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The Trump-Putin informal meeting at G20 in Germany

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Entire world’s attention was focused on the first ever meeting between US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Germany where they had come to attend the G-20 meeting.

End of terror wars could lead to peace in the world. People across the globe think if USA and Russia come together, the world, living beings and human race could be saved. But USA and its allies like Israel do not want peace anywhere in the world as they cannot then sell their terror goods to the third world.  The merchants of terror goods (death) consider peace the potential enemy of those nations that thrive in arms trade.

USA and its allies therefore, do not want any credible relationship with Russia and China. They seek only businesses and finances form these countries.

A new bilateral phase?

World is guessing if Trump would go for friendly relationship with Russia and China. Gossip mill reports are highly confusing in this regard. 

The relationship between President Trump and President Putin has been under scrutiny amid allegations of Russian interference in the US election.  US intelligence agencies believe Moscow tried to tip the election in Trump’s favour, something denied by Russia. Trump has rejected allegations of any collusion. The two world leaders had a couple of undisclosed conversations at this month’s G20 on…….  The White House has confirmed that the leaders of rival super powers spoke towards the end of a formal dinner but the White House has not revealed what was discussed. President Trump has, in his characteristic say, condemned media revelations of the talks as “sick”.

An extra conversation also happened during a private meal of heads of state at the G20 summit in Hamburg earlier in the month. The an hour meeting, which came after a more-than-two hour formal sit-down the two men had earlier in the gathering, was previously undisclosed and, given the nature of Russia’s aggressive meddling in the 2016 election, is something we need to know more about.

The Kremlin said at the time that the two leaders had had “an opportunity to continue their discussion during the dinner”, but the extent of the meeting was not known. Trump had been seated next to Japanese PM Shinzo Abe’s wife, so the US interpreter at the dinner spoke Japanese, not Russian. No media were in attendance. Trump left his seat and headed to Putin, who had been sitting next to Trump’s wife, Melania, US media said. The US president was alone with Putin, apart from the attendance of the Russian president’s official interpreter.

Ian Bremmer, president of the US-based Eurasia Group, who first reported them in a newsletter to clients, said: “Donald Trump got up from the table and sat down with Putin for about an hour. It was very animated and very friendly.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the two leaders had “exchanged opinions and phrases in the margins of the visit on more than one occasion”. “There were no covert or secret meetings. It is absolutely absurd to claim this,” he was quoted as saying by Russia’s TASS news agency. Peskov also mocked the notion that the subject of a conversation between the two men could have been kept secret, saying that is a “manifestation of schizophrenia”.

The length of the talks has been disputed.

Bremmer had not been at the dinner but said details were given to him by unnamed attendees who, he said, were “flummoxed, confused and startled” by the turn of events. “At summit meetings you have little ‘pull-asides’ between heads of state to discuss business all the time – a one-hour pull-aside is highly unusual in any context,” he told the BBC.  “A one-hour pull-aside between Putin and Trump where only the Kremlin translator is there, where we don’t know what’s discussed, given the uniqueness of the US-Russia relationship… makes the US president, surprisingly and disturbingly, not credible.” 

Later, however, in a statement, a senior White House official said there was no “second meeting”, just a brief conversation after dinner. The official said: “The insinuation that the White House has tried to ‘hide’ a second meeting is false, malicious and absurd. It is not merely perfectly normal, it is part of a president’s duties, to interact with world leaders.” 

Rising son and son in law

The Senate, the House and a Justice Department special counsel are all investigating whether Russia interfered in the election to try to tip it in Donald Trump’s favour. They are also investigating whether there was any collusion with the Trump team, which both Russia and Trump have denied.  Trump Jr and Manafort have been called to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee next Wednesday.

US President Trump’s eldest son Donald Trump Jr, his Jewish son-in-law Jared Kushner and ex-campaign manager Paul Manafort are to testify before the Senate about their links to Russian officials, on alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election and , over a meeting they had with a Russian lawyer in June last year.  One key subject will be their meeting with a Russian lawyer last year.

There are congressional investigations, and one by a special counsel, into the allegations of Russian interference in the US election and possible collusion with the Trump team. The Senate intelligence committee said it wanted to interview Trump Jr said he had attended the meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya as he was promised damaging material on Hillary Clinton, but it did not materialize. Ms Veselnitskaya told Russia’s RT television channel she would be willing to testify before the Senate on the matter.

Two days earlier, Kushner is to answer questions in a closed-door session of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The hearings will be the most high-profile since sacked FBI head James Comey gave testimony in June. The three members of Trump’s inner circle attended a meeting in New York in June last year with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya after being promised damaging material on Trump’s election rival, Hillary Clinton. A former Soviet counter-intelligence official, now a lobbyist also attended the meeting, Trump Jr, who confirmed the meeting in a series of emails, said that no information on Hillary Clinton was provided. The meeting is the firmest evidence yet of non-diplomatic interactions between Trump campaign aides and Russian figures. Ms Veselnitskaya told Russia’s RT television channel she would also be willing to testify before the Senate on the matter.

President Trump, in an interview with the New York Times, defended his son’s actions. He said he had spoken to a number of senators who agreed that if they had been called and offered information on an opponent, they would have attended such a meeting. In the same interview, Trump rounded on Sessions. The attorney general rescued himself from overseeing the Justice Department’s Russia investigation in March, after failing to disclose at his confirmation hearing at the Senate that he had met Russia’s ambassador to the USA. The president said: “How do you take a job and then recue yourself? If he would have rescued himself before the job, I would have said, ‘Thanks, Jeff, but I’m not going to take you’.”

 Uncomfortable inconsistency

Questions about what Trump and Putin talked about — we don’t really know since there was no a US official or translator present — need to be answered by this White House. Sadly, there’s little chance they will be. Instead, we’re likely to get more attacks on the media for their alleged role in the story.

Trump spoke about his conversation with Putin at the G20 dinner in Germany. The conversation came to light, with US media reporting it lasted an hour and was “animated”. But Trump said it lasted for only 15 minutes and was mostly “pleasantries”. He said the pair talked “about adoption”. Russia banned Americans from adopting Russian orphans as a reaction to US measures against Russian officials accused of human rights violations.

All G20 leaders, and spouses, were invited by the Chancellor of Germany. Press knew!” The dinner and its attendees have always been known. Only the Trump-Putin discussion had not been reported before. At the earlier, formal meeting, their first face-to-face encounter,  Trump said he had repeatedly pressed Putin about the allegations of interference in the US vote. “I said, ‘Did you do it?’ He said, ‘No, I did not, absolutely not.’ I then asked him a second time, in a totally different way. He said, ‘Absolutely not.'”

Given the poor state of relations between Washington and Moscow since the onset of the so-called Cold War and the recent controversy surrounding Russia’s alleged efforts to interfere with the US presidential campaign, each and every encounter between Putin and Trump is bound to be carefully scrutinized. Thus the apparently impromptu discussion between the two men at the G20 dinner inevitably raises many questions. What was President Trump seeking to do in approaching the Russian president? Were matters of substance discussed? If so, why was it kept a top secret and no formal note taken? And why did the US president have to rely upon a Russian official for translation? This all may be highly unusual, especially at a time when relations between the two countries are laden with so many problems.

The US president has spoken about an undisclosed conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a G20 dinner, saying it was mostly “pleasantries”.  President Trump also appeared unaware of another dimension – the message that his tete-a-tete would send to other leaders in the room, who must have watched the US president’s gambit with some unease. Trump’s spokesperson Sarah Sanders told reporters at the White House that the dinner was part of the president’s publicly released schedule. “You guys came and took pictures of it,” she told journalists. “It wasn’t like this was some sort of hidden dinner. To act as if this was some secret is just absolutely absurd.”

