How The US Is Pushing Lebanon Into The Arms Of Iran And Russia

Authored by Elijah Magnier, Middle East based chief international war correspondent for Al Rai Media

Lebanon is readying to receive US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week in his first ever visit at a time when the Lebanese economic-political map is being redrawn and while Lebanon is suffering its most serious economic downturn in recent history.

Reasons for the deterioration of the local economy include not only the corruption of Lebanon’s political leadership and lower level administration but also US sanctions imposed on Iran. The latest sanctions are the harshest ever imposed. They will also dramatically affect Lebanon so long as President Donald Trump is in power if Lebanon does not follow US policy and dictates.

Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, center, escorted by his bodyguards. 2012 AP file photo

If, as anticipated, Washington declares economic war on Lebanon, the sanctions will leave Lebanon few alternatives. They may force Lebanon to fall back on Iranian civilian industry to overcome US economic pressure, and to rely on the Russian military industry to equip Lebanese security forces.

This will be the result if Pompeo insists on threatening Lebanese officials, as his assistants have done on previous visits to the country. The consistent message from US officials has been: you’re either with us or against us.

Politically, Lebanon is divided between two currents, one pro-US (and Saudi Arabia) and another outside the US orbit. The economic situation may well increase internal division to the point that the local population reacts angrily in order to exclude the US and its allies from influence in Lebanon. 

Such a scenario may still be avoided if Saudi Arabia injects enough investment to reboot the agonizing local economy. Nevertheless, Saudi Arabia fears that those who are not aligned with its policies and those of the US could benefit from its support.

To date, Riyadh has not fully understood the internal Lebanese dynamic and what it is possible or impossible to achieve in Lebanon. The kidnapping of the Prime Minister Saad Hariri was the most flagrant indication of Saudi ignorance of Lebanese politics. The Saudis’ lack of strategic vision in Lebanon will likely prevent any serious support to the failing economy and may lead the country into serious instability.

Before 1982, one US dollar was equivalent to 3 Lebanese Lira. This was in part because the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) was spending tens of millions of dollars in the country on its own people and on Palestinian families living in Lebanon. Moreover, United Nations organizations (UNRWA) and other NGOS were also distributing financial support to Palestinian refugees whose homes had been taken by Israel forcing them to leave their country.

Pompeo is expected to to push an anti-Iran message in his trip to Kuwait, Israel, and Lebanon this week. Image source: Reuters

Following the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, the PLO was forced to leave the country. Not much later, one US dollar reached an exchange rate of 3000 Lebanese Lira, later devalued to stabilize at the current rate of 1$ for 1500 L.L. Iran entered the scene to support local Lebanese fighters (the Islamic Resistance in Lebanon, i.e. Hezbollah) to recover their territory from Israeli occupation.

In the year 2000, Iran began to make a serious investment in Hezbollah as the group managed to force the Israelis out of most Lebanese territory. Iranian financial investment had reached a very high level by the 2006 war when Israel was prevented from disarming Hezbollah to keep its rockets and missiles out of range of Israel.

In 2013, the Syrian government asked Hezbollah to support the Syrian Army to prevent disintegration of the country and to keep Takfiri militants from taking over. Iran pumped billions of dollars to defeat ISIS and al-Qaeda and to prevent them from overwhelming Syria and Iraq, aware that Iran would be the next target. The budget for Hezbollah troops went sky high. Support for movements of troops, logistics and daily allowances given to fighters, contributed to boosting the Lebanese economy. Hezbollah’s monthly budget went much beyond $100 million per month.

But after Donald Trump entering the White House and his rejection of the Iran nuclear deal, the US government has imposed the severest sanctions on Iran and halteddonations to the United Nations organisations supporting Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).

Sanctions on Iran have forced a new budget on Hezbollah, a five-year austerity plan. Forces have been reduced to a minimum number in Syria, movement of troops are slowed accordingly and all additional remunerations are suspended. Hezbollah reduced its budget to a quarter of what it had been without suspending any militants or contractors’ monthly salaries and medical care as stipulated by a personal order from Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s Secretary General.

This new financial situation will affect the Lebanese economy as cash flow and foreign currency dry up. The consequences are expected to be more noticeable in the coming months, leading to a plausible domestic reaction from the local population that will feel the weight of the failing economy.

