Posts Tagged ‘Venezuela’

Whatever one thinks of Venezuelan policies, does anybody actually buy any of this BS?!?

The U.S. should always be on the side of human rights around the world

(Florida Republican senator Marco Rubio; a lead supporter of these sanctions)

http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/10695

35 Countries Where the U.S. Has Supported Fascists, Drug Lords and Terrorists

Here’s a handy A to Z guide to U.S.-backed international crime.
  
March 4, 2014 

The U.S. is backing Ukraine’s extreme right-wing Svoboda party and violent neo-Nazis whose armed uprising paved the way for a Western-backed coup. Events in the Ukraine are giving us another glimpse through the looking-glass of U.S. propaganda wars against fascism, drugs and terrorism. The ugly reality behind the mirror is that the U.S. government has a long and unbroken record of working with fascists, dictators, druglords and state sponsors of terrorism in every region of the world in its elusive but relentless quest for unchallenged global power.

Behind a firewall of impunity and protection from the State Department and the CIA, U.S. clients and puppets have engaged in the worst crimes known to man, from murder and torture to coups and genocide. The trail of blood from this carnage and chaos leads directly back to the steps of the U.S. Capitol and the White House. As historian Gabriel Kolko observed in 1988, “The notion of an honest puppet is a contradiction Washington has failed to resolve anywhere in the world since 1945.” What follows is a brief A to Z guide to the history of that failure.

1. Afghanistan

In the 1980s, the U.S. worked with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to overthrow Afghanistan’s socialist government. It funded, trained and armed forces led by conservative tribal leaders whose power was threatened by their country’s progress on education, women’s rights and land reform. After Mikhail Gorbachev withdrew Soviet forces in 1989, these U.S.-backed warlords tore the country apart and boosted opium production to an unprecedented level of 2,000 to 3,400 tons per year.  The Taliban government cut opium production by 95% in two years between 1999 and 2001, but the U.S. invasion in 2001 restored the warlords and drug lords to power. Afghanistan now ranks175th out of 177 countries in the world for corruption, 175th out of 186 in human development, and since 2004, it has produced an unprecedented 5,300 tons of opium per year.  President Karzai’s brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, was well known as a CIA-backed drug lord. After a major U.S. offensive in Kandahar province in 2011, Colonel Abdul Razziq was appointed provincial police chief, boosting a heroin smuggling operation that already earned him $60 million per year inone of the poorest countries in the world.

2. Albania

Between 1949 and 1953, the U.S. and U.K. set out to overthrow the government of Albania, the smallest and most vulnerable communist country in Eastern Europe.  Exiles were recruited and trained to return to Albania to stir up dissent and plan an armed uprising. Many of the exiles involved in the plan were former collaborators with the Italian and German occupation during World War II. They included former Interior Minister Xhafer Deva, who oversaw the deportations of “Jews, Communists, partisans and suspicious persons” (as described in a Nazi document) to Auschwitz. Declassified U.S. documents have since revealed that Deva was one of 743 fascist war criminals recruited by the U.S. after the war.

3. Argentina

U.S. documents declassified in 2003 detail conversations between U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Argentinian Foreign Minister Admiral Guzzetti in October 1976, soon after the military junta seized power in Argentina. Kissinger explicitly approved the junta’s “dirty war,” in which it eventually killed up to 30,000, most of them young people, and stole 400 children from the families of their murdered parents. Kissinger told Guzzetti, “Look, our basic attitude is that we would like you to succeed… the quicker you succeed the better.” The U.S. Ambassador in Buenos Aires reported that Guzzetti “returned in a state of jubilation, convinced that there is no real problem with the US government over that issue.”  (“Daniel Gandolfo,” “Presente!”)

4. Brazil

In 1964, General Castelo Branco led a coup that sparked 20 years of brutal military dictatorship. U.S. military attache Vernon Walters, later Deputy CIA Director and UN Ambassador, knew Castelo Branco well from World War II in Italy.  As a clandestine CIA officer, Walters’ records from Brazil have never been declassified, but the CIA provided all the support needed to ensure the success of the coup, including funding for opposition labor and student groups in street protests, as in Ukraine and Venezuela today.  A U.S. Marine amphibious force on standby to land in Sao Paolo was not needed. Like other victims of U.S.-backed coups in Latin America, the elected President Joao Goulart was a wealthy landowner, not a communist, but his efforts to remain neutral in the Cold War were as unacceptable to Washington as President Yanukovich’s refusal to hand the Ukraine over to the west 50 years later.

5. Cambodia

When President Nixon ordered the secret and illegal bombing of Cambodia in 1969, American pilots were ordered to falsify their logs to conceal their crimes. They killed at least half a million Cambodians, dropping more bombs than on Germany and Japan combined in World War II. As the Khmer Rouge gained strength in 1973, the CIA reported that its “propaganda has been most effective among refugees subjected to B-52 strikes.” After the Khmer Rouge killed at least 2 million of its own people and was finally driven out by the Vietnamese army in 1979, the U.S. Kampuchea Emergency Group, based in the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, set out to feed and supply them as the “resistance” to the new Vietnamese-backed Cambodian government. Under U.S. pressure, the World Food Program provided $12 million to feed 20,000 to 40,000 Khmer Rouge soldiers. For at least another decade, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency provided the Khmer Rouge with satellite intelligence, while U.S. and British special forces trained them to lay millions of land mines across Western Cambodia which still kill or maim hundreds of people every year.

6. Chile

When Salvador Allende became President in 1970, President Nixon promised to“make the economy scream” in Chile. The U.S., Chile’s largest trading partner, cut off trade to cause shortages and economic chaos. The CIA and State Department had conducted sophisticated propaganda operations in Chile for a decade, funding conservative politicians, parties, unions, student groups and all forms of media, while expanding ties with the military. After General Pinochet seized power, the CIA kept Chilean officials on its payroll and worked closely with Chile’s DINA intelligence agency as the military government killed thousands of people and jailed and tortured tens of thousands more. Meanwhile, the “Chicago Boys,” over 100 Chilean students sent by a State Department program to study under Milton Friedman at the University of Chicago, launched a radical program of privatization, deregulation and neoliberal policies that kept the economy screaming for most Chileans throughout Pinochet’s 16-year military dictatorship.

