Category Archives: Venezuela

Venezuela conference another example of Liberal hypocrisy

Was it conscious? Did someone at Global Affairs say, ‘we should organize a lofty sounding conference that’s a cover for our pro-US and corporate policy on the anniversary of the international community rejecting Trudeau’s liberal imperialism’?

On the one-year anniversary of Canada’s defeat in its bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council the Trudeau government is hosting an International Donors’ Conference in Solidarity with Venezuelan Refugees and Migrants. While it may sound like a humanitarian endeavor, it’s the latest phase in Canada’s multipronged effort to overthrow Nicolás Maduro’s government, which has included plotting with the opposition to anoint an alternative president.

A number of opponents of the Venezuelan government will participate in the conference. But no one from Maduro’s administration is invited to address the event. Nor is the main issue driving Venezuelans to migrate likely to receive much (or any) attention, namely the seizure of Venezuelan assets and vicious economic sanctions.

The US, Britain and European countries have seized billions of dollars in Venezuelan government assets over the past two and half years. At the same time the country has faced steadily more extreme international sanctions. Canada has imposed four rounds of sanctions against Venezuela since 2017, which have reinforced and legitimated similar devastating US actions. According to the preliminary report by the current UN Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures, Alena Douhan, “the [Venezuelan] government’s revenue was reported to shrink by 99%, with the country currently living on 1% of its pre-sanctions income.”

The sanctions have contributed to 100,000 deaths, according to former UN Rapporteur Alfred de Zayas, and massive outward migration. While Venezuela’s economic decline began when the price of oil dropped sharply in 2014-2015, the number of Venezuelans leaving the country spiked after the 2017 sanctions. According to Venezuela’s Encuesta Nacional de Condiciones de Vida (ENCOVI), 730,000 Venezuelans left the country between 2015 and 2017. In 2018 and 2019 that number more than doubled to 1.54 million.

Most countries and international law experts believe sanctions are only legitimate when approved by the World Trade Organization or United Nations Security Council. In March the Human Rights Council approved a resolution 30 to 15 (with two abstentions) urging all states to stop adopting unilateral sanctions as they impede “the right of individuals and peoples to development.”

In another indication of the two-faced nature of Trudeau’s concern for Venezuelan migrants, Canada has refused to renew the visas of Venezuelan diplomats. As a result, the last individual from that country’s government providing services to Venezuelans in Canada recently had to leave.

As I wrote last year, Canada’s bid to overthrow the Venezuelan government contributed to its Security Council defeat. Venezuelan diplomats publicly campaigned against Canada’s Security Council bid and reports suggest their influence swayed some in the Non-Aligned Movement.

The Security Council defeat was no doubt an embarrassment for the Trudeau government. Pushing for a seat was part of their rebranding of Canadian foreign policy after the Stephen Harper government. But the Liberals are far more committed to supporting the US empire and corporate interests – which drives their Venezuela policy – than winning favour with populations and governments in the Global South, which largely explains why they lost the Security Council bid.

The Liberals need to be a bit more careful with Canadians. They need the public and particularly their electorate to support (acquiesce to) their pro-corporate and empire foreign policy, which is the purpose of the government’s high-minded claims.

Similar rhetorical strategies are employed on a wide range of issues. Trudeau boasts about promoting an “international rules based order” as they apply unilateral (illegal) sanctions on countries and threaten the International Criminal Court to prevent it from investigating Israeli war crimes; A government representative says “we are committed to achieving a world free of nuclear weapons” as they refuse to sign the UN Nuclear Ban Treaty; The government says they follow a feminist foreign policy while facilitating weapons sales to a patriarchal Saudi monarchy devastating Yemen; They claim to believe in a two-state solution but vote against UN resolutions calling for a Palestinian state; They say they promote democracy as they prop up a corrupt and repressive dictatorship in Haiti. For other examples check out my House of Mirrors: Justin Trudeau’s Foreign Policy.

The Liberals’ strategy works since the dominant media and most of Canada’s intelligentsia focus on government rhetoric rather than the underlying international policies. Politicians and people elsewhere are not as inclined to believe ‘benevolent Canada’ mythology, which is largely why the Trudeau government lost its Security Council bid.

Maybe it’s fitting that on the one-year anniversary of Canada’s Security Council defeat the government is organizing a humanistic sounding conference that’s part of an imperial strategy. It clearly illustrates Liberal hypocrisy.