The US and Europe are imposing strict controls on any monies transferred to and from Lebanon. The country is on a financial blacklist and there is tight scrutiny on all transactions. Religious donations from abroad are no longer possible since they expose donors to serious accusations of support for terrorism by western countries.

As long as Trump is in power, Hezbollah and Iran believe the situation will remain critical; they estimate that the US President will most probably enjoy a second term. The next five years are expected to be hard on the Lebanese economy, particularly if Pompeo’s visit brings messages and dictates that Lebanon cannot obey.

Pompeo wants Lebanon to give up on its demand to redraw its disputed water borderswith Israel, compromising on blocks 8, 9 and 10 to the benefit of Israel. This request will not be granted and Lebanese officials have said on several occasions that they are relying on Hezbollah’s precision missiles to stop Israel from stealing Lebanese water.

Lebanese disputed blocks with Israel

Pompeo also wants Lebanon to give up on Hezbollah and its role in government. Again, the US establishment seems ignorant that Hezbollah is almost a third of Lebanon’s population, enjoying the support of more than half of Lebanese Shia, Christian, Sunni and Druse, with official members in the executive and legislative authorities of the country. 

What then is the alternative? If Saudi Arabia moves in, Lebanon doesn’t need one or two or five billion but tens of billions of dollars to resuscitate its economy. It also needs a hands-off policy from the US establishment to allow the country to govern itself.

The Saudis are already suffering from Trump’s bullying, and its funds are drying up. If Saudi decides to invest in Lebanon, it will seek to impose terms not much different from US demands. Saudi Arabia engages in wishful thinking when it aims to expel Iran’s influence and Hezbollah supporters from Lebanon, an impossible goal to fulfill.

Lebanon’s remaining choices are few. Lebanon can move closer to Iran to lower its expenditures and the cost of goods, and it can ask Russia to support the Lebanese army if the West fails to do so. China is preparing to move in and can be a positive alternative for the country, using Lebanon as a platform to reach Syria and later Iraq and Jordan. Otherwise, Lebanon will have to prepare to join the list of poorest countries.

A shadow is hanging over the land of the cedars, a country that has already had to fight for survival in the 21st century. Hezbollah, now subject to US and UK sanctions, is the same force that protected the country from ISIS and other takfiri fighters who threatened to expel Christians from the country, in accordance with French President Sarkozy’s advice to the Lebanese patriarch that Lebanese Christians abandon their homes.

The takfiri jihadists and NATO shared the same intentions for Lebanon. The failure of the US establishment’s plan to divide Iraq and create a failed state in Syria as part of a “new Middle East” woke the Russian bear from its long hibernation. Today Russia competes with the US for hegemony in the Middle East, obliging Trump to pull out all the stops in an attempt to break the anti-US front.

It is a battle with no taboos where all blows are permitted. The US is pushing Lebanon into a bottleneck with no alternatives to closer partnership with Iran and Russia.

North Korea Denies “Secret” Nuclear Facilities Exist As Door Closing On Future Talks

A new report by the prominent Japanese daily Asahi has revealed that a key reason talks with the US broke down last month in Hanoi was due to Kim Jong Un’s denial of the existence of “secret” nuclear facilities, resulting in disagreements that have reportedly left Kim disappointed and impatient, to the point that the north last week threatened to shut down talks altogether

Citing the report, which relies on unnamed officials, Bloomberg notes, “The U.S. had requested specific names and locations of facilities to be shut down as part of the talks but North Korea said only that ‘all’ facilities be closed without giving details.”

President Donald Trump greeted by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, during the February 27 talks. Image source: White House

The talks broke down prematurely when the US side reportedly demanded the north give up all its nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons before it receives any sanctions relief  — even after Kim Jong Un reportedly made a “historically unprecedented offer” to close all of Yongbyon together with U.S. experts, according to later North Korean foreign ministry press statements. 

The US side later confirmed that offer was on the table, but stalled as there was severe disagreement over just which facilities were included, as well the scope of Pyongyang’s sanctions relief demands. 

Last Friday North Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui told reporters that Kim was “disappointed” not to make a deal with Trump last month. 

