Category Archives: FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION

United Nations: Young People Discuss Change at CSW62 Youth Dialogue

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An article from UN News

Building on the successes and lessons learnt from the Youth Forums of CSW60 and CSW61, the Youth Dialogue at CSW62 held on 17 March 2018 provided a space for cross-regional networking among young people engaged in various areas of gender and social justice. Following the theme of the Commission of the Status of Women, the Youth Dialogue at CSW62 provided a stage for young women, girls, trans, intersex and gender non-conforming youth from rural areas to raise their voices, address the challenges and opportunities in achieving gende equality and empowering their peers.

The opening of the Youth Dialogue was attended by Executive Director of UN Women Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and moderated by the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth Ms. Jayathma Wickramanayake.

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Question for this article

Youth initiatives for a culture of peace, How can we ensure they get the attention and funding they deserve?

What is the United Nations doing for a culture of peace?

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The Youth Envoy framed the conversation by emphasizing that “We are the largest generation of young people that the world has ever seen. We are 1.8 billion strong and if we are to see transformational change, then it is our generation, that can make that change happen.” By sharing their personal stories, the panel of youth activist gave concrete examples of creative ways to open doors and thereby highlighted how young people mobilize to make change in their communities every day.
More than 300 young people participated in the Youth Dialogue, which provided a space to exchange ideas on how young woman and girls from rural areas can be increasingly involved in addressing issues that directly affect them  such as climate change, health, land rights and environment, education, gender-based violence, child marriage, economic justice, and media and technology. With the principle of leaving no one behind as an overarching theme for the conversation, the Youth Dialogue also included young people from various marginalized and vulnerable groups, such as persons with disabilities, indigenous communities and communities in conflict and post-conflict settings.

Based on a series of online youth consultations and break-out sessions during the Dialogue, a set of recommendations to policy makers were developed on how to better include the voices of young women and girls from rural areas in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. Among these were specific recommendations to provide accessible education to enhance skills development for young girls in rural areas; strengthen laws to prevent and respond to all forms of gender-based violence; implement progressive legislation that addresses the gender pay gap; improving connectivity in rural areas to bridge the existing digital gap; and investing in quality and inclusive youth-friendly healthcare, including mental health and sexual and reproductive health and rights services in rural areas.

United Nations: ‘Global clarion call’ for youth to shape efforts to forge peace in the most dangerous combat zones

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An article from UN News

The First International Symposium on Youth Participation  in Peace Processes concluded on Wednesday in Helsinki, Finland, with a global policy paper, according to reports, that aims to integrate their efforts, interventions and contributions towards sustaining the search for peaceful solutions to conflict.


Click on image to enlarge

In her keynote address, General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa highlighted Youth, Peace and Security as one of her seven priorities.

She called young people “agents of change” and outlined examples in which they have helped foster inter-communal dialogue, such as in Kenya, and consolidate peace, such as in Sierra Leone, Liberia and other countries.

Ms. Espinosa also addressed the importance of gender equality, decent work and the support for young migrants and refugees. 

The General Assembly President concluded by underscoring that the world must improve youth participation in national and international decision-making and encouraged Member States to embrace young people in their delegations and to work closely with the Office of the Secretary-General’s  Youth Envoy,  Jayathma Wickramanayake.

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Question for this article

Youth initiatives for a culture of peace, How can we ensure they get the attention and funding they deserve?

What is the United Nations doing for a culture of peace?

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With over half of the world’s population under-30 and an estimated 600 million youth living in fragile and conflict-affected States, it is apparent that young people must engage in conflict prevention and mediation processes – a domain where they are often marginalized. 

“Young people account for a considerable share of people living in the developing world and in conflict areas but they are often left outside of the scope of all decision-making in society, including peace processes”, said Timo Soini, Foreign Minister for Finland, one of the governments co-hosting the event.

For her part, the Youth Envoy called the Symposium “the global clarion call for a collective response in bringing voice and credibility to young people on the frontlines actively leading efforts to shape peace processes”.

Considering their sheer numbers and vital force, young people are key participants in development, democracy, peace-sustaining initiatives and peacebuilding interventions. As such, they must be empowered as decision makers to actively and meaningfully contribute to peace processes that affect their lives, according to the UN Envoy’s office.

“Young people are bridges”, said youth participant Leonardo Parraga. “They play a key role in connecting local actors like civil society organizations, with decision-making actors that have a seat inside the room”.

At the two-day Symposium ending on Wednesday, inter-generational participants exchanged views and best practices on involving young people in both formal and informal peace processes. Youth attendees, moderated, facilitated and acted as rapporteurs throughout all plenary discussions and working groups.

Noting “progress in advancing the Youth, Peace and Security agenda” Ms. Wickramanayake asserted:  “We cannot stop now”.

The event was co-hosted by the Governments of Finland, Qatar, and Colombia, and co-organized by the office of the UN’s Youth Envoy and Search For Common Ground in partnership with the UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, UN Population Fund, UN Development Programme and the United Network of Young Peacebuilders.

Red Cross, UN Slam ‘Politicised’ USAID Humanitarian Assistance to Venezuela

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An article from Veezuelanalysis

The International Red Cross has declined to participate in the Washington’s controversial humanitarian aid plan to Venezuela, it was announced this weekend.


The firearms were confiscated on a cargo plane arriving at Valencia airport from Miami last Tuesday (lechuguinos.com)

“We will not be participating in what is, for us, not humanitarian aid,” stated Colombia’s International Red Cross (ICRC) spokesperson, Christoph Harnisch.

The assistance, which is being coordinated by Venezuela’s self-proclaimed president, Juan Guaido, and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), is reportedly comprised of US $20 million worth of medical, food, and personal hygiene supplies which are currently being warehoused in the Colombian border city of Cucuta.

