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TBR News June 29, 2018

Jun 29 2018

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Isaiah 40:3-8

Washington, D.C. June 29, 2018: “Government surveillance of the American public is very widespread and at the present time, almost every aspect of an American citizen, or resident, is available for official surveillance. This includes mail, television viewing, telephone conversations, computer communications, travel, ownership of property, medical and school records, banking and credit card transactions, inheritances and other aspects of a citizen’s daily life.

This is done to circumvent any possible organization that could contravene official government policy and has its roots in massive civil resistance to governmental policy during the war in Vietnam. The government does not want a reprise of that problem and its growing surveillance is designed to carefully watch any citizen, or groups of citizens, who might, present or future, pose a threat to government policy.

Another factor to be considered is the current American attitudes towards racial issues. There has always been prejudice in the United States against blacks. In 1943 there were bloody riots in Detroit and Los Angeles, the former aimed at blacks and the latter against Mexicans. Since then, there has been chronic racial prejudice but it has been relatively small and very local. Also, there is growing anti-Semitic prejudice in American but this is officially ignored and never is mentioned in the American media. Much of this growing problem is directed at the brutal actions of Israel against Palestinians. Israelis have an undue influence in the American political scene. The very far right so-called neo-cons are almost all Jewish and most are Israeli citizens. Also, the middle-level ranks of American CIA personnel are heavily infiltrated by Israelis and it is said that any secret the CIA has is at once passed to Israel and that countries needs are assuming importance in CIA actions.

The attitudes of the working class Americans were inflamed during the last presidential elections by Mr. Trump who catered to them and encouraged rebellious attitudes. By speaking against Central American illegal immigrants, Mr. Trump has caused a polarization of attitudes and the militant right wing in America, currently small in number but well-organized and potentially very dangerous, has begun to make its views very well known in public demonstrations.

This movement has played into the hands of far-right American political manipulators.

It is their intention to clandestinely arm these groups and use them to cause violent public confrontations with the far left groups.

By causing this potential violence, the manipulators intend to use the American military to move into unstable area to, as they say, ‘establish law and order’ while in reality, they will use martial law to firm up their basic control of a potentially fractious public.

It is then intended, according to information, to incorporate organized, para-military groups into a sort of domestic Federal police force. These people will not be punished for their actions but rewarded and utilized to ensure further right-wing control of the country.”

The Table of Contents

  • How the Red Hen affair broke America’s civility wars wide open
  • Trump’s “Shithole Countries” Remark Is at the Center of a Lawsuit to Reinstate Protections for Immigrants
  • Trump trashed Nato at G7, calling it ‘as bad as Nafta’, officials confirm
  • Why American LNG is no substitute for Russian gas in Europe
  • Alexey Miller and German Ambassador Ruediger von Fritsch discuss gas cooperation
  • Dane chicane: Russian gas pipe to Europe to be built despite Denmark’s heel dragging
  • Honduras Is a Hellhole: Who’s Responsible?
  • The National Endowment for Democracy- An Analysis and History

 

How the Red Hen affair broke America’s civility wars wide open

A restaurant’s choice to eject Trump’s press secretary stoked debate on how liberals should behave in an era of outrage

June 28, 2018

by David Smith in Washington

The Guardian

A refugee from what is now South Sudan, David Acuoth remarked to compatriots recently that America increasingly reminds him of home. “Where we have ethnic tribes, here it is ideological tribes,” said the political consultant, based in Washington.

The latest evidence, Acuoth believes, came last Friday night when the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, was told to leave a restaurant in Virginia, touching off debate over “civility” and the implications – moral and tactical – of abrasive public shaming. Donald Trump seized on this and other incidents in a characteristic bid to cast himself as a victim and rally sympathy and support.

Fearing a trap, senior Democrats urged restraint but it appears they are out of touch with the progressive grassroots, where feelings are strong that a president who has stoked racial tensions, branded the media the enemy of the people, threatened to jail his opponents and separated children from their parents at the US-Mexican border has lost all purchase on civility. Liberal activists and grassroots Democrats (as distinct from the establishment figures) contend that Trump’s enablers ought to be challenged, confronted, pressured, provoked and discomforted in social situations, they contend.

In short, Democrats of all persuasions are wrestling with what the proper response is to Trump’s age of outrage. Is it (to quote Michelle Obama) “When they go low, we go high” or “Fight fire with fire”?

“Where do you draw the line?” Acouth wonders. “When you ask Sarah Sanders to leave, you are breaking the boundaries we all keep, that public spaces are open to everyone. I’m black, I’m African, I’m an immigrant to the United States: what if I go to a restaurant and they say we won’t serve you because you’re black? For the sake of the stability and the union of the United States, I think public space should be off limits.”

Not so, says Maxine Waters of California. Over the weekend the Democratic congresswoman told a crowd: “If you see anybody from that cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd, and you push back on them!” Trump retorted on Twitter that Waters is “an extraordinarily low IQ person” and wrote threateningly: “Be careful what you wish for Max!”

The Democratic party establishment has urged caution, and asked supporters to resist sinking to Trump’s level. Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, said, “Trump’s daily lack of civility has provoked responses that are predictable but unacceptable”, while the Senate minority leader, Charles Schumer, said from the Senate floor that “the best solution is to win elections. That is a far more productive way to channel the legitimate frustrations with this president’s policies than with harassing members of his administration.”

But Pelosi and Schumer, aged 78 and 67 respectively, seem to have been left behind by liberal activists who believe that there can be no compromise in resisting Trump. From this perspective, the administration’s ruthless attacks have made immigrants, Muslims and people of colour feel uncomfortable and unsafe in America and a milquetoast, business-as-usual response of floor speeches and press releases will not suffice.

The restaurateur Carole Greenwood once gave George W Bush’s defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, his marching orders because she regarded him as a war criminal. “He came in with a large party and the staff were excited,” she recalls. “I said, ‘Absolutely not, throw him out’.”

Greenwood, based in New York, fully supports the actions of Stephanie Wilkinson, owner of the Red Hen in Lexington, who politely asked Sanders to leave. “Owning a restaurant is a very difficult job. You corral, mentor, teach a disparate bunch of people and it’s not very profitable. One of the few perks is making decisions about what happens in your space. We throw out people who are drunk or inappropriately dressed.”

She adds: “What is the major tenet of democracy except for freedom of speech and protest? This administration is not about civility. The social contract is long broken and we don’t have to abide by it.”

America’s partisan rancour has intensified in recent weeks. The comedian Samantha Bee’s attempt to raise the alarm over border separations was overshadowed by her use of foul language to describe Ivanka Trump. Robert De Niro was given a standing ovation at the Tony awards after declaring: “Fuck Trump!”