It appears Kim is fast losing patience, according to Vox’s summary of the content of the press briefing: 

North Korea threatened to end diplomatic talks with the US as well as its moratorium on missile and nuclear tests — a provocative statement that could end a months-long period of relative harmony between the two nations.

“We have no intention to yield to the US demands in any form, nor are we willing to engage in negotiations of this kind,” Choe said.

Expressing Kim’s level of anger and disappointment, Choe said further, “On our way back to the homeland, our chairman of the state affairs commission [Kim] said, ‘For what reason do we have to make this train trip again?’”

However, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had immediately tried to downplay the threat of pullout, saying Kim “on multiple occasions” had directly assured Trump  he would not lift a self-imposed moratorium on the tests.

“So that’s Chairman Kim’s word,” Pompeo said late last week. “We have every expectation that he will live up to that commitment.”

Why Does The Mainstream Media Purposely Ignore Mass Killings Of Christians Across The Globe?

Authored by Michael Snyder via The End of The American Dream blog,

Last week, when a deranged lunatic gunned down dozens of Muslims at two mosques in New Zealand it suddenly became the biggest news story in the world, and rightly so. 

It was a major news event, and it needed to be reported.  But shouldn’t mass killings of Christians be given the same sort of media coverage?  Sadly, we all know that doesn’t happen.  Whenever there is a mass killing of Christians, it is usually entirely ignored by the mainstream media in the United States, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why this is happening.  Those that control the mainstream media consider Christians to be one of the main obstacles to “progress” in this country, and so any story that would put Christians in a positive or sympathetic light simply does not fit any of the narratives that they are pushing.

As a result of the lack of media coverage, the vast majority of Americans do not know that “4,136 Christians were killed for faith-related reasons” last year.

That number breaks down to an average of 11 per day.

In Nigeria, more than 120 Christians have been gunned down or killed with machetes over the past three weeks, but Breitbart was the only big media outlet to report on it…

As Breitbart News alone reported among major news outlets, Fulani jihadists racked up a death toll of over 120 Christians over the past three weeks in central Nigeria, employing machetes and gunfire to slaughter men, women, and children, burning down over 140 houses, destroying property, and spreading terror.

The New York Times did not place this story on the front page; in fact, they did not cover it at all. Apparently, when assessing “all the news that’s fit to print,” the massacre of African Christians did not measure up. The same can be said for the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, the Detroit Free Press, the LA Times, and every other major paper in the United States.

And of course Breitbart is not exactly “mainstream” media.

So why won’t anyone else report on this?

And this isn’t the first time this has happened.  Last June, twelve entire Christian villages in central Nigeria were completely wiped out

In only days, a dozen villages in Nigeria’s Plateau state were wiped out. The affected communities surround the city of Jos—known as the epicenter of Christianity in northern Nigeria’s Middle Belt.

As many as 200 Christians had been killed, however, some residents fear the death toll may be even higher, as more bodies are yet to be recovered, while others were burned beyond recognition. On Sunday, 75 of the victims were buried in a mass grave.

I’ll bet that most of you had not heard about that until now.

On the other side of the world, 20 innocent people were slaughtered when Muslim radicals bombed a Roman Catholic cathedral in January

On January 27, Muslim extremists bombed a Roman Catholic cathedral on the Philippine island of Jolo, killing some 20 people and injuring dozens of others.

Once again, this is yet another mass killing that was almost entirely ignored by the mainstream media.

Is the anti-Christian bias among the mainstream media so strong that they can’t even bring themselves to report the basic facts to us?

People deserve to know what is happening.  Christian persecution is rising in almost every nation on the planet, and this huge ongoing crisis should be on our front pages on a continual basis.

But instead, we never get to hear any of these stories unless we seek out alternative sources of information.

Over in China, the persecution of Christians has reached a frightening crescendo.  Recently, officials have been going house to house and replacing pictures of Jesus Christ “with pictures of dictator Mao Zedong and/or China’s current authoritarian president, Xi Jinping”

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) continues to harass and persecute Christians and, in recent months, has taken to removing pictures of Jesus Christ from inside homes and replacing them with pictures of dictator Mao Zedong and/or China’s current authoritarian president, Xi Jinping.