The Venezuelan government has denied USAID personnel entry into the country, claiming that the aid is being used as cover for a foreign intervention to install Guaido in Miraflores presidential palace.

Harnisch also raised concerns about the aid being instrumentalized for political ends, calling on parties to have “respect for the term ‘humanitarian.’” Last week, ICRC Director of Global Operations Domink Stillhart had likewise told reporters that he considered the aid to have a “political tone”.

The Red Cross currently provides medical assistance to a number of Venezuelan hospitals under pre-existing and recently expanded international agreements with Maduro’s government.

On Wednesday, ICRC President Peter Maurer told reporters that the body will be doubling its budget to assist the Venezuelan government in countering the effects of the deep economic crisis.

“Our focus is really to, on the one side increase our response to Venezuelans, and on the other hand to keep away from the political controversy and political divisions which are characteristic to the crisis in Venezuela,” Maurer told press in Geneva.

Meanwhile, the United Nations has likewise raised objections to Washington’s “politicised” aid plan.

“Humanitarian action needs to be independent of political, military or other objectives,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York last Wednesday.

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Question(s) related to this article:

Free flow of information, How is it important for a culture of peace?

What is really happening in Venezuela?

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UN spokespeople have also recently vowed to increase the budgets of current aid programs carried out in coordination with the Maduro administration.

President Maduro has staunchly rejected US aid, claiming that while Venezuela has problems, it is not “a beggar country.”

He also pointed out that the reported $20 million in US aid pales in comparison to the estimated US $30 million per day the new US oil embargo will cost Venezuela this year.

On January 28, US National Security Advisor John Bolton unveiled the latest round of economic sanctions prohibiting corporations under US jurisdiction from purchasing oil from Venezuela’s PDVSA state oil company, which he said will deny the company US $11 billion in revenues in 2019. Bolton also announced a freezing of Houston-based PDVSA subsidiary CITGO’s assets, which are valued at US $7 billion.

“If [the US] wants to help, then lift the sanctions,” Maduro urged at a recent press conference. He also qualified the plan as a media “show” and a “trap” which looks to “justify [foreign] intervention in the country.”

Fears of a direct military intervention in Venezuela have grown in recent weeks after both US President Donald Trump and opposition leader Juan Guaido refused to rule it out.

Adding to these concerns, Venezuelan authorities announced that they confiscated a cache of illegal firearms they say were smuggled into the country from Miami last Tuesday. The 19 assault rifles, 118 explosive charges, 90 radio antennas and six latest generation smartphones arrived on a Boeing 767 cargo flight from the 21 Air company to Valencia airport.

Maduro has ordered a reinforcement of border security in response to the increased threats, with the armed forces loyally executing his order not to let the USAID personnel enter the country.

He has also been under attack this week following the circulation of a picture of the Tienditas bridge connecting Venezuela and Colombia blocked by tankers, with international commentators accusing him of closing the bridge this week. The bridge was culminated in 2015 but was never opened due to border tensions between Venezuela and Colombia that flared up later that year.

US establishment figures from both sides of the political aisle, including Vice President Mike Pence, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have lined up to back the aid plan, denouncing Maduro for refusing to open Venezuelan borders and urging him to step aside as Venezuela’s leader.

What do the people of Venezuela want?

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A media survey by CPNN

On February 20, we tried to find out what the people of Venezuela want by putting the following into Google: “Venezuela poll.”

Here are the results we found for polls taken in 2019.


Video of Hinterlaces poll results (in Spanish)

CBS News reports on February 2 that “a new poll . . . showed 82 percent of Venezuelans want Maduro to quit,” but they give no source for this.

We tried various google strategies to find a source corresponding to the claims of CBS, but we could find nothing.

On the other hand, we found the following well-documented source which show very different results.

From the website of Globovision (translated from the Spanish by CPNN): “A study conducted by the polling firm Hinterlaces between January 21 and February 2, 2019, revealed that 57% of respondents consider that the government of the president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, is legitimate. The study was carried out on the basis of 1,580 direct interviews in homes in the country, reported journalist José Vicente Rangel on Sunday, in the Confidential section of the José Vicente Hoy program. In the survey, it was asked: Who do you consider to be the legitimate President of Venezuela? Nicolás Maduro (57%); Juan Guaidó (32%) and in the item, Do not know does not respond (11%).”

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Question(s) related to this article:

Free flow of information, How is it important for a culture of peace?

What is really happening in Venezuela?

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As for the polling firm Hinterlaces, it is said by the Grayzone Project that “Hinterlaces is led by the independent pollster Oscar Schemel, who has experience studying numerous elections in Venezuela and has a pro-business perspective. Most polling firms in the country, such as the competitor Datanálisis, tend to be pro-opposition. Hinterlaces is more neutral, and often leans toward the government, although Schemel has criticized some of Maduro’s economic policies.”>

According to the Grayzone Project, an earlier poll conducted by Hinterlaces in January found that “86 percent of Venezuelans would disagree with international military intervention. And 81 percent oppose the US sanctions that have gravely hurt the South American nation’s economy.”

Polls taken in 2018 showed that the people of Venezuela have very little confidence in either the government or the opposition. A Pew Research Center survey conducted from Sept. 12 to Dec. 7, 2018 found that “only a third of Venezuelans trust their national government. Among the roughly two-thirds who distrust it, nearly four-in-ten (39%) say they don’t trust it at all.”> At the same time, another poll found that the opposition National Assembly headed by self-proclaimed President Guaido had a disapproval rate of 70%.

