Tag Archive | the Caribbean

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*

Europe and U.S. Dodging Demands for Slavery Reparations*

Europe and U.S. Dodging Demands for Slavery Reparations*

European Slavery lasted over 400 years on estates in the Caribbean and The Americas. Now the descendants of African slaves are demanding not just apologies but also atonement for the greatest crime against humanity ever known to mankind

 

By Earl Bousquet

The recent furore in Grenada over whether slave history has a role in tourism promotion is an important development that fits smack in the middle of the ongoing Caribbean discussion on reparations from Europe for slavery and native genocide.

Today, over 180 years after abolition, descendants of African slaves in the Caribbean, North and South America are demanding reparations for slavery from Europe – and the United States.

In the Caribbean, the demands include apology and atonement for 400 years of both slavery and native genocide; in the USA it’s about compensation for African American descendants of slaves; and in South America, today’s descendants of Africans (who arrived both as shipwrecked mariners and slaves) are demanding their fair share of recognition, equality and atonement.

Africa and the Caribbean experienced the brunt of the brutal slave trade that saw Europeans sail to West Africa, kidnap millions of men and women and ship them like animal cargo to the newly colonized ‘West Indies’ captured through wars of extermination against the original native ‘Caribs’ and ‘Arawaks’.

While the focus of British and French slavery was mainly concentrated on the Antillean (Caribbean) islands and mainland territories (including Haiti) that they claimed to own, the Portuguese and Spanish concentrated on South American mainland territories such as Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela, as well as the larger islands of Cuba and Puerto Rico.

In the case of the USA and South America (except in Brazil), African descendants form small minorities, unlike the 15 Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member-states, where they form an absolute majority, in each case.

CARICOM governments have thus easily and collectively agreed to a joint approach to the European Union (E.U.) member-states that benefited from slavery, inviting them to discuss reparations by way of acknowledgement and atonement.

The E.U. countries have so far resisted engaging the Caribbean in any discussions whatsoever on reparations, the likes of former British PM David Cameron saying during an official visit to Jamaica that traditional aid and assistance given by Britain since independence to the former colonies has sufficed.

But the response by the Britain, Denmark, France, The Netherlands, Portugal and Spain, thus far, (or lack thereof) is very much unlike when France demanded reparations after the first African slaves in the Caribbean – and the world — successfully revolted.

Haitian slaves, led by Toussaint L’Ouverture, rebelled in 1791 and declared their independence in 1804. Not even in Africa had a free nation yet been born and the humiliated slave masters enlisted the support of the French government to make the former slaves pay dearly for their freedom.

In 1825, France demanded 90 million gold francs to recognize Haiti’s independence — the same amount demanded in compensation by the former slave masters.

Historians and economists agree that this high cost paid by Haiti to France over 122 years (payments continued until 1947) is largely responsible for the country having been almost eternally anchored in poverty.

In 2003, Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide called on Paris to return the 90 million gold francs, by then estimated at U.S. $21 billion. Soon after, however, he was swiftly and secretly taken hostage by U.S. and French forces and exiled to South Africa.

French President Francois Hollande, in May 2015, ahead of a visit to Port au Prince, said Paris “will repay its debt” to Haiti – only to later retract, saying he only meant repaying France’s “moral debt”.

The Hollande disappointment notwithstanding, no other concerned E.U. member-state has even mentioned the possibility of considering paying reparations for slavery – in the Caribbean or North or South America.

Same in the USA, where not even President Barack Obama accommodated calls to initiate reparations moves and to pay to survivors the wages of the slaves who built the White House.

In 1865, Union General William Sherman set aside thousands of acres of land for newly-freed American slaves, by way of a special field order. But President Andrew Johnson soon returned the titles to the original white owners. Freed slaves were also each promised “40 acres and mule” to start their own lives. But here too they were disappointed.

The U.S. Congressional Black Caucus has for the past 28 years backed a bill called HR-40, submitted annually by Michigan Rep. John Conyers, calling for a commission to study “the Reparations Proposals for African Americans Act”. Designed to examine the negative effects of slavery, it also seeks to “recommend appropriate remedies”. But HR-40 has long been referred to the House Judiciary Committee, where it has since remained…

U.S. blacks are somewhat divided over what mechanism to use to assess the real costs and value of slave wages and related rates of conversion over the centuries slavery lasted.