In an article headlined “How to Lose the Midterms and Re-elect Trump”, the New York Times columnist Frank Bruni responded: “When you answer name-calling with name-calling and tantrums with tantrums, you’re not resisting him. You’re mirroring him. You’re not diminishing him. You’re demeaning yourselves. Many voters don’t hear your arguments or the facts, which are on your side. They just wince at the din.”

But then Stephen Miller, the White House senior adviser and architect of the family separation policy, and the homeland security secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, in charge of enforcing it, were heckled and hounded out of restaurants in Washington. Nielsen’s home was also targeted by protesters. Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, was confronted by protesters this week.

Ahead of midterm elections in November, Democratic elders are concerned that aggressive anti-Trump efforts might play into the hands of a president who embraces grievance and victimhood, governs with a philosophy of divide and rule, and fans the culture wars over everything from the Roseanne revival to late-night comedians to professional football players kneeling for the national anthem.

On Tuesday, a fundraising email from the Trump-Pence Make America Great Again Committee, with the subject heading “Harassment”, said: “The Left is trying to bully and buy their way back into power. Not on my watch. I will always stand up for you.” The next paragraph was an appeal for money. The Trump confidant and cheerleader Sean Hannity told Fox News viewers that some of Trump’s opponents have become “utterly psychotic and unhinged”.

But many progressive activists dismiss such talk as hypocritical and unlikely to change anyone’s minds. DeJuana Thompson, a political strategist from Birmingham, Alabama, who works to mobilise African American voters, contrasted the Sanders incident with the case of Anthony Wall, an unarmed black man choked and thrown to the ground by police at a Waffle House in North Carolina last month.

“There’s a lot of focus on the way in which people are treated in restaurants but we forget what’s happening in Waffle Houses,” she says. “They’re not asked to leave, they’re slammed to the floor and led away in handcuffs.

Thompson also defends Waters. “I’m not sure why people are so up in arms about her statement. Discomfort is what it’s taken to move things in our country.

“There are rules of play but I don’t think challenging someone and voicing an opinion is something we should be scared of as belligerence or violence.”

Activists point out that it is Trump, not they, who has encouraged violence at rallies and who, when a civil rights activist was run down and killed during a white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, insisted that there were “very fine people on both sides”.

Angus Johnston, a historian of American student activism based at City University of New York, says: “Political violence is already here. The idea that chanting at a restaurant is going to bring on political violence is false.”

But the violence has been mainly coming from Trump, he contends. “From what I gather, the request for Sarah Sanders to leave was very civil and hardly a descent into anarchy. At the same time, we have a president of the United States who revels in calls to violence and an opposition that is overwhelmingly non-violent, and yet the focus of the media is on the latter.”

The president told a rally this week: “They are the party of Maxine Waters.” But the civility debate has exposed a fissure in the Democratic party.

Neil Sroka, the communications director of the progressive political action committee Democracy for America, says: “It’s disappointing to see corporate Democrats hand-wringing over this. If they fall into the trap of the false equivalency, this is literally why we lose.

“I have a great deal of respect for Michelle Obama but I think 2016 showed us that ‘When they go low, we go high,’ does not work against Donald Trump. We have to be willing to call out the bigotry and the hate of this administration and make people feel uncomfortable for associating with that hate and bigotry.”

He argues that the civility debate is absurd at a time when the Trump administration is “ripping” refugee children from their parents’ arms.

“The discussion of civility betrays how deep white supremacy is in our discourse. A black woman standing up there saying we should make these people uncomfortable becomes ‘uncivil’. There is no parallel between Sarah Sanders going to eat at a fancy restaurant and Donald Trump saying white supremacists are ‘very fine people’.”

The paradox of the Trump administration demanding civility in public discourse was spelled out when he held a rally in South Carolina on Monday night. His supporters chanted “Lock her up!” in reference to his defeated election opponent Hillary Clinton. Later Trevor Noah, host of the Daily Show, played the clip and quipped: “Hey, remember civility! It’s lock her up please.”

 

Trump’s “Shithole Countries” Remark Is at the Center of a Lawsuit to Reinstate Protections for Immigrants

June 28, 2018

by Leighton Akio Woodhouse

The Intercept

When President Donald Trump referred to Haiti, El Salvador, and an assortment of African nations as “shithole countries” during a closed-door meeting with congressional leaders and Cabinet members in January, he may have unwittingly planted the seed for the unraveling of a critical part of his deportation agenda.

Last Friday, in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, the first hearing was held for a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s revocation of Temporary Protected Status for over 200,000 foreign nationals from four countries who currently live in the United States. The lawsuit alleges that Trump’s rhetoric demonstrates that his administration’s cancellation of TPS was motivated by bigotry, rather than policy concerns.

“The Trump administration’s decision to end TPS for people from these countries was motivated by its racism against non-white, non-Europeans immigrants,” said Ahilan Arulanantham, legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and co-counsel for the plaintiffs. “That racist motivation was obvious from a number of statements that this president and others in the administration made, including about TPS holders specifically.”

Created by Congress in 1990, TPS designations are extended to countries that have suffered from war, natural disasters, or other humanitarian emergencies that make it unsafe for their citizens abroad to return home. Expatriates of TPS countries in the U.S. are shielded from deportation for as long as their country’s designation remains in place.

In 1997, Sudan was extended TPS designation as a result of its ongoing civil war. Two years later, Nicaragua became a TPS-designated country in the wake of a catastrophic hurricane. El Salvador was granted the designation in 2001 as a result of a major earthquake. Haiti became a TPS designee after a massive earthquake in 2010. Past administrations have periodically extended the durations for the respective designations of each of the four countries, based on assessments of conditions on the ground.

But within a five-month period, under two Department of Homeland Security secretaries — current Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and her predecessor, Acting Secretary Elaine Duke — the Trump administration terminated TPS designations for all four countries, declaring that conditions on the ground had improved enough to allow for the safe return of their citizens living in the U.S.

The lawsuit, which is one of five challenges to TPS nationally, alleges that the decisions to terminate were motivated not by purported improvements in conditions on the ground, but by racial prejudice on the part of the president. It seeks to overturn those decisions and keep the TPS holders from those countries in the United States

Trump’s “shithole” remark figures prominently in the case. The plaintiffs, which include TPS holders from Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Sudan, as well as their American citizen children, contend that, alongside a litany of other racist comments by the president, Trump’s vulgar dismissal of the majority black and Latino countries indicate his “racially discriminatory motives against non-white and non-European immigrants.” The rationalization of Trump’s racism in DHS policy, the plaintiffs maintain, violates TPS holders’ constitutional right to equal protection under the law.

