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Human Rights Fraud from Ukraine to Nicaragua

Tortilla con Sal

July 26, 2020

Stephen Sefton

Current Western human rights industry practice has nothing to do with establishing the truth. Increasingly in recent years, US and allied elites have sought to legitimize illegal aggression by exploiting human rights motifs in their attempts to recolonize the majority world.

 

In any given crisis, human rights NGOs funded by the US and allied corporate elites and governments deploy sensationalist false claims, for example of police murdering peaceful protestors, so as to create a cognitive limbo of doubt and suspicion aimed at disabling opposition to the West’s recolonization campaigns. Over the medium and long term, the steady drip of false accusations against countries resisting recolonization, like Syria and Iran, or Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, creates false memories, corrupting and distorting the historical record and obscuring the West’s crimes against those and so many other countries in the majority world.

Western ruling elites have corrupted human rights organizations and institutions at practically every level using corporate grant making and government funding. The practical results of this corruption mirror corporate techniques of control fraud and strategic avoidance of regulation. Economics writers like Michael Hudson and  William Black, among others, have explained how corrupt US and allied corporations have exploited these fraudulent abuses for decades.  Control fraud is essentially no different from ancient practices like debasing coins, adulterating food products or selling defective goods as fit for use. They all fool people into accepting something that causes them loss, hurt and damage.

In the United States, powerful corporations control US political and institutional life sufficiently to be able to co-opt justice and escape criminal prosecution. This reality crowds out honest, socially responsible business and financial practice. Parallel to control fraud by major financial institutions, other multinational corporations, for example oil, mining or information technology corporations,  operate what various writers call a “veil of tiers” strategy misrepresenting their earnings so as to avoid tax or other regulation, and legal prosecution. More legitimately, in the field of insurance, the “veil of tiers” strategy spreads risks associated with potential litigation. The international human rights industry uses similar techniques to justify and cover up Western attacks against the peoples of the majority world.

The dependence of international human rights NGOs on corporate and government funding and on publicity via corporate media and public relations over time has generated the osmosis of corrupt corporate practice into the human rights industry. Writers like Cory Morningstar have analyzed exhaustively how this takeover by corporate culture of the “non-profit industrial complex serves hegemony as a sophisticated fine-tuned symbiotic mechanism in a continuous state of flux and refinement. The ruling elite channel an immeasurable amount of resources and tools through these organizations to further strengthen, protect and expand existing forms of power structures and global domination.”

In a human rights context, control fraud takes the form of politically motivated, false, sensationalist accusations based on egregiously one-sided, often fact-free research, sometimes using fake pseudo-scientific reconstructions. Accountability for these false accusations is rendered negligible by means of a “veil of tiers” strategy starting at a low level with small, local or national human rights NGOS, progressing via larger international human rights NGOs and auxiliary private contractors to regional human rights institutions, then reaching United Nations organizations and ultimately the highest levels of the international human rights legal system. By excluding independent corroboration, the interchange from one level to the next imparts spurious mutual legitimacy of varying degrees between the organizations and institutions involved.

The process is quasi-judicial with zero accountability, such that attempting to counteract false accusations is extremely difficult if not impossible, especially in the short term. If anything, the human rights industry is even less accountable than multinational corporations. Two recent examples, among innumerable others, confirm the creeping monopolization of the human rights industry by corrupt corporate practice. Against both the Ukraine government in February 2014 and against the Nicaraguan government in May 2018, Western human rights NGOs made very similar accusations that their police forces murdered peaceful protestors indiscriminately. In both cases, the accusations were false.

The context of the killings in both cases was a violent attempt at regime change by a US government funded political opposition. In Ukraine’s case, the opposition had been supported for over twenty years with US government funding amounting to over US$5 billion as confirmed in 2013 by Victoria Nuland, then US Assistant Secretary of State. That US government finance was in addition to funding from US corporate oligarchs like Pierre Omidyaar and George Soros. The most notorious event in the regime change campaign in Ukraine took place over February 18th-20th in 2014 when over 70 people were killed in Kiev’s Maidan square during violent confrontations between police and protestors. The massacre led to the overthrow of the legitimate government and its replacement by a fascist US client regime.

After the event, even CNN felt bound to report a leaked conversation between Estonia’s Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs in which Paet confirmed that a  pro-opposition doctor treating wounded protestors claimed opposition snipers, not government security forces, had shot the protestors. That report was followed by the broadcast from Italy’s Mediaset Matrix television channel of interviews, here and here, with mercenary snipers confessing they had fired on both protestors and police during the Maidan protests in February 2014. The mercenaries had come forward aggrieved at not getting paid by the opposition aligned figures who hired them. Even so, the Ukraine authorities announced their investigation into the shootings was complete, simply repeating the false accusations against the former Ukrainian government despite categorically clear evidence to the contrary.

A prominent part of the Ukraine prosecutors’ false case was a virtual reconstruction of events  by a private New York contractor called SITU Research whose human rights work is funded by US oligarch owned grant making bodies, like the MacArthur Foundation, the Oak Foundation and the Open Society Foundations. Ivan Katchanovski of the University of Ottawa has exposed as phony the SITU Research reconstruction of the Maidan shootings, demonstrating, for example, that in various cases SITU Research’s imaging moved wound locations indicated in the respective forensic autopsy reports in order to suit the video’s conclusions. Katchanovksi’s detailed analysis draws on other evidence omitted by SITU Research which also contradicts their claims, for example witness testimony from 25 wounded opposition supporters that they were shot from opposition controlled buildings.

Katchanovski points out that numerous video and TV footage shows opposition snipers and shooters in buildings controlled by the opposition. That footage is supported by over 150 witness testimonies confirming snipers were firing from those locations. Katchanovski also notes that Brad Samuels, founding partner of SITU Research “said in a video [start at 55:16] that ‘…eventually, there is a consensus that there was a third party acting. It is clear from forensic evidence that people were shot in the back. Somebody was shooting from rooftops.’ ” Katchanovski remarks that Samuels’ “striking observation was not included anywhere in the SITU 3D model report that he produced.” Katchanovski’s critical analysis of SITU Research’s material and of the broader official Ukraine investigation into the Maidan massacre has never been seriously challenged.

Similar false accusations ignoring readily available contradictory evidence and also using SITU Research modeling were made against Nicaragua’s government earlier this year. On May 30th the Organization of American States subsidiary body the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI), the Argentinian Forensic Anthropology Team and SITU Research jointly published a video allegedly proving that Nicaragua’s police shot and killed unarmed protesters at a demonstration on May 30th 2018. But detailed analysis of the video shows that in this case too SITU Research have misrepresented data, namely the distance between the police and the protestors which was in fact about 175 metres, in order to harmonize the reality of what happened with their virtual reconstruction which claims police snipers fired from a distance of around 250 metres.

The video footage of the protests in Nicaragua contains no scenes where Nicaraguan police use their firearms. Similarly, just as in their false reconstruction of events in Kiev’s Maidan square, SITU Research omitted a substantial body of information contradicting their account of the shootings in Managua on May 30th. The context in this case too was of extremely violent protests by organizations funded by the US government with over US$15 million just in 2017-2018. For example, local human rights organizations received over US$3 million from the US government that year as did local media NGOs. Although, two solidarity organizations wrote and published an open letter to the organizations who produced the video, respectfully questioning their findings, to date the letter has received only a formal acknowledgment without replying to the questions.

