Monday, February 11, 2019

Venezuela: Coup d’Etat or Constitutional Transition?

By Lucas Koerner – VA Editorial Board

Writing for the Venezuelanalysis team, Lucas Koerner examines the (un)constitutionality of Juan Guaido’s claim to power. He critically dissects the claims echoed by Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and others disputing the legality and legitimacy of the Maduro government. This article was first published in the excellent Caracas-based web site Venezuelanalysis.com.

There’s been a lot misinformation in the international media about whether what is happening in Venezuela is a brazen US-led power grab or a constitutional transfer of power aided by the international community.

On January 23, National Assembly President Juan Guaido, who was virtually unknown in Venezuela before being selected for the legislative post on January 5, swore himself in as “interim president” of the South American country and was immediately recognized by Washington and its allies.

Guaido claims that his new self-ascribed job title is fully in keeping with Article 233 of Venezuela’s 1999 constitution. But is this the case?

An open and shut case

Article 233 of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela specifies that an “absolute vacuum of power” occurs in the following circumstances: the president’s death, resignation, impeachment by the Supreme Court, “permanent physical or mental incapacity” certified by a medical expert designated by the Supreme Court and approved by the National Assembly, “abandonment of post” declared by the National Assembly, or recall by popular referendum.

Guaido’s claim to the presidency rests on the second to last of these conditions, namely the argument that Nicolas Maduro has failed to fulfill his constitutional responsibilities, thereby abandoning his post. Article 236 outlines in detail the duties of the president, which include everything from conducting international relations and leading the armed forces to granting pardons and convoking referenda.

The opposition may not like Maduro for a variety of reasons, but a cursory glance at the head of state’s Twitter feed will reveal that he has hardly abandoned his presidential functions. That is, he has not holed himself up in Miraflores presidential palace playing Call of Duty in lieu of showing up for work.

Now even if Maduro were to develop a debilitating video game addiction, this would not necessarily mean that his powers would pass to the president of the National Assembly.

Article 233 clearly specifies that in the event of an “absolute power vacuum” of any of the types mentioned above occuring within the first four years of his or her six-year mandate, the president shall be succeeded by the vice president. This is what happened after President Hugo Chavez’s death on March 5, 2013, when Nicolas Maduro took over as acting president and new elections were called within 30 days. If the above scenario occurs in the last two years of the elected term, the vice president is sworn in and finishes the mandate. Only in the case of a power vacuum occurring between presidential elections and the president-elect’s inauguration will the president of the National Assembly temporarily take office.

Therefore, even if we accept the opposition’s rather dubious claim that recently sworn-in Maduro has abandoned his post, it would be Vice President Delcy Rodriguez, not Guaido, who would take office.

In the interest of fairness, let’s concede for a moment that Juan Guaido is the legitimate “interim president” of Venezuela. Why then has he yet to call new presidential elections within 30 days as explicitly specified by Article 233?

Not only has Guaido failed to call new elections, but his National Assembly approved a law on February 5, titled “Democratic Transition Statute,” which allows the un-elected politician to remain in power for a “maximum period of twelve (12) months” in the case of the “technical impossibility” of holding them sooner.

Article 233 makes absolutely no mention of “technical conditions,” as an excuse for delaying elections, and the Venezuelan opposition certainly had no “technical” issues impeding them from holding their illegal July 14, 2017 plebiscite amid a violent anti-government insurrection.

The only conclusion is that Guaido is playing it fast and loose with the Bolivarian Constitution to justify a dictatorship.

Was Maduro legitimately elected?

Constitutional exegesis aside, the crux of the opposition’s argument is that Nicolas Maduro’s May 20, 2018 reelection was mired in “fraud” and hence his swearing-in “illegitimate,” creating a power vacuum.

This contention has been taken up by the mainstream media as an article of faith and repeated ad nauseam.

For corporate journalists, it doesn’t appear to matter that Maduro was re-elected with 6.2 million votes, amounting to around 31 percent of eligible voters, which, as Joe Emersberger notes, is average among US presidents. For instance, Barack Obama received 31 percent in 2008 and 28 percent in 2012, while Trump was elected with just 26 percent in 2016, failing to win the popular vote.

Nor does the Western pundit class seem to care that Maduro won with exactly the same electoral system with which the opposition scored its landslide parliamentary victory in 2015, from which Juan Guaido purports to derive his legitimacy.

Indeed, the fact that Maduro was re-elected cleanly, as verified by reports from four different in independent international monitoring missions, is non-consequential, given that Washington preemptively refused to recognize the results of the election more than 90 days ahead of time in support of the main opposition parties’ boycott.

But the US did not stop there. The Trump administration went as far as to threaten to sanction opposition candidate Henri Falcon for daring to defy the boycott, while the major anti-government parties sabotaged his candidacy by actively urging abstention and falsely suggesting that the former governor was in league with Maduro. Somehow this egregious interference in another sovereign country’s electoral process was completely ignored by a Western media lobotomized by Russia-gate hysteria.

All this is quite ironic in light of the fact that the right-wing opposition took to the streets in deadly protests in 2017 demanding early presidential elections with full backing from Washington.

However, after elections were brought forward to April 2018 in the context of internationally-mediated negotiations in the Dominican Republic, the opposition turned around and reportedly rejected a preliminary agreementreached with the government, abandoning further talks. A subsequent deal to push elections back to May 20 brought a faction of the opposition led by Falcon on board, to the fury of hardline parties close to Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who issued repeated calls for a military coup alongside other top US officials.

There is little doubt that had the opposition united behind Falcon, he would have stood a very good chance of beating Maduro, whose popularity has plummeted amid the severe economic crisis that has gripped the country for four years. Why then did the US and its local clients opt for a boycott?

Radical regime change

On April 11, 2002, the Venezuelan opposition with the support of sections of the military staged a coup ousting democratically elected President Hugo Chavez. Venezuelan Chamber of Commerce President Pedro Carmona swore himself in as “interim president” and proceeded to dissolve the National Assembly, the new constitution and the courts. Carmona was recognized by the Bush administration and Spain’s Aznar government, while the New York Times glowingly endorsed him as a “respected business leader.” In fact, it was unrepentant war criminal Elliott Abrams, recently resurrected as Trump’s “special envoy to Venezuela,” who gave the green light to the coup plotters. Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund, from whom Guaido is considering soliciting financing, rushed to offer loans to the new coup regime.

Between 50 and 60 anti-coup protesters were gunned down in the streets by the infamous Metropolitan Police during the Venezuelan opposition’s short-lived coup regime. The Cuban embassy was besieged, while future opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles alongside Guaido’s political mentor, former Chacao Mayor Leopoldo Lopez, carried out what they euphemistically called a “citizen’s arrest,” in fact a kidnapping, of President Chavez’s interior minister, Ramón Rodriguez Chacin.

Contrary to mainstream media depictions, the Carmona regime is the only dictatorship Venezuela has had over the last two decades. Moreover, any parallels between 2002 and today are hardly coincidental. Like in 2002, the current US-backed coup seeks to completely dismantle Venezuela’s Bolivarian institutional framework of expanded political, social, and economic rights, but this time in the name of the constitution they previously dissolved. There is no clearer evidence than Guaido’s publicly disclosed plans to introduce major privatizations in Venezuela’s oil sector, whose nationalization formed the bedrock of the Bolivarian anti-imperialist project. Nevertheless, as we saw in 2002, the opposition will not stop there, for it is driven by the single-minded desire to eliminate Chavismo as a mass political force and thus restore the “exceptional” pre-Chavez liberal democracy that only ever existed in the imagination of the upper middle class white elite. The recent burning alive of a man perceived to be Chavista in Merida, like the lynchings we saw during the 2017 opposition protests, is just one manifestation of this virulent anti-poor hatred.

In short, the international left has a duty to halt the US-backed coup underway in Venezuela. Only through sustained, popular opposition to US imperialism can we avoid a return to the dark age of Washington-sponsored dictatorships and dirty wars which men like Elliott Abrams enthusiastically promoted across the hemisphere in the 1970s and ‘80s. The fate of democracy in Venezuela, and worldwide, hangs in the balance.

This article represents the position of the VA editorial board with regard to opposition leader Juan Guaido's self-proclamation as "interim president" of Venezuela on January 23.

Key issues in the Venezuela crisis

As explained in the previous entry on this blog, the Canadian government, to its eternal shame, has worked to foster and support an attempted coup in Venezuela.

In the article below, Argentine left economist Claudio Katz explains what is at stake for Latin America in the current crisis. The translation is by Nicolas Allen.

* * *

Venezuela Defines the Future of the Region

By Claudio Katz

Guaidó’s self-proclamation as Venezuelan president is the most ridiculous and dangerous coup attempt in recent years. With the shameless backing of Washington, the Venezuelan rightwing intends to place a complete stranger at the helm of the state.

This time around, the starting signal was neither a terrorist attack nor an assassination attempt directed against Maduro. Trump has chosen a group of conspiracy experts (Abrams, Pence, Bolton, Rubio) to pursue escalation and has opted to seize the Venezuelan oil enterprise operating in the United States (CITGO). He has brushed aside all principles of legal guarantee in his quest to appropriate the world’s largest concentration of crude oil reserves.

South America’s rightwing governments have their own motives for supporting the coup. Colombia’s Duque wants to do away with the Peace Accords signed with the guerillas, after having dismantled UNASUR. A contingent of the US Marines already stationed in Colombia is prepared for any sort of provocation.

Brazil’s Bolsonaro continues to identify Venezuela with the blight of “populism”. That rhetorical gesture is meant to paper over his largely improvised presidential debut and forestall the inevitable disappointment of his electors.

Macri leads the line in the crusade against Venezuela. The Argentine head of state is eager to show that his administration can be the most able servant of the empire, going so far as to designate one of his own party officials as Guaidó’s ambassador. The president has reserved special exemption for Venezuelan immigrants in the midst of a wave of xenophobia whose ultimate purpose is to distract from runaway inflation, unemployment and utility hikes. For the Macri administration, the Venezuelan crisis has the additional benefit of dividing the opposition, where leaders of federal Peronism join the President in vilifying Venezuela.

Without the backing of the United States, Duque, Bolsonaro and Macri are completely ineffective. The so-called “Lima Group” could not even boycott Maduro’s swearing-in. There were more foreign delegations present at the ceremony than the investiture of the raving Brazilian military captain.

Meanwhile, Venezuela’s atomized opposition is clinging to a fictional president. It has never managed to win a presidential election and failed in every attempt to contest election results. It has unflinchingly accepted the United States’ veto of negotiations with Chavismo, and it periodically likes to plunge into brutal acts of violence. For the time being it is a simple marionette of the State Department, subject to the whimsies of Trump the puppeteer.

Double Standards

The Caribbean coup leaders have become media darlings. They draw on the complicity of journalists, attributing to Maduro a litany of sins that also happen to be extensive to other governments throughout the region. A cursory overview of these similarities would show the plot to be completely unjustified, or, alternatively, would force a call for a continent-wide regime change.

The Venezuelan government is repeatedly characterized as illegitimate, as if it were the product of electoral fraud. But the reality is that the Maduro government was confirmed with the participation of 67% of the population, a level well beyond recent poll numbers registered in Chile or Colombia. No journalist thought to call for the ousting of Chile’s Piñera or Colombia’s Duque on the basis of low voter turnout.

It is true that one sector of the opposition called for abstention, yet another did participate in elections and did not contest the outcome. Nor was there ever any evidence of fraud in an electoral system praised by international organisms (Carter) and political figures (Zapatero). The very same electoral mechanism awarded the opposition with leadership of the National Assembly in 2015. Operating within the same electoral framework, Maduro is protested and Guaidó is recognized.

24 elections have been held over the last two decades of the Chavista regime, each one allowing for a recall vote. The right to a recall does not exist in any other country throughout the region. Voting is not obligatory [as is the case in many Latin American countries], and yet Venezuelan elections routinely show levels of voter participation above the regional average. The opposition never acknowledges defeat and always appeals to accusations of voter fraud when the results do not go their way.

With their habitual duplicity, the same journalists and media who criticize Venezuelan elections do not find anything suspect about the commission of elections in Brazil while Lula sits in jail. They dispute the rulings of the Venezuelan judicial system while extoling on the virtues of the magistrate who brought down Lula (Moro). Nor do they object to his ministerial appointment by Bolsonaro.

Likewise, the media denounces the detention of opposition leaders (Carmona, Ledesma, López) but fails to mention the cause of their imprisonment. They are not in prison for their critical opinions; they are there for fomenting coup attempts or for their involvement in bloody guarimba street fighting. Chavismo is subject to a level of scrutiny that applies nowhere else in Latin America. Where Venezuela is concerned, it would seem that we should be more understanding of such attempts at regicide.

Nor does the media care to mention the brutal violation of human rights practiced by Venezuela’s opponents. Since the signing of the Peace Accords, Colombian paramilitaries acting under the watchful eye of the government have murdered hundreds of social leaders. Political prisoners in Argentina are mounting and there is a cloak of impunity protecting those responsible for the murder of Santiago Maldonado and Rafael Nahuel (one, a solidarity activist with indigenous causes, the other, a member of Argentina’s Mapuche community). Brazil has seen an escalation in attacks against the Landless Workers’ Movement [MTS], and recent findings have implicated the sons of Bolsonaro in the murder of PSOL politician Marielle Franco.

Chavismo is even accused of maintaining –imaginary– connections with drug traffickers. But the same groups leveling those accusations have overlooked the very real financial backing by organized crime for the Colombian rightwing. No international organism has called for punishing that country as it continues to harbor the production of illegal drugs. What has taken place in Mexico is even more serious. The entire Mexican territory has been torn apart by a massacre claiming some 200,000 lives, without so much as a suggestion of regional intervention from the Organization of American States.

Venezuela is of course experiencing a massive wave of emigration as a consequence of its economic troubles. But comparable forms of displacement have also been observed under similar circumstances in other countries. Poverty always leads those most affected to seek refuge in a neighboring country.

If these catastrophes amount to a “humanitarian crisis”, it would be fitting to say the same of equivalent migrations elsewhere. No one is speaking in those terms of the harrowing flight of Central American families to North America. Their torments are apparently not worthy of pious calls for aid. Instead, they are the excuse for the construction of a border wall. The internal war in Colombia saw similar levels of human displacement without any call for foreign intervention.

Media conglomerates always frame their coverage of Venezuela with allegations of the violation of the freedom of press. But the disruptions they portray are irrelevant next to the systematic murder of journalists in Mexico and other Central American countries. The manufacturers of lies tend to apply a double standard to their own practices.

Contradictions Below the Surface

It suffices to recall what took place in Iraq and Libya to have some sense of the stakes involved. Imperialism is capable of wreaking unimaginable havoc. If a large-scale intervention should take place, Latin America will lose one of its major safeguards against the kind of catastrophe visited on Africa and the Middle East.

The Venezuelan rightwing dismisses the dangers involved, expecting a rapid victory with little collateral damage. It is already announcing the imminent retreat of Chavismo, Maduro’s isolation and the desertion of the military’s top ranks. It likes to point to the unity among its own ranks and the international support behind it. But these are tall tales that unravel under the most superficial analysis.

The command center in Washington is compromised by a number of dissenting voices, while Trump is preoccupied by a complex political-legal context on the home front. Fiascos in the Middle East have put a damper on enthusiasm for foreign military incursions. The military is disoriented, recently having withdrawn troops from Syria and Afghanistan. The possibility of a repeat of the Granada or Panama occupations has been discarded, and the typical pre-invasion ultimatum, like that offered to Hussein or Gadhafi, is being postponed. The Pentagon is only entertaining limited engagements for the time being, starting with the shoddy pretext of humanitarian intervention.

Nor are the US’s European partners eager to participate in adventurism. Their role in the plot against Venezuela lacks a credible threat. Divergences among Western leaders has led to an impasse over the agreement on sanctions in the Organization of American States and the UN, while the Vatican seeks to remain neutral.

Coup conspirators have also taken note of the augmented role Russia plays in supplying the Venezuelan military. A Russian presence could complicate matters for Trump’s oil seizures, if it proves to be the case that Russia has shares in CITGO. Nor is it clear who would exactly be most affected by the seizure. Experts estimate that the United States has managed to separate its supply of Venezuelan oil. But those purchases make up 13% of imports and their cancelation could affect energy prices.

The media is at pains to conceal these dilemmas. Coverage is triumphalist, despite the failure on the part of the rightwing to register any type of achievement in the last two weeks. So long as bribes, threats and US enticements fail to erode the Armed Forces, Guiadó will continue to exercise command of a nonexistent post.

A Battle on Two Fronts

The rightwing has indeed recovered its capacity to mobilize, but Chavismo has responded in kind with equally massive demonstrations. The government maintains a remarkable ability to rally its supporters in the midst of the crisis. Both sides recognize that repeated marches will not be enough to force the government to relinquish power. The indeterminacy of the current situation could ultimately prove costly for the opposition.

Their leaders are left to choose between the path of violence (which led to their isolation in 2017) or accepting the status quo (which is sapping their energies). For the time being they have opted against the violent guarimbas in the wealthier neighborhoods, preferring to test their strength through provocations in popular neighborhoods.

The government too has learned from past confrontations and is exercising caution. It shows leniency towards Guaidó’s photo ops and is betting on his slow demoralization. But economic collapse raises questions about long-term popular support in the battle against the rightwing. All of Venezuelan society is being torn apart by the collapse of income.

Contraction in production over the last five years has destroyed 30% of GDP. Such a downturn is on level with the 1930’s Great Depression. No sector of Venezuelan society is immune to the debacle.

Crude oil extraction has been halved. Monetary financing of the fiscal deficit has triggered the largest hyperinflationary spiral of the twenty-first century. Price indexes leapt from 300% (2016) to 2,000% (2017). The current price average is unquantifiable.

The scale of the crisis is demolishing salaries, leading to barter exchange and a critical shortage of food and medicine. The daily suffering of the population is appalling, their survival often dependent on official government supply networks (CLAPS).

The media portrays this collapse as the inexorable consequence of “Chavista populism”, overlooking the role played by the architects of economic warfare. The foreign blockade and internal sabotage have led to a collapse in crude oil extraction, diminishing international reserves and skyrocketing costs of basic imports. Foreign and local capitalists have provoked this collapse as a means to expedite the arrival of a more business-friendly political regime.

Indescribable economic adversity has been aggravated by the government’s own improvisations, ineffectiveness and outright complicity. Maduro has passively tolerated the destruction of production. Sectors of Chavismo have lobbied to penalize corrupt bureaucrats and their millionaire partners, to no avail.

These are the initiatives needed to forestall economic collapse. Other measures proposed include effective control over the banking system to impede capital flight, radical shifts in the assignation of foreign reserves to the private sector, progressive taxation of private fortunes, incentive programs to encourage local production of food and measures to generate popular control of prices.

This program also calls for a new approach to debt that would anchor the local currency and contain hyperinflation. No “petro” or “sovereign bolivar” will function so long as the boliburguesía [portmanteau of Bolivarian and bourgeoisie, i.e. the new bourgeoisie that prospered under the Chavez administration] enjoys official government protection. This privileged layer has thrived by over-billing imports, transferring funds abroad, engaging in currency speculation and scarcity. The rightwing is not the only force looking to topple Chavismo: similar forces are alive inside a government that has failed to counteract economic collapse.

Commitment or Neutralism

As the conflict grows more serious, many voices are calling to impose a set of conditions under which the Venezuelans could democratically determine their future. The legitimacy of that principle is beyond debate. The question is how it can be implemented, because if the coup forces take the upper hand then that aspiration will be as good as dead. The continued sovereignty of the country and the defense of popular rights demand, above all, that the escualidosbe defeated [escualido, “the squalid,” is a common pejorative for the anti-Chavista opposition].

The conflict underway is no longer an “internal affair” of Venezuela. The confrontation exceeds its territorial origin and now involves the entire region. The two principal interests stoking the crisis have very precise goals. The United States looks to recover dominion over its “backyard”, while the Latin American elites want to bury the previous decade’s popular demands.

If the coup conspirators manage to defeat Chavismo, they will move next on Bolivia and Cuba, extending neoliberal authoritarianism across the continent. The dispute over Venezuela is about the preservation of one of the last breakwaters as the reactionary tidal wave continues to expand.

The parties, organizations and intellectuals who categorically reject the coup are capable of grasping the dimensions of the dilemma. The strength of anti-imperialist demonstrations underlines this. Gone is the hesitancy that watched on from the sidelines during the 2017 guarimbas. The designs of an ascendant rightwing are all too plain to see; the portents of a Venezuelan Bolsonaro would mean irreparable damage.

The current dilemma should in no way deter criticism of the decisions made by the Chavista government. But it is of vital importance to situate any critique within a shared battle against the putschists.

Moreover, the current struggle calls for something more than the ambiguous neutrality expressed in recent pronouncements. By distancing themselves from the conflict’s protagonists, those declarations situate either side on a common plane. With the same yardstick they question Maduro and Guaidó, suggesting that there is a shared level of illegitimacy. They simultaneously criticize the regime’s authoritarianism and the adventurism of the opposition. They object to the US military threat and the geopolitical presence of Russia.

But does a mutual condemnation of Maduro and Guaidó then entail recognizing neither party? A call for abstention from the rallies marshaled by the government and the opposition? Does it mean an indiscriminate censure of the Marines and the Bolivarian Army?

Neutralists praise the attitude of the Mexican and Uruguayan governments, who are advocating for the immediate renewal of negotiations between both parties. That initiative has opened a channeled of dialogue which Maduro has already accepted, and Guaidó rejects.

It is clear that the concrete specifics of negotiation will be decided with the outcome of the struggle. The rightwing will not accept dialogue so long as there is a perceived possibility that it can seize power. Therefore, defeating the Right is the basic condition for resuming negotiations. The outcome of negotiations will be a reflection of the balance of forces. Defeating the rightwing is the categorical priority for the present moment. In that battle, the destiny of Latin America is being decided.

February 5, 2019

Katz is an economist and researcher with the National Council of Scientific and Technical Research (Argentina). He is a member of Argentina’s Leftist Economists group (EDI). This piece originally appeared on Claudio Katz's website.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

What the mainstream media doesn’t tell you about Venezuela

A group of protesters took to the stage during the Lima Group press conference in Ottawa with a banner rejecting intervention in Venezuela (Lars Hagberg / AFP)

The Canadian government – supported by the Conservative and NDP “opposition” – has joined in a U.S.-led coup attempt against the constitutionally and democratically elected government of Venezuela headed by President Nicolás Maduro.

“We are indeed calling on the military of Venezuela, as we call on all Venezuelans, as we call on all governments of the world, to recognize Juan Guaido as interim president of Venezuela,” Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said after hosting a meeting in Ottawa of the Lima Group, a collection of mainly right-wing Latin American governments plus Canada as the direct representative of North American imperialism.

Guaido recently proclaimed himself “president” gaining instant (and obviously scheduled) recognition of Trump and his allies including the Trudeau government.

I am currently in Mexico, where the newly-elected government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has refused to join the pro-coup calls of other Lima Group members, now supplemented by similar calls of many European governments. I may write more on this dangerous confrontation, but I think Yves Engler, in the article below, makes essential points about the issues and the role of the Trudeau government. Engler is the author of several recent books on Canada’s international role, including his latest, Left, Right — Marching to the Beat of Imperial Canada.

Reposted, with thanks, from Yves Engler’s blog.

Richard Fidler

* * *

What the mainstream media doesn’t tell you about Venezuela

By Yves Engler

The corporate media is wholeheartedly behind the federal government’s push for regime change in Venezuela. The propaganda is thick and, as per usual, it is as much about what they don’t, as what they do, report. Here are some important developments that have largely been ignored by Canada’s dominant media:

  • At the Organization of American States meeting called by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on January 25 the Canadian-backed interventionist resolution was defeated 18-16.
  • The “Lima Group” of governments opposed to Venezuela’s elected president was established 18 months ago after Washington, Ottawa and others failed to garner the votes necessary to censure Venezuela at the OAS (despite the head of the OAS’s extreme hostility to Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro).
  • Most of the world’s countries, with most of the world’s population, have failed to support the US/Canada push to recognize National Assembly head Juan Guaidóas president of Venezuela.
  • The UN and OAS charters preclude unilateral sanctions and interfering in other countries’ affairs.
  • UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur for sanctions, Idriss Jazairy, recently condemned US/Canadian sanctions on Venezuela.

As well, here are some flagrant double standards in Canadian policy the media have largely ignored:

  • “Lima Group” member Jair Bolsonaro won the recent presidential election in Brazil largely because the most popular candidate, Lula Da Silva, was in jail. His questionable election took place two years after Lula’s ally, Dilma Rousseff, was ousted as president in a ‘parliamentary coup’.
  • Another “Lima Group” member, Honduras president Juan Orlando Hernandez, defied that country’s constitution a year ago in running for a second term and then ‘won’ a highly questionable election.
  • “At the same time”as Canada and the US recognized Juan Guaidó, notes Patrick Mbeko, “in Democratic Republic of Congo they refuse to recognize the massive recent victory of Martin Fayulu in the presidential election, endorsing the vast electoral fraud of the regime and its ally Félix Tshisekedi.”

Beyond what the media has ignored, they constantly cite biased sources without offering much or any background. Here are a couple of examples:

  • The Globe and Mail has quoted Irwin Cotler in two recent articles on Venezuela. But, the decades-long anti-Palestinian and anti-Hugo Chavez activist lacks any credibility on the issue. At a press conference in May to release an OAS report on alleged rights violations in Venezuela, Cotler said Venezuela’s “government itself was responsible for the worst ever humanitarian crisis in the region.” Worse than the extermination of the Taíno and Arawak by the Spanish? Or the enslavement of five million Africans in Brazil? Or the 200,000 Mayans killed in Guatemala? Or the thousands of state-murdered “subversives” in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil?
  • CBC and Canadian Press (to a slightly lesser extent) stories about former Venezuelan Colonel Oswaldo Garcia, whose family lives in Montréal, present him as a democracy activist. But, notes Poyan Nahrvar, Garcia participated in a coup attempt last year and then launched raids into Venezuela from Colombia until he was captured by the Venezuelan military.
  • The media blindly repeats Ottawa’s depiction of the “Lima Group”, which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described as an organization established to “bring peace, democracy and stability in Venezuela.” One report called it “a regional block of countries committed to finding a peaceful solution” to the crisis while another said its members “want to see Venezuela return to democracy.” This portrayal of the coalition stands its objective on its head. The “Lima Group” is designed to ratchet up international pressure on Maduro in hopes of eliciting regime change, which may spark a civil war. That is its reason for existence.

As part of nationwide protests against the “Lima Group” meeting taking place in Ottawa on Monday, activists in Montréal will rally in front of Radio Canada/CBC’s offices. They will be decrying not only Canada’s interference in Venezuela but the dominant media’s effort to “manufacture consent” for Canadian imperialism.