[Editor’s note: The Venezuela results are not much different from those of a similar poll in the United States, according to the most recent data from the Gallup Poll . In response to the question “how much trust and confidence do you have in our federal government in Washington when it comes to handling Domestic problems”, the results are Great deal: 6, Fair amount: 29, Not very much: 43, None at all: 20.

What the Press Hides from You about Venezuela — A Case of News-Suppression

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An article by Eric Zuesse in Transcend Media Service

8 Feb 2019 – This news-report is being submitted to all U.S. and allied news-media, and is being published by all honest ones, in order to inform you of crucial facts that the others — the dishonest ones, that hide such crucial facts — are hiding about Venezuela. These are facts that have received coverage only in one single British newspaper: the Independent, which published a summary account of them on January 26th. That newspaper’s account will be excerpted here at the end, but first will be highlights from its topic, the official report to the U.N. General Assembly in August of last year, which has been covered-up ever since. This is why that report’s author has now gone to the Independent, desperate to get the story out, finally, to the public.


Alfred de Zayas,  UN Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order (appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council)


The Covered-Up Document

On 3 August 2018, the U.N.’s General Assembly received  the report from the U.N.s Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order, concerning his mission to Venezuela and Ecuador. His recent travel though both countries focused on “how best to enhance the enjoyment of all human rights by the populations of both countries.” He “noted the eradication of illiteracy, free education from primary school to university, and programmes to reduce extreme poverty, provide housing to the homeless and vulnerable, phase out privilege and discrimination, and extend medical care to everyone.” He noted “that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and Ecuador, both devote around 70 per cent of their national budgets to social services.” However (and here, key paragraphs from the report are now quoted):
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22. Observers have identified errors committed by the Chávez and Maduro Governments, noting that there are too many ideologues and too few technocrats in public administration, resulting in government policies that lack coherence and professional management and discourage domestic investment, already crippled by inefficiency and corruption, which extend to government officials, transnational corporations and entrepreneurs. Critics warn about the undue influence of the military on government and on the running of enterprises like Petróleos de Venezuela. The lack of regular, publicly available data on nutrition, epidemiology and inflation are said to complicate efforts to provide humanitarian support.

23. Meanwhile, the Attorney General, Tarek Saab, has launched a vigorous anticorruption campaign, investigating the links between Venezuelan enterprises and tax havens, contracting scams, and deals by public officials with Odebrecht. It is estimated that corruption in the oil industry has cost the Government US$ 4.8 billion. The Attorney General’s Office informed the Independent Expert of pending investigations for embezzlement and extortion against 79 officials of Petróleos de Venezuela, including 22 senior managers. The Office also pointed to the arrest of two high-level oil executives, accused of money-laundering in Andorra. The Ministry of Justice estimates corruption losses at some US$ 15 billion. Other stakeholders, in contrast, assert that anti-corruption programmes are selective and have not sufficiently targeted State institutions, including the military. …

29. … Over the past sixty years, non-conventional economic wars have been waged against Cuba, Chile, Nicaragua, the Syrian Arab Republic and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in order to make their economies fail, facilitate regime change and impose a neo-liberal socioeconomic model. In order to discredit selected governments, failures in the field of human rights are maximized so as to make violent overthrow more palatable. Human rights are being “weaponized” against rivals. Yet, human rights are the heritage of every human being and should never be instrumentalized as weapons of demonization. …

30. The principles of non-intervention and non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign States belong to customary international law and have been reaffirmed in General Assembly resolutions, notably [a list is supplied]. …

31. In its judgment of 27 June 1986 concerning Nicaragua v. United States, the International Court of Justice quoted from [U.N.] resolution 2625 (XXV): “no State shall organize, assist, foment, finance, incite or tolerate subversive, terrorist or armed activities directed towards the violent overthrow of the regime of another State, or interfere in civil strife in another State”. …

36. The effects of sanctions imposed by Presidents Obama and Trump and unilateral measures by Canada and the European Union have directly and indirectly aggravated the shortages in medicines such as insulin and anti-retroviral drugs. To the extent that economic sanctions have caused delays in distribution and thus contributed to many deaths, sanctions contravene the human rights obligations of the countries imposing them.Moreover, sanctions can amount to crimes against humanity under Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. An investigation by that Court would be appropriate, but the geopolitical submissiveness of the Court may prevent this.

37. Modern-day economic sanctions and blockades are comparable with medieval sieges of towns with the intention of forcing them to surrender. Twenty-first century sanctions attempt to bring not just a town, but sovereign countries to their knees. A difference, perhaps, is that twenty-first century sanctions are accompanied by the manipulation of public opinion through “fake news”, aggressive public relations and a pseudo-human rights rhetoric so as to give the impression that a human rights “end” justifies the criminal means. …

39. Economic asphyxiation policies are comparable to those already practised in Chile, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Nicaragua and the Syrian Arab Republic. In January 2018, Middle East correspondent of The Financial Times and The Independent, Patrick Cockburn, wrote on the sanctions affecting Syria: There is usually a pretence that foodstuffs and medical equipment are being allowed through freely and no mention is made of the financial and other regulatory obstacles making it impossible to deliver them. An example of this is the draconian sanctions imposed on Syria by the US and EU which were meant to target President Bashar al-Assad and help remove him from power. They have wholly failed to do this, but a UN internal report leaked in 2016 shows all too convincingly the effect of the embargo in stopping the delivery of aid by international aid agencies. They cannot import the aid despite waivers because banks and commercial companies dare not risk being penalised for having anything to do with Syria. The report quotes a European doctor working in Syria as saying that “the indirect effect of sanctions … makes the import of the medical instruments and other medical supplies immensely difficult, near impossible”. In short: economic sanctions kill. …

41. Bearing in mind that Venezuelan society is polarized, what is most needed is dialogue between the Government and the opposition, and it would be a noble task on the part of the Secretary-General of the United Nations to offer his good offices for such a dialogue. Yet, opposition leaders Antonio Ledezma and Julio Borges, during a trip through Europe to denounce the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, called for further sanctions as well as a military “humanitarian intervention”. …

44. Although the situation in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has not yet reached the humanitarian crisis threshold, there is hunger, malnutrition, anxiety, anguish and emigration. What is crucial is to study the causes of the crisis, including neglected factors of sanctions, sabotage, hoarding, black market activities, induced inflation and contraband in food and medicines.

45. The “crisis” in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is an economic crisis, which cannot be compared with the humanitarian crises in Gaza, Yemen, Libya, the Syrian Arab Republic, Iraq, Haiti, Mali, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Somalia, or Myanmar, among others. It is significant that when, in 2017, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela requested medical aid from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the plea was rejected, because it ”is still a high-income country … and as such is not eligible”. …

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Question(s) related to this article:

Free flow of information, How is it important for a culture of peace?

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46. It is pertinent to recall the situation in the years prior to the election of Hugo Chávez. Corruption was ubiquitous and in 1993, President Carlos Pérez was removed because of embezzlement. The Chávez election in 1998 reflected despair with the corruption and neo-liberal policies of the 1980s and 1990s, and rejection of the gulf between the super-rich and the abject poor.

47. Participatory democracy in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, called “protagónica”, is anchored in the Constitution of 1999 and relies on frequent elections and referendums. During the mission, the Independent Expert exchanged views with the Electoral Commission and learned that in the 19 years since Chávez, 25 elections and referendums had been conducted, 4 of them observed by the Carter Center. The Independent Expert met with the representative of the Carter Center in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, who recalled Carter’s positive assessment of the electoral system. They also discussed the constitutional objections raised by the opposition to the referendum held on 30 July 2017, resulting in the creation of a Constitutional Assembly. Over 8 million Venezuelans voted in the referendum, which was accompanied by international observers, including from the Council of Electoral Specialists of Latin America.

48. An atmosphere of intimidation accompanied the mission, attempting to pressure the Independent Expert into a predetermined matrix. He received letters from NGOs asking him not to proceed because he was not the “relevant” rapporteur, and almost dictating what should be in the report. Weeks before his arrival, some called the mission a “fake investigation”. Social media insults bordered on “hate speech” and “incitement”. Mobbing before, during and after the mission bore a resemblance to the experience of two American journalists who visited the country in July 2017. Utilizing platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, critics questioned the Independent Expert’s integrity and accused him of bias, demonstrating a culture of intransigence and refusal to accept the duty of an independent expert to be neutral, objective, dispassionate and to apply his expertise free of external pressures. …

67. The Independent Expert recommends that the General Assembly: (g) Invoke article 96 of the Charter of the United Nations and refer the following questions to the International Court of Justice: Can unilateral coercive measures be compatible with international law? Can unilateral coercive measures amount to crimes against humanity when a large number of persons perish because of scarcity of food and medicines? What reparations are due to the victims of sanctions? Do sanctions and currency manipulations constitute geopolitical crimes? (h) Adopt a resolution along the lines of the resolutions on the United States embargo against Cuba, declaring the sanctions against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela contrary to international law and human rights law. …

70. The Independent Expert recommends that the International Criminal Court investigate the problem of unilateral coercive measures that cause death from malnutrition, lack of medicines and medical equipment. …

72. The Independent Expert recommends that, until the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court address the lethal outcomes of economic wars and sanctions regimes, the Permanent Peoples Tribunal, the Russell Tribunal and the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission undertake the task so as to facilitate future judicial pronouncements.

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On January 26th, Britain’s Independent headlined “Venezuela crisis: Former UN rapporteur says US sanctions are killing citizens”, and Michael Selby-Green reported that:

The first UN rapporteur to visit Venezuela for 21 years has told The Independent the US sanctions on the country are illegal and could amount to “crimes against humanity” under international law.

Former special rapporteur Alfred de Zayas, who finished his term at the UN in March, has criticized the US for engaging in “economic warfare” against Venezuela which he said is hurting the economy and killing Venezuelans.

The comments come amid worsening tensions in the country after the US and UK have backed Juan Guaidó, who appointed himself “interim president” of Venezuela as hundreds of thousands marched to support him. …

The US Treasury has not responded to a request for comment on Mr de Zayas’s allegations of the effects of the sanctions programme.

US sanctions prohibit dealing in currencies issued by the Venezuelan government. They also target individuals, and stop US-based companies or people from buying and selling new debt issued by PDVSA or the government.

The US has previously defended its sanctions on Venezuela, with a senior US official saying in 2018: “The fact is that the greatest sanction on Venezuelan oil and oil production is called Nicolas Maduro, and PDVSA’s inefficiencies,” referring to the state-run oil body, Petroleos de Venezuela, SA.

Mr De Zayas’s findings are based on his late-2017 mission to the country and interviews with 12 Venezuelan government ministers, opposition politicians, 35 NGOs working in the country, academics, church officials, activists, chambers of commerce and regional UN agencies.

The US imposed new sanctions against Venezuela on 9 March 2015, when President Barack Obama issued executive order 13692, declaring the country a threat to national security.

The sanctions have since intensified under Donald Trump, who has also threatened military invasion and discussed a coup. …

Despite being the first UN official to visit and report from Venezuela in 21 years, Mr de Zayas said his research into the causes of the country’s economic crisis has so far largely been ignored by the UN and the media, and caused little debate within the Human Rights Council.

