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03
Abril

The gun debate in the USA has, for centuries, really been about race and the dominaiton of the black population. ​A front page story in the Washington Post struck me. “GOP field backs gun rights with both barrels,” read the title of the David A. Fahrenthold piece on March 29. As one would expect, the potential candidates for the Republican presidential nomination are jumping all over themselves to show how ‘pro-gun’ they are.  

In the USA we have discussions about guns that pretend to be based on history, but actually miss certain key features.  In so doing, the heart and soul of the gun debate is overlooked and the issue devolves into questions of morality and gun safety.

The gun issue in the USA is related to history but not particularly to the 2nd Amendment (the supposed right to bear arms).  The debate precedes the 2nd Amendment by more than a century and it revolves around settlers and race.

The gun debate in the USA started in the 1600s and, while there were always matters of safety and hunting, the key question was actually one of who had the right and authority to possess weapons.  The second question centered on why the centrality of weapon possession at all.

The settlement of North America, and specifically the original thirteen colonies, was not a non-violent act.  It represented an invasion.  There immediately arose the question of the protection of the invaders, i.e., the colonists.  Thus, weapons, at all costs, had to be kept out of the hands of the indigenous population—the Native Americans or First Nations.

Severe penalties were created for any settler who sold or traded weapons to the Native Americans.  This notoriety made its way into the popular media over the years with stories about so-called mavericks who supplied Native Americans with weaponry.

During much of the colonial era, and into the 19th century, by the way, this form of activity was frequently associated in the minds of much of the white public with Irish dissidents who were in opposition to the British colonization of Ireland.

Weaponry was also essential for handling an ‘internal’ problem within the emerging settler state:  indentured servants and slaves.   

The 1600s was a period of regular uprisings carried out by indentured servants and slaves.  The indentured servant workforce was originally composed of Africans, Europeans and some Native Americans.  It was the turmoil during this period that drove the colonial ruling elite to identify the need to splinter the workforce in order to retain power.  In that context arose the modern usage of “race,” based largely upon the successful experience of the British in the occupation and suppression of the indigenous population in Ireland.

Over the course of the 1600s, indentured servitude evolved into indentured servitude for Europeans laborers and slavery-for-life for Africans.  In order to guarantee that the Africans and Europeans did not conspire together, there were major penalties for any sort of ‘cross-racial’ cooperation among the laboring peoples.  There was, additionally, the question of the gun.

One of the chief distinctions between the condition of the European and that of the African was that Africans could not own or possess weapons. Possessing weapons was a ‘privilege’ of whiteness and with this privilege came an awesome responsibility:  serve in the mission to expand European settlements (and control) over North America; remove the Native Americans from their land; and ensure that Africans remained suppressed in slavery.

Thus, no matter how poor a European might have been and no matter how badly they might have been treated by the Euro-Americans (white) ruling elite, at the end of the day the white poor and laboring classes grew to understand that they would not be as bad off as the Native American and African.  They also grew to understand that by putting on the racial uniform of “whiteness,” they could have a role in one of the most notorious expeditions in history, despite the fact that that uniform permanently imprisoned them in a humiliating and subordinate status.

Gun ownership in the USA, then, was a defining feature of whiteness.  It, therefore, cannot be compared to gun ownership in most other parts of the world—with the exception of nation-states that started as settler colonies, e.g., South Africa. It was a trophy suggesting that the owner was part of a ruling establishment, separate and apart from the various barbarian races.

The settler origin of gun ownership and its relationship to the enslavement of Africans, helps one to understand the contradictory response among many whites to the possession of weapons by people of color.  In fact, it demonstrates that the gun controversy is not and has never been about the 2nd Amendment.  

The possession of weapons by people of color, whether Native Americans, Chicanos or African Americans, to name three groups, is not seen by many, if not most whites as a matter of “rights,” but instead as a source of fear.

When, in 1967, the Black Panther Party marched on the California state capital with unloaded shotguns, it sent shivers up the spines of many whites, perhaps bringing to mind the possible reemergence of Nat Turner.

Compare that with the armed actions by white, right-wing populists in defense of Nevadan Cliven Bundy in his dispute with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  Bundy, charged by the BLM with violating grazing rights, was supported by armed volunteers in his confrontation with federal agents.  There is little doubt that had Bundy been of color and the armed supporters been of color, that there would have been more of a reenactment of the MOVE confrontation in Philadelphia or the attack on the American Indian Movement at Wounded Knee.  

