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30 April, 2017

Confirmed: the crucial role of Chilean media mogul on US plan to overthrow Allende

Media mogul Agustin Edwards Eastman, who was widely regarded as the Rupert Murdoch of Chile, died on April 24, at age 89, leaving a legacy of close collaboration with Henry Kissinger and the CIA in instigating and supporting the September 11, 1973, military coup. Edwards was the only Chilean—civilian or military—known to meet face-to-face with CIA Director Richard Helms in September 1970 in connection with plans to instigate regime change against Socialist leader Salvador Allende, who had just been elected president.

Declassified CIA and White House documents posted today by the National Security Archive at The George Washington University show conclusively what Edwards repeatedly denied – that he and his newspaper, El Mercurio, became a critical part of U.S. plans to foment a military coup against President Allende.

National Security Archive

Key points:

  • Edwards’ extraordinary influence on U.S. policy and CIA intervention in Chile did not stop there. When CIA covert action—which included the assassination of Gen. Rene Schneider—failed to block Salvador Allende’s inauguration, the Edwards media empire became the leading clandestine collaborator in fomenting a military coup d’etat. President Nixon personally authorized covert CIA funding to sustain El Mercurio so that it could become a media megaphone of opposition, agitation and misinformation against the Allende government. In the aftermath of Allende’s overthrow, the CIA explicitly credited its media propaganda project in Chile for playing “a significant role in setting the stage for the military coup of 11 September 1973,” and continued to secretly funnel money to the Edwards group so that El Mercurio could “present the Junta in the most positive light for the Chilean public.

  • During his lengthy conversation with CIA Director Helms and one of his top aides, Kenneth Millian, Edwards not only pushed for a U.S.-backed, preemptive, coup to block the inauguration of the duly elected next president of Chile, Salvador Allende; he also provided detailed intelligence on potential coup plotters in the Chilean armed forces and discussed “timing for possible military action.” According to the CIA memorandum of conversation with Edwards, titled “Discussion of Chilean Political Situation,” they systematically reviewed the strength and coup potential of each branch of the military.

  • After the meeting with the CIA director, Edwards stayed in Washington for a number of days to continue to share more detailed information with agency officials as the CIA mobilized to implement President Nixon’s orders to orchestrate a coup. On September 18, Helms reported to Kissinger that “Further conversations and a more exhaustive debriefing are going on with Mr. Edwards right now.

  • Henry Kissinger, according to declassified transcripts of his telephone calls, attempted to arranged an ultra-secret meeting between Edwards and President Nixon. On the evening of September 14, 1970, Kissinger called Nixon’s scheduler, Stephen Bull, and requested that Edwards quietly be ushered into the Oval Office before a meeting Nixon had scheduled the next morning with the deputy chairman of the German Christian Democratic Union party, Gerhard Schroeder. “Does Edwards need more than 15 minutes?” Bull asked. “Absolutely not,” Kissinger replied. “We will schedule you from 9:15 to 10:00,” Bull stated. “In that 45 min[ute] period we will do Edwards at the beginning and then bring in Schroeder.” Kissinger asked for the Schroeder meeting to start at 9:45. To keep the Nixon-Edwards meeting secret, Kissinger then instructed Bull: “don’t let [Edwards and Schroeder] meet. Get Edwards out.

  • President Nixon personally authorized over $1 million dollars in September 1971 “to keep the paper [El Mercurio] going.” (The initial funding amounted to the considerable sum of 67 million escudos.) CIA and White House documents show that the Edwards media group received almost $2 million in covert CIA funds between the fall 1971 and May 1972. The money was used to pay El Mercurio’s bills and debts, and cover the “monthly operating deficits” in order to assist opposition forces—El Mercurio “does help give heart to the opposition forces,” states a memo to Henry Kissinger—and to provide positive media coverage for the anti-Allende candidates in the March 1973 Congressional elections. In addition, CIA records reveal that the Edwards Group received secret funds from the ITT corporation in $100,000 increments through a Swiss bank account.

  • In May 1973, the CIA Station in Santiago identified “the El Mercurio chain of newspapers” as among “the most militant parts of the opposition” which “have set as their objective the creation of conflict and confrontation which will lead to some sort of military intervention.” The secret CIA cable continued: “Each [militant part] in its own way is trying to coordinate its efforts with members of the armed forces known to them who share this objective.” The CIA credited its “propaganda project” in which El Mercurio and the Edwards media outlets where the key actors, as having “played a significant role in setting the stage for the military coup of 11 September 1973.” According to a secret CIA post-coup report, “Prior to the coup the project’s media outlets maintained a steady barrage of anti-government criticism, exploiting every possible point of friction between the government and the democratic opposition, and emphasizing the problems and conflicts which were developing between the government and the armed forces.”

  • After the coup, El Mercurio continued to receive covert CIA funding until June 1974. The CIA determined the funds were needed to assist the newspaper’s effort to help the Pinochet regime consolidate its power. “Since the coup, these media outlets have supported the new military government. They have tried to present the Junta in the most positive light for the Chilean public,” according to a CIA request for continuing covert monies for El Mercurio. “The project is essential in enabling the [CIA] Station to help mold Chilean public opinion in support of the new government….”

Full report, documents:

29 April, 2017

Assad says the US and its allies obstructed OPCW investigation on chemical attacks

In an exclusive interview for teleSUR, the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, claimed that the United States and its allies obstructed an investigation by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on chemical attacks in Syria. As he said:

         We have asked the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to send specialized missions to investigate what happened. And every time, the United States obstructed these investigations or prevented sending such missions in order to carry out such investigations. This is what happened last week when we called for investigations over the alleged use of chemical weapons in the town of Khan Sheikhoun. The United States and its allies prevented OPCW from taking that decision. As far as we are concerned, we still insist on an investigation, and we and our Russian and Iranian allies are trying to persuade OPCW to send a team to investigate what happened, because if it doesn’t, the United States might repeat the same charade by fabricating the use of false chemical weapons in another place in Syria in order to justify military intervention in support of the terrorists. On the other hand, we continue to fight the terrorists, because we know that the objective of all these American and Western allegations concerning chemical weapons is to support terrorists in Syria. That’s why we will continue to fight these terrorists.

