Thursday, February 14, 2019

Failure of the Media on Venezuela, Danger of Armed Conflict February 23d

Failure of the Media

An article in the New Republic is a reminder that everything that has been gained with Cuba during the Obama Administration is now at risk:

Marco Rubio, Trump’s Shadow Secretary of State
In recent months, he (Marco Rubio) has pressured the White House to put Cuba back on an international terrorism list, impose sanctions on Cuban officials, and end U.S. travel and academic exchanges to the island. Last year, at Rubio’s urging, the United States withdrew most of its diplomats from Cuba. The real feather in his cap will be if the Maduro government falls in Venezuela, which could have devastating effects on Cuba, since it relies on subsidized oil from Venezuela.
There is a distressing similarity to the run up to the Iraq war in the uncritical coverage about the Venezuela crisis by the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN and MSNBC .  The Wall Street Journal has done a better job on the US political context, documenting the US role and goal against both Venezuela and Cuba.  Al Jazeera has been more balanced than the US cable networks.  The journalism watchdog FAIR makes an example of MSNBC

No US media that I have seen has reported on Venezuelans who are still advocates of Chavismo, on the nationalist character of the Venezuelan military and on likely resistance to a US linked regime that is brought to power by foreign military intervention, a real and immediate danger (see below) .  Without more balanced coverage, Washington is living in an illusion that Venezuela will be another Grenada or Panama -- just as it tragically misread Iraq.

I hold no brief for Maduro.  Chavez had problems but at least they were coupled with authentic popular support.  Maduro has retained power outside of Venezuelan democratic norms.  There need to be new internationally supervised elections for both the Presidency and the National Assembly but that must happen peacefully under the auspices of both the established executive and legislative branches.   The process must include the acceptance of international aid through respected politically neutral agencies, the end of US economic sanctions and restoration of national oil resources to the functioning government.

The Contact Group and the Montivideo Mechanism (Mexico and Uruguay) deserve more attention than the media and politicians in Washington have given them as a way to resolve the situation.  Cuba and the Venezuelan government should work with them to avoid a Rubio-Bolton-Claver Carone-Abrams trap.  If Maduro is legitimately voted out of office, that is preferable to a bloody catastrophe for Venezuela and the region.

Under free and open elections, several Chavista and opposition parties are likely to contest and a new independent nationalist coalition could emerge, balancing its ties to the US, Cuba and other countries.  Cuba should be helped to obtain other resources to replace those provided by Venezuela, including legislation to end travel and agricultural restrictions and ideally the embargo.

The initial Rubio/Bolton bluff failed when the military did not abandon Maduro a couple of weeks ago despite facing an apparently overwhelming diplomatic and political assault.  Very public threats about February 23 and whatever triggered the Cuban alarm could be but another bluff, although at some risk to Guaido's credibility.   Provoking a confrontation around aid delivery has been part of the very public scenario since the beginning.

There needs to be some visible push back by the media and Democratic Party leaders or the Trump Administration will be more inclined to take military action under the illusion that it will be easy in Venezuela and without serious objection here.

--John McAuliff


Danger of military  conflict on February 23d

News accounts of potential confrontation and allegations of US troop movements.
Reuters is carrying a story by Marc Frank on Cuban charges that the US is positioning troops. 
HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba charged on Thursday that the United States was secretly moving special forces closer to Venezuela as part of a plan to intervene in the South American country using the pretext of a humanitarian crisis....

“Between February 6 and 10 military transport aircraft have flown to the Rafael Miranda Airport of Puerto Rico, the San Isidro Air Base, in the Dominican Republic and to other strategically located Caribbean islands, probably without knowledge of the governments of those nations,” the declaration said.

“These flights originated in American military installations from which units of Special Operations and Marine Corps operate, which are used for covert actions,” it said....

Guaido said on Tuesday the aid would roll across the border on February 23 despite the Maduro government’s objections, setting up a possible confrontation.

Cuba said on Thursday it was clear the United States wanted to “forcibly establish a humanitarian corridor under international protection, invoking the obligation to protect civilians and applying all necessary measures.”
[Cuba's full statement is here]

The NY Times confirms February 23 as the date of confrontation on external aid.  

Mr. Guaidó heightened the stakes, telling supporters that he would open a “humanitarian corridor” to allow aid to flow into the country by Feb. 23. ...

Gaby Arellano, an opposition lawmaker in charge of the shipment in Colombia, said one of the goals was to force the military, which has remained loyal to the government, to choose between Mr. Maduro and feeding the Venezuelan people. “Popular pressure to break the military ­ this is what we’re working toward,” she said....

Omar Lares, a former opposition mayor in exile in Cúcuta, said organizers want people to surround an aid truck on the Colombian side and accompany it to the bridge. A crowd of thousands would be gathered on the other side to push through a security cordon, move the containers blocking the bridge, and accompany the aid into Venezuela.

“One group over there, one over here, and we’ll make one large human chain,” he said....

“The opposition has created immense expectations, and it’s not at all clear they have a plan for actually fulfilling them,” said David Smilde, a Venezuela analyst at the Washington Office on Latin America. “Furthermore, the opposition and the U.S. have not been clear that this aid, even if allowed in, will make a significant dent in Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis.” ...

Still, using a food shipment to challenge Mr. Maduro has concerned the same nongovernmental groups that would normally assist in such an effort. Caritas, the charitable arm of the Catholic Church, and the International Committee of the Red Cross have declined to participate, saying they must remain politically neutral.

Meanwhile, to illustrate the total hypocrisy of the situationl, by coincidence:

Egypt’s Parliament Clears Way for El-Sisi to Rule Until 2034

By Declan Walsh
Feb. 14, 2019

CAIRO ­ The Egyptian Parliament approved sweeping measures on Thursday that would allow President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to extend his rule until 2034, further entrenching his authoritarian rule and enshrining in law the military’s dominance over the country.

The vote by Parliament, whose workings are quietly managed by Mr. el-Sisi’s intelligence agencies, sets in motion a fast-moving process of constitutional change that could 
culminate in a referendum within three months. The referendum’s approval is seen as a foregone conclusion.

The changes formally confirm what has become evident to many Egyptians for years: that the sweeping euphoria of 2011, when protests led to the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, has given way to an even harsher brand of strongman rule under a leader who also intends to rule for decades, and perhaps for life.

Washington’s unquestioning embrace of Mr. el-Sisi, whom President Trump has called a “great guy,” emboldened the Egyptian leader to act with little fear of American pushback.


Earlier material here

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