National Security Council spokesman Michael Anton said: “A conversation over dessert should not be characterized as a meeting.” Trump later said on Twitter: “Fake News story of secret dinner with Putin is ‘sick.’

Trump and Putin

US President Donald Trump comes face-to-face with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin for the first time on Friday. The formal meeting will be scrutinized across the world, set as it is against the backdrop of US investigations into possible collusion between Russia and Trump campaign figures during last year’s election.

At the outset it should be noted that both the leaders have one important idea in common- both want to make their respective nation great. Neither man hides his ambition to recover some sense of lost grandeur for his country. That in itself is not a negative aspect. Putin famously called the collapse of the Soviet Union “the biggest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th Century”. His moves in Ukraine and Syria are seen as attempts to bolster Russia’s power and influence, and hit back at the West for the expansion of NATO into Eastern Europe that he so resents. And Western European officials accuse him of meddling in their elections to try and weaken the European Union.

First meetings between major world leaders can be unpredictable affairs.  Trump has in the past suggested he could get along with Putin and praised him as a “strong leader” but it is unclear how he feels now.

In Moscow, the Kremlin is painting the meeting as an opportunity for the pair to “get acquainted and finally understand the true approach of each other”. But looking beyond the testy politics of US-Russia relations, what do Trump and Putin have in common, and what sets them distinctly apart?

If there’s one sharp difference between these two men, it is their back stories.

Vladimir Putin spent his early career in the world of Cold War espionage, and was working as a Soviet spy in East Germany when the communist state crumbled. He is used to operating in the shadows, and kept a low profile as an aide to the mayor of St Petersburg in the 1990s before taking the reins of the FSB intelligence agency and later the presidency.

Putin has been at the top of Russian politics since 2000 and has the reputation of a cunning street fighter, an image that can be traced back to his days growing up in a tough communal housing block in Leningrad. He has said those years taught him that “if a fight is inevitable, you have to throw the first punch”.

Donald Trump, in contrast, was born into wealth as the son of a New York real estate tycoon. He managed to avoid being drafted into military service during the Vietnam War, and got started in real estate himself with a $1m loan from his father, eventually building a property, hotel and Entertainment Empire.

Far from keeping a low profile like Putin, Trump shot to stardom as host of reality TV show The Apprentice’. He later used his fame and wealth as a springboard to make a bid for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 2015. Yet though his public style is very different – brash and unpredictable where Putin is comfortable yet controlled – like the Russian leader he doesn’t shy away from a fight.

Trump refused to shake German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s hand during an awkward March photo-op, and pushed past Montenegro’s prime minister at a NATO summit in Brussels in May to ensure he was front and centre. Vladimir Putin uses more calculated means to intimidate others, once letting his large labrador into a meeting with Mrs Merkel, who is afraid of dogs.

Both leaders the target of media and both criticize the media opportunism and hollow news and views. Trump might have popularized “fake news” as a pejorative term that politicians the world over can now hurl at journalists, but he’s not alone in describing critical coverage as false. Putin’s government keeps a public list of foreign press stories that it says contains “false information about Russia”. In dealing with the media, however, Vladimir Putin normally remains calm. Unlike Trump, he does not fire off angry tweets about coverage he doesn’t like – he is calculating and level-headed when taking questions from journalists.

For Trump this means boosting US military spending, putting pressure on allies to pay for more their own defense, and pulling out of efforts to fight climate change to protect jobs in domestic industries like coal.

The Trump White House is a family affair, something that certainly cannot be said of Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin. President Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, has an office in the West Wing and advises her father in an unpaid role. Her husband, Jared Kushner, is a senior adviser to the president and a significant force in the White House. His responsibilities stretch from the Middle East and China to criminal justice reform and relations with Mexico.

President Putin, on the other hand, zealously shields his private life and family from scrutiny.. He and Lyudmila, his wife of nearly 30 years, announced their divorce in 2013, and his two daughters are kept well away from the public gaze.

Little was known about them until media reports in 2015 revealed his youngest daughter Katerina was living in Moscow under a different name and working in a senior position at Moscow State University. She is also an acrobatic rock and roll dancer. Maria, the elder daughter, is an academic specializing in endocrinology.

The differences in approach to family are stark. Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner’s five-year-old daughter Arabella sang in Mandarin to Chinese President Xi Jinping during his US visit in April. Putin, meanwhile, recently refused to disclose the names and ages of his two grandchildren.

Campaign promises

Donald Trump made a string of promises during his long campaign to be the 45th president of the United States. Many of them made headlines – from banning all Muslims entering the US, to building a wall along the border with Mexico. But as he and his White House team approach the 100-day mark of his presidency, it is clear he has shifted his stance on a number of key issues.

Trump said in September 2016 that he would reverse the deal President Barack Obama had struck to reopen diplomatic relations and improve trade. As president, he told an audience in Miami that he was “cancelling the Obama administration’s one-sided deal.” But in reality, he has only rolled back certain parts, placing restrictions on travel and business.

As a candidate, Trump derided climate change as a hoax concocted by China, and the regulations of Paris as stifling to American growth.  After three months of prevarications behind the closed doors of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the president came down decisively on the side near the exits. Quitting the Paris deal, signed by nearly 200 countries, will take a few years but this is unequivocally a promise kept.

His vow to build a wall along the US-Mexican border was one of the most controversial of Trump’s campaign promises.  Trump also insisted that Mexico would pay for it. Mexico maintains it will never pay for it, and even the president has conceded that the US will have to pay up front and then seek reimbursement in some way.

The US Congress is exploring funding options for the wall, but many Republicans will be unhappy about footing a bill which could rise to $21.5bn (£17.2bn), according to a Department of Homeland Security internal report.

That’s much higher than Trump’s estimated price tag of $12bn (£9.6bn). There are also landowners who protest against a “government land grab” – and a lawsuit from an environmental group launched in April.  “We’re building the wall,” he said in February. “In fact it’s going to start very soon.”

Rhetoric and substance: Can we trust Trump? 

Generally, most of the talks during the campaign is mere rhetoric meant to get votes of the majority community. Trump resorted this strategy to win the presidency against a very powerful Democratic candidate Mrs. Clinton with a lot of connections as former foreign minister of USA. And Trump won.

Trump initially promised to ban all Muslims entering the US – a “total and complete” shutdown should remain until the US authorities “can figure out what’s going on”. But he switched to “extreme vetting” after he became the party’s presidential candidate. As president, he has introduced two travel bans, which have both become ensnarled by legal challenges. The second was a slightly watered-down version of the first, but a judge in Hawaii said barring people from six mainly Muslim countries, even temporarily, violated constitutional protections against religious discrimination. Another judge in Maryland cited Trump campaign statements as evidence.

President Trump has railed against “judicial overreach” and hinted that he may take the case to the Supreme Court, but has said little on the matter in a round of media interviews this week.

Trump repeatedly told his supporters that every single undocumented immigrant – of which there are 11.3 million – “have to go”. As polling day approached, his stance began to soften slightly, then after the election he scaled it back to some two to three million deportations of people who “are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers”.

The Migration Policy Institute, a US-based think tank, has one of the higher figures for illegal immigrants with criminal records, which it puts at 890,000, including people charged with crossing the border illegally. The number of removals peaked in 2012 and has been falling since. It is too early to say if there has been an increase since President Trump’s inauguration.

During a speech in Iowa in November 2015, Trump warned that he would, using an expletive, bomb so-called Islamic State into obliteration. The president dropped the biggest non-nuclear bomb in the US arsenal on an IS-stronghold in Afghanistan.