Trump made his “shithole” remark during a reportedly contentious January 2018 meeting with lawmakers in the Oval Office to discuss the terms of a potential bipartisan deal to resolve the status of 800,000 young immigrants protected from deportation by the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Over the course of the conversation, Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., proposed ending the visa lottery program in exchange for extending the duration of TPS protections for current TPS holders from countries like El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti.

“Why do we need Haiti?” Trump interjected, rhetorically, according to reports. “Take them out.”

When immigration from African countries came up, Trump complained, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” He then suggested bringing immigrants to the United States from Norway, a country that, many observers noted, is overwhelmingly white.

Nielsen was reportedly in the room when the president made the remarks.

Within a week of that discussion, the complaint notes, DHS officially terminated the TPS designation for Haiti. (The Haiti decision had been announced the prior November.) It terminated El Salvador’s designation that same day, though DHS had announced its decision on El Salvador a few days prior to the Oval Office meeting. DHS had already terminated Sudan’s designation the prior October and ended Nicaragua’s in December.

The plaintiffs allege that DHS ended TPS for the four countries not because they had recuperated sufficiently from the disasters that prompted their designations, as the administration maintains, but because Trump has contempt for non-white immigrants from poor foreign countries and wants them expelled from the United States. In addition to the “shithole” comment, the complaint cites Trump’s campaign announcement speech, in which he referred to Mexican immigrants as “rapists”; his frequent comparison of immigrants to snakes; his outlandish assertion that Haitian immigrants to the U.S. “all have AIDS”; his comment that Nigerian immigrants would never “go back to their huts”; and the lie he has repeatedly told about Arab-Americans in New Jersey cheering after the Twin Towers fell on 9/11.

Following the president’s lead, the complaint suggests, DHS targeted for TPS termination countries whose nationals Trump deemed undesirable, even when conditions in those countries did not merit termination. For example, in November 2017, White House chief of staff and former DHS Secretary John Kelly called Duke, then the acting DHS secretary, after she had resolved that conditions in Honduras continued to warrant its TPS designation. Kelly pressured her into reversing her decision. Her refusal to do so, he complained, undermined the administration’s “wider strategic goal” on immigration and risked presenting his handpicked nominee for DHS secretary — Nielsen — with a potentially difficult line of questioning at her upcoming confirmation hearing.

A source told the New York Times that Kelly’s objections made no reference to conditions on the ground in Honduras, which, by law, is the sole criteria for making determinations on TPS extensions or terminations. According to the Washington Post, Duke was incensed by Kelly’s attempt to leverage the White House’s political priorities to override her administrative decision. She refused to back down.

Duke stepped down as acting secretary in December 2017, upon Nielsen’s confirmation, which put a close Kelly ally in the Cabinet post. Earlier this month, under Nielsen, DHS terminated TPS for Honduras.

In addition to violating the equal rights protections of TPS holders, the complaint contends that DHS violated the constitutional rights of their school-age American citizen children. DHS’s termination decisions, the plaintiffs contend, put these children in an impossible situation. The children are being forced to choose between the basic right of any American citizen to remain in the United States and their fundamental interest in being raised by their parents, rather than being handed over to relatives or put into the foster care system as wards of the state.

The plaintiffs also allege that the Trump administration violated the Administrative Procedure Act, which governs how federal agencies make rules. In terminating TPS for the four countries, they argue, DHS broke from decades of standard practice by prior administrations, in effect unlawfully creating a “new rule” for making TPS designation decisions.

In the past, administrations have routinely extended TPS designations when recovery efforts were hampered by events that took place after the original emergency. For example, Sudanese migrants gained a TPS designation in 1997 in response to its civil war. In the 18 times it has been renewed since, prior administrations have cited floods, droughts, poverty, crime, and new armed conflicts that arose subsequent to the start of the war. Under the Trump administration, the complaint charges, DHS ignored such intervening factors in its haste to end TPS for countries the president regards as repugnant.

Last Thursday, the government filed a motion to dismiss the case, arguing that the Immigration Act of 1990, the statute that created TPS, exempts every aspect of DHS’s decision-making on TPS designations, extensions, and terminations from review by the courts. The government contends that the plaintiffs’ allegation that DHS created a “new rule” by breaking from past practice is a scheme to get around this problem: By asserting a violation of the Administrative Procedure Act — which would be within the court’s purview — the plaintiffs have created a “backdoor” that allows the court to weigh in on the substance of DHS’s TPS determinations, which it would be barred from doing in that backdoor’s absence.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Edward Chen denied the government’s motion, asserting the courts’ jurisdiction over the plaintiff’s claims.

“A federal judge for the first time has recognized that TPS holders can have their day in court, challenging the illegal and unconstitutional terminations of their legal status under TPS,” said Emi MacLean, an attorney with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and co-counsel for the plaintiffs.

The Trump administration is almost certain to appeal the denial. This — and the case, writ large — could go to the Supreme Court, which, on Tuesday, upheld Trump’s “Muslim ban.” The decision on barring citizens of mostly Muslim-majority nations from the U.S. spoke to the question of the degree to which Trump’s racist statements can be taken into account in weighing the constitutionality of the administration’s policies.

In the California case, Chen has solicited legal analyses from each side on the potential impact, if any, of the higher court’s “Muslim ban” decision on the TPS case. He will make a further ruling on the question in the near future. MacLean said, “We’re confident that the decision will stand.”

The Trump administration has good reason to fear scrutiny of DHS’s TPS determinations: There is a clear pattern of administration officials pressing relentlessly for TPS terminations even in the face of evidence that the designations should continue.

As Splinter has reported, months before DHS announced its termination of Haiti’s TPS designation, Kathy Nuebel Kovarik, chief of the Office of Policy and Strategy at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and a former Kelly adviser, emailed her staff asking them to “pull some data” on the number of Haitian TPS holders who are on welfare or have been convicted of crimes. (The latter category would have been a null set, as convicted criminals are prohibited from being extended TPS protections.) Such statistical dirt could have made useful propaganda with which to demonize Haitian immigrants to generate political support for their mass deportation, especially given the conspicuous absence of a credible legal rationale for terminating Haiti’s TPS designation, including from USCIS itself.

In an internal report last year, Splinter reported, USCIS staff found that many of the conditions that had prompted Haiti’s original TPS designation in 2010 had shown little improvement seven years later. Nevertheless, a few weeks after the report was issued, USCIS Director Francis Cissna contradicted his staff and recommended TPS termination for Haiti anyway.