When asked about US claims that the Syrian government is the one who used chemical weapons, he referred to the lies about Saddam Hussein having chemical, nuclear, and other weapons that led to the US invasion in Iraq:

             Colin Powell [in 2003] showed the world in the United Nations what he claimed to be the evidence which proves that President Saddam Hussein possessed chemical, nuclear, and other weapons. However, when the American forces invaded Iraq, it was proven that all he said was a lie. Powell himself admitted that the American intelligence agencies deceived him with that false evidence. That wasn’t the first nor will it be the last time.

He also spoke about Israel's double role against Syria:

             ... first, by direct aggression, particularly by using warplanes, artillery, or missiles against Syrian Army positions. Second, it is supporting terrorists in two ways: first by providing direct support in the form of weapons, and second by providing logistic support, i.e. allowing them to conduct military exercises in the areas it controls. It also provides them with medical assistance in its hospitals. These are not mere claims or assumptions. They are facts, verified and published on the internet which you can easily access as proven evidence of the Israeli role in support of the terrorists in Syria.

He claimed that Trump is essentially another puppet of the US deep state:

            The American President has no policies. There are policies drawn by the American institutions which control the American regime which are the intelligence agencies, the Pentagon, the big arms and oil companies, and financial institutions, in addition to some other lobbies which influence American decision-making. The American President merely implements these policies, and the evidence is that when Trump tried to move on a different track, during and after his election campaign, he couldn’t. He came under a ferocious attack. As we have seen in the past few week, he changed his rhetoric completely and subjected himself to the terms of the deep American state, or the deep American regime. That’s why it is unrealistic and a complete waste of time to make an assessment of the American President’s foreign policy, for he might say something; but he ultimately does what these institutions dictate to him. This is not new. This has been ongoing American policy for decades.

He also referred to the term "moderate rebels" that the media in the West are using for various terrorist groups. As he explained:

            [For the Western and American media] a moderate terrorist is that who carries out acts of beheading and slaughter but without carrying al-Qaeda flag, or without saying “Allah Akbar,” while an extremist terrorist is that who carries the flag and says Allah Akbar when carrying out acts of beheading and slaughter. This is the only difference. For the United States, all those who serve its political agenda against other states are classified as moderate opposition and not as extremist and terrorist, even if they commit the worst acts of terrorism.

Full interview:

Youth protests across France: “Neither the banker, nor the racist!”

Since Thursday, students and youth in Paris, Rennes, Nantes, Toulouse and other cities across France have held rallies and marched through the city streets. The protests were against the right wing nationalist Marine Le Pen and the liberal Emmanuel Macron who are facing off in the in the second round of the presidential election.

In total, more than 3,000 high school students took to the streets carrying signs exclaiming: “Neither the banker, nor the racist!” and “The real anti-establishment, that is us!” Political slogans could be heard through the streets as students chanted “It is not the immigrants who should be expelled, it is Marine Le Pen!”, "Macron, Le Pen, we do not want them!”, “Their elections, our future!"

During many of the protests, the youth were met by armoured police blocking the marches and dispersing tear gas canisters into the crowds, while surveillance helicopters could be seen in the sky above. One police officer in Rennes even resorted to drawing his pistol and for a brief moment aiming it at the protesters.

In Paris, gathering at Place de la Republique the protest moved towards Boulevard Beaumarchais, where the tension rose between police and students. Anouk, a 16 year-old Parisian student from Lycée Buffon explains how the protests were organised as a peaceful sit-in by high school students from all over Paris. She said: "We disagree with the values put forward by the National Front, and since we do not have the right to vote, we have to express ourselves differently”.

In Lyons the protests escalated as well. Students hung banners on the gates of the town hall, where one read: "By my acts I vote 365 days a year. You who come out only 2 Sundays every 5 years, just vote as you see fit.” At the end of the rally, demonstrators left the Place des Terreaux shouting “down with capitalism”. A group of youths then wanted to cross one of the city-bridges to join the protest on the other side of the river, but were arrested by the police who fired tear gas at them.

The protests across France come after years of political frustration among youths and workers. Current president François Hollande and the French Socialist Party have, despite their promises, implemented countless austerity policies and allowed companies to cut workers' salaries. Meanwhile, youth unemployment still stands at 24.6%. For this, Hollande and the Socialist Party have paid the price, with the party in a deep crisis and their candidate, Benoît Hamon, securing only 6.4% of the votes in Sunday’s first round election. As the last part of the presidential race now pits a racist right-winger against an ex-banker, the frustration among those who face tough conditions continues to increase.

With left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon out of the presidential race, the workers and youth of France only have more capitalist policies of austerity and attacks on living conditions to look forward to. The crisis of French capitalism has, like in many other European countries, expressed itself through a massive political polarisation to the left and to the right. The traditional parties of the establishment, which the ruling class have relied upon for decades, are all in deep crises of legitimacy. The rise of Le Pen to the right and Melenchon to the left is an indication of this process. But the recent protests indicate that a layer amongst the youth are drawing even more radical conclusions. Many of these young people see the crises facing society not only as a result of poor political decision-making, but as a result of the capitalist system. They see no future within the confines of this system and correctly distrust all representatives of the ruling class.

Protests like the ones across France this week show just how fed up many students and workers are with austerity, lies upon lies from politicians and the capitalist system in general. Mélenchon’s massive success, where 30% of voters aged 18 to 24 voted in favor of his movement, is a sign of the potential for radical movements in the next period. The youth who took to the streets this week are reflecting the brewing mood under the surface, and anticipating future developments within the wider youth and the working class. There are undoubtedly more protests on the way and for the workers and youth of France it will only become clearer that the problems facing France, Europe and the entire world cannot be solved within the limits of capitalism. The only solution, as many young people are realising, is “Neither the banker, nor the racist!” but to break with the capitalist system and expropriate the means of production to create a truly fair society.

Source, videos:

Read also:

Syria's Assad says Trump is puppet of US deep state

Trump "changed his rhetoric completely and subjected himself to the terms of the deep American state, or the deep American regime," Assad said

Part 2 - Chemical Weapons

The attack on the airbase came days after the April 4 attack in Khan Sheikhoun, in which 58 people were killed by what experts consider to be exposure to sarin. Syrian opposition groups, the United States and allies including France have blamed Syria's government, while Damascus has said that armed opposition groups and their sponsors are to blame.

