(September 11, 2017) – From June 6 to 17 Canadian military personnel participated in Operation Tradewinds, an annual military exercise in the Caribbean sponsored and led by U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM). The operation was being conducted in two phases: from June 6-12 in Barbados and from June 13-17 in Trinidad and Tobago.
The Department of National Defence (DND) described Operation Tradewinds as “a multinational maritime interdiction, ground security and interagency exercise that focuses on countering transnational organized crime and practicing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief […] in order to promote regional security cooperation.”
DND said about 90 Canadian sailors and soldiers were sent to participate in the SOUTHCOM exercise along with a maritime coastal defence ship, the HMCS Kingston. It reported that a joint Canadian Forces and Global Affairs Canada disaster assessment team had also been deployed and that the team would “train in responding to humanitarian crises.”
Counting the U.S., 20 countries participated in the exercise including NATO members Canada and Britain and France, which still possess colonies in the region, together with Mexico and various Caribbean states. In all some 2,500 military personnel were said to be involved.
Trinidad and Tobago is located just off the coast of Venezuela. The holding of humanitarian and disaster relief exercises close to Venezuela’s coast comes at a time when fierce power struggles are being waged in Venezuela. U.S.-sponsored opposition forces there have been sowing anarchy and chaos in the streets, hoping to portray the situation in Venezuela as one of “ungovernability” and claim the population is in need of urgent “humanitarian assistance.” The opposition, mainly composed of representatives of the traditional wealthy elites, has intimate ties to the United States and Europe and is also well supported by Ottawa.
In April, SOUTHCOM Command Chief Kurt Tidd threatened, “The growing humanitarian crisis in Venezuela could eventually compel a regional response.”
In November, the U.S. will participate in joint military exercises with Brazil, Peru and Colombia in Brazil’s Amazon region which borders Venezuela. This will involve the installation of a temporary military base on the triple border of the three countries. The U.S. was invited to participate by Michel Temer, the leader of Brazil installed by a U.S.-backed coup d’état against elected President Dilma Rousseff in August.
On August 24, while the SOUTHCOM was holding its South American Defence Conference in Lima, Peru with the heads of the military forces of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay to “decide on new strategies to face military threats,” President Maduro said it was his duty to defend the country’s sovereignty in the face of the threat of a possible foreign intervention. He said this could take place in phases and through a series of provocations as opposed to a classic invasion, possibly beginning with a naval blockade of the country. He said the country’s military forces would be increased to defend and guarantee peace nationally, in South America and the Caribbean.
On August 14, thousands of Venezuelans filled the streets of Caracas to denounce the threat of a U.S. military intervention. Demonstrations have also been held in other parts of Latin America and the world, over the past weeks to stand with the people of Venezuela against the attempts of U.S. imperialism and the forces it has put in motion inside and outside the country to attack the Bolivarian revolution.
U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence was met with protests in Latin American countries he visited for that purpose in August following the U.S. Southern Command’s “Defence” conference in Peru.
Maduro used the occasion to announce that on the weekend of August 26-27 the 2017 Bolivarian Sovereignty Civil-Military Exercises would take place in Venezuela. The exercises, which involved members of the country’s armed forces, Bolivarian militias and the organized people, served as a test of the Venezuelan army and people’s capacity to defend the country “from the pride and arrogance of imperialism who believe that we are going to be frightened, that we are going to live in fear and that we intend, somewhere in our mind, our heart, to surrender to imperialist threats,” Maduro said.
Meanwhile, Venezuela’s Minister of Communication and Information, Ernesto Villegas, emphasized that there has been a turning point in the statement of U.S. President Donald Trump – where he said he would not rule out a military intervention in Venezuela – and in the executive order he signed August 25 as President of the United States against Venezuela. “It is a declaration of economic war.”
Faced with this situation, the Minister of Communication and Information called on the peoples of the world to “watch what is developing in Venezuela with an eye to history, the way our liberators viewed things… The Venezuelan people are developing a historical process inspired by their feats.”
In Toronto on August 29, a militant demonstration was held in front of the headquarters of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to demand “CBC, tell the truth about Venezuela!” Demonstrators denounced the disinformation being spread about Venezuela by the CBC in support of those pushing for foreign intervention and a coup against the government of President Nicolás Maduro.
(With files from TML Weekly, DND, Mint Press News, Ministerio del Poder Popular para Relaciones Exteriores. Photos: MPPRE, TML)
Dirty work against Bolivarian Revolution by U.S.-led regime-change forces continues
On August 8, a group of countries belonging to the Organization of American States (OAS), including Canada, got together in Lima, Peru to continue plotting against Venezuela outside the OAS. This time, as if to cover up who is directing the entire operation, the U.S. was not physically present. Twelve countries issued what they called the Declaration of Lima, containing 16 measures to be applied as part of a continuing effort to isolate and sanction Venezuela in retaliation for the successful holding of the election for the National Constituent Assembly, which these U.S.-led forces had demanded be called off. Among other things, the 12 countries declared that they would continue applying to Venezuela what they call the Inter-American Democratic Charter, even though the measures they pledge to take, including the application of the Charter have never been approved at the OAS, despite more than a year of trying by these same interventionist forces.
The group also asserted that they will not recognize the National Constituent Assembly or any of its decisions, due to its alleged illegitimacy, and they will not support any Venezuelan candidates for representatives to international or regional organizations.
The representatives of five other countries that were in attendance — Jamaica, Grenada, Guyana, and St. Lucia (the only Caribbean countries represented at the meeting) and Uruguay — did not sign this “Declaration.”
The same day, the Political Council of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) met in Venezuela and reaffirmed its support for the government of Venezuela. ALBA Secretary General David Choquehuanca of Bolivia said, “The authorities that are in Peru do not represent the wishes of our people. Our people do not want war, they don’t want conflict.”
