Behind Obama's Lies

Obama promises to ensure the flow of oil
”by Gregory Wilpert -
NY Times eXaminer founder Gregory Wilpert critiques the New York Times’ coverage of Venezuela – U.S. relations following the expulsion of three U.S. diplomats from Venezuela by President Nicolas Maduro.

“Stepping up hostilities with the United States, President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela expelled the top American diplomat,” reads the first sentence of the New York Times’s coverage of the three diplomats President Maduro expelled on Monday (“With Accusations of Sabotage, Venezuela Expels 3 U.S. Embassy Officials,” by William Neuman, NYT, Oct. 1, 2013, p.A6).

After explaining that Maduro accused the diplomats of fomenting sabotage and protest activity among the opposition, the rest of the article goes on to say, “The expulsions were the latest diplomatic swipe at Washington by Mr. Maduro since he took over for the country’s longtime president…” and that Maduro is intent on “painting the United States as an imperialist aggressor out to undermine his government.”

In other words, it is the Venezuelan government that is worsening relations between Caracas and Washington and that the U.S. government is an innocent victim of Maduro’s verbal and presumably not-so-diplomatic onslaught. The fact that the U.S. first initiated almost every turn in the worsening relations between the U.S. and Venezuela is conveniently omitted in Neuman’s article.

For example, it was ambassador-designate Larry Palmer, in August 2010, who first cast aspersions on Venezuela’s military and thereby torpedoed his acceptance as U.S. ambassador to Venezuela.

Then, in May of 2011, the U.S. imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA for doing business with Iran. Later in that same year the Obama administration accused four Venezuelan government officials of providing support to Colombia’s guerrilla, the FARC, and levying sanctions in these officials.

Shortly thereafter Obama himself accused the Chávez government of restricting human rights and of violating democratic principles in Venezuela. In January of 2012 Obama proceeded to expel Venezuela’s consul general in Miami for allegedly engaging in a spying operation against the U.S. while she was stationed in Mexico a year earlier.

What happened was that she had met with someone connected to the Venezuelan opposition who tried to entrap her by claiming to have information about U.S. nuclear facilities. Other than meeting with someone who unsuccessfully tried to give her false information, she never actually engaged in any spying activity.

Finally, the day that Chávez died, Maduro revealed that two U.S. diplomats were meeting with Venezuelan military officials, proposing destabilization plans.

Reading the New York Times on U.S-Venezuelan relations, one could get the impression that either none of these above-named incidents happened or that if they did, they were meaningless and do not deserve a reaction from the Venezuelan government. The fact that the Venezuelan government did react each time and did not tolerate these actions can—in the NYT worldview—only mean that the Venezuelan government is either hell-bent on sabotaging U.S.-Venezuela relations and/or that these actions are merely a smokescreen to distract from domestic Venezuelan problems.

Distraction is precisely what Neuman suggests when he quotes Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, “He [Maduro] needs diversions and distractions … The situation is so dire in Venezuela that he needs to find a scapegoat, and it’s convenient and politically so tempting to kick out U.S. diplomats,” and Neuman follows up with his own comment that “the country’s economic woes are getting worse.”

Given the lack of information about earlier U.S. actions against Venezuela, distraction appears to be a compelling explanation for Maduro’s apparently irrational attacks against the good-hearted Obama administration. Unfortunately for this narrative, the facts don’t quite fit.

That is, while the article cites an unusually high inflation rate of 45 percent for 2013 so far, it fails to mention that inflation has been declining recently, from a high of 6.1 percent in May 2013, and dropping to 3.2 and 3.0 percent in July and August, respectively. Also, while economic growth has been sluggish, it has been fluctuating between 0.5% and 2.6% per quarter this year. Another area that is written about a lot is shortages, but these too have become less acute than earlier this year, according to official statistics. In short, while there are no doubt economic problems in Venezuela, they have been improving recently, contrary to Neuman’s claim that the situation is “getting worse.”

Once again, it seems that the New York Times’s determined to present official enemies of the U.S. as irrational and deceptive, while the U.S. government is the innocent victim of these enemies. However, it really should not be all that difficult to believe that countries of strategic importance, such as Venezuela, which has one of the world’s largest oil reserves, would be a target of U.S. covert (or not so covert) intervention.

After all, in Obama’s recent UN speech he promised, referring to the Middle East, “We will ensure the free flow of energy from the region to the world.” We have no reason to expect the U.S. to treat Venezuela any differently, especially if Obama can count on the New York Times to provide the media distortions it needs.

Gregory Wilpert is a political sociologist, activist, and freelance writer.

