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Venezuela We Are With You Coalition (CVEC) in harmony with the Bolivarian movement, champions national sovereignty without U.S. inspired interference, commitment to indigenous rights, Freedom for the Palestinians, Freedom for the Cuban Five, and justice, equal rights and opportunity for the disinherited in Canada and the world

Venezuela Leads the Way on Sovereignty

Summit in Venezuela opens 'new phase in history'

By Federico Fuentes

A summit of huge importance was held in Venezuela on December 2-3. Two hundred years after Latin America’s independence fighters first raised the battle cry for a united Latin America, 33 heads of states from across the region came together to form the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).

For Latin America, the summit represented a further step away from its traditional role as the United States’ backyard and its emergence as a player in its own right in international politics.


The importance of this new institution in world politics cannot be overstated. The combined gross domestic product of the countries within CELAC make it the third-largest economic powerhouse in the world.

It is also home to the world’s largest oil reserves and the first and third largest global producers of food and energy, respectively.

CELAC also builds on existing inter-regional bodies and experiments.

These include the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), UNASUR’s Defense Council, the Bank of the South (which only awaits the approval of the Uruguayan parliament in order to bring to life a bank that will count on US$20 billion for development projects), and the establishment of trade mechanisms between some countries that replaces the US dollar with local and new regional currencies.

Another important integration initiative is the Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), a nine-nation anti-imperialist bloc initially formed in 2004 by socialist governments of Cuba and Venezuela.

CELAC explicitly excludes the U.S. and Canada
However, Cuba, which has been excluded from the Organisation of American States (OAS) for daring to challenge the US empire and carry out a revolution, was not only included but selected to host the 2013 CELAC Summit. Chile had already been selected to host next year's.

Some are already arguing the consolidation of CELAC will represent the final nail in the coffin of the Organisation of American States (OAS), traditionally dominated by the powerful neighbors up north.

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa said on November 29: “We believe we need a profound change in the inter-American, basically Latin American, system because the US’s gravitational power [within the OAS] is clear.”

“We need another system ... where we discuss our problems in the region, not in Washington [the headquarters of the OAS], where institutions that are removed from our vision, traditions, values and needs are not imposed on us.”

The same day, Bolivian vice-president Alvaro Garcia Linera said the summit would represent “a meeting of the peoples, defending our destiny without tutelage, without patronage, so that together we can find a solution to our problems, without the presence of the US”.

Imperial weakening

The step comes at a time when US economic and political power is in decline and the European Union is on the verge of collapse.

“Latin America is a continent on the move faced with a world in crisis,” Garcia Linera said. “Latin America is the vanguard of the world in regard to ideas, in regard to transformations, in regard to proposals at the service of the people and humanity.”

Luis Bilbao, editor of the Latin America-wide magazine America XXI, said in a November 28 article that CELAC represents “an opportunity without precedent to position the region as the starting point in a new phase in the history of humanity”.

Latin America is in a unique position given the global context, marked by three key features: “It maintains a dynamic of regional convergence while all other [continents] are suffering from violent centrifugal forces; until now it has suffered less as a result of the recession in the imperialist centres; [and] within this heterogeneous convergent whole exists a vital nucleus that, faced with the collapse of capitalism … has raised the banner of 21st century socialism.”

The US had tried everything possible to stop CELAC. Former Colombian president, Alvaro Uribe, a US puppet, made the most recent attempt.

A November 28 article said that during a trip to meet with Venezuela’s right-wing opposition, Uribe urged them to issue a “public statement” denouncing the growing relationship between Colombia and Venezuela.

Under Uribe, relations between Venezuela and Colombia nearly degenerated into war. Uribe also worked to undermine the progress of UNASUR from within.

Despite continuing much of Uribe’s neoliberal and repressive politics at home, said Colombian President Manuel Santos “has adopted a noticeably different stance with regard to foreign policy, aimed at integrating Colombia into regional organisations and re-establishing bilateral relations with other Latin American countries”.

This does not mean that the Colombian government, or many other Latin American countries, no longer follows US foreign policy dictates in the region, or that all agree that CELAC should automatically replace the OAS.

Nor does it mean there are not important differences on how to confront the global economic crisis and imperial wars, such as the recent NATO attack on Libya.

Bilbao noted a sole, unified response to these tremendous challenges by CELAC cannot be expected, “however what is possible is to find a common minimum denominator”.

The idea of the US’s backyard creating its own neighbourhood to collectively resolve problems, free of outside intervention, is an important starting point.

Venezuela leads the way

That the summit was held in Venezuela represented a double blow to U.S. interests. Having waged a relentless campaign to destroy Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution, the fact it was chosen to host the summit undermines the lies peddled by Washington and the corporate media that Venezuela is isolated in the region.

Furthermore, the presence of a fully recovered Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, whose bout with cancer early this year forced the summit to be postponed from July, has dashed hopes that health issues could succeed were U.S.-backed coups and destabilisation plans against the Chavez government have failed.

Instead, Chavez has announced his readiness to stand for re-election in next year’s October 7 presidential elections.

In response to Chavez’s call to form a “Great Patriotic Pole” of parties and social movements to support his re-election on a platform of deepening the revolution, more than 32,000 organisations signed on to the campaign during the four-week registration period begun in early October.

Polls show support for Chavez at more than 50%. The US-backed opposition remains unable to muster any candidate to seriously challenge him.

In response, the U.S. is gearing up for a big campaign to try and prevent a fresh mandate for Chavez’s anti-capitalist policies.

Investigative journalist Eva Golinger said in an August 11 article that the US has already budgeted $20 million to fund the opposition next year.

Another important ploy being used is capitalist hoarding and speculation with food prices to provoke shortages and worsen inflation, already hovering above 22% for the year.

Big business successfully used this tactic to help defeat the 2007 referendum on a raft of constitutional reforms proposed by Chavez, giving the capitalists their sole electoral victory in 12 years.

On November 27, Chavez said in the days prior, the Bolivarian National Guard seized 127,000 kilos of rice, 132,000 kilos of corn flour, 256,000 kilos of powered milk, 85,000 litres of vegetable oil, 246,000 kilos of sugar and 10,500 kilos of coffee — all of which were being illegally hoarded by private companies.

One company affected, Italian-owned Parmalat, published a declaration in several newspapers on November 26. It said it was “strange” the government seized 210,000 kilos of powdered milk from its warehouses as this milk was supposedly destined for the state food distribution company, CASA, as per a signed contract.

Chavez responded the next day: “We found Parmalat hoarding milk and this is typical of the bourgeoisie … they think we are fools or idiots … Gentlemen of Parmalat, we are not stupid!”

He ordered a large-scale investigation into the company and reminded Parmalat that his government has the power to expropriate the company if it continues carrying out such actions.

An October 14 Reuters article cited figures provided by Conindustria, a Venezuelan business federation, to show that 459 companies had been nationalised this year. An estimated 1045 have been nationalised since Chavez came to power.

This has ensured the state plays a dominant role in strategic sectors such as oil, electricity, cement, steel, telecommunications and food production and distribution.

The day after Chavez’s response, Parmalat published another open letter offering its “most sincere apologies” for failing to “adequately communicate what had transpired” in regards to the powdered milk.

It pledged to support the government in ensuring that the needs of the people were met.

Parmalat is not the only company Chavez ordered be monitored. He named Colgate Palmolive, Pepsi Cola, Heinz, Nestle, Coca Cola, Unilever, Glaxo Smith Kline, and Polar, Venezuela’s largest food company.

These are among the companies affected by price controls on 18 food, hygiene and household products, in effect since November 22.

Since 2003, the government has placed price controls on various essential food items.

Under the new Law on Fair Costs and Prices, prices on the 18 goods are frozen until mid-December. The newly-created National Superintendency of Fair Costs and Prices audits the companies producing these goods to establish how much it costs to make the products to determine a reasonable price to sell them at.

As of December 15, this price will have to be printed on the product. Sanctions will apply for those who do not comply with the regulations.

A second phase will begin in January involving medicinal products.

On November 7, Chavez told state television channel VTV: “We cannot given the large business owners and large corporations the freedom to continue looting the pockets of Venezuelans.”

The new law, Chavez said, “was necessary and formed part of a strategy of state intervention into the economy, which is part of the transition from capitalism … towards socialism”.

No doubt this battle between socialist democracy and the dictatorship of the market will continue heating up as the presidential elections approach.

The outcome of this battle will have important ramifications not only for Venezuela’s future, but that of CELAC and the world.

