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Why We Must Save Dying Languages*

Why We Must Save Dying Languages*

By Max J Rosenthal

Is Common Language Killing off Ancient Ecological Knowledge?

You probably know that much of the world’s environment is under threat. But a new study says languages are disappearing alongside plants and animals.

The study, from the World Wildlife Fund, measured the threat to languages using a scale that tracks how threatened species are. Not only are many languages steadily losing speakers, says co-author Jonathan Loh, but “the rate of decline, globally, is actually very close to the rate of decline in populations of wild vertebrate species.”

There’s the obvious threat of in-demand languages, which many people start speaking more and more, as the speakers of smaller languages dwindle.

“Thousands of indigenous languages spoken around the world are being replaced by one of a dozen or so dominant world languages like English, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese,” he says.

But Loh, who’s also a research associate at the Zoological Society of London, says that languages are dying off due to many of the same issues that plants and animals face. He comments:

“Some of the drivers that are driving the extinction of biodiversity — such as increasing global population, increasing consumption of natural resources, increasing globalization and so on — are applicable to languages as well…”

And that’s no coincidence. Loh explains that languages have a lot of specific local knowledge built in.

The vertical axis represents the number of nearly extinct indigenous languages; the number in blue its relation (in percent) to the total number of native languages still spoken in same country. (Source: National Geographic, 2013)

The Knowledge Embedded in Languages

“The cultures have evolved in a particular environmental context, so they have an extraordinary amount of traditional ecological knowledge — knowledge of the local species, plants, animals, the medicinal uses of them, the migration patterns of animals behaviour,”

So when the languages die off, much of that knowledge goes with them.

Then children stop learning the language, they also stop acquiring that traditional knowledge,” Loh says.

There are plenty of linguists who are studying and trying to preserve native languages, but Loh wants to see them work with biologists to make sure that valuable ecological history isn’t missed.

 “Linguists often don’t have the knowledge of natural history that’s necessary in order to be able to record an endangered language because so much of the lexicon is tied up with names of species or types of ecosystems,” he says.

He argues that:

“…if we can recognize that culture and nature are inextricably interlinked, then working on a biocultural diversity as a whole, as a subject, would be a more fruitful way of looking at conservation.”

The Link Between Culture and Nature

“One of the interesting findings was that where a species goes extinct — because the population of the species declines away to nothing — a language doesn’t go extinct because the population of speakers declines away to nothing, but usually because the speakers shift from their mother tongue to a second language, usually a more dominant one.”

An Aboriginal man from Laura, QLD; part of a Northern Australian ‘hotspot’ of dying languages.

 

Loh says languages are disappearing most quickly in Australia and the Americas.

“About three-quarters of the languages of the Americas are under the threat of extinction,” he says, and “95% of the indigenous aboriginal Australian languages are … declining extremely rapidly.”

“And, as with species,” he warns, “when a language is lost, it’s gone forever. You can never get it back.”

“There’s this extraordinary wealth of traditional ecological knowledge that’s bound up with a lot of the world’s indigenous languages, and I think it would be really useful to biologists in understanding how to manage natural ecosystems.”

Integrating Language and Knowledge

Over the past century alone, around 400 languages – about one every three months – have gone extinct, and most linguists estimate that 50% of the world’s remaining 6,500 languages will be gone by the end of this century, with some putting the figure as high as 90%. Today, the top ten languages in the world are spoken by around half of the world’s population. We could even be facing a future world where only one language is spoken globally, but while it’s important for everyone to understand each other, perhaps there’s a way we can preserve the wisdom of ancient languages at the same time.

 

Source*

Related Topics:

My Language is the Window to My Soul

Amazonian Elders Conclude Completion of First Indigenous Medical Encyclopaedia*

Muslims Launch the World’s First Islamic Sign Language Book*

Four Year Old Russian Girl Speaks 7 Languages, including Chinese and Arabic*

Indigenous Australia MP Gives Maiden Speech in Native Language*

Battle On To Keep Ambiguous Language about Family Out of Major UN Agreement*

Turkey-Iran: An Ancient Language Rediscovered

Basque: A 7,000 Year Old European Language and a People Exist

 

Greek Authorities to Launch Mass Confiscation of Safe Deposit Boxes, Securities, Homes in Tax-Evasion Crackdown*

Greek Authorities to Launch Mass Confiscation of Safe Deposit Boxes, Securities, Homes in Tax-Evasion Crackdown*

By Tyler Durden

Last week, the Greek parliament once again approved more austerity to unlock withheld Greek bailout funds in Brussels: a symbolic move, which has little impact without any actual follow through, like for example, actually imposing austerity. And while Greeks have been very good in the former (i.e. promises), they have been severely lacking in the latter (i.e. delivery).

That may be changing. According to Kathimerini, Greek Finance Ministry inspectors are about to start seeking out the owners of all local undeclared properties, while the law will be amended to allow for financial products and the content of safe deposit boxes to be confiscated electronically. The plan for the identification of taxpayers who have “forgotten” to declare their properties to the tax authorities is expected to be ready by year-end, according to the timetable of the Independent Authority for Public Revenue.

What follows then will be a wholesale confiscation by the government of any asset whose source, origins and funding cannot be explained.

The Greek tax authorities will receive support from the Land Register to that end, as by end-September IAPR inspectors are set to obtain access to the company’s database to draw details on properties. Any taxpayers identified as having skipped the declaration of their assets to the tax authorities will be asked to comply and declare them, along with paying the tax and fines dictated by law. Should taxpayers fail to do so, the asset will be “sequestered.”

Kathimerini also notes that the IAPR is also waiting for Parliament to pass regulations permitting the mass confiscation of safe deposit box contents and financial assets such as securities.