Trump repeatedly questioned the NATO military alliance’s purpose, calling it “obsolete”. One issue that bugged him was whether members were pulling their weight and “paying their bills”. In one New York Times interview in July 2016, he even hinted that the USA would not come to the aid of a member invaded by Russia. But as he hosted Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the White House in April, the US president said the threat of terrorism had underlined the alliance’s importance. “I said the NATO was obsolete,” Trump said. “It’s no longer obsolete.”

Trump repeatedly pledged to label Beijing a “currency manipulator” on his first day in office, during an election campaign when he also accused the Asian powerhouse of “raping” the US. China has been accused of suppressing the yuan to make its exports more competitive with US goods.  He told the Wall Street Journal in April that China had not been “currency manipulators” for some time and had actually been trying to prevent the yuan from further weakening.

Trump’s supporters want to see Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in prison over the use of her private email server while secretary of state. And Trump was more than willing to back their calls for, at the very least, a fresh investigation. During the debates, he told Mrs Clinton: “If I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation.”

The president-elect’s tone changed almost as soon as he had won, describing the woman he had said was “such a nasty woman” as someone the country owed “a debt of gratitude”. Later, he said he “hadn’t given the prosecution a lot of thought” and had other priorities. On 22 November, Trump’s spokeswoman said he would not pursue a further investigation – to help Mrs. Clinton “heal”.

Apparently, Trump is not eager to punish Madam Hillary Clinton. He repeated his vow to spend big on the country’s roads, rail and airports, but no sign yet of action. The country’s infrastructure “will become, by the way, second to none, and we will put millions of our people back to work as we rebuild it”, he said in his victory speech in November. :

Trump pledged during his campaign to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a divided city which both Israelis and Palestinians claim.  He approved a waiver to keep the embassy in place, but suggested in a statement that it would be eventually relocated. “The decision was taken in order to “maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians”.

His decision not to hurriedly move, as Israel has been directing Washington, the  embassy to Jerusalem is noteworthy.

President Trump has not yet initiated any worthwhile step to the establishment of the State of Palestine deal to take place, although his decision to visit Palestine West Bank to meet PLO leader and President Abbas against the will and usual pressure tactics of Israel, gives us the hopes, however, meek they maybe, of his pro-active role and active participation in the establishment of Palestine. .

Trump, Putin could end terror wars, creation of Palestine and peace in Middle East

That President Donald Trump huddled with Russian President Vladimir Putin for almost an hour at a G20 dinner in Germany earlier this month is news, notwithstanding the confusion about the details. What’s as telling as Trump’s willingness to chat with Putin with no US translator or any other US official around, however, is the way in which the president responded to the news of the meeting. He did it via his preferred communication tool: Twitter.

This is not a media story. This is a story about an undisclosed meeting between the presidents of the United States and Russia at a time when relations are very much in flux between the two countries. Making it about anything else is a purposeful diversionary tactic by Trump. Simple and plain!

This is a classic bit of Trump misdirection. No media outlet reported anything about a “secret dinner.” No one is making the dinner look “sinister.” And, no one is suggesting that the media was unaware that the dinner was taking place. That is not the story. The story is that the president of the United States had a somewhat lengthy sidebar conversation with the president of Russia and with no other US officials present. And that we didn’t know about it until Ian Bremmer reported on it next night.

Trump, of course, knows all of that. The shrewd business magnet for all of his life time is also smart enough to understand that this is a bad story for him — particularly in light of the ongoing special counsel investigation into Russian meddling into the 2016 election and the drip-drip-drip of details about a meeting his son, Don Jr. had with a Russian lawyer in hopes of obtaining dirt on Hillary Clinton.

And Trump is working to change the story into one that he knows will score points with his hardcore base: “The Fake News is becoming more and more dishonest!” The media is “sick!” That will, of course, work for some segment of people who take Trump’s words for, well, everything, or only get their news from the president’s most ardent media defenders. The media is terrible!

Meanwhile, the White House said Trump would nominate former Utah governor Jon Huntsman as ambassador to Russia, a key post for a president who promised to improve relations with Moscow.  Huntsman, who served as ambassador to China and Singapore, needs to have his name confirmed by the Senate. The suspicions over Russian interference are likely to play a significant factor in his confirmation process, correspondents say.

Question is not how many times the two world leaders met in Germany at or on the sidelines of G20. But the outcome of the meetings significant if anything emerged. Any positive development, if any, would automatically get reflected in their bilateral ties from now on. Russia’s foreign minister said President Vladimir Putin and President Donald Trump may have met more than three times at the G-20summit, but he shrugged off the importance of the encounters Lavrov made light of the situation in the interview, comparing it to children mingling at a kindergarten.

Whether Trump will ever raise the issue of election hacking is the million-dollar question, given he has downplayed Russia’s alleged role.

They control their respective nation and also share a “strongman” style and macho attitudes which have shone through in meetings with world leaders.

Trump and Putin could work towards peaceful resolution of the worst global crises: Palestine in West Asia and Kashmir in South Asia. However, the immediate issue is to end the illegal terror war in Syria and make the West Asia a peace zone to make an impact on the global stability.

USA and Russia make it sure not to let fast growing Israeli fascist regime control their policies in West Asia.  Both need to coordinate their efforts to get Israeli military regime punished by ICC and ICJ for its crimes committed humanity in Palestine and Mideast at large.

The perpetual clashes between the super powers let fascist regimes like Israel to become criminal states threatening the regional as well as global peace, stability  and prosperity.   

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Americas

Why Venezuela’s People Are Suffering

Eric Zuesse

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The case that will be documented here is that Venezuela’s people are suffering from a tragic national situation which actually cannot be reversed by anything that’s within the power of Venezuela’s Government to do or to block. In order to understand this very unfortunate reality (if one wants to understand it), one must first understand the relevant parts of the broader situation in the world that affects Venezuela. What’s dooming the country isn’t merely a local situation, but instead is global and environmental. It also is economic, pertaining to the role that Venezuela is playing in the global economy. But the economic factor is definitely not  of the kind that it’s commonly assumed and alleged to be. It is instead very different.

Here, this very different reality will be both described and documented (instead of just founded upon assumptions — many of which are false — such as the standard, basically local, economic ‘explanation’ of Venezuela’s troubles is, which focuses on Venezuela’s socialism, or the economy’s being not sufficiently capitalist).

What it all comes down to, stated in its briefest terms, is that no nation can do anything but lose money by selling the world’s dirtiest oil, tar-sands oil, which costs $100+ to clean and produce, into a global oil market that’s paying less than $100 (currently around $65) per barrel. Venezuela was able to sell it profitably when oil-prices were high, but is getting crushed now, because its oil is no longer profitable to produce and sell. But 95% of Venezuela’s export-earnings come from oil. Unless and until oil-prices are again above $100 (which probably won’t happen again, except perhaps for very brief periods), Venezuela is doomed. Venezuela’s only chance to diversify its economy away from “the natural resources curse” (from which it especially suffers) was long ago, decades before the current Government came into power. That chance was missed. This ship is now sinking, and no one can save it. (And the U.S. Government and its allies have no actual interest in saving it, but only in exploiting it, parasitically.)

So, here the real history and context for what is happening in and to Venezuela will be presented, and the reader will be able easily to verify any detail of it (by means of the links) — on one’s own, (not accepting anything on mere ‘authority’, which, in such a politically charged matter as this, is almost invariably propaganda). The reader can verify any allegation here simply by clicking onto the given link, at any point in the presentation that might seem to be questionable.

These links are directly to the items of evidence, in the specific case of: why Venezuela’s people are suffering.

Here is that case — the realistic case, without any propaganda, but with only  credible news reports and source-documents as constituting its basis — regarding this question.