7. China

By the end of 1945, 100,000 U.S. troops were fighting alongside Chinese Kuomintang (and Japanese) forces in Communist-held areas of northern China. Chiang Kai-Shek and the Kuomintang may have been the most corrupt of all U.S. allies. A steady stream of U.S. advisers in China warned that U.S. aid was being stolen by Chiang and his cronies, some of it even sold to the Japanese, but the U.S. commitment to Chiang continued throughout the war, his defeat by the Communists and his rule of Taiwan. Secretary of State Dulles’ brinksmanship on behalf of Chiang twice led the U.S. to the brink of nuclear war with China on his behalf in 1955 and 1958 over Matsu and Qemoy, two small islands off the coast of China.

8. Colombia

When U.S. special forces and the Drug Enforcement Administration aided Colombian forces to track down and kill drug lord Pablo Escobar, they worked with a vigilante group called Los Pepes. In 1997, Diego Murillo-Bejarano and other Los Pepes’ leaders co-founded the AUC (United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia) which was responsible for 75% of violent civilian deaths in Colombia over the next 10 years.

9. Cuba

The United States supported the Batista dictatorship as it created the repressive conditions that led to the Cuban Revolution, killing up to 20,000 of its own people. Former U.S. Ambassador Earl Smith testified to Congress that, “the U.S. was so overwhelmingly influential in Cuba that the American Ambassador was the second most important man, sometimes even more important than the Cuban president.” After the revolution, the CIA launched a long campaign of terrorism against Cuba, training Cuban exiles in Florida, Central America and the Dominican Republic to commit assassinations and sabotage in Cuba.  CIA-backed operations against Cuba included the attempted invasion at the Bay of Pigs, in which 100 Cuban exiles and four Americans were killed; several attempted assassinations of Fidel Castro and successful assassinations of other officials; several bombing raids in 1960 (three Americans killed and two captured) and terrorist bombings targeting tourists as recently as 1997; the apparent bombing of a French ship in Havana harbor (at least 75 killed); a biological swine flu attack that killed half a million pigs; and the terrorist bombing of a Cuban airliner (78 killed) planned by Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch, who remain free in America despite the U.S. pretense of waging a war against terrorism. Bosch was granted a presidential pardon by the first President Bush.

10. El Salvador

The civil war that swept El Salvador in the 1980s was a popular uprising against a government that ruled with the utmost brutality.  At least 70,000 people were killed and thousands more were disappeared. The UN Truth Commission set up after the war found that 95% of the dead were killed by government forces and death squads, and only 5% by FLMN guerrillas. The government forces responsible for this one-sided slaughter were almost entirely established, trained, armed and supervised by the CIA, U.S. special forces and the U.S. School of the Americas. The UN Truth Commission found that the units guilty of the worst atrocities, like the Atlacatl Battalionwhich conducted the infamous El Mozote massacre, were precisely the ones most closely supervised by American advisers. The American role in this campaign of state terrorism is now hailed by senior U.S. military officers as a model for “counter-insurgency” in Colombia and elsewhere as the U.S. war on terror spreads its violence and chaos across the world.

11. France

In France, Italy, Greece, Indochina, Indonesia, Korea and the Philippines at the end of World War II, advancing allied forces found that communist resistance forces had gained effective control of large areas or even entire countries as German and Japanese forces withdrew or surrendered.  In Marseille, the CGT communist trade union controlled the docks that were critical to trade with the U.S. and the Marshall plan. The OSS had worked with the U.S.-Sicilian mafia and Corsican gangsters during the war. So after the OSS merged into the new CIA after the war, it used its contacts to restore Corsican gangsters to power in Marseille, to break dock strikes and CGT control of the docks. It protected the Corsicans as they set up heroin labs and began shipping heroin to New York, where the American-Sicilian mafia also flourished under CIA protection. Ironically, supply disruptions due to the war and the Chinese Revolution had reduced the number of heroin addicts in the U.S. to 20,000 by 1945 and heroin addiction could have been virtually eliminated, but the CIA’s infamous French Connection instead brought a new wave of heroin addiction, organized crime and drug-related violence to New York and other American cities.

12. Ghana

There seem to be no inspiring national leaders in Africa these days. But that may be America’s fault. In the 1950s and 1960s, there was a rising star in Ghana: Kwame Nkrumah. He was Prime Minister under British rule from 1952 to 1960, when Ghana became independent and he became president. He was a socialist, a pan-African and an anti-imperialist, and, in 1965, he wrote a book called Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism. Nkrumah was overthrown in a CIA coup in 1966. The CIA denied involvement at the time, but the British press later reported that 40 CIA officers operated out of the U.S. Embassy “distributing largesse among President Nkrumah’s secret adversaries,” and that their work “was fully rewarded.” Former CIA officer John Stockwell revealed more about the CIA’s decisive role in the coup in his book In Search of Enemies.

13. Greece

When British forces landed in Greece in October 1944, they found the country under the effective control of ELAS-EAM, the leftist partisan group formed by the Greek Communist Party in 1941 after the Italian and German invasion. ELAS-EAM welcomed the British forces, but the British refused any accommodation with them and installed a government that included royalists and Nazi collaborators. When ELAS-EAM held a huge demonstration in Athens, police opened fire and killed 28 people. The British recruited members of the Nazi-trained Security Battalions to hunt down and arrest ELAS members, who once again took up arms as a resistance movement.  In 1947, with a civil war raging, the bankrupt British asked the U.S. to take over their role in occupied Greece. The U.S. role in supporting an incompetent fascist government in Greece was enshrined in the “Truman Doctrine,” seen by many historians as the beginning of the Cold War. ELAS-EAM fighters laid down their arms in 1949 after Yugoslavia withdrew its support, and 100,000 were either executed, exiled or jailed. The liberal Prime Minister Georgios Papandreou was overthrown in a CIA-backed coup in 1967, leading to seven more years of military rule. His son Andreas was elected as Greece’s first “socialist” president in 1981, but many ELAS-EAM members jailed in the 1940s were never freed and died in prison.

14. Guatemala

After its first operation to overthrow a foreign government in Iran in 1953, the CIA launched a more elaborate operation to remove the elected liberal government of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954. The CIA recruited and trained a small army of mercenaries under Guatemalan exile Castillo Armas to invade Guatemala, with 30 unmarked U.S. planes providing air support. U.S. Ambassador Peurifoy prepared a list of Guatemalans to be executed, and Armas was installed as president. The reign of terror that followed led to 40 years of civil war, in which at least 200,000 were killed, most of them indigenous people. The climax of the war was the campaign of genocide in Ixil by President Rios Montt, for which he was sentenced to life in prison in 2013, until Guatemala’s Supreme Court rescued him on a technicality. A new trial is scheduled for 2015. Declassified CIA documents reveal that the Reagan administration was well aware of the indiscriminate and genocidal nature of Guatemalan military operations when it approved new military aid in 1981, including military vehicles, spare parts for helicopters and U.S. military advisers. The CIA documents detail the massacre and destruction of entire villages, and conclude, “The well documented belief by the army that the entire Ixil Indian population is pro-EGP (Guerrilla Army of the Poor) has created a situation in which the army can be expected to give no quarter to combatants and non-combatants alike.”