To date the process has been conducted in handwriting and is therefore particularly slow in locating the assets of taxpayers who have either concealed incomes or have major debts to the state. It is about to get much more streamlined: once the necessary regulations are in place for the operation of an automatic system to collect debts, the tax authorities will be able to issue online confiscation notices and immediately get their hands on the contents of safe deposit boxes, confiscating cash, precious stones, jewelry and so on. They will also be able to confiscate shares and other securities.

This year the tax authorities will focus their efforts on confiscations as they try to reduce the huge pile of expired debts to the state. In this context the Independent Authority for Public Revenue will auction 27 properties belonging to state debtors by the end of next month, with the aim of collecting 2.7 billion euros by the end of the year from old debts and another 690 million euros of new debts from major debtors.

We will share the details of the auctions with readers as some notable bargains may emerge in the coming months.

Source*

Related Topics:

Greeks Paid €7bn More in Taxes in 2016, as Middle-Classes Vanish and Poverty Increases*

IMF to Greece: Sorry We’ll Destroy You*

There is a new U.S. “Marshall Plan” for Greece*

What Will Unfold as Greece Hires a Rothschild as Debt Advisor*

Greece Bans Cash*

Greece is now a Colony of the E.U.*

Europe’s Vindictive Privatization Plan for Greece*

How German and French Banks Helped Bankrupt Greece*

Shab-i-Barat: The Night of Forgiveness*

Shab-i-Barat: The Night of  Forgiveness*

Faithful on Thursday night observe “Shab-i-Barat” with great religious reverence and fervour across the country.

With the setting of the sun, the faithful started gathering in mosques to offer special prayers for peace, progress, and prosperity of the country besides seeking forgiveness for their sins.

An illuminated view of Badshahi Mosque decorated with colorful lights on the eve of Shab-i-Barat.

 

Women release oil lamps and candles in the water of Ravi river, seeking forgiveness and repentance.

 

The people also organised several gatherings and Mahafil-i-Naat to achieve Allah Almighty’s blessing in the world and the life hereafter.

Religious scholars in their sermons highlighted the teachings of Islam and various aspects of the life of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) so that the followers could lead their lives in line with the Qur’an and Sunnah.

Family members light lamps and pray at a grave of their relative. —AP

 

A woman reads the holy verses besides a grave of her relative at a graveyard in Karachi. —AP

 

Special prayers were offered to get rid of the menace of terrorism besides showing the right path to disgruntled people, playing in the hands of anti-state elements.

On this occasion, houses, streets and especially mosques were decorated with colorful pennants and bunting whereas at night these were well illuminated by means of electric lights, candles or even oil lamps.

People read holy verses near the graves of their relatives to mark the night of forgiveness. —AFP

 

Besides, people visited graves of their near and dear ones, seeking Allah’s blessings for the departed souls.

Special security arrangements were made for peaceful observance of “Shab-i-Barat”.

People attend a sermon at a mosque in Karachi.

 

Source*

Related Topics:

Layla-tul Bara’at

Prophet Muhammed (SAW) on Ramadhan

Ten Ways to Prepare for Ramadhan From Now*

Ramadhan Journey Across the Desert of the Sinai*

Freedom in Ramadhan*

Working and Staying Sane in Ramadhan*

Two Thousand People March against Monsanto and Syngenta in Switzerland*

Two Thousand People March against Monsanto and Syngenta in Switzerland*

Peaceful demonstration in Basel calls for paradigm change in agriculture

 

In Basel, Switzerland, the home town of the chemicals giant Syngenta, the third March Against Monsanto and Syngenta was held on Saturday 20 May 2017. Two thousand people turned out to demonstrate against toxic pesticides, GMOs, and patents on seeds. They demanded an ecological and diverse agriculture which serves food security instead of profit.

The demonstration ended at the Syngenta headquarters and was accompanied by street artists, musicians, and children dressed as bees.

In front of the Syngenta headquarters, Fern Rosenstiel, an environmental scientist from Kauai, Hawaii, spoke about the use of highly toxic pesticides – pesticides that are banned in Switzerland – on Syngenta test fields in Hawaii. She said: “Syngenta must finally take responsibility for the health problems in Hawaii.”

Syngenta is currently caught up in legal battles over its farming of GM crops in Hawaii and is planning to sell its operations in the state.

This year the main focus of the protest was the increasing market power in the agrochemical industry. In addition to the planned acquisition of Syngenta by ChemChina and the merger of Dow and Dupont, Bayer plans to take over Monsanto. Altogether, the three companies would control over 60% of the commercial seed and pesticide market.

“Syngenta is now Chinese but that does not mean that our resistance against the business practice of Syngenta stops now,” said Ueli Gähler from Multiwatch.

“Today, we protest in solidarity with smallholders in China and the rest of the world.”

The march against Monsanto and Syngenta in Basel was supported by more than 50 organisations from Switzerland and Germany, including Basel unions, the Green Party, and environmental, agricultural and development organisations such as Greenpeace, Uniterre and SWISSAID.*

Zoë Roth from the event’s organising committee drew a positive conclusion:

“The high turnout at the March against Monsanto and Syngenta in Basel confirms the desire for ecological farming.”