THE CASE

The two lands that produce the world’s highest-cost-to-produce oil are Canada and Venezuela. Both extract their oil overwhelmingly from tar-sands, which is the dirtiest of all oil and thus (by far) the costliest to refine. (Thus, it’s called “extra-heavy crude”, and that is the least desirable type. It’s also the type that, in a global-warming world, should remain in the ground, never be burned at all, as will also be explained here.)

An accurate summary statement in Wikipedia is that, “With present technology, the extraction and refining of heavy oils and oil sands generates as much as three times the total CO2 emissions compared to conventional oil,[20] primarily driven by the extra energy consumption of the extraction process.” That reference at “[20]” also states: “As the price of oil rises and as conventional hydrocarbon resources become scarcer, increased exploration and production activity is occurring in heavy oil, tar sands, and bitumen deposits. While these contribute significantly to the global energy …, they also contribute a greater share to … the detriment of the global environment.” (That’s referring to “a greater share” of “detriment” than normal crude does.) As another source phrased this matter in more explicit terms: “85 gallons of water, two tons of soil, 700-1200 cubic feet of natural gas, and 170 pounds of greenhouse gases make one barrel of crude oil” from tar-sands. That oil is simply not usable as-is to go into refining, like, for example, the standard Brent crude is. Furthermore, to produce that barrel of tar-sands-derived oil requires also the production of tons of sheer waste, none of which is left behind from producing normal oil. The cost of dealing with that waste is not factored into the cost of the barrels of oil. For examples, the future “impact upon water supplies,” and that “this water is polluted by toxic substances,” are not counted in. Therefore, the full cost of such oil has never been calculated. And yet, even so, everyone recognizes that tar-sands-derived oils are the costliest to produce.

On 25 January 2013, HSBC Global Research issued a landmark report, “Oil & Carbon Revisited: Value at risk from ‘unburnable’ reserves”. It defined the key concept of  “Unburnable reserves: The IEA’s World Energy Outlook (2012 edition) estimated that in order to have a 50% chance of limiting the rise in global temperatures to 2ºC, only a third of current fossil fuel reserves can be burned before 2050. The balance could be regarded as ‘unburnable’.”

The oil in Canada and in Venezuela is the world’s least  burnable, the most “heavy,” and therefore it’s not only the costliest to produce, but it’s also the worst environmentally. There is consequently increasing pressure upon large investment funds such as Harvard’s 39-billion-dollar endowment fund, to disinvest in fossil fuels. Because of interlocked boards of directors or trustees, and the needs that such ‘charities’ have to appeal to wealthy donors, these public pressures are often (as in Harvard’s case) ignored, but the movement toward divestment is gradually gaining strength in the less corrupt investment funds.

On 13 December 2018, the environmental organization 350.org headlined “Landmark fossil fuel divestment reached! 1000+ institutions are withdrawing investments from coal, oil and gas companies”, and announced:

The 1000th institution to divest was the Caisse des dépôts et consignations (CDC), which manages France’s public sector pensions, savings, and investments worth €173 billion (USD$196 billion). It recently announced that from 2019 it will no longer invest in companies that make more than 10% of their business from coal – this implies that the top 200 companies in the coal-industry are now effectively blacklisted. …

On the momentum for divestment since 2013 – Nicolas Haeringer, an organiser who supports divestment groups globally, at 350.org said:

“This is a moral movement as well as a financial one. Just five years ago we had 181 divestment commitments and USD$50 billion shifted away from polluting industries and today we’re over 1000 and approaching USD$8 trillion dollars.”

This has already helped to drive many coal companies out of business. Though coal-mine owners and employees might lose from that, the entire world gains vastly more from it. Such a transition is called “progress.” Transition in the opposite direction — toward more bad than good — is called “regress,” or, simply, “harm.” Some people call it “conservatism,” but whatever it is, certainly isn’t  progress. Not in any way. But that’s what the U.S. Government and the Canadian Government want: extreme conservatism — not conservation. And they view Venezuela’s tar-sands oil as being a prize that they could profit from if Venezuela’s Government could be ‘persuaded’ to reduce their environmental regulations on extracting it. However, in 2012, Venezuela strengthened, instead of weakened, its environmental laws. That strengthened the motivation for the U.S. and Canada to take over Venezuela. Hugo Chavez died in 2013, and Nicolás Maduro replaced him. Then, in 2016, Maduro instituted a new policy, to weaken environmental enforcement in Venezuela. Perhaps he was hoping that this would reduce the U.S.-and-allied efforts to overthrow him. Venezuela’s economy was already on the ropes. The U.S. continued its efforts to overthrow Maduro. Now desperate, he started selling off 12% of the land to international mining companies. Environmental enforcement at PDVSA also plunged, and on 24 November 2018, Bloomberg News bannered “Venezuela Is Leaking Oil Everywhere”. Apparently, the weaker Maduro gets, the worse he becomes. He had entered a doomed office as the president, and seems willing to do anything not to drown in it. Apparently, the weaker he gets, the more that U.S.-allied billionaires want to take over the country, entirely on their own terms. It’ll be like what had already happened in Greece, when the Syriza Party there capitulated to the international financial firms in 2015, and the Government stripped pensions, education, social services, etc., and privatized the infrastructure. But the path toward that end is quite different in Venezuela.

With the world’s increasing move toward renewables, the disinvestment in oil companies will increasingly be targeted toward selling the stock in the ones that have invested the most in oil fields in Canada and Venezuela. However, the situation is radically different for Venezuela than it is for Canada. Here is why:

The biggest market for Canadian oil is just next door, the United States. Most of the oil that’s imported into the U.S. comes from Canada. And, because most of the oil companies that are producing oil in Canada are U.S. owned or allied (such as in UK), the U.S. Government isn’t sanctioning Canada and trying to bring its Government down by reducing Canada’s oil-sales via sanctions, such as is the case with regard to Venezuela’s oil-sales. The U.S. Government doesn’t need to do that in order for America’s corporations to become enabled to sell the oil that comes from Canada: they’re already selling that oil, and Canada’s Government (as well as America’s Government) is already helping America’s companies to do this. America’s and Canada’s aristocracies are allied — not only with Venezuela’s aristocracy (which wants to replace Venezuela’s existing Government), but also with each others’ aristocracy.

Furthermore, unlike Venezuela, Canada isn’t nearly 100% dependent upon its oil-sales in order to support its economy, such as Venezuela tragically is. Venezuela receives around 95% of its export-income from its oil. That’s ridiculous and, for geostrategic and geoeconomic reasons, should never have been tolerated by Venezuela’s Government, but it nonetheless has been tolerated by them — and, for many decades, not only by Venezuela’s present Government. Indeed, Oil&Gas Journal headlined on 8 February 2010, “All about Orinoco” and reported that there had been “early efforts to produce heavy crude from the [Orinoco] belt” and these efforts “led PDVSA predecessors to output by the early 1980s of 93,000 b/d.” Furthermore, “Petroleos de Venezuela SA estimated 1.18 trillion bbl of oil in place in the Orinoco in 1987 and revised that in 2006 to a median of 1.3 trillion bbl, a maximum of 1.4 trillion bbl, and a minimum of 900 billion bbl.”

At that time, Richard Turcotte, of Peak Oil Matters, warned about this report, by headlining “A Look at Venezuela”, and pointing out that:

Unlike the light sweet crude oil produced by the U.S. and the light oil which has made Saudi Arabia such a force, the Orinoco oil is “heavy oil” found in oil sands — similar in characteristics to the tar sands bitumen found in Alberta, Canada. (See my prior post here.) The Venezuela oil is thus much harder to extract and refine, making it more costly. Significant investments of time and money are required to provide adequate refinery capabilities. Needless to say, extracting this heavy oil is a much more energy-and time-intensive effort than is the process for extracting the more familiar light crude. It is not anyone’s answer in the next few years.

