Category Archives: Justin Trudeau

When will Trudeau finally end embrace of Guaidó?

When will the Trudeau government finally end its embrace of Juan Guaidó?

Just before this week’s inauguration of a new National Assembly François-Philippe Champagne tweeted, “as the December 6 elections were neither free nor fair, Canada will continue to recognize the National Assembly, democratically elected in 2015, as Venezuela’s legitimate legislature and its president as Venezuela’s Interim President.” Tagging Guaidó, the foreign minister added, “Canada will always stand with Venezuela in their fight to restore democracy.”

While the Trump administration took a similar position, the European Union dropped its de facto recognition of Guaidó. Even the Ottawa-led Lima Group’s recent statement on Venezuela backed away slightly, failing to “mention Guaidó as interim president.”

In response to Champagne’s tweet Venezuela’s foreign minister wrote, “since the government of Canada doesn’t respect the UN Charter nor Venezuela’s sovereignty, it announces it will continue to subordinate to US policies and sanctions to violate the human rights of Venezuelans. What a sad role it has played. Shame!”

More than two years ago Canadian diplomats played an important role in uniting large swaths of the Venezuelan opposition behind a US-backed plan to ratchet up tensions by proclaiming the new head of the opposition-dominated National Assembly, Guaidó, as president. The Canadian Press quoted a Canadian diplomat saying they helped Guaidó “facilitate conversations with people that were out of the country and inside the country” while the Globe and Mail reported that “Freeland spoke with Juan Guaidó to congratulate him on unifying opposition forces in Venezuela, two weeks before he declared himself interim president” in January 2019. Canadian diplomats spent “months”, reported the Canadian Press, coordinating the plan with the hard-line opposition. In a story titled “Anti-Maduro coalition grew from secret talks”, the Associated Press reported on Canada’s “key role” in building international diplomatic support for claiming a relatively marginal National Assembly member was Venezuela’s president.

Alongside Washington and a number of right-leaning Latin American governments, Ottawa immediately recognized Guaidó after he proclaimed himself president at a rally. In the weeks after Prime Minister Trudeau called numerous international leaders to convince them to join Canada in supporting Guaidó. At the opening of the Lima Group meeting in Ottawa after Guaidó’s presidential declaration Trudeau declared, “the international community must immediately unite behind the interim president.”

After he was officially dethroned as leader of Venezuela’s national assembly (the matter was contested) in January of last year, Guaidó sought to reaffirm his international backing. Two weeks later Guaidó was fêted in Ottawa, meeting the PM, international development minister and foreign minister. Trudeau declared, “I commend Interim President Guaidó for the courage and leadership he has shown in his efforts to return democracy to Venezuela, and I offer Canada’s continued support.” Over the past two years Canadian officials have put out dozens of tweets, press releases and other statements supporting Guaidó’s claim to the presidency.

The bulk of the opposition to Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela has broken with Guaidó. For their part, many government supporters are demanding he be arrested. In “The Dilemma of What to Do with Guaido” Miguel Ugas describes the different perspectives on the matter:

“Guaido’s conduct has been criminal without any doubt, underpinned as it was by an imperialist power and the Right. It has spared no perversity in order to achieve its anti-objectives: to call for foreign military intervention; to help expropriate Venezuela’s foreign based resources; to instigate sabotage in the public services; to attempt murder; to encourage the breaking of supply routes for food and goods needed for the productive apparatus; to usurp offices that do not correspond to him; to enter into pacts with paramilitary drug lords; to promote an economic, commercial and financial blockade against the country without weighing the consequences it may have for the lives of Venezuelans; to attack the health of the people by preventing the import of medicines, particularly during the pandemic; to promote smear campaigns against the country in international forums; to try to negotiate our [disputed] Essequibo territory; to put himself at the service of foreign powers without concern about undermining national sovereignty.”

Trudeau claims an individual without an electoral mandate or control over any government institution is president of Venezuela. One can understand why the (I won the 2020 election) Donald Trump administration would continue with this farce, but why are the Liberals going along with it?