Likewise, white Americans largely reject calls by blacks for reparations, some seriously arguing that ‘slaves were freed by the Civil War’ and ‘blacks benefited from affirmative action’ government policies over the years.

The reparations movement is however gaining traction across the hemispheric horizon.

The momentum has just begun in South America, with an International Reparations Conference held in Cali, Colombia in March 2017, essentially to outline a road map for the movement for recognition and inclusion of the African-descended minority across the continent.

The African Americans are encouraged by a 2016 report by the Geneva-based United Nations Working Group on People of African Descent, urging U.S. lawmakers to implement reparations, citing “a legacy of colonial history, enslavement, racial subordination and segregation, racial terrorism and racial inequality.”

Also, according to an exclusive poll released in March 2017 in conjunction with a new PBS Series ‘Point Taken’, 40% of US ‘millennials’ think there should be reparations for African American descendants of enslaved people.

Indeed, some of the leaders of the revived reparations movement in the USA are confident enough of the momentum gained thus far to conclude that ‘this could be reparations’ best chance since 1865.’

In the Caribbean, the governments’ approach is naturally quite different from North and South America – more diplomatic than agitational, seeking dialogue over confrontation.

In March 2014, the CARICOM governments unanimously adopted the ten-point plan to demand “Reparatory Justice for the victims of Crimes against Humanity in the forms of genocide, slavery, slave trading and racial apartheid.” The E.U. member-states that built their imperial wealth on slavery were also duly informed.

A CARICOM Regional Reparations Commission was also appointed (chaired by the vice chancellor of the University of the West Indies Sir Hilary Beckles), with national reparations committees also established in member-states.

The Caribbean hasn’t put a price tag on slavery, even though a sum of US $17 trillion is often mentioned. Instead, it’s seeking a mutually agreed CARICOM-E.U. approach to what forms the atonement will take, to the common and mutual benefit of all the CARICOM states and peoples.

Failing this negotiated approach, the Caribbean countries reserve the right to file formal criminal charges against the culprit E.U. member-states at the International Criminal Court (ICC)).

Citing the will of the Western world to proudly acknowledge and atone for the Jewish Holocaust, reparations paid by the U.S. government to Japanese interned during World War II, reparations made to U.S. native peoples and Britain recently being ordered by its own courts to pay reparations to tribal Kenyan ‘Mau -Mau’ independence fighters, CARICOM feels it has a very good case.

Those demanding reparations for slavery everywhere are also buoyed by the U.N.’s declaration of 2015 to 2024 as the Decade for People of African Descent.

The CARICOM Prime Ministerial Subcommittee on Reparations (led by Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart) met in late April 2017 to review European responses to their request for a negotiated settlement.

In the meantime, the 15 member-states, including Haiti, are preparing their individual legal cases for collective submission to the ICC, should the culprit E.U. member-states continue to dodge and dither to duck their individual and collective responsibilities for the greatest ‘crime against humanity’ known to mankind.

The reparations demands by African descendants in CARICOM, U.S. and South American states do have the backing of regional and international entities, including similar non-governmental Europe-based movements and an increasing level of interest and support from African states and entities, including the African Union (A.U.) and the Pan African Congress (PAC).

The European and American governments today may continue to duck their responsibilities. But the results of the strong reparations demands on them, whether achieved today or tomorrow, also offer added hope to the likes of the Australian Aborigines and New Zealand’s Maori first peoples, who may have received formal apologies, but continue to feel treated less than equal in the lands they first inhabited.

Meanwhile, the Grenada ‘slavery and tourism’ discussion is an interesting starting point to revive earlier discussions on the establishment of a national reparations committee (NRC) for Grenada, Carriacou and Petit Martinique.

That will not only be in line with the reality of the vast majority of CARICOM member-states (where NRCs exist), but will also facilitate ongoing discussion across the three-island state on reparations and related issues during the U.N. Decade for People of African Descent, which continues until December 31, 2024.

