what exactly is a ‘wonk’?—obviously being your usual down-jacket, beer- and coffee-slurping American citizens from white America, with a token black man thrown in to change the complexion of this Africa story.  Their cups are white and clean, their cars are shiny and new, their convivial smiles are almost convincing.  There is even a flag of the new country just sort of floating across Eric Reeves’ hip.

Because of Dr. Reeves’  ‘anti-genocide’ work in Sudan, Boston College professor Alan Wolfe has written that the Smith College English professor is “arrogant to the point of contempt.”  (I have had a similar though much more personal experience of Dr. Reeves’ petulance.)

71002505.jpg

“John Prendergast (L-R), Eric Reeves, Brian D’Silva, Ted Dagne and Roger Miller [sic]—pose for a photograph in this undated image provided to Reuters by John Prendergast,” reads the original Reuters syndicated news caption for the posed image of the Council of Wonks.  (U.S. intelligence & defense operative Roger Winter is misidentified as “Roger Miller”.)

The story and its photos project the image of casual, ordinary people who, we are led to believe, did heroic and superhuman things.  What a bunch of happy-go-lucky wonks!  Excuse me: policy wonks!  And their bellies are presumably warmed by that fresh Starbucks ‘fair trade’ genocide coffee shipped straight from the killing fields of post-genocide [sic] Rwanda… where, coincidentally, Starbucks reportedly cut a profit of more than a few million dollars in 2011.

This is a tale of dark knights, of covert operators and spies aligned with the cult of intelligence in the United States.  Operating in secrecy and denial within the U.S. intelligence and defense establishment, they have helped engineer more than two decades of low intensity warfare in Sudan (alone), replete with massive suffering and a death toll of between 1.5 and 3 million Sudanese casualties—using their own fluctuating statistics on mortality—and millions upon millions of casualties in the Great Lakes of Africa.

Behind the fantasy is a very real tale of war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocides real and alleged, and mass atrocities covered up by these National Security agents with the aid of a not-so-ordinary English professor—their one-man Ministry of Disinformation—Dr. Eric Reeves.

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