According to Assad, however, his government has asked for independent investigations into the chemical weapons allegations, which he says have been stalled by the U.S. government and its allies.

"We have asked the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to send specialized missions to investigate what happened. And every time, the United States obstructed these investigations or prevented sending such missions in order to carry out such investigations," Assad said. "This is what happened last week when we called for investigations over the alleged use of chemical weapons in the town of Khan Sheikhoun. The United States and its allies prevented OPCW from taking that decision."

Assad alleges that U.S. officials are lying about their claims regarding Syria having chemical weapons, and recalled Colin Powell's infamous testimony at the United Nations in 2003 where he said that Iraq was in possession of weapons of mass destruction.

"This is what characterizes American politicians: they lie on a daily basis ... That’s why we shouldn’t believe what the Pentagon or any other American institution says because they say things which serve their policies, not things which reflect reality and the facts on the ground."

Throughout the bloody civil war which has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands, there have been a number of chemical attacks confirmed by the U.N. and other experts. The responsibility in some of the cases — including that of the attack in Khan Sheikhoun — has remained inconclusive.

Source, links, videos:


[1] [3] [4]



Today, April 28th 2017, WikiLeaks publishes the documentation and source code for CIA's "Scribbles" project, a document-watermarking preprocessing system to embed "Web beacon"-style tags into documents that are likely to be copied by Insiders, Whistleblowers, Journalists or others. The released version (v1.0 RC1) is dated March, 1st 2016 and classified SECRET//ORCON/NOFORN until 2066.

Scribbles is intended for off-line preprocessing of Microsoft Office documents. For reasons of operational security the user guide demands that "[t]he Scribbles executable, parameter files, receipts and log files should not be installed on a target machine, nor left in a location where it might be collected by an adversary."

According to the documentation, "the Scribbles document watermarking tool has been successfully tested on [...] Microsoft Office 2013 (on Windows 8.1 x64), documents from Office versions 97-2016 (Office 95 documents will not work!) [and d]ocuments that are not be locked forms, encrypted, or password-protected". But this limitation to Microsoft Office documents seems to create problems: "If the targeted end-user opens them up in a different application, such as OpenOffice or LibreOffice, the watermark images and URLs may be visible to the end-user. For this reason, always make sure that the host names and URL components are logically consistent with the original content. If you are concerned that the targeted end-user may open these documents in a non-Microsoft Office application, please take some test documents and evaluate them in the likely application before deploying them."

Security researches and forensic experts will find more detailed information on how watermarks are applied to documents in the source code, which is included in this publication as a zipped archive.

28 April, 2017

Funding terror in Colombia banana republic: a case study of dirty US corporate intervention

Ten years ago, Chiquita Brands International became the first U.S.-based corporation convicted of violating a U.S. law against funding an international terrorist group—the paramilitary United Self-defense Forces of Colombia* (AUC). But punishment for the crime was reserved only for the corporate entity, while the names of the individual company officials who engineered the payments have since remained hidden behind a wall of impunity.

As Colombian authorities now prepare to prosecute business executives for funding groups responsible for major atrocities during Colombia’s decades-old conflict, a new set of Chiquita Papers, made possible through the National Security Archive’s FOIA lawsuit, has for the first time made it possible to know the identities and understand the roles of the individual Chiquita executives who approved and oversaw years of payments to groups responsible for countless human rights violations in Colombia.

National Security Archive

Key points:

  • In secret testimony on January 6, 2000 Robert F. Kistinger, head of Chiquita’s Banana Group based in Cincinnati, Ohio, told the SEC [Securities and Exchange Commission] he had direct knowledge about many of the payments to armed groups, especially when they began in the late 1980s, but claimed that he had become less and less involved with the specifics over time. In his view, the amounts of money paid to the groups—hundreds of thousands of dollars per year—were simply not large enough to affect the company’s bottom line.

  • The secret, sworn statements from the SEC probe are the de facto oral history of Chiquita’s ties to terrorist groups in Colombia—a unique and damning firsthand account of how one multinational corporation developed and routinized a system of secret transactions with actors on all sides of the conflict in order to maintain normal business operations—even thrive—in one of the most conflictive regions of the world, all the while treating the payments as little more than the “cost of doing business in Colombia.”

  • The AUC was a loose federation of rightist militants and drug traffickers responsible for a terrible legacy of violent acts in Colombia going back to the 1980s. Chiquita began to pay the AUC sometime in 1996-1997, just as the group launched a nationwide campaign of assassinations and massacres aimed at unionists, political activists, public officials and other perceived guerrilla supporters, often working with the collaboration or complicity of Colombian security forces. Over the next several years, the AUC dramatically increased its numbers and firepower, raised its political profile, infiltrated Colombian institutions, drove thousands of Colombians from their homes, and for the first time challenged guerrilla groups for control of strategic areas around the country. Chiquita agreed to pay a relatively modest $25 million fine as part of its deal with the DOJ [U.S. Department of Justice], but not a single company executive has ever been held responsible for bankrolling the AUC’s wave of terror. Nor have any Chiquita officials faced justice for millions more in outlays to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the National Liberation Army (ELN), the Popular Liberation Army (EPL), and practically every other violent actor in the region.

  • Efforts to hold individual Chiquita executives accountable for financing the groups are complicated by a deliberate decision on the part of the U.S. Justice Department to withhold the names of the people behind the payments scheme. At the September 2007 sentencing hearing in the terror payments case, U.S. government attorneys specifically argued against the public identification of the Chiquita officials “to protect the reputational and privacy interests of uncharged individuals.”

  • The key that unlocks many of the mysteries of the Chiquita Papers is the secret testimony given by Kistinger and six other Chiquita officials during the SEC’s expansive bribery investigation. Through a relatively simple, if laborious, process of cross-referencing among the three sources, it is possible to identify almost all of the individuals whose names were scrubbed from the Factual Proffer, the SLC [Chiquita’s Special Litigation Committee] Report, and the SEC testimony—effectively stripping away the redactions that have shielded Chiquita personnel from scrutiny and that have helped guarantee impunity for individuals linked to the payments.