 

To mark the one-year anniversary of Canada’s defeat in its bid for a seat on the Security Council the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute will be hosting “International Solidarity Now: A gathering for a more just Canadian foreign policy.”

 

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Canada pushes Guyana into conflict with Venezuela & helps multinationals grab its oil

Why is Canada pushing Guyana, an impoverished nation of 800,000, into conflict with Venezuela while helping multinationals grab its oil?

Recently Canadian officials criticized Venezuela’s position regarding its territorial dispute with Guyana, which sits on the northeastern tip of South America. Soon after the US put out a statement on the century-old dispute, the Canadian High Commission declared “Venezuela’s recent claim that it has sovereignty over the area adjacent to Guyana’s Essequibo coast is concerning. The decision is in the hands of the International Court of Justice and this judicial process must be respected.”

The Canadian and US statements were in response to Caracas criticizing an International Court of Justice ruling and a joint US/Guyana coast guard exercise in disputed waters that took place on January 8. After that patrol Commander of the US Southern Command Admiral Craig Faller, spent three days in the former British colony. During Faller’s visit the two countries signed a bilateral defence cooperation agreement. The deepening military ties follow on the heels of the first-ever visit by a US secretary of state. In September Mike Pompeo met new Guyanese President Mohamed Irfaan Ali, who Washington backed during an election dispute that paralyzed the country politically for months.

Ottawa also intervened aggressively in the controversial election. Canadian officials released multiple statements critical of the previous government and the vote counting. Apparently, Guyana’s new government is more willing to lend itself to the US-led campaign against Venezuela and to foreign oil interests at the centre of the resurgent territorial dispute.

Washington was once on the other side of the territorial dispute that nearly led the US to invade Canada. At the end of the 1800s British encroachment into what Venezuela considered its territory prompted Washington to assert the Monroe Doctrine, which granted it the “right” to intervene in the internal affairs of countries in the hemisphere. As conflict between Washington and London escalated, Canadian officials worried that war would lead to a US invasion.

Ultimately the dispute was resolved through international arbitration. It was disastrous for Venezuela. Washington legitimated its interventionist Monroe Doctrine and Venezuela lost 90% of the territory. London made a deal with the deciding Russian officials to support its claim. When the underhanded nature of the deal came to light decades later Venezuela renewed its claim to the disputed territory.

In recent years the territorial dispute has been rekindled due to the discovery of large amounts of oil in the sparsely populated region. Prior to Exxon-Mobil’s discovery the Venezuelan government called on the US company to stop drilling. In 2015 Caracas also sent a cease-and-desist letter to Toronto-based Guyana Goldfields, which operated a large gold mine in the disputed area.

While the Guyanese are largely united regarding the territorial dispute, the oil discovery has been quite controversial. There are concerns over the impact of pollutants on communities and fisheries as well as oil spills, which the government will pay to clean up according to its agreement with Exxon. Many in the climate-vulnerable coastal nation are also troubled by the greenhouse gas emissions that will be released. There is also criticism of highly preferential royalty rates. In February Global Witness reported that Exxon and other firms’ sweetheart deal deprived Guyana of billions of dollars in potential revenue. The report, “shows how the oil major used aggressive tactics and threats to pressure inexperienced Guyanese officials to sign the deal for the Stabroek license.”

Amidst significant political backlash, former Alberta Premier Alison Redford was appointed in August to lead a review of Exxon Mobil’s massive planned Payara offshore oil field. Redford’s ties to Exxon should have made her appointment controversial. Exxon-Mobil’s 60% Canadian owned subsidiary, Imperial Oil of Canada, is highly influential in the province she once lead. During Redford’s time as a minister and premier of Alberta Exxon’s subsidiary contributed an average of $10,000 a year to her Conservative party.

Redford’s appointment was also controversial since Ottawa “identified her” to Guyana’s new government and fundedthe process. Canada’s High Commission paid for Redford and other Canadian consultants to review Exxon’s proposal.

On October 1 researcher Bob Thomson put in an Access to Information request for “a copy of the contract between the High Commission and/or Global Affairs and Ms. Redford and/or the company she represents and any terms of reference related to that contract”, as well as “copies of any correspondence between the Canadian High Commission, Global Affairs and the Government of Guyana related to Canadian expectations, interests or benefits from Canadian taxpayer funding of this review.” Despite the law giving the government 30 days to respond (and a possible 30-day extension), the access request has yet to be fulfilled.