Source*

Related Topics:

French Presidential Favorite Macron sparks firestorm for Speaking the Truth about Colonization*

Slavery: The Anniversary of the Official Ending of a System that Bankrolled and Civilized Cameron’s British Empire*

Call for UK to Pay India Reparations for Colonial-era Damage*

Tanzania Demands Reparations for German Colonial Atrocities*

The Case for Reparations to Africa: Britain Apology is Cheap*

Unpaid Debts: Reparation For Colonialism*

Fourteen Caribbean Nations Demand Reparation from Colonial Britain*

An Ancient Kingdom Demands Reparation from the Queen of England

At the World Economic Forum-Africa Germany Pitched a Dubious New G20 Corporate Strategy*

Chicago Pays $5.5mn in Reparations to 57 Black Men Tortured by Police Decades Ago*

Call for UK to Pay India Reparations for Colonial-era Damage*

Germany, where’s the Reparation for Greece?*

 

 

Nestlé Sinks Teeth into Jamaica and Nigeria Hosting ‘Health Events’ While Products are Toxic*

Nestlé Sinks Teeth into Jamaica and Nigeria Hosting ‘Health Events’ While Products are Toxic*

Nestlé has been experiencing terrible loss. As we noted in an article a few months ago titled “Processed Food is Dying: Nestlé Takes Worst Hit in 20 Years as Public Opinion Shifts”:

“This “Q4” as the corporate world calls it, Swiss processed food giant Nestlé took a harder hit than they have in 20 years. Even mainstream business articles are sporting headlines such as “Nestlé Drops Targets as Consumer Giants Struggle,” from the Wall Street Journal. Could it be that consumer giants are actually struggling because of a shift in public opinion?”

They are despised, and rightfully so. They are known for producing generally unhealthy processed food products, and have the audacity to hold events focusing on nutrition in the wake of the mother of all PR problems.

PR problems grew enormous in 2013 when Nestlé’s CEO said water is not a human right. Then it got worse when they were found to be collecting water from California springs while the state was in a severe drought, as nearby people had to abide by water usage restrictions.

In 2015 a classic article by Claire Bernish exploded, titled “The Privatization of Water: Nestlé Pays Only $524 to Extract 27,000,000 Gallons of California Drinking Water.” Reading from it:

“Nestle has found itself more and more frequently in the glare of the California drought-shame spotlight than it would arguably care to be — though not frequently enough, apparently, for the megacorporation to have spontaneously sprouted a conscience.

Drought-shaming worked sufficiently enough for Starbucks to stop bottling water in the now-arid state entirely, uprooting its operations all the way to Pennsylvania. But Nestle simply shrugged off public outrage and then upped the ante by increasing its draw from natural springs — most notoriously in the San Bernardino National Forest — with an absurdly expired permit.”

In 2016, they had the audacity to pursue collecting even more massive amounts of water from Michigan’s White Pine Springs operation, angering many because nearby Flint, Michigan residents have to deal with water poisoned by lead and other toxins. Even in the 1990’s, outrage was sparked by their decision to take water from Michigan.

Headlines were recently made about how Flint residents are being forced to pay for the poisoned water, or face foreclosure. Meanwhile, a legal decision will be made soon deciding whether or not Nestlé can increase their water theft to 400 gallons per minute at the nearby White Pine Springs operation.

With all this bad press, Nestlé is truly taking a hit. Even in Australia their profits are down: they are getting desperate.

The corporation’s situation is demonstrating the power of public opinion and negative press, and in response they are launching PR efforts from Jamaica to Nigeria, going so far as to host workshops and events with “health care professionals,” as if they care about health.

A headline about the Nigerian PR from Vanguard reads “Nestle partners with media to enhance biz relationship.”

A Jamaica Observer article is titled “Nestlé Jamaica hosts health care professionals: Symposium reinforces importance of iron for health and development in infants.” Reading from it:

“Nestlé says it has reformulated its Nestum infant cereal portfolio to include additional iron in response to the needs of children for this important nutrient. The revelation was made at a symposium for health care professionals at the Knutsford Court Hotel on May 10. The symposium was entitled ‘Rationale for Feeding Normal Infants from Birth to One Year’.

The keynote speaker, Dr Jatinder Bhatia, a professor of paediatrics at Augusta University, Atlanta, Georgia, highlighted iron requirements as a specific need for infants in his presentation. The right nutrition during the first 1,000 days can have an important impact on a child’s ability to grow and learn, and iron deficiency remains a public health concern for Jamaica.”

This sounds like a poor effort at pretending to care about nutrition. Iron is something the company can easily put in its products: where is their concern for vaccine damaged children, or consumers of toxic chemicals such as aspartame?

Aspartame literally turns into formaldehyde and methanol in the body, and is responsible for an array of health problems, but Nestlé doesn’t mind promoting it. This webpage from Nestlé India promotes aspartame as a healthy alternative to sugar.

These PR efforts are also occurring in PakistanIndia, Nigeria, and probably many more countries.

According to an article titled “Nestle Urges Nigerians to Lead Healthier Lives”:

“Nestlé Nigeria has embarked on a nutrition education campaign with various programmes to help individuals and families, parents and children live healthier.

In a statement made available to THISDAY over the weekend, Nestlé stated that “it will continue to inspire people to lead healthier lives, raising awareness and deeper understanding about nutrition, and promoting healthy cooking, eating and lifestyles through education programmes on various channels in line with its conviction that healthier lives are happier lives.”

It doesn’t get more fake than this: giant corporations with track records of not caring about people promoting nutrition. In this world, it isn’t easy to know what health is. We live in a time where vaccines containing toxic metals are lauded as miracles of science, and food containing cancer causing, endocrine disrupting chemicals is consumed without a second thought.

The building blocks of our bodies, vitamins and minerals, are ignored by “health care professionals.” Nestlé will strategically promote iron because it’s easy to put in their products, but won’t say a damn thing about how sugar depletes magnesium in the body. They won’t say anything about essential components of health such as magnesium, zinc, vitamin c, vitamin e, or anything of the like.

If they do put a vitamin or mineral in their products, best believe it’s an inferior, profitable version of it. They’ll load products with calcium carbonate and claim it has beneficial calcium, but that’s not a nutritious form of it: it’s a harmful form of calcium that no one would benefit from consuming.

Their form of calcium actually inhibits the body’s ability to absorb calcium. Calcium carbonate is also known as chalk.

In conclusion, hopefully this can be considered good news: this is a demonstration of the power of public opinion. Nestlé is having a hard time because people are outraged

Source*

Related Topics:

Neuroscience Shows Breastfeeding is not Just Milk*

Nestle Being Sued for $100 Million Dollars over Hazardous Lead in Food*

Nestle ‘Liberating’ Water from Drought Stricken Indian Reservation*

Nestlé Loses more Than $500 Million for Poisoning Maggi Noodles with Lead*

Nestlé to Control Canadian Water Supply that Effect 6 Indigenous Tribes*

Nestlé Gets to Control a Town’s Entire Groundwater for up to 45 Years*

Nestlé’s Bid To Squash a Child Slavery Suit Rejected*

Nestlé Removes GMOs from South African Baby Foods not U.S. Baby Foods*

Fear and Dejected Riddled Chocolate Brought to you By the Company that Believes Water is not a Human Right!

Nestlé’s Selling You Your Water!

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

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

Hooded opposition protesters attacking Venezuelan police officers with Molotov cocktails and stones. | Photo: Reuters

 

Bernal accused the U.S. State Department and its Southern Command of plotting to destabilize the country and provoke a coup.

A leader of Venezuela’s governing Socialist Party, Freddy Bernal accused the United States Monday of being involved in the violent protests that have killed dozens of people in the South American country.

Bernal stated that “what is going on in the country responds to a plan organized systematically by the U.S. State Department and its Southern Command in order to destabilize the country and provoke a coup d’etat.”

In an interview with Prensa Capital, he urged the country’s Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz to invoke the Organized Crime and Terrorism Law and press charges against those responsible for the recent violence.

“The National Guard and the intelligence services have arrested a series of individuals caught shooting, burning public goods, backed with video footage, testimonies and other evidence.”

Former Vice President Aristobulo Isturiz also stated during a debate on the constituent assembly that the “U.S. Empire” funded the violent opposition protests “in order to defeat President Nicolas Maduro.”

“We can see how they kill their own supporters in order to blame the government,” he said. “They want elections, and when the calendar (for them) came out they backtracked.”

Protesters faced off with police on Caracas’ main highway Monday, launching rocks and Molotov cocktails. Army vehicles were eventually called in to de-escalate the standoff and prevent further violence.