Venezuela Builds New Housing for Its People

Venezuela’s Housing Mission Constructs Almost 100,000 Homes in First Seven Months
By Ewan Roberston

Mérida, November 17th ( – 95,912 houses and apartments have been built in the first seven months of Venezuela’s massive house building program, the “Great Housing Mission” (GMV), confirmed energy and petroleum minister Rafael Ramirez yesterday.

Of these, 59,730 (62%) were built by the public sector and 36,182 (38%) by the private sector reported Ramirez, who is also Vice-president of the government’s Superior Housing Authority, which convened in the north-western state of Zulia yesterday.

“This is a number without precedent...there has never been so much done in one year” he commented with regards to the Venezuelan state’s contribution to the figures.

Launched on 30th April 2011, the government’s GMV program seeks to close Venezuela’s long-term housing deficit and ensure that everyone in the country has adequate housing. According to the government, the mission aims to build two million homes in seven years.

The program’s goal for 2011 is to build a total of 150,000 houses, followed by 200,000 in 2012 and 300,000 each year thereafter until 2017.

However, the national registration process for families needing new homes, completed toward the end of October, revealed that just under 2,711,000 families in Venezuela are in need of their own or a new home. As a result, the Venezuelan government has increased the GMV’s goal to correspond to this figure, and now aims to build a total of 2,725,648 homes, Ramirez stated.

The minister further added that 286,180 homes are currently in construction around the country for completion in the remainder of 2011 and 2012, with the 10,000 hectares of land needed to build these already available.

Public Sector and Grassroots Efforts to the Fore

The new figures also demonstrate the growing role of Venezuela’s public sector and grassroots organisations in the country’s house building industry.

With 62% of all new housing in Venezuela completed in the public sector so far this year, as compared with only 30% in 2009, the share of Venezuela’s public sector in the nation’s house building industry has more than doubled in two years.

Furthermore, of housing constructed by the public sector so far this year, 48% (28,202) was undertaken with the participation of grassroots “popular power” initiatives, particularly the Integral Participation of Habitats (TIH) and Substitution of Shanties for Houses (Suvi) programmes.

Communal councils throughout the country have also been encouraged by the government to form “construction communes” and contribute to house building programs in their local communities.

When the GMV was launched, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez stressed the importance of grassroots participation for the program’s success, stating “nobody knows how to build houses better than the people...if we want to put an end to poverty, then we must give power to the poor. This is the main principle of the socialist revolution”.

Reflecting on grassroots participation so far in the program, Ramirez commented yesterday that “the Venezuelan people, through various organisations of popular power, have turned themselves towards the resolution of these problems [of housing]...the whole people are completing the goals of the Great Housing Mission”.

Ramirez also emphasised the importance of the increase in public sector house building for stimulating the nation’s house building industry as a whole in order to achieve the GMV’s goals, arguing that “under capitalism the housing problem doesn’t have a solution, [as] it converts housing into a business”.

The increase in public sector housing construction also involves efforts to develop a national construction industry.

These include the establishment of the new National Public Works Company to manage publicly-owned construction equipment in August this year, and the announcement in October of a new national cement distribution system to increase access to the material produced by the country’s nationalised cement factories.


Dear Friends,

The Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America and the Caribbean (ALBA-TCP) nations Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Venezuela -- denounce the NATO for carrying out a military operation for regime change in Libya.

Special Declaration of the ALBA-TCP Foreign Ministers on the Situation of Libya and Syria
The Foreign Ministers of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, meeting in Caracas, Venezuela on 9 September 2011, recalling the Special Communiqué of the Political Council on 4 March 2011 and the Special Communiqué of the Ministerial Social Council on 19 March 2011, condemns the NATO intervention in Libya and its illegal military aggression, carried out under the cover of a UN Security Council resolution, opportunistically exploiting the situation of the internal political conflict in that country.

The ALBA foreign ministers denounce the NATO for carrying out a military operation for regime change in Libya under the doctrine of preventive war, manipulating the UN to suit its geopolitical and economic interests in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1973.

The ALBA foreign ministers demand the immediate and unconditional cessation of the NATO bombings and military intervention in the Libyan territory.

The ALBA foreign ministers deplore the fact that the NATO has disregarded the persistent efforts of the African Union in search of a solution to the internal conflict in Libya based on dialogue to achieve peace.The ALBA foreign ministers also deplore the complicity of various major international media, which have colluded with those interested in aggression and lent themselves to the purpose of distorting information about the state of affairs in Libya.

The ALBA foreign ministers issue their most urgent warning on the danger that the Libyan precedent may be repeated against Syria, by means of exploiting the ongoing political troubles in that Arab nation.

The ALBA foreign ministers reiterate their firmest commitment to the right to self-determination of the peoples of Libya and Syria.

The ALBA foreign ministers most energetically reject any attempt to turn Libya into a protectorate of the NATO or the UN Security Council.

In order to contribute to and support the efforts for peace demanded by the majority of the peoples of the world, the ministers agree to take the following actions:

Promote discussion in the UN General Assembly on the dangerous precedents set by what has been done to Libya and on the protection of the sovereign rights of that Arab nation of Africa, so as to ensure that Libya shall not be turned into a protectorate of the NATO or the UN Security Council.

Promote the establishment of a Working Group at the General Assembly to investigate and monitor the use of the frozen funds of Libya's financial reserves, which will report back to the General Assembly on its results and conclusions.

Call upon the international community to promote an initiative to investigate crimes committed in Libya by the NATO to the detriment of the Libyan people, the destruction of Libya's infrastructure and the deaths caused by the NATO.

Compile a list of media's lies and manipulations promoted by the empire to justify the aggression against the Libyan people.

Request the Secretary General of the United Nations for complete transparency, rendering a strict accounting of facts to the member states regarding his conduct on the subject of Libya and vis-à-vis Syria; and emphasize that his conduct must correspond to the mandates given by the General Assembly, before taking new actions to intervene in Libya. Equally, request the Secretary General to meet with the ALBA-TCP (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America-Peoples' Trade Treaty) countries to discuss the situation in Libya.

Support a central role of the African Union in efforts to promote peace in Libya.

Firmly reject giving Libya's seat at the United Nations to an illegitimate transitional faction or authority imposed by foreign intervention; and thus promote fundamental debate at the Credentials Committee of the General Assembly of the United Nations in order to prevent Libya's seat from becoming occupied until such time as a government that is the free and sovereign expression of the will of the Libyan people becomes established in a legitimate manner, without foreign intervention.

Propose to the Syrian government a mission of high representatives or foreign ministers of the ALBA-TCP; and, if accepted, report on it to the Latin American and Caribbean countries through UNASUR (Union of South American Nations), CARICOM (Caribbean Community), SICA (Central American Integration System), and the joint CALC (Latin American and Caribbean Summit)-Rio Group forum, and invite those who wish to join this initiative to participate.

Promote debate at the Coordination Bureau of the Non-Aligned Movement on the threats looming over Syria.

Support, together with the Non-Aligned countries that are members of the Security Council, the resolution promoted by Russia and China with respect to Syria.

Send the UN Secretary General this Declaration and request that it be circulated among the member states of the United Nations as an official document of the General Assembly.

U.S. Tightens Grip on Sanctions Against Venezuela

Washington Reiterates its Threats against Venezuela
June 24, 2011 by lchirino

South Journal--The United States does not discard the imposition of more severe sanctions against Venezuela, if this country does not stop its gasoline shipments to Iran, and this includes accusing Caracas of sponsoring terrorism, said a high government US official on Friday.

Thomas L. Delare director of the Office of Terrorist Finance and Economic Sanctions Policy with the US Department of State said on Friday, during a joint session of the subcommittees for National Security and for the Western Hemisphere of the House, that the sanctions imposed last month were aimed at convincing Venezuela´s PDVSA Oil Company to "take the right decision."

Delare said that if PDVSA does not stop (gas shipments to Iran), which they have made clear in conversations with the Venezuelan company and authorities, the Secretary of State reserves the authority to impose additional and more severe sanctions. Delare was referring to the sanctions imposed last month against PDVSA and other foreign companies for doing business with Iran.No option has yet been discarded, while the State Department will continue to evaluate which additional actions may be justified in the future, said the US government official.

PDVSA was excluded of all US contracts, as well as of federal finance for imports and exports, while it will be denied licenses to purchase special technology, though it will be able to keep selling to the US market and send shipments to CITGO, its branch office in the United States .

These were the first sanctions adopted against Venezuela for its oil-related exports to Iran since the US Congress approved a legislation allowing the adoption of this kind of measures last year.

Those countries labeled by the US State Department as "sponsors of terrorism" are facing sanctions that include the suspension of US assistance and the prohibition of sales and exports of military equipment. The countries currently facing these sanctions are Cuba , Iran , Sudan and Syria.