* The complete list of supporting organisations and more information are available at: www.marchagainstsyngenta.ch

Source*

Related Topics:

The GMO Agenda is Planned Sterilization of Humanity*

For Reducing Male Fertility New Protection Bill for Monsanto*

GM Foods and Fertility

GMOs Are Mutating Microorganisms and Spawning Deadly New Life Forms‏

World Bank Aims to Hand over Seed Industry to Agribusiness*

Iraq’s Agricultural Industry was Pillaged, Its Farmers Devastated, But It’s Still Free of GMO Seeds*

Canada’s New Food Labels won’t Include GMO Info.*

Largest-Ever GMO Crops Study Shows Massive Environmental Damage in U.S.*

White House Resorts to Blackmail Over GMOs in NWOs TTIP Trade Negotiations*

Embedding Transnational Agribusiness and GMO’s into African Agriculture*

Mexican Supreme Court Refuses to Review Monsanto Appeal on GMO Maize Permits*

Monsanto + Syngenta Lobby Tanzanian Government to Pass Law Jailing Farmers who Exchange their Traditional Seeds*

U.K. Gov’t Has Colluded with Monsanto by Treating Wales as a Monsanto Toxic Dump*

Monsanto Was Put on Trial for Ecocide at the Hague*

Trump’s First Budget Not Looking Good for Citizens*

Trump’s First Budget Not Looking Good for Citizens*

The money goes to war, war, and more war…

By Tyler Durden

Here are some of the highlights from the latest batch of trial balloons:

 

  • Trump’s budget will include a massive nearly $200 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the modern version of food stamps, over the next 10 years – what amounts to a 25% reduction, according to The Washington Post.

 

 

  • The budget calls for about $800 billion in cuts to Medicaid for fiscal year 2018, WaPo reported.

 

  • The budget also calls for $2.6 billion in border security spending, $1.6 billion of which will be earmarked for Trump’s proposed wall along the U.S.’s southern border.

The budget is also expected to propose major domestic discretionary spending cuts – an earlier version of the budget called for $54 billion in such cuts next year alone.

Predictably, Democrats are already up in arms over the proposal, even though a formal draft isn’t expected until Tuesday.

In a statement cited by Bloomberg, New York Senator Senator Chuck Schumer clumsily compared Trump’s campaign rhetoric to a “Trojan Horse.”

“This budget continues to reveal President Trump’s true colours: His populist campaign rhetoric was just a Trojan horse to execute long-held, hard-right policies that benefit the ultra-wealthy at the expense of the middle class,” Bloomberg noted.

Well, at least Trump didn’t promise that if Americans liked their healthcare plan, they can keep it.

To be sure, Republicans have also expressed some discomfort with the cuts, particularly Trump’s plan to whack $54 billion in discretionary spending. Mitch McConnell even told Bloomberg that Congressional Republicans would ultimately end up writing their own budget, the same way Senate Republicans are rewriting Obamacare repeal.

Trump has promised to balance the federal government’s budget in 10 years, though, as Democrats have noted, the projection is dependent on economic growth accelerating to 3% following the passage of massive tax cuts, and no recession over the next decade, a rather bold assumption. Meanwhile, growth collapsed to an annualized rate of just 0.7% in the fist quarter, the slowest rate in three years, while loan demand has plunged to the lowest level in 6 years. Meanwhile, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget claims that rather than reining it in our national debt, Trump’s tax cuts would make the debt much worse.

Source*

Belgian Analyst: U.S. Born out of Violence Needs War to Survive*

Related Topics:

The U.S. is Back in Recession with Interest Rates Already at Zero*

Chinese Billionaire Says U.S. Wasted Trillions on Wars and Wall Street and Forgot about their Citizens*

Is U.S. Deep State in Deep Trouble?*

Trump To Continue Bankrupting The U.S. Through Foreign Wars*

Trump Wastes over $94mn in Taxpayer’s Money on Ineffective Syrian Airstrikes*

World Rushes to De-Dollarize Oil Trade Before U.S. Economy Crashes*

Puerto Rico’s $123 Billion Bankruptcy Is the Cost of U.S. Colonialism*

Rapidly Declining U.S. Exports*

The U.S. Spent a Half Billion on Mining in Afghanistan with ‘Limited Progress’*

U.S. Has Spent $11.5 Million A Day for Past 542 Days Straight in Fight against ISIS*

U.S. Navy Just Spent $2.1bn on a Fancy Transport Fleet That Sinks*

U.S. has Already Spent Five Billion Dollars to Subvert Ukraine*

U.S. Military is Building a $100mn Drone Base in Africa*

U.S.-U.K. Paid “White Helmets” Help to Block Water to 5 Million Thirsty Syrians*

Tens of Thousands March Across U.S. Demanding Donald Trump Release His Tax Returns*

U.S. Tax Dollars and Companies Support Sex Traffickers in Iraq*

The U.S. Looking for War

U.S. Government Admits Social Security Going Bankrupt*

The Strategy behind Washington’s Destabilization of Venezuela*

The Strategy behind Washington’s Destabilization of Venezuela*

Venezuela represents everything that the U.S. opposes in the region: socialism, anti-imperialism, economic independence via energy exports and a viable ally for China, Russia, Iran and other countries that oppose the hegemonic designs of Washington.

By Eric Draitser

An anti-government protester wields a shotgun taken from security forces during clashes in Caracas, Venezuela, May 8, 2017. (AP/Ariana Cubillos)

 

The corporate media continues to churn out endless stories detailing repression, state violence and socioeconomic collapse in Venezuela. Conspicuously absent from their stories, however, is the fact that much of the turmoil in the Bolivarian Republic is a result of an economic and psychological war being waged against the country by right-wing elements inside Venezuela and their backers in the United States.

Naturally, this charge has been dismissed out of hand by the imperial stenographers at the New York Times, Washington Post and The Economist, who continue to insist that there’s nothing at all nefarious going on in Venezuela aside from the “corrupt dictatorship” led by President Nicolas Maduro.  Of course, were there real journalists covering Venezuela, they’d make note of the fact that a campaign of economic and psychological war, targeted assassinations, and corporate intrigue have helped plunge the country into an existential crisis.

Rather predictably, none of those factors are incorporated into a well-rounded analysis of the situation in Venezuela; instead, it is sensationalist headlines and narrowly defined issues that grab the media spotlight. And perhaps no concept is more taboo within elite media circles than the strategic imperatives of the U.S.-led system of global political and economic hegemony that dominates the world. No, for the yellow journalists employed by the likes of Newscorp, Comcast and Amazon, Venezuela is just another wayward child in need of a stern rebuke and hand-holding back to the path of the good little oil colony.

Ultimately, the empire’s beef with Venezuela is two-fold. First, it is a country that has attempted to free itself of the architecture of neo-colonial domination that the U.S. and other global powers use to control the Global South.  Secondly, Venezuela represents everything that the U.S. opposes in the region: socialism, anti-imperialism, economic independence via energy exports and a viable ally for China, Russia, Iran and other countries that oppose the hegemonic designs of Washington.

Regime change is the ultimate objective in the destabilization of Venezuela, a bringing to heel of the rogue state in order to serve Washington’s global objectives. The U.S. thirsts for the reversal of the Bolivarian Revolution and the legacy of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Target: Venezuela

A mural featuring an image of former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was defaced in the Bronx borough of New York, Tuesday, May 9, 2017. (AP/Seth Wenig)

 

There is a misconception spreading through the Beltway like an airborne virus, infectious in its obliviousness to reality: the idea that the administration of President Donald Trump is so bogged down by scandal and controversy that it cannot achieve any geopolitical and strategic objectives. In fact, the opposite is true. Like a cornered animal, Trump and his team are exceedingly dangerous, both in their unpredictability and, strangely enough, also in their predictability.

And when it comes to Venezuela, their strategy is transparent.

Oil reigns supreme in the minds of Trump, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the rest of the administration. In the case of Venezuela, oil remains the lifeblood of its economy.  So in a very real sense, the White House and State Department’s interests converge with the economic imperatives of corporate America in the Bolivarian Republic.

Tillerson represents perhaps the perfect embodiment of U.S. government attitudes toward Venezuela. A slick oil man through and through, Tillerson has long sought to destabilize Venezuela in an attempt to reassert ExxonMobil’s supremacy in the country.

Venezuela’s recent rocky history begins with Chavez’s nationalization of the oil sector under the state oil company PDVSA in 2007. The Chavez government offered ExxonMobil book value for assets that it intended to assume control over, while the Tillerson-led company demanded market value, which they priced at roughly $15 billion.  Eventually, the World Bank’s arbitration court ordered Venezuela to pay $1.6 billion to ExxonMobil.

But ExxonMobil’s anger at Caracas was certainly not assuaged with that settlement agreement. In fact, the following decade saw ExxonMobil step up efforts to destabilize Venezuela’s socialist government using a variety of tactics.

None have been more potent than Venezuela’s border dispute with Guyana. At the heart of this border dispute is energy and the billions of dollars in profits likely to be extracted from the offshore territory. According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), “The Guyana Suriname Basin [is] 2nd in the world for prospectivity among the world’s unexplored basins and 12th for oil among all the world’s basins – explored and unexplored.” The basin, which stretches from eastern Venezuela to the shores of northern Brazil, is one of the major prizes in the world for energy corporations and governments alike.

Indeed, the USGS estimates that roughly 15 billion barrels of undiscovered oil and 42 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves lie under the basin, just waiting to be extracted. Such staggering economic potential has made the territorial waters off Venezuela and Guyana highly sought after, especially since contesting border claims make legal obstacles to exploration far more surmountable, as they allow companies to deal with a compliant government in Georgetown, rather than an independent one in Caracas.

So it should come as no surprise that Tillerson and ExxonMobil have been backing the Guyanese government. Venezuelan officials say their support has included providing financial support to Guyanese President David Granger’s election campaign in 2015. Of course, ExxonMobil has denied these claims.  But the company cannot deny the fact that, as the Huffington Post reported:

“Under Secretary Clinton, the State Department set up a program called the Energy Governance and Capacity Initiative. The program aims to both promote fossil development and prevent the ‘resource curse’ by providing ‘independent oversight’ of the oil and gas industry in nascent oil states. The program is currently helping the Guyanese government write profit sharing agreements, environmental regulations, and develop a strong rule of law to counterbalance corporate power.”

An effigy representing Judas Iscariot, with a sign that labels it also as “Mr. Exxon”, referred to the Texas-based Exxon Mobil oil corporation, is burned during Holy Week in Caracas, March 23, 2008. (AP/Howard Yanes)

 

In other words, the U.S. State Department oversees the program that is literally writing the regulatory and financial architecture that will govern energy extraction in Guyana. And Tillerson, the former CEO for ExxonMobil, is the top official at the State Department. The conflict of interest is clear as day.

Indeed, ExxonMobil has effectively made Guyana into a subsidiary.  As the Washington Post noted:

“…countries such as Guyana that have no existing oil industry are considered ‘frontier’ locations, and typically offer the most lucrative terms to foreign companies willing to invest.  Guyana’s foreign partners stand to earn 60 to 65 percent of profits… a far larger share than what more established nations are willing to offer investors.”

Does anyone really believe that the State Department is not going to target Venezuela when it is led by a man who has fomented conflict with Venezuela, is raking in billions from Venezuela’s neighbor and has a long-standing vendetta against the Bolivarian Republic?

In fact, Tillerson’s oil goons have already uncorked the champagne numerous times this year, having announced multiple oil finds off the coast that are worth billions. Naturally, this is as much political as economic. For Tillerson and Trump, every barrel of oil extracted from Guyana is a thumb in the eye of the Venezuelan government.

Oil as a geopolitical weapon

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro fist bumps a worker of the state-run oil company PDVSA during a visit to the Orinoco oil belt in Venezuela in 2013. (Photo: Miraflores/AP)

 

However, it would be a mistake to assume that U.S. policy toward Venezuela revolves exclusively around the profits to be made by ExxonMobil and other oil companies. While that is undoubtedly a factor, ultimately it is about political leverage and strategy vis-à-vis rival powers and power blocs.