According to a 2007 U.S. strategic document leaked by former CIA-informer Edward Snowden in 2013, Venezuela was seen as the main adversary of the United States in the Western Hemisphere. The country was listed as one of the top six “enduring targets for the NSA, along with China, North Korea, Iraq, Iran and Russia.

Espionage efforts aimed at getting information to use against the country “economically, diplomatically” and even “psychologically,” were prioritized.

Source*

Related Topics:

17 Venezuela Opposition Parties Accept Government Invitation to Discuss Constituent Process*

Maduro Condemns Opposition-Led Violence as Venezuela Death Toll Nears 40

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

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

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

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

U.S. Interfering in Venezuela Again*

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

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

Pedestrians walk past an old hotel in the Condado area of San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 2015.

 

By Juan González

Last week Puerto Rico officially became the largest bankruptcy case in the history of the American public bond market. On May 3, a fiscal control board imposed on the island’s government by Washington less than year ago suddenly announced that the Puerto Rico’s economic crisis “has reached a breaking point.” The board asked for the immediate appointment of a federal judge to decide how to deal with a staggering $123 billion debt the commonwealth government and its public corporations owe to both bondholders and public employee pension systems.

The announcement sparked renewed press attention to a Caribbean territory that many have dubbed America’s Greece. The island’s total debt, according to the control board, is unprecedented for any government insolvency in the U.S., and it is certain to mushroom quickly if no action is taken. Detroit’s bankruptcy, by comparison, involved just $18 billion — one-ninth the size of Puerto Rico’s.

Within days, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, acting under a provision of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (known as PROMESA), which was enacted last June, appointed federal judge Laura Taylor Swain from the southern district of New York to take over the Puerto Rico case. A former bankruptcy court judge who was appointed to the federal court by President Clinton, Swain famously presided over the long criminal trial of employees of the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme.

Few press reports on Puerto Rico’s troubles, however, have bothered to examine the deeper issues behind this crisis.

Puerto Ricans protest on Wall Street, blaming U.S. imperialism for the debt crisis. Photo:EFE

 

First, the colonial relationship that has prevailed between the U.S. and Puerto Rico since 1898 is no longer viable. Puerto Rico is the largest overseas territory still under the sovereign control of the United States, and it is the most important colonial possession in this nation’s history. That relationship produced uncommon profits for American subsidiaries on the island for more than a century, even as the federal government kept claiming that the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, created in 1952, was a self-governing territory.  But now, with a Washington-appointed board directly overseeing the island’s economy, and with a pivotal Supreme Court decision last year affirming that Congress continues to exercise sovereign power over Puerto Rico, the mask of self-governance has been removed.

The old commonwealth is effectively dead. Absent a huge infusion of U.S. public dollars to prop up its collapsing economy, a scenario that is nearly impossible with a Trump White House and a Republican-controlled Congress, that relationship cannot be revived. Political leaders in both Washington and San Juan, whether they like it or not, are being propelled to fashion a new political and economic status for the territory. They will have to finally decide whether to completely annex Puerto Rico as the 51st state or acknowledge that it still remains a distinct nation, with the right to its own sovereignty and independence.

Second, the impact of Puerto Rico’s bankruptcy will continue to reverberate throughout the U.S. bond market, far more than most Wall Street analysts have so far acknowledged. The PROMESA control board has warned that even with massive cuts to government services and new projected revenues from higher taxes and fees, Puerto Rico will still generate slightly less than $8 billion in budget surpluses over the next ten years, when some $35 billion in debt service comes due. In other words, three-quarters of the debt cannot be repaid. That is not just a haircut for bondholders; it is a head-shaving, one that will send shock waves throughout the municipal bond market. After all, bonds backed by the full faith-and-credit of local government entities have long been considered among the safest of investments.

Years of court battles between Puerto Rico and contending groups of creditors are now certain. “The economy of Puerto Rico will be put on hold for years,” Andrew Rosenberg, adviser to the Ad Hoc Group of Puerto Rico General Obligation Bondholders, told the Associated Press. “Make no mistake: The board has chosen to turn Puerto Rico into the next Argentina.”

The Debt Is Not Payable

Civil society groups contend that the plunder of the Puerto Rican people through predatory and even illegal bond deals that island politicians concocted together with top Wall Street firms will now be exposed.

