UPDATE 27. March 2020: The U.S. Now Leads the World in Confirmed Coronavirus Cases. In the United States, at least 81,321 people are known to have been infected with the coronavirus, including more than 1,000 deaths — more cases than China, Italy or any other country has seen, according to data gathered by The New York Times. Other sources like HERE or HERE or HERE or HERE or from this MAP list already 85,749 infected and 1,311 dead in the USA. "Sick Man" America will take many others down while dying.
Venezuela’s Coronavirus Response Might Surprise You
- but inhumane USA blocks medical and other evacuation flights for stranded Venezuelans back to Venezuela.
By Leonardo Flores - ICH - 27. March 2020
Within a few hours of being launched, over 800 Venezuelans in the U.S. registered for an emergency flight from Miami to Caracas through a website run by the Venezuelan government. This flight, offered at no cost, was proposed by President Nicolás Maduro when he learned that 200 Venezuelans were stuck in the United States following his government’s decision to stop commercial flights as a preventative coronavirus measure. The promise of one flight expanded to two or more flights, as it became clear that many Venezuelans in the U.S. wanted to go back to Venezuela, yet the situation remains unresolved due to the U.S. ban on flights to and from the country.
Those who rely solely on the mainstream media might wonder who in their right mind would want to leave the United States for Venezuela. Numerous outlets—including TIME magazine, the Washington Post, The Hill, the Miami Herald, and others—published opinions in the past week describing Venezuela as a chaotic nightmare. These media outlets painted a picture of a coronavirus disaster, of government incompetence and of a nation teetering on the brink of collapse. The reality of Venezuela’s coronavirus response is not covered by the mainstream media at all.
Furthermore, what each of these articles shortchanges is the damage caused by the Trump administration’s sanctions, which devastated the economy and healthcare system long before the coronavirus pandemic. These sanctions have impoverished millions of Venezuelans and negatively impact vital infrastructure, such as electricity generation. Venezuela is impeded from importing spare parts for its power plants and the resulting blackouts interrupt water services that rely on electric pumps. These, along with dozens of other implications from the hybrid war on Venezuela, have caused a decline in health indicators across the board, leading to 100,000 deaths as a consequence of the sanctions.
As a result of these steps and other factors, Venezuela is currently in its best-case scenario. As of this writing, 11 days after the first confirmed case of coronavirus, the country has 86 infected people, with 0 deaths. Its neighbors have not fared as well: Brazil has 1,924 cases with 34 deaths; Ecuador 981 and 18; Chile 746 and 2; Peru 395 and 5; Mexico 367 and 4; Colombia 306 and 3. (With the exception of Mexico, those governments have all actively participated and contributed to the U.S.-led regime change efforts in Venezuela.) Why is Venezuela doing so much better than others in the region?Regarding coronavirus specifically, the sanctions raise the costs of testing kits and medical supplies, and ban Venezuela’s government from purchasing medical equipment from the U.S. (and from many European countries). These obstacles would seemingly place Venezuela on the path to a worst-case scenario, similar to Iran (also battered by sanctions) or Italy (battered by austerity and neoliberalism). In contrast to those two countries, Venezuela took decisive steps early on to face the pandemic.
Skeptics will claim that the Maduro government is hiding figures and deaths, that there’s not enough testing, not enough medicine, not enough talent to adequately deal with a pandemic. But here are the facts:
First, international solidarity has played a priceless role in enabling the government to rise to the challenge. China sent coronavirus diagnostic kits that will allow 320,000 Venezuelans to be tested, in addition to a team of experts and tons of supplies. Cuba sent 130 doctors and 10,000 doses of interferon alfa-2b, a drug with an established record of helping COVID-19 patients recover. Russia has sent the first of several shipments of medical equipment and kits. These three countries, routinely characterized by the U.S. foreign policy establishment as evil, offer solidarity and material support. The United States offers more sanctions and the IMF, widely known to be under U.S. control, denied a Venezuelan request for $5 billion in emergency funding that even the European Union supports.
Second, the government quickly carried out a plan to contain the spread of the disease. On March 12, a day before the first confirmed cases, President Maduro decreed a health emergency, prohibited crowds from gathering, and cancelled flights from Europe and Colombia. On March 13, Day 1, two Venezuelans tested positive; the government cancelled classes, began requiring facemasks on subways and on the border, closed theaters, bars and nightclubs, and limited restaurants to take-out or delivery. It bears repeating that this was on Day 1 of having a confirmed case; many U.S. states have yet to take these steps. By Day 4, a national quarantine was put into effect (equivalent to shelter-in-place orders) and an online portal called the Homeland System (Sistema Patria) was repurposed to survey potential COVID-19 cases. By Day 8, 42 people were infected and approximately 90% of the population was heeding the quarantine. By Day 11, over 12.2 million people had filled out the survey, over 20,000 people who reported being sick were visited in their homes by medical professionals and 145 people were referred for coronavirus testing. The government estimates that without these measures, Venezuela would have 3,000 infected people and a high number of deaths.