The Canadian government openly promotes oil interests in Guyana. They recently announced that their Trade Commissioner Service “laid the groundwork for approximately 20 partnerships between Canadian and Guyanese private sector organizations in the oil and gas sector.” In a December story headlined “How Guyana is emerging as the new frontier for N.L.’s oil services sector”, CBC described a “swarm of companies from the Newfoundland and Labrador oil services sector that is making a play for business in Guyana.” One hundred and seventy firms participated in a virtual Guyanese trade mission organized by Newfoundland’s oil industry association and the High Commission facilitated a “capacity building” accord between Guyana and Newfoundland’s Ministry of Natural Resources. Toronto-based Cataleya holds a 25% stake in another Exxon-led project adjacent to Stabroek with the rights to drill in a 3.3 million-acre area.

Last month outgoing High Commissioner Lilian Chatterjee urged Guyanans: “Don’t resist foreign investment but use your judgement on who you can trust.” Unsurprisingly, Chatterjee told the audience that the Canadian government and corporations were to be “trusted”. Canada was more trustworthy, she said, because “we were here when you had no oil. We have been a strong and reliable friend for more than a century and we have supported your development all along the way.”

As I detail here, Ottawa tried to annex British Guyana in the early 1900s and Canadian troops were deployed there during World War II. Traditionally, the leading powers in Guyana have demonstrated considerable trust in Canada. In the 1950s the British spy agency MI6 asked Ottawa to place a “special economic adviser” in leftist Prime Minister Cheddi Jagan’s government to monitor and influence policy. When he returned to power a decade later — the British ousted him in 1954 — the CIA sought Canadian support to strengthen labour opposition to Jagan. A US cable explained, “it might be good idea if U.S. union movement could find Canadian to send in to” stoke antigovernment agitation. (Previously Canadian Congress of Labour executive member Charles Millard argued that aid to Guyana was “in the interests of Canadian security”, partly because it would undercut Jagan’s bid to nationalize the Alcan dominated bauxite industry, which would be “detrimental to Canadian interests.”)

So, little has changed over the decades. Ottawa is helping wealthy corporations grab Guyana’s oil and is pushing the country into conflict with Venezuela as part of a push to destabilize an enemy of Washington. We need to stop Canada’s imperialist behaviour.

 

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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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Canada supports Unconstitutional Haitian Leader as it seeks to overthrow Venezuela’s President

Trudeau & Jovenel Moïse

Add this to the “you can’t make this stuff up” file: Canada’s foreign minister recently met his Haitian counterpart, who is part of a de facto administration illegally rewriting the constitution, to discuss Venezuela’s supposed democracy deficiency. Apparently, Ottawa wants a Haitian regime extending its term and criminalizing protest to maintain its support for Juan Guaidó as “constitutional” president of Venezuela.

Last week foreign affairs minister François-Philippe Champagne spoke with his Haitian counterpart Claude Joseph. According to Champagne’s tweet about the conversation, they discussed COVID-19, Haiti’s elections and Venezuela. Presumably, Champagne relayed Ottawa’s position concerning Venezuela’s recent National Assembly elections, which delivered a final blow to opposition politician Guaidó’s farcical presidential claims. In August Joseph met his US and Canadian patrons in Washington on the sidelines of an anti-Venezuela Lima Group meeting. 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.”

Joseph is the representative of a prime minister appointed extra-constitutionally. His boss was picked by Moïse after parliament, which needs to endorse a prime minister, expired because the president failed to organize elections. Moïse is ruling by decree and pushing to extend his term by a year to February 7, 2022, against the wishes of most Haitians and constitutional experts.

Canada is essentially supporting Moïse’s bid to extend his mandate. Ottawa is also supporting an election process that most political actors in Haiti reject. In the summer Haiti’s entire nine person electoral council resigned in response to Moïse’s pressure and few believe a fair election is possible under his direction.

Canada is backing the elections and an illegal constitutional rewrite. After the call with Champagne, Joseph tweeted, “I had a fruitful conversation today with my Canadian counterpart François-Philippe Champagne. We discussed, among other things, Canada’s support for constitutional reform and the holding of elections in 2021.”