15. Haiti

Almost 200 years after the slave rebellion that created the nation of Haiti and defeated Napoleon’s armies, the long-suffering people of Haiti finally elected a truly democratic government led by Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1991. But President Aristide was overthrown in a U.S.-backed military coup after eight months in office, and the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) recruiteda paramilitary force called FRAPH to target and destroy Aristide’s Lavalas movement in Haiti. The CIA put FRAPH’s leader Emmanuel “Toto” Constant on its payroll and shipped in weapons from Florida. When President Clinton sent a U.S. occupation force to restore Aristide to office in 1994, FRAPH members detained by U.S. forces were freed on orders from Washington, and the CIA maintained FRAPH as a criminal gang to undermine Aristide and Lavalas. After Aristide was elected president a second time in 2000, a force of 200 U.S. special forces trained 600 former FRAPH members and others in the Dominican Republic to prepare for a second coup. In 2004, they launched a campaign of violence to destabilize Haiti, which provided the pretext for U.S. forces to land in Haiti and remove Aristide from office.

16. Honduras

The 2009 coup in Honduras has led to severe repression and death squad murders of political opponents, union organizers and journalists. At the time of the coup, U.S. officials denied any role in the coup and used semantics to avoid cutting off U.S. military aid as required under U.S. law. But two Wikileaks cables revealed that the U.S. Embassy was the main power broker in managing the aftermath of the coup and forming a government that is now repressing and murdering its people.

17. Indonesia

In 1965, General Suharto seized effective power from President Sukarno on the pretext of combatting a failed coup and unleashed an orgy of mass murderthat killed at least half a million people. U.S. diplomats later admitted providing lists of 5,000 Communist Party members to be killed. Political officer Robert Martens said, “It really was a big help to the army. They probably killed a lot of people, and I probably have a lot of blood on my hands, but that’s not all bad. There’s a time when you have to strike hard at a decisive moment.”

18. Iran

Iran may be the most instructive case of a CIA coup that caused endless long-term problems for the United States. In 1953, the CIA and the U.K.’s MI6 overthrew the popular, elected government of Mohammed Mossadegh. Iran had nationalized its oil industry by a unanimous vote of parliament, ending a BP monopoly that only paid Iran a 16% royalty on its oil. For two years, Iran resisted a British naval blockade and international economic sanctions. After President Eisenhower took office in 1953, the CIA agreed to a British request to intervene. After the initial coup failed and the Shah and his family fled to Italy, the CIA payed millions of dollars to bribe military officers and pay gangsters to unleash violence in the streets of Tehran. Mossadegh was finally removed and the Shah returned to rule as a brutal Western puppet until the Iranian Revolution in 1979.

19. Israel

Just as the U.S. uses its economic and military power, its sophisticated propaganda system and its position as a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council to violate international law with impunity, it also uses the same tools to shield its ally Israel from accountability for international crimes.  Since 1966, the U.S. has used its Security Council veto 83 times, more than the other four Permanent Members combined, and 42 of those vetoes have been on resolutions related to Israel and/or Palestine. Just last week, Amnesty International published a report that, “Israeli forces have displayed a callous disregard for human life by killing dozens of Palestinian civilians, including children, in the occupied West Bank over the past three years with near total impunity.” Richard Falk, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Territoriescondemned the 2008 assault on Gaza as a “massive violation of international law,” adding that nations like the U.S. “that have supplied weapons and supported the siege are complicit in the crimes.” The Leahy Lawrequires the U.S. to cut off military aid to forces that violate human rights, but it has never been enforced against Israel. Israel continues to build settlements in occupied territory in violation of the 4th Geneva Convention, making it harder to comply with Security Council resolutions that require it to withdraw from occupied territory. But Israel remains beyond the rule of law, shielded from accountability by its powerful patron, the United States.

20. Iraq

In 1958, after the British-backed monarchy was overthrown by General Abdul Qasim, the CIA hired a 22-year-old Iraqi named Saddam Hussein to assassinate the new president. Hussein and his gang botched the job and he fled to Lebanon, wounded in the leg by one of his companions. The CIA rented him an apartment in Beirut and then moved him to Cairo, where he was paid as an agent of Egyptian intelligence and was a frequent visitor at the U.S. Embassy. Qasim was killed in a CIA-backed Baathist coup in 1963, and as in Guatemala and Indonesia, the CIA gave the new government a list of at least 4,000 communists to be killed. But, once in power, the Baathist revolutionary government was no Western puppet, and it nationalized Iraq’s oil industry, adopted an Arab nationalist foreign policy and built the best education and health systems in the Arab world. In 1979, Saddam Hussein became president, conducted purges of political opponents and launched a disastrous war against Iran. The U.S. DIA provided satellite intelligence to target chemical weapons that the West helped him to produce, and Donald Rumsfeld and other U.S. officials welcomed him as an ally against Iran. Only after Iraq invaded Kuwait and Hussein became more useful as an enemy did U.S. propaganda brand him as “a new Hitler.” After the U.S. invaded Iraq on false pretenses in 2003, the CIA recruited 27 brigades of “Special Police,”merging the most brutal of Saddam Hussein’s security forces with the Iranian-trained Badr militia to form death squads that murdered tens of thousands of mostly Sunni Arab men and boys in Baghdad and elsewhere in a reign of terror that continues to this day.

21. Korea

When U.S. forces arrived in Korea in 1945, they were greeted by officials of the Korean People’s Republic (KPR), formed by resistance groups which had disarmed surrendering Japanese forces and begun to establish law and order throughout Korea. General Hodge had them thrown out of his office and placed the southern half of Korea under U.S. military occupation. By contrast, Russian forces in the North recognized the KPR, leading to the long-term division of Korea. The U.S. flew in Syngman Rhee,a conservative Korean exile, and installed him as President of South Korea in 1948. Rhee became a dictator on an anti-communist crusade, arresting and torturing suspected communists, brutally putting down rebellions, killing 100,000 people and vowing to take over North Korea. He was at least partly responsible for the outbreak of the Korean War and for the allied decision to invade North Korea once South Korea had been recaptured. He was finally forced to resign by mass student protests in 1960.

