southern solidarity

I love this photograph of Hugo Chavez. If only more leaders in this world would have the courage to follow his example. Here is a sample from an interesting article by Nikhil Shah entitled Venezuela’s Support for Palestine, a model for third world democracy about Chavez’s moral courage:

One exception to this diplomatic capitulation to Israel has been Venezuela under the leadership of President Hugo Chavez. Chavez has been outspoken in his criticism of Israeli policies and has undertaken and proposed steps to hold Israel accountable for their actions. Venezuela, like many other Latin American countries traditionally had friendly diplomatic relations with Israel. Since its existence, Israel has maintained military relations with right wing regimes in Latin America including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Columbia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela. Israel has also been active in supporting several right-wing counterinsurgency groups in Latin America (acting as a proxy for the U.S.) with weapons, advice and training in their fight with leftist governments.

Chavez, however, broke with this tradition when he announced in 2006 that he was withdrawing his senior diplomat from Israel in response to their invasion of Lebanon.[2] Chavez chose to take this course not because of any action Israel had taken against Venezuela, but because of Israel’s treatment towards Palestinian and Lebanese civilians.[3] Chavez publicly compared Israel’s actions towards Palestinians and Lebanese to the holocaust stating that “Israel is doing what Hitler did, killing innocent children and entire families.” [4] Chavez went on to stop Venezuela from issuing tourist visas to Israelis and during a trip to Beijing called for Israel to be tried for genocide before the International Criminal Court.[5] Chavez also visited Syria and made a joint statement with the Syrian government calling on Israel to end its illegal occupation of the Golan Heights, abide by UN resolutions and for an end to double standards towards Israel internationally.[6] Chavez also sent a Boeing 707 with 20,000 tons of humanitarian aid to help alleviate the humanitarian crisis caused in Lebanon and Palestine due to Israel’s aggressive actions.[7] Chavez has publicly criticized UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon for not doing enough to strop repression by Israel.[8] These statements and actions have made Chavez one of the most popular leaders in the Arab world and have led opposition political parties in Arab countries to urge their governments to copy Venezuela’s actions towards Israel. [9] Venezuela previously had military ties with Israel but chose to abandon them in favor of standing up for Palestinian rights.[10]

It’s not just Venezuela, though, who we should be inspired by for standing up to the murderous policies and destruction wrought by the state of Israel and the U.S. As Rania reminded us earlier this week, we can look to Bolivia for good news, too:

LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) – President Evo Morales says a second Bolivian region has asked the United States to withdraw its aid programs as diplomatic relations between the two countries continue to sour.

Morales on Saturday congratulated local indigenous groups in the southern Bolivia province of Chuquisaca for becoming “territory free of … American imperialism” after deciding this week to expel the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID. He did not offer further details.

Earlier this year Bolivian farmers asked USAID to leave the coca-growing Chapare region. Morales expelled the U.S. ambassador earlier this month, accusing him of encouraging the leftist leader’s conservative opposition. The U.S. ambassador has denied the allegations.

Interestingly, there has been some brouhaha brewing, fomenting likely as a result of some of these movements on the part of Morales and Chavez. For instance, when Human Rights Watch was kicked out of Venezuela last week. On the surface, in the mainstream media, I’m sure this was reported as if it were an outrage. In reality, though, what happened is far from some simplistic story of a government kicking out Human Rights Watch. There was more to the story. In many ways, what we see from the facts is that Human Rights Watch has been behaving rather similarly to USAID in the way that it has been meddling in other countries affairs. James Petras’ article shows us why we should be skeptical of Human Rights Watch’s interests and practices:

Jose Miguel Vivanco served as a diplomatic functionary under the bloody Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet between 1986-1989, serving no less as the butcher’s rabid apologist before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. His behavior was particularly egregious during the regime’s brutal repression of a mass popular uprising in the squatter settlements of Santiago in 1986-1987. With the return of electoral politics (democracy) in Chile, Vivanco took off to Washington where he set up his own NGO, the Center for Justice and International Law, disguising his right-wing affinities and passing himself off as a ‘human rights’ advocate. In 1994 he was recruited by former US federal prosecutor, Kenneth Roth, to head up the ‘Americas Division’ of Human Rights Watch. HRW demonstrated a real capacity to provide a ‘human rights’ gloss to President Clinton’s policy of ‘humanitarian imperialism’. Roth promoted and supported Clinton’s two-month bombing, destruction and dismemberment of Yugoslavia. HRW covered up the ethnic cleansing of Serbs in Kosovo by the notorious Albanian terrorists and gangsters of the Kosovo Liberation Army and the unprecedented brutal transfer of over 200,000 ethnic Serbs from the Krajina region of Croatia. HRW backed Clinton’s sanctions against Iraq leading to the deaths of over 500,000 Iraqi children. Nowhere did the word ‘genocide’ ever appear in reference to the US Administrations massive destruction of Iraq causing hundreds of thousands of premature deaths.

HRW supported the US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan where Kenneth Roth advised the US generals on how to secure the colonial occupation by avoiding massive civilian deaths. In words and deeds, HRW has played an insidious role as backer and adviser of US imperial intervention, providing the humanitarian ideological cover while issuing harmless and inconsequential reports criticizing ‘ineffective’ excesses, which ‘undermine’ imperial dominance.

HRW most notorious intervention was its claim that Israel’s murderous destruction of the Palestinian city of Jenin was ‘not genocidal’ and thus provided the key argument for the US and Israeli blocking of a UN humanitarian mission and investigative report. As in all of its ‘research’ their report was deeply colored by selective interviews and observations which understated the brutality and killings of Palestinian civilians by the Israeli state – even while the fanatics who run the major pro-Israel organizations accused HRW of bias for even mentioning a single murdered Palestinian.

Other key issues with respect to Human Rights Watch, which speaks to some of Chavez’s concerns, is related to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon (and never forget Gaza) in the summer of 2006. I blogged about when the reports came out, but there were disturbing ways in which Human Rights Watch did not act as an impartial observer during that war. Jonathan Cook, the best journalist in 1948 Palestine, wrote several pieces on this subject: “Israel, Not Hizbullah, is Putting Civilians in Danger on Both Sides of the Border,” “Human Rights Watch: Still Missing the Point,” and “Nearly All the War Crimes Were Israel’s.” And this is precisely what we see with Human Rights Watch’s activities in Venezuela. Whereas in Lebanon Human Rights Watch was coldly preferring the aggressive, international-law breaking Zionist state, in Venezuela they were planting the seeds intervene in the upcoming election:

The Human Rights Watch Report on Venezuela is a crude propaganda document that, even in its own terms, lacks the minimum veneer of ‘balance’, which the more sophisticated ‘humanitarian’ imperialists have put out in the past. The omissions are monumental: No mention of President Chavez’ programs which have reduced poverty over the past decade from more than 60% to less than 30%; no recognition of the universal health system which has provided health care to 16 million Venezuelan citizens and residents who were previously denied even minimal access; and no acknowledgment of the subsidized state-run grocery stores which supply the needs of 60% of the population who can now purchase food at 40% of the private retail price.

HRW’s systematic failure to mention the advances experienced by the majority of Venezuelan citizens, while peddling outright lies about civic repression , is characteristic of this mouthpiece of Empire. Its gross distortion about labor rights makes this report a model for any high school or college class on political propaganda.

The widespread coverage and uncritical promotion and citation of the ‘Report’ (and the expulsion of its US-based authors for gross intervention on behalf of the opposition) by all the major newspapers from the New York Times, to Le Monde in France, the London Times, La Stampa in Italy and El Pais in Spain gives substance to the charge that the Report was meant to bolster the US effort to isolate Venezuela rather than pursue legitimate humanitarian goals in Venezuela.

The major purpose of the HRW ‘Report’ was to intervene in the forthcoming November municipal and state elections on the side of the far-right opposition. The ‘Report’ echoes verbatim the unfounded charges and hysterical claims of the candidates supported by the far right and the Bush Administration. HRW always manages to pick the right time to issue their propaganda bromides. Their reports mysteriously coincide with US intervention in electoral processes and destabilization campaigns. In Venezuela today the Report has become one of the most widely promoted propaganda documents of the leading rightist anti-Chavez candidates.

Likewise, the recent violence in Bolivia suggests similar involvement from nefarious American sources. In an open letter to Phillip Goldberg, the U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia, a group of scholars and journalists detail these violations of Bolivian sovereignty, which is posted on Naomi Klein’s website:

We are writing out of deep concern over recent events in Bolivia that have left dozens dead and cost millions of dollars in lost revenue to the Bolivian government and the Bolivian people. We are especially concerned that the United States government, by its own admission, is supporting opposition groups and individuals in Bolivia that have been involved in the recent whole-scale destruction, violence, and killings, above all in the departments of Santa Cruz, Pando, and Chuquisaca.

Since the United States government refuses to disclose many of the recipients of its funding and support, there is currently no way to determine the degree to which this support is helping people involved in violence, sabotage, and other extra-legal means to destabilize the government of Bolivia.

Yet since the democratic election of Evo Morales in December 2005, the U.S. government has sent millions of dollars in aid to departmental prefects and municipal governments in Bolivia. In 2004, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) opened an “Office of Transition Initiatives” (OTI) in Bolivia, which provided some $11 million in funds to “build on its activities designed to enhance the capacity of departmental governments.”[1]

The U.S., apparently, is going undercover–this time in its military capacity, though posing as civilians–right here in Gaza. A report today reveals that their work is not only in creating this military installation in Beer Seba:

US soldiers are aiding Egyptian officials in the search for illegal smuggling tunnels between Egypt and Gaza, according to a report published by a major Israeli newspaper on Thursday.

Hebrew daily Yediot Ahronot said Thursday that American soldiers–operating under the guise of civilian contractors–discovered 42 tunnels under Rafah over the past month.

US forces found the tunnels with advanced American technology and help from other engineering experts, the paper reported. The tunnels were supposedly used for smuggling arms into the Gaza Strip.

Sources also said that US troops were deployed around Gaza after American officials struck an agreement with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak at a Cairo meeting over six months ago.

It was not immediately clear if American soldiers had actually entered the Gaza Strip or were working solely from the Egyptian side.

The report also mentioned that the US troops’ involvement in the region had been a major source of recent tensions between Egypt and Hamas.

In the midst of all of this military and political collusion with the U.S. and its aggressive, racist allies, I wonder what the hell Bahrain’s Foreign Minister, Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, was thinking when he called for normalizing relations with the Zionist state?

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