Venezuela is of limited strategic importance to Russia, though it offers symbolic significance in demonstrating Putin’s reach into a region seen as Washington’s backyard. Russia doesn’t have the capacity to send forces there as it did to support Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, limiting itself to publicity stunts like a December visit by two nuclear-capable bombers.
Moscow reads the news too, and while perhaps absent of conscience but mindful of money, it’s confidence in the success of the political societies once aligned, captivated, or enthralled with their relationship to the Soviet may be dimming. While perhaps putting a “little” money in the under-the-table pockets of its own, it has also watched parts of Central and South American states churn into cesspool of competing cartels and gangs destroying communities, exporting the nasty — the full smorgasbord of contraband — and for hundreds of thousands producing flight en masse anywhere that hasn’t become a personal no-security hell. Now the chief Phantom of the Soviet appears to be having a look-see at the future of at least one portfolio of debt accumulated by a once ideologically favored son and the picture just isn’t so wonderful as it must have once appeared.
Banning the trading of Russian bonds have been tossed around ever since Trump got elected. Anti-Russian politicians on both sides of the aisle have taken full advantage of Trump being caught in a Russian scandal to force the president to play super hardball with Vladimir Putin and anyone within a country mile of him. Since taking office, Trump has already signed harsher sanctions against Russian individuals and Russian companies, making some of them extra-territorial. Extra-territorial means sanctions apply to non-U.S. citizens and entities transacting with the sanctioned firm subject to penalties.
The whole liberal world order appears to be falling apart – nothing is as it once was. When Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea and started the bloody conflict in Eastern Ukraine in 2014, many considered him to be the major cause of global destabilisation. Nobody could have known that just a few years later the US President, of all people, would seriously challenge the current international order. Donald Trump questions free trade just like he questions the Western set of values or NATO. This has massive consequences – not just for us Europeans.
Politico (“Munich Insecurity Conference”), caught a comment on Turkey that seems to BackChannels positively surreal given the distance President Erdogan has created between the potential of a democratic Turkey and the reality of an Islamist sultanate:
“We will not stand idly by while NATO allies purchase weapons from our adversaries,” he said, in an apparent reference to Turkey’s plan to buy the Russian S-400 missile defense system. “We cannot ensure the defense of the West if our allies grow dependent on the East.”
Pence may have been taking sideways aim at Nord Stream 2, a perhaps more delicate matter than the selling of Russian defense missiles to a “NATO alley” for the purpose, one might suppose, of defending itself from the seller.
Let’s start with “East v West”, i.e., “Moscow v Washington” -> “Feudal Absolutism (and Totalitarianism) v Modern Democratic Liberalism” -> and on this blog, “Medieval v Modern”:
As Venezuela’s political crisis is unfolding, the unwavering support of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his allies for the embattled Nicolas Maduro has been a wide-discussed theme in international media. For some, by standing by Maduro against the “U.S.-backed coup ”, Turkey is only paying its respects to the Venezuelan president, who expressed solidarity with Erdoğan during the failed coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016. Interestingly, Venezuela was among the first countries to back Turkey during the botched coup attempt in Turkey. Maduro’s immediate support to Erdoğan came at a time the Western allies of Ankara were slow to show their reaction over the coup attempt.
What in the hell is Turkey doing in NATO (FB Presence in Part)?
You tell me.
They know how to hang together.
For the time being, some Venezuelans have figured out that money has meaning, and they have gone to ground, literally, to dig up gold that they sell to the Venezuelan state (who else?) and the state sells on to . . . Turkey!
Facilitating the transport of gold is Turkish Airlines, it said, noting, ”On New Year’s Day, 2018, Venezuela’s central bank began shipping gold to Turkey with a $36 million air shipment of the metal to Istanbul. It came just weeks after a visit by Maduro to Turkey. Shipments last year reached $900 million, according to Turkish government data and trade reports.”
— appears to have decided to start over with the Treasure of the Sierra Madre — i.e., with some portion of the people digging up wealth — gold — from out of the ground.
Hey, it’s money.
