Israeli Apartheid Week: International Solidarity with Palestinians

The Sixth Annual Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW)
"Solidarity in action: Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions"
March 1 - 7, 2010
Mark your calendars - the Sixth Annual Israeli Apartheid Week will take place across the globe from March 1-7, 2010.

First launched in Toronto in 2005, IAW has grown to become one of the most important global events in the Palestine solidarity calendar.

Last year, more than 35 cities around the world participated in the week's activities, which took place in the wake of Israel's brutal assault against the people of Gaza. In Toronto, IAW 2009 featured a full week of events kicked off by Palestinian activist and writer Omar Barghouti.

IAW 2010 takes place following a year of incredible successes for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement on the global level. Lectures, films, and actions will highlight some of these successes along with the many injustices that continue to make BDS so crucial in the battle to end Israeli Apartheid.

Speakers and full programme available soon at
Join the facebook group:

U.S. Threatens War in Latin America

Colombia-Venezuela: The Threat of Imperialist War Looms in the Americas

November 9th 2009,
by Kiraz Janicke

The possibility of an imperialist war in the Americas came a step closer on October 30, when Colombia and the United States finalized a ten year accord allowing the U.S. to massively expand its military presence in the Latin American nation.

The move comes as the U.S. seeks to regain its hegemony over Latin America -- which has declined over the past decade in the context of a continent-wide rebellion against neoliberalism spearheaded by the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela, led by President Hugo Chavez.

In order to regain control of its "backyard," the U.S. is increasingly resorting to more interventionist measures. This is reflected by the recent military coup in Honduras, destabilisation of progressive governments in Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Paraguay and a massive military build up in the region, including new military bases in Panama and the reactivation of its Fourth Fleet.

Over the past decade the Venezuelan government, which is the fifth largest oil exporter in the world, has used its control over this resource to massively increase social spending. This has resulted in significant achievements, such as poverty levels being reduced by half, the eradication of illiteracy, and free universal education and healthcare for the poor.

In 2005 Chavez declared the revolution to be outright socialist in its aims. Since then, in addition to regular elections and referendums, the government has sought to promote grassroots democracy and participation, through the creation of institutions such as urban land committees, health committees, grassroots assemblies, communes, workers' councils and communal councils.

However, these pro-poor and redistributive policies have increasingly brought the Chavez government into conflict with powerful economic interests both in Venezuela and the U.S. The new bases deal poses a direct threat to this radical process of social change.

Hand in hand with this military build up has come a fraudulent propaganda campaign that tries to paint the democratically elected Chavez government as a "dictatorship" and claims that the government promotes drug trafficking, and supplies arms to left-wing guerrillas in Colombia.

Tensions between Venezuela and the U.S.-aligned government of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe have also increased with the deal. As the negotiations came to light in July, Chavez ordered the "freezing" of all diplomatic and commercial relations with Colombia.

With the finalization of the accord Chavez declared that Colombia had handed over it's sovereignty to the U.S. "Colombia today is no longer a sovereign country... it is a kind of colony," he said.

Under the deal, the U.S. military has access, use, and free movement among two air bases, two naval bases, and three army bases, in addition to an existing two military bases, as well as all international civilian airports across the country.

The deal also grants U.S. personnel full diplomatic immunity for any human rights abuses or other crimes committed on Colombian soil.

Among other things, U.S. military, civilian, and diplomatic personnel and contractors covered by the accord are also exempt from customs duties, tariffs, rent and taxes, while ships and planes are exempt from most cargo inspections.

Although U.S. officials claim publicly that only 800 personnel will operate in Colombia the deal places no limits on the numbers of military personnel that can be deployed.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have repeatedly denied that under the accord Colombia will be used as a launching pad for military interventions in other South American countries.

However, as James Suggett pointed out in a recent article, the U.S. military's financial documents tell a different story.

"The Pentagon budget for the year 2010 says the Department of Defense seeks 'an array of access arrangements for contingency operations, logistics, and training in Central/South America,' and cites a $46 million investment in the "development" of Colombia's Palanquero air base as a key part of this," Suggett wrote.

Also the 2010 fiscal year budget of the U.S. Air Force Military Construction Program describes the Palanquero base as a "Cooperative Security Location (CSL)," which "provides a unique opportunity for full spectrum operations in a critical sub region of our hemisphere where security and stability is under constant threat from narcotics funded terrorist insurgencies, anti-US governments, [author's emphasis] endemic poverty and recurring natural disasters."

"A presence [at the Palanquero base] will also increase our capability to conduct Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), improve global reach, support logistics requirements, improve partnerships, improve theater security cooperation, and expand expeditionary warfare capability," the budget states.

"It also supports mobility missions by providing access to the entire continent, except the Cape Horn region, if fuel is available, and over half of the continent if unrefueled," the budget continues.

On August 10th, Chavez said in an open letter to all South American presidents that the U.S.-Colombian bases deal shows that the U.S. Empire wants to "control our resources."

Colombian paramilitaries operating illegally in Venezuela's oil rich border regions, together with the right-wing opposition in Venezuela are the advance guard of this imperialist project to destabilise and ultimately defeat the Bolivarian revolution.

