Category Archives: International

‘Progressive’ Trudeau government attacks Venezuela

by John Clarke

Anyone who still entertains any illusions in the ‘progressive’ nature of the Trudeau Government of Canada, would have been shocked to witness the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland, assembling a collection of regional representatives of the Washington Consensus in Ottawa, on February 4, to further the coup plot against Venezuela. The so called Lima Group that she brought together dutifully issued a statement calling for the “national armed forces of Venezuela to demonstrate their loyalty to the interim president in his constitutional functions as their commander in chief.”

Despite the progressive pretensions of the Liberal Government in Ottawa and the ill-deserved reputation that Canada has for ‘peacekeeping’ and for being a moderating influence in international affairs, the present course under Trudeau and Freeland is quite consistent with the country’s role as the other G7 power in North America, a global exploiter in its own right.

Canadian Imperialism

In truth, when Freeland adopts the tone of U.S. Manifest Destiny and speaks of Latin America and the Caribbean as Canada’s “neighbourhood” she is only being a little more public than others might be about a perspective that dominates the thinking and behaviour of Canadian government and Big Business. The rapacity of Canadian mining operations in Latin America is without rival. The promotion of business interests has led to major Canadian involvement in the suppression of democratic rights and the imposition and preservation of compliant right-wing regimes. Canada was heavily involved in the 2004 coup that overthrew the democratically elected Aristide Government in Haiti and the horrors that followed this. A similar pattern exists with regard to the suppression of democracy in Honduras. Canadian Government leaders express fake outrage over the supposed denial of democratic rights in Venezuela even as they maintain a stony silence on continuing repression in Honduras.

When it comes to Venezuela, the official line of the Canadian Government is that efforts to destabilize the Government of that country only began with Maduro’s call for a Constituent Assembly in July 2017. This, however, is a complete falsehood as an article by Yves Engler amply demonstrates. Links to right-wing opposition forces go back to at least 2005 and “Canada is the third most important provider of democracy assistance,” as support for those working to return Venezuela to a place within the Washington Consensus is ironically described. However, during the past eighteen months, the orchestrated economic problems in Venezuela, the belligerence of the Trump Administration and the right-wing tide in much of the region have created a much greater resolve in Canadian ruling circles to intensify the attack on the Maduro Government and to try to open the country to unbridled plunder and exploitation.

Canada Takes Leading Attack Role

When Washington’s carefully groomed and well trained puppet, Juan Guaido, staked his claim to the role of ‘interim president’, the Trudeau Liberals in Ottawa were as ready as the Trump Administration in Washington to play their part. Canadian diplomats worked to unify the opposition forces, to line up as much international backing for their appointed stooge and leading Canadian politicians did all they could to present Guaido’s blatant violation of the Venezuelan Constitution as a legitimate quest for the ‘restoration of democracy.’

The most important role of Canada, however, lies in the fact that it’s track record of exploitation and domination in Latin America, while considerable in its own right, is not as massive or infamous as the conduct of U.S. imperialism in its self declared ‘backyard.’ The Canadian Government was, therefore, less compromised and better placed to co-ordinate the key role of compliant, right-wing regional regimes. The Lima Group was formed in 2017, with Canada playing a leading role and the U.S. staying out of the affair. It brought together the governments of those Latin American and Caribbean countries that were ready to openly attack Venezuela to an extent that the Organization of American States (OAS) could not be won over to. Foreign Affairs Minister Freeland has played a tireless role in trying to recruit new members to her nasty little club.

When Freeland assembled the representatives of the governments of Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Saint Lucia in Ottawa on February 4, she worked to craft an artful final statement that would avoid any call for direct military intervention from outside Venezuela while working to strengthen internal opposition and maximize the possibility of the military changing sides. As stated at the outset, a direct call to the military was featured in the statement. News reports show how this is now being followed with a strategy designed to draw sections of the Army into conflict with the Maduro Government. Two days after the Lima Group meeting, a provocative ‘humanitarian aid convoy’ approached the Columbian-Venezuelan border where it was blocked by troops. “The main goal now is to look to break the military – and the humanitarian aid is basically the Trojan horse to try to do that,” observed one commentator, aware of the effort to generate tensions between Maduro and the military leadership.

