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US meddled in Venezuelan elections, says Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza in new interview

Election meddling is fine when America does it, just don’t do it to them

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Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Jorge Arreaza, talked about how the US embassy and American diplomats meddled in Venezuela’s elections, calling for the opposition to boycott the elections in a bid to undermine its legitimacy, in a recent interview with Deutsche Welle.

Western media, in attempts to parrot the illegitimacy claims, have often pointed to the boycotts that much of the opposition carried out.

But if we take Arreaza at his word, then it would seem to appear that these boycotts were an attempt by Western diplomats to meddle in the elections of Venezuela.

Meanwhile, the American media has been bashing Russia right and left over alleged meddling in America’s 2016 presidential election.

As far as American media is concerned, then, election meddling is fine when they’re ones doing it, just don’t do it to them.

Some of the topics covered in this interview include US-Venezuela relations, recent elections, US threats of regime change, Venezuelan economic model, and others. The text of the interview is included below:

Venezuela is mired in crises. Its foreign minister, Jorge Arreaza, spoke to DW about how the opposition and the US have brought the country to the brink of ruin and why the Maduro’s government stands behind socialism.

Deutsche Welle: Let’s begin with the electoral results and voter participation. Venezuela appears to have seen the lowest participation rate since the start of the Revolution. How do you explain this?

Foreign Minister Arreaza: This was a difficult election held in the middle of not only a boycott from the opposition, but also an internal aggression against our economy, against the Venezuelan people. But of course there’s also external aggression from the US and from the governments that are subordinate to the US government.

When you see on TV that 14 countries in Latin America and the US government and the EU believe that these elections aren’t fair, then of course that has an effect on the people. If you listen to the leaders of the opposition saying that they will not participate in the election, you might even think, why should I vote if President Nicolas Maduro already won? I will support Maduro, but why should I go to vote if he has already won? And in spite of that, our voter participation corresponds to the average participation rate Latin America. And other countries haven’t seen a boycott likes ours. If this had happened in Chile or Columbia the participation figure would have been 10 percent. So here we have almost half of the registered voters and the US did everything it could do to stop the people from voting.

You mentioned Latin America and the US. All of these countries claim that the vote was unfair and undemocratic.

It’s very strange because, first of all, it’s the elites – not our neighboring countries – who are responding to the interests and orders of the elite in Washington. The people in Latin America don’t have anything against Venezuela or the Bolivarian Revolution. So what we saw is people predicting the future saying that the elections wouldn’t be fair months before the elections were even held. What they did was create the conditions to then say that the elections were unfair. The electoral system in Venezuela is the best one, maybe in the world.

There have been reports that small stations called “red points” were set up on election day where people were given food in exchange for proving that they had voted.

That is not true. There is not absolutely proof of that. These stations are traditionally used by both sides in Venezuela. The opposition set up “yellow points” during the 2013 elections. It’s also very common in other Latin American countries. In Costa Rica, for example, the political parties are inside the electoral centers.

How do you imagine the future with the US after the diplomatic sanctions? You have already expelled two US diplomats.

It is the least we can do. They have tried to impose what it are usually refered to as “sanctions.” The only goal is to make you do what they want you to do. This is what has happened with Iran, and with other Asian and African countries. And this is harming Venezuela and its economy. It’s difficult for us to buy medicine and food. It’s difficult for us to get our oil pay back, our oil which is sent by ships. It’s difficult to know when they are going to pay for the oil because the banks don’t want to work with the Venezuelan state and companies. The charge d’affaires, Todd Robinson, was a political actor during in recent months. He pressed the opposition not to participate in the elections. He pressed the candidate Henri Falcón to withdraw before the elections. The US embassy has done this before in every single country. But here in Venezuela we don’t accept that.

Are you still open to dialogue with the US?

If the US respects international law and our country, we can have a dialogue with whom ever. They are the ones who do not respect us. We even respect President Trump. It’s their problem, their sovereignty, their people who have chosen him. But if he attacks us, we have to respond.