In addition, Communist officials have removed Christian symbols and phrases on the outside of homes and replaced them with phrases praising socialist materialism.

But they aren’t stopping there.  Bibles are being burned, and any churches that do not “cooperate” with Chinese officials are being either shut down or destroyed.  Earlier in 2019, one of the largest megachurches in the entire country was literally blown to pieces with dynamite

Chinese authorities blew up a well-known Christian megachurch earlier this year, inflaming long-standing tensions between religious groups and the Communist Party.

Witnesses and overseas activists said the paramilitary People’s Armed Police used dynamite and excavators to destroy the Golden Lampstand Church, which has a congregation of more than 50,000, in the city of Linfen in Shanxi province

We are talking about evil that is on a level that is difficult to comprehend.

So why won’t the mainstream media talk about any of this?

Similar things are happening on the other side of the world too.  In Eritrea, Christians are being imprisoned in “small shipping containers in scorching heat”

Since 1993, President Afwerki has overseen an authoritarian brutal regime that rests on massive human rights violations. During the 2019 World Watch List reporting period, government security forces conducted many house-to-house raids and imprisoned hundreds of Christians in inhumane conditions, including small shipping containers in scorching heat.

And in North Korea, Christians are “being hung on a cross over a fire, crushed under a steamroller, herded off bridges, and trampled underfoot”

According to charity Aid to the Church in Need, at least 200,000 Christians have gone missing in North Korea since 1953 — many of those have been summarily executed. As to the specific treatment of those persecuted, the 2014 UN Commission of Inquiry report discovered that the North Korean regime has been guilty of “crimes against humanity.”

According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, violent incidents against Christians include “being hung on a cross over a fire, crushed under a steamroller, herded off bridges, and trampled underfoot.”

If you were to replace “Christians” with some other favored group in any of the examples that I have just shared, you would instantly have front page news all over the planet.

The mainstream media is definitely not “independent”, and they are not looking out for you.

They have their own agenda, and anything that does not fit that agenda does not get to be part of “the news”.

So far in 2019, there have been 453 Islamic terror attacks in which 1,956 people have been murdered.  But you will never hear those numbers from the mainstream media.

Instead, when the mainstream media talks about Bible-believing Christians it is almost always an attack story.  As a recent Breitbart article aptly observed, having “an anti-Christian bias” has become “the last acceptable prejudice”…

How much mileage can be gained from Muslims murdering Christians, when Christians in America are often seen as an obstacle to the “progress” desired by liberals? The left sees Christians in the United States as part of the problem and seeks to undermine their credibility and influence at every turn rather than emboldening them.

Anti-Christian bias has been rightly called “the last acceptable prejudice,” one that few bother condemning.

It is time to turn off the mainstream news for good.

They quit reporting “the news” a long time ago, and now it is all about promoting one left-wing narrative after another.

Today, trust in the media is at an all-time low, and it is easy to understand why so many Americans are absolutely sick and tired of being lied to by the big media companies.

US, China Clash Over ‘Belt And Road’ In Afghan Resolution 

The United States and China unleashed a war of words Friday (Mar 15) over Beijing’s $1 trillion Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) after the United Nation Security Council adopted a resolution extending the mandate of the council’s political mission in Afghanistan for another six months, reported The Washington Post.

The 2018 resolution extended the council’s mission for a year aimed at strengthening regional economic cooperation involving Afghanistan, including the BRI to connect China to Europe, and Africa. The 2016 and 2017 resolutions had similar BRI language.

Council diplomats said China wanted to embed BRI language into the 2019 resolution, but the U.S. strongly objected.

U.S. deputy ambassador Jonathan Cohen said that “China held the resolution hostage and insisted on making it about Chinese national political priorities rather than the people of Afghanistan.”

Cohen said the U.S. rejected China’s demand “that the resolution highlights its belt and road initiative, despite its tenuous ties to Afghanistan and known problems with corruption, debt distress, environmental damage, and lack of transparency.

China’s deputy ambassador Wu Haitao shot back at the U.S., informing the council that Cohen’s comments were “at variance with the facts and are fraught with prejudice.”