Oh — it’s also capitalism.
From Business Live:
The scale of Venezuela’s current social, economic and political crisis is so severe it is difficult to comprehend. Hyper-inflation has decimated the national currency and crippled the economy. Oil production — which accounts for 95% of the country’s export revenues — has halved since Maduro took power in 2013 and the industry has been further weakened by the collapse of the price of oil in 2014.
In 2018, the economy contracted by 18% and by the end of the year inflation had soared to 1-million percent. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has predicted inflation will increase to 10-million percent by the latter half of 2019. These are dizzying figures but they only reflect one part of the complex situation Venezuela is facing.
Yada yada yada — fodder for dozens to hundreds to thousands of articles avoiding reference to the Soviet / Post-Soviet disaster now 26 years past the dissolving of Russia’s Communist passion play — and the world’s tragedy.
Off the cuff —
Zimbabwe tells the story of a dictatorship that personally reintroduced cholera to its people — and Mugabe made it possibly by denying a rival funds for sanitation chemicals (you may look that one up yourself unless the editor here goes all OCD on you).
Syria — with the help of Moscow and Tehran, Bashar al-Assad has succeeded in barrel bombing half of his state (or more) into deeply depopulated oblivion. While one may thank Mother Nature — oh, and ourselves — for the global warming damaging Syria’s agricultural economy, the necessity, eventual of mass migration may have been met with kindness and international cooperation.
BC guesses not.
Where else would you like to go in the still medieval worlds of “political absolutism”?
BC imagines power quite intoxicating if it can do to innocents what is depicted in the above video.
MOSCOW/LONDON (Reuters) – Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro has sought OPEC support against U.S. sanctions imposed on his country’s oil industry, citing their impact on oil prices and potential risks for other members of the producer group.
The Organisation for the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and top oil producer but non-member Russia will not create a formal combined body as originally planned, Reuters hasreported. In a draft document, the countries said they aim to set up an alliance rather than a formal organisation when they meet on April 17-18 in Vienna.
BC would add to the list of Moscow’s sphere-of-influence failures — well what is one to expect of criminal mercenaries and politicians!? — Crimea, Ukraine, which has been battle torn torn for five suffering years under Moscow’s false pretenses. From Michael MacKay via his Radio Lemberg:
Almost five years after the Russian Federation invaded Ukraine in Crimea, Putin’s army is still on the attack. The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation are bombarding and assaulting Ukrainian defenders in Donbas, as they have been doing continuously since April 2014. Yesterday, February 10, was typical in that the Russians violated the Minsk Agreement ceasefire in every sector of the battlefront.
The “Grand Game” may be over, but the war between the Medieval of Mind and the Modern Possessed of Conscience and Empathy, the foundations of Democratic Humanism and the above-board distribution of power supporting the best reasoned rule-of-law has just begun.
Iran and other producers have opposed a tighter partnership, fearing it could be dominated by Saudi Arabia and Russia, according to officials in the cartel. Riyadh and Moscow are the world’s top two oil exporters. A Russian Energy Ministry spokeswoman didn’t respond to a request for comment.
(The story, what with Bloomberg’s “Tic-Toc” and much else in the Mainstream Media fray, has been moving too fast for BackChannels normally placid quasi-academic treatment, bibliography and all. Inline reference and plain old bald URL’s suit in the making of points).
Just so you know, Putin’s recent purchase of a part of Venezuela’s oil resources is part of his (Moscow’s) 49 percent stake in CITGO.
And what does Putin really want: a world beset and bloodied by a revanche in feudal absolutism wandering around intoxicated by supporting and conflicting medieval worldviews.
Venezuela’s President on deck appears less proud about extensions of Yankee democratic good will while altogether more practical:
BackChannels will not beat the majors, but it may yet make some points. Herewith, three videos posted on YouTube within the last 24 hours –>
That last: political criminals!
For other glorious examples of Soviet Communist and post-Soviet socialist era success and the success of other feudal elites propped up by their mafia and military, BackChannels suggests spending time online involved with Syria — political disaster of the 21st Century! — and Zimbabwe (with Robert Mugabe gone, the state appears on the cusp of positive / responsible change).