Consider the fact that Venezuela’s oil reserves alone account for roughly one-quarter (24.8%) of all proven crude oil reserves within the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). This makes Venezuela hugely influential when it comes to decisions about oil production and, consequently, global oil prices. And when you couple Venezuela with Iran, a key ally of the Bolivarian Republic, both countries together account for nearly 40% of OPEC crude.  Add to that non-OPEC member Russia, which accounts for 12.4% of global crude production, just behind Saudi Arabia and the U.S., and you begin to see just how significant these three countries are to global oil prices and production.

One must also consider Saudi Arabia, which closely trails Venezuela in terms of proven crude reserves (22% of OPEC reserves). The centrality of Venezuela should be immediately apparent. Installing a right-wing, pro-U.S. government in Venezuela would mean that the U.S. would effectively control, or at least have significant influence over, nearly 85% of OPEC production (Venezuela and the Gulf monarchies), thereby isolating Iran within the grouping. Put differently, Venezuela is the only thing keeping OPEC from being a plaything of Washington and Wall Street.

Russia and China also figure centrally in this calculation. With Venezuela under Washington’s boot, Moscow and Beijing would be significantly weaker, as they would have no influence over OPEC. Nor would they be able to satisfy each other’s needs alone – Russia needs consumer goods and imports far beyond what China can provide, and China needs energy and other raw materials far beyond what Russia can offer.

In effect, regime change in Venezuela would cut the legs out from under Moscow and Beijing.

An instructive example can be found in Venezuela’s neighbour, Brazil.  An oil exporter almost as large as Venezuela in terms of production – Brazil accounts for 3% of global crude production, while Venezuela accounts for 3.1%  – Brazil saw a quick political transformation in the form of a coup against the democratically-elected government of Dilma Rousseff, a coup that was orchestrated by right-wing elements in the country and their backers in the U.S.

And with the takeover of the government by the right wing and Goldman Sachs, Brazil’s oil exporting potential flipped overnight from a liability to an asset for Washington and Wall Street.  Trump and Tillerson seem to have a similar vision for Venezuela.

The Sino-Venezuelan partnership

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro, right, chats with Chinese President Xi Jinping after a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015. (AP/Andy Wong)

 

For decades, corporations in the U.S. saw Venezuela as little more than an American possession, an oil colony whose dependence on U.S. exports made it little different from a true colony in the traditional sense of the word. However, with the ascendance of Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution, Venezuela ceased to be a dependent client of the U.S., and instead became a political adversary.

One key aspect of Venezuelan economic relations with other countries that has undoubtedly rubbed strategic planners the wrong way has been its ongoing partnership with China. Under Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela has signed countless deals with Beijing, many of which are based on an oil-for-credit framework wherein Venezuelan oil underwrites Venezuelan borrowing from Chinese banks. The Chinese cash has been used to stave off default and pay the financial obligations of the Venezuelan government.

Beyond that, Venezuela and China have inked agreements in the areas of energy, mining, finance, infrastructure and agriculture. There is also the Joint Chinese-Venezuela Fund, which finances infrastructure projects and economic development in the Bolivarian Republic.

In February 2017, China and Venezuela signed a raft of agreements, including the construction of a refinery in China that will process 400,000 barrels of crude per day, 70 percent of which will come from Venezuela. The deals totaled $2.7 billion.

China has also become one of the leading manufacturers of transportation in Venezuela, with taxis and buses being purchased or manufactured by the Chinese for the Venezuelan market. This tangible example of the Venezuela-China relationship illustrates the importance of Beijing to the daily life of Venezuela.

Unlike China, Russia has little need for Venezuelan oil.  However, the one other area of Russian economic might is critical for the Bolivarian Republic: weapons.

According to Rostec, a Russian state corporation involved in the sale of military hardware to Venezuela, the estimated value of Russia-Venezuela arms contracts is roughly $12 billion. From 2005 to 2013, Venezuela was the largest buyer of Russian weapons in Latin America, with roughly $11 billion in purchase contracts.

But Russia’s ties to Venezuela are not simply about mutual enrichment, there is also a somewhat predatory aspect to the relationship, one that is likely making observers in both Washington and Caracas wary.  Russia’s $1.5 billion loan to Venezuela in November 2016 came with the condition that the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA pledge a 49.9% stake in Citgo, the U.S. subsidiary of PDVSA, as collateral for the loan.

This means that Russia’s state oil company Rosneft, run by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s close friend Igor Sechin, could control much of Venezuela’s economic clout. Translation: Russia wants Venezuelan oil to use as leverage against the U.S.

Venezuela has become a geopolitical flashpoint in recent years. As the country has moved forward on the path of socialism and anti-imperialism, it has increasingly been targeted by a wide range of destabilization tactics, as well as the collapse of global oil prices in 2014 and 2015 that crippled the Venezuelan economy.

The future of the revolution?

A government supporter holds an image of Venezuela’s late president Hugo Chavez, during a march in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. (AP/Fernando Llano)

 

Now, with Trump and Tillerson at the helm of the imperial warship, it seems that the target on Venezuela’s back has grown larger still. And with the right-wing resurgence throughout Latin America, strategic planners might feel that it’s only a matter of time before they achieve their objective: the destruction of the Bolivarian Revolution and a return to Venezuelan dependence on the U.S.

But while it seems that the U.S. is in control, there’s just one small issue – chavismo, the political ideology associated with the ideas and governing style of Hugo Chavez.

While Washington won’t officially admit it, there is a fear that any direct intervention in Venezuela could trigger a mass outpouring of anti-U.S., pro-Chavez sentiment.  The U.S. government hopes that Venezuela will collapse from within, thanks in large part to the millions of dollars spent by USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy to fund the right-wing opposition and other anti-government interests.