Regime Change Plan Proceeds

As the unholy alliance of imperialist powers and compliant regimes deepens the attack on Venezuela, the Trudeau Government can be expected to play a leading and despicable role in the affair. Within Canada, there is opposition. Some elected members of the social democratic New Democratic Party (NDP) have expressed a level of criticism of the Liberal Government’s conduct. The top leadership of the Party, however, has played a sad role. As I write this, the NDP Foreign Affairs Critic, Hélène Laverdière, has openly supported Washington’s puppet president and claimed she speaks for the parliamentary party. NDP leader, Jagmeet Singh, continues to take the less than impressive public position that he doesn’t know who the rightful President of Venezuela is. Trade union support for the people of Venezuela and their struggle in the face of threat is significant in Canada and the media is furiously attacking trade unions that show such support. There have been protests in solidarity with Venezuela and the meeting of the Lima Group itself in Ottawa was directly confronted by protesters.

Chrystia Freeland and the Trudeau Liberal Government are part of a systematic effort to ensure that the same agenda of austerity, privatization and environmental despoliation that has made gains in other Latin American countries is imposed without pity on Venezuela. Yet, resistance to the role of super exploited powerlessness has a long history south of the Rio Grande. Masses of people in Venezuela know that the ‘democracy’ the Trump Administration wants for them is too horrible to submit to. They know that the battle cry for freedom and democracy in their part of the world is ‘Yankee Go Home!’ They are also learning to their cost that the Ugly Canadian needs to be driven off at the same time.

This article first published on the Counterfire website.

John Clarke is a writer and leading organizer for the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP).

Socialist Action at CBC Headquarters

On February 23rd, 2019, Socialist Action’s members joined over 200 other activists and concerned citizens in a show of unity outside of the CBC headquarters in Toronto. This was part of an international day of solidarity with over 130 other actions across the world organized under the demand “No War on Venezuela”.

The Toronto event, proposed by Socialist Action, was endorsed by a number of organizations including Venezuela Solidarity, Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Network, NDP Socialist Caucus, the Toronto Association for Peace and Solidarity, the Communist Party of Canada, the Hugo Chavez Front, the Louis Riel Bolivarian Circle and many others. All of these organizations had speakers who consistently criticized the CBC for its disgustingly biased coverage on Venezuela.

It is impossible for us to remain silent in the face of the latest aggression against the Venezuelan people organized and supported by the governments of Canada and the United States. All of those in attendance were united in opposition to any foreign interference in a sovereign and democratic country. 

It was just over one month ago when the governments of Canada and United States gave their acknowledgement to Juan Guaido, the self-declared President of Venezuela. This is a man who the majority of Venezuelans had never even heard of until Donald Trump announced that he was recognizing him as the President. Canada soon followed suit. The situation is so absurd that it would be laughable if the stakes were not so high.

This is all part of package of Canadian and US sanctions, increasing financial and material support for the opposition forces, and endorsing the continued hording of products, including food and medicine, by the Venezuelan capitalist thugs. These are shocking violations of international law, national sovereignty, and the charters of both the United Nations’ and Organization of American States. The situation today remains critical and risks further escalation as the Western imperialist vultures circle above threatening military intervention.

Yet Canada’s own public broadcaster, the CBC, as well as the rest of the capitalist-run corporate media, are overwhelmingly pushing support for a regime change all in the name of “helping the poor” and “averting a humanitarian crisis”. We know this is a lie and we were able to call out the falsehoods. By bringing our protest to the front door of the CBC, we continued to expose the lies behind the propaganda that is pushing for a US- and Canada-sponsored coup in Venezuela. We wanted to ensure that the voices of the majority of Venezuelans who oppose such foreign interventions were heard loud and clear.

