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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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Foreign Banks Are Embracing Russia’s Alternative To SWIFT, Moscow Says

Given its status as a major energy exporter, Russia has leverage that could help attract partners to its new SWIFT alternative.

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Via Zerohedge


On Friday, one day after Russia and China pledged to reduce their reliance on the dollar by increasing the amount of bilateral trade conducted in rubles and yuan (a goal toward which much progress has already been made over the past three years), Russia’s Central Bank provided the latest update on Moscow’s alternative to US-dominated international payments network SWIFT.

Moscow started working on the project back in 2014, when international sanctions over Russia’s annexation of Crimea inspired fears that the country’s largest banks would soon be cut off from SWIFT which, though it’s based in Belgium and claims to be politically neutral, is effectively controlled by the US Treasury.

Today, the Russian alternative, known as the System for Transfer of Financial Messages, has attracted a modest amount of support within the Russian business community, with 416 Russian companies having joined as of September, including the Russian Federal Treasury and large state corporations likeGazprom Neft and Rosneft.

And now, eight months after a senior Russian official advised that “our banks are ready to turn off SWIFT,” it appears the system has reached another milestone in its development: It’s ready to take on international partners in the quest to de-dollarize and end the US’s leverage over the international financial system. A Russian official advised that non-residents will begin joining the system “this year,” according to RT.

“Non-residents will start connecting to us this year. People are already turning to us,”said First Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Russia Olga Skorobogatova. Earlier, the official said that by using the alternative payment system foreign firms would be able to do business with sanctioned Russian companies.

Turkey, China, India and others are among the countries that might be interested in a SWIFT alternative, as Russian President Vladimir Putin pointed out in a speech earlier this month, the US’s willingness to blithely sanction countries from Iran to Venezuela and beyond will eventually rebound on the US economy by undermining the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency.

To be sure, the Russians aren’t the only ones building a SWIFT alternative to help avoid US sanctions. Russia and China, along with the European Union are launching an interbank payments network known as the Special Purpose Vehicle to help companies pursue “legitimate business with Iran” in defiance of US sanctions.

Given its status as a major energy exporter, Russia has leverage that could help attract partners to its new SWIFT alternative. For one, much of Europe is dependent on Russian natural gas and oil.

And as Russian trade with other US rivals increases, Moscow’s payments network will look increasingly attractive,particularly if buyers of Russian crude have no other alternatives to pay for their goods.

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US leaving INF will put nuclear non-proliferation at risk & may lead to ‘complete chaos’

The US is pulling out of a nuclear missile pact with Russia. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty requires both countries to eliminate their short and medium-range atomic missiles.

The Duran

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Via RT


If the US ditches the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), it could collapse the entire nuclear non-proliferation system, and bring nuclear war even closer, Russian officials warn.

By ending the INF, Washington risks creating a domino effect which could endanger other landmark deals like the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and collapse the existing non-proliferation mechanism as we know it, senior lawmaker Konstantin Kosachev said on Sunday.

The current iteration of the START treaty, which limits the deployment of all types of nuclear weapons, is due to expire in 2021. Kosachev, who chairs the Parliament’s Upper House Foreign Affairs Committee, warned that such an outcome pits mankind against “complete chaos in terms of nuclear weapons.”

“Now the US Western allies face a choice: either embarking on the same path, possibly leading to new war, or siding with common sense, at least for the sake of their self-preservation instinct.”

His remarks came after US President Donald Trump announced his intentions to “terminate” the INF, citing alleged violations of the deal by Russia.

Moscow has repeatedly denied undermining the treaty, pointing out that Trump has failed to produce any evidence of violations. Moreover, Russian officials insist that the deployment of US-made Mk 41 ground-based universal launching systems in Europe actually violates the agreement since the launchers are capable of firing mid-range cruise missiles.

Leonid Slutsky, who leads the Foreign Affairs Committee in parliament’s lower chamber, argued that Trump’s words are akin to placing “a huge mine under the whole disarmament process on the planet.”

The INF Treaty was signed in 1987 by then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The deal effectively bans the parties from having and developing short- and mid-range missiles of all types. According to the provisions, the US was obliged to destroy Pershing I and II launcher systems and BGM-109G Gryphon ground-launched cruise missiles. Moscow, meanwhile, pledged to remove the SS-20 and several other types of missiles from its nuclear arsenal.