The trouble is that, despite the economic instability and destabilization, tens of millions of Venezuelans have made it clear that they’ll never accept being put in colonial chains again. And as the right wing demonstrates and demonizes, defenestrates and destabilizes, the revolution continues.

The question in the coming months will be whether China and, to a lesser extent Russia and Iran, will recognize that relations with Venezuela are not simply about money and profit, but about gaining leverage against the U.S. Will Venezuela be seen in its proper context as the frontline in the fight against the U.S. empire? Or will it be left to fend for itself as the imperial dogs of war howl for the blood of the Bolivarian Republic?

Source*

Related Topics:

No Surprise – U.S. Behind Violence in Venezuela*

Venezuela Oil Union Workers Back Maduro’s Constituent Assembly*

Tensions on the Rise As U.S. Announces Military Drills Near Venezuela*

Venezuela’s Opposition Activists Confess Being Paid to Promote Violent Protests*

U.S. Cries ‘Power Grab’ Following Venezuela Supreme Court Ruling*

Venezuela Maintains High Human Development Despite U.S. Engineered Economic Crisis*

Evo Morales Defends Venezuela against ‘Treacherous’ OAS Head*

World Bank to Reduce Venezuela Payout in Exxon Case*

The Caribbean Supports Venezuela against U.S. Interventionism*

Venezuela’s Supreme Court Blocks U.S. Regime Change*

One Way for U.S. to Keep More than an Eye on Guyana’s Oil*

U.S. Wants to Imprison These Six Water Protectors*

U.S. Wants to Imprison These Six Water Protectors*

These cases likely mark the first time that United States authorities have pursued felonies against individuals involved in demonstrations against fossil fuel infrastructure

By Will Parish

An elderly woman is escorted to a transport van after being arrested by law enforcement at the Oceti Sakowin camp as part of the final sweep of the Dakota Access pipeline protesters in Morton County, Feb. 23, 2017, near Cannon Ball, N.D. (Mike McCleary/The Bismarck Tribune)

 

In February, a federal grand jury issued indictments of four Standing Rock water protectors on charges of Federal Civil Disorder and Use of Fire to Commit a Federal Crime.

The federal investigators accused the four men—James White, Brennan Nastacio, Dion Ortiz, and Brandon Miller-Castillo—of involvement in setting three highway barricades on fire, which obstructed police during a highly-militarized October 27 raid of the “Front Line Camp” just north of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation.

Another water protector, Michael Markus, was indicted on identical charges on January 24, and his case has been combined with those of the other four men. Prosecutors are also pursuing three federal felonies against a 38-year-old Oglala Sioux woman named Red Fawn Fallis. They accuse her of firing a gun during her arrest, even as multiple police officers had her pinned face-down on the ground. Fallis’ arrest also occurred on October 27.

These cases likely mark the first time that United States authorities have pursued felonies against individuals involved in demonstrations against fossil fuel infrastructure.

All six people facing the charges are indigenous. Under sentencing guidelines, Red Fawn Fallis faces 25 years or more in prison. The other federal defendants—Markus, White, Nastacio, Ortiz, and Miller-Castillo—face up to fifteen years.

Starting in August of last year, indigenous people and their allies devoted months to attempting to block the construction of the 1,172-mile Dakota Access Pipeline, which runs through four Midwestern states near North Dakota’s Standing Rock Sioux reservation and underneath their main water source, Lake Oahe.

The project sparked opposition in communities spanning the pipeline route, including in Iowa and Illinois. In North Dakota, police carried out over 700 arrests. State prosecutors have since brought felony charges against more than 100 people.

But the federal cases are arguably more serious, since they entail prosecutions by some of the U.S. government’s most elite attorneys and may result in lengthy prison sentences. The cases are also likely to exert a chilling effect on indigenous-led resistance to resource extraction and fossil fuel infrastructure.

In fact, in each case, the U.S. Attorneys for the District of North Dakota filed a most unusual charge: federal civil disorder.

“Nobody I’ve worked with previously has ever seen that charge,” the Water Protector Legal Collective’s Sandra Freeman, an attorney for Michael Markus, said in an interview.

“It comes from a law that is usually only invoked when the federal government decides to prosecute people involved in resistance.”

The National Lawyers Guild’s Bruce Ellison, the lead attorney for Red Fawn Fallis, agrees. He says he has only encountered federal civil disorder charges “a few times” before, including during federal prosecutions of American Indian Movement (AIM) activists who reclaimed Wounded Knee as part of an armed stand-off with federal and local police on the Pine Ridge Reservation in 1973.

Ellison is a long-time attorney for AIM political prisoner Leonard Peltier.

Records obtained via an open records request indicate high-level operatives within the U.S. domestic security state were involved in coordinating the enormous law enforcement mobilization against Standing Rock “water protectors” from last summer through early March of this year.

These records, which will be the subject of future stories, show officers from numerous federal agencies—the FBI, Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Marshal’s Service, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for North Dakota—coordinated with state and local police as part of an inter-agency “intelligence group” that monitored Standing Rock protests in real-time, with a focus on ferreting out “instigators” and “leaders of the movement.”

Among those who helped orchestrate this multi-agency intelligence effort was National Security Intelligence Specialist Terry W. Van Horn of the U.S. Attorney’s Office—the same entity now prosecuting Fallis, Markus, White, Nastacio, Ortiz, and Miller-Castillo.

The intelligence-gathering operation in which Van Horn participated appears to have been coordinated by the State and Local Intelligence Center, one of numerous law enforcement “fusion” centers set up by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in the wake of the September 11th attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.