Yet, in the Bundy case, the appearance of armed, white, right-wing supporters was largely treated as a near legitimate exercise in both weapon’s possession and freedom of protest.

The embrace of gun ownership and display by the Republican candidates and potential candidates for the Presidency is certainly an example of typical Republican opportunism.  But it is actually more than that.  It is a symbolic linkage with the largely unspoken theme that is central to US history and has existed as a white, right-wing apparition during the Obama administration:   the U.S. is—or at least should be—a white republic.  The rest of us are guests; tolerated at best, despised at worst.

 And the guns?  Well, they are a reminder that a portion of the population has to be prepared to stand firm against the barbarians who are chipping away at the edifice.

03
Abril

Roberta Jacobson was surprised not more countries defended the U.S. sanctions and decree claiming Venezuela a threat. The U.S. sub-secretary for Latin America admitted Friday that she was “disappointed” by the reactions of the Latin American countries to the sanctions and the “national security threat” decree recently adopted by Washington against Venezuela. “I am disappointed that there were not more countries to defend (the sanctions).

They were not made to harm Venezuelans or the Venezuelan government,” the diplomat explained. Speaking at a conference, Roberta Jacobson also criticised the solidarity shown by Latin American countries for Venezuela.

“The tone that Latin American leaders are using demonizes the United States as if it were the source of Venezuela's problems, and this makes it hard for us to proceed pragmatically,” the politician said.

The mounting hostility from the U.S towards Venezuela is likely to be one of the most hotly debated themes at the Summit, due to take place in Panama later this month. U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to attend.

RELATED: US

Threats on Venezuela Many high profile Latin Americans have come out in support of the democratically elected government of President Nicolas Maduro, including former Uruguayan president, Jose Mujica, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu. In March all 33 members of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) expressed their opposition to the U.S. government move, with other regional bodies including the United Nations of South America (UNASUR) doing likewise.

In the latest sign of the hostility that the U.S. approach has provoked, it was revealed Friday that at least five million tweets across 105 countries have been counted on Twitter demanding the repealing of Obama's meddling decree.

30
Marzo

On 17 December 2014, President Obama declared that 55 years of embargo didn’t work in bringing ‘freedom’ to Cuba. He proposed reestablishing diplomatic relations with the southern neighbor.

An emotion of joy shook the world, especially Latin America. Raul Castro received wires and calls of congratulations. Cubans cheered “we won, we won!” – The US Congress right wing was not quite ready for this initiative and, indeed, there was no concrete mention of how and when the ‘blockade’ would be lifted.

Surely, Washington wants to impose its conditions. Washington conditions never serve an ally, let alone a foe. Washington conditions are always set to first serve the ‘national interest’- i.e. the interest of the US corporate and financial elite. Most vassals simply accept. Their happiness to be recognized in the Washington camp compensates for all the pitfalls Washington hegemony imposes. Just look at Europe with the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Pact) which – currently being negotiated in secret! – if approved by the neoliberal European Commission, spells not only disaster for European generations to come, but means the EU being literally colonized by the US; slavehood for EU citizens.

Cuba will not accept such conditions, for sure. Cuba has already set some of its own conditions, one of them being the return of Guantanamo, originally and under past Cuban puppet governments a 99-year concession that has expired years ago. Guantanamo today is pure theft. The criminal capture of a piece of another country’s territory, so that no US law could be applied to the crimes committed there. Torture of so-called ‘terrorists’ and terrorist suspects in the US-stolen enclave of Guantanamo are well and alive. No US law can stop the crime. International laws are ignored by empire. Washington, the exceptional nation, is above all laws. If a judge, national or international, doesn’t conform, he is simply removed or eliminated.

Two days after Obama’s bold initiative, on 19 December 2015, he went to the Washington Press Club to tell a horde of puppet journalists, conservative politicians and onlookers that soft measures, like reestablishing diplomatic relations with Havana might be more successful in bringing the desired regime change to Cuba than more years of isolation. He couldn’t have been more direct and more honest about his intention. The Cuban Government and whoever else listened didn’t miss the point.

Isolation has been gradually fading over the past years. Russia and China and many ‘amigos’ in Latin America and Europe – Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Spain, France, to name just a few – have established almost regular trading relations with Cuba. Despite the constant threat of ‘sanctions’ by empire. It is high time for the White House to change tactics if it doesn’t want to lose out to its arch-enemies Russia and China.