Third, the Venezuelan people were positioned to handle a crisis. Over the past 7 years, Venezuela has lived through the death of wildly popular leader, violent right-wing protests, an economic war characterized by shortages and hyperinflation, sanctions that have destroyed the economy, an ongoing coup, attempted military insurrections, attacks on public utilities, blackouts, mass migration and threats of U.S. military action. The coronavirus is a different sort of challenge, but previous crises have instilled a resiliency among the Venezuelan people and strengthened solidarity within communities. There is no panic on the streets; instead, people are calm and following health protocols.
Fourth, mass organizing and prioritizing people above all else. Communes and organized communities have taken the lead, producing facemasks, keeping the CLAP food supply system running (this monthly food package reaches 7 million families), facilitating house-by-house visits of doctors and encouraging the use of facemasks in public. Over 12,000 medical school students in their last or second-to-last year of study applied to be trained for house visits. For its part, the Maduro administration suspended rent payments, instituted a nationwide firing freeze, gave bonuses to workers, prohibited telecoms from cutting off people’s phones or internet, reached an agreement with hotel chains to provide 4,000 beds in case the crisis escalates, and pledged to pay the salaries of employees of small and medium businesses. Amid a public health crisis - compounded by an economic crisis and sanctions - Venezuela’s response has been to guarantee food, provide free healthcare and widespread testing, and alleviate further economic pressure on the working class.
The U.S. government has not responded to the Maduro administration’s request to make an exception for Conviasa Airlines, the national airline under sanctions, to fly the Venezuelans stranded in the United States back to Caracas. Given everything happening in the United States, where COVID-19 treatment can cost nearly $35,000 and the government is weighing the option of prioritizing the economy over the lives of people, perhaps these Venezuelans waiting to go home understand that their chances of surviving the coronavirus—both physically and economically—are much better in a country that values health over profits.
Leonardo Flores is a Latin American policy expert and campaigner with CodePink.
Punishing America's Enemies
Denying medicines to Iran and Venezuela is a crime against humanity
By Philip Giraldi - 24. March 2020
Much remains to be learned about the coronavirus, though it is quite possible that it will not be possible to determine how it developed if the various governments that might be involved prove to be uncooperative. The Chinese carefully controlled the information on the virus in its early stages, though they eventually adopted a complete lockdown to prevent its spread that seems to have been successful and might serve as a model for other nations to follow if they can overcome concerns about threats to civil liberties that evolve from placing too much power in the hands of corrupt and ignorant government officials.
Over two weeks ago, I suggested that the current form of corona might have possibly escaped from someone’s lab where a weaponized virus was being developed, most likely in China itself, though nations like the United States and Israel which are believed to have significant capabilities in biowarfare as well as a geopolitical motive to unleash the disease on certain countries should not be excluded. I still believe that assessment should be considered as viable particularly as the politicization process involving the virus is now fully in play.
China is now claiming that U.S. soldiers involved in the World Military Games held in Wuhan back in October might have deliberately planted the virus, while President Donald Trump and other Republicans in the U.S. are calling the disease the Wuhan or China virus, implying willful or careless behavior by the Chinese and a clear effort to demonize the Beijing government by exploiting the appearance of the virus as a wedge issue. And one might take note of the fact that the virus has particularly hit both China and Iran, countries that are on Washington’s enemy list, which generates additional conspiracy theories.
Donald Trump is not exactly a person overflowing with compassion. When corona virus began to emerge in the U.S. he called it a “hoax” and urged everyone to keep going to work even if ill, precisely the opposite of what was being recommended by most responsible medical authorities. He is now planning to throw $1200 dollars at each American resident whether they need it or not to undo the political damage, a proposal that will cost as much as $500 billion of money that the United States does not have and which it will have to either print or borrow. The money should be going to those who are now unemployed as a result of the virus, a point that surprisingly enough is being made by several Republican Senators.
Hundreds of billions more will go to the usual “victims,” banks and large corporations that will use the cash to pay off long terms loans and also to buyback their own stock and raise the value of their shares for investors. That is precisely what happened in 2008, with little to show for the average American.
One of the most truly despicable aspects of the coronavirus is how it is being exploited by Washington to punish countries like Iran and Venezuela, currently the enemy-designates of the inside the Beltway crowd. It would be possible to describe the Trump Administration policy towards both nations as sadistic apart from the fact that the behavior of the president and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo might actually shock the Marquis de Sade.
Venezuela has been denied a $5 billion International Monetary Fund loan to combat the virus based on the seemingly irrelevant and politically motivated argument that it is not clear who represents the legitimate government in the country, whether it is Nicola Maduro, the president, or Juan Guaido, the aspirant to the position of head of state being promoted by Washington. The White House has also declared a “maximum pressure March” directed against the Venezuelan economy, with the health care sector particularly targeted. So, Venezuelans will die and Maduro will undoubtedly continue to run the government, making the position of the Trump Administration demanding regime change both toxic and pointless.
Iran is also seeking a $5 billion IMF emergency loan to cope with the crisis, a request that will almost certainly also be torpedoed by the Trump Administration. Last Thursday Pompeo doubled down on Iran, initiating new sanctions based on the evidence-free allegation that Tehran is behind the recent attacks on U.S. military bases in Iraq. He also confirmed that, as part of the “maximum pressure” policy, all existing sanctions will remain in place, saying “Our sanctions will deprive the regime of critical income from its petrochemical industry and further Iran’s economic and diplomatic isolation. The United States will continue to fully enforce our sanctions.”