He believes his report has been ignored because it goes against the popular narrative that Venezuela needs regime change. …

The then UN high commissioner, Zeid Raad Al Hussein, reportedly refused to meet Mr de Zayas after the visit, and the Venezuela desk of the UN Human Rights Council also declined to help with his work after his return despite being obliged to do so, Mr de Zayas claimed. …

Ivan Briscoe, Latin America and Caribbean programme director for Crisis Group, an international NGO, told The Independent that Venezuela is a polarising subject. … Briscoe is critical of Mr de Zayas’ report because it highlights US economic warfare but in his view neglects to mention the impact of a difficult business environment in the country. … Briscoe acknowledged rising tensions and the likely presence of US personnel operating covertly in the country. …

Eugenia Russian, president of FUNDALATIN, one of the oldest human rights NGOs in Venezuela, founded in 1978 before the Chavez and Maduro governments and with special consultative status at the UN, spoke to The Independent on the significance of the sanctions.

“In contact with the popular communities, we consider that one of the fundamental causes of the economic crisis in the country is the effect that the unilateral coercive sanctions that are applied in the economy, especially by the government of the United States,” Ms Russian said.

She said there may also be causes from internal errors, but said probably few countries in the world have suffered an “economic siege” like the one Venezuelans are living under. …

In his report, Mr de Zayas expressed concern that those calling the situation a “humanitarian crisis” are trying to justify regime change and that human rights are being “weaponised” to discredit the government and make violent overthrow more “palatable”….

Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world and an abundance of other natural resources including gold, bauxite and coltan. But under the Maduro government they’re not easily accessible to US and transnational corporations.

US oil companies had large investments in Venezuela in the early 20th century but were locked out after Venezuelans voted to nationalise the industry in 1973.

Other than readers of that single newspaper, where has the public been able to find these facts? If the public can have these facts hidden from them, then how much trust should the public reasonably have in the government, and in the news-media?

US Media Ignore—and Applaud—Economic War on Venezuela

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An article by Gregory Shupak in Fair.org

The US media chorus supporting a US overthrow of the Venezuelan government has for years pointed to the country’s economic crisis as a justification for regime change, while whitewashing the ways in which the US has strangled the Venezuelan economy  (FAIR.org, 3/22/18).

Sister Eugenia Russian, president of Fundalatin, a Venezuelan human rights NGO that was established in 1978 and has special consultative status at the UN, told the Independent (1/26/19):

“In contact with the popular communities, we consider that one of the fundamental causes of the economic crisis in the country is the effect [of] the unilateral coercive sanctions that are applied in the economy, especially by the government of the United States.”

While internal errors also contributed to the nation’s problems, Russian said it’s likely that few countries in the world have ever suffered an “economic siege” like the one Venezuelans are living under.

While the New York Times and the Washington Post have lately professed profound (and definitely 100 percent sincere) concern for the welfare of Venezuelans, neither publication has ever referred to Fundalatin.

Alfred de Zayas, the first UN special rapporteur to visit Venezuela in 21 years, told the Independent(1/26/19) that US, Canadian and European Union “economic warfare” has killed Venezuelans, noting that the sanctions fall most heavily on the poorest people and demonstrably cause death through food and medicine shortages, lead to violations of human rights and are aimed at coercing economic change in a “sister democracy.”

De Zayas’ UN report  noted that sanctions “hind[er] the imports necessary to produce generic medicines and seeds to increase agricultural production.” De Zayas also cited Venezuelan economist Pasqualina Curcio, who reports that “the most effective strategy to disrupt the Venezuelan economy” has been the manipulation of the exchange rate. The rapporteur went on to suggest that the International Criminal Court investigate economic sanctions against Venezuela as possible crimes against humanity.

Given that de Zayas is the first UN special rapporteur to report on Venezuela in more than two decades, one might expect the media to regard his findings as an important part of the Venezuela narrative, but his name does not appear in a single article ever published in the Post; the Times has mentioned him once, but not in relation to Venezuela.

The economist Francisco Rodríguez points out  that the sanctions the Trump administration issued in August 2017 prohibited US banks from providing new financing to the Venezuelan government, a key part of the “toxification” of financial dealings with Venezuela. Rodríguez notes that, in August 2017, the US Financial Crimes Enforcement Network warned financial institutions that “all Venezuelan government agencies and bodies…appear vulnerable to public corruption and money laundering,” and recommended that some transactions originating from Venezuela be flagged as potentially criminal. Many financial institutions then closed Venezuelan accounts, concerned about the risk of being accused of participating in money laundering.

Rodríguez says that this handcuffed Venezuela’s oil industry, the sector most crucial to its economy, with lost access to credit preventing the country from obtaining financial resources that could have been devoted to investment or maintenance. And whereas previously the Venezuelan government would raise production by signing joint venture agreements with foreign partners who would finance investment, Trump’s sanctions “effectively put an end to these loans.”

Mark Weisbrot (The Nation, 9/7/17) , also an economist, raised a related issue:

“If we step back and look at Venezuela from a bird’s-eye view, how does a country with 500 billion barrels of oil and hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of minerals in the ground go broke? The only way that can happen is if the country is cut off from the international financial system. Otherwise, Venezuela could sell or even collateralize some of its resources in order to get the necessary dollars. The $7.7 billion in goldheld in Central Bank reserves could be quickly collateralized for a loan; in past years, the US Treasury department used its clout to make sure that banks who wanted to finance a swap, such as JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America, did not do so.”

Sanctions have kept the Venezuelan government from accessing financing and dealing with its debt while hamstringing its most important industry. Given that US media are writing for a principally US audience, the damage done by Washington and its partners’ sanctions should be front and center in their coverage. Exactly the opposite is the case.

Virginia Lopez-Glass of the New York Times (1/25/19) uses 920 words to describe the challenges facing Venezuelans, but “sanctions” isn’t one of them, even as she writes about matters to which, as I’ve shown above, sanctions are directly relevant: “Food and medicine shortages are widespread. Hundreds have died from malnutrition and illnesses that are easily curable with the appropriate treatment.”

Weaponizing hunger in Venezuela in this manner is dishonest and misleading. Christina M. Schiavoni, a doctoral researcher at the International Institute of Social Studies in The Hague, and Ana Felicien and Liccia Romero, both of whom are Venezuelan scholars, wrote in Monthly Review(6/1/18) on “overt US aggression toward Venezuela” in the form of

“the intensifying economic sanctions imposed by the Obama and Trump administrations, as well as an all-out economic blockade that has made it extremely difficult for the government to make payments on food imports and manage its debt.”

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Free flow of information, How is it important for a culture of peace?

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Bret Stephens’ column in the Times (1/28/19) only mentions the word “sanctions” to complain that the media supposedly isn’t blaming “socialism” for the crisis in Venezuela, alleging that

“what you’re likelier to read is that the crisis is the product of corruption, cronyism, populism, authoritarianism, resource-dependency, US sanctions and trickery, even the residues of capitalism itself.”

After dismissing the idea that the sanctions are a key part of the problems in Venezuela, Stephens went on to advocate using them to bring about regime change in the country, writing that the Trump administration

“should enhance [Guaidó]’s political standing by providing access to funds that can help him establish an alternative government and entice wavering figures in the Maduro camp to switch sides. It can put Venezuela on the list of state sponsors of terrorism.”

These “funds” presumably refer the money that the US has seized from Venezuela, and adding the country to list of “state sponsors of terrorism” automatically entails hitting it with further sanctions.

The editorial board of the Washington Post (1/24/19) alleged that Venezuela’s government has “subject[ed] the country’s 32 million people to a humanitarian catastrophe,” without referring to what scholars whose research and writing focuses on Latin America—such as Laura Carlsen, Sujatha Fernandes, Greg Grandin, Francisco Dominguez, Noam Chomsky, Aviva Chomsky, Gabriel Hetland and Venezuelan-born historian Miguel Tinker Salas—describe (Common Dreams, 1/24/19) as sanctions

“cut[ting] off the means by which the Venezuelan government could escape from its economic recession, while causing a dramatic falloff in oil production and worsening the economic crisis, and causing many people to die because they can’t get access to life-saving medicines.”

Later, the editorial said that “a US boycott of Venezuelan oil could endanger ordinary Venezuelans already coping with critical shortages of food, power and medicine,” an absurd remark given that the sanctions they are occluding have had precisely these effects.

Henry Olsen in the Post (1/24/19) wrote as if sanctions are a benign tool that can be used to usher in a brighter future for Venezuelans, rather than a key reason that so many of them find themselves in such a grim condition:

“Trump has many levers to pull short of military intervention to topple Maduro. He could use US pressure on the global financial system to cut off regime access to international banks, freezing access to any secret accounts that the regime — and, probably, its highest-ranking leaders — established offshore. He can, as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has suggested, work with American oil companies that purchase Venezuelan oil to provide the profits from those purchases to accounts controlled by Guaidó’s National Assembly. He can also pressure China, which has a far more valuable relationship with the United States than it does with Venezuela, to withdraw its support. Any or all of these measures would ratchet up pressure directly on the regime, decreasing its ability to finance itself and buy support from security and military figures….

Odds are that increasing financial pressure on the regime will finally bring about its collapse.”

Even if one momentarily sets aside that the sanctions are illegal under international law  and violate the charter of the Organization of American States, and that the US has no right whatsoever to decide who governs Venezuela, these measures don’t just “ratchet up pressure” on “the regime,” they also kill and immiserate ordinary Venezuelans.A

The Post’s Charles Lane (1/28/19) wrote:

“Apologists for the regime blame US sanctions and destabilization for Venezuela’s problems. The truth is that, with the exception of the George W. Bush administration’s brief, halfhearted support for a coup attempt in 2002, Washington—learning the lessons of ill-fated Cold War interventions—has shown restraint in dealing with the Caracas regime.”

He went on to write that, until the Trump administration announced limitations on imports of Venezuelan oil that day, “the United States had traded with Venezuela and focused economic pressure on regime leaders and key institutions,” which suggests that the sanctions exclusively harm the “regime”—again, even if that were true, it would still be illegal—and amounts to a lie, given the evidence that the sanctions are crushing the Venezuelan masses.

Unlike Lane and the rest of the media’s regime change choir, the US government has acknowledged what it’s doing to Venezuela. Schiavoni, Felicien and Romero point to a telling remark  that a senior State Department official made last year:

“The financial sanctions we have placed on the Venezuelan Government has forced it to begin becoming in default, both on sovereign and PDVSA, its oil company’s debt. And what we are seeing because of the bad choices of the Maduro regime is a total economic collapse in Venezuela. So our policy is working, our strategy is working and we’re going to keep it on the Venezuelans.”

Thus, the US government acknowledges that it is knowingly, consciously driving the Venezuelan economy into the ground, but US media make no such acknowledgment, which sends the message that the problems in Venezuela are entirely the fault of the government, and that the US is a neutral arbiter that wants to help Venezuelans.

Call this elision what it is: war propaganda.

Cuba: International Conference for Peace and “World Balance” Supports Venezuela

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An article by Roger Harris in the Transcend Media Service

 Close to 700 conferees from 65 countries convened in Havana, Cuba from January 28-31, for peace and “world balance.” This, the fourth such conference, was dedicated to honoring the ideals of Cuban national hero José Martí who died in 1895 at the age of 42 fighting for independence from colonial Spain. The event was organized by the José Martí Project of International Solidarity, which is sponsored by UNESCO.


Photo: Yaimi Ravelo

An overarching theme of the conference was the urgency for international solidarity with the democratically elected Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro who is under attack by the US and its minions. Another prominent issue was the struggle to free the unjustly imprisoned former President of Brazil Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

The wide-ranging conference addressed the “most pressing issues that have an impact on humanity” from global warming, to feminism, to cyber democracy, to sustainability. Well known personalities from all over the world included Spanish intellectual Ignacio Ramonet, Brazilian liberation theologian Frei Betto, historian of Havana Eusebio Leal, and a representative of the Vatican. Aleida Guevara, daughter of Che, spoke during the panel on solidarity along with Puerto Rican fighter for independence Oscar López Rivera.

The first plenary session was attended by newly elected Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel and leading members of the Cuban government and Communist Party. They sat on the mainstage without fanfare or even significant security, other than a few unarmed men in guayabera shirts standing in the background; considerably less security, say, than the average US high school student must pass to get to class.

(Article continued in the right column.)

(Click here for an article in Spanish about this conference.)

Question(s) related to this article:

Free flow of information, How is it important for a culture of peace?

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Yuri Afonin of the Russian Federation Communist Party observed that the open colonialism of Martí’s time has been replaced by today’s neo-colonialism. With the collapse of the USSR/Eastern Europe, imperialism was given a green light. The planet has gone back to the 19th century as capitalism tries to impose its neoliberal hegemony.

Yeidckol Polevnsky of the newly triumphant MORENA Party in Mexico advocated strongly for respecting sovereignty and self-determination among nations, denouncing US interference in Venezuela and Nicaragua. Likewise, the representative of the ruling Chinese Communist Party called for non-interference. Venezuelan Minister of Culture Ernesto Villegas warned: “The US has unleashed a culture of war.”

Adán Chávez Frias of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and brother of Hugo Chávez spoke of the 2002 US-backed coup that lasted less than three days because the people rose up against it. Today, he reported, the civic-military union is stronger than in 2002 and will defend the process towards socialism.

Rene González of the Cuban 5 and Vice President of the Martiano Program Office observed that many internationals, some of whom were at the conference, fought with the Sandinistas in Nicaragua against the US-backed dictator Anastasio Somoza and many more would now do the same if Venezuela must defend itself.

Fellow Cuban 5 hero Fernando González, who is the current President of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP), summed up the conference: “we must unite to defend these causes because the enemy is the same…yanqui imperialism.”

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla closed the conference saying: “We inhabit a planet that is unequal as never before. We live in a world of enormous and growing imbalances, which cause great threats to international peace and security, to justice, and to the dignity of human beings.”  He stressed that US imperialism is clinging to a unipolar order, which is historically discarded and unsustainable.

The international conference adjourned, dedicated to an inclusive multi-polar world where, in the words of José Martí, patria es humanidad (homeland is humanity).

Venezuela: An Open Letter to the People of the United States from President Nicolás Maduro

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Published by Transcend News Service

7 Feb 2019 – If I know anything, it is about people, such as you, I am a man of the people. I was born and raised in a poor neighborhood of Caracas. I forged myself in the heat of popular and union struggles in a Venezuela submerged in exclusion and inequality.

I am not a tycoon, I am a worker of reason and heart, today I have the great privilege of presiding over the new Venezuela, rooted in a model of inclusive development and social equality, which was forged by Commander Hugo Chávez since 1998 inspired by the Bolivarian legacy.

We live today a historical trance. There are days that will define the future of our countries between war and peace. Your national representatives of Washington want to bring to their borders the same hatred that they planted in Vietnam. They want to invade and intervene in Venezuela – they say, as they said then – in the name of democracy and freedom. But it’s not like that. The history of the usurpation of power in Venezuela is as false as the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. It is a false case, but it can have dramatic consequences for our entire region.

Venezuela is a country that, by virtue of its 1999 Constitution, has broadly expanded the participatory and protagonist democracy of the people and that is unprecedented today, as one of the countries with the largest number of electoral processes in its last 20 years. You might not like our ideology, or our appearance, but we exist and we are millions.

I address these words to the people of the United States of America to warn of the gravity and danger that intend some sectors in the White House to invade Venezuela with unpredictable consequences for my country and for the entire American region. President Donald Trump also intends to disturb noble dialogue initiatives promoted by Uruguay and Mexico with the support of CARICOM for a peaceful solution and dialogue in favour of Venezuela. We know that for the good of Venezuela we have to sit down and talk, because to refuse to dialogue is to choose strength as a way. Keep in mind the words of John F. Kennedy: “Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate”.

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(Click here for the letter in Spanish or click here for the letter in French.)

Question(s) related to this article:

Free flow of information, How is it important for a culture of peace?

(Article continued from left column)

Are those who do not want to dialogue afraid of the truth?

The political intolerance towards the Venezuelan Bolivarian model and the desires for our immense oil resources, minerals and other great riches has prompted an international coalition headed by the US government to commit the serious insanity of militarily attacking Venezuela under the false excuse of a non-existent humanitarian crisis.

The people of Venezuela have suffered painfully social wounds caused by a criminal commercial and financial blockade, which has been aggravated by the dispossession and robbery of our financial resources and assets in countries aligned with this demented onslaught.

And yet, thanks to a new system of social protection, of direct attention to the most vulnerable sectors, we proudly continue to be a country with a high human development index and low inequality in the Americas.