“This is an initiative of economic cooperation aimed at achieving common development and prosperity. It has nothing to do with geopolitics,” said Haitao.

Haitao told the council since the BRI was launched in 2013, 123 countries and 29 international organizations have signed agreements of cooperation with China on infrastructure development programs.

The sharp exchange came as Washington and Beijing have canceled a trade summit between President Donald Trump and China’s Xi Jinping to end the trade war. The proposed meeting to sign a trade agreement has been pushed out to June, a move that shows the trade war is deepening.

Now that the U.S. demands all communication about the BRI be removed from future resolutions. This follows sharp criticism late last year when Vice President Mike Pence said the BRI left countries drowning in debt.

The Trump administration continues to bash the BRI, but the trade scheme continues to draw massive support from around the world. Expected later this week, Italy will sign a memorandum of understanding to join the BRI officially, a move that has deeply annoyed Washington.

“Guaido Is The Most-Hated Man In Venezuela” – On-The-Ground In Caracas Versus The Media Spectacle

Authored by Paul Cochrane via Counterpunch.org,

British photojournalist Alan Gignoux and Venezuelan journalist-filmmaker Carolina Graterol, both based in London, went to Venezuela for a month to shoot a documentary for a major global TV channel. They talked with journalist Paul Cochrane about the mainstream media’s portrayal of Venezuela compared to their experiences on the ground.

Paul Cochrane (PC): What were you doing in Venezuela, how long were you there and where did you go?

Alan Gignoux (AG): We went in June 2018 for a month to shoot a documentary; I can’t disclose what channels it will be on right now, but it should be on air soon. We visited the capital Caracas, Mérida (in the Andes), Cumaná (on the coast), and Ciudad Guayana (near the mouth of the Orinoco river).

PC: How did being in Venezuela compare to what you were seeing in Western media?

Carolina Graterol (CG): I am a journalist, I have family in Venezuela, and I knew the reality was very different from what the media is portraying, but still I was surprised. The first thing we noticed was the lack of poverty. Alan wanted to film homeless and poor people on the streets. I saw three people sleeping rough just this morning in London, but in Venezuela, we couldn’t find any, in big cities or towns. We wanted to interview them, but we couldn’t find them. It is because of multi disciplinary programmes run by the government, with social services working to get children off the streets, or returned to their families. The programme has been going on for a long time but I hadn’t realized how effective it was.

PC: Alan, what surprised you?

AG: We have to be realistic. Things look worn down and tired. There is food, there are private restaurants and cafes open, and you could feel the economic crisis kicking in but poverty is not as bad as what I’ve seen in Brazil or Colombia, where there are lots of street children. Venezuela doesn’t seem to have a homeless problem, and the favelas have running water and electricity. The extreme poverty didn’t seem as bad as in other South American countries. People told me before going I should be worried about crime, but we worked with a lady from El Salvador, and she said Venezuela was easy compared to her country, where there are security guards with machine guns outside coffee shops. They also say a lot of Venezuelan criminals left as there’s not that much to rob, with better pickings in Argentina, Chile or wherever.

PC: How have the US sanctions impacted Venezuelans?

CG: Food is expensive, but people are buying things, even at ten times their salary. Due to inflation, you have to make multiple card payments as the machine wouldn’t take such a high transaction all at once. The government has created a system, Local Committees for Production and Supply (known by its Spanish acronym CLAP) that feeds people, 6 million families, every month via a box of food. The idea of the government was to bypass private distribution networks, hoarding and scarcity. Our assistant was from a middle class area in Caracas, and she was the only Chavista there, but people got together and created a CLAP system, with the box containing 19 products. Unless you have a huge salary, or money from outside, you have to use other ways to feed yourself. People’s larders were full, as they started building up supplies for emergencies. People have lost weight, I reckon many adults 10 to 15 kilos. Last time I was in Venezuela three years ago, I found a lot of obese people, like in the US, due to excessive eating, but this time people were a good size, and nobody is dying from hunger or malnutrition.

PC: So what are Venezuelans eating?