Get out of Venezuela, Yankee go home!

Nicolas Maduro Expels Three US Diplomats from Venezuela for Alleged Conspiracy

by Ewan Robertson

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro today ordered the expulsion of a top US diplomat and two other embassy officials for alleged Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro today ordered the expulsion of a top US diplomat and two other embassy officials for alleged conspiracy with the opposition. (AVN)

Mérida, 30th September 2013 – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro today ordered the expulsion of a top US diplomat and two other embassy officials from Venezuela for alleged conspiracy with the opposition.

“Get out of Venezuela. Yankee go home. Enough of abuses against the dignity of a homeland that wants peace,” said Maduro during a televised political event this afternoon.

The US officials named were chargé d'affaires Kelly Keiderling, and two other embassy employees, Elizabeth Hunderland and David Mutt. They have 48 hours to leave the country.

President Maduro accused these officials of “meeting with the extreme Venezuela right to finance actions to sabotage the electricity system and the Venezuelan economy”.

“We’ve been monitoring some officials of the American embassy in Caracas…I have the proof [of conspiracy] in my hands,” he added.

Maduro has repeatedly referred to blackouts and relative shortages of some food products this year as an opposition attempt to “sabotage” the Venezuelan economy and destabilise the country.

The Venezuelan president added today that he “doesn’t care” what the response from Barack Obama’s administration would be, declaring, “We’re not going to allow an imperial government to come and bring money to stop companies operating, [and] to take out the electricity to shut Venezuela down”.

“Señores gringos, imperialists, you have before you men and women of dignity that…will never kneel before your interests and we’re not afraid of you. We’ll confront you on all levels, the political, the diplomatic,” Maduro added.

The U.S. State Department responded to the declarations by stating that it has not yet received official notification of the decision to expel the diplomats. The statement added that the U.S. "completely rejects" the Venezuelan government's accusation of its officials participating in the alleged conspiracy plans.

Venezuela – US relations have remained cold since the administration of late President Hugo Chavez, who accused the US of supporting a short-lived coup attempt against his government in 2002.

The two countries have not had an exchange of ambassadors since 2010. Attempts to improve relations this year were cut off by Maduro after the US’s new ambassador to the United Nations made comments about Venezuela that were regarded by Venezuelan officials as “unacceptable and unfounded”.

Venezuela blasts US at UN General Assembly

Last Friday, Venezuelan foreign minister Elias Jaua addressed the United Nations General Assembly in New York, where he criticised the US and its allies as “hawks of war” who had “hijacked” the UN Security Council.

Jaua said that when UN member states stand against interventionist actions of the US and its followers, these states “simply bang on the table and do whatever they want, which is exactly what will happen when they later declare bombings on Syria”.

“We’re here to report a kidnapping” added the Venezuelan official, claiming that the US had “kidnapped” the UN. He went on to repeat arguments made by Bolivian president Evo Morales, that the UN headquarters should be moved to a location where “all nations would be respected”.

Foreign Minister Jaua referred specifically to accusations that the US had tried to impede members of the Venezuelan delegation from attending the UN General Assembly meeting by not granting them US entry visas.

He added that President Maduro had been unable to attend the gathering due to “a whole range of delays, obstacles and lack of guarantees imposed by the government of the United States” in “flagrant violation” of diplomatic obligations.

Last Wednesday Maduro cancelled his planned visit to the UN General Assembly, ostensibly due to fears for his personal safety after receiving information of alleged “crazy” plots involving ex-US officials Otto Reich and Roger Noriega.

US government spokespersons have denied placing obstacles or refusing to grant entry visas to the Venezuelan delegation’s UNGA attendance.

However, an unnamed Obama administration official told Bloomberg news that a possible concern of the Maduro delegation was that the Venezuelan president’s plane, which was on loan from Cuba, may have been seized in New York due to the rules of the US government’s decades-long embargo on Cuban government assets.

Maduro’s own presidential plane had suffered a mechanical problem after undergoing maintenance for five months at Airbus SAS in France. The Venezuelan government is considering legal action against the aviation company on the issue.

Further, the US and Venezuela had already fallen out last Thursday 19 September when Washington allegedly prohibited Maduro’s presidential plane from passing over Puerto Rico en route to a state visit in China. The incident provoked hurried diplomatic talks to allow the presidential flight to continue its planned route.

Coupled with Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff’s anger over US spying of her government and the refusal of permission for Bolivian president Evo Morales’ presidential flight to pass through European air space in July, recent US actions toward Venezuela have caused some concern in Latin American diplomatic circles over respect for the region’s governments from Washington and its allies.
Reprinted from