Supporters of the six federal defendants, as well as others facing possible prison and jail sentence, say that their court cases are a major front in the struggle for indigenous self-determination and against resource extraction.

“The government is looking at how to deal with calls for indigenous self-determination and resistance to resource extraction nationally, and the people facing these charges could become symbols of their ability to carry out that repression,” Ellison contends.

The October 27 Raid on Front Line Camp

Dakota Access pipeline protesters face off with police who are trying to force them from a camp on land in the path of pipeline construction on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016, near Cannon Ball, N.D.

 

The six federal prosecutions all stem from a highly-militarized October 27 raid of the “Front Line Camp,” or “1851 Treaty Camp,” which occupied some of the last remaining ground in the pipeline’s construction.

The camp was located on unceded Dakota territory, which was affirmed in the 1851 Ft. Laramie Treaty to be part of the Standing Rock Reservation. It was later stripped away under an 1889 statute from Congress.

Over 300 police officers—some carrying M16 rifles and clad in flak vests—advanced down North Dakota Highway 1806 toward Oceti Sakowin camp, the main nerve center of the water protectors’ resistance to the pipeline.

The police were flanked by a MaxxPro Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle (MRAP) designed to withstand bombing attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan. A Long-Range Acoustic Device (LRAD), an extremely loud device used for crowd control, was mounted atop the MRAP. Snipers occupied positions on surrounding hills.

In the course of the raid, the police fired tear gas and concussion grenades and peppered the water protectors with rubber-tipped bullets and bean bag pellets, causing dozens of injuries.

Watch footage from the October 27th raid:

Four officers broke from the line to tackle and arrest Red Fawn Fallis, a Denver resident and lifelong member of the Colorado chapter of the American Indian Movement, whose family hails from the Oglala Sioux reservation at Pine Ridge in South Dakota.

As Fallis struggled under the weight of her arresting officers, at least two gunshots went off alongside her. According to an affidavit filed by the Pennington County Sheriff’s Department in North Dakota, a deputy “saw a gun in Fallis’ left hand and wrestled it away from her.”

Native American activist Red Fawn Fallis.

 

The Pennington County Sheriff’s Department claims Fallis was arrested for “being an instigator” and “acting disorderly.”

According to attorneys for protesters, “instigator” and “camp leader” have emerged as keywords in both state and federal prosecutions.

Fallis was initially charged with attempted murder, but a state judge removed that charge from the docket, and she is now being accused of three federal felonies. They include “possession of a firearm by a convicted felon” and “discharge of a firearm in relation to a felony crime of violence.”

According to numerous accounts, Fallis was a widely-respected coordinator at the Sacred Stone Camp, another major gathering place for prayerful opposition to the pipeline, and had played an instrumental role in the movement as a whole.

“Red Fawn was the kind of person who was down to help with anything at any time,” says one camp participant who asked not to be identified.

“She was integral to the camp.”

Many water protectors and members of Fallis’s family have organized a support campaign for her. They stridently maintain her innocence.

Glenn Morris, a leader of the Colorado chapter of the American Indian Movement, released a statement on behalf of Fallis’s family this past November, saying she is “an intelligent, informed and determined Oglala Lakota woman, who has defended the rights of native peoples and nations, in multiple circumstances.”

Water Protector Facing Federal Felony Charges for Disarming DAPL Contractor

Brennan Nastacio has became a hero to water protectors for his role in disarming a DAPL security guard security guard, Kyle Thompson, who had entered Oceti Sakowin camp wielding an AR-15. (Photo: YouTube Screenshot)

One of the other people facing federal felony charges, Brennan Nastacio, became a hero to water protectors for his dramatic role in disarming a DAPL security worker, who had entered Oceti Sakowin camp—a base of prayer and opposition to DAPL—wielding an AR-15.

The security guard, Kyle Thompson, drove into the camp and claimed to be a water protector, according to a camp security guard. He had a long-nosed semi-automatic rifle and a 30-round clip seated in the passenger seat of his truck.

Nastacio spent nearly a half hour pleading with Thompson to abandon the weapon while also calming other “water protectors,” who were clamouring around him. Thompson, who works for Texas-based Leighton Security, finally handed the gun over to Bureau of Indian Affairs officers, who arrested him. Soon after, Thompson’s truck was driven to a barricade and set on fire.

North Dakota prosecutors declined to charge Thompson instead charging Nastacio with felony terrorizing of Thompson because he briefly walked toward him with a hunting knife during the incident.

In a January YouTube video, Nastacio noted his goal was “the protection of everybody at the camp,” and that he was concerned Thompson himself would be shot by the police. Thompson claims he came to the camp to investigate vandalism to a DAPL vehicle.

Ironically, on the same day as Nastacio helped disarm the Dakota Access security worker, a security firm hired by Dakota Access collected the aerial surveillance photos that now form a major basis for federal prosecution of him, as well as of Miller-Castillo, Ortiz, Markus, and White, court records show. (*Note: This public-private “fusion” model of law enforcement that played out at Standing Rock will be the subject of future stories.)

Ellison, Fallis’s attorney, is attempting to introduce evidence that demonstrates the dubious role the FBI has played in the charges against Fallis.

Terry VanHorn of the U.S. Attorney’s Office did not respond to a request for comment.

The Role of the FBI in Suppressing Opposition to the Pipeline

In this image provided by Morton County Sheriff’s Department, law enforcement and protesters clash near the site of the Dakota Access pipeline on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016, in Cannon Ball, N.D. (Morton County Sheriff’s Department via AP)

 

Police in North Dakota went to enormous lengths to portray many anti-DAPL protesters as violent criminals for their role in the protests.

More recently, the allegations against Fallis, Nastacio, Markus, White, Ortiz, and Miller-Castillo have become fodder for domestic security agency warnings about potentially violent threat posed by protests against other fossil fuel infrastructure.

