Category Archives: Venezuela


September 12, 2013

PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is thankfully becoming less stigmatized due to increased awareness, but like most mental health issues, there stigma that prevents open discussion about mental health is profound. But I recall 2-3 decades ago it was far worse.

There are a few PTSD events that have come up recently that are related to Canada’s shameful neglect and mistreatment of Canadian Forces personnel and veterans suffering from PTSD.

  1. Kate MacEachern went on a long walk last year to raise awareness and funds for PTSD treatment. Wanting to do it again this year, it became incredibly controversial. It’s called The Long Way Home, for many reasons.
  2. Next month, Robin and Stewart are taking part in the Victoria Marathon to raise awareness and funds for treatment.

We are going to focus on PTSD, PTSD in the military, mental health and PTSD resources and networks over the coming weeks.

Kate, Robin, Stewart and everyone supporting them in each of their networks would appreciate your interest, open mind, emotional support, and even your money.


You can donate to Kate MacEachern’s Long Walk Home here.

You can donate to Robin and Stewart’s event here.

Stephen Harper’s Glowing Congratulations for Chavez’s Re-Election

Can you smell the indignation?

Note the lack of commentary from the prime minister or foreign affairs minister.

October 8, 2012 – The Honourable Diane Ablonczy, Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas and Consular Affairs), today issued the following statement:

“Canada notes the orderly conduct of Venezuela’s presidential election.

“Yesterday’s vote demonstrates the commitment of the Venezuelan people to democracy.

“Canada will continue to work with Venezuelans and our partners throughout the region to promote our shared values in order to create a more secure and prosperous hemisphere.”

via Minister Ablonczy Statement on Venezuela’s Presidential Election.

How We [and the French] Keep Ripping Off Haiti

It was so nice to see so many billions pledged to help Haiti after its earthquake where the planet kicked the country after it was down from centuries of racist, imperial and neoliberal exploitation.

But how much money pledged has shown up?

And worse, did you know that Haiti spent more than a century paying off France reparations money for their own freedom? Imagine what the country would have been like if it didn’t pay that odious debt.

Let’s explore all the odious exploitation of Haiti for the last 206 years, with special focus on the last seven months. Continue reading How We [and the French] Keep Ripping Off Haiti

Memo to Harper: Bush Doesn’t Have Your Back Anymore

Someone should really tell the prime minister that George w.Caesar doesn’t have his back on angry imperialist rhetoric anymore.

It’s one thing for Ignatieff to sit quietly, saying nothing, waiting for the economy to implode Harper’s government, but for Harper to show that he still thinks the Bush Doctrine rules the world means his crash will be profound when the federal Liberals pull the plug on this version of their coalition with the Conservatives.

These tidy morsels from this great CP piece below are precious:

  • “Harper took an alternate tack at the summit, waving the banner of free trade as often as possible.” Forget about how neoliberal free trade is largely responsible for our current crisis in capitalism.
  • Harper’s goals: to “maximize the benefits of increased trade and investment”
  • Harper’s new bff, the president of the Dominican Republic: “Of course, with the financial and economic global crisis, that’s the…main problem, the main concern, but this doesn’t mean that free trade for some countries is not in their best interest.” Yes, black is black and white is white, but that doesn’t mean that black can’t also be white. 
  • “Harper spoke of ‘antagonists,’ ‘cold war socialism’ and ‘rogue nations when referring to countries such as Venezuela and Cuba, declaring himself an ‘anti-Communist conservative’ in an interview with right-wing American TV channel Fox News at the summit.” Charming how Harper’s vision of Canada is filtered through Fox News.

Leaders declare Americas summit a success thanks to Obama

Published Sunday April 19th, 2009

Jennifer Ditchburn, THE CANADIAN PRESS

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – The hemispheric summit that leaders feared would implode over Washington’s chilly relations with Cuba and Venezuela was declared a success Sunday, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other key players tipping their hats to American President Barack Obama.

