Eric Zuesse, originally posted at Strategic Culture
On February 12th, the top U.N. official who monitors nations’ compliance with international human rights laws in the application of international sanctions, Alena Douhan, reported that the U.S.-and-allied sanctions against Venezuela violate a number of international laws and have greatly worsened the conditions, and even the maintenance of life, in Venezuela, and have caused millions of Venezuelans to flee the country so that they and their children can survive. Dr. Douhan is an internationally respected specialist in international human rights laws, and the website of the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights says that she is “an author of more than 120 books and articles on various aspects of international law. She has more than 40 publications (including four books) related to human rights covering inter alia issues of targeted and comprehensive sanctions; unilateral coercive measures, freedom of opinion, privacy, counter terrorism, right to development, right to education,” and other matters. The U.S. and its allies profess to endorse and embody, not to oppose and ignore, the values that the U.N. hired her to represent, but they do oppose and ignore them.
Her February 12th report, titled “Preliminary findings of the visit to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela by the Special Rapporteur”, stated that:
The Special Rapporteur considers that the state of national emergency announced by the U.S. Government on 8 March 2015 as the ground for introducing sanctions against Venezuela, and repeatedly extended, does not correspond to the requirements of art. 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, such as the existence of a threat to the life of the nation, the limiting of measures to the exigencies of the situation, a limited duration, the absence of discrimination, the prohibition to derogate from the right to life and the prohibition of punishment of activity that does not constitute a criminal offence, as referred to in the communication of human rights experts of 29 January 2021.
The Special Rapporteur underlines that unilateral sanctions against the oil, gold, mining and other economic sectors, the state-owned airline and the TV industry constitute a violation of international law, and their wrongfulness is not excluded with reference to countermeasures. The announced purpose of the “maximum pressure” campaign – to change the Government of Venezuela – violates the principle of sovereign equality of states and constitutes an intervention in the domestic affairs of Venezuela that also affects its regional relations.
Referring to customary norms on the immunity of state property, the Special Rapporteur reminds that assets of the Central Bank and property used for public functions belong to the state of Venezuela rather than to its Government or any individual. Therefore, freezing assets of the Central Bank of Venezuela on the ground of non-recognition of its Government as well as the adoption of relevant sanctions violates the sovereign rights of the country and impedes its effective government to exercise its duty to guarantee the needs of the population.
The Special Rapporteur underlines that the listing of state officials ex officio contradicts the prohibition on punishment for activity which does not constitute a criminal offence, prevents the officials from the possibility to represent the interests of Venezuela in international courts and other international institutions, and undermines the principle of sovereign equality of states. She also notes that repeated refusals of banks in the United States, the United Kingdom and Portugal to release Venezuelan assets even for buying medicine, vaccines and protective kits, under the control of international organizations, violates the above principle and impedes the ability of Venezuela to respond to the COVID-19 emergency.
The Special Rapporteur is concerned that unilateral targeted sanctions in their existing form violate at the very least obligations emerging from universal and regional instruments in the sphere of human rights, many of which are of a peremptory character – procedural guarantees and presumption of innocence with a view that the grounds for their introduction do not constitute for the most part international crimes or comply with the grounds for universal criminal jurisdiction, while noting the fact of the submission to the International Criminal Court by a group of states of a referral against Venezuela on 27 September 2018.
The Special Rapporteur underlines that applying extraterritorial jurisdiction to nationals and companies of third states for cooperation with public authorities, nationals and companies in Venezuela, and alleged threats to such third-state parties, is not justified under international law and increases the risks of over-compliance with sanctions. The Special Rapporteur notes with concern the reported threats to private business and third-country donors, partners and humanitarian organizations, and the introduction of secrecy clauses in the Venezuela Anti-Blockade Constitutional Law as concerns the identity of corresponding partners.
Impact on enjoyment of human rights:
The Special Rapporteur notes with concern that sectoral sanctions on the oil, gold and mining industries, the economic blockade of Venezuela and the freezing of Central Bank assets have exacerbated pre-existing economic and humanitarian situation by preventing the earning of revenues and the use of resources to develop and maintain infrastructure and for social support programs, which has a devastating effect on the whole population of Venezuela, especially those in extreme poverty, women, children, medical workers, people with disabilities or life-threatening or chronic diseases, and the indigenous population.
The Special Rapporteur underlines that existing humanitarian exemptions are ineffective and insufficient, subject to lengthy and costly procedures, and do not cover the delivery of spare parts, equipment and machinery necessary for maintenance and restoration of the economy and public services. …
The Special Rapporteur underlines that the blocking of property, assets and bank accounts of citizens of Venezuela by foreign and correspondent banks, quite often because of over-compliance, results in the violation of the right to property. She also notes with concern that the application of unilateral sanctions against Venezuela affects the rights of third-country nationals, in particular, the termination of contracts with third-country companies has the potential risk of affecting economic and property rights of their owners and employees; and the absence of contributions from Venezuela, which used to donate to regional assistance projects (e.g. ALBA), is negatively affecting the right to humanitarian aid of its beneficiaries beyond Venezuela’s borders.
The Special Rapporteur recognises that targeted and secondary sanctions violate rights to a fair trial, procedural guarantees, freedom of movement, property rights and the right to reputation. Sanctions against representatives of opposition groups for participation in elections violate their right to hold and express opinions, and to participate in public affairs.
In short, the U.S. regime has blocked even the possibility of democracy in Venezuela, and has done this by itself violating international laws. The U.S. Government is behaving as an international thug, and it lies to say that it supports the rule of law in international affairs; it is supporting, instead, the rule of force in international affairs; it is today’s Nazi regime, attacking and destroying countries that had posed no danger whatsoever to itself, and trying to control every nation for the benefit of America’s aristocracy. Yet, U.S.-and-allied ‘news’-media, with only one exception, hid instead of reported what she had said. Consequently, the U.S., and its allies, have the world’s most untrustworthy ‘news’-media, which systematically hide (instead of report) this ugly reality to their public. Obviously, such a regime cannot possibly be a democracy, because their public are being lied-to by the regime. That’s how America and its allies came to invade and destroy Iraq, and that’s the way things clearly are today. The U.S. regime is voracious; it is imperialistic; and it is psychopathic.
In fact, Dr. Douhan greatly understated how much the U.S.-and-allied regimes have been and are perpetrating international-law violations against Venezuela, because nothing in her report even so much as mentioned the biggest of all violations of international law, which was the violation for which the Nazis were prosecuted and executed at the Nuremberg Tribunals after World War II, which was “Aggressive War” — the perpetration of attacking against a nation that has not attacked one’s own nation.
Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting headlined on March 10th, “UN Rebuke of US Sanctions on Venezuela Met With Stunning Silence” (from U.S.-and-allied ‘news’-media) and closed by saying that,
Keeping with tradition, Douhan’s damning report has been met with stunning silence by establishment media outlets. Neither the Guardian, New York Times, Washington Post nor BBC reported on Douhan’s findings, leaving the task primarily to alternative media (Venezuelanalysis, 2/15/21; Canary, 2/13/21). (CNN—2/13/21—had an exceptional report focused on the UN report, which noted Douhan’s statement that sanctions “constitute violations of international law.”)
The issue is not that Western media are uninterested in Venezuela. In February 2019, the month after Juan Guaidó declared himself president, the Guardian published 67 separate articles about Venezuela, regularly citing the UN on Venezuela’s economic and humanitarian conditions—signaling Maduro’s sole responsibility for a crisis about which something must surely be done.
For example, the Guardian (2/27/19) reported in 2019, “The UN’s political and peace building chief, Rosemary DiCarlo, depicted a devastating collapse in Venezuela’s health system”—while making no reference to sanctions.
Similarly, the New York Times, whose editorial board had supported 10 out of 12 US-backed coups in Latin America since 1954, has regularly covered the deteriorating economic situation in Venezuela with—at best—only fleeting reference to US and European sanctions.
The New York Times (12/5/20), for instance, described how “Yajaira Paz, 35, has lost nearly everything” to the Venezuelan economic crisis: “her mother, dead from a heart problem she could not afford to treat; her brothers, to migration; her faith in democracy, to the nation’s crippled institutions” — omitting any mention of sanctions.
The Washington Post Magazine (3/3/21) reports that “most Venezuelans eat fewer than two meals a day”–but doesn’t mention that it’s US government policy to make their lives worse.
The Washington Post Magazine’s emotive article also noted how “the pandemic wore away even more access to basic necessities in a country racked by deepening poverty and crisis,” blaming “the national mismanagement of resources” and, again, ignoring the existence of sanctions.
Corporate media thus consistently emphasizes the gravity of Venezuela’s humanitarian situation while overlooking crucial evidence on the catastrophic impact of sanctions, fortifying the very narratives deployed to justify the economic siege against Venezuela.
The collective silence over Douhan’s report is only the most recent case of propaganda by omission on Venezuela. By refusing to acknowledge Washington and London’s fundamental role in making Venezuela’s “economy scream,” corporate media play a key part in manufacturing consent for regime change.
I looked to find whether the London Times or Telegraph — UK’s equivalents to America’s Washington Post and New York Times — had reported on Douhan’s report, and I found that they had not. Then I searched to find whether Reuters had, and found that they had published, on February 12th, not a news-report about the matter, but instead a brazen propaganda-report about it, headlining “U.N. envoy urges U.S. to relax Venezuela sanctions, drawing opposition rebuke”, which propaganda failed so much as even to mention the Special Rapporteur’s central allegation, of rampant international-law violations by the U.S. and its allies against Venezuela in these sanctions. The Reuters ’news’ came entirely from enemies of Venezuela’s Government, and closed with
“We regret the rapporteur’s imprecisions and the lack of mention of subjects like corruption, inefficiency, political violence and the use of hunger as a tool of social and political control,” Miguel Pizarro, opposition leader Juan Guaido’s envoy to the United Nations, wrote on Twitter.
“That is allowing oneself to be used for regime’s propaganda.”
U.S. Ambassador for Venezuela James Story – who is based in neighboring Colombia, as the two countries cut off diplomatic ties in 2019 – wrote on Twitter on Thursday that Venezuela’s crisis was due to “the regime’s corruption,” noting that the sanctions exempted humanitarian goods.
The Special Rapporteur’s report had made mention of those very same allegations by the U.S.-and-allied team, and noted that such non-adjudicated allegations have no legal standing whatsoever, and that
The Special Rapporteur underlines that existing humanitarian exemptions are ineffective and insufficient, subject to lengthy and costly procedures, and do not cover the delivery of spare parts, equipment and machinery necessary for maintenance and restoration of the economy and public services.
The Special Rapporteur is concerned that the application of extraterritorial secondary sanctions [punishments against countries and companies that refuse to comply with the U.S. regime’s sanctions against Venezuela] as well as the reported threats of sanctions, result in over-compliance with existing sanctions regimes, preventing the Government of Venezuela, its public sector and private companies from purchasing machinery, spare parts, medicine, food, agricultural supplies and other essential goods even within the licenses issues by the U.S. Government, and also result in a growing number of bank transfer refusals, the extension of bank transfer periods (from 2 to 45 days), higher delivery, insurance and bank transfer costs, as well as reported price rises for all (especially imported) goods.
The Special Rapporteur notes with concern that the absence of resources and reluctance of foreign partners, banks and delivery companies to deal with Venezuelan partners results in the impossibility to buy necessary medical and technological equipment, reagents and spare parts for the repair and maintenance of electricity, gas, water, public transport, telephone and communication systems, schools, hospitals, houses and other public institutions, thus undermining the enjoyment of many human rights, including the right to a decent life.
In other words: reading the Reuters ’news’-report is merely reading lies, instead of news.
Not only do the U.S. and its allies have ’news’-media that aren’t more reliable than those in other dictatorial regimes, but the U.S. itself has the world’s highest percentage of its people living in prisons, and if that doesn’t indicate a police-state, then nothing does. America is a one-dollar-one-vote country, an aristocracy, not a democracy, and any nation that’s internationally allied to it is only another of its vassal nations, no democracy itself. Imperialism is international dictatorship, and that’s what the U.S. now is. All of its alliances need to be terminated — especially NATO. Either the U.N. will continue to be just an international talking-forum, having no actual power over or to impose international law, or else NATO will be ended, because only the international thugs have power in the international realm, at present. Any nation that remains in NATO is vassalizing itself to the world’s most aggressive nation, America. It’s in the spirit of Hitler, not in the spirit of FDR.
Any country which remains allied with the U.S. regime is plain evil. How can the American people tolerate such a dictatorship? On March 11th, a Democratic Party website, Political Wire, headlined “Impasse Over Iran Nuclear Talks Sets Off Scramble”, and virtually all of the reader-comments were blaming only the Republican Trump for this situation, not the Democrat Biden, for it, though this is Biden’s action, not Trump’s. The partisanship isn’t really about good versus bad, but about Democrat versus Republican. Thus, a brainwashed public is easy for the billionaires to control, so that both Parties represent, actually, only the billionaires’ interests, not the public’s interests. Just as the Nazi regime played the German people for suckers, today’s American regime plays the American people for suckers.
Here’s how evil the U.S. is, and how tolerant of it the American people are: the only good thing that President Barack Obama did was the Iran nuclear deal, to end the punishing sanctions against Iran if Iran would allow in IAEA inspectors and not move toward developing nuclear warheads; but Obama’s successor Donald Trump tore it up; and now Trump’s successor, Joe Biden, is demanding that Iran — which hadn’t broken the deal, the U.S. did — must make additional concessions first, weaken its missile-delivery systems, before the U.S. regime will even consider to negotiate with Iran to restore the Iran nuclear deal. In other words: Biden is effectively continuing Trump, by demanding Iran to make concessions even before negotiations start — a nonstarter, which Iran cannot accept, and no sovereign nation could accept. This behavior by the U.S. regime continues decades of U.S. imperialism against Iran. America stole Iran from the people of Iran, in a 1953 CIA coup, and after the Iranian people grabbed their country back in 1979, America’s aristocracy have been ceaselessly trying to steal it from them yet again. And yet the U.S. regime has the gall to blame Iran, not blame America’s own billionaires (the beneficiaries of U.S. imperialism and wars); and, so, Democrats blame Republicans, and Republicans blame Democrats, instead of Americans blaming their own actual dictators (the billionaires who fund both of the dictatorship’s Parties).
Will Europeans continue being allied with today’s Nazi regime? What news-media in the U.S. and in its vassal nations report these realities? Is that not a total blockade against truth?
Furthermore, on March 13th, the brilliant geostrategic analyst Alexander Mercouris headlined an 18-minute video report, “Israel v. Iran in Syria: Israel’s Covert War on Iran’s tankers” and penetrated behind the surface U.S.-and-allied reporting on the publicly unannounced change by the U.S. regime and its allies, to replace the U.S. gang’s prior hiring of jihadist mercenaries to bring down Syria’s Government, to instead impose a blockade against Syria so as to starve-out the Syrian people, as the new way to conquer Syria. Of course, what he reports there is not reported in U.S.-and-allied media.
How can democracy exist in a nation where none of the mainstream media, and few even of the non-mainstream media, are reporting the realities that all of the controlling billionaires want the public not to know? How can that be a democracy? It can’t.
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.