Pershing missiles stationed in the US Army arsenal. © Hulton Archive / Getty Images ©

By scrapping the historic accord, Washington is trying to fulfill its “dream of a unipolar world,” a source within the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

“This decision fits into the US policy of ditching the international agreements which impose equal obligations on it and its partners, and render the ‘exceptionalism’ concept vulnerable.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov denounced Trump’s threats as “blackmail” and said that Washington wants to dismantle the INF because it views the deal as a “problem” on its course for “total domination” in the military sphere.

The issue of nuclear arms treaties is too vital for national and global security to rush into hastily-made “emotional” decisions, the official explained. Russia is expecting to hear more on the US’ plans from Trump’s top security adviser, John Bolton, who is set to hold talks in Moscow tomorrow.

President Trump has been open about unilaterally pulling the US out of various international agreements if he deems them to be damaging to national interests. Earlier this year, Washington withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear program. All other signatories to the landmark agreement, including Russia, China, and the EU, decided to stick to the deal, while blasting Trump for leaving.

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Converting Khashoggi into Cash

After two weeks of denying any connection to Khashoggi’s disappearance, Riyadh has admitted that he was killed by Saudi operatives but it wasn’t really on purpose.

Jim Jatras

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Authored by James George Jatras via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The hazard of writing about the Saudis’ absurd gyrations as they seek to avoid blame for the murder of the late, not notably great journalist and Muslim Brotherhood activist Jamal Khashoggi is that by the time a sentence is finished, the landscape may have changed again.

As though right on cue, the narrative has just taken another sharp turn.

After two weeks of denying any connection to Khashoggi’s disappearance, Riyadh has ‘fessed up (sorta) and admitted that he was killed by Saudi operatives but it wasn’t really on purpose:

Y’see, it was kinda’f an ‘accident.’

Oops…

Y’see the guys were arguing, and … uh … a fistfight broke out.

Yeah, that’s it … a ‘fistfight.’

And before you know it poor Jamal had gone all to pieces.

Y’see?

Must’ve been a helluva fistfight.

The figurative digital ink wasn’t even dry on that whopper before American politicos in both parties were calling it out:

  • “To say that I am skeptical of the new Saudi narrative about Mr. Khashoggi is an understatement,” tweeted Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. “First we were told Mr. Khashoggi supposedly left the consulate and there was blanket denial of any Saudi involvement. Now, a fight breaks out and he’s killed in the consulate, all without knowledge of Crown Prince. It’s hard to find this latest ‘explanation‘ as credible.”
  • California Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that the new Saudi explanation is “not credible.” “If Khashoggi was fighting inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, he was fighting for his life with people sent to capture or kill him,” Schiff said. “The kingdom and all involved in this brutal murder must be held accountable, and if the Trump administration will not take the lead, Congress must.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan must think he’s already died and gone to his eternal recreation in the amorous embraces of the dark-eyed houris. The acid test for the viability of Riyadh’s newest transparent lie is whether the Turks actually have, as they claim, live recordings of Khashoggi’s interrogation, torture, murder, and dismemberment (not necessarily in that order) – and if they do, when Erdogan decides it’s the right time to release them.

Erdogan has got the Saudis over a barrel and he’ll squeeze everything he can out of them.

From the beginning, the Khashoggi story wasn’t really about the fate of one man. The Saudis have been getting away with bloody murder, literally, for years. They’re daily slaughtering the civilian population of Yemen with American and British help, with barely a ho-hum from the sensitive consciences always ready to invoke the so-called “responsibility to protect” Muslims in Bosnia, Kosovo, Libya, Syria, Xinjiang, Rakhine, and so forth.

Where’s the responsibility not to help a crazed bunch of Wahhabist head-choppers kill people?

But now, just one guy meets a grisly end and suddenly it’s the most important homicide since the Lindbergh baby.

What gives?

Is it because Khashoggi was part of the MSM aristocracy, on account of his relationship with the Washington Post?

Was it because of his other, darker, connections? As related by Moon of Alabama: “Khashoggi was a rather shady guy. A ‘journalist’ who was also an operator for Saudi and U.S. intelligence services. He was an early recruit of the Muslim Brotherhood.” This relationship, writes MoA, touches on the interests of pretty much everyone in the region:

“The Ottoman empire ruled over much of the Arab world. The neo-Ottoman wannabe-Sultan Recep Tayyip Erdogan would like to regain that historic position for Turkey. His main competition in this are the al-Sauds. They have much more money and are strategically aligned with Israel and the United States, while Turkey under Erdogan is more or less isolated. The religious-political element of the competition is represented on one side by the Muslim Brotherhood, ‘democratic’ Islamists to which Erdogan belongs, and the Wahhabi absolutists on the other side.”

With the noose tightening around Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS), the risible fistfight cock-and-bull story is likely to be the best they can come up with. US President Donald Trump’s having offered his “rogue killers” opening suggests he’s willing to play along. Nobody will really be fooled, but MbS will hope he can persuade important people to pretend they are fooled.

That will mean spreading around a lot of cash. The new alchemy of converting Khashoggi dead into financial gain for the living is just one part of an obvious scheme to pull off what Libya’s Muammar Kaddafi managed after the 1988 Lockerbie bombing: offer up some underlings as the fall guys and let the top man evade responsibility. (KARMA ALERT: That didn’t do Kaddafi any good in the long run.)

In the Saudi case the Lockerbie dodge will be harder, as there are already pictures of men at the Istanbul Consulate General identified as close associates of MbS. But they’ll give it the old madrasa try anyway since it’s all they’ve got.Firings and arrests have started and one suspect has already died in a suspicious automobile “accident.” Heads will roll!

Saving MbS’s skin and his succession to the throne of his doddering father may depend on how many of the usual recipients of Saudi – let’s be honest – bribery and influence peddling will find sufficient pecuniary reason to go along. Saudi Arabia’s unofficial motto with respect to the US establishment might as well be: “The green poultice heals all wounds.”

Anyway, that’s been their experience up to now, but it also in part reflects the same arrogance that made MbS think he could continue to get away with anything. (It’s not shooting someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue, but it’s close.) Whether spreading cash around will continue to have the same salubrious effect it always has had in the past remains to be seen.

To be sure, Trump may succeed in shaking the Saudi date palm for additional billions for arms sales. That won’t necessarily turn around an image problem that may not have a remedy. But still, count on more cash going to high-price lobbying and image-control shops eager to make obscene money working for their obscene client. Some big American names are dropping are dropping Riyadh in a sudden fit of fastidiousness, but you can bet others will be eager to step into their Guccis, both in the US and in the United Kingdom. (It should never be forgotten how closely linked the US and UK establishments are in the Middle East, and to the Saudis in particular.)

It still might not work though. No matter how much expensive PR lipstick the spinmeisters put on this pig, that won’t make it kissable. It’s still a pig.

Others benefitting from hanging Khashoggi’s death around MbS’s neck are:

  • Qatar (after last year’s invasion scare, there’s no doubt a bit of Schadenfreude and (figurative) champagne corks popping in Doha over MbS’s discomfiture. As one source close to the ruling al-Thani family relates, “The Qataris are stunned speechless at Saudi incompetence!” You just can’t get good help these days).

Among the losers one must count Israel and especially Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. MbS, with his contrived image as the reformer, was the Sunni “beard” he needed to get the US to assemble an “Arab NATO” (as though one NATO weren’t bad enough!) and eliminate Iran for him. It remains to be seen how far that agenda has been set back.

Whether or not MbS survives or is removed – perhaps with extreme prejudice – there’s no doubt Saudi Arabia is the big loser. Question are being asked that should have been asked years ago. As Srdja Trifkovic comments in Chronicles magazine:

“The crown prince’s recklessness in ordering the murder of Khashoggi has demonstrated that he is just a standard despot, a Mafia don with oil presiding over an extended cleptocracy of inbred parasites. The KSA will not be reformed because it is structurally not capable of reform. The regime in Riyadh which stops being a playground of great wealth, protected by a large investment in theocratic excess, would not be ‘Saudi’ any longer. Saudia delenda est.”

The first Saudi state, the Emirate of Diriyah, went belly up in 1818, with the death of head of the house of al-Saud, Abdullah bin Saud – actually, literally with his head hung on a gate in Constantinople by Erdogan’s Ottoman predecessor, Sultan Mahmud II.

The second Saudi state, Emirate of Nejd, likewise folded in 1891.

It’s long past time this third and current abomination joined its antecedents on the ash heap of history.

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