Leaders emerged from a retreat at the Summit of the Americas on Sunday unable to sign a wordy final declaration because of reservations by Venezuela and others who wanted stronger language on Cuba and the world financial crisis.

Still, they reached a consensus on adopting a shorter final statement, and more importantly nobody left slamming the door as happened at the last summit in 2005.

There were no confrontations between the Americans and some of their rivals. Instead, there were handshakes and Obama’s photo-friendly smile. Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez said he’d like to send an ambassador back to Washington.

The chemistry was key, as host Prime Minister Patrick Manning noted.

“We all came here I think believing that we would have quite a battle among the radically different perspectives that exist on certain subjects…that did not materialize, in fact we saw the opposite,” Harper said a closing news conference. “We saw the replacement of confrontation by dialogue, a very good dialogue.”

Harper joined several others in saluting Obama for his landmark speech Friday evening, in which he brought a message of partnership with the hemisphere based on mutual respect and dignity. Obama also acknowledged certain failures in American foreign policy, including its enforcement based drug policy.

Obama repeated his call for a new American policy in the hemisphere at a news conference Sunday. He noted how many countries are supportive of Cuba precisely because of its humanitarian efforts – it sends thousands of doctors to developing countries.

“That’s why it’s so important that in our interactions, not just here in the hemisphere but around the world, that we recognize that our military power is just one arm of our power, and we have to use our diplomatic and development aid in more intelligent ways so people can see more concrete improvements in the lives of their peoples as a consequence of U.S. foreign policy,” Obama told reporters.

He said there had been promising signs in relations between his country and Cuba and Venezuela, but that the real test would come from the actions that followed after the summit.

The issue of Cuba’s inclusion in the inter-American family and future summits was pushed off to the general assembly later this spring of the Organization of American States (OAS). The prime minister did not comment on how Canada would vote at the meeting.

Harper took an alternate tack at the summit, waving the banner of free trade as often as possible.

One of his final acts of the summit was to sweeten the pot for countries Canada is negotiating with, earmarking an extra $18 million in aid over five years to help them “maximize the benefits of increased trade and investment.”

His call for open markets found some allies.

The president of Dominican Republic said he was keen to advance negotiations with Canada for a free trade deal.

“We see trade as part of development, it’s not just trade per se – it’s trade related to development,” Leonel Fernandez told a group of Canadian reporters.

“Of course, with the financial and economic global crisis, that’s the…main problem, the main concern, but this doesn’t mean that free trade for some countries is not in their best interest.”

Harper also adopted strikingly different language than Obama.

Where Obama urged countries in his stirring speech Friday against focusing on ideological labels such as capitalist or socialist, Harper spoke of “antagonists,” “cold war socialism” and “rogue nations” when referring to countries such as Venezuela and Cuba, declaring himself an “anti-Communist conservative” in an interview with right-wing American TV channel Fox News at the summit.

His spokesman continually referred to Latin America as Canada’s “backyard” in a briefing to kick off the meeting.

Some Canadian observers said Harper seemed to misread the tone of the summit, where many countries – and not just the “rogue nations” such as Venezuela and Bolivia – have been feeling a strong domestic backlash against trade liberalization.

Opposition to a Free Trade Area of the Americas was the principal reason the last summit fell apart.

Carlo Dade, executive director of the Canadian Foundation for the Americas, gave Harper points for announcing a $4 billion financial guarantee for the Inter-American Bank (IDB), a move that he said took leadership in the hemisphere.

The financial crisis was by far the main preoccupation of countries represented at the summit.

But Dade said focusing on trade was an ill-advised strategy at a moment when many are resentful of trade – part of the reason figures such as Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Bolivia’s Evo Morales have emerged.

“There’s a lot of blame going on for the financial crisis on trade liberalization,” said Dade, who has been attending summit-related events. “Some countries have suffered in trade agreements with the United States and the European Union. They’re not like Canadian agreements…but (the government) hasn’t done the work to differentiate Canada from this.”

The damage that organized drug crime has inflicted on the region would have been a good topic to raise, Dade added.