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The majority of Cuban people are so disillusioned with their lives, with what they see as ‘no future for their children’, that they simply welcome any possibility of change. When asked, almost all say, ’it’s a good thing. We are looking forward to it’. However, they are discrete. Nobody openly complains and less so to curious foreigners. When prompted about how they think Washington will help them, they don’t know. They just want change. Not regime change, to be sure, a better life. They want hope. They want a chance for future generations. Cubans are not hungry. But they see an enormous disparity between themselves and the rest of the world. Especially when they see plane loads of tourists arriving, spending multiples of their monthly incomes for one night in four or five star hotels.

They are not jealous per se, but they see the enormous difference between themselves and those who have access to foreign exchange, including some Cubans who receive money from their families in the US, Cubans able to travel abroad as artists or academics, or Cubans able to mount small businesses with the help of friends and families abroad. They see that something is not quite right. And this in a country where social and economic equality is one of the Government’s priorities.

Cubans are not afraid of hard work. Cubans are creative; they have great ideas; they are highly educated; they know what is going on in the world, much better than the average European, or North American for that matter. Cubans are inventive. They have savvy for advancing their country and improving living conditions for themselves.

Cuba has large agricultural areas, fertile land, but according to local academics, more than 50% of suitable agricultural acreage lies idle. Cuban farmers lack incentives. Government controlled prices do not cover costs, or leave insufficient margin for the hard work of farming. Cuba, with its 11 million inhabitants could be more than food self-sufficient. However, Cuba imports about 80% of food which it rations to its people.

None of the Cubans want to lose the tremendous achievements of their Revolution – one of the world’s best systems of health and education, a country of peace and tranquility – a country where crime is almost non-existent. What they want is a standard of living that corresponds to their capacities – physical, academic and entrepreneurial. When prompted, they also realize that Washington doesn’t bring the solution. The solution has to be found from within.

They see what Washington is doing to their brothers in Venezuela – sanctions, embargoes, outright economic warfare. – And for what? – To subjugate the people and to control their resources; colonization of the Bolivarian nation, the first step in taking back Obama’s ‘backyard’ – South America – the only part of the world, other than Russia and China, that has successfully detached itself from empire in the last couple of decades and so far resisted Washington’s attempts in meddling in South America’s sovereign affairs. They have created UNASUR and ALBA, solidifying their unity.

Cubans say we are strong. We have 56 years of revolution on our backs and in our hearts; we know how to defend ourselves. We have fought a civil war for more than 5 years and kicked the Yankees out. We have successfully defended ourselves against the empire’s aggression by air and sea, led by President Kennedy in 1961. We will do it again, if we must. Indeed, Cubans are strong. They are tenacious. They have tremendous will power.

But Cubans also must be reminded of today’s reality. Once Washington puts its heavy boots in a country, it’s (almost) impossible to get rid of them. If the boots are insufficient, the three-branched war machine will follow – bombs, ‘sanctions’ by economic fascism (neoliberalism) – and relentless propaganda. Everywhere they put their foot, they sow disaster, leave behind rubble and death, countless refugees, desolation for generations to come. Cubans know that.

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I talked to dozens of people in the street, in restaurants, shops, libraries – from workers, to taxi drivers, to medical doctors, to economists, to professors and other academics, to artists and even an Angola war veteran – their views are consistent: ‘We can’t continue like this’. These people are all brilliant in their own ways. And they are all desperate for a better life with a vision towards the future. – But to repeat, not regime change at all, especially not Washington style, but internal change for a better life and a brighter future.

A cab driver told me, Cuba is wonderful, a bit tranquilo – even boring. But your country is flooded with tourists like never before, I countered. There is hardly an empty bed in Havana; you have more tourists than your infrastructure can reasonably absorb. Yes, he said. But almost all of them are ‘package tourists’. They come in prearranged, all inclusive tours. They are picked up in buses from the airport, brought to four or five star hotels, then driven around from one site seeing place to another; they eat in pre-arranged restaurants and then – hop, he flipped with his fingers – and off they are. None of them touches any local business; they don’t take taxis, they hardly talk to Cubans; they don’t see how we really live.

The money the international tourists pay for their tours is shared between the foreign travel agent and the Cuban government. None of it trickles down to us, the common people, who earn the equivalent of between 25 and 40 dollars a month, while a room in a 5 star hotel costs up to US$ 300 a night, or 15 to 20 times the monthly wage of the average Cuban. He didn’t sound jealous at all; just matter-of-factly.

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Cuba’s economy is beset by multi-layered distortions – distortions as results of accumulated ‘corrections’ over the past 50 years that led to an economic and financial complexity, today unreformable by traditional means. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, when the pillars of the Cuban economy suddenly and for the Cubans apparently without warning imploded, corrections and counter-corrections multiplied Cuba’s economic conundrum.