22. Laos

The CIA began providing air support to French forces in Laos in 1950, and remained involved there for 25 years. The CIA engineered at least three coups between 1958 and 1960 to keep the growing leftist Pathet Lao out of government. It worked with right-wing Laotian drug lords like General Phoumi Nosavan, transporting opium between Burma, Laos and Vietnam and protecting his monopoly on the opium trade in Laos. In 1962, the CIA recruited a clandestine mercenary army of 30,000 veterans of previous guerrilla wars from Thailand, Korea, Vietnam and the Philippines to fight the Pathet Lao. As large numbers of American GIs in Vietnam got hooked on heroin, the CIA’s Air America transported opium from Hmong territory in the Plain of Jars to General Vang Pao’s heroin labs in Long Tieng and Vientiane for shipment to Vietnam. When the CIA failed to defeat the Pathet Lao, the U.S. bombed Laos almost as heavily as Cambodia, with 2 million tons of bombs.

23. Libya

NATO’s war on Libya epitomized President Obama’s “disguised, quiet, media-free” approach to war. NATO’s bombing campaign was fraudulently justified to the UN Security Council as an effort to protect civilians, and the instrumental role of Western and other foreign special forces on the ground was well-disguised, even when Qatari special forces (including ex-ISI Pakistani mercenaries) led the final assault on the Bab Al-Aziziya HQ in Tripoli. NATO conducted 7,700 air strikes30,000 -100,000 people were killed, loyalist towns were bombed to rubble and ethnically cleansed, and the country is in chaos as Western-trained and -armed Islamist militias seize territory and oil facilities and vie for power. The Misrata militia, trained and armed by Western special forces, is one of the most violent and powerful. As I write this, protesters have just stormed the Congress building in Tripoli for the fourth or fifth time in recent months, and two elected Representatives have been shot and wounded as they fled.

24. Mexico

The death toll in Mexico’s drug wars recently passed 100,000. The most violent of the drug cartels is Los Zetas.  U.S. officials call the Zetas “the most technologically advanced, sophisticated and dangerous drug cartel operating in Mexico.” The Zetas cartel was formed by Mexican security forces trained by U.S. special forces at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia, and at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

25. Myanmar

After the Chinese Revolution, Kuomintang generals moved into northern Burma and became powerful drug lords, with Thai military protection, financing from Taiwan and air transport and logistical support from the CIA. Burma’s opium production grew from 18 tons in 1958 to 600 tons in 1970. The CIA maintained these forces as a bulwark against communist China but they transformed the “golden triangle” into the world’s largest opium producer. Most of the opium was shipped by mule trains into Thailand where other CIA allies shipped it to heroin labs in Hong Kong and Malaysia. The trade shifted around 1970 as CIA partner General Vang Pao set up new labs in Laos to provide heroin to GIs in Vietnam.

26. Nicaragua

Anastasio Somosa ruled Nicaragua as his personal fiefdom for 43 years with unconditional U.S. support, as his National Guard committed every crime imaginable from massacres and torture to extortion and rape with complete impunity. After he was finally overthrown by the Sandinista Revolution in 1979, the CIA recruited, trained and supported “contra” mercenaries to invade Nicaragua and conduct terrorism to destabilize the country. In 1986, the International Court of Justice found the United States guilty of aggression against Nicaragua for deploying the contrasand mining Nicaraguan ports. The court ordered the U.S. to cease its aggression and pay war reparations to Nicaragua, but they have never been paid. The U.S. response was to declare that it would no longer recognize the binding jurisdiction of the ICJ, effectively setting itself beyond the rule of international law.

27.Pakistan; 28.Saudi Arabia; 29. Turkey

After reading my last AlterNet piece on the failed war on terror, former CIA and State Department terrorism expert Larry Johnson told me, “The main problem with respect to assessing the terrorist threat is to accurately define the state sponsorship. The biggest culprits today, in contrast to 20 years ago, are Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Iran, despite the right-wing/neocon ravings, is not that active in encouraging and/or facilitating terrorism.” In the past 12 years, U.S. military aid to Pakistan has totaled $18.6 billion. The U.S. has just negotiated the largest arms deal in historywith Saudi Arabia. And Turkey is a long-standing member of NATO. All three major state sponsors of terrorism in the world today are U.S. allies.

30. Panama

U.S. drug enforcement officials wanted to arrest Manuel Noriega in 1971, when he was the chief of military intelligence in Panama. They had enough evidence to convict him of drug trafficking, but he was also a long-time agent and informer for the CIA, so like other drug-dealing CIA agents from Marseille to Macao, he was untouchable. He was temporarily cut loose during the Carter administration but otherwise kept collecting at least $100,000 per year from the U.S. Treasury. As he rose to be the de facto ruler of Panama, he became even more valuable to the CIA, reporting on meetings with Fidel Castro and Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua and supporting U.S. covert wars in Central America. Noriega probably quit drug trafficking in about 1985, well before the U.S. indicted him for it in 1988. The indictment was a pretext for the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989, whose main purpose was to give the U.S. greater control over Panama, at the expense of at least 2,000 lives.

31. The Philippines

Since the U.S. launched its so-called war on terror in 2001, a task force of 500 US JSOC forces has conducted covert operations in the southern Philippines. Now, under Obama’s “pivot to Asia,” U.S. military aid to the Philippines is increasing, from $12 million in 2011 to $50 million this year. But Filippino human rights activists report that the increased aid coincides with increased militarydeath squad operations against civilians. The past three years have seen at least 158 people killed by death squads.

32. Syria

When President Obama approved flying weapons and militiamen from Libya to the “Free Syrian Army” base in Turkey in unmarked NATO planes in late 2011, he was calculating that the U.S. and its allies could replicate the “successful” overthrow of the Libyan government. Everyone involved understood that Syria would be a longer and bloodier conflict, but they gambled that the end result would be the same, even though 55% of Syrians told pollsters they still supported Assad. A few months later, Western leaders undermined Kofi Annan’s peace plan with their “Plan B,” “Friends of Syria.” This was not an alternative peace plan, but a commitment to escalation, offering guaranteed support, money and weapons to the jihadis in Syria to make sure they ignored the Annan peace plan and kept fighting. That move sealed the fate of millions of Syrians. Over the past two years Qatar has spent $3 billion and flown in planeloads of weapons, Saudi Arabia has shipped weapons from Croatia, and Western and Arab royalist special forces have trained thousands of increasingly radicalized fundamentalist jihadis, now allied with al-Qaeda. The Geneva II talks were a half-hearted effort to revive the 2012 Annan peace plan, but Western insistence that a “political transition” means the immediate resignation of Assad reveals that Western leaders still value regime change more than peace. To paraphrase Phyllis Bennis, the U.S. and its allies are still willing to fight to the last Syrian.