The American people must know that this complex multiform aggression is carried out with total impunity and in clear violation of the Charter of the United Nations, which expressly outlaws the threat or use of force, among other principles and purposes for the sake of peace and the friendly relations between Nations.

We want to continue being business partners of the people of the United States, as we have been throughout our history. Their politicians in Washington, on the other hand, are willing to send their sons and daughters to die in an absurd war, instead of respecting the sacred right of the Venezuelan people to self-determination and safeguarding their sovereignty.

Like you, people of the United States, we Venezuelans are patriots. And we shall defend our homeland with all the pieces of our soul.

Today Venezuela is united in a single clamor: we demand the cessation of the aggression that seeks to suffocate our economy and socially suffocate our people, as well as the cessation of the serious and dangerous threats of military intervention against Venezuela.

We appeal to the good soul of American society, victim of its own leaders, to join our call for peace, let us be all one people against warmongering and war.

Long live the peoples of America!
Nicolás Maduro

President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

2019 Biennial of Luanda [Angola]: The initial budget has about 440 thousand euros

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An article from the Observador (translation by CPNN)

The Angolan Government presented this Friday the Biennale of Luanda 2019 – Pan-African Forum for the Culture of Peace, with a budget of more than 500 thousand dollars for “initial costs” in the framework of an agreement with UNESCO.


The UNESCO representative for the meeting, Enzo Fazzino. Photo: AMPE ROGÉRIO / LUSA

Highlighting the contribution of African cultures to world peace through a wide variety of cultural expressions from the six African regions, including the fine arts, music, dance, theater and literature, is the objective of the Luanda Biennial, which will take place from September 18 to 22.

According to the national coordinator of the Luanda Biennial, Alexandra Apatricío, during five days the meeting will gather reflections, as well as hold cultural and sporting events.

Under an agreement signed between the Angolan Government and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the national coordinator of the biennial said that Angola “already has an initial budget set aside from funds already identified that is 505 thousand dollars “(about 440 thousand euros).

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(Click here for the Portuguese version of this article.)

Question related to this article:

Will UNESCO once again play a role in the culture of peace?

(Continued from left column)

“[The budget is] deposited for certain costs and we are currently collecting all the costs of all these actions and there are already large institutions in the country and other international institutions that have approached us willing to contribute to the actions of the Luanda Biennial” , he pointed out.

At the ceremony held this Friday at the Anibal de Melo Press Center (CIAM), in Luanda, the official said that during the biennial “the intention is to promote a culture of peace by taking into account the diversity of Africa.”

According to the Angolan authorities, 12 countries, namely two from North Africa, two from West Africa, two from East Africa, two from Central Africa, two from Southern Africa and two from the diaspora are expected to be participants.

“The idea of ​​this Biennial is to have a space where we can contribute to a culture of peace and violence prevention to create more actions, share, and exchange these moments that exist in other countries for sustainable development,” he said.

The UNESCO representative at the meeting, Enzo Fazzino, also pointed out the relevance of the Luanda Biennial 2019 – Pan-African Forum for the Culture of Peace, which is an opportunity to find actors in conflict prevention in Africa.

“The idea is to create a Pan-African Movement for the Culture of Peace that values ​​ongoing actions and that creates opportunities for these projects to gain more support,” he said.

He added that it will be “an opportunity to show the cultural diversity of the African continent and create a sense of better integration between African cultures. The achievement of bringing together countries from across the African sub-regions can create greater integration.”

Bolivia: Evo Morales says the United States seeks to “devastate and impoverish” Venezuela as did to Iraq and Libya

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An article from RPP Noticias

The president of Bolivia and friend of his Venezuelan counterpart, Nicolás Maduro, Evo Morales, said Wednesday that the United States wants Venezuela to be “devastated and impoverished” like Iraq and Libya, by provoking violence through its threats to coexistence in Latin America. .

Through his Twitter account, the Bolivian president wrote. “The US threats against Venezuela are threats to peaceful coexistence in Latin America, they want to provoke confrontation between brothers with war and violence.”

He also accused the US government of seeking that Venezuela “be devastated and impoverished as Iraq and Libya”, referring to interventions in which the United States participated in those countries.

Morales said in another message on the well-known social network that “by failing at the UN to justify a military intervention that allows it to take over Venezuela’s oil, the United States arbitrarily confiscates the money of the Venezuelan people to finance the coup [… ] The United States undermines peace and the right of peoples to dispose of their natural resources, “he added.

(Article continued in the right column.)

(Click here for the original article in Spanish.)

Question(s) related to this article:

Latin America, has it taken the lead in the struggle for a culture of peace?

(Article continued from left column)

To this he added. “Latin America is a region of peace, we are once again proposing to build a South American identity in terms of defense and we reject any attempt at intervention, we must promote the peaceful resolution of conflicts and a culture of peace in the continent and the world.” (EFE)

Evo Morales Ayma
@evoespueblo

The economic sanctions of #EEUU against the brother country of #Venezuela, when trying to confiscate the assets of @PDVSA, violate the Charter of the United Nations that recognizes the equality and sovereignty of the States, as well as the self-determination of the peoples.

Evo Morales Ayma
@evoespueblo

The threats of #EEUU against #Venezuela are threats to peaceful coexistence in # AméricaLatina. They want to provoke confrontation between brothers with war and violence. The empire wants Venezuela to be devastated and impoverished as were Iraq and Libya.

Evo Morales Ayma
@evoespueblo

# AméricaLatina is a region of peace, we are once again planning to build a South American identity in terms of defense and reject any attempt at intervention. We must promote the peaceful resolution of conflicts and a culture of peace on the continent and the world.