Moïse is seeking to rewrite the constitution. Soon after parliament was disbanded, he picked individuals to rewrite the constitution in flagrant violation of the law. Moïse appointed former Supreme Court justice Boniface Alexandre to head the constitutional rewrite. Alexandre was made figurehead “President” after the US, France and Canada overthrew elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004. In another throwback to a period that saw thousands killed in political violence, Moïse recently made Léon Charles head of police. The former military man oversaw the police in the 17 months after the 2004 coup with Charles publicly referring to the “war” the police waged against the pro-democracy sector.

In another regressive throwback, Moïse unilaterally decreed the creation of a new National Intelligence Agency at the end of November. Kim Ives explains, “this secret agency’s completely anonymous officers (Article 43) will have false identities (Article 44), carry guns (Article 51), be legally untouchable (Article 49), and have the power not just to spy and infiltrate but to arrest anybody engaged in ‘subversive’ acts (Article 29) or threatening ‘state security’ i.e. the power of President Jovenel Moïse.” The new agency appears analogous to the Duvalier dictatorship’s Volontaires de la Sécurité Nationale (Ton Ton Macoutes) or the Service d’Intelligence National the CIA created after Baby Doc fled in 1986. Supposed to fight the cocaine trade, SIN members were involved in hundreds of murders in subsequent years.

Even most of Moïse’s foreign patrons have nominally distanced themselves from the new intelligence agency, which reach beyond the constitutional powers of the president. The Core Group, a US and Canada led alliance of foreign ambassadors that heavily influences Haitian affairs, released a statement critical of Moïse’s intelligence agency decree. (But, I could not find a mention of the Core Group statement on either the Canadian ambassador or Canada in Haiti Twitter accounts.)

Alongside the intelligence agency announcement, Moïse decreed new legislation “for strengthening public security”. It includes massive fines and 50-year jail sentences for individuals convicted of “terrorism” related charges, which include the common protest tactic of blockading roads.

As it seeks to overthrow Nicolás Maduro for purported human rights violations and democratic deficiencies, the Trudeau government has endorsed Moïse’s repressive measures. After a meeting with the president, Canada’s ambassador Stuart Savage tweeted on December 10: “Important discussion with Jovenel Moïse on this International Human Rights Day on the subject of democratic renewal, rule of law and food security.” Savage failed to criticize Moïse’s bid to extend his term, rewrite the constitution, establish an intelligence agency or label road blockades “terrorism”.

Even before these recent unconstitutional measures, partnering with Moïse to demand Maduro follow Canada’s interpretation of the Venezuelan constitution was laughable. Moïse is the hand-picked successor of Michel Martellywho the US, Canada and Organization of American States inserted into the presidency after the horrific 2010 earthquake. A relatively obscure businessman who had never held public office, Moïse benefited from two million dollars in public funds (ironically stolen from Venezuelan assistance) funneled his way by the Martelly administration. According to official figures, Moïse received 595,000 votes — just 9.6 percent of registered voters in the 2016 election. (For his part, Maduro received the support of 27% of registered voters in the May 2018 presidential election.)

Moïse faced an unprecedented popular uprising against his presidency between July 2018 and late 2019. The country’s urban areas were paralyzed by a handful of general strikes, including one that largely shuttered Port-au-Prince for a month. The only reason the unpopular president is still in office is because of diplomatic, financial and policing support from Ottawa and Washington.

Shining a light on Canadian policy towards Haiti makes clear that its bid to replace Maduro as President of Venezuela is not about democracy. Ottawa is completely comfortable with an undemocratic government in Haiti.

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Media refuses to publish op-ed by Venezuelan Foreign Minister

Despite claims to objectivity and fairness, when it comes to Canadian interference in other countries’ domestic affairs, there’s long been only one side to the story reported in the dominant media.

Even so, the pro-Ottawa slant on Venezuela is shocking.

Recently Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza published an op-ed titled “Regime Change with a Human (Rights) Face: Trudeau’s Venezuela Policy”. The commentary notes, “Relations between Venezuela and Canada are currently at their worst point. Although previous Canadian governments did not hide their dislike for our policies aimed at reclaiming sovereignty over our natural resources and prioritizing social policies, none had so actively imitated the U.S. regime change policy as much as the current Trudeau Administration.” Arreaza criticized Canadian sanctions on Venezuela and noted that “Canada was the only country in the world that specifically forbade Venezuelan diplomatic missions” from allowing Venezuelans to vote during the May 2018 election. Venezuela’s former vice president also invited Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne to meet to discuss restarting diplomatic relations.