  • As the most thoroughly-documented case study on the role of multinational corporations in Colombia’s conflict, the new set of Chiquita Papers should factor into the forthcoming investigations of transitional justice authorities created by the recent peace accord with the FARC. The Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) will prosecute the most serious crimes committed during the conflict, while the recently-approved Colombian Truth Commission is an extrajudicial body established to provide clarification about the worst abuses of the conflict and to explain the phenomena that perpetuated the longest continuous war in the world.

  • Buried inside nearly 400 pages of SEC testimony are many of the clues needed to learn the identities of executives and managers at Chiquita who authorized and carried out the “sensitive payments” program but whose names Chiquita, the DOJ, and the SEC tried to hide from public view.

  • To Ordman [former Senior Vice President of European Banana Sourcing for the Chiquita Fresh Group] and Kistinger, who were based outside of the Colombian “war zone,” payments to insurgents and death squads, alarming at first, soon became business as usual—the price to be paid for access to the rich plantations of Colombia’s violently-contested Atlantic coast. In their SEC statements, both describe a process of becoming comfortable with the legal justifications in place and the specific procedures the company had established to handle the payments. Kistinger said he viewed the payments as a “normal expenditure,” not unlike the purchase of fertilizers or agrichemicals—“an ongoing cost” of the company’s business operations.

  • The SEC transcripts reveal that Chiquita’s Colombia-based staff were less comfortable with the payments than their bosses in Costa Rica and Cincinnati, and that at least one employee openly questioned whether the company had moved beyond protection payments and was willingly funding the operations of violent groups.

Full report, links and documents:

* The United Self-Defenders of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, or AUC, in Spanish) was a Colombian paramilitary and drug trafficking group which was an active belligerent in the Colombian armed conflict during the period from 1997 to 2006. The AUC was responsible for attacks against the FARC and ELN rebel groups as well as numerous attacks against civilians beginning in 1997 with the Mapiripán Massacre.

The militia had its roots in the 1980s when militias were established by drug lords to combat rebel kidnappings and extortion. In April 1997 the AUC was formed through a merger, orchestrated by the ACCU, of local right-wing militias, each intending to protect different local economic, social and political interests by fighting left-wing insurgents in their areas.

The organization was initially led by Carlos Castaño until his murder in 2004 and the organization was believed to have links to some local military commanders in the Colombian Armed Forces. Amnesty International calls the paramilitarys groups army of Colombia's Auxiliary forces and Human Rights Watch the sixth division.

The AUC had about 20,000 members and was heavily financed through the drug trade and through support from local landowners, cattle ranchers, mining or petroleum companies and politicians.

The Colombian military has been accused of delegating to AUC paramilitaries the task of murdering peasants and labor union leaders, amongst others suspected of supporting the rebel movements and the AUC publicly and explicitly singled out 'political and trade union operatives of the extreme left' as legitimate targets. The AUC was designated as a terrorist organization by many countries and organizations, including the United States, Canada and the European Union.

Syria's Assad says Trump is puppet of US deep state

Trump "changed his rhetoric completely and subjected himself to the terms of the deep American state, or the deep American regime," Assad said

Part 1

"Yes, from a Western perspective, you are now sitting with the devil. This is how they market it in the west," Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told teleSUR's Rolando Segura in an exclusive interview from Damascus, addressing a range of subjects including claims of chemical attacks as well as the shifting geopolitical alignments impacting the war which has ravaged his country.

Speaking on the subject of Donald Trump, the Syrian leader said the U.S. president "has no policies," but is rather implementing decisions made by "the intelligence agencies, the Pentagon, the big arms manufacturers, oil companies, and financial institutions."

"As we have seen in the past few weeks, he changed his rhetoric completely and subjected himself to the terms of the deep American state, or the deep American regime," Assad said.

Despite running on a platform promising a departure from the interventionist foreign policy of predecessor Barack Obama, Trump launched 59 tomahawk missiles on the al-Shariat air base in Homs on April 6 in response to allegations of the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government — claims which Syria's leader denies.

"That’s why it is unrealistic and a complete waste of time to make an assessment of the American president’s foreign policy, for he might say something; but he ultimately does what these institutions dictate to him. This is not new. This has been ongoing American policy for decades."

Source, links, videos:


Venezuela formally begins process to exit 'interventionist' OAS

Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez said her country's decision was based on dignity and sovereignty

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez presented the official letter Thursday to start the process for the country to pull out of the Organization of American States, which she said was attempting to intervene and promote a coup in Venezuela.

"Today we formalize and present the letter to definitely pull out of this organization," said Rodriguez in a press conference from the Foreign Ministry's office in Caracas. "We will defend the self-determination of our people."

Rodriguez said the move was based on a question of dignity and that President Nicolas Maduro's decision, which was taken to defend Venezuela from arbitrary abuses and illegal actions carried out by the OAS against the country, had been both praised and respected.

"Today is a day of victory for Venezuela, we woke up today freer and more independent," the foreign minister continued.

Rodriguez criticized OAS Secretary-General Luis Almagro, accusing him of responding to U.S. interests to destabilize Caracas, adding that the organization has a historical precedent of promoting interventions, coups and invasions in the region.

Almagro has repeatedly called for the Democratic Charter to be applied against Venezuela, which would have lead to its suspension from the organization.

"When I wake up in the morning, I am happy to say I do not have to call Washington to tell me what to do," she said, referring not only to Almagro, but also other foreign ministers in the region who supported him in promoting actions against Venezuela.

Rodriguez slammed the organization for its hypocrisy of constantly criticizing the political and economic crisis in Venezuela while turning a blind eye to human rights abuses in other countries.

Article 143 of the OAS Charter states that any member state can choose to leave the group by means of a written communication to the secretary-general and after two years from the date on which the general secretary receives the notification, the state shall be removed from the organization.

Venezuela's decision comes after the OAS's Permanent Council agreed Wednesday to convene a meeting of foreign ministers to discuss Venezuela, with 19 votes in favor, 10 against, one abstention and one absence.

The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, known by its Spanish acronym CELAC, will meet May 2 at Caracas' request to address "threats against the constitutional order in Venezuela, as well as the interventionist actions undermining its independence, sovereignty and its right to self-determination," said Rodriguez.

Source, links, videos:

Trump's tax plan is a sweet deal for the 1%

U.S. President Donald Trump unveiled his tax platform on Wednesday, and one thing is clear: the rich will get richer.