For the past twenty-five years, Cuba has known a two-tier economic system of sorts. The country uses two currencies, one for local use, the Cuban Peso (CUP) and the Cuban Convertible (CUC), mostly for foreigners and foreign trade. The CUC is closely linked to the US dollar, almost one-to-one. The conversion rate between the CUP and the CUC is 1 : 25. It takes 25 CUP for one CUC. The average Cuban monthly salary is between about 600 and 900 CUP, i.e. about 25 to 40 US dollars equivalent, the relation between the earnings is that of a worker versus a medical doctor. Of course, food, lodging, electricity, water and other services are state controlled and cheap; education, health and other social services are free. Nevertheless, this two-currency system creates an enormous gap between those with access to foreign exchange and those who simply live on their CUPs.

The Cuban GDP is said to be close to the equivalent of US$ 70 billion, although it is difficult to understand the arithmetic behind this indicator, given the monetary distortion. Total services, including tourism account for almost 75% of GDP, Industry, including nickel exports, for 20%, while agriculture contributes a mere 5% to Cuba’s economic output. Similarly, GDP growth over the past 5 years has been unstable, fluctuating, between 1% and 4 %; today it stands at about 1.4%.

Debt is about 37% of GDP, less than that of the average Latin American country. Foreign reserves are said to be US$ 10 billion, about 15% of GDP, a healthy reserve for a country with 11 million people. However, the reserve is left untouched, like money in a safe, with the expectation that it might attract foreign investors – and serve as a rescue and recovery fund for hurricane disasters.

The currency distortion exacerbated by the lopsided GDP composition and the unused reserve funds, one would think requires first and foremost an internal, perhaps radical restructuring of the economy. It could start with delinking the CUC from the dollar and devaluing the CUC to a level which would allow eliminating the local CUP, converting Cuba into a single currency system, a step taken by China, when they transformed their double currency system into a one-currency economy in 1984. This might mean starting from square one, so to speak – local production for local markets. Loosening at the same time Government control on local initiatives would bring the necessary incentives to restart the productive engine.

Argentina may serve as an example. When Argentina’s economy collapsed in 2001, the Government broke the peso-dollar parity, devalued the peso by some 60% and started afresh – local production for local consumption. With its own currency, Argentina gained back its economic sovereignty, thus, the ability to negotiate its foreign debt at its own terms. Over the next decade, Argentina grew on average by 8% - a highly distributive GDP growth, helping to reduce poverty from close to 70% in 2001 to way below 10% in 2014.

The solutions for an internal problem never come from outside and less so from the United States. Foreign investments usually come with strings attached, some with steel chains. Following the US and European conditions for their investments, might imply accepting the dictate of the IMF, World Bank and IDB (Inter-American Development Bank) neoliberal economic disaster policies. What these policies of economic fascism have done and are still doing to the world – so-called ‘structural adjustments’ in Africa, Latin America, Asia – and lately the manufactured Eurozone crises starting in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and even Italy – speak for themselves.

The latest example of empire’s destruction for dominance is Ukraine; first by a CIA / State Department / NATO inspired coup in February 2014, then by a civil war instigated by the newly US / EU-imposed Nazi-Government of criminal thugs in Kiev – civil war against the eastern Ukraine brothers, led by CIA mercenaries with NATO ‘advisors’ – and finally by an illegal financial war, theft of resources driven by debt, imposed by the infamous ‘troika’ – IMF, European Central Bank (ECB) and EC (European Commission).

Cuba’s sizable reserves might serve to initiate economic recovery in priority sectors like agriculture, telecommunication, tourism and rehabilitation of local infrastructure. The conditions and priorities for foreign investments should always be laid down by the host country. Foreign investors should be linked up with local enterprises as joint ventures, like China did, when it opened its borders to foreign investments in the 1980s. A foreign partner must never be allowed a majority holding. In the case of Cuba, priorities for foreign investors might include, among other sectors, cutting edge technologies in communication and computer sciences.

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According to a Cuban economist, an academic, the multi-faceted complexity of economic distortions, combined with the need for investments and increased output efficiency, leads to fear of making the wrong decisions which leads to inertia which leads to a stagnant economy that lacks incentives for people’s initiatives. This vicious circle of inaction must be broken, but certainly not by an outside ‘change agent’, but from within.

From within – always with the credo ‘Hasta la Victoria Siempre!’

Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a former World Bank staff and worked extensively around the world in the fields of environment and water resources. He writes regularly for Global Research, ICH, RT, Sputnik News, the Voice of Russia / Ria Novosti, TeleSur, The Vineyard of The Saker Blog, and other internet sites. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe. 

18
Marzo

We are the people of Simon Bolívar, our people believe in peace and respect for all nations.

 

Freedom and Independence

 

More than two centuries ago, our fathers founded a Republic on the basis that all persons are free and equal under the law.

Our nation made the greatest sacrifices to guarantee South American people their right to choose their rulers and to enforce their own laws today. The historical legacy of our father, Simón Bolívar, is always remembered. Bolívar was a man who gave his life so we would inherit a nation of justice and equality.

 

We believe in Peace, National Sovereignty and International Law

 

We are a peaceful people. In two centuries of independence, we have never attacked another nation. Our people live in a region of peace, free of weapons of mass destruction, and in freedom to practice all religions. We uphold respect for international law and the sovereignty of all people of the world.

 

We are an Open Society

 

We are a working people, we care for our families, and we have freedom of religion. Immigrants from around the world, live among us, whose diversity is respected. We have freedom of press and we are enthusiastic users of social media.

 

We are friends of the American people:

 

The histories of our people have been connected since the beginning of our struggles for freedom. Francisco de Miranda, a Venezuelan hero, met George Washington and Thomas Jefferson during the first few years of the United States as an independent nation. They discussed about ideals such as liberty and justice, which where fundamental concepts in our struggle for Independence. We share the idea that freedom and independence are fundamental elements for the development of our nations.

The relations between our peoples have always been peaceful and respectful. Historically, we have shared business relations in strategic areas. Venezuela has always been a responsible and trustful energy provider for the American people. Since 2005, Venezuela has provided "heating oil" through subsidies for low-income communities in the United States, thanks to our company CITGO. This contribution has helped tens of thousands of American citizens survive in harsh conditions, giving them relief, and necessary support in times of need, evidencing how solidarity can create powerful alliances across borders.

 

Incredibly, the U.S government has declared our country a threat to its national security and foreign policy

 

In a disproportionate action, the government of Obama has issued a "National Emergency" declaring Venezuela as a threat to its national security (Executive Order, 09-15-2015). This unilateral and aggressive measure taken by the United States Government against our country is not only unfounded and in violation of basic principles of sovereignty and self-determination under international law, but also has been unanimously rejected by all 33 nations of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the twelve member states of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR). In a statement made on March 14, 2015, UNASUR reiterated its firm rejection of these coercive measures that do not contribute to the peace, stability and democracy in our region and called on President Obama to revoke his Executive Order against Venezuela.

 

We reject unilateralism and interventionism

 

President Obama, without any authority to interfere in our internal affairs, unilaterally issued a set of sanctions against Venezuelan officials with potentially far-reaching implications, interfering in our constitutional order and our justice system.

 

We advocate for a multipolar world

 

We believe that our world must be based on the rules of international law, without interference in the internal affairs of other countries. We are convinced that the relationship of respect between all the nations is the only path for strengthening peace and coexistence, as well as for assuring a more just world.

 

We honor our freedoms and uphold our rights

 

Never before in the history of our nations, has a president of the United States attempted to govern Venezuelans by decree. It is a tyrannical and imperial order and it pushes us back into the darkest days of the relationship between the United States and Latin America and the Caribbean.

In the name of our long-term friendship we alert our American brothers and sisters, lovers of justice and freedom, of the illegal aggression committed by your government on your behalf. We will not allow our friendship with the people of the United States to be affected by this senseless and groundless decision by President Obama.

 

We demand:

 

1- The U.S. Government immediately cease hostile actions against Venezuelan people and democracy.

2- President Obama abolish the Executive Order that declares Venezuela a threat to U.S. national security, as it has been requested by the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR).

3.-The U.S. Government retract its libelous and defamatory statements and actions against the honorable Venezuelan officials who have just obeyed our laws and our constitution.

 

Our sovereignty is sacred

 

The principles of the founding fathers of the United States of America are followed today with the same dignity by the people of Simón Bolívar. In the name of our mutual love for national independence we want the government of President Obama to think about and rectify this dangerous precedent.

We are convinced that the defense of our freedom is a right we shall never give up because the future of the humanity lies also in our country. As Simón Bolívar said: "The freedom of the New World is the hope of the universe".

 

"Venezuela is not a threat, but a hope"

 

"Independence or nothing"

 

Simón Bolívar

 

Nicolás Maduro Moros

President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela