14 February 2019 — Counter Currents
- US planes fly to strategic areas to pressure Venezuela
- US military power is massing near Venezuela
- Guaido sets date for “aid” entry
- US Congress rejects Trump’s warmongering
- China denies The Wall Street Journal report on talks with Venezuela opposition
- Colombian social leaders express solidarity with Venezuela
- Chavista march continues
- Turkey will process Venezuelan gold
The U.S. is planning to manufacture a “humanitarian” pretext to initiate military aggression against Venezuela while voices rejecting the interventionist acts are being raised from within imperialist countries, and plans by the Venezuelan people are being launched to resist acts of provocation by the interventionists.
Media reports said:
US planes fly to strategic areas to pressure Venezuela
The Government of Cuba denounced Wednesday, through a statement, the escalation of pressures and actions of the U.S. government in preparation for military action under the guise of humanitarian intervention in Venezuela, and called on the international community to mobilize in order to prevent consummation.
Between Feb. 6 and 10, several military transport aircraft flew to the Rafael Miranda Airport in Puerto Rico; the San Isidro Air Base in the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean Islands that have a strategic location, most certainly without the knowledge of the governments of these countries, said Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affair.
Cuba informed: These flights took off from U.S. military facilities from where Special Operation Troops and U.S. Marine Corps units operate.
The political characters, personally or through the State Department, are pushing governments in order to force their support the arbitrary call to new Venezuelan presidential elections.
In the process of fabricating pretexts against Venezuela, the U.S. is expressing concern about “the humanitarian and human rights situation, the recent attempts to block the provision of humanitarian aid, the existence of millions of migrants and refugees, the excessive use of force against peaceful demonstrators, and the situation of regional peace and security rupture.
According to the Cuban Foreign Ministry, the U.S. is paving the way to establish “a humanitarian corridor” under “international protection,” invoking the “obligation to protect” civilians and applying “all necessary measures.”
The ministry said: “The United States adopted similar behaviors and pretexts in the prelude to the wars it launched against Yugoslavia, Iraq and Libya.”
The Cuban government also pointed out that the U.S. government intends to eliminate the Bolivarian Revolution, which represents an obstacle for the appropriation of the world’s largest oil reserves and other strategic natural resources in Venezuelan territory.
US military power is massing near Venezuela
Tom Rogan writes in Washington Examiner (“American military power is quietly massing near Venezuela”, February 14, 2019):
“As I suggested earlier on Wednesday, President Trump is likely to deploy U.S. military forces to Colombia before Feb. 23. But where might those forces come from? One possible answer is the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group, and the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, or MEU, embarked on the USS Boxer.
“Currently operating off their home port of San Diego in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, the U.S. Navy vessels are approximately 5-7 days’ sailing time from Cartagena via the Panama Canal. And while I’m not sure whether the USS Theodore Roosevelt is on operational duty or pre-deployment training, a Navy spokesperson tells me that the Boxer and the 11th MEU are on ‘routine operations.’ That descriptor means deployment readiness. Correspondingly, seeing as the express purpose of a MEU is to offer rapid deployment capability, the Boxer’s presence close to Colombia bears attention.
“Indeed, a MEU is exactly the type of unit that would fit the mission set of defending U.S. and Colombian interests along the Venezuelan border. Formed around an infantry battalion with an armored platoon (tanks), logistics and command elements, MEUs also possess aviation forces with helicopter attack and transport, and either Harrier or F-35B jet fighters.”
Tom Rogan adds in the opinion article:
“Yet, short of brigade combat strength, a MEU deployment to Colombia would also represent an appropriate balance between deterring Nicolas Maduro’s regime and threatening invasion. Even then, we can’t forget the Theodore Roosevelt carrier group. And on the east coast off Florida, the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is currently on pre-deployment training exercises. Although it’s unusual, aircraft carriers can be called to emergency duty even while in pre-deployment training. The simple point here is that the U.S. could have two aircraft carriers in operational range of Venezuela within a week.”
The opinion article informs:
“A significant U.S. naval and marine presence is now operating in proximity to Colombia and Venezuela. Whether coincidental or not, these deployments afford the White House a increasing range of options.”
Guaido sets date for “aid” entry
Juan Guaido, the self-proclaimed “Interim President” of Venezuela addressed his thousands of followers in the middle- and upper-class east of Caracas.
He once again promised followers that President Maduro will “have to leave no matter what” without offering further details. Despite international recognition from 25 percent of the world’s governments, Guaido continues to command no control over Venezuelan institutions or the armed forces in Venezuela.
Guaido promised that US-delivered “humanitarian aid will enter the country no matter what” on February 23, issuing an “order” for the military to allow it to enter.
However, military leaders have dismissed these calls, with the Central Defense Region tweeting in response that the armed forces would not take any orders from an “imperial lackey.”
As part of efforts to allow US forces into Venezuela, the Venezuelan opposition has reportedly signed up 250,000 volunteers and will be holding “processions” of their supporters in border regions starting next Sunday, raising the prospect of possible confrontations.
He encouraged his followers to set up “nomadic humanitarian camps, [which] will have to go in procession and protest to receive the humanitarian aid.”
“Aid” delivered through the US Agency for International Development (USAID), allegedly includes food and medicine packages for 10 days, which has reportedly been stockpiled in the Colombian border town of Cucuta.
The Red Cross and United Nations also distanced themselves from the aid plan earlier this week, claiming that it has been “politicized.”
People’s plan to resist the “aid”
As part of response to rising tensions centering the USAID delivery, local government representative for Tachira State, Freddy Bernal, told press Monday that the United Socialist Party (PSUV) and other pro-government organizations are planning to set up an anti-imperialist youth camp close to the Tienditas Bridge, which connects Venezuela to Colombia.
An anti-imperialist camp will be set up there. It is for all of our youths supporting peace and reject foreign aggression, essentially asking that the US take it hands off Venezuela, Bernal told reporters. He also described Guaido’s “humanitarian aid” plan as a “Trojan horse.”
US Congress rejects Trump’s warmongering
In the U.S., Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Eliot Engel made the following comments at the opening of a hearing on Venezuela: Won’t support Trump’s warmongering.
Congress will not support U.S. military intervention in Venezuela despite hints by President Trump that such action had not been ruled out, the Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said on Wednesday.
“I do worry about the president’s saber rattling, his hints that U.S. military intervention remains an option. I want to make clear to our witnesses and to anyone else watching: U.S. military intervention is not an option,” U.S. Representative Eliot Engel said at the opening of a hearing the OPEC nation.
Under the U.S. Constitution, Congress has to approve foreign military action.
Engel also warned about the possible effects on the Venezuelan people of U.S. sanctions on state oil company PDVSA.
“I appreciate the need to squeeze Maduro,” Engel said. “But the White House must think through the potential repercussions that these sanctions could have on the Venezuelan people if Maduro does not leave office in the coming weeks.”
Testifying at the hearing, Trump’s pick to lead U.S. efforts on Venezuela, former U.S. diplomat and convicted war criminal Elliott Abrams, said Washington would keep up pressure on Maduro and his inner circle by “a variety of means.”
“But we will also provide off-ramps to those who will do what is right for the Venezuelan people,” he said.
Abrams drew intermittent protests at the start of the hearing. “You are a convicted criminal!” one man shouted before being escorted out of the room.
Abrams, assistant secretary of state during the administration of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, was convicted in 1991 on two misdemeanor counts of withholding information from Congress during the Iran-Contra scandal. He was later pardoned by President George H. W. Bush.
Elliott Abrams faced tough questions from several lawmakers.
Several lawmakers including the newly elected Democratic Congresswoman Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) raised his past of spearheading US meddling in Central and South America.
The Democratic lawmaker questioned the ability and moral integrity of Elliott Abrams, recently appointed special envoy to Venezuela.
Ilhan Omar said she “failed to understand” why the American people should believe Special Envoy Elliott Abrams’ interests in Venezuela, after his involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s, and the internal conflict in Central America during the Reagan administration.
She then evoked El Mozote massacre, in which U.S.-trained Salvadoran soldiers killed over 800 civilians in 1981, when the internal conflict was raging — a conflict which Abrams later called a “fabulous achievement.”
“Yes or no,” Omar asked Abrams. “Do you think that massacre was a fabulous achievement that happened under our watch?”
Responding it was “ridiculous question,” Abrams said, “I’m not going to respond to that kind of personal attack, which is not a question.”
During the Reagan administration, Abrams assured military aid to the Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt, who came to power after a coup in 1982 and was later sentenced for genocide against the Mayan peoples in the Central American country. He was also convicted in 1991 on two misdemeanor counts of withholding information from Congress during the Iran-Contra scandal.