In May, the Washington Post reported that before DHS terminated TPS for Haiti, El Salvador, and Honduras, senior diplomats had warned the State Department that doing so could destabilize the region and create a wave of unauthorized immigration into the United States. But then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ignored the embassy cables and, along with Kelly and other administration officials, lobbied Duke to terminate the three countries’ TPS designations, in accord with the White House’s political agenda.

The larger picture that emerges from this tapestry is of an administration with a clear objective: to expel foreign nationals of “shithole countries” from the United States in any way possible, whether through “zero tolerance” prosecution for those who are unauthorized, or by stripping those with authorization of their legal protections, with little regard for the niceties of the law.

The government is leaning heavily on the Immigration Act’s provision barring judicial review of DHS’s TPS determinations to prevent the courts — and, through them, the public — from prying further open this can of worms. The administration’s deportation regime functions most efficiently in darkness.

 

Trump trashed Nato at G7, calling it ‘as bad as Nafta’, officials confirm

President’s remarks were confirmed by European officials, adding to jitters among allies about what will happen at July Nato summit

June 28, 2018

by Julian Borger in Washington

The Guardian

Donald Trump trashed Nato, saying it was “as bad as Nafta”, the North American free trade agreement the US president openly despises, European officials have confirmed.

There is added anxiety that Trump would go on, after a UK visit in between, to a chummy tête-à-tête with Putin in Finland, in the same way he flew from the fractious G7 summit in Quebec – tweeting insults at the host, Justin Trudeau, from Air Force One along the way – to a meeting with Kim Jong-un in Singapore, where he unilaterally offered to suspend joint military exercises with South Korea, to the surprise of US and South Korean militaries alike.

European, as well as US state and defence department officials, worry he could make private concessions to curry favour with Putin in Helsinki, perhaps lessening the pressure on Moscow over its annexation of Crimea and intervention in eastern Ukraine.

According to BuzzFeed, Trump told leaders at the G7 summit that Crimea was Russian because everyone there speaks Russia.

Some European officials and experts argue that the anxiety over Nato’s future is overwrought and excessively focused on Trump’s remarks. They point out that the US has actually increased its investment in the defence of Europe.

“The Trump administration is spending far more on Nato than the Obama administration and greatly increasing the readiness and strength of the forces that the US can supply to Nato,” strategic analyst Anthony Cordesman wrote in a report by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies on the state of the alliance.

The fractures in the alliance have been widened by a looming trade war between the US and Nato allies in Europe and Canada. Trump has imposed tariffs on their steel and aluminium and they have hit back with tariffs on distinctive US exports from Levi’s to bourbon and Harley-Davidson motorcycles. The administration is also threatening sanctions against any European and other foreign firms that do business in Iran.

One of the consistent elements of Trump’s foreign policy is fervent opposition to multilateral organisations, including Nafta, which he has threatened to leave, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which he abandoned, and the EU, which he rails against frequently. He has told European leaders privately they would be better off in a bilateral free-trade deal with the US than in the Union.

“We love the countries of the European Union,” Trump said on Wednesday. “But the European Union was set up to take advantage of the United States.”

 

Why American LNG is no substitute for Russian gas in Europe

April 23, 2018

RT

Washington’s plan to oust Russian natural gas from the European market and substitute it with its own liquefied natural gas (LNG) shipments is not economically feasible, analysts told RT.

“American LNG exports have failed to become a full-fledged alternative to Gazprom’s pipeline gas in Europe, as the latter has set another record-high last year. About half of the US LNG supplied to Europe is purchased by countries that do not have long-term contracts for Russian gas (formerly Spain and Portugal),” Maria Belova, head of research at VYGON Consulting, told RT.

The analyst notes that US gas is not a viable alternative to the pipeline supplies of Gazprom, which has renewed its historical record in export volume to Europe for the second consecutive year, due to the competitive pricing.

“The current price advantage of Russian pipeline gas appeared thanks to the price formula mechanism in the supply contracts. Gazprom gas price has not yet managed to react to a significant increase in oil prices, which began in mid-2017, in contrast to spot gas prices at European gas hubs. Up to 2016 the spot prices at the EU hubs have been consistently below the price of Russian gas with oil linkage. As a result of a number of revisions to the terms of Gazprom contracts, the price correlation has increased and the differential with spot price has narrowed,” she said.

Germany has once again announced plans to build a $500 million LNG terminal on the Elbe River to diversify from Russian and Norwegian gas imports. The Brunsbuettel would be Germany’s first LNG plant and open by the end of 2022. But the expense of building the terminal and cheaper Russian gas have held up the project for years.

Belova explained to RT why American gas is more expensive than Russian: “The average Gazprom price at the Germany border in 2017 neared the average European price (weighted average price of long-term contracts and spot prices) at around $5.65 per MMBtu. The estimated Gazprom price at the Germany border in the first quarter of 2018 increased to $7.15 per MMBtu. The US LNG gas landed and regasified in Belgium (Germany doesn’t have any LNG receiving terminals) cost around $7.9 per MMBtu, $8.1 per MMBtu in the first quarter of 2018. Therefore, American LNG is the more expensive option compared to Russian gas,” she wrote.

The US has repeatedly tried to thwart the extension of the Nord Stream pipeline from Russia to Germany, which will double the existing pipeline’s capacity. Moscow has accused Washington of trying to force-feed American LNG to Europe. Despite US efforts to block the Russian project, Gazprom has received permission to build the pipeline.

 

Alexey Miller and German Ambassador Ruediger von Fritsch discuss gas cooperation

June 20, 2018

gazprom

A working meeting between Alexey Miller, Chairman of the Gazprom Management Committee, and Ruediger von Fritsch, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Russian Federation, took place in Moscow today.

The parties discussed the state and prospects of cooperation in the gas sector. Emphasis was placed on the strategic aspects of the collaborative Russian-German efforts along the entire value chain, including field development and gas transmission system expansion with the purpose of supplying gas to European consumers.

The meeting highlighted that Germany continued to ramp up its imports of Russian gas. According to preliminary data, from January 1 through June 19, 2018, Gazprom supplied Germany with 28.2 billion cubic meters of gas, an increase of 13.1 per cent from the same period of 2017.

The parties paid special attention to the Nord Stream 2 project aimed at bolstering Europe’s energy security. Alexey Miller informed Ruediger von Fritsch that a full set of permits for the gas pipeline’s construction and operation had been received from Germany, Finland and Sweden and that preparatory works were already underway in Germany and Finland.