Following a very spirited rally, those gathered then marched through Toronto’s financial district demanding that the natural resources of the people of Venezuela remain theirs. Canadian mining in Latin America has pushed Ottawa towards a much more aggressive position in the region. As was pointed out by a number of speakers, stealing oil and other resources is the primary reason for the coup attempt. It has absolutely nothing to do with the so-called “promotion of democracy” and easing of a phony “humanitarian” crisis.

We know the truth and we will not be sold a false bill of goods from the Canadian government and its cowardly propaganda arm, the CBC. Shame on the CBC and shame on the Canadian government!

Respect Venezuelan sovereignty and self-determination!  CBC, stop telling lies! Hands Off Venezuela!

February 23, 2019 – Socialist Action speech by Mitchell Shore at CBC Headquarters

Sisters and brothers, comrades and friends, my name is Mitchell Shore and I am very pleased to speak to you today on behalf of Socialist Action. 

This is a historic moment for the people of Venezuela and the international working class. The threat of imperialist aggression is blatant.

The US and Canadian economic and political war is the primary cause of the so-called “humanitarian crisis” in Venezuela.  But the CBC hides the truth from the general public.

The CBC refuses to report that imperialist powers have seized the assets of Venezuela, frozen its credit, stolen over one billion dollars in gold, imposed a trade embargo, and that Venezuelan capitalists are hoarding goods. 

This is how a democratic country is strangled by the Western vultures who want to go back in time to resume their plunder of Venezuela’s resources. 

There is no reason for Maduro to “dialogue” with the US-funded reactionary opposition, led by a puppet who never even ran for president.  And we need to remind NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh that Venezuela already has a democratically elected President.  His name is Nicolas Maduro. 

Now I don’t have to remind you, here today, about the violent history of US intervention in Latin America:  Guatemala, Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, the list goes on and on and on….

And now, Ottawa wants to get into the game, leading the charge for regime change.

Every single time the West gets involved in Latin America they leave a bloody path of destruction in their wake. And you’d have to be a fool to believe it will be any different this time around.

The aim is simple: to overthrow Nicolas Maduro and any remnants of the Bolivarian Revolution.

What brings us here today is that the CBC is acting as the de facto propaganda arm of Trudeau’s imperial ambitions – which is why we must bring it under workers’ control.

For years, the CBC has spread rabidly biased lies about the situation in Venezuela. They deny the realities on the ground: they throw softball questions to the right wingers, they provide unlimited air time for the opposition, and yet they refuse to interview government officials and its supporters. This is the shameful story of the CBC’s coverage.

The most vocal siren of the Trudeau government is Chrystia Freeland.  She states, and the CBC obediently reports, that Canada needs “to help the poor people of Venezuela.”

Well I say to her: don’t you worry about the poor, the Black and Indigenous people of Venezuela. They are engaged in a project to eradicate centuries of white supremacy and apartheid conditions. This is the reality on the ground.

And despite the many troubles rooted in oil dependency and corruption, Venezuela today demonstrates more democracy than the 14 countries of the Lima Group combined.

The failure of the government to break the stranglehold of foreign and domestic capital, to effect a socialist transformation, is a matter solely for the people of Venezuela to resolve.

The bottom line is that we as progressive voices must oppose any outside interference in Venezuela – whether from Canada, the US, or anywhere else. They have absolutely no right to interfere in the internal affairs of a sovereign country.

Whatever one thinks about the Maduro government, the one thing which unites most Canadians is a rejection of any attempt to overthrow the Venezuelan government.

If we don’t speak up, and challenge the dominant narrative fed to us by the CBC, there will be serious consequences for those working-class Venezuelans who continue to fight for self-determination and social justice in their country.

This is why we call for an end to the sanctions, an end to Canada’s participation in the Lima Group, and an end to the coup.

We stand with the people of Venezuela, and we support their efforts to complete their revolution. And we loudly tell the imperialist vultures to Go Home!

We say:  

No Coup!  No Sanctions!  No War!

CBC, stop telling lies!

Hands Off Venezuela!!