Few saw Arreaza’s op-ed since it was published in The Canada Files, an upstart left-wing website. But, the article was submitted to a number of major daily papers. Apparently, the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star and others didn’t consider criticism by the foreign minister of a country of 30 million, that’s had diplomatic relations with Canada for seven decades, important enough to offer their readers. Blind to the irony, they would likely justify their decision on the grounds that Venezuela’s government is authoritarian and suppresses oppositional voices!

In September lawyer Andrew Dekany published a long article arguing that Canada’s first round of sanctions on Venezuela contravened Canadian law. Licensed to practice in Ontario, Dekany wrote that the August 2017 sanctions weren’t in accordance with Canadian legislation stating that international sanctions be adopted only as part of international alliances. As such, the Trump administration aided the Trudeau government by creating the US-Canada“Association Concerning the Situation in Venezuela” to conform to the existing sanctions legislation. In a Venezuela Analysis article titled “Do Canadian Sanctions Against Venezuela Violate Canadian Law?”, Dekany writes, “there is no reason for Canada to ‘create’ this association but for its desire to help the U.S. out [by sanctioning Venezuela], having failed to persuade the one obvious organization (Organization of American States) which it had democratically joined to, among other things, act in such a way.” I couldn’t find any mention of Dekany’s arguments in any major Canadian media. (The Toronto Sun published an op-ed on the subject by Dekany in 2017.)

An April 2019 Center for Economic and Policy Research report written by prominent economists Jeffrey Sachs and Mark Weisbrot concluded that 40,000 Venezuelans may have died in 2017 and 2018 as a result of US sanctions. The intensity of the US sanctions, as well as their impact on Venezuelans’ ability to eat and access medicine, has grown significantly since then. A search of Canadian Newsstand, Toronto Star and Globe and Mail elicited two mentions of Sachs and Weisbrot’s findings (A Halifax Chronicle-Herald story titled “Four million Venezuelans have fled crisis: UN” mentioned it at the bottom of the story and an op-ed in the Hill Times by Canadian Foreign Policy Institute director Bianca Mugyenyi.)

Since the fall of 2017 Canadian taxpayers have been paying a hardline pro-corporate, pro-Washington, former diplomat hundreds of thousands of dollars to coordinate the Liberal government’s bid to oust Venezuela’s government. There’s been total silence in the dominant media about Allan Culham’s role as Special Advisor on Venezuela.

As Arreaza pointed out in his op-ed, the Trudeau government’s Venezuela policy took a sharply belligerent turn after Donald Trump became president and Chrystia Freeland replaced Stéphane Dion as foreign affairs minister. In reaction to Freeland’s January 2017 appointment an official at the US embassy in Ottawa claimed Justin Trudeau appointed her to promote the interests of Washington. In July 2019 researcher Jay Watts disclosed a dispatch from the US embassy in Ottawa to the State Department in Washington entitled “Canada Adopts ‘America First’ Foreign Policy.” Uncovered through a freedom of information request, the largely redacted cable also notes that Trudeau’s government would be “Prioritizing U.S. Relations, ASAP.” Despite all kinds of fawning coverage of Freeland, the dominant media has completely ignored the US cable.

In A Propaganda System: How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Exploitation I detail extreme media bias in favour of power on topics ranging from Haiti to Palestine, investment agreements to the mining industry. Considering the pattern, the Venezuelan coverage is not surprising.

But, the growth of left and international media, as well as social media bubbles, makes it is easy to forget how few Canadians are actually receiving this critical information. Canadian media rejecting a commentary by the foreign minister of a country of 30 million is a reminder of just how biased foreign policy coverage is.

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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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Filed under Justin Trudeau, Latin America, Venezuela

Canadian Left rejects Organization of American States

Unknown

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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Propaganda or principle? Trudeau on Venezuela and Haiti

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Haitian president Jovenel Moïse and Trudeau

Propaganda or principle? In the world of foreign affairs the latter is often claimed but the former is much more common.