At the meeting, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez emphasized that the battle for Venezuela was “the battle for Latin America and the battle for the world.”
The Lima meeting and “declaration” were followed by a week-long tour of four Latin American countries by U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence which resulted in the neo-liberal governments of Colombia, Argentina, Chile and Panama doubling down on Venezuela, at the same time saying they oppose the use of force. While Pence was on his tour, U.S. President Donald Trump declared that he did not rule out using the “military option” against Venezuela.
The “South American Defence Conference” was also held in Peru this year. From August 22-25 the U.S. Southern Command brought together military leaders from seven countries “for discussions on defeating illicit networks and responding to cyberattacks and humanitarian crises.” Navy Admiral Kurt Tidd, commander of U.S. Southcom, made a point of saying that because issues under discussion at the meeting were “truly global,” there was “not a single country or military out there able to solve them by acting alone.” He said, “We all have to work together, sharing information freely and trusting one another implicitly.” He called the conference “an important forum to discuss key cooperation to deal with threats in the region.”
It should be recalled that an executive order issued in 2015 by President Obama and renewed as one of his last acts in office, declared Venezuela to be an “unusual and extraordinary threat” to the national security of the United States.
Like all the schemes of U.S. imperialism to create pretexts for intervention and war, the so-called Declaration of Lima repeats false accusations and is dripping with hypocrisy. As just one example, at the same time it was hosting meetings for the U.S. Southern Command to tighten its grip on the region and for a gang of countries to pontificate against Venezuela for its supposed “systematic violation of human rights and fundamental liberties, violence, repression and political persecution, ” the government of Peru was busy criminalizing and using police powers to attack striking teachers in the country. Rather than negotiating with teachers who had been engaged in a national strike over wages, working conditions and the lack of funding for public education for over a month, on July 19 President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski declared a state of emergency, suspending constitutional rights to personal freedom and security, allowing warrantless raids and arrests and suspending freedom of assembly and movement for 30 days.
New U.S. Sanctions
On August 25, President Donald Trump stepped up the criminal economic war on Venezuela by signing an executive order issuing a new round of economic sanctions. The same day, Nikki Haley, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations said at a press conference, “We don’t agree with anything Maduro is doing. We wanted to rely on the OAS but they weren’t able to do anything. We tried an emergency meeting with the Security Council, but they didn’t think it had anything to do with peace and security. Now we’ve placed sanctions and we’ll see if there’s anything else we can do.”
Showing that it is an orchestrated campaign, the Trudeau government immediately expressed its support for Trump’s order, chiming in through the Global Affairs Canada Twitter account, “Canada welcomes #US action to impose additional sanctions on #Venezuela. We continue to call for a return to democracy.”
1. Lima Declaration
The Foreign Ministers and Representatives of Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay and Peru, gathered here in Lima, on August the 8th of 2017 to address the critical situation in Venezuela and to explore ways to contribute to the restoration of democracy in that country, through peaceful and negotiated means;
Drawing on the spirit of solidarity that characterizes the region, and on our conviction that negotiation, with full respect of International Law and the principle of non-intervention, does not contravene human rights and democracy, and is the only means that can assure a lasting solution to disagreements;
Our condemnation of the rupture of the democratic order in Venezuela.
Our decision to not recognize the National Constituent Assembly, or any of its decisions, due to its illegitimacy.
Our full support and solidarity with the democratically elected National Assembly.
That legal actions, which according to the Constitution require the authorization of the National Assembly, will only be recognized once said Assembly has approved them.
Our strong rejection of violence and any other actions that involve the use of force.
Our support and solidarity with the General Attorney and the members of the Office of the Public Prosecutor of Venezuela and demand the compliance with the precautionary measures issued by the Interamerican Human Rights Commission.
Our condemnation to the systematic violation of human rights and fundamental liberties, violence, repression and political persecution, the existence of political prisoners and the lack of free and fair elections under independent international observation.
That Venezuela does not comply with the obligations and requirements for members of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Our serious concern with the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and our condemnation of the government for not allowing food and medicine to enter the country for the Venezuelan people.
Our decision to continue applying the Interamerican Democratic Charter to Venezuela.
Our support for MERCOSUR’s decision to suspend Venezuela in compliance with the Ushuaia Protocol on Democratic Commitment.
Our decision not to support any Venezuelan candidature put forward to regional and international organizations and mechanisms.
Our call to stop the transfer of weapons to Venezuela, in accordance to articles 6 and 7 of the Arms Trade Treaty.
That, taking into account the current situation, we will request the [Presidency Pro Tempore] of [the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC)] and the European Union, to postpone the CELAC-EU Summit, scheduled for October 2017.
Our commitment to follow the situation in Venezuela, at a Ministerial level, until the full restoration of democracy in that country, and to meet at the latest during the next session of the United Nations General Assembly, [an] opportunity at which other countries may be included.
Our intention to urgently support, with full respect of the sovereignty of Venezuela, all credible negotiating efforts made in good faith, that have the consensus of all involved parties, aimed at achieving a peaceful restoration of democracy in the country.
2. More recently, on August 29, President Kuczynski issued an “emergency decree” to smash the teachers’ strike. It provided for those who did not report to work to be fired and for “replacement teachers” to be hired to do their jobs. On September 2, after 80 days during which they received the active support of doctors and other workers, the teachers called a temporary halt to their strike but said the fight was not over. If a four-month study the government committed to carry out into their demands does not yield results, job action will resume.
TML Weekly, September 9, 2017 (With files from AVN, TeleSur, Prensa Latina, Correo del Orinoco, Minrex, Venezuelanalysis, US Southcom, Global Affairs Canada)