“Yes or no,” Omar continued. “Would you support an armed faction within Venezuela that engages in war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide, if you believe they were serving U.S. interests, as you did in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua?”
“I don’t think this entire line of questioning is meant to be real questions, and so I will not reply,” said Abrams repeatedly during the conversation, until Omar asked him if he will guarantee the respect of human rights in Venezuela.
“The answer is that the entire thrust of American policy in Venezuela is to support the Venezuelan people’s effort to restore democracy to their country,” he said. “That’s our policy.”
Abrams was also one of the masterminds behind the 2002 coup attempt against Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.
Venezuelan plotters reportedly visited the White House several times, including Pedro Carmona, who acted as de facto president for the 47 the coup lasted, for months before the attempt. The U.S. government rushed to recognize the new government of Carmona, but their efforts were defeated by the Venezuelan revolution.
Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) also brought up Abrams’s past, asking the envoy if he was aware of any shipments of weapons to the US-backed Venezuelan opposition.
At one point in the hearing, Abrams was heckled by antiwar activists from Code Pink, some of whom were physically removed from the chamber.
Committee chair Rep. Eliot Engel (D-New York) made sure to assert congressional power to declare war and argue that the Democrat-majority House will not approve an armed intervention in Venezuela.
“I do worry about the president’s saber rattling, his hints that US military intervention remains an option. I want to make clear to our witnesses and to anyone else watching: US military intervention is not an option,” Engel said.
Most Democrats appeared on board with Trump’s regime change policy, however, so long as it could be done quickly and cheaply. Brad Sherman (D-California) was particularly interested in making sure the US-backed government doesn’t repay any of the loans Caracas has taken out from Russia, which Venezuela has been settling with oil shipments.
Colombian President in Washington DC
Colombian President Ivan Duque was in Washington meeting with President Donald Trump.
The two presidents released a joint statement pledging to “work with the Guaido government to restore freedom, democracy, and prosperity to Venezuela” and condemning the “illegitimate, former dictator of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro.”
China denies talks with Venezuela opposition, slams Western media “fake news” ethic
A spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry condemned Western media for its coverage of the situation in Venezuela.
The Foreign Ministry of China rejected Wednesday information disseminated by The Wall Street Journal about Venezuela, describing it as “fake news”.
The U.S. newspaper in a report Tuesday quoted alleged sources saying that Chinese diplomats held talks in Washington with the representatives of the self-proclaimed “interim President” of Venezuela, Juan Guaido regarding a debt of US$20 billion to Beijing and on oil projects.
“The Wall Street Journal newspaper published yesterday that material […] that is really a false news,” said the spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Hua Chunying.
Hua noted that these types of stories published by the U.S. press highlights their lack of professionalism and ethics.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry official also added that the Western media are immersed in a fake news competition.
“I do not know what objectives they are pursuing, but we hope that the media will prepare their publications in accordance with the principles of objectivity and impartiality,” he stressed.
Regarding the Venezuelan political situation, Hua stressed that his country advocates dialogue between the Venezuelan government and the opposition.
Venezuela´s “issues” must be resolved through dialogue, Hua added, reiterating China’s previous stance.
Bulgaria freezes accounts of Venezuelan state oil firm after Washington ‘tip-off’
Authorities in Bulgaria have blocked transfers out of bank accounts belonging to Venezuelan state-controlled energy corporation Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), according to Bulgaria’s chief prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov.
Sofia apparently received information about transfers made by the Venezuelan oil giant, via its accounts in Bulgaria, to reportedly channel the money elsewhere. Washington was the key source of the information, according to Tsatsarov.
The top official stressed that Venezuelan funds were partially transferred to some other countries and Bulgarian law-enforcement agencies were suspicious about where the funds were headed. Caracas reportedly used the funds for backing some sports federations, purchasing food supplies, and other humanitarian projects.
Bulgarian authorities are set to decide whether to open a criminal case into money laundering after a complete inspection of transfer details.
“We have established that there were money transfers from Venezuela, namely from the state oil company of Venezuela to these accounts,” the top official said during a joint press conference with US Ambassador to Bulgaria Eric Rubin.
The mentioned transactions included several million euros, according to the chief of Bulgaria’s domestic security agency DANS Dimitar Georgiev.