33. Uruguay

The foreign officials the U.S. has worked with include many who have benefited from their cooperation in American crimes around the world. But in Uruguay in 1970, when Police Chief Alejandro Otero objected to Americans training his officers in the art of torture, he was demoted. The U.S. official he complained to was Dan Mitrione, who worked for the U.S. Office of Public Safety, a division of the US Agency for International Development. Mitrione’s training sessions reportedly included torturing homeless people to death with electric shocks to teach his students how far they could go.

34. Yugoslavia

The NATO aerial bombardment of Yugoslavia in 1999 was a flagrant crime of aggression in violation of Article 2.4 of the UN Charter. When British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told Secretary of State Albright that the U.K. was having “difficulties with its lawyers” over the planned attack, she told him the U.K. should “get new lawyers,” according to her deputy James Rubin. NATO’s proxy ground force in its aggression against Yugoslavia was the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), led by Hashim ThaciA 2010 report by the Council of Europe and a book by Carla Del Ponte, the former prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia, support long-standing allegations that at the time of the NATO invasion, Thaci ran a criminal organization called the Drenica group which sent more than 400 captured Serbs to Albania to be killed so that their organs could be extracted and sold for transplant. Hashim Thaci is now the Prime Minister of the NATO protectorate of Kosovo.

35. Zaire

Patrice Lumumba, the president of the pan-Africanist Mouvement National Congolais, took part in the Congo’s struggle for independence and became the Congo’s first elected Prime Minister in 1960. He was deposed in a CIA-backed coup led by Joseph-Desire Mobutu, his Army Chief of Staff. Mobutu handed Lumumba over to the Belgian-backed separatists and Belgian mercenaries he had been fighting in Katanga province, and he was shot by a firing squad led by a Belgian mercenary. Mobutu abolished elections and appointed himself president in 1965, and ruled as a dictator for 30 years. He killed political opponents in public hangings, had others tortured to death, and eventually embezzled at least $5 billion while Zaire, as he renamed it, remained one of the poorest countries in the world. But U.S. support for Mobutu continued. Even as President Carter publicly distanced himself, Zaire continued to receive 50% of all U.S. military aid to sub-Saharan Africa. When Congress voted to cut off military aid, Carter and U.S. business interests worked to restore it. Only in the 1990s did U.S. support start to waver, until Mobutu was deposed by Laurent Kabila in 1997 and died soon afterward.

***

Major Joe Blair was the director of instruction at the U.S. School of the Americas (SOA) from 1986 to 1989. He described the training he oversaw at SOA as the following: “The doctrine that was taught was that if you want information you use physical abuse, false imprisonment, threats to family members, and killing. If you can’t get the information you want, if you can’t get that person to shut up or stop what they’re doing, you assassinate them—and you assassinate them with one of your death squads.”

The stock response of U.S. officials to the exposure of the systematic crimes I’ve described is that such things may have occurred at certain times in the past but that they in no way reflect long-term or ongoing U.S. policy. The School of the Americas was moved from the Panama Canal Zone to Fort Benning, Georgia, and replaced by the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) in 2001. But Joe Blair has something to say about that too. Testifying at a trial of SOA Watch protesters in 2002, he said, “There are no substantive changes besides the name. They teach the identical courses that I taught, and changed the course names and use the same manuals.”

A huge amount of human suffering could be alleviated and global problems solved if the United States would make a genuine commitment to human rights and the rule of law, as opposed to one it only applies cynically and opportunistically to its enemies, but never to itself or its allies.

Nicolas J. S. Davies is the author of Blood On Our Hands: The American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq. He wrote the chapter on “Obama At War” for the book, Grading the 44th President: A Report Card on Barack Obama’s First Term as a Progressive Leader.

What the Wikileaks Cables Say about Leopoldo López

By JAKE JOHNSTON – CEPR, February 22nd 2014

Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López has been thrust onto the international stage during the past week of protests in Venezuela and his arrest on February 21. López is mentioned at least 77 times in diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks. Many of the cables focus on internal disputes within the opposition, with Lopez often in conflict with others both within his party and others in the opposition. Given this history, perhaps it isn’t surprising that the current protests that he has been leading, calling for “la salida” – the exit – of Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro have also caused internal divisions within the opposition. David Smilde, a Senior Fellow with the Washington Office on Latin America wrote last week:

While Capriles shook hands with Maduro in January, signifying not only a more conciliatory stance but tacitly recognizing Maduro’s legitimacy, Leopoldo López and Maria Corina Machado have both taken a harder line and are working outside of the Mesa de Unidad Democrática (MUD).

…..

Without a doubt, in immediate political terms the biggest beneficiary of yesterday’s [Feb.12] violence was López.

This week, Smilde added in a quote to USA Today, “Before this happened, Lopez was playing second fiddle to Capriles… I think his goal is to try and leapfrog over Capriles. The student protests have put him in the spotlight.”

The Wikileaks Cables show an interesting history of Lopez’s rise to leadership and also show some of the divisions within the opposition. Below, one party leader is quoted as saying that “for the opposition parties, Lopez draws ire second only to Chavez, joking that ‘the only difference between the two is that Lopez is a lot better looking.’” And also, “During a party event December 6, Primero Justicia (PJ) Secretary-General Tomas Guanipa called on Lopez to respect the unity table and its agreements and consensus. Guanipa urged Lopez to ‘not continue dividing us, we should not go through life like crashing cars, fighting with the whole world.’”

The U.S. government has been funding the Venezuelan opposition for at least 12 years, including, as the State Department has acknowledged, some of the people and organizations involved in the 2002 military coup. Their goal has always been to get rid of the Chávez government and replace it with something more to their liking. However, their funding is probably not their most important contribution in Venezuela, since the Venezuelan opposition has most of the wealth and income of the country. A more important role is the outside pressure for unity, which, as these cables and the history of the past 15 years show, has been a serious problem for the Venezuelan opposition. The cables also show that this is a serious concern for the U.S. government.