Amazingly, the 23-page petition that the federal government’s own financial control board filed in U.S. District Court in San Juan reached the exact same conclusion that Puerto Rico’s former governor Alejandro García Padilla reached back in June 2015 — that the island’s debt is “not payable.”

In the nearly two years since García Padilla sounded the alarm, however, Washington has done almost nothing to alleviate the economic catastrophe afflicting 3.4 million U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico, except to establish the control board by enacting PROMESA.

On an island that has lost 10% of its population in the last ten years, where 46% of the population lives below the U.S. poverty level, where the unemployment rate is more than 11%, and where the labour force participation hovers around 40%, lawmakers in Congress have kept insisting on greater austerity from Puerto Rico’s population. The reality is such dire conditions would never be tolerated among U.S. citizens in any other jurisdiction, yet they are allowed to persist in Puerto Rico.

During the past two years, the commonwealth government has sharply raised electricity and water rates. It has increased the sales tax (now a value added tax) to 11.5%. It has proposed ending all pensions for new workers and cutting existing benefits by an average of 10%. And last week, it announced the closing of 179 public schools for the coming school year. In addition, the control board has called for a $450 million cut over the next four years to the island’s 70,000-student public university.

Puerto Ricans protest against creditors, holding signs that say “Puerto Rico is not for sale”. Photo:EFE

 

Under the control board’s pressure, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who took office in January, is eyeing the privatization of the government-owned electric company, of the water and sewer authority, even of the public transit system. But even massive cuts and selling off public assets can’t solve the problem that there aren’t enough jobs on the island, that young people keep fleeing to the United States, and that Puerto Rico’s government is powerless to fashion its own economic and trade policy independently from the U.S.

For decades, Puerto Rico was important to the American economy as a center of sugar cane growing, then as a tax haven for manufacturing and pharmaceutical companies, and as a military stronghold and bulwark against the spread of communism in Latin America. But now it is no longer needed for any of these things. Most of the U.S. military bases have closed, and Congress began in 1996 to phase out the island’s tax haven status. As soon as the last of the federal tax breaks — known as Section 936 — ended in 2006, corporations started leaving and the island plunged into a recession from which it has yet to recover. For the past 20 years, a succession of island governments has been closing structural operating deficits with borrowed funds supplied by Wall Street firms eager to market its triple tax-exempt bonds to wealthy and middle-class Americans and Puerto Ricans.

Investors were especially drawn to a provision of the Puerto Rico constitution that required the government to pay general obligation debt service ahead of any other expenses, and by the fact that Puerto Rico and its public corporations were legally prevented from resorting to Chapter 9 bankruptcy, the portion of the bankruptcy code that applies to most local governments and municipalities.

Until 1978, Congress had included all the territories and possessions of the United States under Chapter 9, so Puerto Rico had bankruptcy protection until then. But between ’78 and the early ’80s, there were several changes to U.S. bankruptcy law. In 1984, an amendment was inserted into the law by South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond that specifically excluded Puerto Rico from Chapter 9. No reason was given. No federal policy or interest in the change was spelled out in the amendment process. By a few simple phrases in an amendment that few people noticed, Congress laid the basis for the unique situation Puerto Rico confronted last year. It was not only broke, there was no established legal recourse for it to get a court to decide how its many creditors would get paid or how much.

The PROMESA bill Congress enacted at least created a new type of Chapter 9-like process for the island. The bill stipulates that if the Puerto Rican government and the control board cannot reach voluntary settlements with bondholders, a judge can be appointed and creditors forced to accept a settlement, known as a “cram-down.”

But the law’s constitutionality has yet to be tested, and with so much money at stake the various groups of bondholders are determined to wage a titanic legal battle against it.

On May 5, for instance, Ambac Assurance Corp, one of the major insurers of Puerto Rico bonds, filed suit in U.S. District Court in Puerto Rico against the Commonwealth and the Oversight Board, and did so with uncommonly strident language:

Sovereignty confers great power, but it does not authorize lawlessness. This action seeks to halt the latest in a series of unconstitutional and unlawful acts that have been the unfortunate modus operandi of the Commonwealth government in seeking to manage its financial and economic distress. Instead of rectifying these abuses, the Oversight Board created by Congress to restore fiscal responsibility to the Commonwealth has affirmatively exacerbated them, giving its imprimatur to an ongoing scheme of constitutional and statutory violations that can only be called theft.