Background

Germany is the largest foreign consumer of Russian gas.

In 2017, Gazprom’s gas supplies to Germany hit a record high of 53.4 billion cubic meters, showing a 3.6 billion cubic meters (7.2 per cent) increase against the 2016 record of 49.8 billion cubic meters.

Nord Stream 2 is the construction project for a gas pipeline with the annual capacity of 55 billion cubic meters from Russia to Germany across the Baltic Sea.

 

Dane chicane: Russian gas pipe to Europe to be built despite Denmark’s heel dragging

June 28, 2018

RT

The construction of a Russian undersea gas pipeline to Europe may start as soon as this summer, even without Denmark’s permission, as it could run through international waters, according to Nord Stream 2 CFO Paul Corcoran.

“We are planning to start this summer,” Corcoran told journalists on the sidelines of the World Gas Conference in Washington. “If Denmark doesn’t approve construction and operation in its territorial waters, we’ll have to run the pipeline through transboundary waters north of the country.”

Earlier this year, Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said that Denmark was not able to prevent the Russian-led Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project from being implemented, but could slow down the construction works. The country pledged to pass a law that would ultimately allow it to block or postpone the implementation of the Nord Stream-2 project on legal grounds. Copenhagen is reportedly under considerable pressure from Washington.

Nord Stream 2’s top manager added that the company hasn’t filed an application for building the pipeline in multinational waters yet, as Denmark hasn’t issued the refusal so far. The construction works are currently running to plan, according to Corcoran.

“We have received 96 percent of pipes with 55 percent of them were concreted. We have also deployed ships. We are in compliance with the schedule,” he said, stressing that the company is currently in talks on granting financial guarantees for up to five billion dollars.

“We’re negotiating financial guarantees with six export agencies – German Hermes, Italian SACE, Austria’s OeKB, Netherlands’ Atradius, Belgian Credendo and Russia’s EXIAR,” Corcoran said. “We hope to get financial guarantees from the export agencies and start negotiating with banks to raise project funding at the end of the year, or in early 2019.”

The Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project is seen as the most efficient way, both economically and ecologically, to deliver Russian gas to European consumers. The pipeline is projected to provide transit of 70 percent of Russian gas sales to the EU via the German route when it is built in 2019.

The future pipeline, which is set to run from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea, is expected to double the existing pipeline’s capacity of 55 billion cubic meters annually

The project, led by the subsidiary of Russian energy giant Gazprom, is implemented in cooperation with German energy firms Wintershall and Uniper, French multinational Engie, British-Dutch oil and gas giant Royal Dutch Shell, and Austrian energy company OMV.

Earlier this year, the White House pledged to sanction all the participants of the Russia-led project due to its potential to increase Russia’s “malign influence” in Europe.

 

 

Honduras Is a Hellhole: Who’s Responsible?

Hillary Clinton, US imperialism, and criminal cronyism

June 28, 2018

by Justin Raimondo

AntiWar

As tens of thousands gather at our southern border, roiling US politics, the question arises: why are so many of the asylum-seekers and migrants crossing the border illegally from three Central American countries in particular: El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala?

To begin with, it’s no coincidence that these are the three “most invaded” countries south of the Rio Grande – that is, invaded by the United States and its proxies.

The Reagan years saw the apex of US intervention in the region, with fear of Communist “infiltration” motivating massive US aid to local despots and right-wing death squads throughout Central and South America: the fear of Cuban and Soviet influence drove US policy. In El Salvador, a raging civil war between rightist landowners and a leftist insurgency cost tens of thousands of lives and billions in lost income. In Guatemala, with a long history of US support to a callous and violent elite, a 36-year civil war between conservative landowners and Communist-led guerrillas devastated the country. Honduras is the scene of a recent US-backed coup, and also of a short story by O. Henry wherein the phrase “banana republic” was coined. A more appropriate phrase describing this Central American country could hardly be imagined, what with bananas looming large as the national product and source of wealth, and lots of political intrigue – periodic coups, assassinations, incredible corruption, all of it presided over by the warlords of Washington and their corporate favorites.

So what are these “refugees” fleeing? Is it so bad that parents are justified in paying smugglers to guide their underage children – traveling alone! – across the US-Mexican border?

Unlike the rest of the media, which has routinely ignored most of what goes on in Latin America since the end of the cold war, I’ve been covering the region regularly. On Honduras alone, see here, here, here, and here (since 2006). As I wrote last year:

“Honduras has always been an American plaything, to be toyed with for the benefit of United Fruit (rebranded Chiquita) and the native landowning aristocracy, and disciplined when necessary: Washington sent in the Marines a total of seven times between 1903 and 1925. The Honduran peasants didn’t like their lands being confiscated by the government and turned over to foreign-owned producers, who were granted monopolistic franchises by corrupt public officials. Periodic rural revolts started spreading to the cities, despite harsh repression, and the country – ruled directly by the military since 1955 – returned to a civilian regime in 1981.”

That column was about the Hillary Clinton-endorsed coup against the democratically elected President, Manuel Zelaya. The popular conservative-turned-reformer had pushed through a number of measures designed to alleviate the peasantry’s hopeless poverty and shift power from the military to the presidency, which angered the Honduran elite. They were triggered, however, when Zelaya joined the ALBA alliance of Latin American countries allied with Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela. While ALBA never really amounted to much, either economically or militarily, the symbolism of this move was too much for the Honduran military, which was trained in the US and generously subsidized by Washington. The generals soon had Zelaya on a plane out of the country – while still in his pajamas. Washington issued a perfunctory scolding, but Hillary’s State Department had approved the coup in advance. It’s always been done that way, and this time was no exception.

The history of Honduras is the story of a decades-long struggle against militarism: the generals, backed by the US over the decades, created a socio-economic system centered around the supremacy of the army, which controlled not only the political scene but also dominated the economy. As liberal reformers of Zelaya’s ilk began to investigate the abuses carried out by the former military regime, the culprits didn’t wait for the prosecutor to call on them: they launched a terrorist campaign of bombings and assassinations. As I put it in 2009:

“A whole sector of the military descended into outright criminality: as the 1990s rolled around, your typical bank robber, drug dealer, and/or kidnapper-for-ransom was, all too often, a Honduran army officer. Colombian drug cartels extended their tentacles into the Honduran high command, and violence and repression increased.”

The cartels have clearly reestablished their influence in Honduras: what we are seeing is a repeat of the nihilistic 1990s. According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, in the period immediately after the Clinton-endorsed coup the murder rate “increased from 60.8 per 100,000 in 2008 to 81.8 in 2010, 91.4 in 2011 and 90.4 in 2012” – among the highest in the world. The US government has issued a semi-permanent travel advisory that basically tells tourists to stay away.