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Filed under Justin Trudeau, Latin America, Venezuela

The hypocrisy of Liberals’ nuclear policy

Justin Trudeau & Hedy Fry

 

A Vancouver MP’s last-minute withdrawal from a recent webinar on Canada’s nuclear arms policy highlights Liberal hypocrisy. The government says they want to rid the world of nuclear weapons but refuse to take a minimal step to protect humanity from the serious threat.

A month ago Liberal MP Hedy Fry agreed to participate in a webinar on “Why hasn’t Canada signed the UN Nuclear Ban Treaty?” The long-standing member of the Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament group was to speak with MPs from the NDP, Bloc Québécois and Greens, as well as Hiroshima atomic bomb survivor Setsuko Thurlow, who co-accepted the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. More than 50 organizations endorsed the webinar that took place Thursday. After the press was informed about an event seeking to press Canada to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) Fry said she couldn’t participate due to a scheduling conflict. Asked for a short video to play during the webinar Fry declined.

Did the Prime Minister’s Office intercede after becoming aware of Fry’s participation and the 27-year veteran of the House of Commons caved to their pressure?

Fry’s withdrawal from the exchange of ideas captures the hypocrisy of the Liberals’ nuclear policy. They publicly express a desire to abolish these ghastly weapons but are unwilling to upset any source of power (the PMO in Fry’s case) and the military/Washington (in the PMO’s case) to achieve it.

Last month Global Affairs claimed “Canada unequivocally supports global nuclear disarmament” while two weeks ago a government official repeated their support for a “world free of nuclear weapons.” These statements were made in response to renewed focus on nuclear disarmament after the 50th country recently ratified the TPNW, which means the accord will soon become law for the nations that have ratified it. The treaty is designed to stigmatize and criminalize nukes in a similar fashion to the UN landmine treaty and Chemical Weapons Convention.

But the Trudeau government has been hostile to the initiative. Canada was one of 38 states to vote against -123 voted in favour – holding the 2017 UN Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards their Total Elimination. Trudeau then refused to send a representative to the TPNW negotiating meeting, which two-thirds of all countries attended. The PM went so far as to call the anti-nuclear initiative “useless” and since then his government has refused to join the 85 countries that have already signed the Treaty. At the UN General Assembly two weeks ago Canada voted against the 118 countries that reaffirmed their support for the TPNW.

In isolation the gap between the Liberals’ nuclear weapons pronouncements and actions is striking. But if one broadens the lens, the hypocrisy is substantially more astounding. The Trudeau government says its international affairs are driven by a belief in an “international rules-based order” and “feminist foreign policy” yet they refuse to sign a nuclear treaty that directly advances these stated principles.

The TPNW has been dubbed the “first feminist law on nuclear weapons” since it specifically recognizes the different ways in which nuclear weapons production and use disproportionately impacts women. Additionally, the TPNW strengthens the international rules-based order by making these weapons that are immoral also illegal under international law.

There’s a terrifying gap between what the Liberals say and do on weapons that continue to pose an existential threat to humanity.

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Trudeau’s fake feminist foreign policy targets progressives

Like a cereal company marketing sugar-covered GMO cornflakes as a “healthy breakfast”, Justin Trudeau’s government spouts progressive buzzwords that mask elitist, pro-corporate policies.

As part of their self-declared “feminist foreign policy” the Liberals established a Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP), convened the first ever Women Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and appointed an Ambassador for Women, Peace and Security. Considered in isolation, each of these initiatives is praiseworthy. The problem is the government’s broader foreign policy is decidedly non-feminist and their ‘feminist’ marketing legitimates those policies.

For example, Honduras recently became the 50th country to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). As such, it will enter into force on January 22 for those nations that have adopted it. The Trudeau government opposed negotiating a treaty to abolish nuclear weapons, boycotted the conference where it was born and has steadfastly opposed signing the treaty. At the UN on Tuesday Canada voted against a resolution backed by 118 countries that reaffirmed support for the TPNW.

