Hidden history of Canada’s influence and interference in Guyana

Alcan bauxite mine near MacKenzie, British Guyana. (Henry Hamilton)

Reflecting an extreme imbalance in power, people in Guyana are well informed about Canadian activity in their country, but our media seldom mentions the Caribbean country of 800,000.

As such, it was good to see the CBC and Calgary Herald report on former Alberta Premier Alison Redford’s recent appointment to lead a review of the oil sector in the former British colony, which sits between Venezuela and Suriname on the northeastern tip of South America. The industry friendly Redford will head a team of Canadian consultants to review Exxon Mobil’s massive planned project that has been criticized for low royalty rates. In February Global Witness published “Signed Away: How Exxon’s exploitative deal deprived Guyana of up to US$55 billion.”

Redford’s appointment as “Canadian Queen’s Counsel” is controversial in Guyana. One reason is that it’s unclear, reported Stabroek News, “whether this had been as a result of Ottawa’s funding of the process.”

Ottawa intervened aggressively in a controversial recent election that paralyzed the country politically for months. Canadian officials released multiple statements critical of the previous government and the vote counting.

There was also a Canadian angle to the previous government’s fall. An MP from the governing coalition with Canadian citizenship voted in favor of a no-confidence motion tabled by the opposition. The next day he fled to Toronto, claiming to have received death threats.

Canadian influence is long-standing. In the early 1900s Ottawa tried to annex British Guyana. Despite failing to take over the country, Canada has had significant influence there. The Royal Bank and Bank of Montréal both began operating in the country more than a century ago. In the early 1900s a syndicate led by Canadian railway tycoon William Van Horne built Georgetown’s electric lighting and trolley system with $600,000 from the Bank of Montréal. For its part, the Royal Bank helped US-based Alcoa develop its Guyanese bauxite operations in 1909.

Beyond the economic sphere Canada has long trained Guyana’s military. From 1942 to 1945, Canada garrisoned a company of soldiers and a naval ship in the country. Pressure from Montréal-based Alcan, which inherited Alcoa’s operations, played a central part in Ottawa’s decision to send troops to Guyana even though the official request came from London. In January 1942 Alcan’s Fraser Bruce wrote to External Affairs that “responsible company officials at McKenzie will not feel satisfied with respect to the guarding of the works until imperial or Canadian troops are stationed there.” In a follow-up letter he bluntly referred to “our recent request for white soldiers.” The official request from London made clear the racial nature of Canada’s mission. “Local coloured guards are already provided on the ships, but United Kingdom authorities recognize that there would be an advantage if these guards could be strengthened by a small number of whites and NCOs [non-commissioned officers].”

Alcan was closely enmeshed with colonial policy until Britain lost control over Guyana in 1966. The company, notes The Caribbean Basin: An International History, “thought that because of its contribution to the colonial economy, one of its officials ought to have a seat on the legislative council.” In the early 1950s “Alcan repeatedly informed Governor [Sir Alfred] Savage of its disappointment that he was not appointing any of its people, and Alcan officers thought that governor Savage himself was far too leftist, far too sympathetic to unions and socialists, to be kept in his job by a [British] Conservative government.”

On occasion Alcan personnel directly enabled Britain’s occupation. When anti-colonial upheaval swept the country in 1953 (Guyana was a pseudo colony at the time) the British governor made prominent foreigners special constables, including Charles K. Ward, then public relations officer for Alcan’s Guyanese subsidiary and a former Royal Canadian Navy officer. As one of the few naval officers in the colony, Ward was summoned to serve as liaison with the Royal Navy. “Other Alcan personnel” notes Global Mission: The Story of Alcan “were required to patrol the dark city streets by night to guard against troubles.”

As Guyana’s leading trade partner for many years Canada benefited from the unequal international division of labour created by colonialism. Guyana’s bauxite industry provides a stark example of this inequity. In 1970 the price per ton of bauxite ore was G$18, G$160 for alumina and G$1000 for aluminum ingot. According to M. Shahabuddeen in The Nationalisation of Guyana’s Bauxite: the Case of Alcan, “the smelting and semi-fabrication stages being in Canada the result was that Guyana would obtain royalties and taxes on G$72, being the value of four tons of bauxite, while Canada would derive benefit from G$1000, being the value of the equivalent of one ton of aluminum ingot.”

While Guyana lost the value-added components of the aluminum process to Canada its workforce fell victim to the worst aspects of aluminum production. The home of Alcan’s mine, McKenzie, was the worst sort of company town. Well into the 1960s “the workers live[d] in a depressed slum area to the north called, ‘the village.’ Staff members live[d] in the plush area of Waatooka, with exclusive clubs and social amenities such as a golf club.” Those not living in the town needed to present passes to enter Mackenzie.

Alcan’s operations didn’t escape the notice of social justice activists. The Student Society of the University of Guyana organized a May 1966 demonstration in front of Alcan’s office and the Canadian High Commission (as well as a Royal Bank office). ASCRIA, the country’s foremost black nationalist movement, explained: “They [the workers] have, until recently, been bound to live in the most stratified community in Guyana, with its South African and USA idea of neighbourhood living and of white supremacy. The physical arrangements were such also that the whole imperialist machinery could be clearly seen: the extraction of the ore, the processing and added value, the shipping away of wealth, the importation of raw chemicals, the small group of expatriate decision-makers, the tokenism, the social gaps, the misery of the poorer districts, the hilltop luxury of the white population, the buying out of leaders, the divide and rule tactics, the process of exploitation which they could feel in their skin.”

From the early 1980s Canada pushed neoliberal economics in Guyana. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) was involved in Guyana’s first structural adjustment loan from the World Bank designed “to turn over significant sectors of the economy to the private sector, both local and foreign.” The 1982 Globe and Mail article continued, “the government denies that the program exists but copies of the agreement are widely circulated in Georgetown. … They [Canadian officials] are reluctant to discuss the effort to impose conditions, however, since it is apparently CIDA’s first foray into this sensitive area of internal economics.”