CG: A vegetarian diet. People apologized as they couldn’t offer us meat, instead vegetables, lentils, and black beans. So everyone has been forced to have a vegetarian diet, and maybe the main complaint was that people couldn’t eat meat like they used to do. The situation is not that serious. Before Hugo Chavez came to power, Venezuela had 40% critical poverty out of 80% poverty, but that rate went down to 27%, and before the crisis was just 6 or 7% critical poverty. Everyone is receiving help from the government.

PC: So food is the main concern?

CG: The real attack on the economy is on food. When you have hyperinflation everything goes up in price, but food has become the main source of spending because this is the variable going up in price at exorbitant levels. Bills like water, electricity, public transport haven’t gone up that much and represent a small percentage of any family spending. This is why the distortions in the economy are not intrinsic, but caused by external factors, otherwise everything should have gone up, no matter what it is.

PC: Alan, did you lose weight in Venezuela?

AG: No! What surprised me was how many people are growing their own vegetables. It is a bit like in Russia, where everyone has a dacha. Venezuela is tropical, so it is easy to grow produce. Mango trees are everywhere, so you can pick a mango whenever you want.

PC: So the crisis we read about everyday is primarily due to the US sanctions?

CG: The sanctions have affected the country. I want to be fair. I think the government was slow to act on the direction the country was being pushed. It was probably not a good idea to pay off $70 billion in external debt over the past five years. In my opinion, (President Nicolas) Maduro decided to honor the external debt, thinking this was the right way to pay our commitments, but at the same time, this economic war started waging internally, and also externally, blocking international loans.

The government should also have taken action against Colombia for allowing over one hundred exchange houses to be set up on the border with Venezuela. These exchange houses eroded the currency as they were using different exchange rates, and that contributed to the Bolivar’s devaluation. I think they should have denounced the (Juan Manuel) Santos government. If Colombia says that Venezuelan oil that crosses its border is contraband, why not currency? Remember, the biggest industry in Colombia is cocaine – narcotics trafficking – and it has grown exponentially, so they’ve an excessive amount of US dollars and need to launder them, which drained the Venezuelan currency. It is induced hyperinflation. Also, in Miami, the Venezuelan oligarchy created a website called DolarToday about 12 years ago to destroy the Venezuelan economy.

PC: What else struck you?

CG: People are still smiling and making jokes about the situation, which I find incredible. People are willing to share, and we were in some tricky situations, like when our car broke down at night.

AG: Everyone says don’t drive at night in Venezuela. We were on the road, and figured we’d only half hour to go, what could go wrong? Then a transformer burned out. I thought I was about to have my Venezuelan nightmare, stuck in the middle of nowhere on a dark road at night. Who would ever find you?

CG: As there were no lights we had to use our phones to let big trucks know we were on the road.

AG: We pretended I was deaf as I couldn’t pass for Venezuelan with my Spanish accent. So, a really old old pick-up truck pulls up, and the occupants looked rather salty, but they were very nice and took us to a petrol station.

CG: I told you Alan, you are not in the US, you are not going to be shot!

AG: I was with three women with money, I thought OK I will be shot, but it all turned out fine, and they thought I was deaf.

CG: We were told we could sleep in a shop but we slept in the car instead, and it was fine.

PC: What about the power cuts that have plagued the country?

CG: During blackouts, people told stories, played music, or went out and talked on the streets. It was a paradise, no TVs, smartphones, but real human contact. People cook together. During the day they’re playing board games, dominoes, and kids are having fun. People with kids are possibly more stressed, especially if you live in a tower block, as if you’ve no electricity, you’ve no water. That is why the US hit the electricity grid as it means no water in Caracas – a city of 10 million people. Luckily there are wells with clean water around the city, so people queue up to get it.

PC: So there was a real discrepancy between the image you were given of Venezuela and the reality?

AG: Sure, there are queues for oil, but people are not dying of starvation and, as I said, poverty is no where near what it is like in Brazil. I wouldn’t say a harsh dictatorship, people were open, and criticized the government, and the US, but also Chavez and Maduro. The Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV) have admitted they had made bad economic decisions. I thought it would be more repressive, and it wasn’t. People were not fearful about speaking out. I think Venezuelans blame the Americans for the situation more than Maduro.

PC: What do you make of the hullabaloo in February about US and Canadian aid being blocked by Venezuela?