A Department of Homeland Security report, published by the conservative Washington Examiner on April 18, spells out the possibility that “environmental rights extremists” and “anti-government militia” may muster up attacks on the in-construction Diamond Pipeline extending from Oklahoma to Tennessee.

The report states that “[p]rotests surrounding the DAPL have resulted in the arrest of hundreds of individuals for allegedly committing criminal acts,” and that

“[o]ne individual was charged with attempted murder for allegedly discharging a firearm at officers during removal efforts.”

But water protectors and their advocates point out that the real criminals at Standing Rock were the police and the oil companies’ private security firms, who consistently used violent repression to sabotage constitutionally-protected political activity.

Meanwhile, the federal government has failed to hold the police accountable for a single act of violence.

On a single night in November, the police injured more than 300 unarmed and generally highly-restrained protesters by spraying water on them amid freezing temperatures and firing rubber bullets and concussion grenades.

A police officer struck 21-year-old Sophia Wilansky with a concussion grenade that nearly severed her forearm. A fellow water protector named Steve Martinez drove her to the hospital, where she underwent emergency surgeries in an effort to save her arm.

On the day after Wilansky nearly lost her arm, seven FBI agents—including two clad in Joint Terrorism Task Force jackets—came to her hospital room and collected articles of clothing and shrapnel freshly dislodged from her arm. They also subpoenaed hospital visitor logs and videos of her room.

The JTTF visit “created a chilling atmosphere where anyone who’s a protester is under suspicion of being a terrorist,” Sophia Wilansky’s father, Wayne Wilansky, says.

The same grand jury that has indicted Fallis, Markus, Nastacio, White, Ortiz, and Miller-Castillo on felony charges subpoenaed Steve Martinez soon afterward. The subpoena implied that a federal investigation of the extremely far-fetched claim that Wilansky’s injury was caused by an improvised explosive was underway, and that Martinez was a subject of that investigation simply because he had driven Wilansky to seek medical attention.

It ordered Martinez to produce, among other things, “photos and SD cards; written statements; and any other information in [his] possession.”

Martinez appeared before the grand jury on January 4th and was asked a single question: “When did you arrive in North Dakota?” He immediately invoked the Fifth Amendment and refused to testify.

In a written statement, Martinez, who is partly of Pueblo and Apache ancestry, called the grand jury “a fishing expedition to find out information about the water protector movement, and organizations and people related to it,” and asserted that “to comply with this subpoena would violate my spiritual duty to protect my loved ones.”

Martinez was expected to begin a jail sentence for contempt of court on March 1, but in late February, the U.S. Attorney’s office unexpectedly withdrew its subpoena of him, meaning he’s free for now. About 20 supporters nevertheless gathered in front of the courthouse on March 1 holding up banners with slogans, such as “The Frontlines Are in the Courtroom.”

The Water Protector Legal Collective, the Freshet Collective, and other volunteer-driven collectives have provided legal support and advice for the water protectors now slogging through various court cases.

Notwithstanding the temporary victory in Steve Martinez’ case, members of the collectives say they intend to continue support for those whose sacrifices made the water protector movement possible in their various courtroom-related struggles.

The History of the Federal Civil Disorder Charge

At a rally outside the U.S. Courthouse October 29, 1969, Dr. Benjamin Spock, background, listens to Fred Hampton, chairman of the Illinois Black Panther party. (AP Photo/stf)

 

The civil disorder statute used against the six federal defendants can be traced to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination in 1968, which spurred Congress to pass the U.S. Civil Rights Act one week after his death.

It was passed in the aftermath of riots across the country in protest against substandard living conditions in segregated Black communities. The best known section of the act is Title VIII, known as the Fair Housing Act, which was designed to end residential segregation and promote racial integration. But a little-remembered section of the bill, Title X, is known as the Civil Obedience Act.

U.S. Senator Russell Long of Louisiana, an avowed segregationist, was the amendment’s main author and offered it as a quid pro quo for his support of the legislation as a whole.

The amendment created stiff penalties for such activities as “interfering with law enforcement officials during the course of civil disorder.”

Long previously offered up the Civil Obedience Act as an amendment to a bill that would have specified punishments for violence against civil rights workers in the Deep South.

Biographer Michael S. Martin recalled in his book, “Russell Long: A Life in Politics,” a speech Long made to the Senate floor, in which he described the pro-civil rights worker legislation as “a bill to aid and abet H. Rap Brown and Stokely Carmichael,” in reference to leaders of the Black Power movement. He also claimed the people the bill supported were “known to stir up hatred and ill will among people of their race and put cities to the torch.”

In response, Long proposed the Civil Obedience Act as a means to “strike the very thing which really concerns the people of this country: the rights and the safety of 200 million Americans whose property and whose very lives have been seriously endangered.”

Nearly a half-century later, the federal government is using this same racially-charged legislation to pursue felony charges against six indigenous people at Standing Rock.

Ellison recalled one of the few previous times he encountered Federal Civil Disorder charges was during prosecutions of AIM activists in the 1970s. He experienced first-hand the murderous FBI-coordinated counter-insurgency campaign against AIM at Pine Ridge, he noted, whereby a paramilitary organization known as the Guardians of the Oglala Nation (GOONs) went on a rampage of beatings and assassinations of AIM leaders and supporters.

Federal prosecutions are viewed as one aspect of an escalating effort by domestic security agencies, police, politicians, and fossil fuel industries to break the spirit of resistance movements nationwide.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said more than 30 separate anti-protest bills were introduced since November 8, representing “an unprecedented level of hostility towards protesters in the 21st century.”

“The government is looking at how to deal with protests nationally, and these federal prosecutions are certainly a part of that,” Ellison concluded.

Source*

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