BackChannels has heard Venezuela describe as ” a dictatorship of corrupt soldiers who traffic with oil, drugs and weapons. They have kidnapped the country. Maduro does not dare confront them and has been kidnapped in the government palace pretending to be president.”
Perhaps Venezuela’s now defecting soldiery will put a stop to her suffering at the hands of military and political criminals.
In the Party I was beginning to see many people of a different stripe. During the war period I saw how opportunism and selfishness engulfed many comrades. They wore expensive clothes, lived in fine apartments, took long vacations at places provided by men of wealth. There was, for one, William Wiener, former treasurer of the Party, manipulator for a score of business enterprises, who wore Brooks Brothers suits, smoked expensive cigars, and lunched only at the best places. There were the trade union Communists who rubbed elbows with underworld characters at communist-financed night clubs, and labor lawyers who were given patronage by the Party by assignment to communist-led trade unions and now were well established and comfortable.
Communist Party USA leader Bell Dodd’s 1954 remark as relayed by Wikipedia may have special resonance today in the socialist’s disaster continuing to unfold — or perhaps preparing to fold — in Venezuela.
While it had been one thing to share Venezuela’s good fortune and wealth with the public, perhaps especially with massive revenues pumped out of the ground, it has been another for the socialist government to suppress the private ownership of productive ideas and resources while utterly failing to diversify a national economy with the intent to forestall a one-market boom-or-bust (it busted) disaster.
For BackChannels, the cite-quote-cite-quote method has grown tiresome, so the reader may take this post as a reference page but with the suggestion that Maduro’s now patently criminal junta — access the OCCRP and InSight Crime reports cited in reference — may choose to loot and flee the country having proven themselves unable to judiciously and responsibly govern the same — or, in the manner demonstrated by Assad in Syria, they may enjoy being carved up by similarly predatory trade partners.
BackChannels’ humanism in relation to economic development would counsel the damping of dogma in the search for a good mix of private incentives for economic diversification x public policies and programs fit to constituent needs for “basics” plus psychological enthusiasm, fitness, and growth. From the same stance, the messianic self-aggrandizement associated with dictatorships would be viewed as damaging and limiting the greater public experience and potential for good things, starting with community-wide and personal security.
(For related exploration or some meditation on dictatorship, this blog offers portals for “Malignant Narcissism” and its own proposed concept, “Facsimile Bipolar Political Sociopathy“. Neither would differentiate between Far Left and Far Right authoritarianism or kleptocracy — and it would place both as more appropriate in the operating environments of the feudal world and fit to related medieval worldviews associated with “political absolutism” and sovereignty. Wherever placed x space x time, the absence of conscience looms large with dictatorships and the related criminality associated with power becomes glaring and, eventually, beyond bearing).
Bella Dodd, by the way, would renounce Communism toward the end of her journey and again embrace the Catholicism with which she had been born.
What is clear from our investigations is that the following institutions are staffed at the higher echelons by individuals we believe are, or have been, engaged in criminal activity: The Vice Presidency, the Ministries of Interior (Ministerio del Poder Popular del Despacho de la Presidencia y Seguimiento de la Gestión de Gobierno), Defense (Ministerio del Poder Popular para la Defensa), Agriculture (Ministerio del Poder Popular de Agricultura Urbana), Education (Ministerio del Poder Popular para la Educación), Prison Service (Ministerio del Poder Popular para el Servicio Penitenciario), Foreign Trade and Investment (Ministerio de Estado para el Comercio Exterior e Inversión Internacional), Electricity (Ministerio del Poder Popular para la Energía Eléctrica), the National Guard (Guardia Nacional Bolivariana), the Armed Forces (Fuerzas Armadas Bolivarianas), the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia Nacional – SEBIN) and PdVSA.