Canada is seeing this reticence clearly in its dealings with Caribbean leaders. The 15 members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have been dragging their heels on a free-trade deal with Canada because they would like the deal to include funding that would adjust for any economic losses to their people as a consequence of a pact – this despite the fact Canada is the largest donor to the Caribbean region.

Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, said he and other rights organizations were disappointed that Harper did not couple his rhetoric on trade with a vision for social justice and better protection for human rights.

“It certainly does seem that’s he’s been a bit of a solitary voice around this vision of free trade being the answer to all of the woes in the Americas,” Neve said.

“It seems pretty clear that a lot of the other leaders have either moved on from there, or while still interested feel there are other more pressing priorities that really need attention here.”

Harper arrived in Jamaica Sunday evening for an official visit, where he is expected to address a joint session of Parliament.

The Venezuelan-Russia-USA Dance

We should all be noting a few things about escalating dance between the USA and Venezuela.

A few months ago, after 58 years of being a part of the larger US Second Fleet, the USA reconstituted its Fourth Fleet to enhance its presence in its traditional sphere of influence: Latin America, perhaps the most successful political opposition to the USA’s imperial positions of late, with an electoral machine opposing US hegemony virtually consistently.

And as much as Venezuela is increasing its trade relations with China, the next economic superpower after the USA economically implodes, Chavez has been talking with Russia about getting technology to become the third South American country to develop nuclear energy capacity, while working on joint naval operations with Russia.

Hawks in the USA spins this as reminiscent of one to three generations ago of the Russian Bear infiltrating the USA’s sphere of influence, the sphere itself being an inherently arrogant and imperialist assertion. The Soviet Union’s involvement in Cuba and elsewhere in Latin America freaked out the USA during the Cold War. Russian-Venezuelan cooperation on the military and nuclear energy has the potential to either provoke an increasingly desperate and declining empire to rash actions, or more hopefully, to let the increasingly more introspective and protectionist USA know that just because they are part of the Americas doesn’t mean they’re in charge.

And unlike the first 9/11 in Chile in 1973 where the Americans coordinated a coup of the democratically elected government and installed Pinochet, the hemisphere won’t go quietly.

How Many More Wars Do You Want, Anyway?

Pick a number, then vote McCain:

Some context:

Sarah Palin said two things which can be pegs for an attack ad of this kind:

1. War with Russia could happen over the Georgia conflict

2. Soldiers going to Iraq are fighting the people who killed thousands of Americans on Sept. 11.

Why I’d Rather Cast a Ballot in Venezuela than Canada or the USA

With Canada’s 19th-century first past the post electoral system and the USA’s rampant electoral fraud and conflicts of interest, voting in Venezuela seems like a tonic.

And in Venezuela’s recent referendum on political change that failed by roughly the same infinitesimal vote as Quebec’s referendum failed a decade or so ago, the North American media cabal is decrying it a triumphant victory for freedom fighters.

Despite that hyperbole, Venezuela’s democracy receives most of my envy. Why?

Here’s why:

Venezuela is Not Florida

By Mark Weisbrot

December 5, 2007, McClatchy Tribune Information Services

Last Monday, with less than 90 percent of the vote counted and the opposition leading by just 50.7 percent to 49.3 percent, President Chavez congratulated his opponents on their victory. They had defeated his proposed constitutional reforms, including the abolition of term limits for the presidency.

No one should have been surprised by Chavez’s immediate concession: Venezuela is a constitutional democracy, and its government has stuck to the democratic rules of the game since he was first elected in 1998. Despite the non-renewal of the broadcast license for a major TV station in May – one that wouldn’t have gotten a license in any democratic country – Venezuela still has the most oppositional media in the hemisphere. But the U.S. media has managed to convey the impression to most Americans that Venezuela is some sort of dictatorship or near-dictatorship.

Some of this disinformation takes place through mere repetition and association (e.g. “communist Cuba” appearing in thousands of news reports) — just as 70 percent of Americans were convinced, prior to the Iraq war, that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the massacres of September 11. In that case, the major media didn’t even believe the message, but somehow it got across and provided justification for the war.

In the case of Venezuela, the media is more pro-active, with lots of grossly exaggerated editorials and op-eds, news articles that sometimes read like editorials, and a general lack of balance in sources and subject matter.

But Venezuela is not Pakistan. In fact, it’s not Florida or Ohio either. One reason that Chavez could be confident of the vote count is that Venezuela has a very secure voting system. This is very different from the United States, where millions of citizens cast electronic votes with no paper record. Venezuelan voters mark their choice on a touch-screen machine, which then records the vote and prints out a paper receipt for the voter. The voter then deposits the vote in a ballot box. An extremely large random sample – about 54 percent – of the paper ballots are counted and compared with the electronic tally.

If the two counts match, then that is a pretty solid guarantee against electronic fraud. Any such fraud would have to rig the machines and stuff the ballot boxes to match them – a trick that strains the imagination.

In 2007, Venezuelans once again came in second for all of Latin America in the percentage of citizens who are satisfied or very satisfied with their democracy, according to the prestigious Chilean polling firm Latinobarometro – 59 percent, far above the Latin American average of 37 percent.

It is not only the secure elections that are responsible for this result – it is also that the government has delivered on its promises to share the nation’s oil wealth with the poor and the majority. For most people – unlike the pundits here – voting for something and actually getting what you voted for are also an important part of democracy.

The Bush Administration has consistently sought regime change in Venezuela, even before Chavez began regularly denouncing “the Empire.” According to the U.S. State Department, Washington funded leaders and organizations involved in the coup which briefly overthrew Chavez’s democratically elected government in April 2002. The Washington Post reported this week that the Bush Administration has been funding unnamed student groups, presumably opposition, up to and including this year.

Venezuela must be seen as undemocratic, and Chavez as the aggressor against the United States, in order to justify the Bush Administration’s objective of regime change. As in the run-up to the Iraq war, most of the major media are advancing the Administration’s goals, regardless of the intentions of individual journalists.

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C. He received his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Michigan. He is co-author, with Dean Baker, of Social Security: The Phony Crisis (University of Chicago Press, 2000), and has written numerous research papers on economic policy. He is also president of Just Foreign Policy.

USA vs. Iran and Cubazuela

When w.Caesar should be gracefully entering his presidential lame duck status and thinking about who to pardon [whoops, he already got on that with Scooter Libby], he is instead feeding warm, bleeding horse meat to the dogs of war.

From today’s Washington Post:

In approving far-reaching, new unilateral sanctions against Iran, President Bush signaled yesterday that he intends to pursue a strategy of gradually escalating financial, diplomatic and political pressure on Tehran, aimed not at starting a new war in the Middle East, his advisers said, but at preventing one. …With yesterday’s actions, which included the long-awaited designations of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction and of the elite Quds Force as a supporter of terrorism, Bush made clear that he is willing to seek such leverage even without the support of his European allies.

I seem to remember the rhetoric in late 2002. Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction and that despite all the OCD midnight rifle barrel cleaning, w.Caesar only wanted peace, until the UN Security Council wouldn’t sanction the US invasion plans making him invade with his ethereal Coalition of the Willing instead of Old Europe.

Life is rarely this simple: listen to politicians so that we can believe the opposite of what they say. w.Caesar is good for that.

Moving on to our own hemisphere, w.Caesar can’t stand anti-neoliberal, democratically elected leftist governments in Latin America.

Responding to US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who said that Hugo Chavez is a “threat to regional stability,” Venezuelan Vice-President Jorge Rodriguez affirmed that Hugo Chavez is indeed a “tremendous threat” to the “empires of the world,” and assured they would continue to be a “greater threat” as time goes on. “Of course he [Chavez] is a threat to the stability of the empires of the world, for those who consider themselves the world police, for those who think they have a right to invade countries and massively murder the population,” replied the Venezuelan vice-president to a recent statement made by Robert Gates during a visit to El Salvador. …

Gates then warned that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was mainly a “threat to the freedom and economic prosperity of the people of Venezuela.” According to Gates, Chavez “has been very generous in offering their resources to people around the world, when perhaps these resources could be better used to alleviate some of the economic problems facing the people of Venezuela.”

Gates should have said the word “rich” when he called Chavez a “threat to the freedom and economic prosperity of the rich people of Venezuela.” Conveniently, Gates ignored all domestic economic and social reform in Venezuela.

I’m not entirely comfortable with Hugo Chavez’s desire to have decree power. When he has such legislative support, I’m not sure it’s necessary. The USA criticizes Venezuela as being dictatorial, despite its electoral unambiguity compared with Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004 and hundreds of other jurisdictions with Republican electoral fraud this decade. Add to this a steaming pile of soft fascism in the USA and we get a sense of US hypocrisy: w.Caesar’s signing statements asserting which parts of legislation the executive branch will not obey, and this tasty list of Amnesty International’s worries about the land of the free and the home of the brave that sounds quite a bit like Chile after 9.11.1973:

  • Secret detention
  • Enforced disappearance
  • Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment
  • Outrages upon personal dignity, including humiliating treatment
  • Denial and restriction of habeas corpus
  • Indefinite detention without charge or trial
  • Prolonged incommunicado detention
  • Arbitrary detention
  • Unfair trial procedures

So then yesterday when w.Caesar warned the world that there will be a transition coming in Cuba [presumably when Castro dies], but Cubazuela responded assertively:

“He spoke like an imperialist and a colonialist,” said Venezuelan parliamentarian Saul Ortega about Bush’s statements. Ortega assured that the reaction to these threats will be increased unity among the people of Latin America. “In response we have to close ranks in defense of the principles of sovereignty and self-determination,” he said.

Vice-foreign minister Rodolfo Sanz assured that the United States was making a mistake with their statements towards Cuba and maintained that the “times have changed.”

“We aren’t going to sit here with our arms crossed before some diabolic adventure,” he said. Sanz assured that the Cuban people can count on support from nations like Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua, among others, stating that “Cuba is not alone.”

The boldness of the Latin American political economic agenda in the last decade is a testament to the recovery of economic shock, terror and genocide visited upon them by Milton Friedman and his neoliberal storm troopers over the last 35 years. Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine‘s final chapter talks about how when people or cultures rebuild their communities and name their oppressors when they recover from shock. This is the spirit in which Cubazuela has responded to w.Caesar’s signaling of regime change in Cuba. Let’s be honest. The US corporate interests in Cuba are legion. Cuba will become the next Haiti as Canada and the US have squashed hope into desperation there.

Words like diabolic, imperialist, colonialist, sovereignty, self-determination and the simple phrase–times have changed–indicate that a Grenada-style hemispheric military excursion into Cuba will not easily guarantee the Republicans’ retention of the White House or a recovery of Congress.

Cuba is indeed not alone. The whole hemisphere is tilted against w.Caesar with the exception of business/media elites and the apolitical or ignorant, RRSP-hoarding, gadget-worshipping [dwindling numbers of the] middle class in NAFTAland and Latin American compradors.

And with the record oil profits that w.Caesar has facilitated as he helped oil pass $80 a barrel, he has ended up funding Venezuela’s upgrading of its military.

Back to Naomi Klein, however, to follow her thesis: war is good for corporate profitability and the GDP. Peace impairs economic growth. So it might not even matter to the disaster/conflict capitalists that a war with Iran or Cubazuela is just, desirable or winnable. It’s just another opportunity to bankrupt governments and shift public wealth to global corporations.

Luckily the other Naomi [Wolf] and thousands of others including have started what will hopefully be a 54 week campaign for Americans to steal back their constitution.

The rest of our hemisphere better get on [not off!] our asses and support them in their attempt to stifle w.Caesar’s soft fascism before it grows horns and starts sending Blackwater mercenaries into US streets. Oh, I forgot. It is already be too
late for that since they’ve been in New Orleans.