AG: It is a Trojan horse, a good way to get the US in, and why international agencies were not willing take part in the plan. Instead there has been Chinese and Russian aid.

CG: There’s not the chaos US and Trump were expecting. (Opposition leader and self-proclaimed president Juan) Guaidó is the most hated guy in Venezuela. He has to stay in luxury hotel in La Mercedes, an expensive neighbourhood of Caracas. They have electricity there, as they were prepared, so bought generators. That is why Guaidó went there, and has a whole floor of a luxury hotel for him and his family. While people are suffering Guaidó is trying on suits for his upcoming trip to Europe. It is a parallel world.

AG: You think Guaidó will fail?

CG: Venezuelans are making so many jokes with his name, as there’s a word similar to stupid in Spanish – guevon. And look at the demonstration in La Mercedes the other day (12 March), the crowds didn’t manifest. It is becoming a joke in the country. The more the Europeans and the US make him a president, the more bizarre the situation becomes, as Guaidó is not president of Venezuela! Interestingly, Chavez predicted what is happening today, he wrote about it, so people are going back to his works and reading him again.

PC: There’s plenty of material on the history of American imperialism in South America to make such predictions, also, more recently, the Canadians and their mining companies, in Paraguay, Honduras, and now backing Guaidó.

CG: Exactly. Look at Chile in 1973, what happened to the Sandinistas in El Salvador, in Guatemala.

It is a well rehearsed strategy to destroy an economy using external forces to drive up prices of supplies and products. When you have such a cycle, it explodes.

*  *  *

Alan Gignoux is a photojournalist, with a particular focus on socio-political and environmental issues. Alan’s work has been published in The New York Times, CNN Traveller, The Independent, Reuters and World Photography News, among others (www.gignouxphotos.com).

Carolina Graterol is a Venezuelan journalist, filmmaker and artist (www.carolinagraterol.com). She has worked for the BBC World Service (Spanish) and Telesur. She is the director of “A Letter from Venezuela” (2019).

Teen-Slapping Aussie MP Refuses To Resign After Blaming Muslims For NZ Attack

“…as far as I’m concerned, it’s just a statement of fact and for some reason I have upset a lot of people…”

This was the response from Queensland Senator Fraser Anning a day after a teenage protester had egged him for his recent statement implying that Muslim immigration was a reason behind Friday’s mass shooting in New Zealand.

Stating that he was opposed to “any form of violence,” Anning claimed that the atrocity highlighted the “growing fear over an increasing Muslim presence,” in both New Zealand and Australia.

The comment prompted an avalanche of criticism, and, as RT reports, at his Saturday press conference in Melbourne, a young protester attacked him with an egg.

Footage of the incident shows the teen standing quietly beside the politician. He then pulls up his cellphone before slapping the egg on the back of Anning’s head. The senator then turns to the young man before swinging two punches at his face.

The teen is then tackled to the ground and held in a headlock while Anning is led away. People can be heard saying “pick him up and get him out,” and “get the cops.”

Of course, since the attack, support for the boy (no, not the senator who was attacked) has flooded in on social media, with many hailing him a “hero” and calling for him to be given awards and medals for his actions.

A Change.org petition calling for him to be kicked out of the Senate had racked up over one million signatures as of Monday. 

“There is no place in Australian government for Neo-Nazis. There is no place for bigotry. There is no place for hate speech,” it states.

However, refusing to bow to social justice warrior demands, RT reports that Anning continued to stand his ground on Sunday, telling a specially arranged press conference that while media had “twisted” his initial statement, he did not feel the need to apologize for what many decried as an ill-timed diatribe.

“What people took out of context I think was that in the same press release I said that the countries that allow a large-scale Muslim immigration invariably have escalations in crime, violence and terrorist attacks,” Anning said Sunday.

“Now, as far as I’m concerned, it’s just a statement of fact and for some reason I have upset a lot of people, including Mr Morrison,” the independent senator said, effectively doubling down on his previous remark that landed him in hot water.

Anning argued that Australia is on course to repeat the fate of European countries like France, Belgium, the UK and Germany, which underwent a spell of terrorist attacks inspired by radical Islam, if it does not stop“Muslim immigration.”

Asked whether he regrets the timing of his statement, Anning said he did not regret “anything.”