Canada, Hands Off Venezuela!

Socialist Action categorically rejects the coup crudely attempted by the U.S. government against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Washington blatantly violates the sovereignty of the Venezuelan people. In a democratic and transparent election, in the presence of international observers, Venezuelans legitimately elected Nicolás Maduro Moros as their President in May 2018.

On January 22, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence issued a recorded message that was broadcast by 2,527 media outlets for three days, in coordination with the shadowy Organization of American States (OAS), calling for subversion of Maduro’s government.

Before the eyes of the world, and in the most grotesque manner, they presented their new puppet for the occasion, Juan Guaidó. Guaido is a man who never ran for president and represents a small party in the National Assembly. The Assembly is a body that is guilty of not cleaning up election irregularities that occurred in three southern districts in the 2015 election.

The naming of Guaido as President, out of thin air, would be laughable if the situation was not so serious, threatening the stability of the hemisphere. So, Guaido is recognized by a couple dozen countries, and Nicolas Maduro is recognized by nearly one hundred.

The clear aim of imperialism is to overthrow Maduro – as it has been trying to do by credit strangulation, by trade embargo, and perhaps now by military intervention. Prominent in the chorus of external anti-democratic demagogues demanding the ouster of Maduro is the Justin Trudeau Liberal government in Ottawa, whose most vocal siren is Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Socialist Action Canada had a representative present at the January 10 inauguration of President Nicolas Maduro for a second term in office. Participants in the gathering at the Supreme Court building in the capital, ranging from Presidents and foreign ministers, to grassroots activists, came from over 90 countries.

At a mammoth rally, before thousands of troops, held later that day at the Military Academy in Caracas, the generals and commanders of all branches of the Venezuelan armed forces vocally pledged their loyalty to Maduro for the six years of his new term of office.

At several meetings with ministers of the government and with PSUV top officials, we expressed our solidarity with the principle of self-determination and our indignation at the bullying threats from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, from Freeland, the European Union, and the neo-colonial satellite regimes of the South. Ottawa’s stated ‘non-recognition’ of Venezuela’s President, who was re-elected with over 68 per cent of the votes cast, is tantamount, in the sphere of diplomacy, to an act of war. Such a provocation by Trudeau/Freeland is particularly obnoxious coming in the same week that RCMP violently arrested 18 Indigenous people, members of the Unist’ot’en and Gidimt’en clans of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, blocking a road to pipeline construction on unceded traditional land in British Columbia. The shameless hypocrisy of a regime that claims to be democratic, pro-reconciliation, even feminist, seems to know no bounds.

Despite many troubles historically rooted in oil income dependency and corruption, Venezuela today demonstrates more democracy than the Lima Group of 14 countries combined. The failure of the PSUV government to break the stranglehold of foreign and domestic capital, to effect a socialist transformation, is a matter solely for the people of that country to resolve.

Concerning Venezuela, Trudeau and Freeland do not speak for the working class and ordinary people of Canada. On all matters, the Liberal government and the Tory opposition are the voice of big business, and are the allies of imperialism that yearns to regain control of Venezuela’s rich natural resources, which include an abundance of valuable minerals and pristine waters. You don’t hear them complain about electoral fraud in Honduras, Guatemala or Brazil, where it actually occurred in recent years. You don’t see them set a deadline for democratic elections in Saudi Arabia, Haiti or Ukraine.

In the face of rising tensions, and growing social crises demonstrated by lengthy, massive strikes (e.g. in Costa Rica) and by huge caravans of economic and climate refugees desperately seeking an exit from super-exploited Central America and Mexico, we demand that Ottawa and Washington acknowledge the real issues, renounce bullying, intimidation tactics, and economic blockade, and stop all threats of military aggression against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

We urge the labour movement in Canada, and its political arm, the New Democratic Party, to take the lead in campaigning that all states respect the indivisible sovereignty of Venezuela. Niki Ashton and Svend Robinson set the tone that forced federal leader Jagmeet Singh to go beyond his initial vacuous enunciation.