Tensions flared in recent weeks when the bodies of nine Colombians believed to have been executed by an illegal armed group were found dumped in the border state of Tachira. The Venezuelan government said the group was part of a "paramilitary infiltration plan."

In addition, Venezuela announced that it has captured three Colombians accused of spying for Colombia's intelligence service, the Administrative Security Department (DAS), as well as documents that indicate that Colombia sent spies to Venezuela, Ecuador and Cuba as part of a CIA operation.

Then on November 2, two Venezuelan National Guard members were shot dead at a border checkpoint by armed gunmen. In response the Venezuelan army has begun massive security sweeps of the border region where paramilitary groups, Colombian guerrillas, extortion and kidnapping rings and smugglers are rife.

Also, trade between the two countries dropped a dramatic 49.5% for September, after Chavez ordered commercial relations to be "reduced to zero" to protest the bases.

Former Colombian President Ernesto Samper, who has criticised the bases deal, said in a recent interview "we are in a pre-war situation… the situation could harden and reach extremes."

Brazil, the major economy in South America has called for "dialogue" between Chavez and Uribe.

While an armed conflict is a possibility, the current tactic of the U.S. is to continue undermining and destabilising the Venezuelan revolution in the hope that it will collapse under its own weight.

A war would also be dangerous for U.S. imperialism already bogged down in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Even a proxy war via Colombia would be likely to spiral out of control. Latin America's poor, downtrodden and marginalized have had a taste of independence; it is likely they would fight back.
An abridged version of this article was published on November 7th by Green Left Weekly [1].

Chavez: Democracy From Below

United Socialist Party of Venezuela Elects
Congress Delegates In Debates over Party Direction

by Kiraz Janicke

Caracas, November 16th 2009 -- The United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) held nation-wide delegate elections on November 15 for its First Extraordinary Congress which will be held over the next several weekends in Caracas.

Up for discussion at the congress are the party's program, principles, organizational structure and most likely the mechanism for selecting candidates for the national parliamentary elections of 2010.

A total of 7,800 members competed in the elections for 772 delegate places to the congress. Although the PSUV nominally has nearly 7 million members, voting in the delegate elections was open only to the 2,450,377 "active" members of the party who are registered in patrols.

Jorge Rodriguez, the PSUV's national coordinator who announced the results of the elections on Sunday, did not present official figures of overall member participation in the elections, though informal estimates indicate that between 40-50% of the active membership, or around 1 million people, participated.

While the more conservative sector of the Bolivarian revolution, often referred to as the "endogenous right," is overwhelmingly dominant in the PSUV, left-wing PSUV activists said they had advanced with the election of a number of respected revolutionary delegates.

Among others, the left-wing activists elected to the congress include: Gonzalo Gomez, one of the founders of the pro-revolution website and member of the Marea Socialista union current; Nora Castaneda, the head of the Women's Bank; National Assembly Deputy and economist Jesus Faria; Sergio Sanchez and Lidice Navas from the former Socialist League; Fredy Acevedo from the Revolutionary Marxist Current; and Julio Chavez, the former mayor of Carora who pioneered a process of direct democracy and community budgeting in his municipality.

At the PSUV's founding congress in early 2008, about 1600 delegates elected the national leadership and adopted a party program that defined the party as "anti-capitalist," "socialist" and "internationalist."

Discussion over the party's constitution and structure were postponed, however, resulting in ad-hoc regional leadership bodies appointed from above by the national leadership, rather than being democratically elected.

Frustration over the lack of democratic structures and spaces for participation has generally lead to a decline in the PSUV's active membership. Differences of opinion over whether the party should be simply an electoral organisation or a political instrument that can deepen the Bolivarian revolution towards socialism are clearly marked.

The extraordinary congress will serve as a measure of the competing tendencies within the PSUV who are fighting it out to determine which direction the party should take.

Left wing members say they will fight to extend the PSUV's democratic structures and defend the program adopted at the founding congress against efforts by conservative sectors to overturn the program.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who is also the president of the PSUV, voted in the party's internal elections in the 23 de Enero parish. After he cast his ballot, he revealed that he had voted "overwhelmingly for women," and noted the importance of the elections.

"It is very important what is happening. There is a good turnout throughout the country, and our party is giving an example of democracy from below," said Chavez.

With these internal party elections, "we are breaking the culture of elites, fake democracy, where the people were called on [to vote] every five years… The PSUV has to be a motor force of popular power," he said.

Chavez also called on PSUV members and regional PSUV leadership bodies to debate and discuss with minority parties that support the revolutionary process but are not part of the PSUV, including the Communist Party of Venezuela and Patria Para Todos.

"They decided not to join the PSUV. Well, it is respected that they maintain their own profile, their cadres, hopefully they continue strengthening their ranks," Chavez said.

Chavez also stressed that the Bolivarian revolution has an important mission to ensure its continuity next year in the upcoming National Assembly elections scheduled for September 2010.

"Next year there is going to be a tough battle. The opposition is doing the math and believes it will win a majority in the National Assembly, but we're going to give them a knockout in those elections," he assured.