The fact that the Iraqi government and parliament have asked the Americans to close their bases in the country while the U.S. is highly unpopular due to its killing of Iraqi militiamen and soldiers seems to have escaped Pompeo as possible causes of the series of missile strikes. Pompeo also seems oblivious to the fact that remnants of ISIS are active in the areas where the bases are located and have proven quite capable of firing missiles from improvised pick-up truck launchers.
Last week Iran confirmed that it had experienced 988 deaths from the coronavirus and the infected number in the tens of thousands, but many believe that testing has been inadequate and the government may be understating the number of cases for political reasons. Pompeo has repeatedly insisted that Iran will be allowed to buy necessary medicines from abroad, but the U.S-imposed currency exchange restrictions on the activity of the national bank as well as of the country’s remaining commercial banks means that there is no mechanism to pay for the drugs and medical supplies so the country is combating the epidemic without many badly needed pharmaceuticals.
Even some congressmen have noticed that there is something fundamentally evil about the U.S. policy. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren sent a letter to Pompeo and Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin that included “I am concerned about the vulnerability of the Iranian people to the coronavirus and the potential for Iran’s coronavirus cases to worsen the spread of the disease to neighboring countries, including regional allies, and to the rest of the world. Therefore, I seek an assurance that every reasonable effort is being made by the United States to ensure the availability of medicine and other non-sanctionable humanitarian items to the Iranian people to help prevent the further spread of the coronavirus.”
Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted “Iran is facing a catastrophic toll from the coronavirus pandemic. U.S. sanctions should not be contributing to this humanitarian disaster. As a caring nation, we must lift any sanctions hurting Iran’s ability to address this crisis, including financial sanctions.”
Iran’s government is admittedly unpopular due to the mishandling of the shoot-down of the Ukrainian airliner and the inability to cope with a deepening economic crisis caused largely by the U.S. imposed sanctions. Given the current signs of weakness and instability in Tehran, there was recently a meeting in the White House discussing whether the U.S. should take the opportunity to attack Iran. It was, fortunately, rejected by a narrow margin when the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff strongly opposed the proposal.
Meanwhile the usual Iranophobes in Washington at the Israeli-linked Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) have seen an opportunity to tighten the screws a bit more and hopefully bring down the Iranian leadership through economic warfare. Their support for increasing sanctions on Iran is a policy designed to inflict the maximum pain on the Iranian people so they will rise up seeking to destroy their government. If that were to occur it would mean a civil war, but the folks at FDD would be hard pressed to even acknowledge the blood on their hands.
Ironically, if the United States were to make a serious effort to actually help the Iranian people by suspending sanctions and helping to expedite medical assistance it might actually produce a genuine thaw in a relationship that has been unnecessarily locked into 1979 and the embassy hostage crisis. Waging war on innocent people should not in any event be what the United States of America is all about. A shift in policies that actually demonstrates that Washington might be interested in saving lives rather than destroying them would be welcomed by most of the world and also by many Americans.
Philip M. Giraldi, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a 501(c)3 tax deductible educational foundation (Federal ID Number #52-1739023) that seeks a more interests-based U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Website is councilforthenationalinterest.org, address is P.O. Box 2157, Purcellville VA 20134 and its email is .
This bullshit has to stop
Washington brings NARCO-TERRORISM charges against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro
By RT - 26. March, 2020
FILE PHOTO © Global Look Press / Marcos Salgado / Xinhua; REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
The US has indicted Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on “narco-terrorism” charges. The play is a familiar one, as Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega was slapped with similar charges before a US invasion 30 years ago.
Maduro and 14 current and former Venezuelan government and military officials were indicted on Thursday by courts in Florida, New York and Washington DC. According to the Justice Department, Maduro and his cohorts conspired with Colombian guerillas to “flood” the US with cocaine, transporting the drug to American shores by air and sea.
“The Maduro regime is awash with corruption and criminality,” Attorney General William Barr said at a press conference on Thursday. “This cabal lines their pockets with drug money, and this has to come to an end.”
Barr did not provide any evidence of drug seizures, but claimed the US authorities have observed the trafficking operation at work in Central America.
The State Department offered the $15 million bounty for Maduro, along with rewards of up to $10 million each for information on five Venezuelan political and military leaders.
The indictments – filed against a sitting head of state – are a bold move. Yet Washington has spent more than a year attempting to remove Maduro from power. After Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself ‘interim president’ last January, Washington was quick to recognize him as the Latin American country’s legitimate leader. Rounds of sanctions against the Maduro government followed, and military action was at one point rumored.
Maduro, however, kept the loyalty of his police and military, and remains in power in Caracas.
The US’ chances of actually arresting and prosecuting Maduro are slim, though Barr did say that the Justice Department is “exploring all options” when it comes to apprehending the Venezuelan leader. Short of arranging his kidnapping by the Venezuelan opposition, Barr only said that the US authorities could strike while Maduro and his associates are traveling, itself a remote possibility amid the global Covid-19 pandemic.
The US has indicted only one sitting head of state before Maduro – Panamanian ruler Manuel Noriega, in 1988. As with Maduro, Washington did not recognize Noriega as Panama’s legitimate leader at the time.
Once an ally of the US, Noriega was eventually captured by US special forces following an invasion of Panama in 1989, and convicted by a Miami court three years later. When asked on Thursday whether military action could be used to capture Maduro, Barr did not comment.
Hard pass on the Noriega remix? U.S. narcotrafficking charges against Maduro straight out of Panama playbook
By RT - 26. March 2020
"What do you mean, 'You're next'?" © Reuters / Manaure Quintero / Alberto Lowe
The US indictment of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his subordinates on narcotrafficking charges echoes the rationale used to invade Panama and kidnap its leader – and Americans aren’t exactly thrilled with the reprise.
The Justice Department’s indictment of Maduro and four other senior Venezuelan officials on narcotrafficking charges – and the State Department’s offer of up to $15 million as a reward for evidence supporting those charges – reminded so many social media users of the 30-year-old plot to remove then-Panamanian president Manuel Noriega from office that the former CIA asset’s name was trending on Twitter on Thursday.
Maduro’s indictment marks the second time that the U.S. government has brought criminal charges against a foreign head of state. The last time was in 1989, when federal prosecutors indicted Panamanian Manuel Noriega on drug-trafficking charges and U.S. military forces seized him. https://twitter.com/parosemena/status/1243200138052599813 …
Classic CIA move to justify future coup/kidnapping of Latin-American head of state who annoys them.
AKA “the Noriega”. https://twitter.com/nytimes/status/1243186906617335814 …
From the charges – conspiring with Colombian guerrillas to “flood the US with cocaine” – to the point man on both initiatives – current special representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams (branded a “war criminal” by critics) – the two cases are nearly twins. In addition to drug-running, Noriega also helped the US by supporting the Contras in Nicaragua, history that has suddenly become relevant again after the Trump administration quietly sanctioned Nicaragua’s government earlier this month.
Not to mention that the US at the very least "turned a blind eye" to Noriega's drug activities.Incidentally, that was Elliot Abrams who most helped cover for Noriega. Abrams, who probably came up with this phony charge against Maduro.https://t.co/EEgBUPtK1Y— Our Hidden History (@OurHiddenHistry) March 26, 2020
Accusing Nicolas Maduro of drug trafficking is stupid af. These people are just building the the case for war — they’re thinking: 1) WW2 got us out the depression in 1941 2) Americans supported the overthrow of Noriega in 1989 3) the Bolivarian Revolution must be crushed.
Few who understood the history were thrilled with the idea of pulling a Noriega on Maduro, however. CIA-supported Noriega had actually trafficked cocaine for years before he was charged, and many believed the invasion of Panama had been orchestrated to prevent him from opening his mouth about his relationship with the agency.
Wasn't Noriega running drugs *FOR* the CIA and when it become publicly detrimental to support him they abandon him? The US tries to pretend they were manipulated by military ruler of poor as balls third world country *which the US created* https://www.reuters.com/article/us-panama-noriega-obituary-idUSKBN18Q0NW …reuters.com
Noriega had the goods on CIA drug flights to and from Nicaragua via Panama. Of course, he never got his press conference to tell it...
However, the Justice Department has not produced any evidence that Maduro is guilty – and the massive State Department rewards for evidence suggest that Washington is in dire need of proof in the Venezuelan case – making the “Noriega option” for Venezuela even less morally defensible than the invasion of Panama.
Deja vu? @AGWilliamBarr and Elliott Abrams, the top @StateDept diplomat for Venezuela, in late 80s pushed for ouster and removal of Panama strongman Manuel Noriega to face US drug charges. Maduro often accuses US of plotting an invasion like one that followed Noriega's indictment
The same forces in the US accusing Maduro, worked with the drug cartels in the 1980's bringing in cocaine to American inner cities ( Barry and the Boys--one example), while arming contra's in central America.
These are the same forces wanting to topple Maduro.
Others were more disgusted with the timing of the indictments. “They can’t stop coup-ing even during an outbreak!” one shocked user tweeted.
They’re really trying to Noriega him in the middle of a pandemic lmfao https://twitter.com/BNONews/status/1243187614292815872 …
But some seemed to think invading Panama to snatch up Noriega had been a splendid little war, and pushed for the same in Venezuela.
This sounds familiar ...
Maybe Maduro should remember what happened to Manuel Noriega in Panama ...
Let’s GO GET HIM!
FLASHBACK OPERATION “JUST CAUSE”! We can put him in the same Atlanta cell as Old Pineapple Face!
U.S. Invasion of Panama 1989-1990. Noriega Arrested & Convicted of international racketeering & drug trafficking. #Maduros
Attorney General William Barr actually affirmed the Noriega comparison as he attempted to dispel the idea that the US had crossed some rubicon by criminally charging a foreign head of state. “We do not recognize Maduro as the president of Venezuela,” he reminded reporters after announcing the indictments.
Hinting darkly at Washington’s vision for Venezuela’s future, Barr added: “Obviously we indicted Noriega under similar circumstances, we did not recognize Noriega as the president of Panama.”
One of the waiting 160.000 sealed indictments was opened:
Justice Department indicts Venezuela President Maduro on drug trafficking charges
The Trump administration announced a sweeping indictment Thursday of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and some of his associates on federal drug-trafficking and related charges, in a major escalation of the U.S.-led campaign to topple Maduro and his socialist government.