President Maduro said in the National Constitutional Assembly that Trump looks like a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

He is. It is the extreme right that is in power in the US. They are racist, supremacist. They believe whites Americans are superior to everyone, not only in the world but also within the US. And they have links to all these extremists groups. The US’s decision is in part because they don’t like the Venezuelan Revolution and in part because they are racist.

A US senator said that the world would accept an armed coup d’etat by moving President Maduro out of the country. Are you afraid?

Latin America is used to this. Whereever the US is in Latin America and the Caribbean, it tries to make the governments do whatever it wants. This has happened before but we aren’t afraid. It’s a part of their history. They tried it for 60 years with Fidel in Cuba. That’s why we have to defend our sovereignty.

We are seeing a mass exodus of young qualified people leaving the country. There is also huge economic problem and a humanitarian emergency. Don’t you think it’s the right time to change Hugo Chavez’s economic model?

The economic sector that we have in Venezuela emerged through capitalism. The property of Venezuelan companies is almost the same as before the Revolution. This is not socialism – we are far from socialism. We have not proved the socialist model, we have only made some decisions and taken some steps, but we are far from our goals because the capitalist sector is against that model. That’s why we have these problems in our country.

What are you going to do?

We have to control the economy in every single way. We have to work with the private sector, we have to regulate it. If they want to comply with the law and to protect our people, they are welcome. If they want to wage war against our people and against the legitimate government, then we have to make the decisions that we have to make.

We believe that the private sector is very important in the socialism that we are trying to build. But if the private sector wants to stage a coup and wants the people to be poor, it is not allowed to play the game. During the coup in 2002, they appointed the head of the commerce chamber president. The private sector and the opposition are the same internally. Those are the people that have taken to the streets and have killed people, destroyed public buildings and private property. They have affected the economy. They are against our model and don’t play fair. They don’t respect the law. If that are willing to respect the law, then we invite them even to be main players in the future of Venezuela. If they want to keep on trying to make the people suffer and to remove the president, then they are out of the game. There is only one direction, we have a project, the Homeland Plan, “El plan de la Patria.” The private sector is included, if they want.

The EU expects the release of political prisoners. What are you going to do?

In December, more than 60 of these criminals were released and now President Maduro is also taking the steps to prepare for more releases. I’m sure that most of the people who are interested in Venezuelan news weren’t aware of this. Our good actions are censored by the international community. In the National Constitutional Assembly we have a Peace, Dialogue and Truth Commission and we are examining every case separately with judicial power.

I have heard Maduro tell the Assembly: “We are not doing things right, transformation of the leadership, of the Revolution is necessary.”

The Venezuelan Revolution has always been based upon self criticism. Comandante Chavez had three R’s: revision, rectification and reinvigoration of the party. What President Maduro is saying is true. We have great tools: We protect the Venezuelan people; we are building more than 2 million housing solution; we are giving people subsidies directly; we protect children and the elderly; we have free health and education. But we have to do it better.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Jorge Arreaza is Venezuela’s minister of foreign affairs.

In a post election environment for Venezuela, the US and its regional allies are continuing with their program of hostility towards the oil bearing Latin American nation. In fact, the program isn’t significantly different from that which is employed against Iran. In both cases, the nations contain vast oil reserves, in both cases, the US has led regime change attempts, and in both cases, the outcome was a defensive stance against American aggression.

 

 

 

 

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EXPLOSIVE: Michael Cohen sentencing memo exposes serial liar with nothing to offer Mueller (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 38.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at the Michael Cohen sentencing memo which paints the picture of a man who was not as close to Trump as he made it out to be…a serial liar and cheat who leveraged his thin connections to the Trump organization for money and fame.

It was Cohen himself who proudly labelled himself as Trump’s “fixer”. The sentencing memo hints at the fact that even Mueller finds no value to Cohen in relation to the ongoing Trump-Russia witch hunt investigation.

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Via Axios

Special counsel Robert Mueller and federal prosecutors in New York have each submitted sentencing memos for President Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, after Cohen pleaded guilty in two different cases related to his work for Trump and the Trump Organization.

The big picture: The Southern District of New York recommended Cohen serve a range of 51 to 63 months for four crimes — “willful tax evasion, making false statements to a financial institution, illegal campaign contributions, and making false statements to Congress.” Mueller, meanwhile, did not take a position on the length of Cohen’s statement, but said he has made substantial efforts to assist the investigation.

Southern District of New York

Mueller investigation

Michael J. Stern, a federal prosecutor with the Justice Department for 25 years in Detroit and Los Angeles noted via USA Today

In support of their request that he serve no time in prison, Cohen’s attorneys offered a series of testimonials from friends who described the private Michael Cohen as a “truly caring” man with a “huge heart” who is not only “an upstanding, honorable, salt of the earth man” but also a “selfless caretaker.”

The choirboy portrayed by Cohen’s lawyers stands in sharp opposition to Cohen’s public persona as Trump’s legal bulldog, who once threatened a reporter with: “What I’m going to do to you is going to be f—ing disgusting. Do you understand me?”

Prosecutors focused their sentencing memo on Cohen as Mr. Hyde. Not only did they detail Cohen’s illegal activities, which include millions of dollars of fraud, they also recognized the public damage that stemmed from his political crimes — describing Cohen as “a man who knowingly sought to undermine core institutions of our democracy.”

Rebuffing efforts by Cohen’s attorneys to recast him as a good guy who made a few small mistakes, prosecutors cited texts, statements of witnesses, recordings, documents and other evidence that proved Cohen got ahead by employing a “pattern of deception that permeated his professional life.” The prosecutors attributed Cohen’s crimes to “personal greed,” an effort to “increase his power and influence,” and a desire to maintain his “opulent lifestyle.”

Perhaps the most damning reveal in the U.S. Attorney’s sentencing memo is that Cohen refused to fully cooperate. That’s despite his public relations campaign to convince us that he is a new man who will cooperate with any law enforcement authority, at any time, at any place.

As a former federal prosecutor who handled hundreds of plea deals like Cohen’s, I can say it is extremely rare for any credit to be recommended when a defendant decides not to sign a full cooperation deal. The only reason for a refusal would be to hide information. The prosecutors said as much in their sentencing memo: Cohen refused “to be debriefed on other uncharged criminal conduct, if any, in his past,” and “further declined” to discuss “other areas of investigative interest.”

 

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Canada to Pay Heavy Price for Trudeau’s Groupie Role in US Banditry Against China

Trudeau would had to have known about the impending plot to snatch Huawei CFO Wanzhou and moreover that he personally signed off on it.

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Authored by Finian Cunningham via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


You do have to wonder about the political savvy of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government. The furious fallout from China over the arrest of a senior telecoms executive is going to do severe damage to Canadian national interests.

Trudeau’s fawning over American demands is already rebounding very badly for Canada’s economy and its international image.

The Canadian arrest – on behalf of Washington – of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei, seems a blatant case of the Americans acting politically and vindictively. If the Americans are seen to be acting like bandits, then the Canadians are their flunkies.

Wanzhou was detained on December 1 by Canadian federal police as she was boarding a commercial airliner in Vancouver. She was reportedly handcuffed and led away in a humiliating manner which has shocked the Chinese government, media and public.

The business executive has since been released on a $7.4 million bail bond, pending further legal proceedings. She is effectively being kept under house arrest in Canada with electronic ankle tagging.

To add insult to injury, it is not even clear what Wanzhou is being prosecuted for. The US authorities have claimed that she is guilty of breaching American sanctions against Iran by conducting telecoms business with Tehran. It is presumed that the Canadians arrested Wanzhou at the request of the Americans. But so far a US extradition warrant has not been filed. That could take months. In the meantime, the Chinese businesswoman will be living under curfew, her freedom denied.

Canadian legal expert Christopher Black says there is no juridical case for Wanzhou’s detention. The issue of US sanctions on Iran is irrelevant and has no grounds in international law. It is simply the Americans applying their questionable national laws on a third party. Black contends that Canada has therefore no obligation whatsoever to impose those US laws regarding Iran in its territory, especially given that Ottawa and Beijing have their own separate bilateral diplomatic relations.

In any case, what the real issue is about is the Americans using legal mechanisms to intimidate and beat up commercial rivals. For months now, Washington has made it clear that it is targeting Chinese telecoms rivals as commercial competitors in a strategic sector. US claims about China using telecoms for “spying” and “infiltrating” American national security are bogus propaganda ruses to undermine these commercial rivals through foul means.

It also seems clear from US President Donald Trump’s unsubtle comments this week to Reuters, saying he would “personally intervene” in the Meng case “if it helped trade talks with China”, that the Huawei executive is being dangled like a bargaining chip. It was a tacit admission by Trump that the Americans really don’t have a legal case against her.

Canada’s foreign minister Chrystia Freeland bounced into damage limitation mode following Trump’s thuggish comments. She said that the case should not be “politicized” and that the legal proceedings should not be tampered with. How ironic is that?

The whole affair has been politicized from the very beginning. Meng’s arrest, or as Christopher Black calls it “hostage-taking”, is driven by Washington’s agenda of harassment against China for commercial reasons, under a legal pretext purportedly about Iranian sanctions.

When Trump revealed the cynical expediency of him “helping to free Wanzhou”, then the Canadians realized they were also being exposed for the flunkies that they are for American banditry. That’s why Freeland was obliged to quickly adopt the fastidious pretense of legal probity.

Canadian premier Justin Trudeau has claimed that he wasn’t aware of the American request for Wanzhou’s detention. Trudeau is being pseudo. For such a high-profile infringement against a senior Chinese business leader, Ottawa must have been fully briefed by the Americans. Christopher Black, the legal expert, believes that Trudeau would had to have known about the impending plot to snatch Wanzhou and moreover that he personally signed off on it.

What Trudeau and his government intended to get out of performing this sordid role for American thuggery is far from clear. Maybe after being verbally mauled by Trump as “weak and dishonest” at the G7 summit earlier this year, in June, Trudeau decided it was best to roll over and be a good little puppy for the Americans in their dirty deed against China.

But already it has since emerged that Canada is going to pay a very heavy price indeed for such dubious service to Washington. Beijing has warned that it will take retaliation against both Washington and Ottawa. And it is Ottawa that is more vulnerable to severe repercussions.

This week saw two Canadian citizens, one a former diplomat, detained in China on spying charges.

Canadian business analysts are also warning that Beijing can inflict harsh economic penalties on Ottawa. An incensed Chinese public have begun boycotting Canadian exports and sensitive Canadian investments in China are now at risk from being blocked by Beijing. A proposed free trade deal that was being negotiated between Ottawa and Beijing now looks dead in the water.

And if Trudeau’s government caves in to the excruciating economic pressure brought to bear by Beijing and then abides by China’s demand to immediately release Meng Wanzhou, Ottawa will look like a pathetic, gutless lackey to Washington. Canada’s reputation of being a liberal, independent state will be shredded. Even then the Chinese are unlikely to forget Trudeau’s treachery.

With comic irony, there’s a cringemaking personal dimension to this unseemly saga.

During the 197os when Trudeau’s mother Margaret was a thirty-something socialite heading for divorce from his father, then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, she was often in the gossip media for indiscretions at nightclubs. Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards claims in his autobiography that Margaret Trudeau was a groupie for the band, having flings with Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood. Her racy escapades and louche lifestyle brought shame to many Canadians.

Poor Margaret Trudeau later wound up divorced, disgraced, financially broke and scraping a living from scribbling tell-all books.

Justin, her eldest son, is finding out that being a groupie for Washington’s banditry is also bringing disrepute for him and his country.

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US Commits To “Indefinite” Occupation Of Syria; Controls Region The Size Of Croatia

Raqqa is beginning to look more and more like Baghdad circa 2005.

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Via Zerohedge


“We don’t want the Americans. It’s occupation” — a Syrian resident in US-controlled Raqqa told Stars and Stripes military newspaper. This as the Washington Post noted this week that “U.S. troops will now stay in Syria indefinitely, controlling a third of the country and facing peril on many fronts.”

Like the “forever war” in Afghanistan, will we be having the same discussion over the indefinite occupation of Syria stretching two decades from now? A new unusually frank assessment in Stars and Stripes bluntly lays out the basic facts concerning the White House decision to “stay the course” until the war’s close:

That decision puts U.S. troops in overall control, perhaps indefinitely, of an area comprising nearly a third of Syria, a vast expanse of mostly desert terrain roughly the size of Louisiana.

The Pentagon does not say how many troops are there. Officially, they number 503, but earlier this year an official let slip that the true number may be closer to 4,000

A prior New Yorker piece described the US-occupied area east of the Euphrates as “an area about the size of Croatia.” With no Congressional vote, no public debate, and not even so much as an official presidential address to the nation, the United States is settling in for another endless occupation of sovereign foreign soil while relying on the now very familiar post-911 AUMF fig leaf of “legality”.

Like the American public and even some Pentagon officials of late have been pointing out for years regarding Afghanistan, do US forces on the ground even know what the mission is? The mission may be undefined and remain ambiguously to “counter Iran”, yet the dangers and potential for major loss in blood and treasure loom larger than ever.

According to Stars and Stripes the dangerous cross-section of powder keg conflicts and geopolitical players means “a new war” is on the horizon:

The new mission raises new questions, about the role they will play and whether their presence will risk becoming a magnet for regional conflict and insurgency.

The area is surrounded by powers hostile both to the U.S. presence and the aspirations of the Kurds, who are governing the majority-Arab area in pursuit of a leftist ideology formulated by an imprisoned Turkish Kurdish leader. Signs that the Islamic State is starting to regroup and rumblings of discontent within the Arab community point to the threat of an insurgency.

Without the presence of U.S. troops, these dangers would almost certainly ignite a new war right away, said Ilham Ahmed, a senior official with the Self-Administration of North and East Syria, as the self-styled government of the area is called.

“They have to stay. If they leave and there isn’t a solution for Syria, it will be catastrophic,” she said.

But staying also heralds risk, and already the challenges are starting to mount.
So a US-backed local politician says the US can’t leave or there will be war, while American defense officials simultaneously recognize they are occupying the very center of an impending insurgency from hell — all of which fits the textbook definition of quagmire perfectly.

The New Yorker: “The United States has built a dozen or more bases from Manbij to Al-Hasakah, including four airfields, and American-backed forces now control all of Syria east of the Euphrates, an area about the size of Croatia.”

But in September the White House announced a realignment of its official priorities in Syria, namely to act “as a bulwark against Iran’s expanding influence.” This means the continued potential and likelihood of war with Syria, Iran, and Russia in the region is ever present, per Stripes:

Syrian government troops and Iranian proxy fighters are to the south and west. They have threatened to take the area back by force, in pursuit of President Bashar Assad’s pledge to bring all of Syria under government control.

Already signs of an Iraq-style insurgency targeting US forces in eastern Syria are beginning to emerge.

In Raqqa, the largest Syrian city at the heart of US occupation and reconstruction efforts, the Stripes report finds the following:

The anger on the streets is palpable. Some residents are openly hostile to foreign visitors, which is rare in other towns and cities freed from Islamic State control in Syria and Iraq. Even those who support the presence of the U.S. military and the SDF say they are resentful that the United States and its partners in the anti-ISIS coalition that bombed the city aren’t helping to rebuild.

And many appear not to support their new rulers.

We don’t want the Americans. It’s occupation,” said one man, a tailor, who didn’t want to give his name because he feared the consequences of speaking his mind. “I don’t know why they had to use such a huge number of weapons and destroy the city. Yes, ISIS was here, but we paid the price. They have a responsibility.”

Recent reports out of the Pentagon suggests defense officials simply want to throw more money into US efforts in Syria, which are further focused on training and supplying the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (or Kurdish/YPG-dominated SDF), which threatens confrontation with Turkey as its forces continue making preparations for a planned attack on Kurdish enclaves in Syria this week.

Meanwhile, Raqqa is beginning to look more and more like Baghdad circa 2005:

Everyone says the streets are not safe now. Recent months have seen an uptick in assassinations and kidnappings, mostly targeting members of the security forces or people who work with the local council. But some critics of the authorities have been gunned down, too, and at night there are abductions and robberies.

As America settles in for yet another endless and “indefinite” occupation of a Middle East country, perhaps all that remains is for the president to land on an aircraft carrier with “Mission Accomplished” banners flying overhead?

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