In both Ukraine and Nicaragua, the US government funded local opposition aligned NGOs to make false allegations of very serious human rights violations. A private company contractor was funded by US corporate interests to produce false pseudo-scientific material unfairly incriminating the governments for those violations. International human rights NGOs repeated the false accusations on the basis of that same false evidence. Regional human rights institutions accused the governments concerned on the basis of that same material.

The accusations are false but the Nicaraguan government and accused members of the former Ukrainian government are denied a fair defense. This same process has been repeated over and over again against governments resisting US and allied policies. Western human rights organizations share the same corrupt methodology as their corporate and government patrons. They make false claims, suppress inconvenient evidence, do all they can to avoid independent scrutiny and systematically evade accountability.

 

Why the West Hates Sandinista Nicaragua

Tortilla con Sal

April 20,  2020

Stephen Sefton

 

Sandinista rally in Managua | Photo: El19Digital

Nicaragua’s success in containing the COVID-19 virus makes the failure of the US and its allied countries look pathetic. The country’s low numbers of nine confirmed cases to date and just two fatalities categorically vindicate the policies of its Sandinista government led by President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo. The same is true of other revolutionary and socialist governments around the world. Cuba has given a shining example of global leadership and solidarity. Most notably elsewhere Venezuela, Vietnam and India’s state of Kerala have also implemented diverse but successful policies containing the pandemic.

But in North America and Europe, the success in addressing COVID-19 of these impoverished socialist countries, even when under attack from the US and the European Union, like Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, has been suppressed. In Nicaragua’s case, Western media and NGOs have comprehensively distorted and repeatedly lied about the country’s Sandinista government’s extraordinary achievement in comparison with other countries in the region, let alone the damning contrast with the catastrophic situation in North America and Western Europe. Many reasons contribute to that reality, both contemporary and historical.

However one reason is fundamental. The Western liberals and progressives who generally control information and communications in North America and Europe cannot acknowledge the success of Nicaragua’s Sandinista government without conceding their own monstrous cynicism and hypocrisy. In general, ever since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, they have effectively colluded with corporate capitalism and its neoliberal political sales team. At best, they have beseeched minor tweaks and adjustments to the worst capitalist excesses in their own countries so as to mitigate somewhat all the injustice and suffering at home.

Managua, Apr 20 (efe-epa).- “On Monday, classes in public schools – primary and secondary – as well as state universities, resumed in Nicaragua following long vacations amid the coronavirus outbreak that has claimed two lives in the country.”

But overseas they have colluded in coups, wars and genocidal sanctions targeting peoples with independent governments. They have effectively abandoned victims of their allies, like the Palestinians or vulnerable populations in the Congo. Western liberals and progressives in communications media and NGOs could hardly be more comfortable with the fascist union of corporate and State power currently controlling the US, Canada and the European Union. So it has been perfectly natural for these Western liberals and progressives effectively to support, for example, nazi inspired extremists in Ukraine, fanatical pseudo-religious terrorists in Libya and Syria and the extreme right wing and allied forces in Venezuela and Nicaragua.

One of the effects of that support is that there’s no going back. Nicaragua’s success in addressing the COIVD-19 pandemic is irrefutable. But Western liberals and progressives cannot admit that, because doing so would contradict the lies and fabrications of the right wing and allied forces they support. Finally admitting that their right wing allies are lying frauds would mean radically questioning their version of the violent failed coup attempt of 2018 or the absurd claim ever since President Ortega took office in 2007 that Nicaragua is a dictatorship. Nicaragua is just one example of how Western liberals and progressives find themselves suffocating in a miasma of thoughtless prejudice, moral cowardice and cynical hypocrisy, making an honest appraisal of their own moral and political contradictions impossible.

That is largely why the next US President will be yet another demented bellicose tool of the US plutocracy and why the European Union will survive ever more clearly as a similarly dysfunctional tool of US and European oligarchs. Hope that the current crisis will lead to a safer, more humane multipolar world is almost certainly misplaced. Daniel Ortega’s recent call for better health care instead of more military spending, for a focus on human solidarity rather than capitalist greed, is unanswerable. His government’s patient, practical, prudent but also brilliant example in this crisis is irrefutable. That is why the Western ruling elites and the politicians, media and NGOs they own have responded with yet more lies, falsehoods, evasions and threats. They all hate Sandinista Nicaragua because they cannot stand so much Truth and Light.

Nicaragua and the COVID-19 Pandemic

Nicaragua and the COVID-19 Pandemic

March 29, 2020
By Stephen Sefton
While each country’s experience facing the COVID-19 pandemic is different, some common fundamental factors can make the difference between widespread catastrophe and relative stability. Nicaragua has so far been among the most successful countries in Latin America in protecting its population from the virus while also maintaining normal economic life. As of March 28th, Nicaragua has three confirmed cases with one fatality. Another 14 people who may have the virus are under observation but have so far tested negative.

Brigadistas visit house by house (Photo: Voz del Sandinismo)

 

Nicaragua’s public health system offers free, universal health services based on community focused preventive care. The national network of hospitals, health centres and health posts is supported by a network of tens of thousands of volunteer health promoters called brigadistas. Over the last week, health personnel and brigadistas have visited over 1.2 million households in an education and monitoring campaign to address the pandemic.

Since the country is still in the first phase of the pandemic, the government has prioritized prevention and education. Its borders remain open, as do the country’s schools and public offices. Public events have not been canceled. Business, travel and trade activities continue without restrictions. Ever since January, when the World Health Organization declared a health emergency in relation to the COVID-19 virus, Nicaragua’s government team has coordinated closely with the Panamerican Health Organization, following the relevant protocols for the different phases of the pandemic. Nicaragua’s authorities have promoted an intense education campaign aimed at preventing the spread of the virus. The principal measures the government has stressed during the current first phase of the pandemic in Nicaragua have been the importance of thorough hand washing for at least 20 seconds with soap and water and taking care when sneezing or coughing so as not to infect other people.

Travellers arriving from countries where the virus is active are told to self-isolate for 14 days with follow up from health personnel to check how they are. Other measures frequently promoted every day via radio, television, social networks, posters and printed materials have been: cleaning constantly-used surfaces like desks, phones and computers, work surfaces and toys; keeping a physical distance of at least 1.5 metres when talking with other people; and, most importantly, reporting to the nearest health unit at signs of possible symptoms of the virus. Once the second phase of the pandemic begins, requiring measures of containment, then the government may well ban public events, close schools, enforce social distancing, limit travel and seek to maximize work from home.

Likewise, in any third phase involving potential uncontrolled spread of the virus among the population, more extreme measures may be taken such as the general quarantine already applied in countries like Venezuela or Argentina. The government has prepared the public health system and the National System of Disaster Prevention’s (SINAPRED) civil defence system along with the country’s armed forces for that eventuality. At a regional level, Nicaragua has coordinated closely with the mechanisms of the Central American Integration System (SICA) and the system’s member governments. SICA has produced a regional contingency plan aiming to protect people from the pandemic and treat those affected while maintaining regional economic life and security.


Photo: Jairo Cajina/Canal 4

Nicaragua is one of the few countries in the region with a laboratory of molecular biology approved by the World Health Organization. Its director has said it is the only laboratory in the region that produces the reactive agents for the serological diagnosis of dengue and was the only molecular biology laboratory in Latin America able to diagnose influenza types accurately in 2019. Similarly, Nicaragua has the only public sector plant in Central America producing vaccines. The plant is a joint venture between the Nicaraguan government and the Russian Federation and is preparing to produce the Cuban Interferon Alfa-2-B antiviral medicine for use treating patients with the COVID-19 virus. On March 18th, the “Henry Reeve” Cuban medical brigade arrived in the country, composed of epidemiologists, virologists, intensive care specialists and other expert medical professionals to strengthen Nicaragua’s response to the pandemic. Nicaragua has also participated in regional video conferences facilitated by the Association of Caribbean States, in video conferences with experts from China and has also benefited from the experiences of experts from Taiwan.

For the moment, Nicaragua has been successful preventing the virus from spreading. The authorities have prepared 19 hospitals should the pandemic begin to spread in the general population. 37,206 health workers in both public and private health institutions have been trained in preventive measures, how to identify suspected cases, how to protect fellow health workers, how to provide medical care and how to transfer patients safely between local health units, health centres and hospitals. Similarly, the health ministry has trained 250,000 community health promoters in preventive measures, early identification of patients with symptoms and how to ensure referral of suspected cases to the different health posts, health centres and hospitals.

In Nicaragua, the popular economy of medium, small and micro businesses of all kinds, small farming households and cooperatives across many different industries generate 70% of all employment. The remainder is provided by the public sector along with the private business sector including free trade zone businesses. This economic structure means that a majority of the economically active population depend on daily or weekly income to be able to buy food and other basic items. So for Nicaragua, as for so many other countries impoverished by centuries of rich-country depredation, this makes shutting down the economy practically impossible.

For their part, Nicaragua’s right-wing opposition continue the same relentess disinformation campaigns that they used during their violent, failed coup attempt in 2018, spreading false rumours and scaremongering via their news outlets and social media. At times, this propaganda reaches extreme levels of malevolent hysteria, claiming the government is concealing hundreds of cases of the virus. In interviews, international media uncritically retail the views of inveterate frauds like Confidencial’s Carlos Fernando Chamorro acccusing Nicaragua’s President Ortega of not doing enough to address the pandemic. Opposition propagandists like Chamorro lurch insanely from demented accusations of savage dictatorship to phony complaints of laissez faire negligence.

In Nicaragua, as everywhere else in the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the unremitting global class war of elites against the impoverished majority. As in the violent, failed 2018 coup attempt, responses in Nicaragua to the crisis generally reflect that class reality. While the country’s right wing opposition elite and their middle class followers dilute their rum and cokes with tears of self-pity, Nicaragua’s salt-of-the-earth workers and rural farming families are once again pulling the economy through hard times. Nicaragua’s Sandinista government’s so far successful measures against the pandemic, as in Cuba and Venezuela despite vicious US sanctions, confirm the superiority of revolutionary grass roots democracy over the all too apparent failures of Western neoliberal plutocracies.

Green-smearing from Nicaragua to Bolivia

Tortilla con Sal

September 4, 2019

“Green-smearing from Nicaragua to Bolivia”

By Stephen Sefton

 

 

On one level the intensifying deceit of Western media foreign affairs coverage corresponds to the increasing desperation of Western elites confronting their failing global power and influence. But it also signals yet another crisis of capitalist economic growth. After 1945, North America and Western Europe based their genocidal imperialism on a social compact promising prosperity to their peoples at home in exchange for their collusion in imperialist military aggression and neocolonial crimes overseas. That system operated successfully based on the fundamental neocolonial fiction that Western governments and societies promote freedom, justice and democracy around the world, while doing the very opposite.

Now, stagnation and recession in the U.S. and its allied countries demand new dimensions to the endless psychological warfare necessary to sustain the basic neocolonial fiction. Psychological warfare in North America and Europe works to create enduring false beliefs generating, over time, permanent false memories, all serving the purposes of Western elite perception management. That is why the authorities in Sweden, Britain and the U.S. elites have been so vengeful and vindictive towards Julian Assange, among innumerable other less high profile victims. Anyone who effectively exposes the big neocolonial lie is met with the sadistic vindictive revenge of the elites they defied.

A fundamental dimension of contemporary psychological warfare has been dual-purpose corporate co-option of non-governmental organizations. In that psy-warfare dimension, NGOs serve both as disinformation partners with Western news media and too as false interlocutors in international forums and institutions, where they attack governments challenging the U.S. elites and their allies. They actively subvert governments inside countries challenging the West, for example, in Latin America, Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia. But they also pervert due process in institutions like the UN, posing as civil society but in fact serving Western elite corporate imperatives, for example in international human rights and environmental mechanisms and forums.

Among these NGOs figure high profile human rights organizations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Federation for Human Rights and Avaaz along with environmental organizations from 350.org and the World Resource Institute to Global Witness and Greenpeace. An increasing interrelationship has developed between corporate NGO funding and the exploitation of people’s general willingness to volunteer for and support apparently good causes. Symbolic of this is the way World Economic Forum attendees like Kumi Naidoo move readily between top management from one NGO to another, in Naidoo’s case from Greenpeace to Amnesty International. From Libya and Syria to Venezuela and Nicaragua, Amnesty International has played a key role using false reports to demonize governments resisting the U.S. and its allies.

As Cory Morningstar has pointed out, Greenpeace is a key player in promoting the corporate driven New Deal for Nature aimed at financializing what remains of the natural world, especially its biodiversity, as a way of engineering a “Fourth Industrial Revolution”. Western corporate greed underlies the identical patterns of news media and NGO misrepresentation and outright deceit supporting regime change offensives against Libya and Syria, or Venezuela and Nicaragua. Right now, that very same pattern of media and NGO manipulation is clearly at work preparing for an intervention to prevent Evo Morales being re-elected as President of Bolivia.

Bruno Sgarzini and Wyatt Reed have noted how Western media and NGOs have falsely attacked Evo Morales blaming him for not controlling the fires in Bolivia’s Amazon. This is exactly what happened in Nicaragua immediately prior to the coup attempt in 2018 when the Nicaraguan authorities were fighting a fire in the Indio Maíz Biological Reserve. That episode softened up Nicaraguan public opinion and set in motion social media networks involving thousands of youth activists trained for that purpose beforehand over several years with U.S. and also European government funding. In mid-April 2018, barely a week after the Indio Maiz fire was extinguished; those networks launched a social media blitzkrieg of lies and inventions marking the start of the actual coup attempt. A practically identical process is well under way now in Bolivia, which holds presidential elections next October 20th.

The timing of the fires in Bolivia’s Amazon is extremely propitious from the perspective of the U.S. authorities and their allies. It takes almost two months for the effects to wear off of the initial psy-warfare bitzkrieg of the kind waged against Nicaragua in 2018 and against Brazil’s Worker’s Party as part of Jair Bolsonaro’s successful 2018 election campaign that same year. Bolivia will almost certainly experience the same kind of psy-warfare assault via social media prior to the October elections. The campaign will be timed to optimize the effect of mass false accusations of government wrongdoing and corruption along with false media and NGO claims of security force repression. Opposition activists are likely to exploit peaceful demonstrations on indigenous peoples and environmental issues so as to commit murderous provocations, just as they did in Nicaragua and Venezuela.

All of these tactics are likely be deployed against Bolivia so as to destroy the current prestige and high levels of support for President Evo Morales. In Bolivia, as in Nicaragua and Venezuela, the governing progressive political movement enjoys around 35-40% core electoral support, the right wing opposition have around 25-30% with 30-40% of voters uncommitted. The Western elites know they need to motivate something over half of those uncommitted voters against Evo Morales so as to get the right wing government they so desperately need in Bolivia to try and make good the unmitigated debacle of Mauricio Macri’s right wing government in Argentina.

The intensity of any Western media and NGO campaign against Morales is likely to reach similar levels as their cynical campaigns of lies and defamation against Venezuela and Nicaragua. Should that offensive go ahead, as seems probable, the difference will be that this time Evo Morales and his team are alert and unlikely to be taken by surprise as the Nicaraguan authorities were by the vicious, sudden attack against them in April 2018. A likely variation in Bolivia’s case will be a higher profile of environmentalist NGOs working in tandem with their human rights counterparts feeding misrepresentations and downright lies into Western news media. For the U.S. and European Union elites the regional geopolitical stakes are high enough to make an attack on Bolivia imperative.

 

[Stephen Sefton is a member of the Tortilla con Sal collective based in Nicaragua]

Nicaragua and the Corruption, Cooptation of Human Rights

Tortilla Con Sal

January 5, 2019

By Stephen Sefton

 

Carrie Reichardt & The Treatment Rooms Collective “Power to the People” Quote by Berthldt Brecht  –  Disobedient Objects exhibit, 2014

 

Since the demise of the Soviet Union, almost 30 years ago, abuse and debasement of human rights concerns have served increasingly to create pretexts promoting Western dominance around the world. From former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, to Iraq and Sudan, to Ivory Coast, Libya and Syria, to Myanmar and Ukraine, Western governments have used non governmental human rights organizations and abuse of the United Nations system to attack countries resisting the demands of US and allied elites and the governments they control. In Latin America, that dynamic has long targeted Cuba, more recently Venezuela, now Nicaragua and will soon attack Bolivia and probably Mexico too, if the new progressive government there shows too much independence. The US and European elites have stepped up their efforts at regime change in Latin America and the Caribbean so as to guarantee access to and control of the region’s abundant natural resources, because Chinese and Russian influence is blocking their accustomed control of the majority world in Eurasia and Africa.

Like Venezuela previously, Nicaragua has been targeted by the US dominated Organization of American States using local US and European funded non-profit proxies inside Nicaragua and Western corporate dominated non-governmental organizations. They have manipulated international and regional human rights institutions so as to violate fundamental precepts of international law like self-determination and non-intervention. Just as in the 1980s in Nicaragua, Angola, Mozambique and elsewhere, and now both Venezuela and Nicaragua again, violent armed non-governmental actors have been used to destabilize the country and create a context allowing false reporting of human rights concerns so as to discredit revolutionary governments.

As independent US writer Max Blumenthal pointed out in an interview in July last year, “…how I know that there was a regime change operation afoot – and when I say “regime change operation,” I mean an attack not just on a government but on the nation-state, a plan to reduce a country to a failed state like Libya – is that Ken Roth surfaced after the Nicaraguan government had essentially won and removed the roadblocks, allowing the economy which had bled $500 million to start functioning again, allowing citizens to start moving around. Ken Roth, the dictator of Human Rights Watch, who has been in the same position for 25 years, catering to a small cadre of billionaires and elite foundations with almost no constituency base, blamed the government for every single death.  Meaning that zero Sandinistas died according to Ken Roth.”

Blumenthal’s insight into the inextricable relationship between human rights NGOs and Western corporate elites suggests a series of points which categorically undermine glib acceptance of false human rights accusations against Nicaragua. The Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and NGOs like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are all guilty of extreme bad faith, non-compliance with basic norms and adherence to long discredited theoretical nostrums. In effect, they are themselves all accomplices to very serious human rights violations by Nicaragua’s US supported armed opposition. Four main considerations apply.

Firstly, on technical grounds none of these organizations have adhered even to the Huridocs guidelines, a tool created by and for Western government and corporate funded human rights organizations. The guidelines propose concepts and good practice in relation to fact-finding, documentation and monitoring of human rights violations. The IACHR, the UNOHCHR. Amnesty International and other human rights organizations have categorically failed to comply with  the HURIDOCS guidelines. In terms of fact finding, they systematically omit sources and facts that contradict or exclude their preferred finding. In terms of documentation, they systematically exclude abundant documentation from Nicaraguan government ministries, from the public prosecutor’s office, from the legislature’s Truth and Justice Commission, from the Institute of Legal Medicine and from the Office of the Procurator for Human Rights.

All that information to a greater or lesser extent contradicts the bogus fact finding of the OAS, the UN and foreign NGOs. In terms of monitoring the situation in Nicaragua, all those institutions and organizations depend exclusively on virulently politically biased local media, NGOs and opposition activists. So even on their own terms, their methodology does not comply with basic concepts and standards and, thus, the kinds of cases they have built to justify their findings would never stand up to impartial legal scrutiny. One farcical aspect of their approach has been to accuse the Nicaraguan government of repressing local media when their main sources by far are abundant citations of false reports from those same local media, relayed via dishonest local human rights NGOs.

Secondly, in theoretical terms, the approach of the IACHR, the UNOHCHR and foreign NGOs like Amnesty International has been to exclude violations by non-State actors, exactly the same faithless alibi they all used during the Cold War. But that theoretical framework has been outdated since 1993 when the UN Human Rights Convention in Vienna explicitly recognized the role of non-State actors in human rights abuses (thus recognizing how the US government and its allies used irregular forces, like the Contra in Nicaragua, RENAMO in Mozambique and UNITA in Angola, to apply systematic terrorism against civilian populations). As Carlos Emilio Lopez a leading Nicaraguan human rights activist and legislator has pointed out:

“In 1993, with the approval of the Vienna Declaration of Human Rights, the subject of respect for human rights was re-conceptualized. For many years it was considered that only States should respect human, rights but that understanding is already out of date. The reconceptualization of human rights is that States must respect human rights but companies, churches, organizations must also do so, social organizations, oligopolies, the media, people as individuals. In other words, we are all obliged to respect human rights, not only State institutions.” Thus, every time Amnesty International or the IACHR claim their remit excludes non-State actors, they are appealing to a theoretical framework 30 years out of date deliberately so as to wash their hands of abuses by political actors with whom they sympathize.

Thirdly, specifically with regard to Amnesty International, their organization has been corrupted and co-opted over many years now by corporate influence via links through their senior personnel with corporate globalization advocates whose explicit aim is to undermine and diminish the role of sovereign nation states. Amnesty International’s Secretary General and senior directors, their International Board and its Secretary General’s Global Council freely advertise their background working either directly with multinational corporations, or with corporate funders  or with other heavily corporate funded non profits. In this, Amnesty International, like Human Rights Watch, is very similar to the Purpose/AVAAZ corporate human rights conglomerate. Their human rights activities are guided by emphatic neoliberal hostility to nation-State governments, such that their reporting deliberately sets out to exclude or discredit information from government or other official sources. More broadly in Latin American and the Caribbean, accompanying the encroaching cooptation of NGOs by corporate predators like Purpose, the overtly political Atlas network supports NGOs promoting extreme right wing policies across the region, thus facilitating the ascent to power of fascists like Jair Bolsonaro.

Above: Par for the course marketing. No expense is spared by in the multitude of Amnesty International demonization campaigns targeting leaders that defy US foreign policy. This 2011 ad was created by the advertising firm Euro RSGC (Havas Creative), co-founder of TckTckTck (GCCA).

Fourthly, that corporate corruption and cooptation of Sean MacBride‘s original vision of the role and work of Amnesty International and similar organizations, is clearly manifest in their demonstrable bias in favor of US and allied countries’ foreign policy priorities. In that regard, Professor Francis Boyle, among many others, has been an authoritative and trenchant critic of Amnesty International’s role in Palestine and elsewhere, whereby it downplays or minimizes violations by States allied to NATO countries. On the other hand, institutions like the IACHR and the UNOHCHR and organizations like Amnesty International, systematically exaggerate and even invent violations in countries targeted by NATO member country governments. Thus in Latin America, the current horrific record of human rights violations in Colombia and, until AMLO, in Mexico, has been played down and minimized, while events in Cuba, Venezuela and now Nicaragua have been systematically misrepresented.

All these concerns about the practical bad faith, theoretical dishonesty, corporate co-optation and outright political bias of human rights institutions and organizations should give any intellectually honest person of progressive views pause. People genuinely concerned about human rights should reassess what they think they know about Nicaragua and about Venezuela too. The US and allied country corporate elites are determined to use the governments, institutions and NGOs they have bought, to destroy resistance to their domination in Latin America and the Caribbean. However, the 60th anniversary this year of Cuba’s revolution, together with the 40th anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua and the 20th anniversary of Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution suggest they will not have things all their own way.

 

[Stephen Sefton lives in Nicaragua and is a founder of Tortilla con Sal.] 

The Left is Consumed by Propaganda

Misión Verdad

July 21st 2018

La izquierda está consumida por la propaganda occidental

[The Left is Consumed by Propaganda]

 

Words of Gustavo Borges Revilla, director of the Venezuelan media project Misión Verdad during the 24th Sao Paulo Forum in Havana, Cuba held July 15th -17th in the course of the Foro’s discussion about art, communication, culture and intellectual work. Misión Verdad participated at the invitation of the Cuban Ministry of Culture.

Gustavo Borges Revilla, director of the Venezuelan media project Misión Verdad 

Yesterday saw the start of an intense and definitely constructive discussion because it shows a great deal about what is currently happening in Latin America and the world. We can all agree that there is a crisis. It is the crisis of the world system as we know it, a global systemic crisis of capitalism. A crisis inherent in all of us, one people in Latin America are living now in our own lives, in our own bodies.

As you know, Venezuela was a victim in 2017 of perhaps the most refined model of intervention the West has yet designed, not just to take over State power that today is in the hands of anti-capitalist forces, but rather to dismantle States themselves as we have come to know them. In other words, Western thought derived from the Pact of Westphalia is in crisis. The Nation-State model that has served capitalism well for so many years is in crisis. Looking at those States, their crisis and the models of intervention, we think, based on our work, that a full understanding is lacking of what is happening right now, not just in Western thought but among ourselves as we live through these new processes of intervention. This is not to play the victim in relation to this issue, but it is a call to be alert. Why? Because Nicaragua is suffering intervention right now too.

In 2015 we said that this new model of intervention would be used in Nicaragua and we state here in Havana in 2018, that Cuba is a country that could be a candidate to suffer this model of intervention. Which is nothing less than a reconfiguration of countries’ cultural identities, and the hijacking of values and principles characteristic of the Left for many years. I’m talking about human rights, solidarity, youth, categories that are being reconfigured by bodies like, just to give one example, the Open Society Foundation.

Video with aerial views of the July 19th celebration in Managua, Nicaragua.

Unless everyone in this room knows what the open Society Institute is, then we have already lost the argument. Just one fact about the foundation : just in the last five years, it has invested one billion dollars in 120 countries, in 48 “color revolutions” that destroyed the whole of the Middle East. It started in Tunisia, went on to Egypt, continued in Libya and tried also in Syria. Imported into Latin America, Venezuela suffered 3 attempts at a “color revolution” in 2007, 2014 and 2017. We can say here today that Venezuela is the only country that has understood how to confront “color revolutions” and disarm them using political intelligence and audacity.

But this carries us into a slightly more complex debate, one a bit more invidious, a bit harder to face up to, namely the debate on the work of intellectuals. To begin with, we can ask ourselves whether intellectuals, above all left wing intellectuals, really understand what is happening. I wonder because President Maduro is probably among the world’s politicians most criticized politicians in the world media system, by the world’s banal media aristocracy.

Sadly, we have seen that the Left is not infallible when it comes to consumption of Western propaganda. The Left, maybe not so much the Latin American Left, but the European Left, if one can put things that way, has indeed assimilated the Western argument that there has been no democracy in Venezuela. Which takes us again into a slightly more profound debate : “What is democracy?” We have already noted that there is also a crisis of concepts, a reconfiguration and it’s not really we who are giving a new interpretation to these concepts, adapting them to our realities.

A view of the Cuban capital Havana. | Photo: Reuters

I don’t know if people are aware that the last ALBA declaration saluted the referendum held in Ecuador excluding Rafael Correa from Ecuadoran politics. An ALBA document. We have to view such points with much caution and much responsibility, because on this reading of democracy, Ecuador is democratic, Argentina is democratic, Brazil is democratic, but Venezuela is a dictatorship, never mind Cuba which for 50 years has been stigmatized as such.

The question is whether these concepts of democracy, human rights, liberty and revolution are of any use to us.

Yesterday, the Network of Intellectuals debated what is a revolution and what is not. One hundred years on from 1917. I don’t understand. When we are in a moment in which so far as we understand things, there is no reason for pessimism. We are in a marvelous moment. The world élites are fighting among themselves, devouring each other. For example, we see Donald Trump, representative of part of the world elite, fighting with his allies, trying to impose economic conditions on China, while the Chinese more or less laugh at them. Furthermore, we see them trying to impose threats in Latin America and Nicolas Maduro destroying the US plans to intervene in Venezuela.

We have won four consecutive elections in less than six months and here we’re touching on the last issue that we wanted to address here. Not just Latin America but the whole world today lacks an analytical framework belonging to us, the world’s peoples. Nothing is written now about Venezuela’s victories. There exists a kind of emotional state, above all among left wing intellectuals, of permanently having to start from zero, forever abandoning moments of achievement and success.

There’s a feeling that Venezuela was left on its own over the last few years without the leadership of Comandante Chavez. We get excited about the new victories, fine, we celebrate these new victories. We grasp that Venezuela has had four electoral victories where the Venezuelan opposition was left fragmented in at least four pieces, and that came about, I insist, through political intelligence and furthermore with the unassailable support of Venezuela’s popular base represented mainly by low income women and single mothers who are each responsible themselves for no fewer than a thousand people.

If it weren’t for these women doing politics for real, Venezuela would today be submerged in severe hunger. These women, threatened with that in 2017, organize,get on with life, co-exist, face down threats, do politics and thus guarantee the electoral victories of the Bolivarian Revolution.

I insist that Venezuela has created a Chavista formula. We asserted beforehand in this discussion group that we have to be constantly more Chavista because Chavismo, beyond the historical circumstances imposed on it, turned out to be a method of political action, a pragmatic method of interpreting reality and of working that reality so as to plan for the future with the same daring clearly evident in the meetings and experiences of Chavez and Fidel.

We are dealing with uncomfortable questions that any meeting trying to be honest should address. Power for what? At a time when the Western élites are destroying the whole system we are accustomed to, when its institutionality is being destroyed by its own creators. One has to insist : power for what? We should ask ourselves this, all of us involved in political processes and also of other people in theirs. Why does Manuel Lopez Obrador want power? Or Nicolas Maduro? Or Evo Morales? After the coming and going of grievous and occasionally shameful defeats in our region.

I don’t want to provoke more discomfort, but in 2017, between February and July of 2017, the supposed progressive regional leaders never mentioned Venezuela and the intervention process it suffered, except Cuba and Bolivia, obviously. This is not, shall we say, a victim’s complaint, but rather a call for reflection, above all to the intellectual Left, which seems to look at the world as if we were in1950 instead of 2018, in a moment when time is rushing on, and while it may be a more perilous time, it is also a marvelous time. If capitalism manages to remake its philosophical framework, its existential structure, then we will have lost the opportunity of a lifetime to impose a new culture, to think it through, to experience it and leave behind for good all the many centuries of subjugation in which we have been spectators and not participants.

Thank you.

The transcription and editing of this speech was done by the Cuban cultural web site La Jiribilla

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Video | Sao Paulo Forum Underway in Havana, Cuba: “Who we work for is the poor of our countries.”

From the End of History to the End of Truth

TeleSUR

March 11, 2018

By Tortilla Con Sal

 

 

Ken Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. | Photo: Reuters

Non governmental organizations play a role in the Western elites’ offensive against resistance to them.

Making nonsense of Fukuyama’s premature triumphalist screed, it is commonplace now to note that the United States corporate elites and their European and Pacific country counterparts are increasingly losing power and influence around the world. Equally common is the observation that these Western elites and the politicians who front for them have acted over the last twenty years to reassert their control in their respective areas of neocolonial influence. The European Union powers have done so in Eastern Europe and Africa, most obviously but not only, in Ukraine, Libya, Ivory Coast, Mali and the Central African Republic. Likewise, the United States has acted to reassert its influence in Latin America and the Caribbean, effectively declaring war on Venezuela, maintaining its economic and psychological warfare against Cuba and intervening elsewhere with varying degrees of openness.

Before they died, among the main Western media bogeymen were Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez and Muammar al Gaddhafi. Now Vladimir Putin and Bashar al Assad have been joined by Xi Jinping and Nicolas Maduro. Along with these and other world leaders, Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega has also constantly been the object of endlessly repetitive Western media hate campaigns. This longstanding, plain-as-day media strategy, regularly and blatantly prepares mass opinion to facilitate Western government aggression against the latest target government. No one following these processes with any attention will have failed to notice the leading role played by non governmental organizations in the Western elites’ offensive against resistance to them by political leaders and movements around the world.

In almost every case of recent Western provoked interventions, from Venezuela in 2002, through Haiti in 2004, Bolivia in 2008, Honduras in 2009, Ecuador in 2010, Ivory Coast, Libya and Syria in 2011, Ukraine in 2014, Western media have used deliberately misleading and downright deceitful reports from Western NGOs to support their own false misreporting of events. In Nicaragua’s case, the usual untrustworthy NGO suspects like Amnesty International, Transparency International and Global Witness constantly publish misleading reports and statements attacking or undermining President Daniel Ortega and his government. In general, their reporting is grossly biased and disproportionate given the regional context of incomparably horrific events and deplorable conditions elsewhere in Latin America, but, as often as not, it is also downright untrue.

In a recent example, Global Witness stated that Nicaragua’s proposed interoceanic canal “wasn’t preceded by any environmental impact reports, nor any consultation with local people”. Both those assertions are completely untrue. But this Big Lie repetition is the modus operandi of the Western elites who fund outfits like Global Witness, Amnesty International, and other influential NGOs like International Crisis Group and Transparency Intenational. For example, Amnesty International claims “We are independent of any government, political ideology, economic interest or religion”. But it bears constant repetition that many of Amnesty International’s board and most of its senior staff responsible for the organization’s reports are deeply ideologically committed with links to corporate dominated NGO’s like PurposeOpen Society InstituteHuman Rights Watch, and many others.

Also worth repeating is that Global Witness in 2016 received millions of dollars from the George Soros Open Society Foundation, Pierre Omidyar’s Omidyar Network, the Ford Foundation and NATO governments. The boards and advisory boards of these NGOs are all made up overwhelmingly of people from the Western elite neocolonial non governmental sector. Many have a strong corporate business background as well. All move easily from one highly paid Western NGO job to the next, serving NATO country foreign policy goals. Cory Morningstar has exposed the pro-NATO global political agenda of organizations like US based Avaaz and Purpose, noting “the key purpose of the non-profit industrial complex is and has always been to protect this very system it purports to oppose”.

Back in 2017 it was already a truism to note that Western NGOS “operate as the soft, extramural arm of NATO country governments’ foreign policy psychological warfare offensives, targeting liberal and progressive audiences to ensure their acquiescence in overseas aggression and intimidation against governments and movements targeted by NATO. To that end, they deceitfully exploit liberal and progressive susceptibilities in relation to environmental, humanitarian and human rights issues.” What is now becoming even more clear in the current context is that these Western NGOs and their media accomplices are confident enough to publish downright lies because reporting the facts no longer matters. Western public discourse has become so debased, incoherent and fragmentary that the truth is almost completely irrelevant. All that matters is the power to impose a version of events no matter how false and untruthful it may be.

This sinister media reality is intimately related to the politicization of legal and administrative processes in the national life of countries across Latin America. The spurious legal processes against Dilma Rousseff and Lula da Silva in Brazil, against Milagro Sala and Cristina Fernandez in Argentina, against Jorge Glas and, no doubt very soon, Rafael Correa in Ecuador are all based on the same faithless virtual association and complete disregard for factual evidence as Western media and NGO propaganda reports attacking Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba and Nicaragua. It is imperative to overcome the ridiculous liberal presupposition that the region’s elites, with the advantage of designing and controlling their countries’ legal systems and communications media for over 200 years, are somehow going to respect high falutin’ avowals about “separation of powers”.

Note: this article borrows from previous articles here and here.

 

 

[Tortilla con Sal is an anti-imperialist collective based in Nicaragua producing information in various media on national, regional and international affairs. In Nicaragua, we work closely with grass roots community organizations and cooperatives. We strongly support the policies of sovereign national development and regional integration based on peace and solidarity promoted by the member countries of ALBA.”]

Nicaragua: Corporate Media Continues its Psychological Warfare Campaign Against the Sandinista Government

Libya 360 | Tortilla Con Sal | TeleSUR

August 9, 2016

The reposting in various progressive outlets of biased report confirms the convergence in reporting international affairs between alternative and corporate media.

A couple sits in front of a mural depicting Venezuela’s revolutionary Hugo Chavez (C), Cuba’s former leader Fidel Castro (R) and Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega (L) in Managua January 3, 2013. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas

Most economists agree the rate of profit for corporations in the United States has been falling significantly for decades, roughly to one third of what it was in the early 1960s. For corporations to maintain or increase profits they seek higher productivity and sales and lower taxes. In the current depressed global economic environment, generally higher sales seem out of the question.

In most countries in North America and Europe, corporate taxation is already low while corporate tax avoidance is a very successful industry barely under control from regulation which, when it exists at all, lags far behind. The long term tendency to lower profits means corporations focus more sharply on productivity and correspondingly on more intense cuts in labor costs.

In economic terms, the result of this process has been long-term stagnant or even falling incomes for people in North America and Europe, compounded by debt but relieved to some extent by government benefits. Politically, the result is even greater and more obvious coherence between corporate economic power and government, which is the classic profile of fascism. That stark reality is clearer than ever before in the presidential candidacies of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. But most Western news and information media persist in reporting as if the United States were a democracy, while domestic levels of poverty and inequality increase precisely because almost all the vestiges of democracy U.S. society may once have had are gone.

That domestic reality seems to have increased the desperation of Western media misrepresentation of international affairs. In Latin America and the Caribbean, governments successful in reducing poverty and inequality suffer enduringly fierce disinformation campaigns in almost all North American and European media. The levels of aggression vary over time but the underlying venal, gratuitous hostility is permanent. Right now, the media offensive against Venezuela is in relentless high gear because the NATO country corporate elites believe that with another big push they will finally inflict a lasting setback on the Bolivarian Revolution. In other countries, levels of media aggression vary depending on the political timetable of events.

Referendums or national elections almost invariably trigger redoubled, vicious campaigns in the general psychological warfare offensive. In Bolivia last year, the media disinformation campaign peaked ahead of the referendum on the possibility of Evo Morales being a candidate for the country’s next presidential election. All through 2015, national and international media piled one attack after another on the government of Cristina Fernandez in Argentina to discredit her party and its candidates in the country’s national elections that year. A similar prolonged media blitz facilitated the start of impeachment proceedings against President Dilma Rousseff in Brazil. The attacks on Rafael Correa’s government in Ecuador are constant. On Cuba, Western media coverage remains extremely tendentious and hostile and the U.S. economic blockade continues as before. Here in Nicaragua, prior to this year’s national elections, the international disinformation attacks are once again as intense and false as they were in the previous election year 2011.

Back then, the main controversy was over a ruling by Nicaragua’s Supreme Court rendering inapplicable a spurious constitutional amendment passed by legislators without popular consultation prohibiting re-election. That ruling enabled Daniel Ortega to put forward his candidacy in the 2011 presidential elections which he won with 62 percent of the vote. This year the controversy is over another ruling by Nicaragua’s Supreme Court, but in relation to an internal conflict within one of Nicaragua’s opposition parties, the Independent Liberal Party, PLI. The most recent poll by the centrist M&R Consultants put total committed voter support for the five opposition parties contesting this year’s election at just over 10 percent. Respected, politically centrist Nicaraguan journalist Adolfo Pastran reports that leading opposition figures explicitly say their objective is “to totally discredit the electoral process and reject the election results.” Working towards that end, as Pastran notes, the opposition “have certainly achieved the objective of creating an international echo that in Nicaragua there’s been a coup against the legislature.”

Sure enough, in one news report after another, shameless misrepresentation in international media based on propaganda from Nicaragua’s otherwise dysfunctional political opposition have proliferated. One particularly egregious example appeared in the Fusion media web site by the anti-Sandinista ideologue Tim Rogers. In his latest disinformation report, Rogers misrepresents his decade-long record of anti-Sandinista propaganda at the Tico Times and Nicaragua Dispatch media outlets, suggesting falsely that he took an anti-Sandinista stance only after the 2011 election. Rogers faithfully copies Nicaragua’s opposition propaganda line, writing “Ortega put the final nail in the coffin of Nicaragua’s democratic pluralism on Friday, when his sycophants in the Supreme Electoral Council ordered the ouster of 28 opposition lawmakers and substitute lawmakers from the National Assembly.”

That claim is completely false on two counts. Firstly, the Supreme Electoral Council was bound by law to implement an earlier Supreme Court judgment resolving a fierce, five-year-old, internal conflict within the political opposition PLI party. Secondly, the sitting lawmakers forced the electoral and legislative authorities to act when they violated their own party’s internal rules. Of the 28 rebels, 21 were were replaced from within their own party while the other seven remained after finally agreeing to submit to their party’s internal statutes. So it is completely untrue to suggest, as Rogers does, that the opposition lost 28 lawmakers or that Daniel Ortega played a decisive role in what was yet another example of the chaos among Nicaragua’s hopelessly fragmented right-wing opposition.

The Fusion media web site states it is owned by Disney/ABC and Univision, now part of Media Broadcasting Partners, which is itself mainly owned by immensely wealthy investment companies Madison Dearborn PartnersProvidence Equity PartnersTPGThomas H. Lee Partners, and Saban Capital Group. These are major investors with a very clear, implacable corporate capitalist agenda focused relentlessly on maximizing profits. No surprise then that a lifestyle, pop culture, entertainment site like Fusion media should also serve up as bona fide news and comment what are in fact downright falsehoods attacking a progressive government very successfully focused on reducing poverty and inequality. While that example is typical of corporate media disinformation output, progressive Western alternative news and information outlets also engage in this kind of dishonest psychological warfare campaign.

Various progressive media recently published a disingenuous attack by the academic Courtney Parker on Sandinista government policy in Nicaragua’s Northern Caribbean Autonomous Region. Parker’s article recycles disinformation spread by the anti-Sandinista faction of the Yatama Miskito people’s political organization, which split in 2013 following disagreements between one faction led by Osorno Coleman and another led by Brooklyn Rivera. Osorno Coleman formed a party called Myatamaran, currently allied with the Sandinista FSLN party. In contrast to Parker, even the fiercely anti-Sandinista La Prensa newspaper had enough integrity in February this year to report on the schism in the Miskito people’s political representation quoting Coleman’s opinion that “Yatama used to be an indigenous organization, now it’s a political party kidnapped by Rivera.”

For his part, Brooklyn Rivera dismisses Osorno Coleman as being an ally of the FSLN, although Coleman is quite critical of government policy on the longstanding land conflicts in Nicaragua’s Northern Autonomous Caribbean Region. Courtney Parker omits all this vital information, giving the impression that the Yatama political party and its longstanding leader Brooklyn Rivera faithfully represent Miskito opinion. In fact, Osorno Coleman and his Miskito supporters reject Rivera’s leadership and accuse other Yatama leaders of having illegally sold large tracts of Indigenous people’s lands (that constitute in total around 30 percent of Nicaragua’s national territory) to non-Miskito farming families, who themselves have been killed or wounded in attacks by Miskitos. Omitting all that context, Parker reports selectively and inaccurately on incidents like the death last year of Mario Leman Muller a Miskito leader who, she alleges “was shot on September 15, 2015—a day otherwise marked in celebration of Miskitu independence. Sandinista youth raided YATAMA headquarters and shot Lehman in cold blood.”

In fact, the events leading to Muller’s shooting were confused and extremely heated. Muller died in a confrontation following violent attacks by Yatama militants on school children, parents and teachers attending celebrations for the anniversaries of the 1856 Battle of San Jacinto and of Nicaragua’s Independence in 1821. Following the violent reaction to the extremely violent provocations of Yatama activists, Muller died of a heart attack while being urgently transported for treatment in Managua on a plane sent specifically by the Nicaraguan government to evacuate people wounded in the disturbances. Parker and her editors completely misrepresent those events and other related incidents and their context. Instead, they recycle Yatama propaganda effectively covering up that political movement’s role in the disturbing events Parker fails to report fairly and honestly. The reposting in various progressive outlets of Courtney Parker’s report confirms the convergence in reporting international affairs between alternative and corporate media. Frequently—for example on Libya, Syria, Ukraine, Nicaragua, or Venezuela too—they are practically indistinguishable.

This convergence operates largely because alternative media in the West tend to adopt similar abysmal standards of credibility as those set by corporate media, targeting the political tastes of different segments of the same economic classes. Shocking murders like that of Berta Cáceres in Honduras get exploited to burnish progressive credentials while the broad, underlying reactionary psychological warfare offensive against the achievements of progressive governments continues unchanged. Clearly systemic human rights abuses in countries like Mexico, Guatemala or Honduras, now too in Argentina and Brazil, tend to get limited coverage or else go completely unreported. On the other hand, complex and intractable conflicts in countries with progressive governments like Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela get sensationalist coverage in caricature, with practically zero context. In this way, powerful corporate investors shape and define the international news and information agenda across the Western political spectrum as part of their endless war on the impoverished majority world.

Cuba’s Achievements Over the Decades

TeleSUR

March 18, 2016

Despite a fierce U.S. economic blockade, Revolutionary Cuba has made tremendous gains.

 

 Gender equality: Cuba was the first country to sign and the second to ratify the Discrimination against Women convention. Nearly half of the parliamentary seats in the Cuban National Assembly are occupied by women.
Gender equality: Cuba was the first country to sign and the second to ratify the Discrimination against Women convention. Nearly half of the parliamentary seats in the Cuban National Assembly are occupied by women. Photo:EFE
Health: For all Cubans, healthcare is completely free. Cuba created the Meningitis-B vaccine in 1985, and later the vaccines for Hepatitis-B and Dengue.
Health: For all Cubans, healthcare is completely free. Cuba created the Meningitis-B vaccine in 1985, and later the vaccines for Hepatitis-B and Dengue. Photo:EFE
Global humanitarian programs: Since 1969, a total of 325,710 Cuban health workers have participated in missions in 158 countries.
Global humanitarian programs: Since 1969, a total of 325,710 Cuban health workers have participated in missions in 158 countries. Photo:EFE
Under Cuba
Under Cuba’s constitution “any form of discrimination harmful to human dignity” is prohibited and gender reassignment surgeries have been available under its national healthcare, free of charge, since 2008. Photo:EFE
Education: The literacy rate in the country is 99 percent. Cuba offers free education from elementary school through university.
Education: The literacy rate in the country is 99 percent. Cuba offers free education from elementary school through university. Photo:EFE
Employment: The unemployment rate in Cuba as of 2014 was 2.7 percent. International Worker
Employment: The unemployment rate in Cuba as of 2014 was 2.7 percent. International Worker’s Day, or May Day, is a major national workers celebration in Cuba. Photo:Reuters

Venezuela Faces Down Rebuke at UN, Possible New Sanctions

Venezuelan Analysis

September 30, 2016

By Ryan Mallett-Outtrim

 

sanctions

Venezuela has clashed with Paraguay over human rights at the UNHRC forum in Geneva. (EFE)

A group of 29 countries called for the Venezuelan government and opposition to engage in renewed national dialogue Thursday, amid calls for more US sanctions against the South American country.

Led by the right-wing government of Paraguay, the international group including the US and UK called on President Nicolas Maduro to “ensure the full respect of human rights, due process, the separation of powers and the consolidation of a representative democracy”.

Issued during a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, the statement also called for the Venezuelan government to ensure the organisation of a presidential recall referendum.

Venezuela condemned the declaration as “interventionist”, while its regional allies drew support outweighing the Paraguayan statement.

A call from Cuba for respect for state sovereignty drew the support of 88 countries.

Maduro described the outcome of the UNHRC meeting as a “great victory” for Venezuela.

“To their 29 votes, we got 88,” he said.

The fiery session Thursday was the latest in a series of jabs at Venezuela over the course of the meeting. When the UNHRC forum began on September 13, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein lashed out at Maduro’s government over “allegations of repression of opposition voices, arbitrary arrests and excessive use of force against peaceful protests”.

A major anti-government rally two days later drew thousands of opposition supporters to the streets of Caracas and other major Venezuelan cities, with no signs of widespread police crackdowns or repression. Another large rally is scheduled to take place on October 12.

More International Setbacks, Possible Sanctions

The controversy at the UNHRC followed weeks of bad news for Venezuela’s international relations. Earlier this month Venezuela was barred from its position as president of the South American trade bloc Mercosur, while Maduro’s hosting of a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement failed to draw more than a handful of international allies.

Then on Wednesday, US lawmakers issued renewed condemnation, and calls for new sanctions on Caracas.

On Tuesday, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution calling for the release of “political prisoners” in Venezuela.

“This resolution states in no uncertain terms that President Maduro’s shameful and rampant corruption in Venezuela must end,” said Florida Representative and former chairperson of the Democratic National Committee Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Schultz herself faced allegations of corruption earlier this year, after whistle-blower website Wikileaks released documents that appeared to show Schultz and other leading party officials failed to maintain impartiality during the Democratic primaries.

CNE Head Targeted by Rubio

The day after the House issued its latest Venezuela resolution, long time anti-Venezuela campaigner Senator Marco Rubio called on President Barack Obama to authorise sanctions on government officials including the head of Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE), Tibisay Lucena.

Rubio claimed Lucena and other top officials have “committed significant acts of violence or human rights abuses”.

Lucena herself has no oversight over Venezuela’s security forces, which have been accused of human rights abuses. Nor has she directly been involved in the arrest of opposition political figures such as Leopoldo Lopez, who was imprisoned in 2015 after a Venezuelan court found him guilty of inciting a wave of deadly violence.

As head of the CNE, Lucena has been criticised by opposition supporters, who say her organisation has dragged its feet on preparing for a presidential recall referendum, which could lead to Maduro being forced from power early. CNE officials have responded to the complaints by arguing the opposition itself has slowed the referendum by allegedly including bogus signatures in a preliminary petition that was required to prompt a recall vote.

Last week, the CNE confirmed the referendum would not be possible until next year, dashing opposition hopes of forcing new elections. The timing of the referendum is significant: if it takes place before January 10, 2017, Maduro could be forced from office, and snap elections held. If the referendum is held after this cut off point, Maduro will simply be replaced by his vice-president for the rest of the normal presidential term.

The CNE’s handling of the referendum has also been criticised by the US, prompting backlash from the Maduro administration.

In a bid to ease tensions, the US and Venezuela are expected to hold new diplomatic talks in the coming weeks.

According to a report from the Associated Press this week, the talks will include Venezuelan officials and a US Department of State official. The official was named as Thomas Shannon, the state department’s current undersecretary of state for political affairs.

No further details of the meeting have been released, though another recent meeting between Venezuelan officials and US Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly focused on the detention of Joshua Holt.

A US national, Holt was detained by the Venezuelan military in June, under allegations of stockpiling firearms in the home of his wife in Venezuela. Holt’s relatives have denied the allegations.

 

[Ryan Mallett-Outtrim is an Australian activist currently living in Mérida, Venezuela.]

 

FURTHER READING:”What do You Mean 20 Percent?” And Other Questions About Venezuela’s Recall Process:

http://www.coha.org/what-do-you-mean-20-percent-and-other-questions-about-venezuelas-recall-process/

 

 

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