The penetration of so many key institutions, and the fact that they constitute the state’s main organs in the fight against organized crime, means that Venezuela cannot even contain organized crime, let alone effectively fight it. With so many state actors with interests in criminal activity, be it fuel smuggling, the black market sale of food and medicines or the trafficking of cocaine, this factor alone suggests that Venezuela qualifies as a mafia state.
Lagos, Nigeria (CNN)Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has come under intense scrutiny for suspending his country’s Chief Justice just weeks before a general election, a move that critics have attacked as tyrannical and unconstitutional.
Buhari defended his decision on Twitter, saying corruption allegations against Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen — who has been accused of failing to disclose bank accounts in foreign currencies — are “grievous.” But the move was labelled a “coup against democracy” by the President of the Nigerian Senate, and prompted an outcry from the country’s major opposition party, which halted its presidential election campaign temporarily in protest.
In addition to the latest imbroglio involving Nigeria’s chief justice, a matter not overlooked by the U.S. State Department, Buhari has been accused of permitting Fulani gang raids against Christian farming villages (whose firearms have been confiscated in advance by the state — in Nigeria, urban thugs may own arms illegally — who’s to know? — while farmers are made to provide easy targets for burn-and-shoot raiders armed with AK-47s and gasoline) and of packing his highest-level security offices with Muslims, and so in essence channeling power and wealth to the Muslim community while slowly displacing Christian power.
BackChannels asked its Nigerian source for suggestion as to who would make a better — more balanced, higher integrity — politician, now or in the future, for Nigeria’s leadership. The names returned were Fela Durotoye, Jimi Agbaje, Kingsley Moghalu, and Oby Ezekwasili. The Nobel Prize-winning writer Wole Soyinka was mentioned as well, but BackChannels suggested he may well remain Nigeria’s soul in letters and perhaps the natoin’s most influential intellectual. With context, here is what Soyinka had to say (in the Daily Nation) about this month’s Nigerian Presidential Elections (February 16):
Mr Buhari, 76, came to power in 2015 and is seeking a second term in the February 16 vote. His main challenger is 72-year-old Atiku Abubakar, a former vice president.
“For the avoidance of doubt, let me make my position quite clear because I don’t want any ambiguity; I, Wole Soyinka, will not be voting for either,” he was quoted in local media as saying on Thursday at a forum in Lagos.
Herewith some starting reference to good-for-Nigeria political personalities as mentioned by BackChannel’s source. The bolded names have been linked to their respective Wikipedia pages; tweets, news, and news headers remain recent; note: Oby Ezekwasili has dropped out of the Presidential race to help swing her fan base vote to a candidate better positioned, perhaps, to beat the incumbent President Buhari; Omoyele Sowore, not mentioned in casual conversation, has been added by BackChannels for showing up fast on this subject — Nigeria’s upcoming elections — on the web.
In a 2013 interview with The Punch Newspaper, Agbaje talked about how he began in politics: “It had to do with the Moshood Abiola/Bashir Tofa presidential election”, he said. “I saw the annulment as a personal insult and an assault on the Nigerian people. This led to my first entry into what I would call activism, working with other concerned professionals” such as Prof. Pat Utomi, Dr Ayo Ighodaro, Asue Ighodalo, Billy Lawson, Oby Ezekwesili, Tola Mobolurin and Hassan Odukale. Jimi was in one form of resistance group or the other which ultimately led him to join the socio-political organization, Afenifere where he served as national treasurer.
The campaign convoy was on its way out of the palace, when the hoodlums, numbering about 40, chased and threw stones at Agbaje’s vehicles.
There were minor injuries involving shattered vehicle window glass, and tear gas was used to disperse the mob according to the above piece published yesterday in Sahara Reporters. How the hoodlums were organized and by whom? That would be something to know and report. For the time being, the news tells of the tone of elections in a wealthy oil producing nation sadly rife with corruption.
BackChannels has referred here and there to corruption as the cancer of states. Where the Transnational Crime Organizations are strongest and bribes to the powerful would seem to be working, the money gets laundered and into the topside economy, which essentially may make the public unwittingly dependent on a growing criminal sector. Around the world, for better or worse because it’s just a fact of life at this point, public money that may be quietly, surreptitiously pried into private pockets would seem to be moved away from public community development and other services. The only way to get the brakes on nefarious processes — organized crime, embezzlement, and skimming — is to bring to power more modern politicians and their better associates in military and paramilitary services.