After refusing to expand this initial structural adjustment program, Guyana was blacklisted by the international financial institutions in the mid-1980s. At the same time Canadian bilateral assistance declined from $3.15 million in 1983-84 to $700,000 in 1985-86. By the late 1980s pressure from Ottawa and the international financial institutions was growing on Guyana to adopt a series of more drastic economic reforms. Ottawa chaired the Guyana Support Group and gave $60 million to a highly controversial IMF structural adjustment program.

The Canadian money was tied to Guyana’s adherence to IMF macroeconomic prescriptions. Frank Jackman, the Canadian high commissioner to Guyana, said “there is great admiration within the government of Canada for the steps that are being taken here, and for the budgetary moves, albeit unpopular, that have been introduced.” Jackman claimed Guyana was setting a “precedent” for other indebted Third World countries and told the Guyanese to “take heart” since the austerity package would encourage Canadian investments. The people failed to “take heart” and instead demonstrators threw stones at the Canadian high commission office.

After the structural adjustment programs in the 1980s some Canadian investment did flow into Guyana. Part of this foreign investment led to a terrible tragedy. In August 1995 the tailings dam at Québec-based Cambior’s Omai mine in Guyana failed. More than 1.2 billion litres of cyanide-laced sludge spilled into the Essequibo River, the country’s main waterway. Huge numbers of fish were killed and thousands of riverbank inhabitants temporarily lost their livelihood. The area was declared a disaster zone. To sidestep possible legal claims stemming from the spill the company paid off local fisherman. In November 1998 This Magazine reported: “The fishermen, who were mostly illiterate, were required to sign forms absolving Omai of any future claims in exchange for $1.50 each. About two weeks later, it was reported that [Canadian High Commissioner] Louis Gignac had pressured Guyanese Prime Minister Samuel Hinds to reduce the scope and duration of the government-sponsored commission of inquiry investigating the spill. In a closed-door meeting on September 8 in Georgetown, and later in a follow up letter leaked to the [Montréal] Gazette, he urged the Prime Minister to limit expert testimony and wrap up the inquiry in thirty days.”

Canadians who want this country to be a force for good in the world need to pay more attention to Ottawa’s influence in this small South American country. We must hold our corporations, politicians and diplomats accountable to at least the standards we demand inside Canada.

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Canadian troops in Saudi Arabia a legacy of support for Iraq war

Prince Sultan Air base Riyadh

The revelation that Canadian soldiers have been in Saudi Arabia for 17 years highlights Canada’s ties to the repressive monarchy, contribution to the Iraq war and hollowness of Canadian foreign policy mythology.

Recently researcher Anthony Fenton tweeted, “raise your hand if you knew that there was a ‘Detachment’ of Canadian soldiers serving under US auspices operating AWACS spy planes out of a Saudi Arabian air base since the war on Iraq began in 2003 to THE PRESENT DAY.”

The Canadian soldiers stationed at Prince Sultan Air base near Riyadh represent another example of Canada’s military ties to the authoritarian, belligerent monarchy. Canadian naval vessels are engaged in multinational patrols with their Saudi counterparts in the region; Saudi Air Force pilots have trained in Alberta and Saskatchewan; Montreal-based flight simulator company CAE has trained Saudi pilots in numerous locales; Canadian-made rifles and armoured vehicles have been shipped to the monarchy, etc.

According to DND, Canada’s deployment to Saudi Arabia began on February 27, 2003. That’s four weeks before the massive US-led invasion of Iraq. The Canadians stationed in Riyadh were almost certainly dispatched to support the US invasion and occupation.

In another example of Canadian complicity in a war Ottawa ostensibly opposed, it was recently reported that Canadian intelligence agencies hid their disagreement with politicized US intelligence reports on Iraq. According to “Getting it Right: Canadian Intelligence Assessments on Iraq, 2002-2003”, Canada’s intelligence agencies mostly concluded that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction, which was the justification Washington gave for invading Iraq. While CSIS delivered a report to their US counterparts claiming Iraq was seeking nuclear weapons capabilities, more serious analyses, reported the Canadian Press, were “classified ‘Canadian Eyes Only’ in order to avoid uncomfortable disagreements with the U.S. intelligence community which would exacerbate the sensitivities affecting relations at the political level.”

As Richard Sanders has detailed, Canada supported the US-led invasion of Iraq in many ways: Dozens of Canadian troops were integrated in US units fighting in Iraq; US warplanes enroute to that country refueled in Newfoundland; Canadian fighter pilots participated in “training” missions in Iraq; Three different Canadian generals oversaw tens of thousands of international troops there; Canadian aid flowed to the country in support of US policy; With Canadian naval vessels leading maritime interdiction efforts off the coast of Iraq, Ottawa had legal opinion suggesting it was technically at war with that country.

As such, some have concluded Canada was the fifth or sixth biggest contributor to the US-led war. But the Jean Chrétien government didn’t do what the Bush administration wanted above all else, which was to publicly endorse the invasion by joining the “coalition of the willing”. This wasn’t because he distrusted pre-war US intelligence or because of any moral principle. Rather, the Liberal government refused to join the “coalition of the willing” because hundreds of thousands of Canadians took to the streets against the war, particularly in Quebec. With the biggest demonstrations taking place in Montréal and Quebecers strongly opposed to the war, the federal government feared that openly endorsing the invasion would boost the sovereignist Parti Québecois vote in the next provincial election.

Over the past 17 years this important, if partial, victory won by antiwar activists has been widely distorted and mythologized. The recent National Film Board documentary High Wire continues the pattern. It purportedly “examines the reasons that Canada declined to take part in the 2003 US-led military mission in Iraq.” But, High Wire all but ignores Canada’s military contribution to the war and the central role popular protest played in the “coalition of the willing” decision, focusing instead on an enlightened leader who simply chose to do the right thing.

The revelation that Canadian troops have been stationed in Saudi Arabia for 17 years highlights our military ties to the Saudi monarchy and warfare in the Middle East. It also contradicts benevolent Canada foreign policy mythology.

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Liberal ‘feminist’ policy funds Haitian police (for real)

An important component of Trudeau’s international branding has been his government’s purported “feminist foreign policy”. A recent aid contract to Haiti highlights the hollowness of these Liberal claims.