Below are relevant cables, in chronological order:

February 2, 2006: “On January 27, poloff [the U.S. Embassy Political Officer] met with Primero Justicia (PJ) Secretary General Gerardo Blyde to discuss rumors that an ongoing power struggle among PJ leaders–Blyde and Chacao Mayor Leopoldo Lopez against party president and presidential candidate Julio Borges and Baruta Mayor Henrique Caprilles–may lead to a split in the party (refs a and b).”

December 8, 2006: The cable reports on “winners” and “losers” from the 2006 presidential election. One of the “winners” is López. “Thirty-five year-old Leopoldo Lopez, the Primero Justicia Mayor of the Chacao Burrough of Caracas, distinguished himself on the Rosales campaign. He played a big role in organizing Rosales’ three successful mass rallies in Caracas, including the enormous November 25 rally on the Francisco Fajardo highway. Rosales won 76 percent of the vote in Chacao and won big in adjoining upper middle class neighborhoods.” Chacao has been the center of the current protests.

June 8, 2007: During a period of large student demonstrations, the cables states, “Political parties, however, are eager to try to co-opt the [student] movement. The young, dynamic opposition mayor of Chacao Municipality in Caracas, Leopoldo Lopez, addressed students during early demonstrations in his jurisdiction, and he is actively advising them behind-the-scenes (Ref A).

December 6, 2007: From the cable: “Despite Chavez’ continued opposition-bashing, Arreaza [Chief of Staff to former Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel] said the Venezuelan president has asked former VP Rangel to reach out to the opposition. Arreaza said Rangel this week met with Primero Justicia leader Julio Borges, and Un Nuevo Tiempo leaders, including Chacao Mayor Leopoldo Lopez. The government sees Lopez as the best channel to the student movement, added Arreaza.”

March 28, 2008: The cable reports on a meeting between U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D – OR) and López, noting that “The Senator and his staff discussed possible media strategies with Lopez and methods for getting his positive message to audiences in the U.S.”

April 11, 2008: The U.S. embassy met with a legal advisor to López, who outlined his legal strategy in fighting his ban from political office. She noted that she “believes making Lopez a victim of the BRV’s machinations is making him a more popular candidate.”

July 17, 2008: The U.S. agrees with the analysis of the legal advisor, writing, “Interestingly, the disqualifications appear to be turning Leopoldo Lopez into a national opposition figure, rather than just a rising star in Caracas.”

July 18, 2008: “There is widespread concern within the opposition that a growing rivalry between Zulia Governor Manuel Rosales and Chacao Mayor Leopoldo Lopez is futher [sic] undermining opposition unity.”

July 31, 2008: “Increased international interest this week on the ineligibles’ cause suggests that Lopez and other opposition leaders have had some success is rallying support on the international scene, maybe even more so than at home.”

March 28, 2009: “UNT activists report that there was increasing friction between Maracaibo mayor Manuel Rosales and former Chacao mayor Leopoldo Lopez over leadership of the party. She complained that the older politicians in control of UNT — namely Rosales — are only interested in claiming power for themselves, rather than grooming rising stars in the party who may generate broader public appeal.”

June 10, 2009: “Un Nuevo Tiempo (UNT) activist Yenny De Freitas told Poloffs June 8 that the party continues to suffer from a major schism between its self-exiled leader, Manuel Rosales, and Leopoldo Lopez. She said that Lopez, who is currently in charge of UNT’s outreach, is scheming to create his own opposition “movement” outside of the current party system — likely taking advantage of the networks he has developed in his current role and his personal popularity within Caracas.” The cable added, “The absence of the more popular younger generation of opposition leaders almost certainly will feed speculation that all is not well within the parties, and that disgruntled figures like Leopoldo Lopez may be preparing to launch their own self-serving “movement” at the expense of whatever cohesion the current opposition parties are able to achieve.”

September 2, 2009: “Lopez announced September 1, however, that he had in fact been ejected from UNT due to “differences” with party officials over how to proceed in advance of National Assembly (AN) and municipal council elections expected in 2010. Conversations with party rank and file indicate that Lopez, who headed UNT’s grassroots “popular networks” outreach initiative, may attract a broad following to his “movement of movements” — likely creating yet another obstacle to the opposition’s limping attempts to achieve electoral unity. Lopez seems to be saying that he has a better idea of what it will take to beat Chavez and is willing to break with his party to get his way.”

September 2, 2009: “Lopez’s much-publicized rebelliousness is likely to complicate the opposition’s efforts to create a unity slate of candidates for elections in 2010. Lopez seems to believe he knows better how to beat Chavez and will not hesitate to break with his opposition colleagues to get his way.”

October 15, 2009: “[Pollster Luis Vicente] Leon emphasized that the opposition lacks a unifying leader who can transmit its message to the Venezuelan people. He assessed that Leopoldo Lopez was probably hoping to catapult himself into that type of leadership role with his “popular networks” (“redes populares”) initiative.”

November 3, 2009: “Former Mayor of Chacao Leopoldo Lopez, who split with UNT over his support for a “unity ticket,” told [the Political Counselor, “Polcouns”] October 16 that the parties are too comfortable with the status quo to take risks. He also rejected the idea that there were “major parties,” arguing that within the opposition, “all the parties are small parties.”

“Former Chacao Mayor Leopoldo Lopez has become a divisive figure within the opposition, particularly since his very public split with UNT in September. He is often described as arrogant, vindictive, and power-hungry — but party officials also concede his enduring popularity, charisma, and talent as an organizer. PJ’s Ponte said she had worked for Lopez when he was mayor and was impressed by his ability to organize his staff and effectively implement programs. Nevertheless, she said he summarily fired her when her husband opposed Lopez during an internal party conflict while he was still a member of PJ. (Note: Lopez co-founded PJ but left the party to join UNT in 2007. End Note.)”

November 3, 2009: “While the parties need Lopez’s following to expand their narrow electoral base, they appear frustrated with his uncompromising approach and do not trust his motives. Ponte said that for the opposition parties, Lopez draws ire second only to Chavez, joking that “the only difference between the two is that Lopez is a lot better looking.” PJ’s Caldera minimized Lopez’s “social networks” as “political proselytizing” and his projects as no different than those often carried out by opposition parties trying to build public support.”

December 22, 2009: “During a party event December 6, Primero Justicia (PJ) Secretary-General Tomas Guanipa called on Lopez to respect the unity table and its agreements and consensus. Guanipa urged Lopez to “not continue dividing us, we should not go through life like crashing cars, fighting with the whole world. It is not good for the country that you are hoping for something different than us.””