This is the opposite of a feminist foreign policy. In The Nation Ray Acheson, director of the disarmament program of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, wrote, “the TPNW is the first feminist law on nuclear weapons, recognizing the disproportionate impacts of nuclear weapons on women and girls and on Indigenous peoples, urging more equitable participation of women in disarmament, and mandating victim assistance and environmental remediation in relation to nuclear weapon use and testing.” Women exposed to nuclear radiation are significantly more likely to suffer deleterious health impacts than men.

Another example of Liberal hollow words: Bolivians recently defeated an elitist, Christian extremist, coup government. They did so through protests demanding an election and then a landslide victory at the polls. In the recent election women (mostly indigenous) won 57% of the seats in the Senate and 51% of the positions in the Chamber of Representatives. By way of comparison 29% of Canadian Members of Parliament are women.

From what I can tell the Trudeau government has remained silent on this feminist win. Understandably. Last year the Liberals backed the overthrow of the Bolivian government that adopted the legislative measures that greatly advanced women’s representation in politics.

The Liberals have also been seeking to oust a Nicaraguan government in which women hold more than half of all cabinet positions and 40 percent of the legislature. While seeking to get rid of leftist governments with stronger feminist credentials, Trudeau touts right-wing allies for being pro woman. In August 2018 the PM lauded extreme right Colombian president Ivan Duque for adopting “a gender-equal cabinet.” Over the past two years the number of women social movement leaders murdered has increased significantly at least partly because of Duque’s policies, notably his bid to scuttle the peace accord with the FARC rebels.

A number of repressive, elitist governments have claimed the feminist mantle to curry favour with Ottawa. When a parliamentary delegation led by Liberal MP Robert Oliphant, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, visited General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in 2018 the Egyptian president claimed his dictatorial regime promoted women’s rights. This hard-to-believe claim appeared in the delegation’s post trip report that whitewashed el-Sisi’s substantial repression.

In a similar vein, proposed Haitian Prime Minister Fritz William Michel presented a gender-balanced cabinet amidst massive protests in July 2019 calling for President Jovenel Moïse to go. Moïse’s appointee sought to align with a stated objective of his second most influential backer, which generated sympathetic Canadian headlines. 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 leader.

Taking the feminist justification for its support of the corrupt and repressive Haitian regime to an absurd extreme, the Trudeau government recently tendered a $12.5 million contract in operational support to the Haitian police under its Feminist International Assistance Policy! Haiti’s Canadian-trained and funded police force is what sustained Moïse as president while facing multiple general strikes between July 2018 and December 2019.

As the Liberals have touted their “feminist foreign policy,” they have also sold armoured vehicles to the Saudis and deepened ties to other misogynistic Gulf oil kingdoms. In another position hard to align with feminism, Canada was one of two countries to vote against a June 2019 United Nations 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.”

In a highly patriarchal and unequal world one cannot expect a government — even one, unlike the Liberals, genuinely committed to feminism — to be consistent on the subject. But, the Liberals have taken hypocrisy to new heights and this sort of fake feminist branding can weaken progressive resistance to reactionary policies, if people actually believe the marketing.

In fact, the FIAP was launched partly to dampen criticism of the dearth of aid spending at a time when they ramped up decidedly (patriarchal) military spending. The government launched their Feminist International Assistance Program two days before releasing their 2017 defence policy statement, which included a 70% increase in military spending over a decade. The FIAP didn’t include any new aid, which was at its lowest proportion of GDP in half a century. (As I’ve detailed, Canadian aid is far from as benevolent as often portrayed, but it’s preferable to military spending.) In “Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy: Bold Statement or Feminist Fig Leaf?” Stephen Brown and Liam Swiss write, “while the feminist aid policy will buttress the Liberal government’s feminist credentials, it will also provide a convenient fig leaf for the lack of political will to expand aid funding and decidedly un-feminist policies in other areas.”

The primary problem with the Liberals’ “feminist foreign policy” is not the specific initiatives or even the hypocritical double standards. It’s how the marketing drains all meaning from the word ‘feminist’ and sometimes succeeds in convincing progressives to support a foreign policy overwhelmingly driven by the US Empire and Canadian corporations.

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Trudeau lobbies Biden to maintain climate-destroying Trump policy

US President Donald Trump’s climate criminality has been shocking. His administration’s contribution to worsening this existential threat to humanity will be remembered as his most damaging policy.