So is the Honduran hegira to the Rio Grande a direct result of US foreign policy: is it “blowback,” to utilize CIA parlance for the unpleasant consequences of US actions abroad? It would be easy to say this is yet another example of how our foreign policy of global intervention comes back to haunt us, because that is partially true. Yet the old familiar story of the Ugly Americans backing the even uglier Local Despot doesn’t quite fit the most current facts: there has been an amazing drop in US military aid to Honduras. In 2017 it was over $19 million. This year it’s a mere $750,000!

The history of Honduras before the rise of American hegemony has done more to shape the country than any other single factor: the vital question of land ownership is the central issue here and in the entire South. Feudalism was never really abolished, and the feudalist remnants that persist to this day in the region delayed economic and technological development and kept the vast majority in penury. US foreign policy helped to sustain the life of this systemic repression: it didn’t create it. Whatever the “root causes,” the blowback from all this history has created something very close to a failed state.

This is why tens of thousands are making the long trek to the US-Mexican border: the social and institutional basis of human civilization is breaking down, not only in Honduras but throughout Latin America. Yet this is neither new nor is it primarily attributable to the actions of the US. Yes, our “war on drugs” has created a criminal class that is rivaling the power of the local governments to keep order, but hard drugs are illegal everywhere, not just in North America.

Honduras may be a failing state, and our foreign policy surely hasn’t helped matters – far from it! – and yet that failure is as much a consequence of a political culture that predates American influence as it is of more recent events. As to whether this entitles Hondurans to walk across the border and claim asylum in the US is a matter that I’ll leave to the judgment of my readers: my own views are well-known.

Suffice to say that the answer to the question of why so many Hondurans are reenacting the plot of The Camp of the Saints on our southern border is to be found in the complex history of that unfortunate land, which the virtue-signalers and phony “experts” who dominate the national discourse would do well to bone up on. Which they won’t because it’s not a story conducive to the usual dogmatic drivel.

So what, if anything, can we do to alleviate the problem, caused in part by the history of our relations with Honduras?

It looks to me like the Trumpistas are on the right track with their radical decimation of US military aid to the corrupt Honduran government. And while we shouldn’t pursue a policy of regime change, even if only to undo our previous regime change, our usually loudmouth democracy-promoters at the State Department would do well to draw attention to the depredations of the current regime. After all, this is something they can blame on Hillary Clinton.

The Trump administration should avoid the sort of “underlying causes” malarkey that precedes the infusion of large amounts of economic aid. This is invariably money that goes straight into the pockets of local officials.

The growing presence in Honduras of gangs like MS-13 is a problem for our law enforcement, one that is not going to be solved until and unless governmental complicity with these gangs is uncovered and eradicated. This is a new phenomenon pandemic in the region: a form of crony capitalism that I call criminal cronyism — the direct result of a failed “war on drugs,” the booming market for addictive and often deadly opiods, and the intrinsic corruption generated by State intervention in the drug trade.

The criminal cronyism that is destroying civilized society south of our border isn’t something that can be stopped if only Washington will “do something.” It is up to the people who live in these countries to liberate themselves from their oppressors: America isn’t going to solve their problems, which go back to the legacy of Spanish colonialism. What is needed is an “America first” regional policy that abjures the mistakes of the more recent past, while returning to the wisdom of the farther past – that of John Quincy Adams, our best Secretary of State, who, when pressured by hotheads to endorse the cause of Greek independence, answered that America “is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.”

So that’s it for Honduras: stay tuned, gentle reader, for the back story on El Salvador and Guatemala, in future columns.

 

The National Endowment for Democracy- An Analysis and History

June 28, 2018

by Christian Jürs

How many Americans could identify the National Endowment for Democracy?  An organization which often does exactly the opposite of what its name implies.  The NED was set up in the early 1980s under President Reagan in the wake of all the negative revelations about the CIA in the second half of the 1970s.  The latter was a remarkable period.  Spurred by Watergate – the Church committee of the Senate, the Pike committee of the House, and the Rockefeller Commission, created by the president, were all busy investigating the CIA.  Seemingly every other day there was a new headline about the discovery of some awful thing, even criminal conduct, the CIA had been mixed up in for years.  The Agency was getting an exceedingly bad name, and it was causing the powers-that-be much embarrassment.

Something had to be done.  What was done was not to stop doing these awful things.  Of course not.  What was done was to shift many of these awful things to a new organization, with a nice sounding name — The National Endowment for Democracy.  The idea was that the NED would do somewhat overtly what the CIA had been doing covertly for decades, and thus, hopefully, eliminate the stigma associated with CIA covert activities.

It was a masterpiece.  Of politics, of public relations, and of cynicism.

Thus it was that in 1983, the National Endowment for Democracy was set up to “support democratic institutions throughout the world through private, nongovernmental efforts”. Notice the “nongovernmental” — part of the image, part of the myth.  In actuality, virtually every penny of its funding comes from the federal government, as is clearly indicated in the financial statement in each issue of its annual report.   NED likes to refer to itself as an NGO (Non-governmental organization) because this helps to maintain a certain credibility abroad that an official US government agency might not have.  But NGO is the wrong category.  NED is a GO.

Allen Weinstein, who helped draft the legislation establishing NED, was quite candid when he said in 1991: “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.” In effect, the CIA has been laundering money through NED.

The Endowment has four principal initial recipients of funds: the International Republican Institute; the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs; an affiliate of the AFL-CIO (such as the American Center for International Labor Solidarity); and an affiliate of the Chamber of Commerce (such as the Center for International Private Enterprise). These institutions then disburse funds to other institutions in the US and all over the world, which then often disburse funds to yet other organizations. In a multitude of ways, NED meddles in the internal affairs of foreign countries by supplying funds, technical know-how, training, educational materials, computers, faxes, copiers, automobiles, and so on, to selected political groups, civic organizations, labor unions, dissident movements, student groups, book publishers, newspapers, other media, etc.  NED programs generally impart the basic philosophy that working people and other citizens are best served under a system of free enterprise, class cooperation, collective bargaining, minimal government intervention in the economy, and opposition to socialism in any shape or form.  A free-market economy is equated with democracy, reform, and growth; and the merits of foreign investment are emphasized.