If there is a break in diplomatic relations between Canada and Venezuela, which must be opposed with all our might, and which would be the bitter fruit of imperialist aggression, it will be necessary to take creative steps to foster people-to-people direct relations. Consideration should be given to establishing a bottom-up Peoples’ Diplomacy. In the event that Venezuelan state officials are expelled and barred from entry to Canada, this could take the form of Popular Embassies, to be established in both countries, staffed by civilians. They could be tasked with fostering cultural, educational and political exchanges, and with conducting campaigns of mutual solidarity for social justice. This would be an expression of a grassroots Anti-Imperialist United Front, targeting the enemies of peace, freedom and national self-determination.

In the meantime, Socialist Action appeals to all progressive, democratic and working class organizations, and individuals, to step up efforts to protest the belligerent actions of Ottawa and its co-conspirators in the Lima Group and in the Organization of American States, and to confront the ignorant bias of the commercial mass media. La lucha sigue!

Respect the Sovereignty of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the authority of its re-elected President Nicolas Maduro!

No Sanctions! Imperialist Hands Off Venezuela!

Cuba-Canada relations: A look at diplomacy from below

A review by Barry Weisleder of Other Diplomacies, Other Ties: Cuba and Canada in the Shadow of the U.S., Luis Rene Fernandez Tabio, Cynthia Wright, and Lana Wylie, ed., 363 pages, University of Toronto Press, 2018.

In the wake of Ottawa’s vocal support for the latest U.S.-backed attempt at a coup d’état in Venezuela, studies on foreign relations take on a profound sense of urgency.

Setting aside the cumbersome title, this book’s 12 chapters, produced by historians based both in Canada and Cuba, cover the subject of relations with Cuba thoroughly, even with some duplication. Convenient summaries conclude every segment.

For me, the chapter on Cuba’s pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal was particularly riveting. I remember visiting that World’s Fair, titled “Man and His World – Terre des Hommes”, and that unique pavilion. I and dozens of my fellow junior high school students were chaperoned from Toronto by our teachers. I recall the building’s futuristic cube structure, the huge, austere black and white photos, and the evocative, radical slogans on the walls: a combination that blew my then-apolitical mind.

The book puts in context a moment of world social upheaval, shaped by the revolutions in Cuba and Algeria; the example of Che Guevara, soon to be assassinated; and the multiple revolts of 1968, from France to Italy to Prague to the Tet Offensive in Vietnam.

“Other Diplomacies” reminds us that defending a revolution is harder than making one. Exploiting the contradictions, however relative and small, between the imperialist powers is a high priority. Its examination of Conservative Prime Minister John Diefenbaker’s differences with Washington over Cuba, not to mention whether to accept nuclear weapons on Canada’s territory, shows an autonomy that arises from a different relationship of class forces.

The fact that Canada and Mexico did not break diplomatic relations with revolutionary Cuba, unlike all the other countries of the western hemisphere in the 1960s, provided an important lifeline to the first workers’ republic west of Europe. The impact endures. Canada remains Cuba’s fourth biggest partner in trade. 1.3 million Canadian tourists visit Cuba every year. Sherritt International, the Canadian-based nickel extractor, is still the largest corporate investor in the island.

These and other features of the relationship are at least partly a product of a relatively more class-independent workers’ movement in the Canadian state, including Quebec, and the efforts of at least three generations of socialists and Cuba solidarity activists north of the U.S. border.  The Fair Play for Cuba Committees, on both sides of the divide, well deserve the recognition afforded by the book.

Diplomats as spies, and mass media scribes as shameless propagandists for a corporate agenda, continue to ply their trades. Educational and cultural exchanges continue to make inroads against anti-communist bias. Cuba is embraced by a world that has received its generous gifts of top-notch medical care and disaster relief aid. Washington remains powerful, but more politically isolated than ever, its economy in decline, its military apparatus strained by chronic overreach.