In one direction, the state sinks, and the end — or political hell — will look something like Venezuela at this hour, i.e., broken, starving, beneath common dignity and freedom; and in the better direction, the state grows a healthy economy, ordered and with funds available for all ordinary operations and the most helpful of public and social services. One may hope for Nigeria that the personalities who would be most ambitious and competent on the public’s behalf will rise to their occasions and prevail over the unerringly corrupt, nepotistic, and toadying of the breed.
The Kingdom had to have seen this greater day coming, “greater” for connecting the privileged of Saudi Arabia with the full breadth of the world’s English-speaking and other intelligentsia, i.e., the broad if thin international band of cosmopolitan, engaged, informed, and rapidly “chatyping” personalities. Nafjan has not only fit right in with the world’s intellectual class, she appears to be in trouble with the medieval kingdom for having been raised for the modernizing path and role taken.
What is it about feudal / medieval / tribal peacocks that so sustains contempt and fear in relation to women that the royal response to mild challenge, criticism, and practical reasoning comes to a still barbarous demand: “Lock her up!”
Addendum – March 14, 2019 (added to post July 27, 2019)
NEW YORK—PEN America announced today that it will award the 2019 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award to journalist, blogger, and activist Nouf Abdulaziz, activist and social media commentator Loujain Al-Hathloul, and blogger, columnist, and activist Eman Al-Nafjan—three Saudi women imprisoned for challenging, through their writing and their activism, therestrictive guardianship system that governs Saudi women and limits theirability to travel, marry, work, or receive education and healthcare without approval from a male guardian. Abdulaziz, Al-Hathloul, and Al-Nafjan each used their digital and news-reporting platforms to speak out on women’s rights and other forms of human rights repression in Saudi Arabia, including the long-standing ban on women driving. The ban was lifted in June 2018, yet immediately thereafter, many of those who had advocated for this change were arrested. Today these three writer-activists are among those still incarcerated for their dissent, reportedly facing torture, isolation, and threats of rape. In early March, Saudi authorities announced that they are planning to indict a number of those detained on national security-related charges; initial hearings in the trials of Loujain Al-Hathloul and Eman Al-Nafjan began March 13.
Most people in the West, naturally enough, get their ideas about Saudi life from the media. They learn that women here are forbidden to drive, that they must be almost completely covered up when they appear in public, that unmarried women and girls can’t appear in public unaccompanied by family members.
All of this is more or less true, but it omits the reality that, for the average middle class Saudi woman who comes from a healthy family background, life is pretty good.
When everything is in place, a Saudi woman can live a comfortable life. A respectable husband is arranged for her to marry; she typically has a driver, servants and an extended family ready to give her financial and emotional support. All that’s expected of her is to have babies and fulfill social obligations.
Official statements in state media accused Loujain al-Hathloul, Iman al-Nafjan and Aziza al-Youssef of forming a “cell,” posing a threat to state security for their “contact with foreign entities with the aim of undermining the country’s stability and social fabric.” A related hashtag describing them as “Agents of Embassies”, along with a graphic showing the six activists’ faces, have also been circulating on social media and Saudi Arabian print and broadcast media. Amnesty International is concerned that if charged, the activists could face up to 20 years in prison. Now is the time to take action and defend these brave activists, who are some of the most prominent heroines of the human rights movement in Saudi Arabia.
As the world praises Saudi Arabia for recent “reforms” – including allowing women to drive – we must raise the alarm for these imprisoned defenders who have fought tirelessly for years for women’s rights in the Kingdom.
According to three separate testimonies obtained by the organization, the activists were repeatedly tortured by electrocution and flogging, leaving some unable to walk or stand properly. In one reported instance, one of the activists was made to hang from the ceiling, and according to another testimony, one of the detained women was reportedly subjected to sexual harassment, by interrogators wearing face masks.