Atty. Gen. William Barr outlined the charges at a news conference Thursday morning in Washington. Prosecutors also alleged that Maduro and members of his inner circle conspired with dissident rebels from neighboring Colombia to produce and transport thousands of tons of cocaine to the United States. Maduro and his allies pocketed profits, and the rebels received weapons, the indictment alleges.
“The Maduro regime is awash in corruption and criminality,” Barr said. It has “betrayed the Venezuelan people and corrupted Venezuelan institutions. While the Venezuelan people suffer, this cabal lines their pockets with drug money and proceeds of the corruption. This has to come to an end.”
The indictment means that Maduro would be subject to arrest if he leaves Venezuela. The U.S. State Department immediately put a $15-million reward on his head.
Barr would not discuss whether the administration might attempt to extradite Maduro -- or extract him in a military operation.
Asked if this action during a global pandemic, which Venezuela is woefully ill-equipped to confront, would be counterproductive, Barr said in fact it might free up humanitarian aid to Venezuelans, which the administration has alleged Maduro’s government is blocking.
The Trump administration has sought for more than a year to oust Maduro while the country plunges into economic decay. But the effort has repeatedly floundered. The administration does not recognize Maduro and has thrown its support behind Juan Guaido, head of the opposition.
Charges were also filed against nearly a dozen other other Venezuelan government officials, including the head of the Supreme Court and military commanders, who were allegedly part of a drug-trafficking effort which started more than a decade ago under the government of the late Hugo Chavez.
How many must die for Wall Street?
By Andre Damon - 26. March 2020
Deaths from the global coronavirus pandemic soared past 21,000 on Wednesday, continuing on an exponential trajectory. In the United States, at least 247 new deaths were recorded and the number of new cases grew by over 13,000.
Every day, more than 2,000 people are dying around the world. “It took 67 days from the first reported case to reach 100,000 cases, 11 days for the second 100,000 cases, and just four days for the third 100,000 cases,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization.
Within a matter of days, the United States will have more cases of COVID-19 than any other country, including China and Italy, the initial epicenters of the disease. In New York, lines of ill people snake around city blocks, while a makeshift morgue is being constructed outside of New York’s Bellevue Hospital. In other New York City hospitals, refrigerated trucks are being used to store bodies in conditions doctors call “apocalyptic.”
Experts have repeatedly warned that the United States is at only the beginning of its outbreak and that cases will continue to soar. But already hospitals throughout the country—including those far away from the main centers of infection, such as the Beaumont and Henry Ford Health systems in Detroit—are filled to capacity.
Despite widespread claims that the pandemic afflicts only the elderly, the disease has proven dangerous to broad sections of society. Thirty-eight percent of people hospitalized in the US are between the ages of 20 and 54.
Meanwhile, despite the pleas of health experts, many workplaces throughout the country remain open. It is becoming increasingly clear that the disease is rapidly spreading in American workplaces, many of which do not have even the most basic safety measures in place to protect workers.
Two US Fiat Chrysler workers, including a worker at the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant north of Detroit and another at the Kokomo Transmission Plant in Indiana, have died after becoming infected with COVID-19.
Nine workers in Amazon warehouses have tested positive for the virus. But despite the mounting toll, Amazon has made clear that it will neither shut down warehouses nor provide warehouse workers and delivery drivers with necessary protective equipment.
Even as the pandemic gathers strength, the Trump administration is escalating its campaign for a prompt return to work. Trump, disregarding the warnings of his own health experts, has called for America to be “open for business” by Easter, demanding to see “packed churches all over our country.”
In perhaps the most deranged expression of the outlook shared by Trump, the far-right Federalist online magazine, whose content Trump has repeatedly promoted on Twitter, published an article urging its readers to deliberately infect themselves and their children with the virus in order to generate “herd immunity.”
But the denial of the dangers posed by COVID-19 and the urge that lives be sacrificed for the sake of the “economy” extends far beyond Trump and his supporters in the United States.
Trump’s points were echoed by his political ally and far-right ideologue Jair Bolsonaro, the president of Brazil, who declared, “The people will soon see that they were tricked by these governors and by the large part of the media when it comes to coronavirus.” He called the disease the “little flu.”
In Germany, the daily Handelsblatt ran a prominent interview with hedge fund manager Alexander Dibelius, who declared that the “collective shutdown of the economy” is “more frightening than this viral infection.”
These demands echoed similar statements among American oligarchs, including former Goldman Sachs executives Lloyd Blankfein and Gary Cohn. Cohn, formerly Trump's chief economic adviser, declared that it was time “to start discussing the need for a date when the economy can turn back on.”
Wells Fargo CEO Dick Kovacevic, referring to “healthy workers below about 55,” stated, “We’ll gradually bring those people back and see what happens. Some of them will get sick, some may even die, I don’t know.”
Billionaire Tom Golisano, “smoking a Padron cigar on his patio in Florida,” complained to Bloomberg News, “The damages of keeping the economy closed as it is could be worse than losing a few more people.”
“You have to weigh the pros and cons,” he said.