Source: CEPR

IMPORTANT ARTICLE: http://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/10407

Sample:

Those who live overseas should take into account the social composition of those who are protesting, and of those who are trying to maintain control.

The majority of Bolivarian National Guards come from the barrios, from the popular sectors, from small towns and humble zones and other parts of the country.

Those who protest are, in their majority, from the middle and middle-upper classes of the four most populated cities….They are mostly university graduates who work for a wage, or professionals who work on their own, or university students, or small business owners.

Sometimes, they earn the same salary as someone who lives in a barrio. But someone made them believe that they are a ‘higher class’, just because they live in the buildings in the east of Caracas and they have European lineage, while the others live in a little humble house.

https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/02/is-venezuela-burning/ 

jacobinmag.com

Is Venezuela Burning?

2.25.14

Only a deepening of the Bolivarian Revolution can save it.

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 9.13.18 AM

Flickr / Gaz

For over a week now, the world’s press and media have carried images of a Venezuela in flames. Burning buses, angry demonstrations, public buildings under siege. But the pictures are rarely explained or placed in any kind of context, and people are left to assume that this is just one more urban riot, one more youth rebellion against the crisis, like those in Greece and Spain.

The reality is both very different and far more complex. Venezuela, after all, is a society that declared war on neoliberalism fifteen years ago.

Caracas, where this series of events began, is a divided city. Its eastern part is middle class and prosperous; to the west, the population is poorer. The political divide reflects exactly the social division. Leopoldo Lopez, who has been a leader of this new phase of violent opposition to the government of Nicolas Maduro, was mayor of one of the eastern districts. Together with another prominent right wing anti-chavista, Maria Corina Machado, he had issued a call for an open public meeting the previous Sunday to demand the fall of the government. Youth Day, on February 12, provided an opportunity to bring out students to march, demonstrate, and occupy the streets.

The majority of the burning barricades, however, were built in middle class areas. And the students building them came from either the private universities or the state university which had largely excluded poorer students in recent times. There was almost nothing happening in the poorer areas to the west.

In more recent days, the class character of the demonstrations has become clearer. The government’s new bus system, offering clean and safe travel at low prices, has been attacked, 50 of them on Friday alone. The Bolivarian University, offering higher education to people excluded from the university system, was besieged Friday — though the demonstrators failed to get in to wreck it. And in several places Cuban medical personnel, who run the Barrio Adentro health system, have been viciously attacked. In one very curious development, a wonderful sculpture in the city of Barquisimeto by the communist architect Fruto Vivas, is now being defended by Chavistas after an attempt to destroy it.

Maduro and his cabinet have responded by denouncing the increasingly violent confrontations as organized by fascists and financed and supported by the United States. And there are certainly extreme elements involved, actively engaged in trying to destabilize the situation. They include paramilitaries linked to the drug trade, whose presence has grown in this overly-weaponized country.

But why has the Right chosen this particular moment to take to the streets? In part, it is a response to what is seen as the weakness of the Maduro government, and specifically of Maduro himself. It is no secret that behind the façade of unity, there is a struggle for power between extremely wealthy and influential groups within government — a struggle that began to intensify in the months before Chavez’s death. The military presence in government has grown dramatically, and they are largely controlled by the group around Diosdado Cabello. The head of the oil corporation and Vice President for the Economy, Rafael Rodriguez, has enormous economic power in his hands.

At the same time, there is a battle for power within the Right. All of the prominent leaders, including Leopoldo Lopez, Cristina Machado, and Capriles, come from the wealthiest sections of the bourgeoisie. But they are competing. Lopez and Machado are pursuing what some call (referring to Chile 1972-3) “a soft coup”: economic destabilization plus a continuous mobilization on the streets to deepen the government’s weakness.

Capriles, however, has been hesitant to support the demonstrations and instead argues for a “government of national unity,” which Maduro seems increasingly wedded to. Just a few weeks ago, Maduro had talks with one of Venezuela’s wealthiest capitalists, Mendoza, and other sections of the bourgeoisie have expressed support for him. And that strategy has the backing of important figures in and around government.

Against this background, the position of the Chavista government has been to call for “peace” — a slogan echoed by the huge numbers of ordinary Venezuelans who have rallied behind Maduro. Their chant “they will never come back” is very significant. They recognise in the leaders of the current unrest the same people who implemented the devastating economic programmes of the 1990s, before Chavez, and who attempted to destroy his government twice before. At the same time, that”‘peace” has yet to be defined. Does it mean addressing the real problems that people face, and driving a wedge between an anxious lower middle class and its self-proclaimed bourgeois leaders? Or will it be achieved by consensus with other sections of that same class, perhaps represented by Capriles, who have no commitment at all to socialism, 21st century or otherwise?

The Venezuelan Right is no stranger to violence. On 11 April 2002, it launched a coup against Chavez and assumed power. Calls in the media for leading Chavistas to be killed gave the measure of what they were prepared to do. The coup had the support of sections of the army, the Church, the employers federation, the corrupt national trade union organization, and the U.S. Embassy. But it failed because the mass of Venezuela’s poor and working class took to the streets and brought Chavez back.

Nine months later, the attempt to destroy the oil industry, and with it the economy as a whole, was foiled again by the mass mobilization of the majority of Venezuelans — the very people whose votes had carried Chavez to power.

Is the present situation a repeat of April? Between 2002 and 2014, the Right failed to dislodge Chavez; on the contrary, Chavez’s electoral support rose consistently until his death early last year. After that, his nominated successor, Maduro, won the presidential elections in April 2013. But this time the right-wing candidate, Henrique Capriles Radonski, came within 250,000 votes (under one percent) of winning.

It was a clear expression of the growing frustration and anger among Chavez supporters. 2012 had seen inflation rates hovering around fifty percent (officially) and the level has risen inexorably throughout the last year. Today the basic basket of goods costs 30% more than the minimum wage — and that is if the goods are to be found on the increasingly empty shelves of shops and supermarkets. The shortages are explained partly by speculation on the part of capitalists — just as happened in Chile in 1972 — and partly by the rising cost of imports, which make up a growing proportion of what is consumed in Venezuela. And that means not luxuries, but food, basic technology, and even gasoline.