From 1994 to 1996, NED awarded 15 grants, totaling more than $2,500,000, to the American Institute for Free Labor Development, an organization used by the CIA for decades to subvert progressive labor unions.  AIFLD’s work within Third World unions typically involved a considerable educational effort very similar to the basic NED philosophy described above.  The description of one of the 1996 NED grants to AIFLD includes as one its objectives: “build union-management cooperation”.  Like many things that NED says, this sounds innocuous, if not positive, but these in fact are ideological code words meaning”keep the labor agitation down … don’t rock the status-quo boat”.  The relationship between NED and AIFLD very well captures the CIA origins of the Endowment.

NED has funded centrist and rightist labor organizations to help them oppose those unions which were too militantly pro-worker.   This has taken place in France, Portugal and Spain amongst many other places.  In France, during the 1983-4 period, NED supported a “trade union-like organization for professors and students” to counter “left-wing organizations of professors”.  To this end it funded a series of seminars and the publication of posters, books and pamphlets such as “Subversion and the Theology of Revolution”  and “Neutralism or Liberty”.  (“Neutralism” here refers to being unaligned in the cold war.)

NED describes one of its 1997-98 programs thusly: “To identify barriers to private sector development at the local and federal levels in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and to push for legislative change … [and] to develop strategies for private sector growth.”  Critics of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic have been supported by NED grants for years.

In short, NED’s programs are in sync with the basic needs and objectives of the New World Order’s economic globalization, just as the programs have for years been on the same wavelength as US foreign policy.

Because of a controversy in 1984 — when NED funds were used to aid a Panamanian presidential candidate backed by Manuel Noriega and the CIA — Congress enacted a law prohibiting the use of NED funds “to finance the campaigns of candidates for public office.”  But the ways to circumvent the spirit of such a prohibition are not difficult to come up with; as with American elections, there’s “hard money” and there’s “soft money”.

As described in the “Elections” and “Interventions” chapters, NED successfully manipulated elections in Nicaragua in 1990 and Mongolia in 1996, helped to overthrow democratically elected governments in Bulgaria in 1990 and Albania in 1991 and 1992, and was busy working in Haiti in the late 1990s on behalf of right wing groups who were united in their opposition to former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his progressive ideology.{8} NED has made its weight felt in the electoral- political process in numerous other countries.

NED would have the world believe that it’s only teaching the ABCs of democracy and elections to people who don’t know them, but in all five countries named above there had already been free and fair elections held.  The problem, from NED’s point of view, is that the elections had been won by political parties not on NED’s favorites list.

The Endowment maintains that it’s engaged in “opposition building” and “encouraging pluralism”.  “We support people who otherwise do not have a voice in their political system,” said Louisa Coan, a NED program officer.  But NED hasn’t provided aid to foster progressive or leftist opposition in Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, or Eastern Europe — or, for that matter, in the United States — even though these groups are hard pressed for funds and to make themselves heard.  Cuban dissident groups and media are heavily supported however.

NED’s reports carry on endlessly about “democracy”, but at best it’s a modest measure of mechanical political democracy they have in mind, not economic democracy; nothing that aims to threaten the powers-that-be or the way-things-are, unless of course it’s in a place like Cuba.

The Endowment played an important role in the Iran-Contra affair of the 1980s, funding key components of Oliver North’s shadowy “Project Democracy” network, which privatized US foreign policy, waged war, ran arms and drugs, and engaged in other equally charming activities.  At one point in 1987, a White House spokesman stated that those at NED “run Project Democracy”.  This was an exaggeration; it would have been more correct to say that NED was the public arm of Project Democracy, while North ran the covert end of things.  In any event, the statement caused much less of a stir than if — as in an earlier period — it had been revealed that it was the CIA which was behind such an unscrupulous operation.

NED also mounted a multi-level campaign to fight the leftist insurgency in the Philippines in the mid-1980s, funding a host of private organizations, including unions and the media.  This was a replica of a typical CIA operation of pre-NED days.

And between 1990 and 1992, the Endowment donated a quarter-million dollars of taxpayers’ money to the Cuban-American National Foundation, the ultra-fanatic anti-Castro Miami group.  The CANF, in turn, financed Luis Posada Carriles, one of the most prolific and pitiless terrorists of modern times, who was involved in the blowing up of a Cuban airplane in 1976, which killed 73 people.  In 1997, he was involved in a series of bomb explosions in Havana hotels.

The NED, like the CIA before it, calls what it does supporting democracy.  The governments and movements whom the NED targets call it destabilization.

On November 8, 2004, National Endowment for Democracy (“NED”) President Carl Gershman made a historical visit to Venezuela with a very peculiar purpose. Gershman traveled to the South American nation to request President Chávez influence the outcome of a legal case brought against NED direct grantee Súmate, currently in the hands of the independent Attorney General’s office. But much to Gershman’s surprise, no meetings had been authorized with the Venezuelan President or cabinet members and therefore, he was unable to exert the weight of the United States-backed NED over the popular head of state. Gershman did meet with Attorney General Isaías Rodriguez and President of the Venezuelan Supreme Court, Ivan Rincón. However, both legal chiefs were unwilling to succumb to NED pressure and instead, made very clear that Venezuela’s judiciary is independent of the executive and that international influence will not interfere with or impede due process of law.

The case brought against NED-grantee Súmate has caused uproar in the ranks of the U.S. State Department and the quasi-governmental NED, which receives all of its financing from the U.S. Congress and is obligated to report annually on its activities and use of funds. On occasion, such as in Venezuela, the State Department issues “special funds” to the NED to finance its activities in nations of key interest. In April 2002, just days after the failed coup d’etat against Venezuela President Hugo Chávez, the State Department gave the NED a $1 million grant entitled “Special Venezuela Funds”, which was distributed to many of the very same groups that had just led and participated in the coup. In fact, since President Chávez’s election to that nation’s highest office in 1998, the NED has consistently funded just one sector in Venezuela: the opposition to President Chávez. Once George W. Bush assumed the U.S. presidency in 2000, funding to opposition groups in Venezuela was quadrupled. Those organizations receiving NED funding, such as the Confederación de Trabajadores Venezolanos (CTV), the Asamblea de Educación, Primero Justicia, Fedecámaras, CEDICE, Súmate and others have used the millions in U.S. taxpayer dollars to lead a coup against President Chávez, devastate Venezuela’s economy through a 64-day long illegal strike and later lead a failed recall referendum attempt. All of the NED-funded initiatives have shared just one goal: remove President Chávez from power, be it through legal or illegal means.