Cuba Condemns U.S. Sanctions on Venezuela

Cuban Minister's of Foreign Affairs Statement on U.S. sanctions against on Venezuela's PDVSA

Statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs on the Sanctions Imposed by the United States on the Company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA)

The government and people of Cuba express strong condemnation against this aggression against the people of Venezuela, the Bolivarian Revolution and the Bolivarian PDVSA.

The government of Cuba and all our people are in solidarity with President Hugo Chavez and the Venezuelan people, and give unconditionally support for the resolution of the National Assembly of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela on this issue.

We share the statement of Commander Chavez, that the large reserves of Venezuela are not just of oil, but are its people; political reserves, moral reserves, Bolivarian reserves.

The United States is violating international law and applying unilateral laws extraterritorially.

We must condemn this aggression and we must ask whether the U.S. is mounting a new escalation against the Bolivarian Revolution. The key issue is not the economics of the measures against PDVSA, but the risk that this signifies the decision of the U.S. to provoke further conflicts in the region, new attempts to divide Latin America and the Caribbean, at a high point of its unity and independence.

When Venezuela is attacked, Cuba is attacked. Commander Chávez, the Venezuelan people, can count on our complete solidarity, with our full support. We will work in the international organizations, and work together for the restoration of international law, to prevent the United States from violating international law and assaulting our people in this way.

Cuba shares fully the statement of ALBA on this issue and is ready to act in international forums and events, with a strong formal complaint and for the adoption of international action against this new and brutal aggression against Venezuela and against Our America.

Havana, May 28, 2011

Venezuela Condemns U.S. "Imperialist" Sanctions

Dear Friends,

The U.S. State Department sanctions on Venezuela's state oil company, PDVSA is an attack on Venezuelan sovereignty, and it should be sharply protested.

Washington is trying to assert control over companies outside the U.S. that are not subject to U.S. law. This is the outrageous policy that has been applied for years through U.S. sanctions against Canadian companies that trade with Cuba.

For a comprehensive report on the U.S. Sanctions on PDVSA and other similar attacks, read:
Venezuela Condemns U.S. "Imperialist" Sanctions
By Rachael Boothroyd

Coro, May 25th 2011- The Venezuelan government criticised the Obama administration's move to impose sanctions on Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA, calling the sanctions an "imperialist attack" against Venezuela.

The U.S. State Department enforced the sanctions in an attempt to put further pressure on Iran to halt its nuclear programme by penalizing companies which continue to trade with the Islamic Republic. U.S. Vice Secretary of State James Steinberg, who made the announcement to journalists on Tuesday, said that in approving the sanctions the U.S. wanted t send a "clear message" to companies which continue to "irresponsibly support Iran" -- "they will suffer serious consequences," he said.

Between December 2010 and March 2011 Venezuela, which has friendly bilateral relations with Iran, exported $50 million worth of a fuel additive to Iran. The U.S. government deemed the trade relations to be in breach of the 1996 Iran Sanctions Act.

"The U.S. needs to move quickly to cut off Chavez's source of revenue, and bring an end to both his influence in Latin America and his dangerous relationship with the terrorist-supporting Iranian regime before it's too late," said U.S. Congressman and Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Connie Mack.

The measures will also affect other smaller companies in Jersey, Monaco, the United Arab Emirates, Israel and Singapore.

Although PDVA will continue to sell oil on the U.S. market, the sanctions -- which will last two years -- prevent the company from entering into contracts with the U.S. government, as well as barring it from import-export finance programmes and obtaining licenses for U.S. oil processing technology. None of the company's subsidiaries will be affected.

Venezuelan Government: "Sovereign Nation"
In a press conference on Tuesday, Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Relations Nicolas Maduro said: "We are not afraid of these sanctions, nor are we going to debate the reasons that the North American government may have, but Venezuela is sovereign in making its decisions."

An official document rejecting the sanctions was drafted and signed by pro-Chavez Venezuelan ministers, but opposition politicians refused to sign it. "This shows once again that these politicians are representatives of North American imperialism," said Energy and Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez.

Ramirez also stated: "The imperialist powers are hoping to dictate the rules to us. They will have to go without, because we are going to keep advancing towards creating unity between oil-producing countries."

PDVSA Workers Stage Day of Action

In the early hours of this morning PDVSA workers initiated a day of action in defence of the company, taking part in demonstrations, take-overs of oil refineries, cultural activities and convoking a popular assembly in order to manifest their support for the government's foreign policy.

Workers have been engaged in activities in Anzoategui, Carabobo, Monagas and other states throughout the day.

A female worker in Monagas, Chiquin Yanez, said that the workers "will not accept Yankee imperialist interference in the sovereignty of Venezuela. The new Pdvsa is an independent company and the workers of this national company do not obey Yankee imperialism".

Expressing a similar sentiment, Domingo Franco, who works in PDVSA, reiterated the workers' rejection of North American interventionism, stating: "We reject this latest North American interference in Venezuelan matters. The workers are at the ready to defend our oil industry. Our call is to defend the Orinoco [Oil] Belt. The imperial powers want our natural riches and we will defend our resources even with our life".

Women's and peasant organisations, alternative media, and community councils also organised a march in Caracas in response to the sanctions. Socialist women's activist Anais Arismendi said the popular movement condemned "the unilateral decisions taken by a criminal state such as the U.S.A, which don't respect international conventions," adding that the U.S. was trying to "organise another right-wing offensive against the processes and countries which are currently liberating their own people".

Iran Reaction
Although Iranian President Ahmadinejad maintains that the programme is purely for supplying energy to civilians, the U.S. claims that Iran is developing nuclear weapons.

Ahmadinejad has previously accused "nuclear nations" of "monopolising" science and technology in order to protect their own interests and also of prohibiting other countries from the "peaceful use of nuclear energy".

In a speech following the inauguration of an oil production project in the city of Abadan on Tuesday, Ahmadinejad accused the U.S. government of supporting dictators in the region. However, he did not comment on the newly imposed sanctions.

"Anywhere there is a dictator he is supported by you...he is your stooge..." he said in direct reference to Washington.

Sanctions against Iran have formed an integral part of U.S. foreign policy since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, with broader sanctions coming into effect during the Clinton administration in the 1990s and from 2005 under President Bush -- who also launched banking sanctions. Prior to 1979 Washington and Europe supported and provided assistance for the development of a nuclear plan under the Shah.

In an official statement the Venezuelan government said it would undertake a "general assessment of the situation to determine how these sanctions affect the operational capacity of our oil industry and, therefore, the supply of 1.2 million barrels of oil per day to the U.S."

Discussion on "Freedom for Joaquin Perez Becerra"

Dear Friends,

Below is an important discussion article by Dieter Misgeld, answering John Riddell's "Freedom for Joaquin Perez Becerra" (, circulated earlier to this list.

These two contributions reflect some of the many views among solidarity activists not only on Becerra's defense but also on the changing relationship between Venezuela, Colombia, and the North American imperialist powers.
By Dieter Misgeld
May 19, 2011

I am very much in agreement with the vast majority of the arguments developed by John in this article, as well as those which he relies on as stated by Luis Bilbao and Socialist Alliance.

Obviously it is very important to take a strong position in defense of Joaquin Perez Becerra's rights and those of all the political prisoners treated cruelly by the Colombian regime and its allies.

I very much value John's drawing attention to the Canadian government's active acquiescence in these practices and its misguided and servile listing of the armed Colombian insurgencies( FARC and ELN) as "terrorist" organizations , giving their "Anti Americanism " as a reason.

Nevertheless I have doubts regarding the integrity and astuteness of the actions engaged in by the Venezuelan government in the Perez B. case.

They are these:

1. Even if handing Perez Becerra over to Colombian intelligence and police was meant to avoid a trap, to avoid jeopardizing the initial negotiations for setting up CELAC, the new Latin American organisation, this does NOT justify, under any circumstance, breaking international agreements, spreading malicious and thoughtless comments , treating Mr. Perez B. rudely and forcing his abduction with violence, not permitting the representative of the Swedish government to speak with his/her citizen, and to repress and slander criticism of these actions within Venezuela and from among members of the Bolivarian movement.. Consider the following:

2. Chavez assumes personal responsibility for this action, and suggests, in one statement, that as he delivered a terrorist to Cuba( the one responsible for blowing up a Cuban plane many years ago, killing 80 or more persons in the plane) , so he now handed another over to Colombia. He avoided referring to P. Becerra as a terrorist, but left implied that this is what he meant (see article in Spanish by Heinz Dieterich, in . As we know, Chavez does not always weigh his words, unfortunately.3. Many capable people have resigned from Telesur or other government connected news outlets in Venezuela. A prominent broadcaster just was forced to resign or she was fired, exactly because she criticized Chavez in the matter of Perez.

4. The Colombian insurgency cannot give up its arms and look for a political solution, as long as the Colombian government, army, paramilitary organizations, and the US government and military work toward total defeat and destruction of it- which is what they are doing and what Santos says he is doing.

It is dishonest and self-serving on Chavez' part to lecture the insurgency and tell them that they must look for a political solution. Yes, if he were to assume responsibility for mediating in the conflict- rather than wanting to be on the winning side, i.e. the Colombian government's and the US, in the end. For, "objectively', that is what his position comes to.

5. Clarity about the ethics involved is important: one does not willingly surrender an

avowed critic of a malicious counterinsurgency regime, of which one does not approve, in order to further apparently larger political projects. Betrayal is never justified , no matter how lofty the purpose. And that is what many people now fear in Latin America, especially people of the Left: that Chavez and the Bolivarian project in Venezuela can no longer be trusted.

6. Honduras: I am not ready yet to regard this as a victory for Venezuelan diplomacy. If it is or becomes one, it may very well turn out to be Pyrrhic. And the poor and dispossessed will once again be abandoned to their terrible fate, for the sake of some sort of political/diplomatic arrangement. For the return of Zelaya does not guarantee major social change, as has been noted by the section of the resistance which is not primarily concerned with his return and the face-saving restitution of constitutional government. Should the latter be the result then Santos' Diplomacy could claim victory, as it likely will. But that remains to be seen.

7. Finally, We should be vigilant critics of the Bolivarian government and Chavez, They need criticism from and by the Left. Especially as they do not like it and fear it. They must be taught to learn to live with it and take it seriously.

I value John Riddell's determination to turn the criticism in the direction where most of it belongs, the Colombian government.

Nevertheless, we may not let Chavez and his government off the hook. It is not good for them nor for us, to become preoccupied with strategy and tactics , rather than to remain utterly clear about fundamental ethical principles. For as this clarity is lost, socialist projects deteriorate and are contaminated by the "Machiavellian" reasoning which has always accompanied politics.
Dear Friends,

There is a wide range of viewpoints among friends of Colombia and Venezuela on this question.

Below is the only one we have received from Canada.
Freedom for Joaquin Perez Becerra!

by John Riddell on May 17, 2011

The Colombian government must 'immediately release independent media activist Joaquin Perez Becerra,' says the Socialist Alliance of Australia, in astatement published May 15 in the weekly newspaper, Green Left Weekly. Perez Becerra, a political refugee from Colombia and a Swedish citizen, was deported to Colombia on April 25 by the Venezuelan government. Socialist Alliance called on the Swedish and Venezuelan governments to do all possible to defend Perez Becerra's human rights.

Forced to leave Colombia in 1993 to escape a state-sponsored terror campaign that claimed the lives of his wife and more than 4,000 other leftist activists, Perez Becerra became the director of the New Colombia News Agency (ANNCOL), Colombia's fourth most widely read website. ANNCOL published attacks on human rights violations in Colombia, including information sourced from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which the Colombian government accuses of being a "terrorist" organization "For this work," says the Socialist Alliance, "the Colombian government has accused Perez Becerra of being the 'FARC's ambassador in Europe' and 'conspiring in and helping finance terrorism,'" accusations that he vehemently denies. The Colombian government is notorious for repression and death-squad assassinations of political and union activists, of whom more than 7,500 are now in jail.

The Canadian connection
Despite its long terror campaign against its people, the Bogota regime has enjoyed strong support from the Canadian government. Ottawa lists the FARC as an organization associated with terrorism, which makes it a crime in Canadian law to "contribute to, directly or indirectly, any activity" of a listed group. The Canadian government charges the FARC with conducting an insurgency that seeks to replace the current government in Colombia with "a leftist, anti-American regime that would force all United States interests out of Colombia and Latin America."

The ban against the FARC, backed up by an apparatus of secret court proceedings hearing secret evidence, has been utilized by Ottawa to intimidate and harass Colombian political refugees in this country. Canada's complicity in Colombian government repression underscores the urgent need for human rights advocates here to demand freedom for Perez Becerra and other Colombian political prisoners, as well as an end to "anti-terrorist" harassment of dissidents in this country.

Establishing context
Venezuela's role in extraditing Perez Becerra into the hands of his Colombian jailers has come in for a great deal of criticism and condemnation on the left. In this discussion, the comments of Luis Bilbao, director of the Venezuelan-based journal America XXI, stand out in establishing the political context of the incident.
"I'd defend this man even if he were … a leader of the FARC," Bilbao says. "He should not be deported to his country of birth. Not because he's a Swedish citizen … but because he's an enemy of the Colombian oligarchy -- the crudest and most brutal on the continent -- he should be protected." (SeeSpanish and an English text.)

Nonetheless, the circumstances of his deportation are curious, Bilbao notes. Perez Becerra was detained at the Caracas international airport on April 23 on the basis of a "Code Red" alert from Interpol. However, "it seems -- there isn't any precise information -- the classification was changed abruptly during the flight [to Caracas]," Bilbao says. The Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos then called Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez -- during the flight -- and demanded Perez Becerra's extradition. Santos even knew Perez Becerra's seat number, passed on by two Colombian government agents travelling with Perez on the flight.

"The day that Joaquin Perez Becerra arrived in Caracas," Bilbao comments, "the foreign ministers of all of Latin America and the Caribbean started to arrive as well, for a preparatory meeting of the CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean states). On 5 July this organization will be launched in Caracas, and for the first time, there will be a regional organization without the presence of the United States [and Canada, we might add]. In other words, it's the death certificate of the sinister OAS [Organization of American States]. An unprecedented victory against U.S. imperialism."

Bilbao asks who had the greatest interest in attempting to sabotage CELAC's formation. "Wasn't it an obvious aim of the CIA to portray Venezuela as a FARC sanctuary, in order to abort the [CELAC] founding conference? Didn't Perez Becerra's presence in Caracas at that time fit imperialist provocation like a glove?"

This is a plausible explanation for Chavez's comment on the incident, made at a May Day march in Caracas: "They set a trap for him [Perez Becerra] in order to get at me." The Venezuelan government was caught in a lose-lose situation.

A pattern of provocation
The trap was sprung in the context of Venezuelan-Colombian relations that in recent years "reached the point of extreme tension and potential armed conflict," Socialist Alliance notes. The Colombian government has "repeatedly accused Chavez of supporting the FARC" and of "harbouring FARC bases inside its territory." WikiLeaks revelations demonstrate Bogota's willingness to send its troops into Venezuelan territory. Meanwhile, the U.S. has moved to escalate its war-making power in seven military bases within Colombia.

More recently, however, the Colombian government has taken steps to loosen its diplomatic alignment with Washington and strengthen ties with other countries of Latin America. When Juan Manuel Santos assumed the presidency on August 7, 2010, notes Andre Maltais of Quebec's L'aut'journal, "his initial speeches stressed national reconciliation, human rights, the struggle against corruption and protection of trade-union rights."

Such fine words were not followed by moves to halt the government's systematic repression of its population, which Santos, previously minister of defense, had maintained and justified. Nonetheless, when the neighbouring Ecuadorian government was shaken on September 30, 2010, by a rightist-supported coup attempt, Santos was quick to join with Chavez and other South American presidents in giving strong backing to the legitimate government of President Rafael Correa.

Joint mediation in Honduras
At the beginning of April, Santos took part in brokering an initiative to resolve the political crisis in Honduras created by a U.S.-encouraged military coup on June 28, 2009. Sustained mass resistance to the illegitimate coup regime and its "president" Porfirio Lobo Sosa, compounded by diplomatic isolation and economic crisis, led Lobo to approach Santos, seeking an accommodation with the mass opposition movement, FNRP (National Front for People's Resistance). Lobo then met with Santos and Chavez, after which Chavez contacted the ousted legitimate president, Manuel Zelaya, now exiled but still serving as a delegate of his country to the Central American parliament. Zelaya, general coordinator of the FNRP, consulted the Front.

The FNRP set four conditions:

• Safe return of all exiles, including Zelaya.
• An end to political repression and punishment of those responsible for violations of human rights.

• Initiation of a process to convene a national constituent assembly on a participative, inclusive, and democratic basis.

• Recognition of the FNRP as a militant political and social movement.

"The mediation is fragile," the FNRP stated May 9, but "positive so far"; the fact that Lobo approached Santos seeking a deal with the resistance "reveals the de facto [Lobo] government's impotence." Insisting on full implementation of the four conditions, the FNRP called for continued mass pressure and international solidarity. Lobo has not yet either accepted or rejected the four conditions.

The CELAC initiative reflects the same pattern of Colombia's integration into its region. CELAC will include 33 states of Latin America and the Caribbean, 29 of which were present at the April 2010 Caracas meeting, reports Rachael Boothroyd in Venezuelanalysis. Notably excluded are the United States and Canada. Structurally, CELAC is thus an alternative to the Organization of American States, which has served for decades as a pliant tool of U.S. hemispheric domination. Significantly, it is co-chaired by the governments of Venezuela and Chile, which are positioned at the left-wing and right-wing poles of continental politics. Colombia's participation is indispensable to its success.

The need to defend the CELAC initiative may not excuse Perez Becerra's deportation -- Bilbao believes it does not -- but CELAC reflects Venezuela's continuing role in spearheading progress toward Latin American and Caribbean unity and sovereignty in the face of imperialist domination.

Venezuelan policy
The Perez Becerra expulsion must also be measured against Venezuela's overall policy on the FARC.

"Venezuela has clearly stated that it believes Colombia's guerrilla forces, which Chavez has characterized as 'belligerent' forces, are not terrorists," notes the Socialist Alliance. "Chavez has called on these organizations to lay down their arms and seek a political resolution to the more than 40-year-old civil war.

"Chavez has rightly pointed out that any active support for the FARC on the part of Venezuela 'is the perfect excuse for imperialism to attack the people of Venezuela.'

"Chavez has also clarified that he has never accused Perez Becerra of being a terrorist and that he hopes 'the Colombian government respects his human rights and his right to a defense.'"

Despite Colombia's participation in some useful recent initiatives, Perez Becerra's incarceration is testimony that the human rights crisis in Colombia continues unabated. Our efforts to defend Latin American and Caribbean sovereignty must include active defense of Perez Becerra and all Colombian political prisoners.
Article published at:

Doors Open to Significant Changes in Central America

Agreement Signed for Democratic Rights in Honduras

By Felipe Stuart Cournoyer and John Riddell, May 24, 2011

On May 22, Honduran president Porfirio Lobo Sosa and former president Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales signed an agreement 'For National Reconciliation and the Consolidation of the Democratic System in the Republic of Honduras.'

Lobo was elected in November 2009 in a rigged vote organized by the regime installed through the June 28, 2009 military coup that overthrew Zelaya. The majority of Latin American and Caribbean nations refused to recognize the legitimacy of the Lobo government, despite the strong support it received from the United States and Canada.

The present agreement, finalized in Cartagena, Colombia, also bears the signatures of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro (on behalf of President Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias) as witnesses.

This agreement opens the door to significant changes in the Central American political landscape and to the re-entry of Honduras into the Organization of American States (OAS) and SICA (Central American Integration System).
An earlier article on this website, "Freedom for Joaquin Perez Becerra!" discussed the context that led Colombia and Venezuelan presidents to join in sponsoring that initiative.

The Resistance welcomes the agreement

In a May 23 statement, the Political Committee of the National Front for People's Resistance (FNRP), the main organization coordinating popular resistance to the coup inside Honduras, noted that "this agreement for international mediation enables us to put an end to our exile [and] reinforce our process for the refoundation of Honduras." It issued a "call to all members of the resistance inside and outside Honduras to unite in a great mobilization to greet and welcome our leader and the General Coordinator of the FNRP, Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales, at 11 a.m., May 28, 2011, at the International Airport." The statement noted that the agreement complied with the four conditions set by the FNRP.

The FNRP also expressed "thanks for the process of international mediation" carried out by the Venezuelan and Colombian presidents.

By the terms of the Cartagena agreement, the signatories commit themselves to:
* Guarantee the return to Honduras in security and liberty of Zelaya and all others exiled as a result of the crisis. (Over 200 other exiled leaders of the resistance are also now able to return under the terms of the agreement.)
* Assure conditions in which the FNRP can gain recognition as a legal political party.
* Reaffirm the constitutional right to initiate plebiscites, particularly with respect to the FNRP project of convening a National Constituent Assembly. (It was President Zelaya's move to hold a non-binding plebiscite on calling a Constituent Assembly that the organizers of the 2009 coup cited to justify their action.)
* Create a Secretariat of Justice and Human Rights to secure human rights in Honduras and invite the UN Human Rights Commission to establish an office in Honduras.
* Constitute a Monitoring (Verification) Commission, consisting initially of the Colombian and Venezuelan presidencies, to help assure the successful implementation of the agreement.

U.S. disruption attempt

Notably absent from discussions leading to the Cartagena Agreement was the United States, which has long been the arbiter of Honduran politics. Washington kept silent on the Cartagena mediation process, while in fact attempting to torpedo it.

Alexander Main, an analyst for the Center for Economic and Policy Research, noted on May 19 that when, as part of the mediation process, Honduran courts dropped charges against Zelaya, the U.S. State Department issued an "exuberant statement" the following day calling for the suspension of Honduras from the Organization of American States (OAS) to be "immediately lifted" -- a move that would have cut short the Cartagena mediation process. This suspension, enacted in protest against the coup, was one of the factors driving the illegitimate Honduran regime to seek mediation. (See "What Now for a Post-Coup Honduras")

"For good measure," Main says, "the [U.S.] statement noted that 'since his inauguration, President Lobo has moved swiftly to pursue national reconciliation, strengthen governance, stabilize the economy, and improve human rights conditions.'"

In fact, according to the Committee of Family Members of Disappeared Detainees in Honduras (COFADEH), politically motivated killings have taken the lives of 34 members of the resistance and 10 journalists since Lobo took office. No killers have been prosecuted either for these crimes or for the 300 killings by state security forces since the coup.

Showdown at the OAS

The U.S. canvassed energetically among Central and South American countries subject to its influence for support for immediate reinstatement of Honduras -- prior to the conclusion of the mediation process. "In mid-May these divisions came to a head when a diplomatic tussle took place at the OAS," Main reports.

In Main's opinion, "the U.S. is not prepared to accept a political mediation in Honduras in which it doesn't play a leading role. The U.S. has traditionally been deeply involved in the internal affairs of Honduras," and "the country continues to be of great strategic importance to the U.S."

The OAS Secretary General, Jose Miguel Insulza, called a meeting of the OAS Permanent Council that was to consider readmitting the de facto Honduran regime. According to a reliable source at the OAS, Main reports, several Latin American countries, apparently including Colombia, demanded cancellation of the meeting on the grounds that it was "premature." Within hours, the meeting was cancelled.

The failure of this U.S.-inspired maneuver opened the road for the signing of the Cartagena agreement nine days later.

The Cartagena agreement, and the process that facilitated it, marks an important victory for the Honduran resistance. More broadly, it reinforces the process of Indo-Latin American and Caribbean efforts to shape their own national and regional policies free from imperialist domination. (See "Honduras se reintegra al CA-4.") It developed outside the OAS framework, and will help to strengthen and consolidate the new Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) that will meet this coming July in Caracas, Venezuela, under the joint chairmanship of that country and Chile.

Regional sovereignty

The Cartagena accord's impact in Central America was immediate and far reaching. Lobo and Zelaya flew from Cartagena to Managua the same day of the signing ceremony for a special meeting of the SICA (Central American Integration System) at which Honduras was welcomed back by three other Central American presidents -- Daniel Ortega (Nicaragua), Mauricio Funes (El Salvador), and Alvaro Colom (Guatemala). At the meeting Ortega announced the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Nicaragua and Honduras.

In a joint statement, the four presidents called on the OAS to re-admit Honduras, and new agreements were also announced regarding a Customs Union of the four countries. These measures mark a defeat for those forces in Central America inimical to the regional integration process, including the Costa Rican government and its hostile campaign to isolate Sandinista Nicaragua diplomatically and economically.

Need for continued solidarity
Whether the Honduran government will fully carry out the Cartagena agreement remains to be seen. In particular, the coup has produced an entrenched pattern of systematic repression and unrestrained operation of death squads in Honduras. Experiences in other countries, including Colombia, show that such right-wing repression can run rampant, with under-the-table support from security forces, despite formal statements of government disapproval.

The establishment of the Colombia-Venezuela monitoring commission will be vital to keeping the pressure on the Lobo government. Friends of Honduran democracy in North America will need to do some monitoring as well, as an expression of continued solidarity with the Honduran people.

Further reading:

Toni Solo, "Varieties of Imperial Decline: Another Setback for the U.S. in Latin America," May 23, 2011
Ida Garberi, "El regreso de Mel Zelaya es un deber, el retorno de Honduras en la OEA es indigno," May 24, 2011

Community of Latin American and Caribbean States

Another Step for Latin American and Caribbean Sovereignty
By Rachel Boothroyd

Coro, April 28th 2011 - On Tuesday at the Melia Caracas Hotel, 29 representatives from Latin American and Caribbean states attended a meeting to organise the preliminary agenda and structure of CELAC – The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, an organisation that hopes to counter the influence of the U.S in the region.

The meeting was convened in order to establish the foundations for the first summit of the recently formed organisation - due to be held on the 5th of July in Caracas. In a meeting that lasted several hours, the 29 delegates out of CELAC’s 33 member states deliberated on the principal issues that will constitute the main points of discussion at the July conference. The delegates also paid specific attention to CELAC´s constitution.

The meeting ended with the signing of a structural document that defines the CELAC. This document will be considered over the next 30 days by the delegates and member heads of state for approval before the July summit.“This political event is the most important, and has more potential, than any others that have taken place in our America in a hundred years or more,” said Chavez at the beginning of the meeting.

Some of the key issues to be addressed in the July summit are the approval of a human rights charter and a fund to finance poverty eradication. Other topics on the agenda include; food security, health, education, technology and sports strategies. Chile and Venezuela, who are jointly presiding over the forum, will be in charge of drafting up any further documents in the interim.

The official inauguration of CELAC in July will coincide with the bicentenary of Venezuela’s independence and denotes a significant milestone in regional integration and autonomous organisation - independent of representatives from the U.S.A and Canada.

The Architects of an Alternative
CELAC was first initiated in February 2010 at a Latin American and Caribbean Unity Summit in Cancún, Mexico, just eight months after the coup which ousted democratically elected Honduran President Manuel Zelaya.

Citing a need for a forum which ‘consolidates and projects the Latin American and Caribbean identity’, the organisation is founded upon the following principles - which the organisation describes as the “common values” of Latin American and Caribbean culture.

Respect for International Law and the Charter of the United Nations: The sovereign equality of states
The non-use, nor the threat of use, of force, Democracy, Respect for Human Rights, Respect for the environment, taking into consideration the environmental, economic, and social pillars of sustainable development International cooperation for sustainable development. The unity and integration of Latin American and Caribbean countries. An ongoing dialogue that promotes peace and regional security. Similar to projects such as the ALBA (The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America), CELAC is another organisation aimed at promoting regional cooperation and at offsetting Western dominance in the region, particularly that of the USA.

However, unlike the ALBA - an economic bloc based on mutually beneficial trade agreements and which rejects the economic paradigm of neo-liberalism – CELAC is a representative body that will include all Latin American and Caribbean nations and aims to become ”the region's most representative interlocutor vis-à-vis main international actors, other groups of countries and regional organizations” CELAC is specifically designed to represent and increase Latin America and the Caribbean’s presence and influence on the international stage – or to enhance the “Latin American and Caribbean agenda on global forums”. Theoretically, membership of CELAC should not depend on whether the right or left win at the ballot box as is the case with ALBA. However, although not of a strictly leftist agenda, CELAC clearly has progressive tendencies.

Different to the Organization of American States (OAS)?
Whilst the U.S. government has denied that CELAC is of any detriment to the regional influence of the OAS (Organisation of American States, which includes all of the CELAC countries as well as the U.S. and Canada), some observers have remarked that the organisation could eventually end up replacing the OAS; or, if not replacing it entirely, then certainly act as a counter-balancing agency. A brief comparison reveals important differences between the two organisations.

In contrast to the OAS, whose “four main pillars” are; democracy, human rights, security, and development, CELAC stresses its commitment “sovereignty”, “multilateralism”, “the right of any state to establish its own political system” and specifies its dedication to ”sustainable” development.

Furthermore, whereas the OAS does not make reference to economic factors, interestingly CELAC’s declaration hints at certain economic concepts that have come to be related to the development of the democratic left in recent years.

Although economic models are not mentioned explicitly, CELAC highlights that the organisation will strive for “social welfare”, “equality and the widest social justice” ”independent development”, whilst taking into account “the importance of ensuring favourable treatment for the small vulnerable economies and land-locked and island developing states” – clearly rejecting the neo-liberal consensus.

Finally, the inclusion of a democracy clause seeks to prevent any further coups, such as the recent coups in Honduras and Haiti and the attempted coups in Ecuador and Venezuela.

Changing Relations; Bolivar Unites America’s ‘Back Yard’
Perhaps one of the most striking aspects in the development of CELAC is not the rhetoric employed by some of the more radical currents in the region, but that used by centre or centre-right administrations. Although certainly not an admission of any socialist tendencies, quotes such as the following suggest at least a tentative commitment to regional unity.

“We are here constructing the basic regulatory architecture for the functioning of this new institution…We are constructing the dream of integration that the Liberator [Simon Bolivar] sought for all of Latin American and the Caribbean,” said Fernando Schmidt, Chile’s centre-right Vice-Chancellor.

Whether this is purely pragmatism; representing the right’s attempts to respond to changing power relationships in the region, the creation of CELAC may suggest that a real unison of Latin American and Caribbean nations is not only becoming a reality, but also that serious changes in the political dynamics of the region and hemisphere are taking place.

Wikileaks Sheds light on U.S.-Colombia and Venezuela Relations

Latin America shakes off the US yoke
by Mark Weisbrot - The Guardian

On Thursday, the United States expelled the ambassador from Ecuador, in retaliation for Wednesday's expulsion of the US ambassador from Ecuador. This now leaves the United States without ambassadorial relations in three South American countries – Bolivia and Venezuela being the other two – thus surpassing the Bush administration in its diplomatic problems in the region.

U.S. Ambassador Heather Hodges was declared "persona non grata" and asked to leave Ecuador "as soon as possible", after a diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks showed her saying some disparaging things about Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa. In the cable, she alleges that President Correa had knowledge of corruption by a former head of the national policeAlthough the Bush administration intervened in the internal affairs of countries such as Bolivia and even Brazil, it was somewhat better at keeping its "eyes on the prize" and avoiding fights that would distract from its main goal. The prize, of course, is Venezuela – home to the largest oil reserves in the world, estimated by the US Geological Survey at 500bn barrels. Washington's goal there for the last decade has been regime change. The Bush team understood that the more they fought with other countries in the region, the less credible would be their public relations story that Venezuela was the problem.

It's nothing personal, really – Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez could have chosen to be the perfect diplomat and he would still be treated in much the same manner by the US government. And it's not the oil itself, since Venezuela still sells the US more than 1m barrels a day and there is a world market for oil, in any case. It's just that any country with that much oil is going to have regional influence; and Washington just doesn't want to deal with someone who has regional influence and doesn't line up with its own goals for the region – not if it can get rid of them. And they have come close to getting rid of Chávez, in the 2002 coup – so they are not giving up.

But Washington is losing ground there, too. A big blow was the change in Colombia's foreign policy last summer, when President Juan Manuel Santos took office. An important part of Washington's strategy in Venezuela is to maintain tension between Colombia and Venezuela. They have a head start on this project since the 2,000km border between the two countries has been plagued by paramilitary and guerrilla violence for decades. Conflict between Venezuela and Colombia is also important to Washington's electoral strategy in Venezuela. When there is trouble between the two countries, as in 2009, when Venezuela cut off bilateral trade in response to the US effort to expand its military presence in Colombia, it has a negative impact on a lot of Venezuelans in border states. This helps garner some anti-Chávez votes in border states, as in last year's congressional election in Venezuela. Andaccusations of Venezuelan support for the Farc guerrillas in Colombia – despite Washington's failure to offer any evidence – are a key element of bringing its anti-Venezuela efforts under the "war on terror" umbrella.

Although Colombia's previous president, Álvaro Uribe, was – in recent years – very much allied with the United States' strategy toward Venezuela, Santos immediately rejected it and decided to make peace with Chávez. This turned out to be quite easy to do, despite their past fights when Santos was Uribe's defence minister. As anyone who follows Venezuela knows, Chávez is friendly to any head of state or government that is friendly to Venezuela.

Santos's U-turn towards Venezuela is very interesting for several reasons. First, it shows how important regional economic integration is as a force for peace and stability in the area. The attempt by Washington and Santos's predecessor to expand the US military presence in Colombia led to a cutoff of $2.3bn of Colombia's exports to what had recently become their second most important trading partner, Venezuela. This was more than 11% of Colombia's exports, and the bulk of it was in livestock and textile products for which replacement markets were not so readily available. Venezuela also has very close relations with Brazil and most of the rest of South America, and they all felt the same way about Colombia's foreign policy. They were especially concerned about the US military expansion in Colombia – and even more opposed after US Air Force documents made it clear that this expansion was for "mobility operations … on the South American continent" and against the "constant threat" from "anti-US governments".

Santos was basically faced with a choice of continuing to do Washington's bidding or being part of South America. He chose South America. The key role of commerce here, as South America continues to integrate economically, illustrates some of the most important "gains from trade". These are far greater than the neoclassical "efficiency gains",often exaggerated by advocates of "free trade" agreements.

Also, Santos's choice to rejoin South America shows how geopolitical changes led by the left governments of the region have now encompassed even rightwing governments. This is a result of changes in institutions (foreign ministries, multilateral organisations such as Unasur, the Rio Group), ideas, and norms that have taken place over the last decade.

Now comes Washington, demanding that Colombia extradite one Walid Makled, an accused Venezuelan narco-trafficker arrested in Colombia, to the United States. No, thank you, says President Santos – this guy goes to Venezuela. Santos cites Colombian law, stating that, first, Colombia has an extradition treaty with Venezuela, not with the United States; second, Venezuela got their extradition request in first; and third, Makled is wanted for more serious crimes (including murder) in Venezuela than in the US (drug-trafficking). All of these are facts that legally require extradition of Makled to Venezuela.

This is most infuriating to Washington. To understand why this is so important to the state department, one has to look behind official pronouncements about Makled getting "a fair trial" in Venezuela and other nonsense repeated with charming innocence by the major media. Venezuela has a presidential election next year. For every important election or referendum in Venezuela – and there are many, but none more important to Washington than this one – there is an international media campaign, with the participation of the US government. (A recent WikiLeaks cable shows the Colombian government sharing with US officials its coordinated media campaign to link both Chávez and Correa to the Colombian Farc guerrillas.) Makled has already offered to sing about alleged corruption of Venezuelan officials, but only if he is extradited to the US. So, if they could only get him to Miami, they could have a splendid show trial that would be better than any international media campaign that the state department could organise.

If all that seems like it's not worth the trouble, it's exactly what happened in 20. U.S. authorities used a sketchy show trial of a Venezuelan slapped with dubious "failing to register as a foreign agent" charges – but not with actual espionage – in order to broadcast allegations of corruption at the "highest levels" of the Venezuelan government. The allegations made headlines throughout the hemisphere and, of course, were a mainstay of the Venezuelan opposition-dominated media. Just think what the Makled trial could do: no one would ask what the witnesses were offered for their testimony, or whether there was any corroborating evidence for their allegations. It would be one big free-for-all smear-fest, with reporters gobbling it all up.

But Santos is not co-operating, despite enormous pressure and, of course, the currently pending "free trade" agreement between the US and Colombia. Perhaps Washington wants this agreement more than he does.

In any case, the Obama administration – like its predecessor – is fighting a losing battle. President Obama's recent trip to Latin America was hardly more successful than those of Bush. He gets better press – no riots in the streets or Mayan leaders cleansing the site after his visit. But every president and foreign minister there can see that U.S. policies haven't changed one bit.
President Hugo Chavez, backed by South American Presidents, Condemns the Attack on Libya

March 19, 2011 Caracas --Today, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez told South Americans on VTV and TeleSur that the attack on Libya by the West's "men of war" is aimed at seizing the North African country's oil reserves. Earlier this month Chavez announced a peace plan, backed by other Latin American presidents, for Libya. Qaddafi accepted the proposal but the rebels, armed by the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia, rejected the offer of foreign mediation for peace.

President Chavez condemned today's military assault against Libya in a televised address to the nation, stating that the United States and its European allies are attacking the country to seize its petroleum. He called the assault against Libya by the U.S., France and others, "disgusting". He continued in his televised talk to the nation today, "These are the men of war … what irresponsibility. Behind this is the hand of the United States and its European allies, instead of taking the path that we have modestly proposed they choose more death, more war. They are the masters of war ... They want to seize Libya's oil. The lives of Libya's people don't matter to them at all ... It is deplorable that once again the warmongering policy of the Yankee empire and its allies is being imposed, and it is deplorable that the United Nations lends itself to supporting war, infringing on its fundamental principles instead of urgently forming a commission to go to Libya. We know what's going to happen: bombs, bombs, war, more suffering for the people, more death."Chavez denounced the attack on Libya as "pulverization" of international law and as a dangerous and unwarranted intervention in the internal affairs of a sovereign state. He repeated that the war now descending upon the Libyan people is, "another imposition of the warmongering policies of the Imperial Yankee and its allies" and called it "... unfortunate, and it is unfortunate that the United Nations endorses the war, in contravention of its fundamental principles."

Fidel Castro, and Evo Morales, President of Bolivia, Daniel Ortega, President of Nicaragua, Rafael Correa, President of Ecuador, Cristina Ferdinez, President of Argentina - all stand with President Chavez against the U.S./NATO invasion of Libya indicating that the western media reports of Libya's military action as an attack on civilians is a lie. Rather their view is that Libya's military action is nothing more or less than a heroic national defense against a foreign-backed insurrection to achieve a coup d'etat to gain control of Libya's petroleum reserves.

Today, Fidel Castro asked why the U.N. Security Council exists and said that NATO's military force, "serves only to show the waste and chaos generated by capitalism." Evo Morales accused the U.S. & Company of a strategy to, "invent a problem, but their problem is their desire to take control of oil." President Chavez condemned Barack Obama of launching another war patterned after the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, noting Obama's fraudulent Nobel Peace Prize. He also pointed out the hypocrisy of French and other European leaders, saying that they assume the right to own and control the world. He said that the freezing of Libyan accounts in U.S. and European banks (estimated at $200 billion) "is a robbery, it's looting, taking advantage of Libya's internal conflict." He continued, "What is that called? Intervention in another country's internal affairs ... We demand a true cease-fire."… Editor's Note:
Over the weekend, Venezuelan students and representatives of the Latin American left expressed their open rejection of the NATO attack on Libya's national sovereignty.

On Saturday, students of Venezuela's progressive and revolutionary movements gathered outside the French Embassy to protest what they called an "aggression against the Libyan people."

"This protest is a protest against the French government...They are the ones who have initiated this aggression against the Libyan people, not against Muammar Al Gaddafi. In fact, they've already begun with their excuses of navigation failures, and their missiles have begun hitting civilian buildings," said student protestor Jhonalbert Viera.

On Sunday, hundreds of people including Aristobulo Isturiz -Vice President of Venezuela's National Assembly - gathered outside of the Libyan Embassy in Caracas to stand in solidarity with the Libyan people.

Also over the weekend, representatives of over 40 Latin American leftist political parties approved a unanimous statement denouncing the NATO attack on Libya. Organizers of the 'Parties & the New Society' Conference, currently being held in Caracas, considered the declaration an important step in consolidating criteria among the parties.

"We consider the statement a success because here we have the majority of the Latin American Left represented, and we've secured a unanimous rejection of the [NATO] aggression against Libya," said Rodrigo Cabezas, chief coordinator of International Affairs for the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).

Parties represented at the conference include Brazil's Workers' Party (PT), Nicaragua's Sandinista Front for National Liberation (FSLN), Bolivia's Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), Venezuela's United Socialist Party (PSUV, and Cuba's Communist Party (PCC), among others.
See also:
03/03/2011: Chavez Says Gaddafi Accepted Proposal for Goodwill Commission in Libya[3]
11/03/2011: Latin American Nations Pledge for Peace in Libya[4]
28/02/2011: Venezuelan Government Rejects Possible Intervention in Libya[5]

What Side Are We On: Let's be Clear

What's going on in Libya ? From the Arab World to Latin America
By Santiago Alba Rico and Alma Allende
Translated by Machetera

We have the impression that a great worldwide liberation process may be aborted by the unappeasable ferocity of Gaddafi , U.S. interventionism, and a lack of foresight in Latin America .

We might describe the situation like this: in a part of the world linked once again to strong internal solidarities and from which only lethargy or fanaticism was expected, a wave of popular uprisings have arisen which have threatened to topple the allies of Western powers in the region, one after the other. Independent of local differences, these uprisings have something in common that radically distinguishes them from the orange and rose colored "revolutions" promoted by capitalism in the former Soviet bloc: they demand democracy, certainly, but far from being fascinated by Europe and the United States, they are the holders of a long, entrenched, radical anti-imperialist tradition forged around Palestine and Iraq. There's not even a hint of socialism in the popular Arab uprisings, but neither is there one of Islamism, nor - most importantly - of Euro-centric seduction: it is simultaneously a matter of economic upheaval and democratic, nationalistic and anti-colonial revolution, something that, forty years after their defeat, suddenly opens an unexpected opportunity for the region's socialist and pan-Arabist left.