The latest survey by the Venezuelan Institute for Data Analysis (IVAD) shows support for Chavez remains high at around 62.4%, while support for the PSUV is much lower at 32.3%.

Despite the gap between support for Chavez and support for the PSUV, the PSUV remains the most popular political party in Venezuela with opposition parties trailing far behind. The Democratic Action (Accion Democratica) party enjoys 5.3% support, Justice First (Primero Justicia) 4.4%, A New Era (Un Nuevo Tiempo) 2.5%, COPEI 2.2%, while other smaller parties account for 4.8%.

Chavez: Only Peace Solution - Immediate End to U.S.-Colombian Deal

Chavez Rejects U.S. Mediation in Venezuela-Colombia Spat, U.S. Withdrawal is “Only Solution”

by Kiraz Janicke

Caracas, November 16th, 2009 – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Sunday that the only “practical solution” to tensions with neighbouring Colombia, which escalated as a result of an October 30 military pact between the U.S. and Colombian governments, is an “immediate” end to the deal.

The agreement, which allows U.S. military access to seven air, naval and army bases in Colombia and grants full immunity to U.S. personnel, is a “pact for war,” and will give the U.S. carte blanche to conduct military operations that could jeopardize the sovereignty and integrity of neighbouring countries, the Venezuelan president said.

Chavez was responding to comments by U.S. State Department Spokesperson Ian Kelly who said on Friday that the U.S. is disposed to mediate between Venezuela and Colombia to find “practical solutions” to the conflict.

Kelly’s proposal is another demonstration of Washington’s “cynicism,” Chavez told the press after exercising his right to vote in the elections of delegates to the second congress of his United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) in Caracas.

“The U.S. government is the champion of cynicism,” Chavez said, assuring that “Venezuela’s sovereignty is not up for discussion, nor will it be negotiated with any other country

“United States, if you want practical solutions, withdraw the Yankee bases in Colombia and free those fraternal people, free Colombia,” said Chavez.

U.S. and Colombian officials deny that Colombia will be used as a launch pad for military interventions in other South American countries, and say the agreement is designed to fight drug trafficking and fight left-wing guerrillas in the Andean nation.

However, this is contradicted by the 2010 fiscal year budget of the US Air Force Military Construction Program, which states that access to the Palanquero air base through the pact “provides a unique opportunity for full spectrum operations in a critical sub region of our hemisphere” and “supports mobility missions by providing access to the entire continent.”

Last week Chavez said that Venezuela, the largest oil producer in Latin America, would defend itself and its resources from the threat of a U.S. invasion from Colombian territory by reorganizing the armed forces and arming civil militias.

If Venezuelans “want peace, we must prepare for war…this will be the guarantee for peace,” he said..”

Chavez also ordered an increased military presence in the border state of Tachira after two Venezuelan National Guard members were shot dead by armed gunmen at a checkpoint. The Venezuelan government said the killings were the work of Colombian paramilitaries.

Colombia in turn complained to the U.N. and the Organisation of American States alleging that Chavez’s comments amounted to “war threats.”

Venezuelan Foreign Relations Minister Nicolas Maduro responded that Colombia’s complaint to the U.N. is “immoral” and is aimed at diverting attention from its military deal with the U.S.

Chavez argued a dialogue with the government of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe is “impossible…Never has a government, and there have been many right-wing governments in this continent over the centuries, sunk to such a level, as the government in Colombia…. it betrays its own people, the spirit of the people of Colombia and the peoples of South America.”

Chavez also dismissed Colombia’s claims that he is threatening war. “I’m not calling for any war. The gringo empire is calling for war. I’m calling for the defence of the sacred land that is Venezuela,” he said. “I’m obligated to call on all Venezuelans to prepare for combat to defend the homeland, if not, who will?”

Chavez also criticised what he described as the “despicable attitude” of right-wing opposition parties in Venezuela who have welcomed the installation of the U.S. bases, “because of their opposition to the Bolivarian Revolution they support the plans of aggression against this continent… They do not have the slightest dose of dignity or self respect.”

Venezuela is a country of peace, he reiterated. “We do not want wars, our wars are fighting are against hunger, against misery, against insecurity, crime, drug trafficking, these are our wars, a war for social justice, for life.”

Chavez also repeated his call for U.S. President Barack Obama to give back the Nobel Peace Prize, “out of dignity, decorum, respect,” because “he keeps sending more troops to Afghanistan and the war is spreading across this part of Eurasia, Pakistan, in Iraq they are still bombing children and entire families, and they are supporting the coup in Honduras.”

In a further response to Kelly, Chavez argued that the upcoming elections in Honduras are a “farce” designed to “legitimise” and “buy time” for the coup government, which ousted the democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya on June 28.

“We support the elections process there,” Kelly said last week, referring to Honduras. “We have provided technical assistance. ... These elections will be important to restoring Democratic and constitutional order in Honduras.”

“The U.S. is writing the script,” and pressuring other governments such as Panama to recognise the results, but Venezuela will not recognise any government in Honduras other than that of Manuel Zelaya, “the legitimate government of Honduras,” Chavez stated.