The case against Súmate was brought earlier this year by the Attorney General’s office alleging violation of Article 132 of the Penal Code, which makes it a crime to “conspire to destroy the government” and to “solicit international intervention in international politics” or to “incite civil war or defame the President or diplomatic representatives in the foreign press.” The Attorney General alleges that Súmate committed a crime by soliciting financing from the NED, an arm of the U.S. Government, in order to campaign for and lead a recall referendum against President Chávez. Furthermore, the Chief Prosecutor alleges that Súmate violated the Constitution by usurping functions of the Electoral Power through its creation of a parallel Electoral Registry and database that it used to collect and count signatures during stages of the referendum process. Though charges have been filed with the court, and an arraignment hearing to set a trial date and determine bail has yet to occur.

Due to a massive campaign in defense of Súmate that has been launched by the U.S. State Department, the case has experienced interesting delays. Gershman’s visit came one week after the arraignment hearing had been postponed from November 2nd to November 24th, as a result of the resignation of one of the defendant’s attorneys. Subsequently, the case experienced another development after U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela, William Brownfield, visited Supreme Court President Ivan Rincon and requested he intervene to prevent the case from proceeding. Although Rincon was clear in his respect for due process and the jurisdiction of the Attorney General, a separate power, one of the other justices in the Penal Chamber of the Supreme Court decided to review the case for “clarity” and “merit” before allowing it to continue.

But Gershman’s visit, the first visit by the NED president to a foreign nation to defend the organization’s interests, was an apparent “last chance” offer to the Venezuelan government to stop the case or face the wrath of the U.S. government. Even presidential candidate John Kerry got on the Súmate defense bandwagon in the days prior to the U.S. elections, criticizing Chávez for “political persecution” and accusing him of heading towards a dictatorship. Other Súmate defenders include U.S. Congress members Christopher Cox and Gregory Meeks, both on the NED Board of Directors, and Senator John McCain and former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, who chair the NED core grantee organizations, the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute, respectively. The aforementioned have all authored letters defending NED’s work in Venezuela and defending its grantees, despite their notorious unconstitutional behavior during the coup and the strike.

Though NED representatives and spokespersons have time and again claimed their work in Venezuela as “impartial” and only “promoting democracy”, Gershman’s declarations to the Venezuelan press showed otherwise. After being snubbed by the Executive, Gershman angrily declared to the Venezuelan media that “Venezuela is neither a democracy nor a dictatorship but rather something in between”. In the same breath, Gershman claimed that in Venezuela, the NED “only finances democratic groups,” which must imply that groups involved in coup d’etats fit within the NED’s view of democracy. He also tried to make a weak comparison between the Venezuelan government and the Chilean dictator Augustus Pinochet by claiming, “In the eighties, we were attacked by the Pinochet government, which didn’t like the fact that we supported the groups that moved forward the democratic transition in Chile.”

Gershman’s comparison between the Pinochet dictatorship and Venezuela under Chávez, along with his outright denial of Venezuela’s democracy, despite the nine electoral processes in the past five years that have reaffirmed Chávez’ overwhelming popular support, evidence the NED’s biased position against the Venezuelan Government.  How could Gershman expect a warm welcome from the Venezuelan Government after making such declarations? Furthermore, Gershman’s statements merely reaffirmed that the NED’s purpose in Venezuela is to remove President Chávez from power. The NED-grantees were the ones chosen by the U.S. government to “lead the democratic transition” post-Chávez, just like in Chile. This has been was evidenced through NED-funded projects in Venezuela to create “alternative government agendas” and “transition government plans” for post-Chávez Venezuela. But there is one major difference here: Chile under Pinochet was a dictatorship, one in fact imposed by the U.S. government. Venezuela under Chávez is the most participatory and popularly-support democratic government in Venezuela’s history. In fact, Chávez just won a recall referendum promoted by the opposition with 60% of the vote, a landslide victory that demonstrated the massive support of his presidency to the world.

But the NED and the U.S. government just don’t appear to care about the majority that supports President Chávez, or the nine democratic electoral processes that have reaffirmed his administration, or the fact that more Venezuelans today participate in the governance of the nation than ever before. Instead of rectifying or apologizing for such blatantly offensive and biased statements, NED President Carl Gershman followed through on his threats to the Venezuelan Government to increase international pressure in defense of the Súmate case and to attempt to convert Chávez into an international “pariah” and “human rights abuser.”  Just twenty-four hours after Gershman’s departure from Venezuela, a letter was released from an alleged group of 70 “international democrats” demanding the Venezuelan President intervene in the Súmate action and prevent the Attorney General from proceeding with the case.

The letter, whose existence had been leaked to the press more than one week ago, but was kept under the wraps until needed, was obviously Gershman’s attempt to exert international pressure over the Venezuelan Government. But the letter is riddled with misinformation and errors about Venezuela’s legal system and laws and strangely demands respect for democracy while asking the Venezuelan President to violate the Constitutional separation of powers in his nation by intervening in a case under the authority of the Attorney General. The letter requests an abandonment of the law and demands the Súmate directors be granted “above the law” status, just because they are supported by 70 prominent “international democrats” who state to share Súmate’s “view of democracy.” Again, if the NED along with these 70 personalities believe democracy and rule of law can been averted by those who have friends in high places, then Venezuela certainly doesn’t share the same vision.

Although the letter was intended to look like an independent statement by 70 renowned “democrats”, its ties to the NED were all too obvious. In fact, the letter was released to the public by the NED press department and of the 70 signors, more than half are either on the NED Board of Directors or are direct NED grantees.  Clearly, their allegiance is to the hand that feeds them.

The NED visit to Venezuela was also unsuccessful in its efforts to attract pro-Chávez groups to accept financing. NED President Gershman and his sidekick, Christopher Sabatini, thought they could entice pro-Chávez organizations into accepting their funding so they could then justify their claims of non-partisanship. But no such groups were even the slightest interested in establishing a relationship with a U.S. government funded organization that has worked exclusively with coup leaders and other hard line opposition groups in Venezuela. In fact, Christopher Sabatini’s claim in the Venezuelan press that the Boston Group, a coalition of pro-Chávez and opposition-linked Assembly Members in Venezuela and U.S. Congressional representatives, was negotiating with the NED to receive financing was quickly refuted the following day in El Nacional newspaper.  Both opposition and pro-Chávez Assembly Members in the Boston Group declared to the press that they never met with the NED to discuss any potential funding or future financing. Clearly, Sabatini had made a desperate attempt to justify the NED’s work in Venezuela, not realizing that his error would be caught by savvy Venezuelans attuned to the NED’s deceptive ways.

Deception, manipulation, pressure, intimidation, threat and constitutional violations seem to be the NED’s tools for “promoting democracy” around the world. Luckily, Venezuelans are on to the trickery of this heavy-handed organization and are unwilling to cede to its bully tactics.

 

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