One way to evaluate the seriousness of the Trudeau government’s stated objectives in seeking to oust Venezuela’s government is to examine their policy elsewhere in the Caribbean. While they talk about the constitution, democracy and human rights there, the Liberals ignore their stated ideals in Haiti.

The only reason corrupt repressive and illegitimate president Jovenel Moïse remains in office is due to the support of Ottawa and Washington. Since July 2018 there have been massive protests and strikes, including one that shuttered Port-au-Prince for six weeks, calling for Moïse’s removal. But, the US and Canada have continued to offer decisive diplomatic, financial and policing support. (A by-product of US/Canadian policy, Moïse benefited from the destruction of Haiti’s most popular political party, Fanmi Lavalas, in the 2004 coup and aggressive interference in the 2010 presidential election in favor of Michel Martelly, who is Moïse’s mentor.)

The constitutional and human rights situation in Haiti is deteriorating. Since the start of the year Moïse has governed by decree and has recently begun appointing local level officials. There haven’t been elections during Moïse time in office, so the mandates of most officials have expired.

Plunging the country into a greater constitutional morass, eight members of the provisional electoral council resigned last week (the other member stepped aside a few weeks earlier). They resigned in response to a letter from Moïse giving different social sectors four days to either confirm or replace their representatives on the electoral council.

Two months ago, nine gangs in Port-au-Prince brokered an alliance. Backed by Moïse, the “G9 and Family” accord is largely designed to deter protests and election organizing. InSight Crime writer Parker Asmann explains, “the G9 alliance has reportedly benefited from strong ties to the government of President Jovenel Moïse. The gang leaders are seemingly free from persecution so long as they help keep the peace in the neighborhoods they control. In exchange, Moïse’s government has found in them loyal foot soldiers quelling insecurity, stamping out opposition voices and shoring up political support across the capital.”

The mastermind of the G9 is Jimmy Chérizier, alias “Barbecue”. A former police officer, Chérizier was involved in a November 2017 police operation that left at least 14 innocent civilians dead in the neighborhood of Grand Ravine. Chérizier has also been accused of leading a four day killing spree that left as many as 71 dead in La Saline in November 2018 and a recent United Nations report named Chérizier in killings in the neighborhood of Bel-Air last November. After the La Saline massacre he was dismissed from the police and a warrant was put out for Chérizier’s arrest. But, the 14-year veteran of the force was recently photographed smiling next to a group of police.

Chérizier likely joined the police with a host of other thugs after Canada and the US took over the force following the 2004 coup against Jean Bertrand Aristide and other elected officials. Since then Ottawa has financed police facilities and Canadian police have trained their Haitian counterparts. Canadian diplomats regularly attend Haitian police ceremonies and praise the force. But, they rarely criticize their abundant abuses. In a Le Nouveliste interview last month Canadian ambassador Stuart Savage refused to answer a direct question about police repression. The reporter asked on “June 29 there was a demonstration that was suppressed by the police in Haiti. How does Canada, which works for human rights, which funds the National Police of Haiti, which helps the Haitian government, understand what happened that Monday?” Savage responded, “I am not aware of all the facts of this specific event. But I can tell you that in a democracy, the right to organize peaceful demonstrations is a given and must be respected. I hope that here and elsewhere this right will continue to be upheld, because it is necessary that people who have perspectives to share, to communicate, to convey, have a peaceful means to do so.”

Did Savage seek out information about the repression of a Nou pap dòmi rally, reported on by Le Nouveliste, and subsequently express Canada’s opposition to the police suppressing a protest? Not from what I could find. I searched in vain for anything critical of police actions on the embassy or ambassador’s twitter accounts. Similarly, there’s nothing about the widely discussed G9 gang alliance or the electoral council resigning. But, the Canadian ambassador in Haiti has taken the time to criticize the Venezuelan government. Savage’s last two tweets were about the Canadian government’s campaign to oust Nicolás Maduro’s government.

As respect for the constitution, democracy and human rights go from bad to worse in Haiti there is barely a murmur of criticism from Canadian officials. At the same time the Trudeau government claims it is defending said ideals in Venezuela.

 

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How Venezuela helped defeat Canada’s Security Council bid

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Was Canada defeated in its bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council because of Justin Trudeau’s effort to overthrow Venezuela’s government? Its intervention in the internal affairs of another sovereign country certainly didn’t help.