Largely in response to the president’s ‘spew more fossil fuels’ outlook Noam Chomsky described Trump as “the worst criminal in human history.” Pressed on the matter, Chomsky recently told the New Yorker that Adolf Hitler “was an utter monster but [he was] not dedicating his efforts perfectly consciously to destroying the prospect for human life on earth.”

So why is Ottawa trying to maintain one of the Republican’s worst environmental policies?

Incredibly, the Trudeau government’s immediate reaction to US voters rejecting Trump was to press the president-elect to break a direct promise and maintain the worst of the Donald. Soon after Biden was declared winner Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne told CBC that persuading the incoming president to build the Keystone XL Pipeline was at the “top of the agenda” for Canada.

As the first global leader to talk to President-elect Joe Biden on Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raised a pipeline that would ship more than 800,000 barrels of heavy carbon emitting crude a day from Alberta to the US. In response to the Trudeau government’s bid to maintain the worst of Trump, Bill McKibben wrote to 350 Canada’s list, “It’s truly unacceptable that the Trudeau cabinet’s top agenda item is to weaken Biden’s position on climate.”

Under intense pressure from indigenous and environmentalist groups President Barack Obama denied TransCanada the permit for Keystone XL. But, immediately upon taking office Trump signed an executive order allowing the pipeline. In 2018 a federal court judge in Montana halted the project after concluding the US State Department hadn’t properly considered the pipeline’s environmental impact. In response, Trump signed a new order last year that bypasses the judge’s ruling and granted permission for construction.

During the election Biden promised to cancel Keystone XL within his first 100 days in office. But now the Trudeau government, Alberta and other oil interests are pressuring Biden to break his promise. This is not an idle threat. In response to a question on the matter Alberta’s lead representative at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, James Rajotte, told the CBC on Monday that he’s already lobbying aggressively on the matter. The Stephen Harper government established an oil sands advocacy strategy that, noted Globe and Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson, “put Canada’s entire diplomatic apparatus in the US behind the Keystone campaign.” In a 2011 series dubbed the “The War for the Oil Sands in Washington” The Tyee described the intensity of Canadian lobbying efforts on behalf of Keystone XL. One congressional aide compared Canadian officials to “aggressive” car salesmen. It “was the most direct encounter I’ve had with a lobbyist representing a foreign nation,” a congressional staffer told the Tyee. Canada’s 22 consular offices in the US were ordered to take up the Keystone cause.

The Keystone XL decision is in keeping with Trudeau’s support or indifference towards Trump’s climate policy. While Trump was “dedicating his efforts perfectly consciously to destroying the prospect for human life on earth”, Trudeau sought to avoid conflict with the president over his administration’s climate criminality. Spiegel Online reported that the Canadian prime minister rejected a proposal by Chancellor Angela Merkel to support a German initiative at the 2017 G20 summit to pressure Trump on climate change. The Liberals also refused to commit Canada to improved automobile fuel mileage standards the Obama administration negotiated with the auto industry. Against the wishes of even some carmakers, Trump announced the US would freeze planned fuel-economy targets at 2020 levels, which prompted a bitter battle with California and a number of other US states. With Canada, the collection of dissident states represented 40 per cent of the North American auto market, enough to push the (divided) auto industry to follow the previously agreed fuel mileage standards. But the Liberals failed to publicly commit to push forward with steadily improved fuel mileage standards.

Despite claiming to take the climate crisis seriously, the Trudeau government has failed to put the country on track to meet even dangerously insufficient targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Expansion of the tar sands guarantees that Canada will flout its international commitments to reduce GHG emissions.

As the climate crisis worsens, it’s outrageous that Trudeau would press the president-elect to break his promise to voters and maintain the worst of Trump. Makes one wonder what level of climate criminality posterity will assign to the current Canadian prime minister.

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Chile vote is a blow to corporate Canada and Trudeau

Celebration after constitution vote

With Chileans voting overwhelming to rewrite the country’s Pinochet era constitution it’s a good moment to reflect on Ottawa’s support for his coup against Salvador Allende. It’s also worth looking at Canadian companies’ opposition to the popular uprising that lead to the referendum on reforming the dictatorship’s neoliberal constitution.