Colombian social leaders express solidarity with Venezuela
Colombian social leaders filled the streets of Cali, Tuesday night, expressing solidarity with Venezuela and giving support to President Maduro.
Demonstrators expressed their support for the sovereignty of Venezuela and the Bolivarian Government, and demand respect for the “free self-determination of the Venezuelan people and their struggle to live in peace, rebuild their economy and continue to be an example of dignity for the whole world.”
According to organizers from the Coordinator of Solidarity with the Peoples of Valle del Cauca, the Venezuelan people have been subject to “the most cruel economic war, to an international piracy against its natural resources and public goods, to an infamous media siege and to the imperialist aggression that threatens to flood in blood the homeland of Simon Bolívar.”
The political adviser of the Revolutionary Alternative Force (FARC) party in Cali, Juan Manuel Gomez, sent a message of goodwill, brotherhood, and fraternity to Venezuela and President Maduro.
Gomez rejected the interventionist attempts and called for Colombian officials to respect the “freedom of the sister countries” in order to bring to “America a just and peaceful continent that citizens deserve.”
US plays with the money of Venezuela
“The danger that we have now and the danger that we see is a full-scale conflict which will decimate not simply the gains that were made by this action called the Bolivarian Revolution over the last over the last 20 years,” stated actor and activist Danny Glover.
During an interview with The Real News Network on Wednesday, Glover condemned the attacks by the U.S. against Venezuela and the actions that Washington has carried out with the resources of this Latin American people.
“Now what you’ve done is you’ve taken the billions of dollars that rightfully belong to the Venezuelan people, and what you’ve done is you’ve taken those millions of dollars, you’re putting sanctions on it, they can’t use their own money, their own resources,” stated Glover before adding that “then you come as this knight in shining armor to save them and everything with a few million dollars of “humanitarian aid.”
Glover noted that U.S. sanctions only affect the most vulnerable people, and put at risk the gains achieved by the Bolivarian Revolution in the last 20 years. For him “this is a very, very concise plan, a plan that was laid out,” by U.S. government, that started with sanctions with former U.S. president Obama, but has escalated.
“The danger that we have now and the danger that we see is a full-scale conflict which will decimate not simply the gains that were made by this action called the Bolivarian Revolution over the last over the last 20 years,” stated Glover.
The American actor said that with these continuous actions, the US only seeks to “control the natural resources of the country”. He denounced that the U.S. multinational oil and mining companies. and Canada, are behind the intensification of the conflict in Venezuelan soil
Chavista march continues
Pro-government forces again took to the streets Tuesday in a march culminating in Caracas’ central Bolivar Square.
The march featured several youth organizations including the youth wing of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and groups coming from other states.
To mark the occasion, President Maduro awarded the Jose Felix Ribas award to a number of civilian and military youths. Venezuelan Youth Day is held on the anniversary of the La Victoria battle (February 12, 1814), in which Jose Felix led a force made up mostly of college and seminar students to victory against royalist forces during the wars for independence.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Tuesday that Venezuelan gold would be processed in the Central Anatolian province of Çorum.
Speaking at a rally the president said Çorum would reach a new level in terms of gold trade amid reports that Venezuela sells most of its gold to Turkish refineries.
On Monday, Reuters reported that Venezuela uses some of the proceeds to buy consumer goods such as pasta and powdered milk, citing people with direct knowledge of the trade.
A Nov. 1 executive order signed by US President Trump bars US persons and entities from buying gold from Venezuela. However, it does not apply to foreigners.
Ankara has assured the US Treasury that all of Turkey’s trade with Venezuela is in accordance with international law.
Venezuela in December 2016 announced a direct flight from Caracas to İstanbul on Turkish Airlines. The development was surprising given the low demand for travel between the two nations.
On New Year’s Day, 2018, Venezuela’s central bank began shipping gold to Turkey with a $36 million air shipment of the metal to Istanbul. It came just weeks after a visit by Maduro to Turkey.
Shipments last year reached $900 million, according to Turkish government data and trade reports.
Venezuela’s central bank has been selling its artisan gold directly to Turkish refiners, according to two senior Venezuelan officials. Proceeds go to the Venezuelan state development bank Bandes to purchase Turkish consumer goods, the officials said.
Turkish consumer products are making their way to Venezuelan tables. In early December 54 containers of Turkish powdered milk arrived at the port of La Guaira near Caracas, according to port records seen by Reuters.