Progressive Latin America , whose pioneering liberation processes constitute hope for world-wide anti-imperialism, ought to support the Arab world right now without reservation, moving beyond the strategy of the Western powers overtaken by events, as well as those that are providing an opportunity for Gaddafi's return - perhaps militarily, but above all, propagandistically - as a champion of human rights and democracy. That discourse is hardly credible in this part of the world, where Fidel and Chávez enjoy enormous popular credit, but if Latin America aligns itself, actively or passively, with the tyrant, the contagious popular advances that are already extending toward Europe, and have gone as far as Wisconsin, will not only see themselves irreparably halted but will also produce a new fracture in the anti-imperialist camp, so that the world's ever vigilant timekeeper, the United States of America can seize advantage in order to recover lost ground. Something like this may already be occurring as a result of a combination of ignorance as well as schematic and summary anti-imperialism. The Arab people, who are returning to history's stage, need the support of their Latin American brothers and sisters, but above all, it is the relationship between world powers that cannot allow for vacillation by Cuba and Venezuela without having Cuba and Venezuela also suffer the consequences, with Latin America and the hopes for transformation at a global level suffering along with them. We might say that we know very little of what it happening in Libya and are suspicious about the condemnations coming from the Western media and institutional powers in recent days. We might leave it at that. The imperialists are more intelligent. With many specific interests in the area, they have defended their dictators to the bitter end, but when they have understood that those dictators were unsustainable, they have let them fall and chosen another strategy: that of supporting controlled democratic processes, choosing and deploying post-modern minorities as a driving force for limited change, a new rainbow of democratic rhetoric, in the sure knowledge that memory is short and leftist reflections quite immediate. Any kind of Western interference must be opposed, but we don't believe, truly, that NATO is going to invade Libya ; it seems to us that this threat, just barely pointed out, has the effect of entangling and blurring the anti-imperialist camp, even to the point of making us forget something that we ought to know: who Gaddafi is. Forgetting this produces three terrible effects in the end: breaking the ties with the popular Arab movements, giving legitimacy to the accusations against Venezuela and Cuba , and granting new prestige to the very damaged imperialist discourse on democracy. All without a doubt, a triumph for imperialist interests in the region.

Over the past ten years, Gaddafi has been a great friend to the European Union and the United States , and its dictator allies in the region. We need only recall the inflammatory statements of support from the Libyan Caligula for the deposed Ben Alí, to whose militias he quite probably provided weapons and money in the days following January 14th. It's sufficient as well to recall Gaddafi's docile collaboration with the U.S. in the framework of the so-called "war on terrorism." The political collaboration has been accompanied by close economic ties with the EU, including Spain: the sale of oil to Germany, Italy, France and the United States has paralleled the entry into Libya by the large Western oil companies (the Spanish Repsol, the British BP, the French Total, the Italian ENI and the Austrian OM), not to mention the juicy contracts for European and Spanish construction firms in Tripoli. Moreover, France and the U.S. have continued providing the weapons that are now killing Libyans from the air, following imperial Italy 's example from 1911. In 2008, the former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice made it quite clear: " Libya and the United States share permanent interests: cooperation in the fight against terrorism, trade, nuclear proliferation, Africa , human rights and democracy."
When Gaddafi visited France in December of 2007, Ayman El-Kayman summarized the situation in the following paragraph: "Almost ten years ago, as far as the democratic West was concerned, Gaddafi was no long a reprehensible individual: in order to get off the U.S. terrorist list, he took responsibility for the bombing over Lockerbie; in order to normalize his relations with the United Kingdom, he turned over the names of all the Irish republicans who'd trained in Libya; for normalization with the United States, he turned over all the information he had about Libyans suspected of participating in jihad along with Bin Laden, and renounced his "weapons of mass destruction," as well as calling on Syria to do the same; in order to normalize relations with the European Union, he became the guardian of concentration camps where thousands of Africans headed for Europe are held; in order to normalize his relations with his sinister neighbor Ben Alí, he turned over the opponents of the Tunisian regime who had been living as refugees in Libya.

As is apparent, Gaddafi is neither a revolutionary nor an ally, not even a tactical one, of the world's revolutionaries. In 2008 Fidel and Chávez (along with Mercosur) rightly denounced what was known as the "shameful directive" from Europe that reinforced an already very severe persecution in Europe of defenseless immigrants who'd been stripped of everything. Of all Gaddafi's crimes, perhaps the most serious and least known is his complicity in the EU's immigration policy, particularly that of Italy , as the executioner of African migrants. Anyone seeking a wealth of information on the subject can read Il Mare di mezzo, by the courageous journalist Gabriele del Grande, or consult his website, Fortresseurope, where there is a collection of horrifying documents. By 2006 Human Rights Watch and Afvic denounced the arbitrary arrests and tortures taking place in Libyan detention centers financed by Italy . The Berlusconi-Gaddafi agreement of 2003 can be read in its entirety at Gabriele del Grande's site, and its consequences summarized succinctly and painfully in the cry of Farah Anam, the Somali fugitive from Libyan death camps: "I'd prefer to die at sea than return to Libya ." Despite the denunciations of the real extermination practices taking place - or precisely because of them, proof of Gaddafi's efficiency as Europe's guardian - the European Commission signed a "cooperative agenda" in order to "direct migration flows" and "control borders," valid until 2013 and accompanied by the delivery of 50 million Euros to Libya. Europe 's relationship with Gaddafi has been a submissive one. Berlusconi, Sarkozy, Zapatero and Blair received him with open arms in 2007 and Zapatero himself visited him in Tripoli in 2010. Even the king, Juan Carlos, was dispatched to Tripoli in January of 2009 in order to promote Spanish business. On the other hand, the EU didn't hesitate to humiliate itself and make a public apology on March 27th, 2010, through the Spanish foreign minister at the time, Miguel Ángel Moratinos, for having prohibited 188 Libyan citizens entry into Europe due to the conflict between Switzerland and Libya over the arrest of one of Gaddafi's sons in Geneva where he was accused of assaulting his maids. More than that: the EU didn't issue the slightest protest when Gaddafi imposed economic, trade and human reprisals against Switzerland , nor when he effectively called for a holy war against that country and made a public statement about his wish that it be wiped from the map. And so now when Gaddafi's imperialist friends - who've seen how the Arab world revolted without their intervention - condemn the Libyan dictatorship and talk about democracy, we vacillate. We apply the universal template of the anti-imperialist struggle, with its conspiracy theories and its paradoxical distrust of the people, and ask for time so that the clouds of dust thrown up by the bombs dropped from the air might clear - to be sure that there are no CIA cadavers underneath. That is, when we don't offer direct support, as the Nicaraguan government did, to a criminal with whom the slightest contact can only stain forever anyone who claims to be leftist or progressive. It's not NATO who's bombing the Libyans, but Gaddafi. "Gun against gun" is how the revolutionary song goes; "Missiles against civilians" is something that we cannot accept and that, without even asking ourselves, we ought to condemn with all our might and indignation. But let's ask ourselves the questions as well. Because if we ask ourselves, the answers that we have - few as they might be - provide further proof of which side the revolutionaries of the world should be on right now. With any luck, Gaddafi will fall - better today than tomorrow - and Latin America will understand that what is happening right now in the Arab world has to do, not with the Machiavellian plans of the EU and the U.S. (which without a doubt are maneuvering in the shadows), but with the open processes of Our America, that America which belongs to everyone, that of ALBA and dignity, since the beginning of the 1990s, following in the wake of the Cuba of 1958. The opportunity is great and possibly the last for a definitive reverse in the balance of forces and for isolating the imperialist powers within a new global framework. We ought not to fall into such a simple trap. We ought not to underestimate the Arabs. No, they aren't socialists, but in the last two months, in an unexpected way, they have stripped away the hypocrisy from the EU and the United States, have expressed their desire for authentic democracy, far removed from any colonial tutelage, and have opened a space for the left to thwart capitalism's attempts to recover lost ground. It's the Latin America of ALBA, of Che, and Playa Girón, whose prestige in this area remained intact until yesterday, that must support the process before the world's timekeeper manages to turn the hands back and to its favor. The capitalist countries have "interests," the socialist ones only "limits." Many of these "interests" were with Gaddafi, but none of these "limits" have anything to do with him. He is a criminal and moreover, a hindrance. Please, revolutionary comrades of Latin America , the revolutionary comrades of the Arab world are asking that you not support him.