According to researchers at Northwestern University, the “cons” of reopening businesses before the pandemic is under control could be 600,000 lives nationwide.
Under conditions in which the number of cases in much of the United States is doubling every day, and where there is no indication that the pandemic is under control, such proposals are totally reckless, displaying both ignorance and contempt for human life.
Indeed, the “value” of human life has become a major topic of discussion in the American press. The New York Times published an article Thursday headlined, “Shutdown Spotlights Economic Cost of Saving Lives.” The article cites former Obama adviser Cass Sunstein, who stated, “A program that saves younger people is better, in this sense, than an otherwise identical program that saves older people.”
Another Obama adviser, Ezekiel Emanuel, has repeatedly appeared as a media commentator during the pandemic, despite his having argued in 2014, in an effort to justify cuts to health care, that people should not live past 75 because “society and families—and you—will be better off if nature takes its course swiftly and promptly.”
Society’s first and only concern must be to contain the pandemic as rapidly as possible. Social distancing measures, such as the closure of schools and workplaces, are a critical element of containing the disease, allowing for testing and contact tracing measures to be put in place, and spreading out cases so they do not overwhelm hospitals.
The United States and much of Western Europe, however, are not carrying out the practices recommended by the WHO. Hospitals throughout the United States are refusing to test all but the critically ill, making it impossible to track down the majority of cases and informing people who have been in contact with those infected.
And with hospitals already at capacity in much of the country, most cases are not being hospitalized, again contrary to WHO guidelines, exposing family members to infection.
In demanding that states lift mandatory quarantine orders, Trump, speaking for finance capital, raises the prospect of employees being compelled to work by means of threats and sanctions. Those who refuse to work in unsafe conditions risk being fired, and thus becoming ineligible for unemployment benefits. Workers will have to face the devastating choice of sacrificing the health of their own families and facing hunger, eviction and homelessness.
Even as the oligarchs demand that workers toil in unsafe conditions, workers are beginning to fight back. A wave of walkouts forced the closure of the Detroit automakers earlier this month. Workers across the logistics industry, including Amazon, have demanded safer working conditions, and postal workers in Brooklyn have reportedly refused to deliver mail. The hashtags #notdyingforwallstreet and #generalstrike have trended across Twitter.
No expense can be spared when it comes to reducing the number of infections and saving lives. The working class must demand that governments and employers take emergency action to address the crisis:
• Close nonessential workplaces! All workplaces not directly involved in medical care and the manufacture of medical products, or vital social necessities, must be shut for the duration of the pandemic! Workers out of work must receive their full income, and all resources must be made available to those affected by school closures, including paid time off and food assistance.
• Safe working conditions! All workers must have a safe work environment and be protected against the spread of the virus.
• Accessible and universal testing! No expense can be spared in making available free testing to all those who show symptoms.
• Free high-quality treatment and equality of care! The most advanced medical care must be made available to everyone, regardless of income or insurance coverage.
• Protect refugees, prisoners and the homeless! Everyone must have access to high-quality and clean living conditions to prevent the spread of the disease.
Workers should form rank-and-file workplace and neighborhood committees to coordinate their activities, mobilize their collective strength, ensure that those who are sick receive social support, and monitor working conditions to ensure a safe environment.
The response to the disease cannot be left to the capitalist politicians, Democrats or Republicans. Their primary concern is to maintain the profits of the ruling elite through the inflation of the stock market.
On Wednesday, White House advisor Larry Kudlow made clear that the $2 trillion “stimulus bill” that will soon be passed by the US Congress is in addition to some $4 trillion in asset purchases, aimed at lifting the values of financial assets. The bill, supported by both Democrats and Republicans, includes tens of billions in direct subsidies to major corporations, and hundreds of billions more in loans.
The claim that society must choose between letting workers die and subjecting them to economic destitution is false. It assumes the permanence of the present capitalist form of social organization, in which the state gives trillions to the corporations but cannot ensure a livable income for workers if they do not work during an emergency.
Millions of lives can be saved if society allocates the necessary social resources to combatting the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuring that all workers have the social support they need to stay home to preserve the safety of their families and the public. Instead of being bailed out with trillions of dollars in public funds, the major banks and corporations should be put under the democratic control of the population to ensure the health and safety of their workforces and all of humanity.
The alternative to the dystopian world of capitalism, in which the “cost” of human lives is measured against the drive for profit, is socialism, a global society based on the reorganization of world economy to meet social need.
In the midst of Venezuela’s fight against Covid-19, the Trump Administration has taken a dramatic and unprecedented step in criminal maneuvers seeking to overthrow the Venezuelan government. It’s official: The United States opts for the outsourced route of armed violence, relying on a court case without evidence.
By Mision Verdad – March 27, 2020
A false accusation from the main narco-state on the planet
This Thursday, March 26, the attorney general of the United States, William Barr, filed charges for drug trafficking against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, the president of the National Constituent Assembly Diosdado Cabello, the Minister of Industry and Production Tareck El Aissami, the minister of Defense Vladimir Padrino López and the president of the Supreme Court of Justice Maikel Moreno.
In the absence of solid evidence, Justice Department prosecutors have appealed to a propaganda product that has been the spearhead of media attacks by the United States and Europe against Venezuela for several years: the non-existent “Cartel de los Soles”.
According to the Department of Justice, “since at least 1999, Maduro Moros, Cabello Rondón, Carvajal Barrios and Alcalá Cordones acted as leaders and managers of Cartel de los Soles (…) to facilitate the transport of tons of cocaine into the United States. The “Cartel de los Soles” sought not only to enrich its members and improve their power, but also to flood the United States with cocaine and inflict the harmful and addictive effects of the drug on the users of the United States.”
The alleged link with the FARC that has been the leitmotif of Colombia and the United States to accuse Venezuela of being a “sanctuary” for armed groups, is another of the central points of the accusation, including Iván Márquez and Jesús Santrich:
“From around 1999 (…) the FARC leaders agreed with the leaders of the Cartel de los Soles to relocate some of the FARC operations in Venezuela under the protection of the Cartel. Later, the FARC and the Cartel of the Suns sent processed cocaine from Venezuela to the United States through transshipment points in the Caribbean and Central America, such as Honduras. In approximately 2004, the United States Department of State estimated that 250 or more tons of cocaine transited through Venezuela per year. Maritime shipments were shipped north from the Venezuelan coast using fast boats, fishing boats, and container ships.”
This is affirmed by the Justice Department, paradoxically suggesting that its drug trafficking prevention system is so ineffective that it cannot stop “fishing boats”.
The organic relationship of the United States with drug trafficking has been amply demonstrated:
- Antonio Maria Costa, director of the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime, stated in 2009 that capital from drug trafficking saved the bankrupt banks that caused the 2008 financial collapse, which had its epicenter in the United States.
- In 2012, the FBI found evidence that Mexican cartels “used Bank of America accounts to hide money and invest illegal drug proceeds in American racehorses.”
- That same year, it was also revealed that the Mexican cartel Los Zetas laundered its drug profits at the JP Morgan bank, making direct transfers from Mexico under an amalgam of funds and companies that also placed the authorities’ focus on the Wells Fargo bank.
All of these banks continue to function as if nothing had happened.
The proven permissiveness (and the logic of direct benefit) of the US financial system and its political elite with respect to international drug trafficking, blurs the accusations against Venezuela and their tone of supposed defense of American public health.
Just two years ago, Colombia broke records in the production and export of cocaine to the United States, figures that coincided with a dizzying increase in the number of consumers in the United States. On this, a DEA report revealed:
“Record levels of illicit cultivation and coca production in Colombia, which was the main source of cocaine seized and analyzed in the United States, has expanded the cocaine market, which has led to an increase in domestic abuse.”
The Justice Department tries to hold Venezuela responsible for the flood of cocaine in the United States, even though it has been demonstrated by its own anti-drug agency that the increase in consumption that affects millions of Americans lies in the uncontrolled production of Colombian cocaine.
They are also trying to position Venezuela as a “transit country” for cocaine to the United States, although data provided by the US government itself indicates otherwise.
A report from the Washington Office for Latin American Affairs (WOLA) study center concludes :
“About 90% of all cocaine destined for the United States is trafficked through the Western Caribbean and Eastern Pacific routes, not through the Eastern Caribbean seas of Venezuela.”
A fake accusation
As an article from Mision Verdad ran down at the time, the narrative of the “Cartel de los Soles” is above all eccentric and inexplicable.
It has been promoted as a broad and dangerous organization, but there are no conditions to demonstrate it: there is no murderous fight between cartels like in Mexico or Colombia, a stash bearing the mark of this alleged organization has never been seized, neither has it been shown that the logistics of the Venezuelan army are being used to traffic drugs.
The ghostly “Cartel de los Soles” is a product for mass consumption that reinforces the narrative of the hawks and the most extreme sector of the Venezuelan right.
In this same chain of false premises, the Justice Department incurs in a fatal miscalculation: it places Maduro as the “leader” of the “organization” even when he is not a military man, and when he was just beginning his political career in 1999 after Hugo Chávez’s victory in 1998.
It is totally illogical that Venezuela is a narco-state led by Maduro and Diosdado Cabello. In 2010, according to a Wikileaks leak , the then-US ambassador to Venezuela, Patrick Duddy, wrote to the State Department acknowledging the extradition of drug trafficker Salomon “Big Daddy” Camacho by the Venezuelan authorities.
Venezuela has captured 102 drug lords of different nationalities (the largest proportion comes from Colombia), has reinforced seizures both on the border and by destroying illegal airstrips, and has shot down narco planes in national territory as a systematic anti-drug policy.
The narrative of the Department of Justice fails under the weight of these data.
Financing the assassination: deciding on the intervention routes
In the wake of the Justice Department’s fallacious accusation, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signed an official statement authorizing the offer of “a reward of up to $ 15 million for information related to Nicolás Maduro. The Department also offers rewards of up to $ 10 million each for information related to Diosdado Cabello, Hugo Carvajal Barrios, Alcalá Cordones and Tareck El Aissami.”
In this way, it can be deduced that the United States indirectly finances a covert military operation that could lead to the murder or kidnapping of high-level Venezuelan authorities, in a clear act of armed intervention against a sovereign State that contravenes the basic principles of international law.
By way of the facts, the United States makes official the assassination plan that had its most notable antecedent in the failed attack of August 4, 2018, the attempted assassination of President Maduro with drones armed with explosives.
To inclyde the Department of Justice implies additional institutional coverage for the 2015 Executive Order to justify direct aggression against the country’s political-military high command, knowing that large-scale armed intervention is out of the equation due to energy positioning and economic interests of China and Russia in Venezuela, and also, for the political cost that would imply declaring war on a country that is fighting a pandemic under conditions of blockade and illegal sanctions.
The idea is to destroy the Venezuelan state by murdering or kidnapping its main leaders under the excuse of defending “national security” of the United States. Exceptionalism on steroids.
Another armed plan from Colombia that failed: the key to Clíver Alcalá
On Wednesday March 25, the Minister of Communication and Information Jorge Rodríguez alerted public opinion at a press conference about the “existence of three training camps in the city of Riohacha, Colombia, where the same number of paramilitary groups are training with weapons and explosives to carry out terrorist attacks in Venezuela, with the support of US mercenaries and the support of the government of the US.”
The plan was to promote selective assassinations of high-level Venezuelan officials, including the placement and detonation of bombs in Venezuelan military units and centers of political power, with the aim of generalizing a situation of chaos and terror taking advantage of the Covid-19 situation.
But the central objective of the operation was a new attempt to assassinate Maduro.
The three mercenary groups in charge of Juvenal Sequera Torres (implicated in the failed coup of April 30, 2019), Félix Mata Sanguineti and Robert Colina Ibarra, alias “Pantera”, had North American advisers and military deserters from February 23 who would take the first line of attack.
The weapons and equipment would go to Riohacha to enter Venezuela, a movement that was frustrated since the Colombian National Police seized on March 23 “26 AR-15 5.56 caliber assault rifles and accessories for this type of weapons such as eight silencers, 36 butts, 45 sight units and 30 laser sights. Likewise, three bulletproof vests, 37 night vision goggles, four binoculars, two communication radios with 43 batteries and 15 helmets, among other elements, were found, ”according to a report by W Radio in Colombia.
The intelligence and security services of Venezuela anticipated the events and captured Rubén Darío Fernández Figuera, alias “Búho”, who described in his statements the scheme of the operation: three US mercenaries, together with alias “Pantera” and Clíver Alcalá, constituted the directive layer of the actions and were set up as the logistical and operational organizers.
The operation was frustrated before the first of the planned incursions happened.
Alcalá acknowledged through his Twitter account that the weapons seized by the Colombian police were part of the plan and said that with them the “liberation of Venezuela” would begin. He later confessed that they “were part of an agreement between him and Juan Guaidó with American advisers that were intended to be used in an operation against Nicolás Maduro.”
The former Venezuelan general has participated in other plans to direct armed incursions from Colombia against Venezuela, assuming a leading position in the creation of a mercenary army fed by FANB defectors last year who were advised by the US military.
Dragging Colombia to the precipice: the neoliberal and private war
With the offer of “rewards” for the head of Maduro and other leaders, the United States has outsourced the war against Venezuela, taking advantage of the ecosystem of military contractors and irregular groups that live in Colombia, guarding the businesses of multinationals.
Many of the military contractors that are active in Colombia belong to Israel and the United States, which train paramilitary groups in activities to control rural populations with strategic mineral resources.
Thus, in times of health crisis and electoral campaigns, the White House washes its hands, privatizes the war against Venezuela, putting millions of dollars on the table, and saves the political and economic cost of direct intervention.
Accelerating the coup: Maduro’s “Noriega-ization“
The devastating global effects of Covid-19 have also shattered expectations of regime change by employing the figure of Juan Guaidó. While the Venezuelan government has taken the measures required by the WHO and recognized by the United Nations system, Guaidó has been left in media anonymity and without a presence on the national and international political scene.
In recent days, the Venezuelan government proposed coordination with multilateral entities to reinforce the national fight against the pandemic, thus pressing for the lifting of the economic blockade imposed by Washington and endorsed by multinational corporations.
With the request for a loan of 5 billion dollars to the IMF, which was quickly denied by that organization through spokesmen, Nicolás Maduro obtained the first support from the European bloc in its demand for international financing. These actions have exposed the US interference policy as a factor that deepens the effects of Covid-19 and that harms Venezuelans.
In light of this reality, the United States has been forced to escalate its pressures against Venezuela, appealing to the mantra of “national security”, an aspect that attempts to create a historical mirror dangerously close to the invasion of Panama in 1989 that led to the capture of President Manuel Noriega, also accused of drug trafficking by the United States.
However, the conditions of Panama in 1989 and those of Venezuela in 2020 are very different, due in part to the context of geopolitical alliances that the country has built together with the multipolar order. Noriega had no political or international backing to defend himself against his former North American partner; quite the opposite happens with the government of President Maduro, which has China and Russia among its main strategic allies.
Maduro’s international offensive along with his early and timely reaction to the Covid-19 crisis have exasperated the White House, precipitating increasingly erratic measures such as spurring the murder or kidnapping of a head of state and key officials from a government on which millions of people depend to overcome the most dangerous pandemic of the 21st century.
They are wrong again.
Source URL: Medium / Mision Verdad Translated by JRE/EF