Ambac has insured billions of dollars in sales tax revenue bonds, known as COFINA bonds, that Puerto Rico has issued since 2006, and the company, along with other bond insures, faces enormous losses from any cram-down.

Meanwhile another group of bondholders who were involved in $1.4 billion of Puerto Rico’s last major general obligation bonds, issued in 2014, filed suit in New York State Supreme Court. Those bondholders, led by hedge funds Aurelius Capital Management and Monarch Alternative Capital, insist that Puerto Rico’s Constitution requires them to be paid first from all available revenues. The general obligation bondholder group, along with many civil society groups, insist that all the COFINA bonds — and they represent nearly $18 billion of the total $74 billion bond debt — were illegally issued and should not be repaid.

That’s because the Puerto Rico constitution specifically forbids debt service and principal that surpasses more than 15% of annual government revenues. The Puerto Rico legislature specifically created COFINA to maneuver around that 15 percent limit, and it then guaranteed the payment of that debt from sales tax revenues. But the legality of that maneuver has never been tested in court.

While the contending bondholder groups battle in the courts, the PROMESA board has now sided with the Puerto Rico government that bondholders will have to accept major reductions in payments.

“From current revenues, the Commonwealth and its instrumentalities cannot satisfy their collective $74 billion debt burden and $49 billion pension burden and pay their operating expenses,” the fiscal control board concluded last week after months of poring over Puerto Rico financial records.

And the island’s budgetary crisis “is about to worsen exponentially,” the control board warned,

“due to the elimination of approximately $850 million in Affordable Care Act Funds in fiscal year 2018.”

The total loss of federal health care funds, according to the board, is expected to reach $16 billion over the next ten years. On top of that, the government pension systems are almost out of cash and will need $1.5 billion a year just to keep up payments to current retirees. Unlike municipal workers in the U.S., most public employees in Puerto Rico are not part of the social security system, so those pensions are their only retirement income.

A woman carries bags while walking in a commercial area with stores either closed or offered for sale in San Juan, Puerto Rico, July 31, 2015. Photo:Reuters

 

Meanwhile, Donald Trump and Republican leaders in Congress insist there will be no bailout of Puerto Rico, no extra federal assistance to the island’s population.

They want to ignore the fact that back in the 1990s under Bill Clinton and the Newt Gingrich Congress, Washington’s leaders realized they had to take drastic measures to save the District of Columbia from economic collapse. Congress established a fiscal control board just as it has with Puerto Rico.

But that board soon concluded that DC had structural problems that required federal help. In 1997, a reform package accomplished the following: the federal government assumed the city’s debts, it took responsibility for the local courts and prisons, it increased the rate for Medicaid reimbursements to the district, and it took over the city’s underfunded employee pensions.

As a result, the district emerged from economic calamity. Today it is a vibrant and prosperous city.

Federal lawmakers will either have to provide massive assistance to Puerto Rico, or they will have to move rapidly to change the island’s political and economic status. After a century of colonial rule by Washington and decades of predatory debt from Wall Street, the bill has come due.

Source*

Related Topics:

U.S. Feds Takes Over Puerto Rico’s Finances*

The Continuing Colonial Pillage of Puerto Rico*

Federal Court Overturns Ruling Upholding Natural Marriage in Puerto Rico, Orders Judge off Case*

Puerto Rico Suspends all Payments on Public Debt to Wall Street*

Puerto Rico: Push the Poor out so the Rich can Move in*

Puerto Rico the U.S. Colony Driven into Bankruptcy*

The First U.S. invasion of Haiti (1915) Remembered*

Media Caught Covering Up Clinton’s Ongoing Looting Of Haiti*

The Caribbean: U.S.’s Third Border*

U.S. Prolonging Dutch Neo-Colonialism in the Caribbean*

Britain’s Secret Plan for the Invasion of Grenada*

Venezuela Oil Union Workers Back Maduro’s Constituent Assembly*

Venezuela Oil Union Workers Back Maduro’s Constituent Assembly*

Venezuelan workers protest in solidarity with President Nicolas Maduro and the Bolivarian Revolution. | Photo: VTV

 

Wills Rangel, president of the Unitary Federation of Oil, Gas, and their similar entities and derivatives says the Constituent will “guarantee peace.”

