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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.

 

WATCH: COVID-19! Black People Fight Back! Chairman Omali Yeshitela Overview

WATCH: COVID-19! Black People Fight Back! Chairman Omali Yeshitela Overview

Black is Back Coalition

April 19, 2020

 

“The reason this discussion is happening is not because of the numbers of people who are dying – but because who is dying. Because it is something that can also possibly affect white people…”

 

 

“Omali Yeshitela, Chairman of the Black is Back Coalitions, sets the tone and sums up the political events such as COVID-19 and upcoming U.S. elections that forces the Coalition to organize the “COVID-19 Pandemic: Black People Fight Back” webinar.” [Running time: 11m:49s]

 

 

[Born in St.Petersburg, Florida, USA Omali Yeshitela is Chairman of the African People’s Socialist Party USA and the African Socialist International. Full bio]

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.

To Adapt to the Escalating Climate Crisis, Mere Reform Will Not Be Enough

To Adapt to the Escalating Climate Crisis, Mere Reform Will Not Be Enough

Greanville Post

October 16, 2019

“To Adapt to the Escalating Climate Crisis, Mere Reform Will Not Be Enough”

By Rainer Shea

 

 

As I’ve watched young people around the world take part in the climate actions of the last month, I’ve gotten the sense that I’m watching a spectacle which has been orchestrated to create the illusion that we’re still in an earlier, more stable time for the planet’s climate. Legitimate as the passion and commitment of this generation of teen climate activists is, their efforts are being packaged by the political and media establishment in a way that encourages denial about our true situation. These ruling institutions neither want us to recognize the real solutions to the crisis, nor do they want us to see the irrecoverable and massive damage that’s already been done to the climate. We’re told that if we restructure capitalism with the help of the “green” corporations and NGOs that are backing Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion, a catastrophic outcome can be prevented. Supposedly radical politicians like Bernie Sanders promise that by making an appeal for corporations to partially reduce emissions within a capitalist framework, we can save the world. People want to believe the claims of these “green” capitalists because they want to believe that our living arrangements won’t fundamentally need to change in order for humanity to survive.

 

Sustainable Brands website, August 30, 2019 [Source] [Extinction Rebellion website]

These sources of false hope let Western capitalist society continue to ignore the primary role that imperialism and militarism have in the climate crisis, to view the capitalist governments as legitimate, and to not try to break away from the philosophy of capitalism and endless growth. The lifestyle tweaks that we’re told will save the planet—eating less meat, carpooling, flicking off the light when you leave the room—won’t be able to solve the problem even if society were to largely adopt them. The climate solutions that the capitalists present to us are designed to make us feel better while we keep letting the system move us closer to apocalypse.

To survive, we must recognize two truths about this crisis: that it’s no longer possible to avert a substantial catastrophe, and that global capitalism must be toppled in order for the human race to have a future. Once we understand the former fact, it becomes easy to accept the latter.

When you examine the state of the world, it’s not hard to see that something needs to drastically change. Extreme inequality amid neoliberal policies and rampant corporate power has made the Western countries in many ways part of the so-called Third World. As American power declines, the imperialist wars are continuing and tensions between the most powerful countries are escalating. Another global recession looms at the same time as a stable and comfortable life has become impossible even for most Americans to attain. Refugees are fleeing the worst dangers in their home countries, and are being met with inhumane treatment by the reactionary governments of the core imperialist nations. All of these capitalist crises are intertwined with the climate collapse that’s threatening the foundations of civilization.

The goals of the Paris climate agreement, which require reducing emissions by around 45 percent before 2030 so as to avoid a 1.5 degree Celsius warming, most definitely aren’t going to be met. Global greenhouse gas emissions hit a record high in 2018, indicating that we’ll be at 1.5 by 2030. The climate feedback loop will quickly turn this into 2 degrees in the following years, which will turn into somewhere between 3 and 5 degrees by 2100. It’s estimated that with just 2 degrees of warming, sea level rise will engulf 280 million people, earthquakes will kill 17 million, and over 200 million will die from droughts and famine.

Just ten years from now, this transition will be far enough along that the basic structures of capitalist society will no longer be stable. In June, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights issued a report which said that more than 120 million people could be forced into poverty by 2030 due to the destroyed property and resource scarcity that climate change-related disasters will cause. In response, more social services will be cut, society will become more militarized, and more immigrants will be deported, imprisoned, or left to die in disease-riddled concentration camps.