Following the 60th anniversary of the overthrow of the made-in-USA Fulgencio Batista dictatorship, Cuba’s leadership and people are wrestling with choices, the need to strike a balance of economic development, social equality and Poder Popular (people’s power), yearning for, anticipating, the next revolutions that will quicken the pace to world socialist transformation.

Not by conventional diplomacy, such transformations will certainly be informed by the “Other Diplomacies” that animate working class solidarity.

A version of this article originally appeared at https://johnriddell.wordpress.com

Ottawa caters to Trump’s anti-China campaign

by Barry Weisleder

What does the arrest in Vancouver of a senior executive with China’s tech giant Huawei, have to do with the “rule of law”? Precious little. What does it have to do with enforcing Washington’s illegal trade embargo of Iran? A bit more.

Meng is accused of committing fraud as part of a scheme to violate United States trade sanctions against Iran. She was arrested when she passed through Vancouver on her way to Mexico. U.S. officials want Ottawa to extradite her. Awaiting a decision by a Canadian judge, Meng is out on $10 million bail. The extradition procedure could take months, even years. Meanwhile, China detained three Canadians, two of them (ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor) on dubious charges of “engaging in activities that endanger the national security” of China. No less dubious is the American agenda. U.S. President Trump openly linked the fate of Meng to winning a better trade deal with Beijing.

Washington’s efforts to punish Huawei for trading with Iran are in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 that calls on all countries to drop sanctions on Iran as part of the 2015 treaty aimed at limiting Iran from developing nuclear weapons – a treaty praised globally for reducing the risk of nuclear war.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau restored relations with Iran, and lifted economic sanctions in February 2016, overturning the policy of the previous Stephen Harper-led Conservative government. So, why knuckle under now to Trump’s rogue policy? There is no obligation in law to extradite Meng. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is blowing smoke when she claims that Canada is upholding the rule of law. It is a political decision, not a strictly legal one. And the politics cleave to imperialist ambitions to control the oil fields of the Middle East and Iran, regardless the character of the government in Tehran.

Bottom line: Should Ottawa back Trump’s bid to block Huawei from U.S. and other markets where it is making headway against American tech giants?

The answer is a resounding No. The working class has nothing to gain by backing any capitalist power against another. To that end, Labour, the NDP and all workers’ organizations should demand an end to Ottawa catering to U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, Asia, and beyond. The release of Meng will likely bring the detained Canadians home. It won’t quell Trump’s simmering trade war with China, but at least there would be one less state accomplice.

Huawei and Military Power

by Gary Porter

Huawei is the second-largest smartphone manufacturer in the world, recently passing Apple. The Chinese company sells over 10 per cent of the world’s smartphones. Yet its devices are effectively banned from sale in the United States due to suspicion of Chinese state involvement in the running of the company, and ties to China’s military that go right back to Huawei’s inception.

Would you be safe buying a Huawei phone? The quality of its tech is certainly compelling. The Huawei P20 Pro, for example, is widely considered to be the best camera phone on the market. But U.S. consumers may never get to own one.

China’s military is an important Huawei customer. It serves as the company’s political patron and R&D partner, according to Timothy Heath of the Rand Corporation.

“Huawei continues to receive contracts from the Chinese military to develop dual use communications technologies. In particular, it is helping develop 5G networks with military applications in mind”, Heath asserts.

Of course, exactly the same thing happens in the U.S. Telecom manufacturers collaborate with the U.S. military and spy agencies to enhance digital spying, military communications, command and control and cyber war applications. The U.S. is determined to maintain its hegemony, against this powerful and highly competent Chinese competitor.

To put it another way, the United States insists on being the one entity that spies on your entire life and does not want to share that capacity with powerful trade and military competitors like China.

Are Huawei devices safe from surveillance? Probably not. Are U.S. companies’ devices safe from surveillance? Definitely not. So my next phone will be a Huawei P20 Pro. If I am going to be spied upon anyway, why not get the best phone? Helping American imperialism maintain technical dominance is just not in my interest.

Photo: Meng Wanzhou, CFO of Huawei