Wills Rangel, president of Venezuela’s Unitary Federation of Petroleum Workers, FUTPV, affirmed that oil workers support President Nicolas Maduro’s call for a National Constituent Assembly in the name of peace and democracy.

Accompanied by workers from Venezuela’s state-owned oil and natural gas company, Petroleos de Venezuela, PDVSA, Rangel declared,

“We support the Constituent. The workers are present and we’re going to give our best effort for peace and victory.”

Rangel emphasized that some 14 million Venezuelan workers are willing to march in the streets hand-in-hand with the Bolivarian Revolution to assure stability in Venezuela.

“The Constituent is what will guarantee peace,” Rangel added.

Maduro’s Constituent Assembly invokes article 347 of the Bolivarian Constitution, which allows for the convening of a national constituent assembly with the purpose of “transforming the state.” The process is intended to facilitate a dialogue with the opposition and broad sectors of society with the goal of easing the ongoing political tensions.

While seventeen Venezuelan opposition parties have met with the government to discuss the national constituent assembly invoked by Maduro last week, right-wing parties aligned with the Democratic Unity Roundable coalition have refused to negotiate with the government.

 

Source*

Related Topics:

17 Venezuela Opposition Parties Accept Government Invitation to Discuss Constituent Process*

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

The Caribbean Supports Venezuela against U.S. Interventionism*

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

 

17 Venezuela Opposition Parties Accept Government Invitation to Discuss Constituent Process*

17 Venezuela Opposition Parties Accept Government Invitation to Discuss Constituent Process*

Elias Jaua, recently appointed head of the commission on the constituent assembly | Photo: AVN

Jaua expressed disappointment at MUD’s refusal to participate in the dialogues and called on their leaders to “think” in the name of “peace.”

Seventeen Venezuelan opposition parties met with the government to discuss the national constituent assembly invoked by President Nicolas Maduro one week ago, although right-wing parties in the MUD coalition are still refusing to sit with the government.

The president of the committee created by Maduro to oversee the implementation of the constituent assembly process, Elías Jaua, thanked the groups for accepting the invitation and highlighted that this was the first time that the government could open dialogue with opposition parties that do not belong to the Democratic Unity Roundtable, known by its Spanish initials as MUD.

“What matters here is not that we reach an agreement, nor that we change anyone’s mind, but that we listen and enrich the debate,” he said.

Segundo Melendez of the Movement to Socialism said that the party would continue participating “in all the spaces we can be heard.”

The MUD coalition said Sunday it would not participate in the national constituent assembly, calling the process a “fraud.”

“(The process) is not constituent, we could hardly go to an absolutely fraudulent process, we Venezuelans will not be part of a fraud,” former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles said.

In a letter addressed to Jaua, the MUD argued that the constituent assembly should be invoked via a popular referendum, not by the government.

President Maduro invoked article 347 of the Bolivarian Constitution, which allows for the convening of a national constituent assembly with the purpose of “transforming the state,” adding that the process would facilitate a dialogue with the opposition and broad sectors of society with the goal of easing the ongoing political tensions.

Despite previously calling for a constituent assembly, the opposition has rejected the call and set off a fresh wave of protests which have led to the deaths of some three dozen people in just over a month.

Jaua expressed disappointment at the refusal of MUD politicians to participate in the dialogues and called on their leaders to “think” in the name of “peace.”

“So they could sit here and talk, among Venezuelans as the sisters and brothers that we are — we have deep differences but we must leave to our daughters and sons a peaceful Venezuela, and the only way is dialogue.”

The doors of Miraflores will remain open for all the parties that wish to understand why Maduro took the initiative of creating a constituent assembly, Jaua added.

The MUD’s position against the constituent assembly represents a radical shift since 2013 when 55 opposition leaders signed a joint statement demanding a constituent assembly in order “to change a regime that has lost legitimacy.”

The opposition parties who accepted the invitation to dialogue included Red Flag, Young Party, Citizenship Movement, Mopivene Movement, Republican Democracy, Republican Movement, Labor Power, Civilian Resistance, Renewable Democracy, Ecological Movement and the Stone Party.

Source*

Related Topics:

Maduro Condemns Opposition-Led Violence as Venezuela Death Toll Nears 40

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*

Maduro Accuses U.S. Of Taking over Venezuela’s Oil*