According to Royal Military College Professor Walter Dorn, “I spoke with an ambassador in NYC who told me that yesterday she voted for Canada. She had also cast a ballot in the 2010 election, which Canada also lost. She said that Canada’s position on the Middle East (Israel) had changed, which was a positive factor for election, but that Canada’s work in the Lima Group caused Venezuela to lobby hard against Canada. Unfortunately (from her perspective and mine), Venezuela and its allies still hold sway in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM or G77).”

The only country’s diplomats — as far as I can tell — that publicly campaigned against Canada’s bid for a seat on the Security Council were Venezuelan. Prior to the vote Venezuela’s Vice-Minister of foreign relations for North America, Carlos Ron, tweeted out his opposition: “With its deafening silence, Canada has de facto supported terrorists and mercenaries who recently plotted against Venezuela, threatening regional peace and security. The UNSC is entrusted with upholding the United Nations Charter and maintaining International Peace and Security: Canada does not meet that criteria.”

The post was re-tweeted by Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, who has 1.6 million followers, and numerous Venezuelan diplomats around the world, including the Venezuelan ambassador to the UN. Joaquín Pérez Ayestarán added, “Canada recognizes an unelected, self-proclaimed President in Venezuela, in complete disregard for the will of the voters. It also tries to isolate Venezuela diplomatically & supports sanctions that affect all Venezuelans. Is the Security Council the place for more non-diplomacy?”

After Canada lost its Security Council bid Ron noted, not surprised with UN Security Council election results today. A subservient foreign policy may win you Trump’s favor, but the peoples of the world expect an independent voice that will stand for diplomacy, respect for self-determination, and peace.” He also tweeted an Ottawa Citizen article titled “Why Black and brown countries may have rejected Canada’s security council bid.”

For his part, UN ambassador Ayestarán tweeted, “losing two consecutive elections to the Security Council of United Nations within a 10-years period is a clear message that you are not a reliable partner and that the international community has no confidence in you for entrusting questions related to international peace and security.”

Over the past couple of years the Trudeau government has openly sought to overthrow Venezuela’s government. In a bid to elicit “regime change”, Ottawa has worked to isolate Caracas, imposed illegal sanctions, took that government to the International Criminal Court, financed an often-unsavoury opposition and decided a marginal opposition politician was the legitimate president.

Canada’s interference in Venezuelan affairs violates the UN and OAS charters. It is also wildly hypocritical. In its bid to force the Maduro government to follow Canada’s (erroneous) interpretation of the Venezuelan constitution Ottawa is allied in the Lima Group with President Juan Orlando Hernandez, who openly defied the Honduran Constitution. Another of Canada’s Lima Group allies is Colombian President Ivan Duque who has a substantially worse human rights record.

Reflecting the interventionist climate in this country, some suggested Canada’s position towards Venezuela would actually help it secure a seat on the Security Council. A few weeks before the vote the National Post’s John Ivison penned a column titled “Trudeau’s trail of broken promises haunt his UN Security Council campaign” that noted “but, Canada’s vigorous participation in the Lima Group, the multilateral group formed in response to the crisis in Venezuela, has won it good notices in Latin America.” (The Lima Group was set up to bypass the Organization of American States, mostly Caribbean countries, refusal to interfere in Venezuela’s affairs.) A Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East factsheet regarding “Canada’s 2020 bid for a UN Security Council seat” echoed Ivison’s view. It claimed, “Canada also presents a positive image to Latin American states, likely reinforced by its leadership of the Lima Group in 2019 and by its promise to allocate $53 million to the Venezuelan migration crisis.”

While it is likely that Lima Group countries voted for Canada, a larger group of non-interventionist minded countries outside of that coalition didn’t. Venezuelan officials’ ability to influence Non-Aligned Movement and other countries would have been overwhelmingly based on their sympathy for the principle of non-intervention in other countries’ affairs and respect for the UN charter.

The Liberals’ policy towards Venezuela has blown up in its face. Maduro is still in power. Canada’s preferred Venezuelan politician, Juan Guaidó, is weaker today than at any point since he declared himself president a year and a half ago. And now Venezuela has undermined the Liberals’ effort to sit on the Security Council.

Will Canada’s defeat at the UN spark a change in its disastrous Venezuela policy?

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