In a White House briefing, National Economic Director Gary Cohn and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced Trump's plan, which will drastically cut the U.S. corporate tax rate to one of the lowest among the world's developed economies from 35 percent to 15 percent.

"Welcome to Goldman Sachs populism!" said Public Citizen president Robert Weissman. "The Goldman Sachs tax plan will slash taxes on giant corporations and the corporate elite. With the elimination of the alternative minimum and estate taxes, it not so incidentally appears to confer huge benefits on President Trump himself — though of course, we can’t know for sure so as long as Trump’s tax returns remain secret."

The proposal aims to reduce the individual income rates and reduce brackets from seven to three, pegged at 10, 25 and 35 percent. The so-called “death tax” for inheritance will also be scrapped under the proposal.


Trump authorizes Pentagon to manage number of troops deployed to Iraq & Syria

US President Trump has given the Pentagon authority to independently set troop levels in Iraq and Syria, and to ensure commanders’ flexibility. Over 5,000 troops are deployed in Iraq, and 500 in Syria, where they operate without Damascus’ invitation.

The President has delegated the authority for Force Management Levels (FML) for Iraq and Syria to the [Defense] Secretary [James Mattis],” said Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, as cited by ABC.

He also said that no change has been made at this stage to the number of US troops in the Middle East, adding that the current military strategy involves rendering support to local militias fighting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

The move does not mean that the numbers of troops in Iraq and Syria will change “nor does it change the process by which we will manage those forces,” said Davis.


Venezuela’s revolutionary women take to the streets for Peace

Venezuelan women's movements are taking to the streets of Caracas on Thursday to show their support of peace and the country’s Bolivarian Revolution amid ongoing internal and outside imperialist threats against the socialist government.

As part of the “Great Mobilization for the Defense of the Motherland/Fatherland, Peace and Life,” a number of women's organizations marched from the Plaza Bolivar to Plaza Bicentenaria outside the presidential palace in the center of the capital.

The women's groups are particularly are concerned about the recent attacks and deaths as a result of ongoing opposition protests intent on removing President Nicolas Maduro from power and plans by opposition politicians to overthrow the government.

The message that we send to all the people of Venezuela today is the call to peace, coexistence and unification of all the people and reject all those who want to harm our country,” said Ingrid Espinoza from the National Union of Women. Many women, old and young were seen dressed in red and holding banners of their social organizations.


Colombia: 2 FARC members murdered in 10 days despite new peace

As Colombia’s largest rebel army demobilizes, preparing to lay down its arms once and for all to transition to civilian life after more than half a century of civil war, two FARC members have been assassinated in less than 10 days as rebel leaders and social organizations continue to ring alarm over the ongoing crisis of paramilitary violence that threatens to undermine the historic peace process in the South American country.

FARC Commander Jose Huber Yatacue was shot dead Tuesday outside a hospital in Toribio, a town in the southwestern department of Cauca, one of the regions hardest hit by the decades-long internal armed conflict and ongoing paramilitary violence.

Just over a week earlier, FARC member Alvaro Ortiz Cabezas was murdered on April 16 in a bar in a rural area of the port city of Tumaco, located in the northwestern coastal department of Nariño, bordering Ecuador.

Both Yatacue and Ortiz had benefited from the amnesty law, passed as part of the historic peace deal signed last year by the FARC and the Colombian government, that pardons rebels for political crimes committed in the context of the armed conflict. Both were reportedly more involved in the FARC’s urban activities than rural operations and both were killed in areas outside the designated transition zones where the rebel army has gathered to demobilize.


Big money and lemons cement friendship between Macri and Trump

Argentine President Mauricio Macri met with U.S. President Donal Trump at the White House Thursday to discuss business ties, after decades of knowing each other through business deals as real estate moguls in their respective countries.

Thursday's talks marked the first meeting between the two presidents and the second time a Latin American head of state met Trump, after Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski did so two months ago.

"My good friend, for many, many years," said Trump of Macri. "Long time, 25 years." Macri jumped in and corrected Trump: "More, unfortunately, more, I was only 24," said the Argentine president, who is now 58 years old.

When asked by a reporter of the recent export restriction from the U.S. to lemons from Argentina, Trump said, "I know about all the lemons. And believe it or not, the lemon business is a big, big business."

"But we are going to give that very serious consideration," the U.S. president continued. "One of the reasons he’s here is about lemons — and I’ll tell him about North Korea, and he’ll tell me about lemons. I think that we’re going to be very favorably disposed. We’re going to be talking."

Trump said he knew Macri from before both entered politics in their respective countries due to real estate deals and reiterated the many years of friendship with the Argentine president.


Chile charges 16 military officers who waged terror in Pincohet's 'Caravan of Death'

A Chilean court has found a retired army general and 15 other former military officials guilty of the murders of more than a dozen opponents the General Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship in the 1970s, when they acted as operatives of the military regime's notorious death squad, the Caravan of Death.

The officers were charged with 15 murders in 1973 through the Caravan of Death — a covert military unit that waged terror in the country under the dictatorship, including torturing and killing civilians — reported human rights special prosecutor Mario Carroza.

The 15 victims, all political opponents of the Pinochet regime, were detained on Oct. 16, 1973 in the wake of the Sept. 11 military coup against socialist President Salvador Allende. They were later removed from their prison cells and executed by multiple shots inside the military detention center where they were being held. Their remains were buried in a mass graves and were not returned to their relatives until they were found in 1998.

Among the 16 former military officials charged is a former army commander-in-chief, retired General Juan Emilio Cheyre, who has long been considered "untouchable" after previously being sentenced but securing his release on bond.


Spain's Podemos prepares no confidence vote against PM Rajoy

A Spanish left-wing party on Thursday said it was preparing a no-confidence motion against the current prime minister and requested that the other opposition parties back the initiative.

Pablo Iglesias, the head of Podemos, said in a press conference that the ruling conservative Popular Party, led by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, was exhibiting "parasitic" behavior in public institutions and removing it from the government had become a civic and "ethical obligation."

"The corruption of the PP is not a storm (that will pass), it is a virus that infects the institutions of our country," Iglesias said. He added that the move responded to a growing demand in Spanish society and had to do with the "health of democracy" beyond party lines.

The move came after Rajoy was summoned by Spain’s national court last Tuesday to testify as a witness in a major corruption trial. It was the first time in Spain’s modern history that a sitting prime minister was asked to take to the stand in such a way.