Such cruelties against the victims of climate change are realistic, and are all already being carried out because in a world that’s falling to pieces, the feeling of desperation drives a survival instinct that makes people devalue the lives of their fellow human beings. Capitalism, with its fixation on competition, is a key driver behind this impulse to exclude and eliminate the immigrants who seek to share in the West’s relative stability. This is why Philip Alston, the author of the U.N.’s June report, said that barring radical systemic change, “Human rights might not survive the coming upheaval.”

As the warming continues, increasing food and water scarcity, flooding, deadly heat waves, epidemics, and inequality will set off wars and civil unrest. Where stable states still exist, the prevailing paradigm will range from heightened government vigilance to outright martial law. Otherwise, borders will become less clearly defined and the existing governments will lose their power, making for a global version of the Middle East in the wake of the wars in Iraq and Syria. The vacuum will be filled with militant groups. In the Arab world these new monopolies on violence have been ISIS and Al Qaeda, and in North America they could easily become white supremacist paramilitaries.

None of this can be prevented by voting for Democrats, or changing one’s personal lifestyle, or participating in climate demonstrations that are sanctioned by the corporatocracy. The momentum of the climate’s destabilization is unstoppable, and the fascistic political forces that have emerged amid the crisis aren’t going away. However, my message with this essay isn’t to become apathetic in the face of what’s happening to us, but to embrace a worldview of realism that allows us to actually combat the problem.

We in the Western world must take guidance from the colonized people who are struggling for their liberation from imperial control and the capitalist carbon economy. Our goal should be not to reform capitalism, but to overthrow the capitalist centers of government and replace them with ecosocialist power structures. This is what the Chavistas are trying to do in Venezuela, which is moving towards an ecosocialist revolution where the country weans itself off from dependence on oil markets. Bolivia, whose socialist president Evo Morales has given the environment legal protections that are equivalent to human rights, provides further inspiration for the new systems that we’re capable of building.


The path to taking over the power of the state and seizing the means of production, as the socialists in these countries are trying to do, requires building mass movements that aren’t co-opted by the influence of the capitalist class. Our objectives need to be unambiguous: an end to capitalism and an end to all forms of imperialism, which entails decolonization.

The people of Venezuela and Bolivia are lucky to have been able to use electoral means to install a government that attempts to pursue these goals. In the U.S., where electoral politics are rigged against third parties and a deadly police state has been created, freedom will only be gained by working to usurp the authority of the capitalist state. India’s Maoist gurriellas (or the Naxalites) are doing this by taking territory away from their region’s government, as are Mexico’s communist Zapatistas. These groups are building strongholds for the larger movements to take down capitalism, which gain greater potential for victory the more that capitalism’s crises escalate; capitalist regimes that are under threat of being overthrown can already be found in Haiti and Honduras, whose U.S.-backed governments may well soon be ousted through sustained proletarian rebellions.

To replicate these liberation movements worldwide, we must stop denying the extremity of the crisis and fight capitalism with the knowledge that we’re fighting for our survival. To commit to their battle against India’s corporate-controlled government, the Naxalites have had to experience the desperation of living in a severely impoverished underclass that’s increasingly suffering from water shortages amid the climate crisis. We Westerners can’t be kept complacent by the fact that our conditions are marginally better than theirs.

In the coming years, we’re not going to be living out a scenario where capitalism changes itself into something sustainable. We’re counting down to the collapse of civilization’s current configuration and, in my view, all that can save us now is the construction of a new ecosocialist civilization in its place.

 

[Rainer Shea uses the written word to deconstruct establishment propaganda and to promote meaningful political action. His articles can also be found at Revolution Dispatch]

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]

Playing Politics With Human Rights – How Amnesty International Distorted the Facts on Nicaragua

Tortilla Con Sal

DISMISSING THE TRUTH

Why Amnesty International is wrong about Nicaragua – An evaluation and response to the Amnesty International report ‘Instilling Terror: from lethal force to persecution in Nicaragua’

Published February 2019

Foreword

By Camilo Mejia, former Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience

‘In war, truth is the first casualty.’ (Aeschylus)

The above quote, attributed to the ancient Greek tragedian Aeschylus, is timely and relevant to the Nicaraguan crisis more than 2500 years after its writing, not only because what has been happening in Nicaragua since April of last year is nothing shy of a war – military, economic, psychological,
cultural, political – but also because the truth about the crisis, with the full support of Amnesty International, was indeed the first casualty.

Throughout this critique of Amnesty International’s coverage and reporting of the crisis in Nicaragua, readers will find how public opinion has been manipulated in order to present a highly biased, antigovernment account of the violent events that befell the Central American nation between April and September of 2018. For starters, the first three people who died were a Sandinista, a police officer, and an innocent bystander returning home from work, and their deaths were not only violent, they marked the beginning of a pattern of death and destruction carried out by the opposition that was completely ignored by AI’s two reports: Shoot to Kill and Instilling Terror.

Secretary General of Amnesty International, Kumi Naidoo

Equally damaging to AI’s omission of the killing of Sandinistas, and anyone standing up to the opposition, is its insistence in portraying the anti-government protesters as peaceful, despite overwhelming photographic and video evidence to the contrary. Along with the misleading portrayal
of protesters as unarmed and peaceful, Amnesty also insists on painting the different actions by the opposition as legitimate civic acts of protest, when in reality they were marred by violence and death, as is obvious from the evidence throughout the report which follows.

Some of the notable cases overlooked by AI include the kidnapping and attempted murder of student union leader Leonel Morales, who supported the initial marchers on behalf of his union but was nearly killed by the opposition after the government called for a national dialogue, prompting
Morales to call off the protests. Another case was that of Sander Bonilla, a member of the Sandinista Youth whose kidnapping and torture, overseen by both Catholic and Evangelical priests, were captured on video. There are many other cases, presented here, of victims of the opposition that
were either omitted or manipulated by Amnesty International in its two official reports.

Perhaps the most important benefit that this response provides its readers is the encouragement to verify much of the information countering AI’s claims. This response does not address the entirety of AI’s reports (and focuses on the second one), but it provides sufficient information for readers to gain access to enough facts to discover a much wider picture of the crisis, and that in itself is a huge achievement.

While it is of vital importance that people become aware of the reality that we can no longer trust prestigious human rights organizations to tell us what is happening in the world, the real triumph of this critique would be for readers to go beyond both the crisis in Nicaragua and the destabilizing role Amnesty has played in it, because the truth is not a casualty only in Nicaragua, but everywhere else as well. And the real tragedy is not that we may no longer trust AI or others to tell us the truth, but that we have ceded our own agency, our own ability to question dominant narratives, and have chosen instead to blindly trust what powerful entities tell us.

As I write this foreword the United States’ war drums beat on Venezuela, where Amnesty International has also played a very destabilizing role. And that is how the story goes: the United States chooses a government for regime change, calls upon its grantees – media outlets of global
reach, human rights organizations, diplomatic entities, other powerful nations – to vilify the chosen government; before we know, and without ever taking the time to vet the information, we fall prey to the media spell and begin to provide our consent for intervention.

Lives matter! All lives! – including the lives of those whose deaths were omitted by Amnesty International in its two reports on Nicaragua. The lives of those the anti-government opposition robbed, kidnapped, tortured, raped, killed, and even burned in public view, matter. So why not view
this critique of a highly reputable human rights organization as an invitation to question the dominant narratives that herald invasions and occupations? We must reclaim our ability, our moral duty, to search for the truth, to find it and uphold it, to protect it, and to hold everyone accountable to it, starting with ourselves.

This report, Dismissing the Truth, provides a way for readers to do precisely that: find the truth on their own.

Miami, Florida, February 2019

DOWNLOAD THE DISMISSING THE TRUTH REPORT: dismissing_truth

Failed Regime Change in Nicaragua. OAS & Amnesty International: Killing, Torturing Sandinistas Is OK

Cuba-Network in Defense of Humanity

December 28, 2018

by Stephen Sefton

 

Between April and July this year, Nicaragua suffered an extremely violent attempt at regime change supported by the US government and its allies. Crucial integral components of that coup attempt were bad faith reporting by international human rights organizations and extremely distorted news coverage by Western media. Partisan human rights organizations and media falsely blamed Nicaragua’s Sandinista government for almost all the deaths during the coup, when the reverse is true. Over two hundred Sandinista supporters, uninvolved passers-by and police were killed and hundreds suffered intimidation, abuse and torture at the hands of the US supported opposition forces. By default, organizations like the Inter American Commission for Human Rights and Amnesty International make clear they could hardly care less.

The clearest failure in their false reporting of the conflict is the sinister, ridiculous insistence that the Nicaraguan opposition engaged principally in peaceful protest, a claim beyond absurd given the number of Sandinista and police casualties. This deliberately deceitful coverage of events in Nicaragua reflects the broad contamination of Western societies by what economist Bill Black and others call “control fraud” whereby companies, especially powerful financial companies, use superficially legitimate accounts and auditing controls deliberately to mislead investors. Such companies report inflated assets and minimal costs giving a deliberately untrue and misleading view of their company’s financial position. These powerful companies crowd out honest business practice and manipulate political leaders so as to co-opt justice officials and escape criminal prosecution.
The US government’s failed regime change attempt in Nicaragua this year, like the US offensives against Venezuela or Iran, for example, reveal how this corrupt process reaches into Western institutions of all kinds. Western non-profits, news media and multilateral institutions operate as one enormous corrupt combination via an infinite disinformation feedback loop, denying their countries’ peoples a true and fair view of world events. They falsely inflate how good and morally superior they are, their assets, while deceitfully minimizing the costs, the countless victims and the incalculable suffering. So the populations invested in that vast fraudulent concern think the system’s purported controls, like the media and the non governmental sector, work just fine when, in fact, almost everything is corrupt.

In Nicaragua’s case, two events demonstrate this reality very clearly. Firstly, Western reports on Nicaragua either completely omitted or else glibly dismissed the murderous attack last May on a Sandinista media outlet, Nuevo Radio Ya. The attack resulted from a false sensationalist claim by Miguel Mora, of the opposition’s propaganda outlet 100% Noticias, that his TV station was under attack that day. Mora appealed for opposition activists to attack Nuevo Radio Ya, which they did, setting it on fire, holding over 20 radio staff under siege and then shooting at firefighters and police attempting to control the fire and rescue the people inside. Only the bravery of the rescue services and the radio station staff prevented more severe injury and loss of life. That story has never been told in Western media except by probably the only two genuinely independent US writers to visit Nicaragua during the failed coup, Max Blumenthal and Dan Kovalik.

A second incident, among dozens of similar cases, also demonstrates the corruption of the Western human rights industry and their media accomplices. Last week, the Nicaraguan authorities made public the results of a painstaking investigation into one of the headline atrocities the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and Amnesty International attributed to the government when it took place on June 16th. That day a family of six including two children burned to death in an arson attack on their house. Immediately, the virulent opposition human rights organization CENIDH had its activists on the scene falsely accusing the government of the crime. Within hours the IACHR were also attributing the heinous attack to the government. Now, after months of investigation, the police have identified four of the arsonists on the basis of accusations by survivors of the fire, witness identification and testimony, forensic analysis and incriminating material from opposition social media. Two of the accused have been sent for trial and two are fugitives.

Very early during the coup attempt, the Nicaraguan government invited the OAS to send an Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts to assist the Nicaraguan authorities in their investigations as part of the IACHR mission in Nicaragua. But the IACHR presented what it called a final report to the Permanent Council of the OAS before that expert group had even started work. Now, the expert group has presented a report covering events up to May 30th that, predictably, reproduces the self-same false information as the earlier peremptory IACHR report based on reports by opposition media and human rights organizations. Like the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights before it, the IACHR expert group broke the terms of its original agreement with the government by engaging in activities it had no authority to undertake.

The term of the expert group’s visit had already expired when, on December 19th, the government decided to suspend the IACHR bodies’ presence in Nicaragua, accusing them of supporting the country’s minority opposition and its efforts to overthrow Nicaragua’s constitutional government. Earlier, the Interior Ministry on December 14th confirmed the National Assembly’s measure canceling the legal status of nine non-profit organizations who made illegal use of their resources to participate in and actively support the coup attempt. Those NGOs represent 0.2% of around 4300 non-profits registered with the country’s Interior Ministry. In another move to dismantle the opposition networks involved in the failed coup attempt, the government applied the country’s long standing legislation against incitement to hatred and arrested Miguel Mora, head of 100% Noticias, based on dozens of accusations by Sandinista victims of opposition violence, citing Mora for his hateful instigation of attacks suffered by them and their relatives.

As in the case of measures by the Venezuelan authorities to protect their country’s society from similar crimes, Western media coverage of these recent events in Nicaragua misrepresents them as moves by a dictatorship. But for people in Nicaragua they represent legitimate measures to defend the rule of law, economic stability and citizen security. Western media and human rights organization persistently omit sadistic, murderous opposition violence and grotesquely misrepresent steps by the Venezuelan and Nicaraguan governments to protect people from it. By covering up the opposition’s crimes they make themselves accomplices to them, as the Nicaraguan government noted in relation to the IACHR, it “ constitutes a platform for the broadcasting of false information to promote international sanctions against our country as did the IACHR official Maria Claudia Pulido in her visit to the United States last September 27th, promoting from overseas the rupture of constitutional order and the attempted coup d’etat against Nicaragua’s legitimate government, thus violating the impartiality established in the OAS Charter.”

By refusing to acknowledge the reality of wholesale murderous opposition violence during the failed coup attempt, the IACHR and its NGO camp followers like Amnesty International have confirmed they are accessories to the US government’s regime change operation in Nicaragua. They have been willing accomplices to the killing, burning, rape, abuse and torture of hundreds of Sandinistas, which they have tried disgracefully to cover up.

 

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

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 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).

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