Under its Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP) the Trudeau government has tendered a $12.5 million contract in operational support to the Haitian police. According to Buyandsell.gc.ca, “the Support for a Professional and Inclusive Police in Haiti (SPIP) Project will contribute to 3 of Canada’s 6 Feminist International Assistance Policyaction areas: (i) gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, (ii) inclusive governance, and (iii) peace and security. By strengthening the HNP’s [Haitian national police] institutional and operational capacities, the project will help stabilize the country politically and socially, and maintain peace and public safety in a fragile country, which are essential to sustainable development in Haiti.”

One must employ an extremely elastic definition of “feminism” to claim funding the Haitian police especially benefits women. Haiti’s Canadian trained and funded police force is what has sustained the repressive, corrupt and illegitimate Jovenel Moïse as President. Since a popular uprising began in July 2018 against Moïse the police have killed dozens, probably over 100 people, with nary any criticism from the Trudeau government.

But this is not the first time the Liberals have used funding under its Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP) to pursue policies that have little to do with any serious definition of feminism.

Along with praise for Moïse, Global Affairs’ webpage about “Canada’s international assistance in Haiti” focuses on gender equity and during a February 2018 visit international development minister, Marie-Claude Bibeau, launched the first project under FIAP’s Women’s Voice and Leadership Program. “It’s a new president and we want to support him,” Bibeau told CBC before leaving on a trip that included a meeting with Haiti’s illegitimate president.

In June 2017 the Trudeau government released its FIAP, which is supposed to direct bilateral aid towards gender focused initiatives. Sixteen months later Chrystia Freeland convened a first ever Women Foreign Ministers’ Meeting with representatives from about 20 countries. At the September 2018 gathering in Montréal Freeland announced that the Liberals would appoint an Ambassador for Women Peace and Security, which Trudeau later said would “help advance Canada’s feminist foreign policy.”

But, the Liberals’ “viewed ‘feminist’ as a branding tool rather than a realignment of power relations”, noted Rafia Zakaria in a Nation story headlined “Canada’s ‘Feminist’ Foreign Aid Is a Fraud.” The Liberals commitment to feminist internationalism was paper-thin.

In July 2019 Ottawa joined Washington as the only other government to vote against a UN Economic and Social Council resolution stating, “the Israeli occupation remains a major obstacle for Palestinian women and girls with regard to the fulfillment of their rights.” As the Liberals touted their “feminist foreign policy”, they sold armoured vehicles to the Saudis and deepened ties to other highly misogynistic Gulf monarchies. They also aligned with anti-woman Jihadists against a secular (if repressive) government in Syria.

Disregarding their promise to rein in Canadian mining abuses abroad also undercuts the Liberals’ “feminist foreign policy”. Sexual assault often plagues communities near Canadian-run mines and as the primary caregivers, women are disproportionately burdened by the ecological destruction caused by mining. At the same time, most mining jobs go to men.

Trudeau touted right-wing allies for being pro woman while seeking to get rid of leftist governments with stronger feminist credentials. The PM lauded far right Colombian president Ivan Duque for adopting “a gender-equal cabinet.” At the same time the Liberals sought to oust a Nicaraguan government in which women held more than half of all cabinet positions and 40 percent of the legislature. Canada’s feminist foreign minister also backed the overthrow of a Bolivian government, which adopted a series of legislative measures that greatly advanced women’s representation in politics.

Two days before launching FIAP the Liberals announced their defence policy review, which included a plan to increase military spending by 70% over a decade. The government committed $62 billion more to the military — already five times the aid budget — over 20 years.

The Canadian Forces is a highly patriarchal institution. Women represented 15.4% of military personnel in 2018. In 2015 former Supreme Court judge Marie Deschamps found a “culture of misogyny” in the CF “hostile to women.” Her officially sponsored investigation concluded, “the overall perception is that a ‘boys club’ culture still prevails in the armed forces.” Four years later Deschamps told a House of Commons defence committee there had been little progressin eliminating sexism within the CF.

Along with increasing military spending, the Liberals promoted the arms industry and their international sales. A male-dominated sector, Canadian weapons were sold to a number of violent, misogynist, governments. The Liberals deployed Canadian Forces on a number of aggressive missions. In Iraq, they boasted about killing a person with a three-kilometre sniper shot. A purveyor of violence, the Canadian military is the institutional embodiment of ‘toxic masculinity’. A genuine “feminist foreign policy” would seek to rein in — not expand — the CF.

The Liberals’ so called “feminist foreign policy” is another example of their ‘talking left and acting right’ agenda that is an insult to Canadian feminists, as well as all those who believe in a progressive foreign policy.

 

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Filed under Canada in Haiti, Haiti, Justin Trudeau

Green leadership candidates to debate foreign policy

Debate is the lifeblood of democracy and a good one is fun to watch or listen to. Hopefully an upcoming Green Party debate will accomplish that while simultaneously strengthening progressives’ foreign policy expectations and infrastructure.

On September 10, Rabble and the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute are organizing a Green Party leadership debate on “Canada’s Place in the World.” Moderated by journalist Judy Rebick, the event will allow people to “hear candidates’ views on Palestinian rights, Venezuela, NATO, the global climate crisis, as well as the international mining and arms industries. Candidates will also address the global pandemic, Donald Trump, tensions with China as well as the global struggle against anti-Blackness and Canada’s second consecutive failure to win a seat on the UN Security Council.”

The Greens, like other parties, generally treat foreign policy as an afterthought. There were two pages on international affairs at the end of their 82-page election platform last year. Of nine Green leadership candidates only Dimitri Lascaris, Andrew West and Amita Kuttner appear to have mentioned international affairs in their policy platforms.

When the Greens do engage on international issues, they are all over the place. Resolutions passed at conventions are generally pretty good and one of the three Green MPs, Paul Manly, has signed the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute’s call for a “fundamental reassessment of Canadian foreign policy”, released following Canada’s second consecutive defeat in its bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council. Leadership front runner, Lascaris, has put forward a bold foreign policy platform that includes a call for Canada to withdraw from NATO and to reduce military spending by 50%. In 2011 outgoing Green leader Elizabeth May was the only MP to vote against Canada’s bombing of Libya.

But, May has also taken many pro-imperial positions. As I detailed a year ago in “Green leader May supports same old pro-imperialist foreign policies”, she’s lent her name to numerous initiatives targeting Iran and Venezuela organized by Irwin Cotler, a vicious anti-Palestinian who aggressively criticizes ‘enemy’ states while largely ignoring rights violations committed by Canada and the US. Even if she’s come around somewhat on the subject, May forced a special party convention in 2016 because she refused to accept the clearly stated will of party members to support “the use of divestment, boycott and sanctions (BDS) that are targeted to those sectors of Israel’s economy and society which profit from the ongoing occupation of the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories].”

If politicians aren’t under constant pressure from social movements and progressive organizations they tend to follow the dominant media’s depiction of international affairs or gravitate towards individuals like Cotler, who no progressive should follow. In that sense May’s positions reflect the left’s failures as much as her own. If the left was as organized regarding international issues as on domestic affairs it’s unlikely she would have participated in Cotler’s press conferences targeting Venezuela and Iran.

The Rabble and Canadian Foreign Policy Institute leadership debate needs to be viewed within this optic. It’s about raising expectations and strengthening the Left’s foreign policy ecosystem.

Independent Jewish Voices and Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East took a step in that direction. They recently surveyed the candidates on their Middle East policy. (Lascaris received top marks and Meryam Haddad was in second place while the top fundraiser in the leadership race, Annamie Paul, received bottom marks.)

The CJPME/IJV survey ups the left’s game on foreign policy. But this type of internationalist intervention needs to be adopted more broadly. It would be great if the newly formed Canadian Latin America Alliance had the resources to do a similar survey on Venezuela, Bolivia and Honduras or if Solidarity Québec Haiti could force the candidates to take a position on Canada’s role in Haiti (Lascaris participated in a discussion held by Solidarity Québec Haiti member Jean Saint-Vil). We also need groups hounding the candidates on Canada’s international mining behemoth, large government-backed arms export industry and the legality of Canadian sanctions.

Any individual seeking to lead a major political party should expect to be pressed to articulate their positions on Canada’s foreign policy. The Green leadership debate is an opportunity to ‘centre’ a left discussion of Canadian foreign policy.

Every progressive in this country should be eager to hear what the Green candidates have to say about “Canada’s place in the world”.

 

If you want to vote in the Green Party leadership election you have to become a member of the party by September 3.  It costs $10. 

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Canada’s regime change efforts in Nicaragua rife with hypocrisy

A woman stands near a burning barricade holding Nicaraguan flag, April 2018

Canada is supporting US efforts to overthrow Nicaragua’s government.

A recently leaked USAID document highlights “the breadth and complexity of the US government’s plan to interfere in Nicaragua’s internal affairs up to and after its presidential election in 2021.” The stated aim is to replace president Daniel Ortega with “a government committed to the rule of law, civil liberties, and a free civil society.” HighlightingWashington’s aim, Ben Norton notes, “the 14-page USAID document employed the word ‘transition’ 102 times, including nine times on the first page alone.”

Recently Canada’s representative to the Organization of American States, Hugh Adsett, joined five other countries in calling on the OAS’ Secretary General to organize a special session focused on human rights and democracy in Nicaragua. At the recent OAS meeting Adsett criticized Nicaragua, saying the Covid-19 pandemic “should not be used to weaken democracy”.

Ottawa has supported a number of OAS resolutions and initiatives targeting Nicaragua’s government. Along with the US, Paraguay, Jamaica and Argentina, Canada was part of the 2019 OAS High-Level Diplomatic Commission on Nicaragua, which Managua blocked from entering the country. The commission claimed there was an “alteration of constitutional order that seriously affects the democratic order” in Nicaragua. But, the group failed to win majority support at the OAS General Assembly.

Ottawa has severed aid and sanctioned officials from a government former US national security adviser John Bolton listed as part of a “troika of tyranny” (Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua). Ortega’s government is part of the Venezuela-led Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America (ALBA), which is a response to North American capitalist domination of the hemisphere.

Since the Sandinistas’ won power in 2007 poverty rates dropped substantially in the nation of six million. The government expanded access to electricity in rural areas and doubled the proportion of electricity from renewable sources to over half. Access to drinking water has increased as have health indicators improved. Women’s role in parliament grew sharply and Nicaragua’s murder rate remained a fraction of its northern neighbours. According to a July 2019 UN report, there were 8.3 murderers per 100,000 Nicaraguans compared with nearly 70 murders per 100,000 in El Salvador and Honduras.

A little more than a year after his third consecutive election victory a protest movement challenged Ortega’s presidency. Ostensibly what unleashed the uprising was a social security reform pushed by the International Monetary Fund. But, pension benefits were largely maintained with the government offloading most of the cost on to employers. Despite a relatively working-class friendly reform, many student organizations and NGOs aligned with the major employer federation, the wealthiest Nicaraguans and the conservative Catholic church to oppose the government. Many of these groups were financed and trained by the US government’s National Endowment for Democracy, USAID and Freedom House, which is close to the CIA. The movement was greatly influenced by Washington, which has long been powerful in the small, impoverished, country.

The protests quickly turned violent. At least 22 police officers were killed and as many as 300 lost their lives in politically related violence during 2018. The North American media and internationally connected NGOs blamed the government for all the rights violations. But, this was absurd, as the death toll of police highlight. It was also public knowledge that opposition rebels had been attacking government supporters for years. In March 2016 the New York Times published a long sympathetic story headlined “Ortega vs. the Contras: Nicaragua Endures an ’80s Revival” about a small number of anti-government rebels targeting police stations and Sandinistas in rural areas.

Still, Canadian officials blamed the government — either implicitly or directly — for the violence. Between April 23 and July 18, 2018, Global Affairs put out at least four press releases critical of the situation in Nicaragua. Chrystia Freeland’s statements became steadily stronger with the former foreign minister eventually demanding an immediate end to the “violence, repression, arbitrary detentions and human rights violations” and for “the government of Nicaragua to help create the conditions for safe, peaceful, and constructive discussions.” Subsequently Canada’s foreign minister questioned Ortega’s democratic legitimacy. In June 2019 Freeland declared, “Canada will continue to stand with the people of Nicaragua and their legitimate demands for democracy and accountability.” But, Ortega won the election in a landslide and it’s hard to imagine that he suddenly lost all support.

In March 2016 the New York Times reported, “Mr. Ortega enjoys strong support among the poor” while eight months later The Guardian noted he “cemented popular support among poorer Nicaraguans.” At the end of 2016 Ortega was re-elected with 72% of the vote in an election some in the opposition boycotted.

The Liberals raised the conflict in Nicaragua in international forums. At a Women Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Montréal in September 2018 Freeland said “Nicaragua” was one of “the pressing issues that concern us as foreign ministers.” The “situation in Nicaragua” was discussed between Freeland and foreign minister Aloysio Nunes at the third Canada-Brazil Strategic Partnership Dialogue a month later.

In August 2018 the Liberals officially severed aid to Nicaragua. Canadian funding for five major government backed projects was withdrawn.

Ten months later Canada sanctioned nine Nicaraguan government officials, including ministers and the president of the National Assembly. Individuals’ assets were frozen and Canadians were prohibited from dealing with said persons. The sanctions were adopted in co-ordination with Washington. “United States and Canada Announce Financial Sanctions to Address the Ongoing Repression in Nicaragua”, noted the US State Department’s release.

The Liberals’ stance towards Nicaragua contrasts sharply with its words and actions towards its Central American neighbour Honduras. While Canada condemned Ortega, severed aid and sanctioned officials, it maintained friendly relations and aid spending after Juan Orlando Hernandez defied the constitution by running for a second term as president and then brazenly stole the election.

The Liberals regime change efforts in Nicaragua are part of a broader pro-US/corporate policy in the hemisphere rife with hypocrisy.

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Filed under Justin Trudeau, Latin America

Palestinian envoy fails to criticize Canada

 

With a representative like this Palestinians might be better off with no envoy in Canada. A recent profile of the Palestinian Authority’s agent in Ottawa confirms the PA is more a colonial tool than a voice for an oppressed people.

In the Hill Times interview Hala Abou-Hassira refuses to answer whether Canada’s anti-Palestinian voting record at the UN had harmed its bid for a seat on the Security Council. Abou-Hassira responded by saying she didn’t know how different member states voted but hoped Canada would win a seat in the future. She even refused to criticize the Canadian government for repeatedly isolating itself against world opinion on Palestinian rights. “Abou-Hassira didn’t offer a position on Canada’s voting record, instead saying Canada has taken ‘positive steps towards peace in the region’”, reported the Hill Times. “Our struggle at the United Nations is not an issue of counting votes, it is a struggle for freedom,” she said.

According to research compiled by Karen Rodman of Just Peace Advocates, since 2000 Canada voted against 166 General Assembly resolutions critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. Canada’s competitors for the two Security Council seats, Ireland and Norway, didn’t vote against any of these resolutions. Additionally, Ireland and Norway voted yes 251 and 249 times respectively on resolutions related to Palestinian rights during this period. Canada managed 87 yes votes, but only two since 2010.

While the Palestinian Authority’s representative in Ottawa deemed it politically unwise to point out the obvious, a slew of officials and commentators have highlighted the importance of the Palestinian question in Canada’s loss. After the vote Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, told the Jerusalem Post, “we are disappointed that Canada didn’t make it, both because we have close ties with the country and because of the campaign that the Palestinians ran against Canada.” In “UN snub the latest in Liberals’ rancid record” Toronto Star columnist Rick Salutin noted that Canada’s Security Council defeat was all about Canada’s anti-Palestinian record. He wrote, “there is one and only one reason, IMO [in my opinion], for the resounding defeat of Canada’s bid for a Security Council seat at the UN: Palestine.”

Canada’s voting record at the UN was at the heart of the grassroots No Canada on the UN Security Council campaign. An open letter launching the campaign from the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute noted, “since coming to power the Trudeau government has voted against more than fifty UN resolutions upholding Palestinian rights backed by the overwhelming majority of member states.” A subsequent open letter was signed by over 100 civil society groups and dozens of prominent individuals urging countries to vote against Canada’s bid for a Security Council seat due to its anti-Palestinian positions. That letter organized by Just Peace Advocates stated, “the Canadian government for at least a decade and a half has consistently isolated itself against world opinion on Palestinian rights at the UN. … Continuing this pattern, Canada ‘sided with Israel by voting No’ on most UN votes on the Question of Palestine in December. Three of these were Canada’s votes on Palestinian Refugees, on UNRWA and on illegal settlements, each distinguishing Canada as in direct opposition to the ‘Yes’ votes of Ireland and Norway.”

Just Peace Advocates organized 1,300 individuals to email all UN ambassadors asking them to vote for Ireland and Norway instead of Canada for the Security Council. In a sign of the campaign’s impact, Canada’s permanent representative to the UN Marc André Blanchard responded with a letter to all UN ambassadors defending Canada’s policy on Palestinian rights.

There’s no question that Canada’s anti-Palestinian voting record harmed its Security Council bid. The only serious question is how big of a role did it play. For their part, Palestinians have an interest in exaggerating, not downplaying, the impact Canada’s anti-Palestinian voting record had on its Security Council loss.

But the PA is highly dependent on Israel, the US, Canada, and other countries’ “aid”. Over the past decade tens (possibly hundreds) of millions of dollars in Canadian aid money has gone to training and supporting a Palestinian security force that serves as an arm of Israel’s occupation. The PA has been labeled the “subcontractor of the Occupation”.

Abou-Hassira’s refusal to criticize this country’s UN voting record should be viewed as a manifestation of Canada’s anti-Palestinianism. Ottawa has helped build a political apparatus so removed from the needs and desires of the long-colonized Palestinians that it is unable to criticize a country for repeatedly isolating itself against world opinion on largely symbolic UN votes.

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Does Trudeau need an intervention? Venezuela plan a path of misery and failure

imagesJustin Trudeau requires an intervention. A friend needs to tell him his obsession with Venezuela has led him down a path of misery, destruction and failure.

During a call on Monday with Chilean president Sebastián Piñera Trudeau again raised “the situation in Venezuela”, according to the official readout. Amidst massive demonstrations against Pinera in October, Trudeau also called to discuss Venezuela as he did in February 2018 and previously. Trudeau has also discussed Venezuela with the US, Colombian and other hemispheric presidents on multiple occasions.

Further afield, the PM has talked to the leaders of Japan, France, Spain, Austria, Ireland and Italy as well as the International Monetary Fund and European Union to convince them to join Canada’s campaign against Venezuela. A search of the prime minister’s press releases found 144 references to Venezuela. Conversely, there are four mentions of Bolivia, six of El Salvador and 31 of Venezuela’s much larger neighbour Brazil (14 of which are related to the 2016 Olympics/Paralympics in Brazil and others to meetings about Venezuela).

Trudeau’s Venezuela obsession is shared throughout the government. Global Affairs has put out hundreds of statements and tweets about Venezuela over the past three years. On Friday foreign minister François-Philippe Champagne released a statement and tweeted at Juan Guaidó a “call for the establishment of a transitional government in Venezuela.” In response, US journalist Ben Norton tweeted, “Canada’s woke Liberal government will condescendingly correct you for using the word ‘mankind’ while simultaneously trying to organize a right-wing coup to overthrow Venezuela’s democratically elected leftist government. Intersectional imperialism.”

A recently released Access to Information request highlights Canada’s role in Juan Guaidó’s declaring himself president. Fourteen days before the new head of the opposition-dominated National Assembly declared himself interim president on January 23, 2019, then foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland had a phone meeting with Guaidó. According to a partly redacted Access to Information request submitted by Canadian Foreign Policy Institute fellow Tamara Lorincz, the talking points for the conversation reveal that “with Canada’s support, Juan Guaidó was invited to deliver a presentation on this [self-declaration] at the Lima Group National Co-ordinators meeting on December 19”, 2018. The documents confirm the central role Canadian diplomats played in the US-backed plan to ratchet up tensions by claiming a relatively marginal National Assembly member was Venezuela’s president. At the time the Associated Press reported on Canada’s “key role” in building international diplomatic support for Guaidó while the Canadian Press noted that Canadian diplomats spent “months” coordinating the plan with the hard-line opposition.

In the fall of 2017, the government hired a pro-corporate, pro-Washington, former diplomat to coordinate their bid to oust Venezuela’s government. Canadian taxpayers have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to Special Advisor on Venezuela Allan Culham, who was hostile to Hugo Chavez during his time as Canadian ambassador to Venezuela from 2002 to 2005.

But, the effort is a failure. As Arnold August recently pointed out, the pro-Guaidó international coalition is fraying with Guaidó’s National Assembly mandate expiring in a few months. Similarly, top Democrats are increasingly stressing the failure of US policy. Yet the Trudeau government doesn’t appear to have any plan to get out of this political downward spiral.

The campaign to overthrow Venezuela’s government is unprecedented in Canadian foreign policy history. But, so is the reaction. Venezuela’s public lobbying contributed to Canada’s defeat in its bid for a seat on the Security Council in June. On Thursday Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza will present on “Canadian Interference in Venezuela.” As this article points out, a sitting foreign minister for a country of 30 million talking directly to Canadians about Ottawa’s bid to overthrow his government is unprecedented in Canadian foreign policy history. Adding further intrigue to this exciting event, Pink Floyd founder, Roger Waters, will also be making an appearance.

While the hypocrisy of the Liberals is not unprecedented, the campaign against Venezuela is startling in its imperialist pretensions. Across the region the Trudeau government has largely ignored human rights violations committed by pro corporate/Washington governments. They’ve said little about hundreds of killings by regimes they backed in Haiti, Honduras, Bolivia, Chile and Colombia. Nor have they said much about flagrant violations of the constitutions or democratic norms in Haiti, Brazil and Honduras.

A few brave and principled Canadians need to take Trudeau aside and tell him his Venezuela obsession can only lead to more embarrassment and a permanent stain on this country’s reputation. Is doing Donald Trump’s dirty work worth it?

 

You can register for the Thursday webinar with Venezuela’s Foreign Minister on “Canadian Interference in Venezuela” here.

 

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Canadian Left rejects Organization of American States

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When people say “America” everyone understands they mean one country, the USA. In a similar fashion it is time for all to understand that the Organization of American States (OAS) serves the interests of that country.

In a recent webinar on “Bolivia’s fight to restore democracy and Canada’s role” organized by the Canadian Latin America Alliance and Canadian Foreign Policy Institute, Matthew Green forthrightly criticized Canadian policy in that country and the hemisphere. The NDP MP said “Canada is complicit in the attack on indigeneity in Bolivia” and that “we are an imperialist, extractivist country.” He added that “we ought not be a part of a pseudo-imperialist group like the Lima Group” and criticized “Canada’s involvement in the OAS.”

Green’s statements build on a Jack Harris, the NDP foreign affairs critic, recent comment that the OAS was a “tool of the United States” with “undue influence on other members.” In a Hill Times story titled “NDP, Green MPs raise concern over Canada’s trust in OAS election monitoring in Bolivia” Paul Manly also criticized the OAS. The Green MP said the Organization is “not a credible, impartial player when it comes to leftist governments in South America. It was established to advance U.S. interests.”

The head of the OAS, Luis Almagro, is promoting extreme pro-Donald Trump positions. Recently, the OAS released a statement condemning protesters in Bolivia calling for elections. The coup government there has repeatedly postponed elections after the country’s first ever indigenous president was ousted partly as a result of a highly politicized OAS criticism of last October’s election. As the Onion recently satirized about Bolivia, the best way to ensure there are no “electoral irregularities” is to avoid elections altogether.

In Nicaragua the OAS has backed those seeking to oust Daniel Ortega’s social democratic government. They’ve repeatedly condemned the Sandinista government, prompting Nicaragua to refuse the OAS entry to the country. At the same time the OAS has largely ignored Nicaragua’s Central American neighbour even though Juan Orlando Hernandez defied the Honduras constitution by running for a second term as president and then brazenly stole the election.

In Haiti Almagro has aggressively championed corrupt, repressive and widely despised President Jovenel Moïse. The Secretary General of the OAS recently stated that Moïse’s mandate expired in February 2022, not February 2021 as most Haitians want and constitutional experts have argued. There is also some evidence to suggest the OAS is setting up to support Moïse’s effort to rig the elections. Recently, Haiti’s entire nine person electoral council resigned in response to Moïse’s pressure and the OAS continues to engage with a process that almost all political actors in Haiti reject.

Haiti’s new foreign minister Claude Joseph (representative of a prime minister appointed extra-constitutionally) recently visited Almagro to discuss Moïse’s mandate and elections. During the trip to Washington Joseph also met with the anti-Venezuela Lima Group ambassadors.

In response Haïti Liberté’s Kim Ives noted, “what could be more ironic and ludicrous than Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse accusing Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro of being ‘illegitimate and dictatorial’ while demanding that he immediately ‘hold free, fair, and transparent general elections’? But that is exactly the position of the Lima Group, a collection of 15 Latin American states and Canada, which Haiti joined in January 2020.”

Almagro is an extremist on Venezuela. Three years ago the former Uruguayan Foreign Minister’s actions as head of the OAS prompted Almagro’s past boss, former Uruguayan president José Mujica, to condemn his bias against the Venezuelan government. In 2017 Almagro appointed long-time critic of Hugo Chavez and vicious anti-Palestinian Canadian politician, Irwin Cotler, and two others to a panel that launched the process of bringing Venezuela to the International Criminal Court. In a Real News Network interview Max Blumenthal described “the hyperbolic and propagandistic nature” of the press conference where the 400-page Canadian-backed report was released at the OAS in Washington. At the event Cotler ridiculously claimed Venezuela’s “government itself was responsible for the worst ever humanitarian crisis in the region.”

A year later Almagro mused about an invasion of Venezuela. He stated, “as for military intervention to overthrow the Nicolas Maduro regime, I think we should not rule out any option … diplomacy remains the first option but we can’t exclude any action.”

The OAS receives between 44% and 57% of its budget from Washington. While it’s now the organization’s second largestcontributor, Canada was not part of the OAS for its first 42 years. For decades Canada’s foreign-policy establishment wavered on joining the US-dominated organization. Not long after signing the free-trade agreement with the US, Brian Mulroney’s government joined the OAS in 1990.

The Matthew Green, Paul Manly and Jack Harris criticism of the OAS deserve a wide airing. All opponents of US bullying in the Americas should push for Canada to withdraw from the Organization of American States.

 

 

In an historic event on Thursday, August 20, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza will discuss “Canadian Interference in Venezuela.” You can register for the webinar here.

 

 

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Historic event with Venezuelan Foreign Minister on “Canadian Interference”

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Join an historic event on Thursday, August 20. The foreign minister of a country of 30 million that’s had diplomatic relations with Canada for seven decades will discuss Ottawa’s efforts to overthrow his government.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza will talk about “Canadian Interference in Venezuela.” The event promotion reads:

“Nearly two years ago, the Trudeau government threw their wholehearted support behind a US-backed plan to declare an opposition politician, Juan Guiadó, ‘Interim President’ of Venezuela.   Since then, the Trump administration has orchestrated numerous coup attempts and appealed for an army mutiny against Nicolás Maduro. It has also adopted extreme unilateral coercive economic measures against the country. The Canadian government has sanctioned Venezuelan officials and built up an oppositional international coalition.

“Trump and Trudeau’s sanctions and efforts to stoke a revolt are having an ever-greater impact on ordinary Venezuelans livelihood and ability to feed themselves. At the same time, Guaidó’s chances of taking power are slimmer today than at any point since he claimed the presidency. “Still, Trudeau supports Washington’s regime change efforts.

“Is there a limit to what the Liberals will support?”

One reason Canadians have an inaccurate view of their country’s role in the world is that other countries’ politicians generally avoid publicly challenging Canadian policy. They do so for a series of reasons, some of which are tied to Canada’s somewhat unique position in global politics. Canada is a G7 nation that has been particularly close to the two main empires of the past two centuries. Yet it has never had formal colonies (First Nations aside) and has almost always played second or third fiddle to acts of US or British aggression. Partly because it doesn’t get criticized internationally and the Canadian Left prefers to focus on US foreign policy, Ottawa has a comparatively clean reputation. As such, it’s generally not considered strategic for any specific government to highlight Canada’s bad behavior.

There are few, if any, historic equivalents to Arreaza’s planned talk. I’m unaware, for instance, of a foreign politician delivering a lecture at a Canadian university critical of Canada’s international policy. Here are the closest equivalents I came up with.

In September 1956 Egyptian leader Gamal Nasser condemned Ottawa for selling Israel F86 jets a month before invading its neighbor. He declared, “the supplying of Israel with arms despite her repeated aggressions against Arab frontiers is considered a hostile act aimed at the whole Arab nation.” In the lead-up to the 1967 Israeli invasion Nasser again complained about Ottawa’s “biased stand in favour of Israel.”

In 1960 Congolese independence leader Patrice Lumumba told a crowd he went to Canada but was “disappointed to find that although honest, Canada was just another imperialist country.” A decade later Salvador Allende’s Minister of Finance criticized Canada’s “banker’s attitude” after Export Development Canada refused to finance Canadian exports to Chile. Ottawa did so as part of a broader US-led effort to isolate the socialist government.

Days after I poured fake blood on foreign affairs minister Pierre Pettigrew’s hands and yelled “Pettigrew lies, Haitians die” during a June 2005 press conference on Haiti, ousted president Jean Bertrand Aristide was asked about the incident. In an interview in South Africa Aristide told journalist Naomi Klein the Canadian government had Haitian “blood on its hands.”

In a similar vein popular opposition senator Moise Jean-Charles has repeatedly criticized Canada’s role in the 2004 coup against Aristide. At a major 2013 demonstration against President Michel Martelly Jean-Charles told Haiti Liberté, “we are asking the Americans, French, and Canadians to come and collect their errand boy because he cannot lead the country any more.”

After Canada backed the 2009 military coup against Manuel Zelaya, the ousted Honduran foreign minister told TeleSur that Ottawa and Washington were providing “oxygen” to the military government. Patricia Rodas called on Canada and the US to suspend aid to the de facto regime. During an official visit to Mexico with Zelaya, Rodas asked Mexican president Felipe Calderon, who was about to meet Prime Minister Stephen Harper and US President Barack Obama, to lobby Ottawa and Washington on their behalf. “We are asking [Calderon] to be an intermediary for our people with the powerful countries of the world, for example, the US and at this moment Canada, which have lines of military and economic support with Honduras.”

The above examples are the closest parallels I could think of to Arreaza’s talk on Canada’s interference in Venezuela. But what distinguishes the Venezuelan foreign minister’s upcoming event is the scope of the discussion. In addition, he is a sitting foreign minister and will talk directly to a Canadian audience.

The Venezuelan government appears ever more willing to push back against Canada’s brazen campaign to overthrow it. As I detailed in “How Venezuela helped defeat Canada’s Security Council bid”, the only country’s diplomats — from what I saw — that publicly campaigned against Canada’s bid for a seat on the Security Council were Venezuelan.

The international community’s rejection of Canada’s bid for a seat on the Security Council offers internationalist minded Canadians an important opportunity to re-evaluate this country’s international policies. Following Canada’s second consecutive Security Council defeat a growing coalition of organizations and prominent Canadians have signed on to an open letter calling for a “fundamental reassessment of Canadian foreign policy.”

One of its 10 questions asks: “Why is Canada involved in efforts to overthrow Venezuela’s UN-recognized government, a clear violation of the principle of non-intervention in other country’s internal affairs?”

Arreaza’s talk will offer a unique opportunity for Canadians who are troubled by the Trudeau Liberals’ empowering of a bully president to hear directly from a government standing up against a campaign of intimidation by Canada and USA.

You can register for the webinar here.

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Former Israeli soldier sues pro-Palestinian Toronto restaurant

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As part of a well-organized, multilayered, Israel nationalist lobby bid to bankrupt a small left-wing restaurant a prominent Toronto interior designer sued Kimberly Hawkins for $800,000. Shai DeLuca is claiming the Foodbendersowner libeled him.

The suit was filed by RE-LAW LLP and the US-based Lawfare Project which harasses pro-Palestinian activists. The Lawfare Project, reports Nora Barrows-Friedman, is “a pro-Israel group that works to silence activists by filing lawsuits against them and smearing supporters of Palestinian rights as anti-Semites.”

In a statement of claim DeLuca said two posts on Foodbenders’ Instagram account on July 6 defamed him. One of the posts was apparently a screenshot of DeLuca’s Instagram account with the comment, “he’s literally gathering his other whining Zionist friends to attack Palestinians and others in support of @foodbenders.” A second post, reported Toronto.com, featured the statement, “this guy is one of the people who was attacking @foodbenders. He’s an IDF [Israel Defense Forces] SOLDIER (aka terrorist) yet he’s using the BLM [Black Lives Matter] movement for likes. How can you sit there and post about BLM when you have your sniper rifle aimed at Palestinian Children.”

DeLuca’s statement of claim suggests Foodbenders’ statements were libelous. But, on Twitter DeLuca describes himself as an “IDF sergeant (ret)” and a quick Google search demonstrates that he is an aggressive proponent of Israeli military violence. DeLuca publicly defended Israel’s 2014 onslaught on Gaza that left more than 2,000 Palestinians dead and has spoken at a number of international events promoting the Israeli military. DeLuca even claims IDF experience helps with interior design!

(In recent years the Israeli military has bombed Syria on a weekly basis and has multiple boots on Palestinian necks. In his 2008 book Defending The Holy Land: A Critical Analysis of Israel’s Security & Foreign Policy Zeev Maoz notes: “There was only one year out of 56 years of history in which Israel did not engage in acts involving the threat, display, or limited use of force with its neighbors. The only year in which Israel did not engage in a militarized conflict was 1988, when Israel was deeply immersed in fighting the Palestinian uprising, the intifada. So it is fair to say that during each and every year of its history Israel was engaged in violent military actions of some magnitude.” Maoz concludes: “None of the wars — with a possible exception of the 1948 war of Independence — was what Israel refers to as Milhemet Ein Brerah (‘war of necessity’). They were all wars of choice or wars of folly.”)

DeLuca works with the rabidly pro-Israel Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA). Funded by Donald Trump mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, Seth Klarman and other anti-Palestinian billionaires, CAMERA regularly promotes the IDF and is “aligned with right-wing and hawkish political views”, reports the Jewish Forward.

In his statement of claim to the Ontario Court of appeal DeLuca presents his military service as simply a requirement that every Israeli must fulfill. “He grew up in the State of Israel where he served his compulsory term of military service as a sergeant in the Israel Defense Forces”, it notes. But, elsewhere DeLuca offers a more politicized depiction of his time in the IDF. Asked in 2018 by the Canadian Jewish NewsWhat shaped your strong connection with Israel?” DeLuca responded: “I grew up in an extremely Zionist family. The matriarch of my family, my grandma, and I had a very special relationship. She always said that if she’d had the opportunity, she would’ve gone to Israel. She talked a lot about the importance of defending our homeland. This was really strongly instilled in me. From the age of 15, I knew that, at 18, I’d go do my army service in Israel. I finished high school in Toronto and in November 1995, I went into the Israeli army.”

When speaking to a pro-Israel Canadian audience DeLuca promotes fighting in the IDF but when a social justice activist reframes his actions as a moral outrage against Palestinians he claims to have been duty bound and the victim of malice. DeLuca’s position is not unique. After pro-Palestinian activists protested a presentation by Israeli military reservists at York in November, those who brought the ‘terrorists’ to the university and in some cases assaulted the protesters claimed they were the victims. In 2018 a private Toronto school that flew an Israeli flag and promoted its military also claimed “anti-Semitism” when pro-Palestinian graffiti was scrawled on its walls.

To get a sense of DeLuca’s extreme anti-Palestinian ideology, last week he retweeted ethnic cleansing denial, claiming Israel merely occupied mosquito infested lands. “The only ones that Zionism displaced were mosquitos,” he messaged. “The lands Zionists acquired to establish themselves were malaria ridden, and they reclaimed those lands.” This, of course, is complete nonsense.

It requires chutzpah to join a brutal occupation force halfway across the world, spend years promoting it and when called on it claim you are the victim. DeLuca should either stop promoting a violent foreign military or accept that people are going to criticize him for doing so.

 

For those interested in supporting Foodbenders please email: PALILEGALFUND@GMAIL.COM

 

Please email Cityline TV (info@cityline.tv) to say Shai DeLuca, who is a contributor, promotes a violent foreign army and denies the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

 

 

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