On Sunday nearly 8 in 10 Chileans voted to rewrite the country’s Augusto Pinochet era constitution. The vote was the culmination of months of antigovernment protests that began against a hike in transit fares last October and morphed into a broader challenge to economic inequality and other injustices. The dictatorship’s constitution entrenches pro-capitalist policies and was widely seen as contributing to the country’s large economic divide.

The Pierre Trudeau government was hostile to Allende’s elected government and predisposed to supporting Pinochet’s dictatorship. Days after the September 11 1973 coup against Allende, Andrew Ross, Canada’s ambassador to Chile cabled External Affairs: “Reprisals and searches have created panic atmosphere affecting particularly expatriates including the riffraff of the Latin American Left to whom Allende gave asylum … the country has been on a prolonged political binge under the elected Allende government and the junta has assumed the probably thankless task of sobering Chile up.” Thousands were incarcerated, tortured and killed in “sobering Chile up”.

Within three weeks of the coup, Canada recognized Pinochet’s military junta. Diplomatic support for Pinochet led to economic assistance. Just after the coup Canada voted for a $22 million Inter American Development Bank loan “rushed through the bank with embarrassing haste.” Ottawa immediately endorsed sending $95 million from the International Monetary Fund to Chile and supported renegotiating the country’s debt held by the Paris Club. After refusing to provide credits to the elected government, on October 2nd, 1973, Export Development Canada announced it was granting $5 million in credit to Chile’s central bank to purchase six Twin Otter aircraft from De Havilland, which could carry troops to and from short makeshift strips.

By 1978, Canadian support for the coup d’etat was significant. It included:

  • Support for $810 million in multilateral loans with Canada’s share amounting to about $40 million.
  • Five EDC facilities worth between $15 and $30 million.
  • Two Canadian debt re-schedulings for Chile, equivalent to additional loans of approximately $5 million.
  • Twenty loans by Canadian chartered banks worth more than $100 million, including a 1977 loan by Toronto Dominion to DINA (Pinochet’s secret police) to purchase equipment.
  • Direct investments by Canadian companies valued at nearly $1 billion.

Prominent Canadian capitalists such as Peter Munk and Conrad Black were supporters of Pinochet.

When the recent protests began against billionaire president Sebastián Piñera in October, Trudeau supported the embattled right-wing leader. Two weeks into massive demonstrations against Piñera’s government, the PM held a phone conversation with the Chilean president who had a 14% approval rating. According to Amnesty International, 19 people had already died and dozens more were seriously injured in protests. A couple thousand were also arrested by a government that declared martial law and sent the army onto the streets for the first time since Pinochet. A Canadian Press story on the conversation noted, “a summary from the Prime Minister’s Office of Trudeau’s phone call with Pinera made no direct mention of the ongoing turmoil in Chile, a thriving country with which Canada has negotiated a free trade agreement.”

Rather than express concern about state-backed repression in Chile, the Prime Minister criticized “election irregularities in Bolivia” during his October conversation with Piñera. The false claims of “election irregularities” were then being used to justify ousting leftist indigenous president Evo Morales.

Amidst the massive demonstrations against Piñera in October, Trudeau also discussed Venezuela. In another phone conversation with Piñera two months ago Trudeau again raised “the situation in Venezuela”, according to the official readout, as he did in February 2018 and previously.

Chile is the top destination for Canadian investment in Latin America at over $20 billion. Over 50% of Chile’s large mining industry is Canadian owned and Canadian firms are major players in the country’s infrastructure. Scotiabank is one of the country’s biggest banks.

A number of stories highlighted Scotiabank’s concerns about the protests against inequality that ultimately lead to Sunday’s constitutional referendum. The Financial Post noted, “Scotiabank’s strategic foray into Latin America hits a snag with Chile unrest” and “Riots, state of emergency in Chile force Scotiabank to postpone investor day.” The CEO of the world’s 40th largest bank blamed the protests on an “intelligence breakdown” with people outside Chile “that came in with an intention of creating havoc.” In a January story titled “Why Brian Porter is doubling down on Scotiabank’s Latin American expansion”, he told the Financial Post that Twitter accounts tied to Russia sparked the unrest against Piñera!

Canadian companies, with Ottawa’s support, have led a number of environmentally and socially destructive projects in Chile. In the mid 2000s Toronto-based Brookfield Asset Management led a consortium, with US $700 million invested by the Canadian Pension Plan and British Columbia Investment Management Corporation, pushing to build a massive power line and dams in Chile’s Patagonia region, one of the planet’s greatest environmental treasures. “This kind of project could never be implemented in a full-fledged democracy,” explained Juan Pablo Orrego, a prominent Chilean environmentalist, to the Georgia Straight. “Our country is still under a constitutional, political, and financial checkmate to democracy which was put in place during the [Pinochet] military dictatorship and empowers the private sector.”

Sunday’s referendum is a blow to Canadian corporations operating in Chile and the Trudeau government’s alliance with right-wing governments in the Hemisphere.

 

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Filed under Justin Trudeau, Latin America

Bolivia election is a blow to Trudeau’s policy

Massive support for Bolivia’s Movimiento al Socialismo at the polls is a rejection of last year’s Canadian-backed coup against Evo Morales. The vote was also a blow to Trudeau’s policy of seeking to overthrow left-wing governments in the region.

On Sunday Morales’ former finance minister, Luis Acre, won 55% of the vote for president. His MAS party also took a large majority in the Congress.

The unexpectedly large victory is a decisive rebuke of Ottawa’s support for the ouster of Bolivia’s first indigenous president. Hours after the military command forced Evo Morales to resign on November 10, then foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland released a celebratory statement declaring, “Canada stands with Bolivia and the democratic will of its people.”

Ottawa provided significant support for the Organization of American States’ effort to discredit Bolivia’s 2019 vote, which fueled opposition protests and justified the coup. Ottawa promoted and financed the OAS’ effort to discredit the presidential poll and two Canadian technical advisers were part of the audit mission to Bolivia. “Canada commends the invaluable work of the OAS audit mission in ensuring a fair and transparent process, which we supported financially and through our expertise”, noted Freeland at the time.

But, the OAS audit mission was designed to precipitate Morales ouster. A slew of academic and corporate media studies have demonstrated the partisan nature of the OAS audit mission and the weekend’s election results confirm it. Still, Global Affairs promoted the organization’s involvement in Bolivia’s elections. On Saturday their Canada in Bolivia account tweeted, “Canada is pleased to support the Organization of American States (OAS) electoral observation mission to Bolivia.”

For a year Ottawa stayed silent while the unelected Jeanine Anez regime ramped up repression and anti-indigenous measures as well as drastically shifted the country’s foreign policy. Worse than silence, on Bolivia’s national day in August Global Affairs claimed Canada and Bolivia’s “strong bilateral relationship is founded on our shared values of democracy, human rights and a celebration of diversity.”

Global Affairs ignored the ‘caretaker’ government’s repeated postponement of elections. Even worse, when the country’s social movements launched a general strike in August to protest the ‘caretaker’ government’s repeated postponement of elections Global Affairs echoed the coup government’s claims that the protests undermined the fight against the pandemic. Canada in Bolivia tweeted, “Canada calls for humanitarian aid to be allowed to circulate freely in Bolivia to fight #COVID19 & calls on all social actors to support the country’s democratic institutions and to use those mechanisms to resolve any disputes.” (Protesters let ambulances and other medical vehicles circulate with little disruption.)

Looking at a year of the Canada in Bolivia Twitter account I did not find a single criticism of the coup government. But, there were more than 15 posts critical of the Venezuelan government. On October 14 Canada in Bolivia tweeted, “the conditions needed for free and fair elections do not exist in Venezuela” and linked to a Lima Group statement declaring renewed “support of President Juan Guaidó.” (After usurping power Anez joined the Lima Group of countries seeking to oust Nicolas Maduro’s government.) Two months earlier the account called for “concerted international actions in support of a peaceful return to democracy in Venezuela and linked to a Lima Group statement reiterating their “firm commitment to interim president Juan Guaidó.”

Contrasting the Trudeau government’s response to an unelected, anti-indigenous, elitist government in Bolivia to that of Venezuela’s elected, pro-poor president is telling. So is their silence on the election results in Bolivia. Nearly 72 hours after the polls closed Ottawa has yet to release a statement congratulating Arce or the MAS on their massive victory.

The election results in Bolivia are a major blow to Canadian policy in that country and Ottawa’s bid to wipe out the remnants of the leftist pink tied in Latin America.

Further, the victory of MAS shows Canada for what it has always (unfortunately) been: an imperialist power seeking to maintain the world’s massively unfair status quo.

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Filed under Justin Trudeau, Latin America

Antiwar forces need to challenge Trudeau government, not praise it

Bob Rae and Justin Trudeau

Should antiwar forces challenge power or praise government officials in the hopes of getting some crumbs for their pet issue?

Douglas Roche’s recent Hill Times column suggests the latter. In an article extolling Canada’s new ambassador to the UN Roche writes: “When Canada lost its bid for a seat on the UN Security Council the second successive time last June, I thought a foreign policy review from top to bottom was the solution to get Canada back on track internationally. But I’ve changed my mind for two reasons: the world is in multiple crises revolving around COVID-19 that need to be acted on now, and Bob Rae has arrived on the scene. I don’t mean to present the estimable new Canadian ambassador to the UN as a world saviour, but he has quickly established himself as a champion of the UN humanitarian agenda, which centres around reducing the grotesque economic inequalities that the pandemic has worsened.”

In essence Roche is saying that a few months ago he was troubled by the world’s rejection of Canadian foreign policy but now that Rae and Prime Minister Trudeau have delivered a couple of high-minded, internationalist statements there’s little need to challenge government policy.

But things are far from all fine and dandy. The Trudeau government refused to join 122 countries at a UN conference to ban nuclear weapons in 2017 and has failed to sign the resulting treaty. They have announced a 70% increase in military spending, oversaw record (non-US) arms exports last year and dispatched troops on US and NATO missions to Iraq and Latvia (not to mention breaking their promise to rein in Canadian mining companies’ abuses, support for a repressive Haitian president, unprecedented campaign to overthrow Venezuela’s government, anti-Palestinian positions, etc.)

Rather than representing a break from the Liberals’ pro-US, pro-militarist and pro-capitalist policies, Rae’s appointment reflects a continuation of this outlook. As I detailed in “New UN ambassador Bob Rae pushes pro-US, militarist and anti-Palestinian positions”, Rae aggressively promoted bombing Libya in 2011, allied with Stephen Harper to extend the occupation of Afghanistan and has repeatedly undercut Palestinian rights.

A few high-minded speeches by Rae and other government officials does not make a just foreign policy. Rather than make nice with Rae, peace and antiwar minded individuals should directly confront the Trudeau government’s foreign policy. The two recent national days of action at dozens of MPs’ offices against purchasing new fighter jets and selling arms to Saudi Arabia are a good step. So was the “no Canada on UN Security Council” campaign.

Unfortunately, Roche’s perspective on this issue matters. A former ambassador for disarmament, Progressive Conservative MP and senator has significant influence in peace circles. He’s influential within the Canadian Network for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons and two weeks ago Roche did an event with World Beyond War. But, Roche’s perspective is deleterious even if you stick to Roche’s main issue: nuclear disarmament.

If we are serious about forcing Ottawa to sign the UN nuclear ban treaty we need to grow the broader peace/demilitarization/anti-imperialist movement. More specifically, if many begin agitating against fighter jets and arms exports, or for Canada to leave the nuclear armed NATO alliance the government is more likely to concede to a push to sign the nuclear ban treaty.

Roche’s column praising Bob Rae should serve as a wakeup call to antiwar activists. The movement is far too focused on insider lobbying and policy wonkery. It needs to be much more oriented towards broad principled positions and social movement mobilization.

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Filed under Justin Trudeau, Military

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

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

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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Filed under Justin Trudeau, Latin America, Venezuela