Lead researcher and USGS geologist Chris Schenk admitted that their report is not asserting that the “technically recoverable” oil is in fact “economically recoverable.” That’s a significant distinction, and one that needs to be emphasized. All the presumed underground reserves in the world won’t mean much if it makes no sense to invest the time, effort, and money to try and extract them.

The USGS nonetheless estimates that a stunning 40 – 45% of that resource will be ultimately recoverable. One prominent geologist (and a former board member of Petroleos de Venezuela SA — Venezuela’s state oil company) is already on record as doubting anywhere near that amount can be recovered, and stated that much of what might actually be recoverable would in fact be too expensive to produce. 

Perhaps Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez and his predecessors were thinking that if the U.S. Government says that this oil is an asset, then it is reasonable to consider it to be an asset; but if the U.S. Government was instead merely aiming to get Venezuelans to think that it’s an asset so as to keep that country accepting its existing oil-monoeconomy (its over-dependence upon oil), then ultimately as the disappointment hits when the Venezuelan people experience the poverty after having hoped and tried to develop that ‘asset’, the U.S. Government will become welcomed in, to take over Venezuela’s failing Government. Anyway, that would be a conceivable reason why the U.S. Government would be promoting the ‘economic potential’ of the Orinoco belt. The aristocracy’s agents (in this case the petroleum industry) tend to be very clear-eyed about what’s of benefit to their paymasters. For whatever reason, the actual fact — that this oil was no asset — has remained hidden from the Venezuelan public. It still isn’t publicly acknowledged by Venezuela’s Government. Nor is it publicly recognized by America’s.

So, this tragic error (of presuming that tar-sands oil should be developed) goes back even to well before the time of Hugo Chavez. Moreover, it’s worth pointing out that the actual source of the ‘error’ is the petroleum industry itself, which, like the tobacco companies before it, constantly propagandized for increased production and sales, regardless of what the science says. A good example of that propaganda is the Editorial in Oil&Gas Journal on 24 January 2019, headlining “Costs, energy needs discredit ‘keep it in the ground’ agenda”. It says: “Preemptive opposition to oil and gas projects by ‘keep it in the ground’ activists promises needless hardship in two broad areas.” This is a denial of the entire concept of “unburnable reserves.” They want, instead, to burn it all — and even to keep prospecting to find yet more  oil and gas (at this time of already greatly excessive inventories of cleaner reserves that should be burned before any of Canada’s or Venezuela’s filth is). They could lay off their entire teams of oil-explorers, who are wasting their time to find yet more dirty energy sources that won’t ever need to be used by anybody. Either these people are stupid and insane, or else they are psychopaths who care only about keeping their existing jobs and don’t care at all about the world that future generations will be experiencing. If their children knew, then what would they think of what their parents had done to the world that they will be living in?

Consequently (perhaps after — for whatever reason — listening too much to self-interested advisors), Venezuela’s Government has allowed itself to become trapped by its addiction to selling its extraordinarily filthy oil. There was no Governmental demand, no sufficient priority placed upon Venezuelan firms, for them to diversify the economy away from petroleum. Neither the present Government, nor any previous Government of Venezuela, did.

Hugo Chavez and Nicolás Maduro didn’t create this problem; but, now, and especially on Maduro’s watch, the oil-market transformations that result from the global-warming phenomenon are accelerating; and, unlike Canada, which is part of the U.S. empire, Venezuela isn’t receiving U.S. Government protection of its investors, and so there is no helping hand from the U.S. Government (i.e., from America’s aristocracy) to assist Venezuela’s oil sales (such as the U.S. does provide regarding Canada). There is, instead, to the contrary — as Venezuela’s Government has become weaker and weaker, and has less and less public support while global oil prices have plummeted — the grabbing hand, of both the U.S. and Canadian Governments, to take over Venezuela’s Government, whose biggest sin, actually, was to have left itself open to such a take-over, by its having failed to diversify its economy away from the country’s doomed, and dooming, extraordinarily costly-to-refine, and undesirable to refine, oil. It’s now just a coffin in the ground, but it’s nonetheless still the source of virtually all of Venezuela’s export sales. No government could sustain supporting such a zombie. It’s a deadweight that’s dragging Venezuela down and economically suffocating all Venezuelans. And the documentation that this situation exists is incontrovertible:

The current WTO report on Venezuela indicates that 96.9% of the country’s exports are of “Fuels and mining products,” and that over 98% of this 96.9% consists of oils. Also shown is that the biggest five importers from Venezuela account for only 1.9% of Venezuela’s exports, and therefore all other countries account for 98.1%. So, when Venezuela loses its U.S. market, that would mean loss of only 0.6% of its total export market.

However, America’s sanctions will additionally cause some U.S. vassal nations such as in Europe to stop importing from Venezuela. So, Maduro is very vulnerable, indeed. Diversifying the markets (to that 98.1%) isn’t what was needed by Venezuelans; diversifying the economy was; and neither he nor his predecessors did any of that.

On February 2018, Petroleum Science headlined “Analysis of Venezuela’s oil-oriented economy: from the perspective of entropy” and reported that, “the current breakeven price has achieved to over $100/bbl in Venezuela.” Right now, oil is selling at around $65 per barrel. So, how can Venezuela make money selling its $100+ oil into the global $65 oil market? It’s just not possible, at least not sustainably. The Petroleum Science article therefore said that “it is unwise for Venezuela to count on selling raw oil to support the country’s economy,” because any per-barrel price that’s lower than Venezuela’s $100+ per barrel production cost will produce a loss on the sale of that barrel of oil, and because there will be very few if any future days when the per-barrel oil-price will again be above $100. The more that the world cuts back on petroleum and increases non-carbon energy-sources, the lower that the price of oil will become. And the more that investment funds steer clear of high-carbon firms, the lower the corporate stock of those companies will sink in value. Both investors and consumers are therefore going to be turning away from them.

When global oil prices were high, Venezuela could sell even its costly-to-refine oil profitably, but those times are now long gone and probably will never return, as the world increasingly switches away from fossil fuels. Especially tar-sands oils, such as from Canada and from Venezuela, should stay in the ground, and not only because today’s oil prices are too low to sustain selling them, but also because those extra-heavy oils are the worst to burn, from the standpoint of causing global warming.

As an example of this economic reality, a major U.S. corporate investor in Venezuelan oil is Chevron Corporation, and Zacks Investment Research headlined on 5 October 2011, “Chevron Sees Carabobo Oil in 2012”. It stated:

According to a company executive, U.S. energy behemoth Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX – News) may see the start-up of an oil field in Venezuela’s Orinoco Belt next year. The super-major is confident that it can commence production from Orinoco’s Carabobo Project 3 – which has estimated reserves of 66 billion barrels – in the third quarter of 2012. …

Chevron holds a 34% interest in Carabobo Project 3, while Venezuela’s national oil company Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (or PDVSA) controls 60%. The remaining stake is owned by Venezuelan and Japanese firms.

Following the first production of 50,000 barrels per day, … [Chevron] is looking to boost volumes by an additional 50,000-100,000 barrels per day every two years. Carabobo 3, one of several Orinoco projects, is estimated to reach a maximum output of approximately 400,000-480,000 barrels of crude oil per day by 2016.

There is no public indication, at least not online, that even the “first production of 50,000 barrels per day” has been yet achieved, though it had been expected to occur within a year. Chevron’s 2017 Annual Report (covering the year 2016) is the latest online, and it doesn’t so much as even mention “Carabobo.” And this was after  the 5 October 2011 prediction that “Carabobo 3, one of several Orinoco projects, is estimated to reach a maximum output of approximately 400,000-480,000 barrels of crude oil per day by 2016.” Clearly, that’s a poorly performing investment. Chevron’s current web-page on “Venezuela” says “Chevron has a 34 percent interest in Petroindependencia, S.A., which includes the Carabobo 3 Project,” but it provides no number of barrels of oil being produced there (if any) — not even now, in 2019. Bad investments die in silence and in obscurity, but good investments get trumpeted everywhere — and this one is being trumpeted nowhere.

Any oil sales from those fields will not only be delayed until when oil prices are again high enough to sell those dirty oils at a profit (which is increasingly unlikely ever to happen again). The investment values of those companies will likewise be especially hard hit as the problem of unburnable reserves becomes increasingly widely recognized and understood by the public. The public won’t remain ignorant and deceived about these matters forever. This is like a Ponzi scheme.

Russia’s Government seems determined never to accept this U.S. coup imposing America’s “regime-change” upon the sovereign nation of Venezuela, and has made the decision to send military assets, and to invest both in Venezuela’s Government and in the oil company. On January 29th, Russia’s Interfax News Agency headlined in Russian, “The Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation hopes to get external debt payments from Venezuela”. The neoconservative Jamestown Foundation remarked about that on January 31st by saying that “These debts may eventually be written off by a new opposition Venezuelan government led by the self-proclaimed interim president, Juan Guaido, if it manages to push Maduro out (see EDM, January 28, 2019). Yet, even if Maduro somehow succeeds in clinging to power with Russian help, he will hardly have the resources to service the loans.” That, unfortunately, happens to be true. The only sensible reason why Russia would be committing itself to protecting Venezuela’s sovereignty would be in order to say to Washington that America’s long string of foreign regime-changes (Iraq, Libya, Syria, Honduras, Ukraine, etc.) has now ended — to establish the principle (as Russia has recently done in Syria) that no longer will Washington’s invasions and coups be tolerated, no more conquests (additions to its empire) will be allowed. Somebody has to draw the line, finally, and the other nuclear superpower could be the one to do it. Other than that, however, Russia, like other investors, can only experience losses from investments in Venezuela. Venezuela is now an asset only in “The Great Game”. Russia’s protecting in Venezuela the principle of national sovereignty — no coups, no conquests, at all — is as moral as America’s repeatedly rejecting that principle is immoral; but, as an investment, Venezuela simply is a loss. If “The Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation hopes to get external debt payments from Venezuela,” then Russia’s Ministry of Finance should be expecting to be disappointed in that “hope.” But that hope wouldn’t, in any case, be a sound reason for what Russia is doing there. The only “asset” to be won in Venezuela is protection of the most basic principle of international law: the independence and sovereignty of each nation. Hitler and his fascist allies, and Stalin and his communist allies, violated that principle; but now fascist America and its allies routinely violate it. Venezuela’s allies (unlike Neville Chamberlain) are supporting the foundation-stone of international law: national sovereignty and independence. For the U.S. and its allies to reject the results of Venezuela’s (or of Syria’s or of Iran’s) elections is no basis for invalidating those results, and the U.S. Government’s stooge Juan Guaido is simply a Venezuelan traitor, and should be treated as such, by an appropriate trial for treason. Certainly, there is no Constitutional basis for Guaido’s power-grab, despite the lies to the contrary by the putchists such as in America and its allied regimes.

All oil-exploration should therefore now stop, and existing tar-sands oil fields should simply be abandoned altogether. Only the easiest-to-refine (the “lighter”) oils should be sold and burnt right now. There is going to be a rush for the exits in the stocks of those “extra-heavy oil” companies, and the only question is when it will happen. Regarding that rush, the situation is very different in Venezuela than it is in Canada, because the U.S. Government will delay as long as possible the collapse of Canada’s oil-sales, but the U.S. (and Canada) want to expedite the collapse of Venezuela’s — at least until and unless the current Venezuelan coup succeeds. (And Canada’s Foreign Minister, Chrystia Freeland, did the key preparatory work for U.S. President Trump to pull the plug on Venezuela’s Government; so, both of those governments have actually led in overthrowing and replacing Venezuela’s non-U.S.-allied Government.)

Venezuela became addicted to selling its filthy oil, but now can only lose money with every barrel it sells of its oil. Each day of the company’s operations is simply eating the company’s seed-corn — and there is nothing like Canada has, to soften the blow. That’s not only unsustainable, it has already become a crisis, and Washington is exploiting it.

PDVSA’s latest online financial report is for 2016 and it shows that “Profit before income tax” was $16,317,000 in 2014, then $1,469,000 in 2015, and then $955,000 — less than a million dollars — in 2016. During the three-year period, “Current assets” declined from $55.2 billion to $54.6 billion, and “Current liabilities” declined from $55.7 billion to $50.0 billion. “Financial debt” declined from $40.0 billion to $33.9 billion. “Total assets” declined from $217.4 billion to $189.7 billion; and “Total liabilities” declined from $127.7 billion to $102.6 billion. Probably the company is already operating in the red now, but with every year of deteriorating infrastructure, just wearing out, with more and more and longer deferred maintenance, and with a bad long-term prospect for profitability, could the Government even sell the company? If Trump succeeds and PDVSA and every other state-owned asset in Venezuela becomes privatized, Venezuela’s citizens will be left with nothing, and the only beneficiaries will be the international bankers, even as international investors will need to take haircuts on their existing Venezuelan loans. The oil that PDVSA sells shouldn’t even be bought; it should simply remain in the ground.

According to the latest public information, PDVSA showed less than a million dollars of profit in 2016 — and the trend was downward. Anyone in Venezuela who thinks that the country can be sustained in the future, as it was in the past, from the sale of Venezuela’s exceptionally costly-to-produce oil, isn’t taking into account the broader picture, and the impact that the global-warming phenomenon will inevitably have upon the fossil-fuels industries.

There may be ways to jiggle the books to make PDVSA fool some investors into buying the company, but only the international bankers would be profiting from a sale of that firm.

Foreign Policy magazine, which represents America’s aristocracy, headlined on 5 June 2018, “It’s Time for a Coup in Venezuela”, but even if that turns out to be the final solution to the Venezuelan problem for America’s aristocrats, it won’t solve anything for the Venezuelan public — basically like Hitler’s “final solution” did nothing to benefit Germany’s Jews. Germany’s aristocracy did nothing for Jews then, and America’s aristocracy will do nothing for Venezuelans now. They’re all on their own. The leaders of the U.S.-allied nations don’t want to save them, and instead follow in the fascist and Nazi tradition. The leaders in Venezuela’s current Government, who want to save them, simply can’t save them. It’s far too late for them to start now, to do what needed to start back in “the early 1980s of 93,000 b/d” from Venezuela’s Orinoco belt — which would have been for them to stop what ought never even to have been started there: extraction of that oil.

CONCLUSION

The poverty and violence that now rack Venezuela result from a broader situation in which selling what shouldn’t even be bought has run its miserable course until the final act, which is a Government that has reached the stage where it can produce income only for international bankers and for the aristocrats who control them. Any oil company now that would want to buy those assets would merely be adding to its assets — chiefly the dirty oil in the ground — ‘assets’ (oil reserves) that can never even be used (unless the propaganda becomes even more effective in the future than it has always been until now, which might be impossible to achieve). Oil companies already have lots more of that dangerous filth than anyone except people in finance will ever be able to benefit from buying or selling.

For Venezuelans, this is a great tragedy. The U.S. and its allies are (and have been) doing everything they can to exploit the tragedy.

It’s like a hungry lion chasing a fleeing exhausted deer, who now is finally trapped.

That’s the ugly reality.

Author’s note: first posted at strategic-culture.org

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Crisis in Venezuela: An Analysis of the United States’ Interference

Aaron Denison

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As the crisis in Venezuela escalates uncontrollably for the people, the politicians are in the centre of legitimising themselves as the president of the country. Current president Nicolas Maduro has recently rejected an ultimatum by the European Union to hold a snap elections in the country stating that he would not “cave in to pressure” from those calling for his departure.  The European Union issued the ultimatum as the Juan Guaido, the head of Venezuela’s opposition-led National Assembly, declared himself as the country’s interim president . Many European countries such as the UK, Spain, France, Germany, Sweden and Denmark have all recognised Juan Guaidó as the interim president of Venezuela. Portugal, the Netherlands and Belgium have said they will recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as president if Maduro failed to announce elections.

In addition to that, the biggest support for Juan Guaido is definitely from the United States as President Donald Trump has recognized and endorsed Juan Guaido as the president of Venezuela. Even Ireland has followed a number of other EU countries in recognising Juan Guaido as interim President of Venezuela.  Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said he supports Mr Guaido, the leader of the legislature, “in order for him to call for free, fair and democratic presidential elections”.  The United Nations however has rejected Juan Guaido, as the interim president. The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres responded to a letter written by Guaido seeking humanitarian aid to Venezuela. Guterres reiterated his concern about the impact of the current Venezuelan crisis on the people but however, in regards to Guaido’s request for humanitarian aid, the secretary-general requested to communicate with the Government of Venezuela, which is headed by President Nicolas Maduro . This directly meant that the United Nations are in support of the current government and president Nicolas Maduro.

Nicolas Maduro was sworn as the president on 10th January 2019 after he was re-elected in May 2018 by getting 67.7 % of the vote. This means that by law he is the legitimate leader of Venezuela. In addition to that, the country’s main opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), boycotted the election and that basically paved way for Maduro to be re-elected as the president. While many are now recalling for elections, why didn’t the MUD participate in the elections in the first place? They claimed that the elections was rigged in favour of Maduro but the fact that they did not contest shows that they are incapable to be in power and incompetent to run the country. Now there is Juan Guaido from the Voluntad Popular (VP), (Popular Will Party) who declared himself as the president. He was sworn in as leader of the National Assembly and de facto leader of the opposition early in January, at a time when not many in Venezuela had heard of him. It is said that at least 80% of the population in Venezuela have not heard of Juan Guaido. Thus the National Assembly basically elected a president without an electoral mandate which makes unlawful because there is a democratic process for a reason.

Another issue that should be taken into serious consideration in this Venezuelan political crisis is the involvement of the United States. It seems that as though the situation in Venezuela is a question of human rights, democracy and freedom that is built upon only by the National Assembly via the opposition although in reality that the whole move of making Juan Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela was engineered, organized and financed by the United States along with a small group of countries from Latin America and Europe. This definitely shouldn’t come as a surprise as the United States has had a long history of intervening and overthrowing leftist governments in Latin America for many years. Among a few examples are the 1954 US Intervention in Guatemala, 1964 US intervention in Brazil, 1973 US intervention in Chile, 1976 US intervention in Argentina and many others. All these interventions by the United States were coup d’états that were sponsored and engineered by the United States military by supporting right wing leaders or political parties.

The situation in Venezuela is a little different as the United States are not using military intervention yet but are engineering what many media outlets would not call which is a soft coup d’état through Juan Guaido. While many refrain from the word coup, in reality that is the situation in Venezuela at the moment because Juan Guaido is trying to seize power illegally and unlawfully. In addition, the United States seem to be using a similar tactic that was used when they intervened in both Chile and Iraq respectively in 1973 and 2003 by trying to destabilise the economy of Venezuela through economic sanctions before deciding to intervene or invade via military. This is because a destabilised economy would indeed give the United States a strong reason to invade or intervene Venezuela if needed. This was definitely the case in Iraq. Sometimes sanctions that are often used on countries are an act of war because it hurts the most poor and vulnerable sectors of a country’s population. Moreover sanctions are also genocidal and one example is in Iraq when almost 500,000 babies lost their lives due to the sanctions carried out by the United States. A similar trend is being seen in Venezuela as the US-led sanctions has cost the Venezuelan economy at least 6 million USD and this has indeed weakened the country and also the population.

Recently on 29January 2019, the United States has also announced that a new round of sanctions will block almost 7 billions USD in Venezuelan assets. These sanctions that are being carried out by the United States are actually against Venezuela’s state owned oil company Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PdVSA).  As a result, all property and interests in property of PdVSA subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and U.S. persons generally are prohibited from engaging in transactions with the company. The opposition in Venezuela approves the confiscation of the 7 billion USD as it is seen by them as securing assets although in reality it is actually an international theft. As the PdVSA, is an important source of income to Venezuela and while the United States are actually aware of it, the sanctions are a clear indication that the United States are trying to cut off every last source of income available to Venezuela to weakened their economy even more.

Besides that, just like in Iraq the United States would also want to get their hands on Venezuela’s oil via Juan Guaido because it is impossible that the United States are oblivious that Venezuela has one of the largest oil reserves in the world. An additional evidence that the opposition parties in Venezuela are aligning themselves to the United States is the fact that the National Assembly in Venezuela is beginning a process of appointing new board of directors for PdVSA to transfer the controls of Venezuela’s foreign accounts. It is clear that the National Assembly in Venezuela headed by Juan Guaido are not positioning themselves of running the country on behalf of the 30 million Venezuelan people but are instead only invested in securing power and position as well as allowing the United States to intervene in their country’s internal affairs.

The United States are definitely turning Venezuela into their colony and their actions are a demonstration that represents the greatest threat to peace and regional stability of Latin America as a whole. As it is now their custom, they threaten other countries through extortion and coercion so that these countries will recognize a puppet president, which would allow them to take full control of that particular country and exert their continuous influence for years to come. We have seen a similar trend carried by the United States in countries such as Iraq, Iran, and Libya that has led to the devastating effects that remains till this day. This is bound to happen in Venezuela if the opposition leaders led by Juan Guaido are not cautious in aligning themselves wholly to the United States. Although President Nicolas Maduro has not proven himself in leading Venezuela forward, but it has to be understood that US-led sanctions since the Obama Administration has had a huge influence the Venezuelan crisis.

The opposition parties in Venezuela should have shown their will to fight for the interest of the people by not boycotting the election in May last year because the boycott basically meant that they betrayed the people of Venezuela. Personally I am not a Maduro sympathizer but I believe in that a leader should be elected through a democratic electoral process and I also denounce foreign intervention into the internal affairs of a particular country because often times history have shown that a third party intervention by the United States has always brought more negative impacts instead of positive ones. For this reason, I would be on Maduro’s side and would urge other countries to recognise him as the legitimate leader of Venezuela because recognising Juan Guaido would mean recognising the United States colonialism against Venezeula.

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Three Horizons of Brazil–Russia Relations

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Authors: Fernando César Costa Xavier and Alexander Korolkov*

Almost a month has passed since the inauguration of the new President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro. He and his team are not new to Brazil’s national politics; during their careers, they have made quite a few statements about the country’s place in the world and their vision of the development of Brazil’s relations with its key partners. Still, very few political observers (and maybe even members of the new cabinet) understand what Brazil’s foreign policy will be over the next four years. Thus far, we can gauge from the President’s campaign promises that Brazilian diplomacy needs to transform radically and move from broad participation in international organizations and initiatives to “anti-globalism” and bilateral talks in international trade.

The person charged with implementing this project, which has the supported of President Bolsonaro’s voters, is the career diplomat Ernesto Araújo, who was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs not so much for his institutional experience as for the “correctness” of his ideas. Under his leadership, the new diplomacy should be based on an ideology composed of religious (Judeo-Christian) ultra-conservatism, programmatic anti-socialism, and vain nationalism. The implementation of this project should result in improving relations with the United States, Israel and those European countries that are led by right-wing conservatives.

Diplomacy on the Edge

As the new ruling elite in Brazil moves from words to deeds, concerns seem to have arisen that the new foreign political doctrine may cause the country economic and political damage. As a result, a group of the new President’s supporters led by Vice President General Hamilton Mourão (ret.) have been attempting throughout January to mitigate a series of foreign political messages that emerged during the presidential campaign.

At the very least, such actions result in an inevitable conceptual conflict between Mourão and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ernesto Araújo. Attempts to side-line the latter and remove him from the decision-making process are already obvious, so much so that the Vice President has met with ambassadors of several countries, including China (whose influence in Brazil was proclaimed to be almost the chief threat to national sovereignty during Bolsonaro’s presidential campaign), without the Minister of Foreign Affairs being present. This is at the very least unusual and goes against established practice. However, Mourão’s actions have not gone unnoticed. The Brazilian media has started to call Araújo’s growing isolation a “cordon sanitaire.”

The USSR Standing between Brazil and Russia

Given the budding internal confrontation, it is extremely hard to predict the course that Brazil–Russia relations will take. Unlike China, Russia was not criticized directly by the new President, but this might be due to the fact that Russia was not mentioned at all during Bolsonaro’s campaign. We can only guess as to his attitude towards the country.

As an ardent anti-communist, Bolsonaro is certain to view Russia at least with some suspicion because of its Soviet past. Russia probably does not quite realize it, but the USSR still remains an important fact in bilateral relations. Even though 2019 will mark 28 years since the collapse of the USSR, Brazil’s right-wing politicians and a significant chunk of the population still view President Vladimir Putin as a Soviet apparatchik who never cut his functional ties to the KGB. The fact that the KGB has itself been defunct for over a quarter of a century does not matter at all, since its successor has not yet gained comparable publicity (which is probably for the better) and the KGB continues to be a grim symbol of all things Soviet.

Although influential Brazilian analysts, such as the economist Mailson da Nobrega, insist that “true socialism” died in 1991 and that Bolsonaro’s crusade is pointless, for many Brazilians, the spectre of communism still lives in the Kremlin.

The support that Russia is extending to Nicolás Maduro’s seriously battered government helps feed this phantasmagoria. In an interview with Brazilian TV several weeks ago, Bolsonaro expressed concern about Russia’s military manoeuvres in Venezuela and, in this connection, even announced he could consider having a U.S. military base in Brazil.

This is the unstable background against which relations between Brazil and Russia are developing. Naturally, at this stage there is no initial data that would allow us to make accurate forecasts for the development of Russia–Brazil relations, but at least three major movement vectors from this bifurcation point can be seen, each of which may noticeably oscillate when confronted with an unpredictable reality. Let us call them horizons: their outlines are already visible, but it is not yet clear what lies beyond.

The First Horizon: Is a “Holy Alliance” Possible in the 21st Century?

Part of Brazil’s new ruling elite considers Putin’s Russia as a state that is closer to religious conservatism (linked with the Orthodox clergy) than to left-wing liberalism that ideologically stems from the “Red May,” i.e. the events of May of 1968. This group is headed by Chancellor Araújo. Back in 2018, before assuming the ministerial office, he proposed a “Christian pact” with the United States and Russia. He thought that such an alliance would challenge the “globalist axis” created by China, Europe and the American left. This statement was part of a single ideological package that also included criticism of Brazil’s participation in multilateral international forums and the announcement of the country’s withdrawal from the UN Global Compact for Migration.

It is quite possible that this impression of moral and political alignment which, according to the Chancellor, could happen between Brazil and Russia (Bolsonaro and Putin) was bolstered by the courtesy of the Russian side in congratulating Bolsonaro on his election victory. Bolsonaro replied to the congratulations from @KremlinRussia_E on Twitter, writing “Thank you, President Putin!” in his personal account on October 29, 2018. In addition to the tweet, the Russian President also sent a congratulatory telegram.

Although Putin probably views the mercurial Bolsonaro with a certain caution, he extended a hand again in a letter sent in late December 2018 emphasizing the possibility of a strategic partnership between Brazil and Russia. A few days later, Speaker of the State Duma of the Russian Federation Vyacheslav Volodin and his deputy Olga Yepifanova represented Russia at the President’s inauguration. The Russian delegation also met with the incumbent President of the Chamber of Deputies of Brazil Rodrigo Maia, who plans to be re-elected to the office with the support of Bolsonaro and his party (the Social Liberal Party).

If top level contacts do make it possible to overcome ideological fears and improve mutual understanding, Araújo is likely to pay much attention to an alliance with Russia, including possibly in the BRICS format. Brazilian diplomacy may need Russia as a counterbalance to China’s influence in the bloc. For Brazil’s right-wing politicians, China remains a source of a far greater number of phobias than Moscow. Despite opening its economy in recent decades, formally, China remains a communist country and is the greatest epitome of the “Red Scare” for Brazil’s anti-communists. In a highly controversial article written when he was only a nominee for the office of the Chancellor, Araújo claimed that “Maoist China had to be opposed.”

The Second Horizon: Realpolitik Brazilian Style

If Araújo is side-lined and the Realpolitik promoted by Vice-President Hamilton Mourão moves to the foreground, then, as surprising as it is, roads leading to Moscow still remain, although they might not be quite as straight.

In a recent interview, Mourão said he did not understand the point of an accelerated rapprochement between Brazil and Israel. It directly contradicted the idea of opening Brazil’s embassy in Jerusalem, which Bolsonaro proposed in support of a similar move by Trump. In the same interview, he quite unexpected asked, “Are we ready to pay any price to be fans of the Americans?”

Could Russia consider such statements as an invitation to engage in a dialogue? We believe it could.

Such a dialogue could take place at the upcoming 11th BRICS Summit, which will be held in Brazil in 2019. Mourão, who is fluent in English, could be a useful interlocutor for the bloc partners. He pays less attention to “anti-communism” and, unlike Araújo, does not think that the issues of global warming and sustainable development that had been discussed at the 10th BRICS summit are “hijacked by left-wing ideology.” Russia should use this chance to build bridges.

The Third Horizon: Getting Personal

If we forget about all groups and consider the personal impressions that the two countries’ leaders can produce on each other, then Brazil–Russia relations still have a future.

Like Chancellor Araújo, Bolsonaro is an avowed admirer of President Trump. Trump has an equivocal, yet generally positive attitude towards Putin. Behind his criticism of Russia’s policies and politics and the reserved attitude towards Russia that stems from domestic political factors, one can periodically glean Trump’s respect for Putin and even a desire to emulate his style.

This is probably very similar to what Brazil’s new president feels about the Russian leader. There is no doubt that Bolsonaro at the very least respects Putin, and probably, deep down, admires him. The similarities in their political styles appear to overcome their differences. Their supporters value their images of patriot warriors that bravely and ruthlessly fight against “enemies of the nation.”

Brazilian fans who attended the World Cup in Russia were amazed by the number of souvenirs bearing Putin’s image. These images are almost universally aggressive, associated with a demonstration of brute force (take the famous image of Putin riding a bear, for instance). It is possible that this practice was partially borrowed for Bolsonaro’s presidential campaign, at least in the images that are spread on social networks and forming a similar cult around the new president. The two leaders are becoming increasingly similar in terms of being viewed as “saints” and “the chosen ones” by their supporters.

Bolsonaro’s personal contacts with Putin and President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping will certainly give him a more realistic feel for geopolitics. Maybe then he will evaluate the possibilities afforded by bilateral and multilateral talks and the global community will eventually come to understand that the ideological structures erected around him are nothing but a “Potyomkin village,” or smoke and mirrors.

*Alexander Korolkov, PhD in History, Expert on Latin America expert, RIAC expert

First published in our partner RIAC

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