All of this is an expression of an economic crisis vigorously denied by the Maduro government but obvious to everyone else. Inflation is caused by the declining value of the bolivar, Venezuela’s currency, itself the result of economic paralysis. The truth is that production of anything other than oil has ground to a virtual halt. The car industry employs 80,000 workers, yet since the beginning of 2014 it has produced 200 vehicles — what would normally be produced in half a day.

How is it possible that a country with the world’s largest proven reserves of oil (and possibly of gas, too) should now be deeply in debt to China and unable to finance the industrial development that Chavez promised in his first economic plan?

The answer is political rather than economic: corruption on an almost unimaginable scale, combined with inefficiency and a total absence of any kind of economic strategy. In recent weeks, there have been very public denunciations of speculators, hoarders, and the smugglers taking oil and almost everything else across the Colombian border. And there have been horrified reports of the “discovery” of thousands of containers of rotting food. But all of this has been common knowledge for years. Equally well known is the involvement of sectors of the state and government in all these activities.

Chavez promised popular power and the investment of the country’s oil wealth in new social programs. Quite rightly, his new health and education programs were a source of great pride and a guarantee of continued support for him among the majority of Venezuelans. Today, those funds are drying up as Venezuela’s oil income is diverted to paying for increasingly expensive imports.

What has emerged in Venezuela is a new bureaucratic class who are themselves the speculators and owners of this new and failing economy. Today, as the violence increases, they are to be seen delivering fierce speeches against corruption and wearing the obligatory red shirt and cap of Chavismo.

But the literally billions of dollars that have “disappeared” in recent years, and the extraordinary wealth accumulated by leading Chavistas, are the clearest signs that their interests have prevailed. At the same time, the institutions of popular power have largely withered on the vine. The promises of community control, of control from below, of a socialism that benefited the whole population, have proved to be hollow.

The Right has hoped to trade on that disillusionment. That it has not yet managed to mobilize significant numbers of working class people is testimony to their intense loyalty to the Chavista project, if not to his self-appointed successors — though they are unimpressed by those successors’ overnight conversion to transparency and honesty in government.

The solution is not in unprincipled alliances with the opponents of Chavismo, nor in inviting in multinationals like Samsung to enjoy cheap Venezuelan labour in assembling their equipment. What can save the Bolivarian project, and the hope it inspired in so many, is for the speculators and bureaucrats to be removed, and for popular power to be built, from the ground up, on the basis of a genuine socialism — participatory, democratic, and exemplary in refusing to reproduce the values and methods of a capitalism which has been unmasked by the revolutionary youth of Greece, Spain and the Middle East.

Roland Denis, a leading grassroots Venezuelan activist over many years, summed it up this way: “Either we turn this moment into a creative opportunity to reactivate our collective revolutionary will, or we can begin to say our farewells to the beautiful, traumatic history we have lived out over the last twenty-five years.”

 

After a long time off the air with only blogging and social net to vent our outrage and banter, we’ve finally launched ourselves on YouTube!

… yeah, we know, we’re considering calling these long segments: 2 Fat Old Guys and a Dog lol

We did what we used to do on the radio/podcasts and chewed on some current ugly fat for over an hour (no station manager to shut us up).

AUDIO (right click Punkonomics2014-2-23 and “save as” to download):

Topic: The Post-Occupy/Post-Arab Spring Co-opting of Media and Social Media for the Ends of Destroying Democracy and Promoting the Interests of the Upper Class/1%

This is based on a recent blog post: We are STILL being PLAYED! Venezuela and Ukraine in context
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Collection of links:
Contrast the following FAIR report and the 10 reported dead in Venezuela, with the regular violence against labor in Colombia, which is a US ally and “free-market” friend of the Venezuelan opposition #doublestandards

FAIR BLOG

Feb 22 2014

News From Venezuela–but Where Is It Coming From?

San Christobal, Venezuela (Caracas Chronicles)

Venezuela as it appears on Caracas Chronicles.

There’s a post from the blog Caracas Chronicles (2/20/14) that’s been making its way around social media, called “The Game Changed in Venezuela Last Night-–and the International Media Is Asleep at the Switch,” written by Francisco Toro. It’s not surprising that it’s being shared widely, because it paints an exceedingly dire picture:

Throughout last night, panicked people told their stories of state-sponsored paramilitaries on motorcycles roaming middle-class neighborhoods, shooting at people and storming into apartment buildings, shooting at anyone who seemed like he might be protesting.

Who is Francisco Toro? He used to report for the New York Times, but stepped down, saying he couldn’t conform to the paper’s conflict-of-interest rules: “Too much of my lifestyle is bound up with opposition activism,” he wrote, adding that “I can’t possibly be neutral” about Venezuelan politics (FAIR Action Alert, 6/6/03).

Despite the Times‘ rules, one doesn’t need to be neutral to be a good reporter–in theory; great journalism has been done by the politically engaged. But how trustworthy is Toro’s actual reporting? Are, in fact, “state-sponsored paramilitaries…shooting at anyone who seemed like he might be protesting”? Two days ago, when Toro posted, the death toll stood at six (Reuters,2/20/14). That’s six deaths too many, certainly, but if paramilitaries were actually shooting at everyone who seemed to be protesting, there would be either very few protesters or the paramilitaries would have to be exceedingly bad shots.

And, in fact, not all the dead are protesters, or killed by pro-government forces. Yesterday, Venezuelanalysis (2/21/14)–a pro-government but independent website–put out a fuller list of people killed in the ongoing clashes, adding up to 10. Three people died after crashing into barricades set up by the opposition, and another person–the brother of a pro-government legislator–was shot while trying to open up a barricaded street. A protester was run over by a motorist trying to drive through a barricade; the driver was reportedly arrested. An intelligence service officer was also arrested in connection with a shooting incident on February 12 that left two people dead–one a protester, the other a government sympathizer.

There is dispute over responsibility for some of the killings, including that of one of the more publicized victims, 22-year-old former beauty contestant Genesis Carmona. But looking at the deaths as a whole, it’s hard to see evidence of what Toro calls a “tropical pogrom.”

The fact that FAIR was writing about Toro’s reporting more than 10 years ago points to the fact that this is not a new story; since Hugo Chavez’s first election in 1998, Venezuela’s government has faced intense opposition, and despite this opposition, the government has repeatedly won elections that have been deemed free and fair (Extra!12/06). US journalists tend to identify with the opposition, which is generally wealthier and better educated–and not incidentally whiter–than government supporters (FAIR Blog2/25/13). This should be borne in mind when reading reports from Venezuela–from whatever source.