27 April, 2017

Abby Martin on another US dirty intervention against Venezuela

For my entire life, I watched the corporate media sell us war after war, always telling us who our enemies are. Which countries need saving. And which governments should be overthrown.

And every single time it turns out they lied. All the interventions did was ruin entire nations along with millions of lives.

As I watched the mass media's coverage of Venezuela today, coupled with covert regime-change operations and overt threats of intervention from the Trump regime, I say in a clear voice that we don't believe you anymore.

And the only just stand the US government can take, is keeping their hands off of Venezuela.


Τι θα πει ο Μακρόν για την Ελλάδα

Μετά τα αποτελέσματα του πρώτου γύρου των Γαλλικών προεδρικών εκλογών, ο Έλληνας πρωθυπουργός ήταν ανάμεσα σε εκείνους που έσπευσαν να συγχαρούν τον Εμμανουέλ Μακρόν. Δεν θα σχολιάσουμε την ανόητη βιασύνη κάποιων να συγχαρούν τον οποιονδήποτε πριν ολοκληρωθεί μια εκλογική διαδικασία. Τι θα γίνει αν τελικά εκλεγεί η Λεπέν; Απλά θα την αγνοήσουν; Εν πάση περιπτώσει, δεν ξέρουμε αν ο Τσίπρας πιστεύει στ'αλήθεια ότι ο Μακρόν θα σταθεί στο πλευρό της Ελλάδας, εφόσον νικήσει στο δεύτερο γύρο.

Αν πράγματι το πιστεύει, αυτό σημαίνει ότι συνεχίζει να έχει αυταπάτες ότι κάτι μπορεί να αλλάξει προς όφελος της Ελλάδας. Πρέπει να υπενθυμίσουμε στον κύριο Τσίπρα, ότι ο τραπεζίτης των Ρόθτσαϊλντ είχε τοποθετηθεί σε καίρια θέση στην κυβέρνηση Ολάντ.

Άρα, θα πρέπει να υπενθυμίσουμε στον κύριο Τσίπρα τι έκανε ο Φρανσουά Ολάντ προκειμένου να βοηθήσει την Ελλάδα να ξεφύγει από το μονοπάτι της νεοφιλελεύθερης καταστροφής στο οποίο την οδήγησε η Τρόικα των δανειστών: απολύτως τίποτα. Το μόνο που έκανε, ήταν να σέρνεται πίσω από τις αποφάσεις του άξονα Βρυξελλών-Βερολίνου και της μαφίας του ΔΝΤ. Δεν θα έπρεπε να περιμένουμε τίποτα διαφορετικό από τον "Σοσιαλιστή" Ολάντ με ανθρώπους σαν τον Μακρόν στην κυβέρνησή του.

Ο Μακρόν είναι αναμφίβολα το αγαπημένο παιδί του αδίστακτου νεοφιλελεύθερου κατεστημένου. Με τον τραπεζίτη στο τιμόνι της χώρας τα επόμενα χρόνια, ακόμα πιο μαύρες μέρες προμηνύονται για την Ελλάδα, καθώς βρίσκεται σε πλήρη σύμπλευση με Βρυξέλλες και Βερολίνο. Δεν είναι τυχαία άλλωστε τα πανηγύρια της φράξιας Σόιμπλε στο άκουσμα των αποτελεσμάτων. Έτσι, η Ευρωπαϊκή Χρηματοπιστωτική Δικτατορία θα έχει όλο το χρόνο να ολοκληρώσει το βάρβαρο πείραμα στην Ελλάδα.

Έτσι, παρά τα πανηγύρια της κυβέρνησης Τσίπρα για το ματωμένο πλεόνασμα του 4.19% (8 φορές πάνω από το 0.5% που είχε προβλέψει το ΔΝΤ), η νεοφιλελεύθερη δικτατορία θα συνεχίσει το καταστροφικό της έργο μέχρι να μετατρέψει την Ελλάδα στη Σομαλία της Ευρώπης. Ο Τσίπρας ελπίζει ότι θα πάρει κάτι για το χρέος, αλλά δεν είναι εκεί το ζήτημα. Εφόσον οι νεοφιλελεύθεροι σαδιστές βλέπουν ότι μπορεί να επιτύχει τέτοια πλεονάσματα, θα συνεχίσουν το βάρβαρο πείραμα προκειμένου να το μεταφέρουν παντού στην Ευρώπη.

Έτσι, δεν χρειάζεται να είναι κανείς προφήτης για να προβλέψει τι θα πει η νεοφιλελεύθερη μαριονέτα, Εμμανουέλ Μακρόν, για την Ελλάδα. Θα επαναλαμβάνει το γνωστό τροπάρι του τύπου 'η Ελλάδα έχει κάνει πρόοδο στις μεταρρυθμίσεις αλλά χρειάζεται ακόμη δουλειά', όπως επαναλαμβάνουν μόνιμα τα γνωστά 'ρομποτάκια' του νεοφιλελεύθερου ιερατείου για την Ελλάδα κατά τη διάρκεια όλων αυτών των επτά ετών αδιάκοπης καταστροφής.

Δεν γνωρίζουμε τι θα πει η Μαρίν Λεπέν για την Ελλάδα στην περίπτωση που εκλεγεί, αλλά ειλικρινά δεν περιμένουμε κάτι το συνταρακτικά διαφορετικό, καθώς δεν είναι τίποτα περισσότερο από μια εφεδρεία του κατεστημένου.

Διαβάστε επίσης:

Μια ισορροπημένη ανάλυση για την κατάσταση στη Βενεζουέλα, σε αντίθεση με την προπαγάνδα των Δυτικών ΜΜΕ

Τι συμβαίνει πίσω από από την κρίση που οδηγεί σε αποσταθεροποίηση την μεγαλύτερη πετρελαιοπαραγωγό χώρα της Λ. Αμερικής

Όλοι το έχετε ακούσει κάπως σε αυτή τη χώρα: Στο κάτω κάτω ο ΣΥΡΙΖΑ πριν και αφού γίνει κυβέρνηση είχε μιλήσει για το παράδειγμα της Βενεζουέλας, τις καλές σχέσεις με τον τότε πρόεδρο Ούγκο Τσάβες κλπ. Ταυτόχρονα, όλοι του οι πολιτικοί αντίπαλοι έχουν καταγγείλει σε όλους τους τόνους πως η νυν μνημονιακή κυβέρνηση του Αλέξη θέλει “να μας κάνει Βενεζουέλα” παρότι οι ομοιότητες τους σαν κυβερνήσεις δεν είναι πολύ περισσότερες από το ότι ανήκουν στο ίδιο ημισφαίριο.

Σε κάθε περίπτωση, όπως σε όλα σχεδόν τα διεθνή ζητήματα η κατάσταση είναι πιο σύνθετη από ένα μοτίβο “κακή κυβέρνηση – καλοί διαδηλωτές” (ή το αντίθετο) οπότε καθώς η Βενεζουέλα συγκλονίζεται από μαζικές διαδηλώσεις τόσο κατά όσο και υπέρ της κυβέρνησης Μαδούρο, αξίζει να δούμε πως προέκυψε όλη αυτή η κατάσταση. Γιατί φυσικά είναι μια κατάσταση που δεν περιγράφεται με 50 λέξεις, δεν ξεκίνησε χτες και δεν έχει απλή επίλυση. Δεν είναι τυχαίο ότι οι δύο τελευταίοι νεκροί (οι οποίοι έφτασαν τους 26 τις τελευταίες εβδομάδες), σκοτώθηκαν ο ένας σε μία φιλοκυβερνητική και ο άλλος σε μια αντικυβερνητική διαδήλωση.

Πως έγιναν όλα αυτά;

Η τελευταία αναζωπύρωση ξεκίνησε στις 29 Μαρτίου, όταν το Ανώτατο Δικαστήριο της χώρας ανακοίνωσε πως θα αναλάβει τις νομοθετικές εξουσίες της ελεγχόμενης από την αντιπολίτευση Εθνοσυνέλευσης. Στις κατηγορίες της αντιπολίτευσης πως καταργείται ο διαχωρισμός των εξουσιών, το Ανώτατο Δικαστήριο δήλωσε πως η Εθνοσυνέλευση αγνοεί τις αποφάσεις του.

Παρότι η απόφαση αποσύρθηκε τρεις μέρες μετά, η αντιπολίτευση πήρε τους δρόμους. Λίγες μέρες μετά, με τις αντικυβερνητικές διαδηλώσεις να φουντώνουν, απαγορεύτηκε στον ηγέτη της αντιπολίτευσης Ενρίκε Καπρίλες να συμμετέχει σε εκλογές για 15 χρόνια, κάτι το οποίο δε βοήθησε την κατάσταση.

H απαγόρευση έγινε επειδή ο Καπρίλες κατηγορείται για κλοπή δημόσιου χρήματος στο κρατίδιο Μιράντα όπου είναι κυβερνήτης. Ο Καπρίλες, ο οποίος έχασε δύο χρόνια συνεχόμενα τις εκλογές απέναντι στον τωρινό πρόεδρο Νικολάς Μαδούρο και τον προκάτοχό του Ούγκο Τσάβες ο 2013 και το 2012 αντίστοιχα, αρνείται τις κατηγορίες και ο σκοπός του είναι να συμμετάσχει στις προεδρικές εκλογές του 2018.

Πλούσιοι και φτωχοί: Η Βενεζουέλα χωρισμένη σε δύο στρατόπεδα

Yπάρχει λόγος όμως που η κοινωνία της Βενεζουέλας είναι τόσο διχασμένη. Η εθνικοποίηση από τον Ούγκο Τσάβες της βιομηχανίας πετρελαίου της Βενεζουέλας και η νομοθέτηση της κυβερνητικής ταρίφας από κάθε κέρδος που προκύπτει από το πετρέλαιο (η Βενεζουέλα είναι ο 5ος μεγαλύτερος εξαγωγέας ενώ έχει και τα μεγαλύτερα αποθέματα στον κόσμο) ήταν μιας καθοριστικής σημασίας εξέλιξη σε μια χώρα που οι φτωχοί είχαν ήδη εξεγερθεί μια φορά μετά τα κοινωνικά πειράματα που είχαν γίνει με τη συμβουλή του ΔΝΤ από την κυβέρνηση Πέρεζ το 1988-1989.

Με τα κέρδη από το πετρέλαιο, καθώς ήταν η περίοδος που οι τιμές του πετρελαίου αυξάνονταν, η κυβέρνηση της Βενεζουέλας υπό τους Τσάβες – Μαδούρο κατάφερε να χρηματοδοτήσει προγράμματα υποστήριξης των οικονομικά αδύναμων που σαν κι αυτά λίγα υπήρχαν στη ευρύτερη περιοχή. Η κυβέρνηση της Βενεζουέλας από το 1999 και έπειτα πήρε σοβαρά μέτρα υπέρ των φτωχών: προγράμματα για φτηνή ή δωρεάν κατοικία, δωρεάν ιατροφαρμακευτική περίθαλψη, τρόφιμα στους άπορους.

Όλα αυτά συνέβαλαν στην εντυπωσιακή μείωση της φτώχειας (Από 70.8% το 1996 σε 21% το 2010 ενώ η ακραία φτώχεια από 40% το 1996 στο 7.3% το 2010), της παιδικής θνησιμότητας και άλλων στατιστικών πολύ υψηλών συνήθως στην περιοχή. Ταυτόχρονα, όπως ομολογούν το ινστιτούτο Wilson, κατάφερε να εμπλέξει μάζες φτωχών ανθρώπων στην πολιτική με τοπικά συμβούλια και λαϊκές επιτροπές με τρόπο επίσης σπάνιο στη Λατινική Αμερική όπου ο αυταρχισμός ακμάζει.

Όλα αυτά είναι εξαιρετικά αξιοσημείωτα και πέραν του τι συνέβη στο παρελθόν (οι μεταρρυθμίσεις αυτές έστειλαν το Τσάβες να κερδίσει τις προεδρικές εκλογές του 2006 με 26 μονάδες διαφορά), βοηθούν να γίνει κατανοητός ο βαθμός του διχασμού στην κοινωνία της Βενεζουέλας. Παρότι η επιρροή της κυβέρνησης έχει συρρικνωθεί από τότε, ένα κομμάτι της κοινωνίας την έχει συνδέσει με την ανύψωση του από τη φτώχεια και θα φτάσει μακριά για να τα υπερασπιστεί. Ταυτόχρονα, οι σχέσεις της αντιπολίτευσης με την προ Τσάβες ελίτ (ηγέτες κομμάτων όπως ο Καπρίλες, ο Λεοπόλντο Λόπεζ και η Μαρία Ματσάδο πχ είναι από πλούσιες οικογένειες) τείνουν να ενισχύουν αυτή τη συσχέτιση.

Ακολουθώντας την τιμή του πετρελαίου στο κενό

Παρόλαυτα, η οικονομική στρατηγική της Βενεζουέλας προσέκρουσε πάνω στο παράγοντα που της έδωσε δυναμική: Την πτώση των τιμών του πετρελαίου, οι οποίες γκρεμίστηκαν στο μισό από το 2014. Η μείωση των τιμών του πολύτιμου καυσίμου από το οποίο προκύπτει το 95% των εσόδων της κυβέρνησης της προκάλεσε μεγάλη αδυναμία στο να χρηματοδοτήσει τα προγράμματα της.

Ταυτόχρονα, το εδώ και μια τριετία πολύ έντονο ταμειακό πρόβλημα της Βενεζουέλας έχει δημιουργήσει ένα ντόμινο. Ο πληθωρισμός έχει εκτιναχτεί στα ύψη (679.73 για το 2017 σύμφωνα με επιτροπή της ελεγχόμενης από την αντιπολίτευση Εθνοσυνέλευσης) με τις υψηλές τιμές των φαρμάκων και των φαρμακευτικών υπηρεσιών να δημιουργούν επικίνδυνες ελλείψεις. Τα προϋπάρχοντα προβλήματα της γεωργίας φαίνονται ακόμη πιο έντονα τώρα, με την κυβέρνηση να αναγκάζεται να εισάγει και τρόφιμα που είναι κυριολεκτικά ζωτικής σημασίας αγαθά.

Οι δρόμοι της Βενεζουέλας εδώ και καιρό δεν ήταν ασφαλείς

H οποία εγκληματικότητα, παρότι ήταν ζήτημα στη Βενεζουέλα από παλαιότερα, είναι πλέον ένα φοβερά ακανθώδες ζήτημα. Ένοπλες συμμορίες κυκλοφορούν ανενόχλητες σε πολλές περιοχές σκοτώνοντας ανθρώπους για να τους ληστέψουν, με τους πολίτες να κλείνονται στα σπίτια τους βράδια. Την ίδια στιγμή οι δυνάμεις ασφαλείας θρηνούν και οι ίδιες δεκάδες θύματα το χρόνο, στοιχεία δείχνουν πως η διαφθορά στην Αστυνομία, ακόμη πιο έντονη λόγω της οικονομίας, ενδέχεται να ευθύνεται τόσο για την αδυναμία αντιμετώπισης της κατάστασης, όσο και για την ισχυροποίηση των συμμοριών.

Δεν είναι τυχαίο πως η κυβέρνηση Μαδούρο έχει προσφύγει στο θεσμό που εμπιστεύεται περισσότερο για να τηρήσει την τάξη: το στρατό. Ο στρατός όλα αυτά τα χρόνια έχει στηρίξει με ελάχιστες ταλαντεύσεις την κυβέρνηση της Μπολιβαριανής Επανάστασης, όπως ονομάστηκε το κίνημα του Τσάβες, ο οποίος ήταν ο ίδιος αξιωματικός των αλεξιπτωτιστών. Οι ένοπλες δυνάμεις της χώρας ήταν που ακύρωσαν και το πραξικόπημα που έγινε το 2002 κατά του Τσάβες.

Η κλιμάκωση της βίας φαίνεται αναπόφευκτη σε ένα θολό τοπίο αλληλοκατηγοριών

Δεν είναι σίγουρο όμως αν ο στρατός θα καταφέρει να αντιμετωπίσει την κλιμακούμενη βία. Η εικόνα των μαζικών ειρηνικών διαδηλώσεων που η κυβέρνηση πνίγει στο αίμα είναι ανεπαρκής: Υπάρχουν όπως γράφτηκε και παραπάνω μεγάλες συγκεντρώσεις υπέρ ΚΑΙ κατά της κυβέρνησης, νεκροί διαδηλωτές από πυρά στρατιωτών, νεκροί στρατιώτες από πυρά οπλισμένων διαδηλωτών ενώ γίνονται και δολοφονικές επιθέσεις προς τρίτους, όπως δολοφονίες μελών του κυβερνώντος κόμματος και φιλοκυβερνητικών συνδικαλιστών.

Σε μια ιστορία έντονα παραστατική για το δράμα της χώρας, ένα μαιευτήριο με 54 παιδιά σε μια φτωχή γειτονιά της πρωτεύουσας αναγκάστηκε να εκκενωθεί λόγω των βίαιων συγκρούσεων που εκτυλίσσονταν απέξω. Μετά από μία νύχτα μάχες στα οδοφράγματα μεταξύ διαδηλωτών και αστυνομίας, το νοσοκομείο παραλίγο να πάρει φωτιά και οι καπνοί που έμπαιναν μέσα απειλούσαν την υγεία των παιδιών. Οι διαδηλωτές κατηγόρησαν τα δακρυγόνα της κυβέρνησης για την πυρκαγιά, η διευθύντρια του νοσοκομείου όμως έριξε την ευθύνη στους αντικυβερνητικούς, τους οποίους κατηγόρησε πως έκαιγαν λάστιχα μπροστά στο μαιευτήριο και πως προσπάθησαν να εισβάλλουν και στο χώρο του νοσοκομείου.

Καθώς μέσα στις αλληλοκατηγορίες κυβέρνησης και αντιπολίτευσης, όπου η αντιπολίτευση μιλά για φασισμό και δικτατορία και η κυβέρνηση για απόπειρα πραξικοπήματος, τρομοκρατικές ενέργειες και ξένη επέμβαση (με την κυβέρνηση να είναι δικαιολογημένα καχύποπτη για το ρόλο των ΗΠΑ) είναι πολύ δύσκολο να προκύψει μέσο έδαφος, η κλιμάκωση της βίας φαίνεται αρκετά βέβαιη.

Πηγή και σύνδεσμοι: