Essequibo and Other Border Issues: Venezuela’s Territorial Losses to Imperialist Powers Through the Centuries (Part 2) By: Saheli ChowdhuryRead Now
Orinoco Tribune editor, Jesus Rodriguez-Espinoza, and his wife Yullma Hernandez next to a banner for the Essequibo Referendum campaign showing the map of Venezuela (including the Essequibo territory) and the following caption: "Venezuela is all of us, all Venezuela vote 5 times yes. On December 3, we have an appointment with the homeland, Venezuela is calling us!" Photo: Orinoco Tribune.
Editorial note: Part 1 of this important series can be read here.
Venezuela’s defense of the Essequibo
Mainstream media is trying to establish the narrative that Venezuela is demanding the Essequibo only now, because oil and gas resources have been discovered in the region. This narrative intends to place the Essequibo dispute in a vacuum, as if it was a sudden whim on the part of the current government of Venezuela, which has already been demonized as a “dictatorship” for years. Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, Venezuela began its fight for the Essequibo immediately after Britain illegally occupied the region in 1841. It has been a continuous battle on the part of Venezuela to reclaim its rights to its occupied territory for almost two centuries.
The early years
Venezuela’s fight for its rights over the Essequibo began in 1841 at the hands of Alejo Fortique, renowned lawyer, politician, diplomat, and Venezuela’s ambassador to Great Britain starting from 1839. In addition to his arduous tasks of resolving Venezuela’s debts and agreements with Britain (debts incurred during the independence war) and the Spanish government’s recognition of Venezuelan independence, Ambassador Fortique took up the Essequibo issue with Britain. Through sustained efforts, he was able to get then British Foreign Minister Lord Aberdeen to formally state that the piles and markers installed by Schomburgk’s team at the mouths of the Orinoco did not constitute the definitive frontier of British Guyana and that the matter would be discussed in future when Venezuela and Britain would sit down for border negotiations. This was a lie, but Lord Aberdeen did instruct the British government of Guyana to remove the markers.
Fortique’s efforts came to a sudden end when he, overwhelmed and exhausted with work, having nobody to assist him, passed away in 1845. Thereafter, the border discussions stopped for the time being, and, in 1850, the Venezuelan government signed a treaty with Britain in Caracas, accepting the latter’s proposal of postponing the border delimitation.
During the next decade and a half, Venezuela was in no position to even think about borders, as it was consumed by political strife and civil war. Only after the end of the Five-Year War (1859-1863), the new government of Juan Crisóstomo Falcón sent Antonio Guzmán Blanco as the plenipotentiary representative of Venezuela to Great Britain in 1866 to resume the border issue, but that attempt failed. Thereafter, during the Guzmán era of 1870s-80s, Guzmán Blanco, as three times president and as plenipotentiary representative of Venezuela in Europe in between his presidencies, abandoned Venezuela’s conciliatory approach on the Essequibo issue and demanded a definitive resolution. Similarly, his foreign ministers and diplomatic representatives to Britain and the United States carried out his instructions on the defense of Venezuela’s territorial rights. However, nothing resulted from these enormous efforts, because all attempts to discuss the border and all agreements proposed by Venezuela were rejected by Britain.
At the same time, Britain continued to expand the territory of British Guyana at the expense of Venezuela, crossing further west of the Schomburgk Line and appropriating lands close to Upata in the Venezuelan Guayana (currently in Bolívar state) as well as the gold mines of El Callao. In further violation of Venezuela’s territorial integrity, the colonial authorities of British Guyana installed a sentry post with the British flag near Punta Barima, and English ships began sailing openly through the main channel of the Orinoco as well as the Caroní River. English merchants set up companies in the Venezuelan Guayana and started to deal amicably with the indigenous peoples there, trying to win over their support so that Britain could later devour that territory with the least possible resistance.
In this situation of flagrant colonization of Venezuela by Britain, President Guzmán Blanco severed all ties with Britain towards the beginning of 1887, and urged the United States to activate the Monroe Doctrine.
Arbitration Award 1899: Monroe Doctrine and US betrayal
The United States proclaimed the Monroe Doctrine in 1823, based on its project of Manifest Destiny, and with the theme “America for the Americans.” Although with hindsight we now know that “Americans” meant the US elites and their interests, in the late 19th century the authorities of Venezuela, just like the other recently independent republics in the southern part of the continent, had imagined themselves to be included among “Americans” of the Monroe Doctrine. In the case of Venezuela, there were reasons to consider it, given that the US had briefly assisted Simón Bolívar’s independence project against Spanish colonialism. Therefore, from the mid-1870s, Guzmán Blanco started requesting the US to intervene in the matter to help Venezuela against British colonialism, citing the Monroe Doctrine. The US authorities of that time too had recognized the dangers that a British colony could pose to US interests in the continent, especially in a region as strategic as the Caribbean, with a waterway as gigantic and strategic as the Orinoco. However, the US did not respond to the Venezuelan request at once, probably due to itself recovering from the aftermath of the civil war that pitted the north of the US against the south. Moreover, it is possible that white supremacy was also at play, with the US considering Venezuela racially inferior to Britain (there is evidence of this, which will be discussed a little later). Whatever the reason, the US invented an excuse: it agreed to be an arbiter in the territorial dispute only if both Venezuela and Britain so requested.
However, by 1895, the US had established itself as an industrial and military power strong enough to confront Britain in its “backyard” and changed its course of action. Richard Olney, US secretary of state for President Grover Cleveland, communicated directly with Britain and asked it to accept the US as a mediator for the dispute. Britain initially rejected the arbitration offer, but the US threatened Britain with war, after which Britain was obliged to accept. This turn of events was celebrated in Venezuela: the government applauded the Monroe Doctrine and showered the US ambassador in Caracas with praise and honors. However, what the naïve Venezuelan authorities did not know was that the US–UK spat was more of a show; behind Venezuela’s back, the two imperialist powers would go on to negotiate with each other for mutual benefit, neglecting Venezuela’s interests.
Although Britain accepted the US demand of submitting to an arbitration process, it refused to have any direct discussion with Venezuela. To break the deadlock, the US convened a representative meeting of the two countries in Washington in February 1897, where Britain accepted the arbitration mechanism only on the condition that Venezuela, which it despised and considered “uncivilized,” had no representation in the process. The United States accepted the British condition, and pressured Venezuela to do the same. If the Venezuelan authorities detected in this racist and colonialist arbitrariness on the part of Britain a foreshadowing of an injustice about to be committed, they could do nothing to change it, and Venezuela was forced to sign the Arbitration Treaty of 1897 and delegate its representation to the United States.
According to a report published by the Venezuelan government in 2015 that sheds light on the original US-UK plan to rob Venezuela of the Essequibo, the Arbitration Treaty was elaborated between the US and the UK during 1895-96, without taking into consideration Venezuela’s claims and positions. The report also exposed the racist attitude of the two imperialist powers towards Venezuela that united the two and with which they justified dispossessing Venezuelans of their rights to a territory that historically belonged to them.
“Venezuela was placed on the sidelines in this matter, as if it were a ‘semi-barbaric’ or ‘semi-savage’ State,” the report recounted. “In a letter addressed to President Cleveland on December 5, 1896, the US Ambassador in London, Thomas Bayard, who was supposed to defend the interests of Venezuela, issued abject opinions about our country: ‘Our difficulty lies in the completely untrustworthy character of the Venezuelan government and people, which results in an indefinable and, therefore, dangerous responsibility for the management of their own affairs by themselves.’”
The Washington Treaty called for the arbitration tribunal to be composed of five jurists: two appointed by Great Britain, two appointed by Venezuela, and one chosen by the Supreme Court of the United States. However, since Britain had refused to allow Venezuelan participation in the process, it was established that the two jurists representing Venezuela would be US nationals, and they could not be chosen by the president of Venezuela but would be appointed by the president of the United States. Even European progressive journalists and intellectuals were outraged at the treatment that Venezuela received. Among them was a British journalist, Paul Reuter, who noted that “the conditions under which Venezuela consented to be represented, in the absence of a protectorate or any other analogous institution, by a third State, are very rarely found in an arbitral proceeding and evince a quasi-colonial sovereignty.”
The fifth jurist, appointed by the United States Supreme Court, was Frederick Fyodor Martens, who was selected as the president of the arbitration tribunal. Martens was a Russian diplomat, a permanent member of the Russian Imperial Council on Foreign Relations, had served as professor of law at a number of British universities, and was a friend of Queen Victoria. He advocated for cooperation between the Russian Empire and the British Empire in Central Asia, arguing that the two empires were destined by Divine Providence to “civilize” the region. He too had a negative stance towards countries considered “semi-savage” or “semi-civilized,” such as Venezuela, and hence was very acceptable to Britain.
According to the Venezuelan government’s 2015 report, it was Britain that had pushed for Martens’ appointment and selection as president of the tribunal. “It was probably Sir Julian Pauncefote, signatory for Britain of the 1897 Treaty of Washington, who pushed for the appointment of Martens,” the report noted. “With this, Britain achieved and secured a priori the highest representative of the tribunal, favorable to any settlement between Great Britain and Russia.” Thus, the territorial dispute between Venezuela and Britain turned into a playing field of global geopolitics towards the close of the 19th century.
The arbitration tribunal met in Paris in June 1899, held 54 formal meetings, and announced its final and unappealable decision, unanimously approved, on October 3, 1899. Known as the Paris Arbitration Award, the decision established that the mouths of the Orinoco River and the part of the Venezuelan Guayana that Britain was occupying belonged to Venezuela, but handed over the entire territory of the Venezuelan Essequibo to British Guyana, branding it an “integral part” of the British colony. Thus, Venezuela was dispossessed of 159,542 sq km of its historical territory.
The ruling further established that during times of peace, the Amacuro and Barima rivers would be open to commercial vessels of all countries, provided they complied with the regulations and paid the tariffs demanded by Venezuela and British Guyana for passage on the parts of the rivers that belonged to them. The same tariff was established for Venezuelan and British vessels. In addition, it was decided that no customs duties would be applied to the goods transported in the ships transiting the rivers, but they would only be taxed for the goods that were unloaded in the territories of Venezuela and British Guyana, by the respective governments.
It may be noted that in addition to Britain, the US was also a winner. It managed to save its image of a “neutral arbiter” by giving both sides something, although Venezuela got back only 10% of its occupied territory. Moreover, the US had managed to save its own interests, which included access to the Caribbean and the Atlantic through the Orinoco River, while at the same time it had been able to contain, to a large extent, Britain’s colonial ambitions in a region the US considered, and still considers, its “backyard.”
As soon as the Arbitration Award was announced, Venezuela openly expressed its rejection of the unjust legalization of colonization and territorial dispossession, but had no legal recourse available to overturn the result, as the ruling was unappealable.
Geneva Agreement 1966
Over the next half century, the injustice of the Arbitration Award disappeared from political discourse in Venezuela, as the country was again engulfed in internal strife with military coups and dictatorships interspersed with ephemeral elected governments, as well as dealing with the impact of World War II and the flow of refugees from Europe. The Pérez Jiménez dictatorship brought the matter back to public memory by referring to it at two international instances – at the UN General Assembly in 1951 and at the summit of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Caracas in 1954. Thereafter in 1962, towards the beginning of the Fourth Republic, President Rómulo Betancourt raised the issue in a speech, and Venezuela’s Permanent Representative to the UN Sosa Rodríguez and Foreign Minister Falcón Briceño spoke on the matter at the UN General Assembly, thus resurrecting Venezuela’s legitimate grievances about the unjust Arbitration Award.
Something important had happened during this time that gave Venezuela legal grounds to challenge the decision of the arbitration tribunal of 1899: it was the publication of the Mallet-Prevost Memorandum in 1949. Severo Mallet-Prevost was a US lawyer who had represented Venezuela at the Paris tribunal, together with three other US legal experts: former US President Benjamin Harrison; former US Secretary of War General Benjamin S. Tracy; and advocate James Russell Soley. The British side was similarly represented by four lawyers. During the formal meetings of the tribunal, the legal counsel for each side presented their arguments, followed by question-and-answer sessions by the tribunal jurists. At every meeting, it was recorded that Mallet-Prevost made detailed defense for Venezuela’s rights. After the sessions closed, the tribunal adjourned for a short period for reflection, and then, on October 3, 1899, it declared its biased decision in a brief session, without providing any argument for the decision, except highlighting that it had been unanimous.
Venezuela had lost the case, but recognized Mallet-Prevost’s labor and awarded him the Order of the Liberator for his services to the nation. He went on to become a successful and acclaimed legal expert and a partner in the New York law firm Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle. Later in life, Mallet-Prevost confided to a close associate, Judge Otto Schoenrich, that the US jurors had been forced to accept the Paris Award under duress, and that they considered it to be unjust towards Venezuela. He left with Schoenrich a detailed account of the happenings at the fateful tribunal, to be published at Schoenrich’s “discretion” after Mallet-Prevost’s death. He passed away on December 10, 1948, and Schoenrich published the document in January 1949.
The publication of the Memorandum caused a scandal in the United States, as it evidenced that the US side had yielded to British pressure. It also demonstrated that the process had been vitiated since before it began, as the then British Chief Justice Lord Bussel had insisted at a preliminary meeting of the tribunal in London in January 1899 that the Venezuela-Britain dispute would be resolved not on strictly legal grounds but taking into consideration “questions of international policy,” which, according to Mallet-Prevost, meant none other than British imperial interests.
The lawyer recounted that during the presentations of the legal counsels of the two sides before the tribunal in Paris in June 1899, while one of the British jurors openly supported his country’s arguments, the other one “was sincerely interested in getting at the full facts of the case and in ascertaining the law applicable to those facts,” such that Mallet-Prevost believed that “he was leaning toward the side of Venezuela.” After the end of the presentations, which lasted 26 days, the tribunal adjourned for a two-week holiday, when the two British jurors returned to London, and tribunal president Martens accompanied them. However, when the sessions resumed, there had been an abrupt and complete change in said British judge’s attitude. In Mallet-Prevost’s words, “It looked to us (by which I mean to the counsel for Venezuela) as though something must have happened in London to bring about the change.”
After all the sessions had been concluded, Mallet-Prevost was informed by the two US jurors on the tribunal that the entire procedure had been a “farce,” that Martens had explained to them that he and the two British judges would vote in favor of the British claim, and thus, even if the US dissented, with 3-2 votes British Guyana would become owner of all the Venezuelan land that it had been occupying at that time. Thus, Martens had left before the US judges two possibilities: either to express a dissenting opinion, in which case Venezuela would lose all its occupied territory; or to accept a negotiated settlement in which Venezuela would be returned the Orinoco mouth and the part of Venezuelan Guayana under occupation, while granting to Britain the entirety of the Venezuelan Essequibo. According to Mallet-Prevost, although US ex-President Harrison was initially in favor of filing a “strong dissenting opinion,” the US side finally preferred to accept the negotiated settlement “so that Venezuela did not lose everything.”
“The decision which was accordingly rendered was unanimous,” concluded Mallet-Prevost, “but while it gave to Venezuela the most important strategic point at issue, it was unjust to Venezuela and deprived her of very extensive and important territory to which, in my opinion, Great Britain had not the shadow of a right.”
When the scandal became known in Venezuela, dictator Pérez Jiménez at once revived the Venezuelan cause, and afterwards the Fourth Republic, citing the Memorandum, started demanding before the UN that the Paris Arbitration Award be declared illegitimate. The Venezuelan authorities knew that they had little time on hand, as the global geopolitical situation was changing rapidly after World War II. During the 50s and 60s, taking advantage of the post-war weakness of the European empires, their colonies all over the world strengthened their struggles for independence. In this situation, leading colonial powers such as Britain, France, and Holland found themselves forced to enter into negotiations with their colonies to grant them independence.
In Latin America, where the US was already the leading imperial power, Britain tried to avoid wars at all cost. In 1962, Britain granted independence to Trinidad and Tobago without any bloodshed, and promised to grant independence to Guyana in 1966. This complicated everything for Venezuela which, despite having passed through dictatorships and democracies and bloody civil wars in equal measures, had never wavered from its anti-colonialist position and had never attacked or invaded another country. Therefore, for Venezuela it was not going to be the same to reclaim the Essequibo territory from colonial Britain which had forcibly stolen the land and then legalized the theft through fraud, as to claim it from Guyana which after 1966 would not be a part of the British Empire, it would not be a country that had stolen anything from Venezuela, and it would surely need the region which constituted three-fourths of its territory in order to develop itself after centuries of colonial exploitation.
Facing this dilemma, Venezuela had no other option but to support the independence of British Guyana, while at the same time, at all regional and multilateral forums, Venezuelan authorities went on ratifying Venezuela’s right to recover its stolen territory. Venezuela’s perseverance on the issue led to the Geneva Agreement of 1966. During February 16-17, 1966, UK, Venezuela, and a representation of the authorities of Guyana which was on the verge of attaining independence, met in Geneva under the auspices of the United Nations to define the future relations between Venezuela and Guyana. Although the representatives of Venezuela and Guyana treated each other with absolute respect, no definitive solution was reached regarding the Essequibo, and the two parties only agreed on tracing a path to resolve the dispute peacefully and in a mutually satisfactory manner within a span of four years for the date of signing the document.
Nevertheless, the reality was that the UK, which had sponsored the meeting, thus skillfully freed itself from the difficult border issue, leaving the two neighbors, both victims of British colonialism, to fight over the territory in future. In fact, the Essequibo dispute is not the only border issue that Britain left unresolved. All of its former colonies around the world have border disputes with their neighbors, which Britain had created as an act of revenge as well as to maintain control over the regions it had been forced to leave, by sometimes acting as arbiter in those very same border problems.
Signing the Geneva Agreement on February 17, 1966, Venezuela agreed to leave the Essequibo region under de facto control of the future independent State of Guyana until an amicable and mutually satisfactory solution could be reached. Thus, British will was once again imposed, and Venezuela’s anti-colonialism prevented it from opposing Guyanese independence before Britain solved the border issue. As recognized by legal experts, international law as it stands today is generally biased towards whoever de facto controls a region and not who has the deeds. Therefore, it may be said that Venezuela lost in a way in 1966, but this time the loss was based on an honorable ideological position.
However, the independence of Guyana and the unresolved Essequibo dispute changed the way in which Venezuela could be perceived from outside. From being a poor and weak country confronting a colonial power dispossessing it of its territory, Venezuela suddenly turned into a comparably richer and stronger country demanding from a poorer and weaker neighbor the majority of its territory. This remains the fundamental contradiction of the issue to this day.
On May 26, 1966, the day when Guyana gained independence from Britain, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Ignacio Iribarren Borges sent a message to Georgetown recognizing the new State, but with a caveat: the recognition was limited to the territory of the new State located to the east of the Essequibo River, adding that the recognition “that Venezuela makes of the new State of Guyana, does not imply on the part of our country any renunciation or diminution of the territorial rights claimed, nor in any way affects the sovereignty rights arising from the claim arising from Venezuelan contention that the so-called Paris Arbitral Award of 1899 on the border between Venezuela and British Guiana, is null and void.”
While the UK and Guyana have continued to consider the Paris Arbitral Award as valid, Venezuela considers it null and void because of the abuse of legal procedure exposed by the Mallet-Prevost Memorandum. This contention is reflected in Article 1 of the Geneva Agreement: “A Mixed Commission is hereby established with the task of seeking satisfactory solutions for the practical settlement of the dispute between Venezuela and the United Kingdom, arising as a consequence of Venezuelan contention that the Arbitral Award of 1899 on the boundary between Venezuela and British Guiana is null and void.”
The deadline of four years meant that the dispute should have been resolved by 1970. The Mixed Commission created within the framework of the Agreement was composed of two representatives each from Venezuela and Guyana, and they were to hold “no less than 18 meetings during the established period.” In addition, Article 4 of the Agreement entailed that if a fair and satisfactory solution could not be reached within the period, both countries could appeal to one of the instances provided for settlement of international disputes in Article 33 of the United Nations Charter, namely, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), and the UN Secretary General. However, the Agreement expressly called for both parties to agree about appealing to one of the aforementioned instances.
Port of Spain Protocol
After the signing of the Geneva Agreement, for the first time Venezuelans were broadly optimistic about recovering the stolen territory. The Essequibo issue became popular across the political spectrum, parties and movements created support groups on it, and in 1966 the government of Venezuela modified the map of the country to include Essequibo as a zone under reclamation. Unfortunately, there were even border clashes with Guyana, of which the gravest ones were the fight over the Anacoco Island in 1966, and the Rupununi uprising in 1969 which Guyana accused Venezuela of fomenting. However, the most serious incident occurred in 1967 when Guyana granted a concession to a US-Canada consortium to explore oil in the Essequibo territory, which drew harsh protest from the Venezuelan government, with President Leoni unilaterally declaring the extension and limits of the Venezuelan territorial sea in the Essequibo in July 1968, a move that was condemned by Guyana. In the meantime, the Mixed Commission went on holding meetings one after another without reaching any tangible solution, and the four years stipulated in the Geneva Agreement passed without producing any result.
In this situation of limbo, the two parties agreed to suspend the provisions of Article 4 of the Geneva Agreement and to continue the discussions for a longer period. The governments of the two countries agreed that their representative delegations would meet in Port of Spain, capital of Trinidad and Tobago, to discuss how to resolve the deadlock. The meeting took place on June 18, 1970, with the mediation of Trinidad and Tobago, and the symbolic presence of a representative of the United Kingdom. Trinidadian Prime Minister Eric Williams, a veteran independence warrior and Marxist revolutionary, played a central role in the difficult situation. He made a conciliatory proposal to Venezuela and Guyana, asking them to freeze the definitive resolution of the problem for at least 12 years, that is until 1982, while maintaining contact and improving the bilateral ties, but prohibiting Venezuela from making any territorial claims. The UK readily accepted the Port of Spain Protocol as it gave the original responsible party the definitive way to exit the sticky situation. Guyana accepted it too, given that the Protocol provided it the advantage to de facto control and administer the region according to its own interests. Venezuela, which at that time was embroiled in a maritime border delimitation problem with Colombia, also accepted it. But this was fatal for its interests, because while the Venezuelan claim was frozen for 12 years, Guyana was at complete liberty to continue administering the disputed territory, populating it, creating infrastructure, and granting mining and oil concessions to multinational companies, predominantly based in the US and Canada. This gave the United States direct access to the vast natural resources of the region, while Venezuela could only watch and protest, but could not adopt any legal or military measure as its hands were tied by the Port of Spain Protocol.
UN Secretary General’s Good Offices process
By 1982, realizing that the situation had turned extremely unfavorable for Venezuela, its government refused to renew the Port of Spain Protocol for another 12 years, and announced its return to the Geneva Agreement of 1966. The Venezuelan position received the support of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), which declared at its Foreign Ministers’ Summit in Belize in April 1982 that the two parties should “scrupulously comply with the provisions of the Geneva Agreement and seek settlements of the territorial dispute by peaceful means.” Following this line, on July 1, 1982, the Venezuelan government proposed to its Guyanese counterpart to engage in direct negotiation to solve the dispute, based on the Geneva Agreement. Guyana rejected the Venezuelan proposal despite being a party to the Agreement, and instead proposed any one of three possible ways: to take the matter to the UN General Assembly, to take it to the UN Security Council, or to submit it to the International Court of Justice. Venezuela rejected all three, arguing with a legal basis that none of the three was a qualified body for resolving territorial disputes that did not fall within the ambit of “situations of colonialism.” As a counter-proposal, Venezuela wanted to submit the conflict before the Office of the UN Secretary General, as mandated in Article 4 of the Geneva Agreement as one of the instances for the conflict resolution. However, the same article required that both parties to the conflict had to agree on the issue, and Guyana remained firm in its preference for the ICJ.
Finding all avenues blocked due to lack of consensus, the then foreign affairs minister of Venezuela, José Alberto Zambrano Velasco, tried to appeal to Guyana’s historical memory as an ex-colony similar to Venezuela. At the UN General Assembly session of September 1982, Zambrano Velasco made an impassioned speech:
The history of this humiliating mutilation cannot be forgotten by Venezuelans. All our tradition, all our instincts lead us to the desire to maintain and develop with the Guyanese people, who in truth were, like us, victims of British imperialism and who, like us, belong to the peoples who seek to achieve development, the closest relations of friendship, cooperation, and solidarity… The truth is clear, neither territorial ambition nor greed for the wealth of others fuels the Venezuelan Claim.
Finally, in March 1983, the Guyanese government announced its decision to accept the intervention of the secretary general of the United Nations to select the means of solution to the controversy. In a swift succession of events, the two parties submitted their appeals before then UN Secretary General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, who accepted the request and appointed a special envoy, diplomat Diego Cordovez, to carry out an exploratory mission to Caracas and Georgetown and ascertain the position of the parties regarding the choice of means for a peaceful solution. After several meetings over the next three years, Cordovez came up with the plan of establishing a five-member conciliation commission or a contact group with a very complicated structure. Venezuela and Guyana both rejected the proposal for its “excessive formalism and rigidity which limited the possibility of direct contact between the governments of Venezuela and Guyana.”
In the meantime, the governments of Guyana and Venezuela continued bilateral discussions, and in late 1988 both agreed to use the UN secretary general’s good offices process. The good officer would be selected by the UN secretary general. In November 1989, Scottish philosopher Meredith Alister McIntyre was appointed as the first good officer by the Secretary General Pérez de Cuéllar. Starting from that time until 2014, three good officers passed through the process, and during this time the Venezuela-Guyana bilateral relations improved and several agreements on mutual development projects were signed, but the Essequibo situation remained the same. That is because the good offices procedure only functions if both sides are disposed to making mutual concessions in order to reach the desired agreement. As for the Essequibo dispute, this was not the case, especially on the part of Guyana which, given its de facto control over the disputed territory, went on signing concessionary contracts with multinational corporations for exploration of oil, gas, and minerals in the disputed landmass and even in the undelimited contiguous waters that are not part of the dispute. Consequently, the good offices process was abandoned for the time being after the third good officer, Norman Girvan of Jamaica, passed away in April 2014.
Almost three years later, in December 2016, then UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon proposed incorporating an element of UN mediation in the good offices process, and warned that if the new method failed, the dispute would be passed over to the ICJ. In February 2017, new Secretary General Antonio Guterres appointed Norwegian diplomat Dag Nylander as the new good officer within the framework of Ban Ki-Moon’s proposal. Nylander’s term ended on November 30, 2017, and he, like his predecessors, was not able to advance the matter at all. Thus, the good offices procedure came to an end, having achieved nothing.
Defense of Essequibo in the Chavismo era
While in the binational sphere the good offices process was going on, internally Venezuela was experiencing radical changes with the arrival of Hugo Chávez to the presidency in 1999. Under his leadership, the Venezuelan government adopted several decisions that shook up the stagnated problem. In 2001, President Chávez forced the US government to abandon its project of installing a rocket launching platform in the disputed Essequibo territory. He also condemned and tried to put a stop to the activities of the US multinationals that had been unilaterally authorized by Guyana to carry out exploration in the disputed zone and its contiguous waters. Thus, at the beginning of the 21st century, it seemed as if the two neighbors were set on a collision course; but Chávez was a skilled statesman. In 2004 he visited Guyana and met with Guyanese PM Bharrat Jagdeo, to whom he commented that it was time to move away from the Arbitral Award and look for new ways to resolve the dispute. Chávez declared that Venezuela would not oppose Guyana’s investment plans and development projects in the Essequibo territory that are essential to improve the life of the Guyanese people, and added that Venezuela was willing to collaborate in those projects. This was de facto equivalent to proposing that the disputed territory be directly and amicably administered by the two countries.
Chávez’s proposal could have opened a new path to finally achieve a real and mutually satisfactory and beneficial solution to the centuries-old problem, but we will never know if that would have been the case. The political conflict inside Venezuela made it impossible for the Chávez administration to develop a national consensus or a fruitful project based on this proposal. The Venezuelan right wing, itself servile to the United States and without having any shred of proposals for the country or the territorial dispute, immediately accused Chávez of having surrendered the Essequibo, and kept feeding into this narrative throughout Chávez’s lifetime. In these conditions, it was not possible for the Chavista government to take the proposal beyond the level of discourse and to the realm of reality. Therefore, even during the golden years of Chávez’s leadership and the rise of Venezuelan power and prestige in the regional and international level, the Venezuelan government had no concrete project regarding developing the Essequibo, and the status quo continued, benefiting multinational companies.
In 2015, the conflict over the Essequibo reached new and dangerous levels. Guyana, by then not recognizing the status of the Essequibo as a disputed zone claimed by Venezuela, was allowing the oil giant ExxonMobil, the second largest oil corporation in the world in terms of assets, to not only operate in Guyana’s international waters but also to intrude in the disputed maritime zone which remains undelimited, as if the entire region was the US multinational’s property.
At this point it may be useful to quickly review the maritime zones between Venezuela and Guyana. In 1968, to resolve the Anacoco Island dispute, the maritime area between the coast of the Venezuelan Guayana and the Guyanese coast was divided into three distinct zones: the Venezuelan Zone or Roraima Zone which extends from the mouth of the Orinoco and the Venezuelan Guayanese coast to the left limit of the Essequibo territory; the undelimited waters that project from the Zone under Claim (Essequibo); and the Guyanese Zone that belongs exclusively to Guyana.
With Guyana’s blessings, ExxonMobil was exploring in the undelimited waters, and had even defined various oil blocks in the maritime zone, one of which is the well-known Stabroek block that contains high-quality light oil. ExxonMobil announced that it would start extraction activities in this block in 2020, with a projection that oil production could reach 750,000 barrels per day in 2025.
Exxon’s presence and activities in the region turned the Essequibo issue into a national security issue for Venezuela, as by 2015 Venezuela was already in the midst of a US-led hybrid war. US President Obama declared Venezuela an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security of the United States” and imposed several unilateral coercive measures against the country (hundreds more would come over the next few years). Chávez had passed away; the country was in the grip of a violent US-backed coup attempt; the political situation was difficult for Chavismo and the new president, Nicolás Maduro. It seemed that Exxon, which had been expelled from Venezuela and whose assets had been nationalized by Chávez, was exacting revenge on Venezuela at the opportune moment. Moreover, its presence so close to Venezuela’s international waters was an added threat to the country’s stability, as US multinationals are backed by the US military.
Regional geopolitics was turning hostile to Venezuela as well. While the retreat of the first Pink Tide and its negative impact on Venezuela has been studied a lot, the change of position of another regional bloc has remained mostly invisible at least in discussions surrounding Venezuela. CARICOM, which had been helped generously by the Chávez government through diverse development and welfare programs including the Petrocaribe, now seeing the economic and oil aid diminish due to the US blockade and the consequent decimation of the Venezuelan economy, started opportunistically aligning itself with Guyana, hoping to have its share of the ill-gotten oil wealth that would soon be available thanks to ExxonMobil. Apart from Guyana, Trinidad and Barbados also started expanding their maritime zones unilaterally, intruding into Venezuelan international waters, indicating that the governments of those countries, under US tutelage, were trying to reduce or completely block Venezuela’s access to the Atlantic.
As if all this was not enough, the multilateral instance that was supposed to be impartial and help resolve the controversy, the Office of the Secretary General of the United Nations, lent its services to safeguard US interests, in the same way that the UN has generally acted since its founding. In 2017, Guyana started requesting the UN to refer the Essequibo dispute to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), a move that Venezuela opposed, rightly considering that ICJ is not the competent body to settle the dispute. Despite Venezuela’s opposition, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, hypocrite and opportunistic as he has always been as the head of the UN, transferred the matter to the ICJ on January 30, 2018, thus giving Guyana—and hence the US, because Guyana is only a proxy—a clear advantage. Although Guterres claimed that transferring the issue to the ICJ was in accordance with his interpretation of the Article 4 of the Geneva Agreement, Venezuela considered this unilateral action as a violation of the Agreement, as the referred article calls for agreement of both parties to the dispute but Guterres had not even consulted Venezuela.
On March 29, 2018, Guyana sued Venezuela before the ICJ, accusing Venezuela of attempting to violate the territorial integrity of Guyana, and requesting the ICJ to decide on the validity of the Arbitration Award of 1899. Venezuela presented its response before the ICJ in April 2019, reiterating its historical position of recovering its stolen territory, and emphasizing that it did not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICJ in settling this dispute.
In another example of how international law is twisted to serve the powerful, the ICJ, on December 18, 2020, in the middle of the pandemic, declared itself competent to hear Guyana’s claim, basing its decision on the Article 4 of the Geneva Agreement, an article and an agreement that the ICJ had itself violated when it accepted to take over the matter from the UN secretary general without the consent of one of the parties to the dispute, that is, Venezuela. This decision, however, unlike the Arbitration Award, was not unanimous. Out of the 16 judges of the ICJ, 12 voted in favor of the ICJ’s competency in the case while four voted against it.
At the same time, the ICJ recognized that declaring the nullity or validity of the Paris Award would not end the dispute. Rather, the ICJ will have to rule on an additional issue: the final definition of the binational border. If the ICJ determines that the Paris Arbitral Award is valid, the boundary situation between Venezuela and Guyana would be maintained as established in said award. On the contrary, if the ICJ declares the award as null and void, which is what Venezuela has considered it to be since the publication of the Mallet-Prevost Memorandum, then the ICJ will have to rule on other important aspects. The most important one would definitely be the new territorial delimitation, as the border established by the arbitrators in 1899 would no longer be valid. Another important aspect is the marine delimitation between the two countries, which would have a particular commercial impact due to the abundant oil deposits in the undelimited waters. However, since the ICJ circumscribed its jurisdiction to the land territory only, it would have to refer the maritime issue to some other competent body in future.
In the same judgment, the ICJ also declared—this time unanimously—that it does not have jurisdiction to hear the claims of Guyana arising from events occurring after the signing of the Geneva Agreement on February 17, 1966, thus establishing a critical date for the case. These include Guyana’s demand that Venezuela leave the eastern part of the Anacoco Island in the Cuyuní River and other islands in the undelimited zone, which Guyana claims that Venezuela is “occupying illegally.”
Likewise, the ICJ refused to hear Guyana’s claims that Venezuela cease its “threats or actions against persons or entities engaged in economic activities in Guyanese territory” and that Venezuela “compensate Guyana for the damages caused for all of the above.”
In March 2022, Guyana presented its arguments on the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award. In June 2022—within the regulatory period for submitting a response—Venezuela presented its preliminary objections on the inadmissibility of Guyana’s claim. Venezuela also demanded that if the court is to decide on the validity or nullity of the Award, then it must incorporate the United Kingdom in the case, given that it was the main party involved in the declaration of the Award as well as being a signatory of the Geneva Agreement of 1966. Although this request was rejected, the ICJ agreed to review the conduct of the United Kingdom in granting the Arbitral Award. According to Samuel Moncada, Venezuela’s permanent representative to the UN, this was not a defeat for Venezuela, because the court had agreed that “the United Kingdom is part of the case even if it is not present.”
While the ICJ case proceeds, Guyana’s stance has been becoming more war-like. This may partly be attributed to the election of Irfaan Ali as the president of Guyana in August 2020. Ali’s right-wing party has always declared its recognition for the fraudulent 1899 Award and non-recognition of the Venezuelan claim to the Essequibo. While portraying his country as a victim of “Venezuelan imperialism,” he has opened wide Guyana’s doors to the US Southern Command, the representatives of which regularly visit Guyana or hold joint drills in the disputed territory. Irfaan Ali, without any regard for diplomacy, has been openly threatening Venezuela with his “allies,” meaning the US government and military. In fact, the US navy has recently gifted Guyana a naval patrol vessel.
At the same time, evidence has surfaced that ExxonMobil pays Guyana’s legal expenses at the ICJ, and the company knew in advance that the case was going to be referred unilaterally to the ICJ. What is more serious, there exist conflicts of interests among the ICJ judges, including a recently elected judge who had served as legal counsel to Guyana in its case against Venezuela until November 2021, and before that had been an advisor to the Guyanese government.
While the case continues, ExxonMobil has been extracting 340,000 barrels per day of high-quality oil from wells in maritime waters claimed by Venezuela. From this exploitation, Guyana receives royalties estimated at $1 billion per year, an enormous figure for its current GDP, which has been growing by leaps and bounds in the last three years. ECLAC estimates its GDP growth at 46%, while the IMF projects it at 52%. ExxonMobil, similarly, has been profiting by stealing Venezuela’s resources. This leaves no room for doubt as to why Guyana demands that the “Zone under Claim” be removed from maps, and why ExxonMobil and the US back Guyana’s claim.
This brings us to the consultative referendum on the Essequibo currently underway in Venezuela. Cornered from all sides, threatened by US military might at its border, Chavismo saw no other way to protect Venezuela’s interests than falling back on its biggest strength—the people. On September 21, 2023, the National Assembly approved a motion to call for a consultative referendum on the Essequibo, asking the people of Venezuela to decide the Venezuelan State’s future course of action in defense of the stolen territory. It must be highlighted here that contrary to the narrative in mainstream media and that of a part of the Venezuelan opposition, the referendum does not ask whether the Essequibo territory belongs to Venezuela. That is a question that, for Venezuela, is already answered. What the referendum actually does is that it gives power to the people of Venezuela, true to the mechanism of participatory democracy mandated by the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, to set the course that the Venezuelan State must adopt in recovering the territory. Instead of waiting for an alien—and to all appearances compromised—judicial body to decide the fate of Venezuela’s righteous claim to a part of its national territory stolen by a colonial power, like alien judicial bodies had been deciding on the same all these years to the detriment of Venezuela, the government of Venezuela has done the right thing by putting the power of decision in the hands of the people.
Saheli Chowdhury is from West Bengal, India, studying physics for a profession, but with a passion for writing. She is interested in history and popular movements around the world, especially in the Global South. She is a contributor and works for Orinoco Tribune.
This article was produced by Orinoco Tribune.
Essequibo and Other Border Issues: Venezuela’s Territorial Losses to Imperialist Powers Through the Centuries (Part 1) By: Saheli ChowdhuryRead Now
Official map of the Captaincy General of Venezuela, as of 1777. Photo: Wikipedia
Editorial note: Part 2 of this important series can be read here.
With the Venezuelan consultative referendum on reclaiming the Essequibo territory from Guyana just around the corner, one may wonder what it is about and why it is being conducted now. Venezuela has been accused of intending to carry out imperialist expansion and attempting to control the petroleum resources of a “foreign territory.” We are being told that Venezuela is trying to steal Guyanese territory and Guyanese oil. This hypothesis may seem plausible to many, even though Venezuela has no history of imperialist expansion in its republican life of over two centuries. It is precisely this lack of historical context that may lead unscrupulous observers to form ideas such as “Venezuela is a proto-imperialist power,” or a “wannabe imperialist power,” trying to impose itself on “smaller,” and “less powerful,” neighbors. Therefore, it is essential to look at the history of the dispute, and how it reached this point.
Essequibo dispute: the origin
Possibly the most serious border issue in Venezuela’s history, the Essequibo territorial dispute originated from the British Empire’s expansionist project in South America. Having lost its colony in the north of the Americas in the 18th century, the British Empire focused on creating a counterpart in the south from the early 19th century onwards, in order to maintain its hegemonic control in the Atlantic and the Caribbean. Out of this ambition was born the colony of British Guyana, through which Britain unilaterally annexed the Venezuelan territory of Essequibo, a part of the Venezuelan Guayana, and the Tigri region of Suriname, then a Dutch colony.
British Guyana originated around the same time that Venezuela became independent. Before that, during the Spanish colonial period, Venezuela extended up to the borders of Dutch Guyana, that is, up to the left bank of the Essequibo River. Even before that, until the early 17th century, the territory that later came to be known as Dutch Guyana was also a part of the Spanish Empire, which lost the region to the Dutch in its inter-imperialist rivalry with the Kingdom of Holland. However, the borders between the colonies of the two empires were not established definitively until 1777, when the Captaincy General of Venezuela—the administrative entity within the Viceroyalty of New Granada, though independent of it—was created. Even after that, as the Venezuelan Essequibo and Guayana regions were sparsely populated and Spanish imperial power there was weak, the Dutch continued their incursions into Venezuela.
This “status quo” changed in 1814 when, at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the Kingdom of Holland, which was on the losing side, was forced to cede the majority of its Guyanese territory to the United Kingdom, and was allowed to keep only Suriname. In 1815, the British Empire announced its recognition of the 1777 borders, considering the left bank of the Essequibo River as the eastern frontier of Venezuela and the right bank of the river as the western margin of British Guyana; however, Britain never honored this arrangement. Even as early as 1822, when Gran Colombia—comprised by the territories now known as Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador—still existed, its ambassador to the UK, José Rafael Revenga, under Bolívar’s orders, presented a complaint regarding British incursions in the Essequibo, but the matter did not proceed further in London. During the 1930s, the British Empire started expanding its territory into the sparsely populated and barely monitored Venezuelan Essequibo, without care for the consent of its neighbor, even though Venezuela continued to consider the 1815 borders as the legal frontiers recognized by both sides.
Then, in 1840, the British Empire committed a “scientific fraud” to unilaterally annex the Venezuelan Essequibo, a tactic that it would also apply in other latitudes to dispossess other countries of their territories. The Royal Geographical Society of London named a German botanist and geographer, Robert Hermann Schomburgk, to be ostensibly responsible for delimiting the territory of British Guyana; in reality, the goal was to secretly steal as much territory for the British colony as possible. Schomburgk, eager to receive British citizenship, did more than what was asked of him: he incorporated into British Guyana the whole of the Venezuelan Essequibo, a good slice of the Venezuelan Guayana, and took the northern border of the British colony up to Point Barima and the mouths of the Orinoco River, thus cutting off Venezuela’s access to the Atlantic. He also stole a good chunk of Suriname from the Dutch, and thus expanded the eastern limits of the British colony. It should be noted here that the Essequibo region was so abandoned by the Venezuelan government of the time that they only realized in 1841—after Schomburgk had left for England—that it no longer belonged to Venezuela for all intents and purposes.
According to Venezuelan historian Vladimir Acosta, Venezuela lost its easternmost territory because it “did not occupy it in terms of population… It seems that Venezuela never understood that when confronting an ambitious neighbor, border territories have to be defended not only with previously agreed rights or treaties, or, if necessary, with weapons, which is the most problematic and least advisable, but above all with something else that, besides being fundamental, is much simpler: simply with population, occupying them in peace in anticipation of any future threats. An unoccupied or barely occupied foreign territory is a temptation for any neighboring country experiencing population expansion willing to occupy it, or for any colonialist or imperialist power wishing to do the same for ambition, rivalry, or geopolitical interests.”
In the case of Britain, it was the latter, as its occupation of Venezuelan territory not only expanded the empire itself, but also provided it with closer access to Trinidad, which was under British occupation at that time. The seizure of the Venezuelan Essequibo thus provided the British Empire unimpeded access to the Caribbean and the Atlantic, essential for continuing its hegemonic control of the area.
Venezuela’s other territorial losses
At this point, it may be appropriate to touch briefly on other territorial losses that Venezuela suffered at the hands of multiple imperialist powers over the centuries. Long before the Essequibo incident, Venezuela, as a Spanish colony, lost two important groups of islands to two different European colonial powers. Although Venezuela was not responsible for the loss in either case, as it was subjugated under Spain at that time, it was Venezuela that was ultimately the loser in terms of both territory and maritime potential.
In the 16th century, new colonial powers arose in Europe, such as Holland, France, and Britain, powers that developed strong naval forces and began confronting the older colonial powers of Spain and Portugal. Over the next two centuries, the Caribbean, which earlier was the main power center of the Spanish Empire, turned into a warzone for claiming control over the islands, sea routes, and even the continental landmass. The Caribbean waters and islands became a real hub for pirates and slave traders, and even today, some of those same islands function as tax havens for the modern-day pirates—the millionaires and billionaires.
This rise of piracy and wars reached its height in the 17th century, when France and Britain seized control of most of the Caribbean islands. The majority of them were smaller ones, but Britain managed to grab one of the largest: Jamaica. As for Venezuela, in 1634, a fleet of Dutch pirate ships seized the island group of Curaçao, Bonaire, and Aruba—historically part of Venezuelan territory, but neglected by Spain—and the Spanish Empire did nothing to protect it. Holland used the islands as its “base of operations” for smuggling and slave trade; Curaçao in particular became an important center of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. To this day, the islands remain under Dutch occupation, but these days they are referred to by the euphemism “overseas territories” of the Kingdom of Netherlands.
The other maritime loss that Venezuela suffered, as a Spanish colony, came at the hands of the British Empire, when it seized the island of Trinidad in 1797. Spain had neglected Trinidad and did not care to populate it, similar to what it had done in the Essequibo. At the time of the British invasion, there were a handful of Spaniards on the island, which was mainly populated by indigenous peoples, enslaved Africans, and some French immigrants. The Spanish governor of Trinidad surrendered without a fight, and Spain did nothing to recover the island. What was worse, in 1802, was that Spain signed the Treaty of Amiens with Britain, recognizing British dominion over the island, and leaving Venezuela out of the equation entirely. Britain added Trinidad to Tobago, turned it into a new colony in the Caribbean, and populated it with enslaved Africans, as well as bonded laborers from India and Africa in later years. Trinidad and Tobago gained independence from Britain in 1962, and Venezuela has never demanded the return of Trinidad from the sovereign country.
Even as an independent state, the Republic of Venezuela went on losing territories, not only in the east in its confrontations with colonial Britain, but also in the west. With the dissolution and fragmentation of Gran Colombia, both Venezuela and Colombia, the two largest countries to emerge from it, squabbled over defining the binational border. The Michelena-Pombo Treaty, signed between the governments of Colombia and Venezuela in 1833, divided the disputed Guajira region into two almost equal parts for each party. However, the Venezuelan parliament was claiming more territory in the region, and therefore rejected the treaty. The border problem continued over the next 50 years, during which time Colombia went on claiming more territory in the Guajira as well as the llanos (plains). Multiple bilateral negotiations produced no result, until finally, in 1883, Spain—the former colonial ruler of both nations—arbitrated the issue in favor of Colombia, and then-Venezuelan President Guzmán Blanco accepted it, providing closure to the neighbors’ dispute.
Saheli Chowdhury is from West Bengal, India, studying physics for a profession, but with a passion for writing. She is interested in history and popular movements around the world, especially in the Global South. She is a contributor and works for Orinoco Tribune.
This article was produced by Orinoco Tribune.
Hand of a person holding a small Venezuelan flag and a book entitled The Truth of the Essquibo. Photo: Matias Delacroix/AP.
Caracas (OrinocoTribune.com)—The Venezuelan people and Chavismo scored an important victory this Sunday when Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) made public the first report on the results of the Essequibo Referendum called by the National Assembly (AN) two months ago, on September 27, and announcing an overwhelming victory of the “Yes,” the option promoted by President Nicolás Maduro’s administration.
On Sunday night, December 3, the CNE reported the following results:
• On question 1: Yes 97.8% / No: 2.2%
• On question 2: Yes: 98.1% / No: 1.8%
• On question 3: Yes: 95.4% / No: 4.1%
• On question 4: Yes: 95.9% / No: 4.1%
• On question 5: Yes: 95.9% / No: 4.1%
All five questions on the referendum were overwhelmingly approved by the Venezuelan people, with the first and second being the most affirmatively voted. The questions can be read below:
1- Do you agree to repudiate, by all means, in accordance with the law, the line fraudulently imposed by the Paris Arbitral Award of 1899, which seeks to dispossess us of our Essequibo territory?
2- Do you support the Geneva Agreement of 1966 as the only valid legal instrument to reach a practical and satisfactory solution for Venezuela and Guyana regarding the dispute over the territory of Essequibo?
3- Do you agree with Venezuela’s historical position of not recognizing the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice to resolve the territorial controversy over the Essequibo?
4- Do you agree to oppose, by all means, in accordance with the law, Guyana’s intention to unilaterally dispose of a sea pending delimitation, illegally and in violation of international law?
5- Do you agree with the creation of the state of Guayana Esequiba and the development of an accelerated plan for the integral attention of the current and future population of that territory, which includes, among others, the granting of Venezuelan citizenship and identity cards, in accordance with the Geneva Agreement and international law, consequently incorporating said state in the map of the Venezuelan territory?
With a reported turnout of more than 10.5 million voters, representing approximately 50% of the electoral roll, the Essequibo referendum represents an important victory for the Venezuelan people, reaffirming their commitment to defend their rightful claim over the Essequibo territory, and, simultaneously, it represents a victory for Chavismo, which was able to unite the people, even including far-right opposition sectors that traditionally oppose anything related to Chavismo.
President Maduro’s reaction
From Bolívar Square in Caracas, President Nicolás Maduro, just a few minutes after the CNE report, addressed the Venezuelan people to acknowledge the participation of people in the referendum in which the “Yes” vote won overwhelmingly throughout Venezuela.
“We have fulfilled it. The referendum was held and it has been a total success for our country and our democracy. An overwhelming victory for the ‘Yes’ throughout Venezuela, with a significant level of participation,” said President Maduro.
“We have taken the first steps of a new historical stage to fight for what is ours and recover what the Libertadores left us: the Essequibo territory,” he added.
The president applauded the bravery of the opposition parties that joined the electoral contest to defend Essequibo. Likewise, he congratulated the people of Venezuela, the Plan República, and the National Electoral Council for an election day in which all the people expressed themselves in peace while inviting the country to open new paths of unity, without political schisms, aiming to achieve a complete recovery of the country.
The voting day
CNE President Elvis Amoroso reported earlier on Sunday that at 6:00 in the morning, 75% of the voting centers were operational and, at 9:00, the figure reached 97%. No major disruptions or incidents were reported during the electoral journey, and, as Orinoco Tribune could corroborate, on the ground, the process was very efficient and without delays despite some exceptions in working-class neighborhoods.
In the afternoon, Amoroso extended the closing time from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., as many voters remained in the voting centers. Late in the night, when President Maduro was addressing the victory in front of hundreds of supporters at Bolívar Square (in Caracas), Miranda state governor Hector Rodriguez mentioned that at that time (approximately 11:00 p.m.), there were still some voting centers with people voting.
Venezuelan opposition in its labyrinth
Despite flip-flopping on the Essequibo referendum by the Venezuelan far-right opposition leadership, with the Unitary Platform calling for its supporters to “exercise their free will” instead of calling for the straight defense of Venezuelan territorial integrity, many were surprised on Sunday when they witnessed important opposition politicians exercising their democratic right to vote.
Zulia governor Manuel Rosales from the Un Nuevo Tiempo party; Carlos Prosperi from the Democratic Action party (A); Stalin Gonzalez, member of the Unitary Platform negotiation team from Justice First (PJ); former opposition primaries pre-candidate Andres Caleca; Antonio Ecarri for the Lapiz party; former opposition pre-candidate Benjamin Rausseo (El Conde); and Daniel Ceballos from Popular Will (VP) were among the opposition figures that publicized their participation in the referendum.
Meanwhile, Maria Corina Machado, a prominent figure in the far-right opposition, has found herself overshadowed by the Essequibo referendum initiative due to her own inconsistent positions. She initially called for the referendum’s suspension, citing concerns that it could compromise the International Criminal Court (ICJ) process. A process not recognized by Venezuela, following the nation’s historical stance. However, in 2018, Machado publicly denounced and opposed Guyana’s intention to take the case to the ICJ.
Within this context, Guyana’s Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo took to Facebook to emphasize Machado’s stance, showcasing a clear unity of convictions between the two parties. This situation has not positioned Machado favorably and has made the Venezuelan politician, who aims to challenge President Maduro in the 2024 presidential race, largely irrelevant.
Surprise turn of Guyana’s position
In recent years, Guyana has adopted an aggressive and provocative approach regarding the territorial dispute with Venezuela over Essequibo. This stance has involved periodic military exercises in collaboration with the United States Southern Command (SOUTHCOM). Guyana was an active member of the now-defunct Lima Group, which, under the guidance of the White House, pursued a diplomatic campaign that marginalized and isolated Venezuela for an extended period. Additionally, there has been a notable uptick in reported xenophobic incidents targeting Venezuelan migrants. Guyana’s actions have extended to granting oil concessions, including in waters that are not part of the dispute and belong to Venezuela. President Irfaan Ali of Guyana has consistently rebuffed President Maduro’s repeated calls to seek a diplomatic resolution to the issue, among other contentious moves.
During the recent United Nations Climate Change COP28 Summit in the United Arab Emirates, President Ali unexpectedly signaled a shift in approach by seeking potential support from Cuba. His meeting with Cuban President Miguel Miguel Díaz-Canel and St. Vincent’s Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves hinted at a possible attempt to alleviate tensions. Notably, both Cuba and St. Vincent are recognized as strategic allies of Venezuela.
“I have fully briefed President Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel of Cuba and Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves of Saint Vincent [and the Grenadies] on the Venezuela/Guyana Border controversy,” wrote Guyana’s president. “I reinforced Guyana’s commitment to regional peace and the rule of law. I also urged Cuba to join CARICOM in calling for a commitment from Venezuela to maintain the region as a zone of peace. The statement by Ali represented a new attempt to portray himself as the victim, instead of the aggressor, in the recent escalation.
This article was produced byOrinoco Tribune.
Almost as important as its military campaign for Israel is its battle to control its public image. Even as it kills thousands of people in Gaza, the small Middle Eastern nation is spending millions of dollars on a propaganda war, purchasing ads on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and other online apps. At the same time, an army of pro-Israel trolls has invaded the Community Notes function on X/Twitter, attempting to influence the online debate around the ongoing crisis.
SPENDING MILLIONS TO WHITEWASH MASSACRES
Since October 7, Israel has inundated YouTube with advertisements, with its Ministry of Foreign Affairs spending nearly $7.1 million on ads in the two weeks following Hamas’ incursion. According to journalist Sophia Smith Galer, this equates to almost one billion impressions.
With its campaign, the Israeli government overwhelmingly focused on rich Western nations, its top targets being France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Belgium and the United States. In France alone, the ministry spent $3.8 million. Other branches of the Israeli government undoubtedly also spent money on ads. The overwhelming message of the campaign was that Hamas are terrorists linked with ISIS and that Israel – a modern, secular democracy – is defending itself from foreign aggression.
Much of the content blatantly violated YouTube’s terms of service, including a number of ads featuring gory shots of dead bodies. Another ad that piqued public attention was played before videos aimed at babies. Amid a scene of pink rainbows and soothing music, text appears reading:
"We know that your child cannot read this. We have an important message to tell you as parents. 40 infants were murdered in Israel by the terrorists Hamas (ISIS). Just as you would do everything for your child, we will do everything to protect ours. Now hug your baby and stand with us.”
Nearly all the Ministry of Foreign Affairs views are inorganic. Most of their YouTube uploads garner only a few hundred views. But the ones selected as advertisements have hundreds of thousands or even millions of views.
Israel’s YouTube campaign has been matched by expansive attempts to control the public debate on other social media platforms. In barely a week, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs ran 30 ads seen over 4 million times on Twitter. Like with YouTube, analytics data shows they were inordinately targeting adults in Western Europe.
One ad contained the words “ISIS” and “Hamas,” showing disturbing imagery that gradually sped up until the names of the two groups blended into one. In case the message was not clear enough, it ended with the message, “The world defeated ISIS. The world will defeat Hamas.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also bought large numbers of advertisements on Facebook, Instagram, mobile games and apps such as language trainer Duolingo.
The Community Notes function on Twitter is an attempt to fight false information. Contributors who sign up for the feature can leave notes on any post, adding context to potentially misleading statements. The community then votes on these notes, and if enough people consider the note useful, it is presented below the original tweet.
While it has its advantages, the system is ripe for abuse and infiltration. Since October 7, an army of pro-Israel trolls has brigaded the function and is attempting to undermine and attack as many posts as possible showing Israel in a negative light or Palestine in a positive one. This has often been done in an attempt to hide Israeli war crimes.
“If you’re not a Community Notes contributor, then you may be unaware that any tweet about Gaza that poses an inconvenience to Israeli information interests is being mobbed by Israel apologists working to manipulate the narrative, including on tweets just voicing an opinion,” wrote journalist Caitlin Johnstone.
A case in point is the attack on the Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza. Under a tweet from journalist Dan Cohen noting that Hananya Naftali (an aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) had boasted that Israel carried out the attack before deleting his message, Community Notes wrote that “Naftali has openly retracted his statement, as conclusive evidence has since shown the explosion was fired from a misfired rocket from Gaza.” The “conclusive evidence” offered was a statement from the Pentagon and a tweet from a former Israeli Air Force squad commander.
Meanwhile, a tweet from Lebanese political commentator Sara Abdallah breaking the news that Israel had just bombed the St. Porphyrius Church in Gaza was flagged by Community Notes. This meant that all users saw a note added reading, “False. Saint Porphyrius Orthodox Church in Gaza has posted they are untouched and operating as of October 9, 2023.” The problem was this was breaking news related to October 19, so any statement before that time was meaningless in assessing the news. Further undermining the community note was that Israel almost immediately accepted responsibility for the destruction.
Pro-Israel trolls have also not been above blatant smears. On a popular post from myself where I shared a picture of Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu embracing with the words, “In the future, this image will be looked upon as one of the most shameful moments in history,” Community Notes added the message: “Alan MacLeod is a Senior Staff Writer at MintPress News. MintPress is renowned for publishing far-left disinformation and antisemitic conspiracy theories.” Other MintPress staff, such as Lowkey and Mnar Adley, have also been consistently targeted with smears and arguments dressed up as clarifications.
SEEING WHAT STICKS
In the fog of war, the Middle Eastern network Al-Jazeera has been a consistent source of live reporting. The well-funded network has a large team of reporters in Palestine and the wider region and has a long history of covering the conflict.
Therefore, when Al-Jazeera released an investigation that found no evidence to support Israel’s claim that a failed Palestinian rocket launch was to blame for the damage at the Al-Ahli Hospital, the story went viral.
This was a major blow to Israel and its apologists, who did not want the blood of hundreds of innocent doctors and patients on their hands. And so, pro-Israel users attempted to get community notes plastered all over the Al-Jazeera story, including ones that read:
“This is false. Iron dome cannot intercept rockets during their ascend phase. It intercepts rockets during descent when their trajectory is more predictable. The crater is not consistent with an airstrike.”
“Al Jazeera video digitally manipulated the hospital explosion moment time and IR image shown in the video can’t be used to judge rocket debris. Other sources already showed that the explosion at hospital yard is consistent with rocket debris and not with aerial attack.”
“[Israel apologists] are just throwing everything they can at it to get something to stick, solely because it is viral and inconvenient,” Johnstone wrote.
This is not the first time that Israel and its supporters have attempted to hijack and manipulate public highways of information. For over a decade, well-organized and well-funded Israeli groups have infiltrated Wikipedia and attempted to rewrite the encyclopedia to defend Israeli actions and demonize voices who speak out against them.
One of the most well-known of these is the Yesha Council, which, as far back as 2010, claimed to have 12,000 active members. Yesha members painstakingly police Wikipedia, removing troublesome facts and framing articles in a manner more favorable to Israel.
Those Yesha considers the “Best Zionist Editors” receive rewards, including free hot air balloon rides. Between 2010 and 2012, this project was personally overseen and coordinated by future Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
Yesha and other pro-Israel groups have ceaselessly targeted MintPress’ Wikipedia page, filling it with demonstrable falsehoods and misinformation. Wikipedia is aware of this problem but has refused to address it adequately, perhaps partly because of its co-founder Jimmy Wales’ unabashedly pro-Israel partisanship.
Another organized pro-Israel group is Act.IL, an Israeli government-sponsored app. Users of the app (which reportedly once had a budget of over $1 million per year) are encouraged to mass report posts, leave replies in comment sections of websites, or boost and share pro-Israel messages online. The point is to create a groundswell of artificial support for Israel in crucial forums in order to influence public opinion.
SPIES AMONG US
One of the reasons that social media companies have not cracked down on disingenuous pro-Israeli activities could be that former Israeli government and military officials hold top positions at a great number of the world’s most important platforms.
Emi Palmor, for example, is one of 22 individuals who sit on Facebook’s Oversight Board. Palmor was formerly the General Director of the Israeli Ministry of Justice. In this role, she directly oversaw the stripping away of Palestinian rights. She created a so-called “Internet Referral Unit,” which would push Facebook to delete Palestinian content that the Israeli government objected to. In her new role at the Oversight Board, she effectively writes Facebook’s rules, deciding what content to promote to the platform’s 3 billion users and what to censor, delete or suppress.
Palmor is also a veteran of Unit 8200, perhaps the most controversial unit in the Israeli military. Described as “Israel’s NSA,” Unit 8200 is the centerpiece of the country’s high-tech surveillance industry. Unit 8200 spies on the Palestinian population, compiling vast dossiers on millions of people, including their medical history, sex lives, and search histories, to be used for extortion later. Individuals found to be cheating on their spouse or engaged in homosexual activities are often distorted by the military, and turned into informants. One veteran admitted that, as part of his training, he was assigned to memorize different Arabic words for “gay” to listen out for them in conversations.
Unit 8200 graduates have gone on to produce much of the world’s most controversial spying tools, which they have sold to repressive governments around the globe.
A MintPress News investigation unearthed a network of hundreds of Unit 8200 veterans working in influential positions at some of the planet’s most important tech and social media companies, including Google, Amazon and Meta (Facebook).
For example, Google’s Head of Strategy and Operations for Research, Gavriel Goidel, was previously a senior officer in Unit 8200, rising to become Head of Learning. Facebook Messenger’s Head of Data Science, Eyal Klein, served for six years in Unit 8200, rising to the rank of captain. And after serving in the controversial unit, Ayelet Steinitz became Microsoft’s Head of Global Strategic Alliances.
While Israel is militarily dominant over its neighbors and its captive population, it is losing the battle for public opinion in the West. Virtually every major city across Europe and North America has seen giant protests calling for a free Palestine. Meanwhile, despite near wall-to-wall support from top politicians and corporate media alike, pro-Israel demonstrations have been poorly attended.
Governments are siding with Israel. But the people are standing with Palestine. And so, while Israel is perfectly capable of leveling Gaza, no matter how much it spends, how much propaganda it produces and how many dirty media tricks it plays, it seems it cannot convince the world to support its actions. But that isn’t stopping it from trying.
Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.org, The Guardian, Salon, The Grayzone, Jacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams.
This article was produced by MintPress News.
Kissinger's amoral, genocidal crimes revealed him to be a faithful representative of the US elites whom he served all his life
Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger attends a ceremony in Berlin in January 2020 (AFP)
Nothing notable distinguished the birth of Heinz Alfred Kissinger on 27 May 1923 to a German Jewish family in Furth, a city in Bavaria, who died on Wednesday at the age of 100.
In 1938, when he was 15, he and his family fled Nazi Germany to New York before Kristallnacht. When the adolescent Heinz became Henry in the US, while retaining his heavy German accent, no one could have predicted that he would order the murder of hundreds of thousands of people as an adult, and become a millionaire as a result.
In 1943, at the age of 20, Kissinger was drafted by the US Army. He became naturalised as a US citizen the same year. He served in the army intelligence division on account of his German fluency and was put in charge of a team in US-occupied Germany in charge of de-Nazification.
After the war, Kissinger attended Harvard, graduating with a BA in political science in 1950 and a PhD in 1954. While still at school in 1952, he worked for the US government’s Psychological Strategy Board, formed by the White House in 1951 to propagandise against communism in support of the US and “democracy”. This was during the US invasion of Korea when US forces killed millions of people.
'Everything is destroyed'
As US Air Force commander Major-General Emmett O’Donnell put it at a Senate hearing at the time: “Everything is destroyed. There is nothing standing worthy of the name… there were no more targets in Korea [to bomb].” US psychological warfare still refers to US genocidal crimes in the Korean peninsula as the “Korean War”.
In 1952, Kissinger ran an article in the journal Confluence, which he edited, by Ernst von Salomon, a convicted murderer for his participation in the assassination of the foreign minister of the Weimar Republic. German Jewish emigre contributors to the journal, including Hannah Arendt and Reinhold Niebuhr, were not pleased. Kissinger joked with a friend that the article was considered “a symptom of my totalitarian and even Nazi sympathies”.
He was also study director in nuclear weapons and foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations in 1955-56, and published his book Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy in 1957, arguing that the US should use tactical nuclear weapons on a regular basis in war to ensure victory. Critics would later parody him as “Dr Henry Killinger”, as the cartoon show Venture Bros did in the 2000s.
His right-wing authorised biographer, Niall Ferguson, states that the argument of Kissinger’s book “might very easily be presented as evidence” that he was “the inspiration for Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove”. Kissinger finally received tenure at Harvard with the support of the dean, McGeorge Bundy, despite faculty objections that his book on nuclear weapons was not scholarly.
He did not limit himself to academe, but became a consultant to politicians and presidential candidates, such as Nelson Rockefeller. When Bundy became President John F Kennedy’s national security adviser in 1961, Kissinger joined him as an adviser, a position he would retain under Lyndon Johnson.
In light of Kissinger’s sympathy for the use of tactical nuclear weapons, he was invited to visit Israel in 1962, and again in 1965, most likely by Israel’s architect of the country’s nuclear program, Shimon Peres.
Recent documents reveal that in his report to the US embassy in Tel Aviv in 1965 based on meetings with Israeli officials and scientists, he already believed that Israel was developing nuclear weapons, a program he looked upon with “great understanding, if not sympathy”. This would lead him in 1969, as Nixon’s national security advisor, to broker the understanding of the Nixon administration for Israel’s already developed nuclear weapons program.
Even though Kissinger believed in the futility of the US war in Vietnam, he conspired with Richard Nixon’s electoral campaign in 1968 by leaking information to it from the Paris Peace Talks to prolong the war, lest the Democrats win the elections. Once Nixon was elected, Kissinger came on board as national security adviser in January 1969, a position he occupied until 1975.
Nixon referred to him as “Jew boy”, but it seems right-wing antisemitism never bothered him, as he had been a lifelong conservative Republican. He also served as secretary of state from September 1973 until January 1977.
Ruthless Cambodia campaign
Determined to defeat the South Vietnamese National Liberation Front and North Vietnam, Kissinger decided to intensify the secret tactical bombing of Cambodia, which had started under Johnson in 1965, into a ruthless campaign of carpet bombing that continued until 1973.
In early March 1969, Kissinger told Nixon: “Hit them!” By 1973, between 150,000 and half a million Cambodians were killed. Kissinger callously described the excessive bombing by saying: “We would rather err on the side of doing too much.”
Kissinger personally supervised the schedules of the bombing runs and the allocation of planes from one area to the other. He reportedly loved playing “bombardier”. When he and Nixon started to bomb North Vietnam again, Kissinger was most excited at the “size of the bomb craters”. In keeping with his support for the use of nuclear weapons, he devised a plan to nuke North Vietnam in 1969 as part of an operation called Duck Hook.
Kissinger speaks with then-US President Richard Nixon in Salzburg, Austria, in 1972 (AFP)
While some in his social circles referred to him as “cuddly Kissinger” and he was described in women’s magazines as “always friendly, particularly with women”, his sweet-tongued persona seemed nowhere in sight when he spoke of those women he hated, such as former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, whom he called a “bitch” and a "witch", while “the Indians” were “bastards”.
Indeed, Christopher Hitchens asserted, regarding Kissinger’s popularity among the elite, that “Kissinger is not invited and feted because of his exquisite manners or his mordant wit (his manners are in any case rather gross, and his wit consists of a quiver of borrowed and secondhand darts)”, but rather because he exuded raw power. Kissinger was less like Dr Strangelove and more like the fictional character Dr Evil in the Austin Powers films, though with much less charm.
Coups and white supremacy
In 1971, Kissinger backed former Pakistani President Yahya Khan’s genocidal campaign against East Pakistan (Bangladesh), and in 1975, he endorsed the Indonesian dictator Suharto’s genocidal war on the people of East Timor, in which a third of the population was killed. Suharto had come to power through a US-supported coup in 1965 that unleashed massacres against up to one million Indonesians as suspected communists. As for the 200,000 dead in East Timor, Kissinger was unmoved: “I think we’ve heard enough about Timor.”
When, in 1970, the socialist Salvador Allende was popularly elected as president of Chile, Kissinger commented: “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go Communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people.” He pushed Nixon to organise a violent coup against Allende, subjecting the country to fascist rule for the next decade and a half, with thousands killed by the US-supported military junta.
As for the Middle East, aside from strengthening ties with the Zionist settler-colony of Israel, which became a major US ally during the Nixon and Ford years, Kissinger armed Israel to the teeth during the 1973 war in order “to prevent an Arab victory”. His emergency military help to Israel during the war reversed the early victories of the Egyptian and Syrian armies and ensured that Israel won the war. He also ensured that no US relations could be established with the Palestine Liberation Organisation.
In September 1975, Kissinger signed a “memorandum of understanding” with the Israelis committing the US not to recognise or negotiate with the PLO unless it recognised Israel’s “right to exist” as a racist, Jewish-supremacist state. Former PLO chairman Yasser Arafat would finally do so in 1988 in Geneva, and again in 1993 with the signing of Oslo.
In effect, Kissinger ensured the perpetuation of Israeli colonisation of Palestinian lands for decades to come. He was the architect of former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s surrender to Israel and selling out of Palestinian rights at Camp David, and designed the so-called American-sponsored “peace process”, which has defined US policy towards Palestinians and Israel and has since brought about the ongoing calamities in much of the Arab world.
Amid all of Kissinger’s war-mongering around the world, helping fascist dictators come to power and supporting white supremacy in settler-colonies in southern Africa and Palestine, he is also credited with pursuing detente with the Soviet Union and opening diplomatic relations with China. He even received the Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating “peace” with North Vietnam amid his savage bombing of Cambodia.
Kissinger would go on to advise subsequent US presidents and support their wars, including Ronald Reagan and George W Bush. In 1982, he established his own consultancy firm, Kissinger Associates, with a highly secretive client list, to advise US and European imperial corporations and banks, Third World western-supported dictators, and white supremacist settler-colonies. His last reported net worth was around $50m.
Kissinger’s horrifying record, however, has endeared him to many US liberal politicians. The Clintons loved him dearly and attended his birthday parties. Hillary Clinton could not stop praising him for the advice he had given her when she served as secretary of state, insisting that “Kissinger is a friend”.
Former President Barack Obama cited Kissinger as supporting his own views on Iran during the 2008 presidential campaign, but Kissinger rebuffed him. In 2010, Obama’s administration used Kissinger’s murderous policies in Cambodia to justify Obama’s own murderous drone killings of American citizens and non-Americans around the world.
In 2016, Obama’s defence secretary gave the accused war criminal an award “honouring Dr Henry A Kissinger for his years of distinguished public service”. In the last few years, he has been invited by several liberal US universities, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Yale and New York University, which marked the 45th anniversary of his receiving the Nobel prize. It was mostly socialists who protested him.
In April 2018, Kissinger was a guest at Trump’s first state dinner at the White House, alongside Trump’s billionaire friends. He would even weigh in on the war in Ukraine, about which he changed his mind several times.
In his book about Kissinger, Hitchens charged him with war crimes, crimes against humanity, and offences “against common or customary or international law, including conspiracy to commit murder, kidnap, and torture”. Hitchens, however, did not seem to realise that Kissinger was no maverick, and each of those crimes should be levelled against the US government more generally.
Kissinger and then-US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leave a 2011 event in Washington (AFP)
Indeed, all the imperial murderous policies that Kissinger pursued did not deviate from US foreign policy before or after him. It is that which accounted for his popularity among the American business and intellectual elite, liberals and conservatives alike.
As Meaney put it, blaming one man for the country’s sins serves everyone: “Kissinger’s status as a world-historic figure is assured, and his critics can regard his foreign policy as the exception rather than the rule.”
Kissinger’s amoral, genocidal crimes are no more monstrous than the crimes of the US since its establishment. If anything, Kissinger was but a faithful representative of the criminal US elites whom he served all his life - and who guaranteed him a long life of fame, wealth and luxury.
Kissinger died at his home in Connecticut on 29 November 2023, the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.
Joseph Massad is professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history at Columbia University, New York. He is the author of many books and academic and journalistic articles. His books include Colonial Effects: The Making of National Identity in Jordan; Desiring Arabs; The Persistence of the Palestinian Question: Essays on Zionism and the Palestinians, and most recently Islam in Liberalism. His books and articles have been translated into a dozen languages.
This article was produced by Middle East Eye.
Israeli girl Liel Hatsroni, 12, was killed after Israeli forces used a tank to shell a house in Kibbutz Be’eri on 7 October, according to an Israeli who survived the violence. (via Twitter)
An Israeli child completely incinerated at Kibbutz Be’eri was killed by two tank shells shot by Israeli forces at the end of an hours-long gun battle, a survivor of the same carnage told the Israeli state broadcaster Kan earlier this month.
Yasmin Porat, taken captive with at least a dozen other Israeli civilians on 7 October, told Kan radio that a fellow captive, 12-year-old Liel Hatsroni, survived to the end of the battle and only died when Israeli forces fired two tank shells at the house where they were held hostage by Hamas fighters.
Hatsroni’s obliteration by Israeli tank fire emerged this month after her family decided to mourn her with a public funeral, even though the government had not officially pronounced her dead.
Although Hatsroni’s 69-year-old grandfather Aviyah and twin brother Yanai were buried two weeks after their deaths on 7 October, her 73-year-old aunt and guardian Ayala was only buried on 15 November, the day after Israel officially declared her dead.
On that day the Hatsroni family also held funeral rites for Liel, though the state still listed her as missing because “to this day they have not found any of her remains,” Yasmin Porat told Kan on 15 November.
You can listen to Porat speak in that interview in this video, with English subtitles:
Three days later, the Hatsroni family was informed that archaeologists working with the Kahanist-run Israel Antiquities Authority had finally identified Liel’s remains at the house, Ynet, an Israeli news site, reported.
Although at least 50 people died in that particular bloodbath – and at least 10 of them were Israeli civilians – Porat herself left the battle intact, when one Hamas commander, out of a force that numbered about 40 fighters, surrendered.
Israeli forces called to the scene instructed the Hamas commander to come out with Porat, effectively turning her into a human shield.
“Two big booms”
In her 15 November interview on Kan’s Kalman Liberman program, Porat recounts how, of the dozen or so Israelis she was held captive with on 7 October, only one other person – Be’eri resident Hadas Dagan – survived the ordeal.
The two tank shells fired into the house at the very end of the battle killed both women’s partners, the young Liel Hatsroni and everyone else in the house who was still left alive up to then, she said.
At around 7:30 pm, after some four hours of crossfire consisting of “hundreds of thousands of bullets,” Porat peered from behind Israeli lines and observed an Israeli tank firing two shells into the small kibbutz house.
“I thought to myself, why are they shooting tank shells into the house,” Porat told Kan. “And I asked one of the people who was with me, why are they shooting? So they explained to me that it was to break the walls, in order to help purify the house.”
At the time, the captive Hadas Dagan was caught for hours in the crossfire between the two sides, lying face down on the grassy lawn. When the Israeli tank shells hit, Dagan felt their impact throughout her whole body, she told Porat after finally emerging from the combat zone in tatters.
“Yasmin, when the two big booms hit, I felt like I flew in the air,” Porat recalls a disheveled Dagan telling her minutes after the battle ended. Dagan was still covered in her husband’s blood, her hair standing on end, full of dust and styrofoam. “It took me two or three minutes to open my eyes, I didn’t feel my body. I was completely paralyzed,” Dagan told her, Porat says.
Upon regaining consciousness, Dagan realized that the captives who had been lying on either side of her – her husband Adi Dagan and Porat’s partner, Tal Katz – had just died from tank shell shrapnel. “When I opened my eyes, I saw that my Adi is dying,” Porat recalls Dagan saying. “Your Tal also stopped moving at that point.”
Though neither Porat nor Dagan witnessed the moment that fellow hostage Liel Hatsroni was incinerated by Israeli tank shells, they both immediately understood that she had died in the explosions, because after screaming for hours on end, since the beginning of the battle, she suddenly went silent.
“I remember, when I was there for the first hour, she did not stop screaming,” Porat told Kan, and noted that her recollections of Hatsroni dovetailed with what Hadas Dagan told her.
“The girl [Liel Hatsroni] did not stop screaming all those hours. She didn’t stop screaming,” Porat recalls Dagan telling her. “Yasmin, when those two shells hit, she stopped screaming. There was silence then.”
“So what do you glean from that? That after that very massive incident, the shooting, which concluded with two shells, that is pretty much when everyone died,” Porat told Kan.
Six weeks after the ordeal of 7 October, Porat concludes that Liel Hatsroni’s remains had yet to be recovered because Israeli tank shelling totally incinerated her and most of the house, finishing off many Hamas fighters and any other surviving captives.
“Part of the house is torched. The house of Hadas and Adi [Dagan] no longer exists. I don’t know how that happened,” Porat said. “If you ask me, I estimate, based on what happened in other houses, she [Liel Hatsroni] apparently burned completely.”
That Israel confirmed the death of Liel’s aunt Ayala only 38 days after 7 October suggests that she, too, was likely burned beyond recognition by Israeli tank shells.
A day after Porat’s revelation on live radio that Liel Hatsroni had been torched to death by tank fire, an Israeli official confirmed that she was not nearly the only person incinerated by Israel on 7 October and in the days that immediately followed.
Israeli government spokesperson Mark Regev inadvertently admitted in a 16 November MSNBC interview that some 200 bodies Israel had claimed for weeks were those of Israelis burned to death by Palestinians were now known to be the bodies of Palestinian fighters burned to death by Israel.
“We originally said, in the atrocious Hamas attack upon our people on October 7th, we had the number at 1,400 casualties and now we’ve revised that down to 1,200 because we understood that we’d overestimated, we made a mistake. There were actually bodies that were so badly burnt we thought they were ours, in the end apparently they were Hamas terrorists,” Regev told MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan.
Meanwhile, Hatsroni’s death is being used by Israeli politicians to incite and justify Israel’s vengeful slaughter of thousands of Palestinian children in Gaza.
Cracks in official narrative
After burning the bodies of some 200 Palestinian fighters, 12-year-old Israeli Liel Hatsroni, and an unknown number of other Israeli civilians, then lying to the world about who burned them and using their deaths and suffering as a pretext to destroy Gaza and annihilate more than 14,000 Palestinians there so far, Israel is finally starting to come clean about its actual contribution to the death toll on that horrific day.
Last week, Israeli daily Haaretz reported that a police investigation into the events of 7 October “indicates that an IDF [Israeli military] combat helicopter that arrived to the scene and fired at terrorists there apparently also hit some festival participants” at the Supernova rave held near the Gaza boundary that day.
Another police source criticized Haaretz and appeared to row back the statement the following day, but did not deny that Israel had killed some Israelis.
The first cracks in the official Israeli narrative about 7 October came from testimony by Yasmin Porat, a 44-year-old mother of three who fled the Supernova rave with her partner Tal Katz and found temporary shelter at Kibbutz Be’eri with local residents Adi and Hadas Dagan – until mid-afternoon. At that point, Hamas fighters captured all four and took them next door, pooling them with another group of eight or more kibbutz residents.
In her initial interview with Kan on 15 October, first reported in English by The Electronic Intifada the following day, Porat revealed that at least some of the dozen-plus Israelis held hostage with her at Be’eri died as a result of Israeli gunfire.
Asked by Kan radio host Aryeh Golan if some of the Israeli casualties of that battle had died by friendly fire, Porat answered “undoubtedly.”
Porat also told Kan and other Israeli media outlets that she and the other Israelis were not mistreated while held by Hamas fighters on 7 October. “They did not abuse us. They treated us very humanely,” Porat told Kan. “They give us something to drink here and there. When they see we are nervous they calm us down. It was very frightening but no one treated us violently.”
The goal of her Hamas captors was to trade captives for Palestinian prisoners incarcerated by Israel, Porat insists.
The 40 or so Hamas fighters who held the Israelis captive for six hours intended to take Porat and the other Israelis back to Gaza – and indeed, they could easily have done so, she said.
The fighters mistakenly assumed, however, that Israeli forces caught by surprise at dawn would have already regrouped by midday and encircled their position by the afternoon. “They could have left with us back and forth 10 times,” said Porat.
There is an increasing body of evidence that either through recklessness or by design, Israeli forces were responsible for killing a not insignificant number of Israelis on and after 7 October.
Yasmin Porat has, by now, been interviewed by just about every Israeli mainstream media outlet, but it still seems as if Israel isn’t listening to her.
Porat and Hadas Dagan, the only survivors from their group of captives, affirm that two Israeli tank shells set the house they were held in on fire and killed at least three of the people in their group: both of their partners and 12-year-old Liel Hatsroni.
In announcing Hatsroni’s death last week , Ynet nevertheless concluded that Hamas fighters “murdered everyone. Afterwards, they torched the house.”
Ali Abunimah is executive director of The Electronic Intifada.
This article was produced by The Electronic Intifada
Are There Any Paranoids in the Stadium Tonight? Two Nights in Santiago With Roger Waters By: Vijay PrashadRead Now
No one does a stadium show like Roger Waters. The music, of course, is resplendent, but so too are the soundscape, the images, the giant sheep and pig, the lasers, the films, the energy of the fans who—despite the language differences—sing along… “Did you exchange a walk-on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?” It is a riot of emotions. The quiet calm of Santiago is broken by familiar sounds and necessary feelings: yes, we are here; yes, we exist; yes, we must resist.
Santiago is a city blistered by social inequality. For two nights, Roger Waters played at the Estadio Monumental in Macul, a commune of Santiago that is more middle-class than the rest of the city although still not immune from the sharp divides that produced the massive social unrest of 2019. Then Roger sang a version of Víctor Jara’s El derecho de vivir en paz, with new lyrics for the new moment:
I can hear the Cacerolazo
I can smell you, Piñera
All fucking rats smell the same.
The Cacerolazo is the banging of pots, a social protest that resounded from Buenos Aires (2001) to Santiago (2011 and then again from 2019 to 2022). There is a good reason to walk on the streets and bang pots every day given the permanent condition of austerity reproduced by people like Chile’s former president Sebastían Piñera, one more of the “fucking rats” that make life hell. There is the austerity, the demise of social welfare and decent work, and the rise of poverty and social despair. Then there are the sharpened contradictions, the anger that sometimes gives rise to hope in madmen (Argentina’s incoming president Javier Milei is one of them) and at other moments, it gives rise to disorganized and organized forms of dissent.
A sheep flies over the tens of thousands of people in the stadium. It is the physical cognate of the song that flies off the stage, a paean to the atomization of people in society by this State of Permanent Austerity and of the necessity of resistance.
Through quiet reflection, and great dedication
Master the art of karate
Lo, we shall rise up,
And then we’ll make the bugger’s eyes water
Why not? Why not rise up? Sure, run like hell, run as fast as you can from the forces of repression that want to manage the contradictions of austerity. But then--as Roger does, as that sound of the hammer battering down your door quietens--take off the shirt that says, “run like hell” and put on one that says, “Resist.” The guitars tear through the night, the lasers flash to infinity, and the desire increases to rip off one’s fear of the State of Permanent Austerity and to rush into protest. But the images are chosen carefully. This is not a call for action without strategy. “Master the art of karate,” sings Roger. Like the karateka, dedicated study is needed, and the battlefield must certainly be approached with care to “make the bugger’s eyes water” and to do that with careful strategy.
The hammer’s sound is both that of the march of the police—in Chile the hated Carabineros—and the banging of the tools of the people, including the pots and pans. The stadium is engulfed by the madness of the electric guitar (particularly when Dave Kilminster has his eyes closed and his fingers aflame), heartbeats symphonized drawing people into Roger’s bar, a bottle of mezcal on the piano, Roger with his arms in the air, the night sky clear and hopeful because not far away is the dawn.
Universal Human Rights
About five kilometers from the Estadio Monumental is the Estadio Nacional, where Víctor Jara was assassinated by the coup regime of Augusto Pinochet 50 years ago. A few days before Roger’s show in Santiago, Victor’s wife, Joan Jara died, but their daughter Amanda was there to listen to Roger recognize the assassination of Víctor Jara and to Inti-Illimani open the show with a tribute to Víctor, including singing a full-throated version of El derecho, itself a tribute to Ho Chi Minh and the Vietnamese fighters.
Donde revientan la flor
Con genocidio y napalm
(Where they burst the flower
With genocide and napalm)
Jorge Coulón from Inti-Illimani belted out those lines with a kufiyah around his neck. Roger, with his acoustic guitar and kufiyah and with the haunting voice of Shanay Johnson alongside him, sings, lay down Jerusalem, lay your burden down.
If I had been god
I would not have chosen anyone
I would have laid an even hand
On all my children everyone
Would have been content
To forgo Ramadan and Lent
Time better spent
In the company of friends
Breaking bread and mending nets.
“Stop the Genocide” in white letters against a red background appears on the screens above the band’s head.
Roger was born in England in 1943 to a communist mother, Mary Duncan Whyte (1913-2009). His father--Second Lieutenant Eric Fletcher Waters, also a communist--was killed in Italy in 1944 (immortalized in my favorite song, The Gunner’s Dream from Final Cut, 1983). Five years later, the United Nations crafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That text is the foundation of Roger’s beliefs (“I don’t know when I first read it,” Roger tells me after the show, but he refers to it often, including in his shows). The fierce defense of human rights governs Roger, his anti-war sentiment shaped by the loss of his father. It is this universal faith that drives Roger’s politics.
“Are there paranoids in the stadium?” Roger asks. We are paranoid not because we are clinically ill, but because there is an enormous gulf between what we know to be true and what the powers that be tell us is supposed to be true. Roger Waters stands for human rights, including the rights of the Palestinians. We know that to be true because that is what he says, and he acts according to that belief. But the powers that be say that what Roger says is not true and that in fact, he is antisemitic. A consequence of the powers that be is that they tried to cancel his show in Frankfurt and--weirdly--all the hotel owners in Argentina refused to allow him--but not his band--a room in their establishments (he had to stay at a friend’s house in Uruguay). When Katie Halper and I asked him about this attack on him, Roger responded:
My platform is simple: it is [the] implementation of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights for all our brothers and sisters in the world including those between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. My support of universal human rights is universal. It is not antisemitism, which is odious and racist and which, like all forms of racism, I condemn unreservedly.
Roger says this over and over again, and yet, over and over again the powers that be malign Roger. “I will not be canceled,” Roger said in Birmingham at a concert. And why should he be? The attempt to cancel critics of Israel had some impact in recent years, but no longer carries weight: the atrocities of Israel against the Palestinians in Gaza have produced new generations of people who see the hideousness of the Occupation and refuse to bow down before the powers that be. “We need more than a pause” in the bombing of Gaza, Roger said from the stage in Santiago, “but a ceasefire that lasts forever,” the soundtrack to that sentiment produced by the saxophone of Seamus Blake and the lap steel of Jon Carin.
The show opens with Pink--the lead figure from The Wall (1982)--in a wheelchair, comfortably numb. In the second half, Roger is in the wheelchair in a straitjacket, thrown in there by orderlies of the powers that be. Is this the life we really want? It better not be. I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.
Roger Waters’s This is Not a Drill tour moves on to Lima, Peru (November 29), San José, Costa Rica (December 2), Bogotá, Colombia (December 5), and ends in Quito, Ecuador (December 9).
Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor, and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is an editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He has written more than 20 books, including The Darker Nations and The Poorer Nations. His latest books are Struggle Makes Us Human: Learning from Movements for Socialism and (with Noam Chomsky) The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power.
This article was produced by Globetrotter.
Inexhaustible presence, image of the dream fulfilled and truth of a country, Fidel continues to inhabit us from the survival, and emerging undefeated in the endearing memory of those who lived his time
Seven Novembers have passed since his physical departure and, however, Fidel continues to inhabit us since his survival, with that inexhaustible presence that emanates from his eternal and inescapable legacy, and from the endearing memory of those who lived his time.
And it could not be any other way, because as Army General Raúl Castro Ruz pointed out in 2016, in those days of collective mourning, in which a people mourned the loss of their greatest leader: «Fidel dedicated his entire life to solidarity and led a socialist Revolution of the humble, by the humble and for the humble", thus becoming a symbol of the anti-colonial, anti-apartheid and anti-imperialist struggle, and a bastion of the emancipation and dignity of oppressed peoples.
Precisely about that image of Fidel, who does not fit into any mold of politician, statesman, thinker or revolutionary, because his true legend crossed all possible labels, there are hundreds of anecdotes that portray him in the immensity of his unparalleled greatness, and as the extraordinary man – of flesh and blood – who remains a true paradigm.
BE AN EXAMPLE AS A FIRST CONDITION
Fidel liked to lead by example. That attitude earned him, inside and outside Cuba, the admiration of those who had the good fortune to know him personally or to be under his orders, as happened to Commander Juan Almeida Bosque, fellow fighter and close friend of the historical leader.
«With him I learned to be fair, modest, respectful, humane and responsible. He led by example, and being with him complemented the attitudes and qualities that I brought from my family, from my father. "He is greatness personified, a humane and simple man," he would say in an interview.
Also the journalist Lázaro Barredo Medina would witness, on more than one occasion, that shocking ability of the historical leader of the Cuban Revolution, to overcome any sacrifice, and continue to be an example to his people.
An unfortunate event, which occurred on June 23, 2001, confirmed this. That day, after almost three days of intense work, in which the Commander in Chief had barely rested or fed properly, he fainted in Cotorro; but, when he recovered, he told the people that he would finish his speech at the Round Table, and so he did.
Barredo, who that day had heard the claim of senior leaders of the Party and the National Assembly of People's Power that Fidel should rest for at least seven hours, and abide by that agreement in his capacity as a militant, recounted his meeting hours later with Raúl and Fidel himself.
According to what he said then, when the Army General learned of the concern that existed regarding the Chief's rest, he smiled, turned to where the Commander was and said: "Fidel, you must listen to this story about Lazarus...
«(…) The Head of the Revolution asked him what story Raúl said I was going to tell him, and with some timidity I answered: it is nothing important, Commander, but he insisted that I tell him. I told him what happened in the National Assembly that morning. Fidel looked at me smilingly and blurted out: You know what, Lázaro... (he uttered an expletive and then) nothing of that, how am I going to let them at this point in my life come to govern me and tell me what I should do, when I still have so many things to do, nothing of that...
«I started laughing. But I had that feeling that the Commander would never renounce his style of work, and that idea of dedicating his life to the Revolution and his people.
THE FIRST IN THE FACE OF DANGER
Another anecdote, published by the Girón newspaper, recounts episodes of the heroic days in which a mercenary invasion tried to curtail Cuba's emancipatory dream, without taking into account that Fidel would once again be at the head of its defense.
There the Leader assigned a commander to each tank, and he went to get into the third. Then the people jumped like a spring:
«–Not you, Fidel, you are not going!
–I am going, I am in charge here!
–Not you, Fidel, not you!
According to one of those present at that time, the end of the discussion between the Commander in Chief and the troops ended like this:
«And Fidel's response was an answer that shocked everyone. The way Fidel told us forcefully that he was the head of the Revolution, and that he, as head of the Revolution, had the right to fight and enter Playa Girón just as the rest of the comrades were going to do ( …) people were silent, everyone there was silent. And Fidel left in the tank.
For his part, José Alberto León Lima (nicknamed Leoncito), who was the driver and escort of the Historical Leader, also highlighted, in a testimonial book in which he collects several of his experiences with Fidel, the respect they professed for him, even within the United States, where he went with no other protective vest than his morals.
About one of those trips that occurred in the first years of the revolutionary triumph, he said that in New York "...when we reached the street, there was a sea of people cheering for Fidel and the Revolution. Cuban and July 26 flags were seen everywhere, and those present spontaneously began to sing the National Anthem. The security cordon of FBI agents and police on horseback could not prevent Fidel from approaching them..."
For this amazing way of overcoming obstacles, and making even the impossible possible, Fidel also became a symbol
inspiring for artists, doctors, teachers, scientists and even athletes.
Boxer Ángel Herrera attested to this, who, upon returning triumphant from the Olympic Games in Montreal, Canada (1976), in which he was crowned Olympic titleholder for the first time in the 57 kilogram division, had the honor of being received at the airport, along with other of his colleagues, by the Commander in Chief.
«I remember that he greeted us all and we shook his hand one by one. I had won the position at the last minute, since I went to complete the team. When my turn arrived, Fidel happily told me: "You went from youth to Olympic champion." That spurred me to get fully into training, and I did it so hard that I became a two-time world and Olympic champion. Never has praise stimulated me so much,” he said.
Likewise, the beloved athlete Ana Fidelia Quirot, when in 1993 she suffered a domestic accident that caused 2nd degree burns. and 3rd. degree of her, in 38% of her body, she said that the support of the Historical Leader was also key in her subsequent recovery.
«I was on the 22nd floor of the Quemados room, and it was more or less 9:30 p.m., I felt that someone was walking with very firm steps to the room... It was our beloved and invincible Commander in Chief Fidel Castro Ruz. "When I saw it, it was like experiencing a hymn to life," she stressed.
No less emotional was the anecdote told by the Bolivian leader Evo Morales, during his stay in Cuba in 2005, when he was recovering from knee surgery. «I was at an event with Chávez and, at the end, Fidel called me for a “photo of the axis of evil.” When I hear it, I forget to pick up the crutches and walked like that; The doctors were surprised. It seemed like a kind of biblical order: “Evo, get up and walk,” he said.
And that is the image that remains alive of the Olive Green Giant, who never dies in the memory of the grateful.
His friend Hugo Chávez defined it well, when he stated: «Fidel is a dreamer soldier, an example without a doubt for all of us, for all generations of fighters in the world. Fidel has an infinite and gigantic face before history, and no one will take Fidel out of there. History has absolved him.
Sources: *I knew Fidel. Compilation of anecdotes and evaluations about the leader of the Cuban Revolution, by Wilmer Rodríguez Fernández, 2021/*This is Fidel, by Luis Báez, 2009/*A page for Fidel. Tribute to the Undefeated Commander of the Cuban Revolution, by Collective of Authors, 2017.
On the eve of Economist's Day, it is important to review some aspects of Che's core ideas on the Political Economy of Socialism and especially when for some the solution to current problems is to completely free the market and reduce the role of the State in the economy.
In the Constituent Congress of the National Association of Economists and Accountants of Cuba (ANEC), in 1979, November 26 was established as Economist's Day, in tribute to the appointment of Ernesto Che Guevara on that date in 1959 as First President of the Bank. National of Cuba and with the commitment to follow their example.
Many times when talking about El Guerrillero Heroico the significance of his action and example is limited to his liberation struggles in Cuba, the Congo and Bolivia, without remembering that one of Che's essential contributions to the Cuban Revolution was his economic thinking. his work and conceptions on the construction of socialism, coinciding with the essential concepts of Commander in Chief Fidel Castro in that field.
On the eve of Economist's Day, it is important to review some aspects of Che's core ideas on the Political Economy of Socialism and especially when for some the solution to current problems is to completely free the market and reduce the role of the State in the economy. .
Che Guevara defended that socialist construction cannot rest on the spontaneous functioning of economic mechanisms, but requires control, supervision and a counterpart in the ideological and political order, capable of guiding and directing human action at all levels. including ethical and moral aspects.
The writer of these lines was an eyewitness of an informal meeting, in 1964, between Che and the economics students of the Universidad de Oriente, for which he asked them to wait until one in the morning because he was involved in other activities in Santiago de Cuba.
There he proposed the necessary rescue of the role of accounting, of control, and anticipated the serious risks that he saw for the then Soviet Union and the Socialist Camp for neglecting the ideological work and the mechanisms that must guarantee the efficiency of socialism for the benefit of the large majorities of the population.
Since the triumph of the Revolution in January 1959, Che assumed a set of responsibilities in the sphere of the economy, in the direction of the Industrialization Department of INRA, the Presidency of the National Bank of Cuba and finally as Minister of Industries. starting in 1961.
In all these positions he carried out intense work, and demonstrated by his example the importance of studying even in the midst of the most complex responsibilities, just as Fidel would also do throughout his entire existence.
Thus, he immersed himself in the study of Capital with Anastasio Mansilla, a Spanish-Soviet professor considered an authority on Marx's work; He studied mathematics applied to economics with Salvador Vilaseca, a prominent Cuban university professor, and dedicated himself to researching what were then still almost unknown sciences in Cuba, such as linear programming and the incipient development of computing.
This entire process of gestation of Che's ideas is formed alongside multiple controversies in the socialist field.
Che assumes in his theoretical analyzes the challenges of a country like Cuba that begins the transition to socialism from underdevelopment, something not foreseen by Marx and Engels in their works, together with the continuous aggressions of the United States against the Revolution since 1959 itself. Thus presenting a theoretical-practical contradiction between the aspiration to achieve the necessary leaps in material productive growth and the also necessary changes in social consciousness for the formation of a new society based on new values, substituting those generalized by capitalist society, capable of assuming socialism in its double economic and ethical dimension.
For Commander Che Guevara, socialism is not only a phenomenon of production, but a fact of consciousness, the formation of a new man constituted within his ideas an essential objective that would have to be assumed from the very moment we began socialist construction.
And he specified: «The new society has to compete very hard with the past. This is felt not only in the individual conscience in which the residue of an education systematically oriented towards the isolation of the individual weighs heavily, but also in the very nature of this period of transition with the persistence of commercial relations. The commodity is the fundamental economic cell of capitalist society; As long as its effects exist, they will be felt in the organization of production and therefore in consciousness.
Che warned that "socialism cannot be built using the damaged weapons that capitalism bequeathed us" and that their use could lead society to a dead end. His assertions from the 60s became bitter realities, when those models of socialism collapsed upon reaching the dead end he warned of.
He pointed out that "voluntary work is fundamentally the factor that develops the consciousness of workers more than any other" and described it as "antidote to the selfish and individualistic attitude that the capitalist system enhances in man, through the mechanism of his insatiable consumer society.
Che was the creator of the so-called Budgetary Financing System, to contribute to centralized planning, programming and strict control techniques, the introduction of computing for management, and the use of the budget as a planning instrument.
Fidel pointed out on the 20th anniversary of Che's fall «(...) if we knew Che's economic thinking, we would be a hundred times more alert, even, to lead the horse, and when the horse wants to turn to the right or left (... ) give the horse a good pull on the bit and place it on its path, and when the horse does not want to walk, give it a good spur. "I believe that a rider, that is, an economist, that is, a Party cadre, that is, an administrative cadre armed with Che's ideas, would be more capable of leading the horse along the right path."
And he added: "I have the deepest conviction that if this thought is ignored it will be difficult to get very far, it will be difficult to reach true socialism, truly revolutionary socialism."
The Eviction Notice is being written. And it will come in four languages. Russian. Farsi. Mandarin. And last but not least, English.
A much-cherished pleasure of professional writing is to always be enriched by informed readers. This “eviction” insight – worth a thousand geopolitical treatises – was offered by one of my sharpest readers commenting on a column.
Concisely, what we have here expresses a deeply felt consensus across the spectrum not only in West Asia but also in most latitudes across the Global South/Global Majority.
The Unthinkable, in the form of a genocide conducted live, in real time on every smartphone in the third decade of the millennium – which I called the Raging Twenties in a previous book – has acted like a particle accelerator, concentrating hearts and minds.
Those that chose to set West Asia on fire are already confronting nasty blowback. And that goes way beyond diplomacy exercised by Global South leaders.
For the first time in ages, via President Xi Jinping, China has been more than explicit geopolitically (a true Sovereign cannot hedge when it comes to genocide). China’s unmistaken position on Palestine goes way beyond the geoeconomics routine of promoting BRI’s trade and transportation corridors.
All that while President Putin defined sending humanitarian aid to Gaza as a “sacred duty”, which in Russian code includes, crucially, the military spectrum.
For all the maneuvering and occasional posturing, for all practical purposes everyone knows the current UN arrangement is rotten beyond repair, totally impotent when it comes to imposing meaningful peace negotiations, sanctions or investigations of serial war crimes.
The new UN in the making is BRICS 11 – actually BRICS 10, considering new Trojan Horse Argentina in practice may be relegated to a marginal role, assuming it joins on January 1st, 2024.
BRICS 10, led by Russia-China, both regulated by a strong moral compass, keep their ear on the ground and listen to the Arab street and the lands of Islam. Especially their people, much more than their elites. This will be an essential element in 2024 during the Russian presidency of BRICS.
Even with no check out, you will have to leave
The current order of business in the New Great Game is to organize the expulsion of the Hegemon from West Asia – as much a technical challenge as a civilizational challenge.
As it stands, the Washington-Tel Aviv continuum are already prisoners of their own device. This ain’t no Hotel California; you may not check out any time you like, but you will be forced to leave.
That may happen in a relatively gentle manner – think Kabul as a Saigon remix – or if push comes to shove may involve a naval Apocalypse Now, complete with expensive iron bathtubs turned into sub-ocean coral reefs and the demise of CENTCOM and its AFRICOM projection.
The crucial vector all along is how Iran – and Russia – have played, year after year, with infinite patience, the master strategy devised by Gen. Soleimani, whose assassination actually started the Raging Twenties.
A de-weaponized Hegemon cannot defeat the “new axis of evil”, Russia-Iran-China, not only in West Asia but also anywhere in Eurasia, Asia-Pacific, and pan-Africa. Direct participation/normalization of the genocide only worked to accelerate the progressive, inevitable exclusion of the Hegemon from most of the Global South.
All that while Russia meticulously crafts the integration of the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea, the Baltic Sea (Finnish hysteria notwithstanding), the Arctic and the Northwestern Pacific Sea and China turbo-charges the integration of the South China Sea.
Xi and Putin are gifted players of chess and go – and profit from stellar advisers of the caliber of Patrushev and Wang Yi. China playing geopolitical go is an exercise in non-confrontation: all you need to do is to block your opponent’s ability to move.
Chess and go, in a diplomatic tandem, represent a game where you don’t interrupt your opponent when it is repeatedly shooting itself on the knees. As an extra bonus, you get your opponent antagonizing over 90% of the world’s population.
All that will lead to the Hegemon’s economy eventually collapsing. And then it can be beaten by default.
Western “values” buried under the rubble
As Russia, especially via Lavrov’s efforts, offers the Global South/Global Majority a civilizational project, focused on mutually respectful multipolarity, China via Xi Jinping offers the notion of “community with a shared future” and a set of initiatives, discussed in lengthy detail at the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) Forum in Beijing in October, where Russia, not by accident, was the guest of honor.
A group of Chinese scholars concisely frame the approach as China “creating/facilitating global nodes for relating/communicating and platforms for concrete collaboration/practical exchanges. The participants remains Sovereign, contribute to the common endeavor (or simply specific projects) and receive benefits making them willing to keep on.”
It’s as if Beijing was acting as a sort of shining star and guiding light.
In sharp contrast, what remains of Western civilization – certainly with not much to do with Montaigne, Pico della Mirandola or Schopenhauer – increasingly plunges into a self-constructed Heart of Darkness (without Conrad’s literary greatness), confronting the true, irredeemably horrifying face of conformist, subservient individualism.
Welcome to the New Medievalism, precipitated by the “kill apps” of Western racism, as argued in a brilliant book, Chinese Cosmopolitanism, by scholar Shuchen Xiang, professor of Philosophy at Xidan University.
The “kill apps” of Western racism, writes Prof. Xiang, are fear of change; the ontology of bivalent dualism; the invention of the ‘barbarian’ as the racial Other; the metaphysics of colonialism; and the insatiable nature of this racist psychology. All these “apps” are now exploding, in real time, in West Asia. The key consequence is that the Western “values” construct has already perished, buried under the Gaza rubble.
Now to a ray of light: a case can be made – and we’ll be back to it – that orthodox Christianity, moderate Islam and several strands of Taoism/Confucianism may embrace the future as the three main civilizations of a cleansed Mankind.
Republished from Strategic Culture Foundation.
As part of our academic research on how to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we are examining the extent to which U.N. member states adhere to the U.N. Charter and U.N.-backed goals such as the SDGs.
Towards this end, we have created a preliminary “Multilateralism Index” and welcome feedback and suggestions. The ranking of 74 countries according to the Multilateralism Index is shown below.
Barbados ranks highest, the U.N. member most aligned with the U.N. Charter. Though Barbados is a very small country, with just 280,000 people, its peaceful multilateralism gives it a big voice.
Barbados’ globally respected Prime Minister Mia Mottley, recently teamed up with French President Emmanuel Macron to co-host the Summit for a New Global Financing Pact for People and Planet, in Paris this past June.
This summit built on Barbados’ Bridgetown Initiative — named after the Barbados’ capital city — to reform the Global Financial Architecture to enable vulnerable countries cope with climate change.
At the very bottom of the ranking of 74 countries is the United States, with Israel being the second from the bottom. Both countries are frequently at odds with the U.N. multilateral system, as is so evident these days.
Regime Change & War
The U.S. fails to adhere to the U.N. Charter in several ways. The starkest is the many wars and regime change operations that the U.S. has led, without any U.N. mandate and often against the will of the U.N. Security Council.
In 2003, the U.S. tried to get the U.N. Security Council to vote for a war against Iraq. When the Security Council opposed the U.S., the U.S. launched the war anyway. As events later proved, the U.S. ostensible reason for launching the war, Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction, did not even exist.
The U.S. has engaged in dozens of covert and overt regime-change operations that violate the letter and spirit of the U.N. Charter. One important study finds 64 covert regime change operations by the U.S. during the Cold War, 1947-1989. There have been many well-known U.S. covert operations since then.
The U.S. also goes it alone on issues of sustainable development. In 2015, all 193 U.N. member states adopted the SDGs to guide national policies and international development cooperation during the period 2016-2030.
Every U.N. member state is supposed to present its national SDG plans, challenges and achievements to the other nations, in a presentation called the Voluntary National Review, or VNR.
So far, 188 of the 193 U.N. member states have presented VNRs, sometimes more than once. Barbados, for instance, presented two VNRs in 2020 and 2023. Yet five countries have never presented a single VNR: Haiti, Myanmar, South Sudan, Yemen, and yes, the United States of America. South Sudan and Yemen are now on the list of countries to present a VNR in 2024, but not the U.S.
At this stage, the Multilateralism Index covers 74 of the 193 U.N. member states, the group for which we have collected extensive data on the governments’ efforts to achieve the SDGs. The Multilateralism Index is positively correlated with those SDG efforts, that is, countries abiding by U.N. processes (according to the Index) also demonstrate a strong commitment to the SDGs.
The Multilateralism Index is based on five indicators.
The first is the proportion of U.N. treaties between 1946 and 2022 that each country has ratified. As an example, Barbados has ratified more than 80 percent of major U.N. treaties, while the U.S. has ratified less than 60 percent.
The second is each country’s deployment of unilateral economic sanctions (sometimes called “unilateral coercive measures”) not approved by the U.N..
The U.N. General Assembly proclaimed in 1974 that “no State may use or encourage the use of economic, political or any other type of measures to coerce another State in order to obtain from it the subordination of the exercise of its sovereign rights.”
The third measures each country’s membership in major U.N. organizations.
The fourth measures each country’s militarization and inclination to resort to war. The indicator draws on the excellent work of the Global Peace Index.
The fifth measures each high-income country’s economic solidarity with poorer nations, according to its Official Development Assistance (ODA) as a percent of the Gross National Income (GNI).
According to a resolution of the U.N. General Assembly in October 1970, high-income countries are supposed to devote at least 0.7 percent of GNI to ODA. The U.S., by contrast, devoted just 0.22 percent in 2022.
We combine these five indicators to produce the Multilateralism Index.
Our index, which is based on data up through 2022, has shown its predictive power. In recent weeks, in vote after vote, we have witnessed America’s self-isolation within the U.N.. To be multilateral within the U.N. system, after all, means to abide by U.N. precepts and the voice of the global community.
US Veto of Ceasefire in Gaza
On Oct. 18, the U.S. stood alone in the U.N. Security Council, when it deployed its veto to stop a resolution calling for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza. The vote was 12 voting yes, two abstentions and the U.S. alone vetoing the measure.
Similarly, on Nov. 2, the U.N. General Assembly adopted Resolution A/78/L.5, which calls on the United States to end its long-standing economic, financial, and commercial embargo on Cuba. To put it mildly, this was not a close vote: 187 countries voted in favor of the resolution, while only the United States and Israel voted against.
Ukraine abstained, and three countries did not vote. Thus, the vote was 187 saying yes, two no, and one abstention. This year’s resolution follows 30 similar resolutions, dating back to 1993. The United States has ignored every single one of those U.N. General Assembly resolutions.
In a deeply interconnected and interdependent world, facing unprecedented and complex crises ranging from pandemics to wars to climate change, the need for multilateralism under the U.N. Charter is more urgent than ever.
No government can do it alone. Barbados sets the highest standard for others to achieve. The U.S. needs to recognize that the U.N. system, operating under the U.N. Charter, is the true “rule-based international order.”
Jeffrey D. Sachs is a university professor and Director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, where he directed The Earth Institute from 2002 until 2016. He is also president of the U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network and a commissioner of the U.N. Broadband Commission for Development.
Guillaume Lafortune is vice president and head of the Paris office at the U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) — the largest global network of scientists and practitioners mobilized for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
This article is from Common Dreams.
The US and its allies will continue backing Israel's war on Gaza after a brief truce. But as the case for 'genocide' grows stronger, the new multipolar powers will have to confront the old hegemons and their Rules-Based Chaos.
While the world cries “Israeli genocide,” the Biden White House is gushing over the upcoming Gaza truce it helped broker, as though it's actually “on the verge” of its “biggest diplomatic victory.”
Behind the self-congratulatory narratives, the US administration is not remotely “wary about Netanyahu’s endgame,” it fully endorses it - genocide included - as agreed at the White House less than three weeks before Al-Aqsa Flood, in a 20 September meeting between Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu and Joe “The Mummy” Biden’s handlers.
The US/Qatar-brokered “truce,” which is supposed to go into effect this week, is not a ceasefire. It is a PR move to soften Israel's genocide and boost its morale by securing the release of a few dozen captives. Moreover, the record shows that Israel never respects ceasefires.
Predictably, what really worries the US administration is the “unintended consequence” of the truce, which will “allow journalists broader access to Gaza and the opportunity to further illuminate the devastation there and turn public opinion on Israel.”
Real journalists have been working in Gaza 24/7 since October 7 – dozens of whom have been killed by the Israeli military machine in what Reporters Sans Frontieres calls “one of the deadliest tolls in a century.”
These journalists have spared no effort to go all the way to “illuminate the devastation,” a euphemism for the ongoing genocide, shown in all its gruesome detail for the entire world to see.
Even the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine (UNRWA), itself relentlessly attacked by Israel, revealed - somewhat meekly - that this has been “the largest displacement since 1948,” an "exodus" of the Palestinian population, with the younger generation “forced to live through traumas of ancestors or parents.”
As for public opinion all across the Global South/Global Majority, it “turned” long ago on Zionist extremism. But now the Global Minority - populations of the collective west - are watching raptly, horrified, and bitter that in just six weeks, social media has exposed them to what mainstream media hid for decades. There will be no turning back now that this penny has dropped.
A former Apartheid state leads the way
The South African government has paved the path, globally, for the proper reaction to an unfolding genocide: parliament voted to shutter the Israeli embassy, expel the Israeli ambassador, and cut diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv. South Africans do know a thing or two about apartheid.
They, like other critics of Israel, better be extra wary moving forward. Anything can be expected: an outbreak of foreign intel-conducted “terra terra terra” false flags, artificially induced weather calamities, fake “human rights abuse” charges, the collapse of the national currency, the rand, instances of lawfare, assorted Atlanticist apoplexy, sabotage of energy infrastructure. And more.
Several nations should have by now invoked the Genocide Convention - given that Israeli politicians and officials have been bragging, on the record, about razing Gaza and besieging, starving, killing, and mass-transferring its Palestinian population. No geopolitical actor has dared thus far.
South Africa, for its part, had the courage to go where few Muslim and Arab states have ventured. As matters stand, when it comes to much of the Arab world - particularly the US client states - they are still in Rhetorical Swamp territory.
The Qatar-brokered “truce” came at precisely the right time for Washington. It stole the spotlight from the delegation of Islamic/Arab foreign ministers touring selected capitals to promote their plan for a complete Gaza ceasefire in Gaza - plus negotiations for an independent Palestinian state.
This Gaza Contact Group, uniting Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Palestine, made their first stop in Beijing, meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and then on to Moscow, meeting with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. That was definitely an instance of BRICS 11 already in action – even before they started business on January 1st, 2024, under the Russian presidency.
The meeting with Lavrov in Moscow was held simultaneously with an extraordinary online BRICS session on Palestine, called by the current South African presidency. Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi, whose country leads the region's Axis of Resistance and refuses any relations with Israel, supported the South African initiatives and called for BRICS member states to use every political and economic tool available to pressure Tel Aviv.
It was also important to hear from Chinese President Xi Jinping himself that “there can be no security in the Middle East without a just solution to the question of Palestine.”
Xi stressed once again the need for “a two-state solution,” the “restoration of the legitimate national rights of Palestine,” and “the establishment of an independent state of Palestine." This should all start via an international conference.
None of this is enough at this stage - not this temporary truce, not the promise of a future negotiation. The US administration, itself struggling with an unexpected global backlash, at best, arm-wrestled Tel Aviv to enact a short “pause” in the genocide. This means the carnage continues after a few days.
Had this truce been an actual “ceasefire,” in which all hostilities came to a halt and Israel's war machine disengaged from the Gaza Strip entirely, the next-day options would still be pretty dismal. Realpolitik practitioner John Mearsheimer already cut to the chase: a negotiated solution for Israel-Palestine is impossible.
It takes a cursory glance at the current map to graphically demonstrate how the two-state solution – advocated by everyone from China-Russia to much of the Arab world – is dead. A collection of isolated Bantustans can never coalesce as a state.
Let’s grab all their gas
There has been thundering noise all across the spectrum that with the advent of the petroyuan getting closer and closer, the Americans badly need Eastern Mediterranean energy bought and sold in US dollars – including the vast gas reserves off the Gaza coastline.
Enter the US administration's energy security advisor, deployed to Israel to “discuss potential economic revitalization plans for Gaza centered around undeveloped offshore natural gas fields:" what a lovely euphemism.
But while Gaza's gas is indeed a crucial vector, Gaza, the territory, is a nuisance. What really matters for Tel Aviv is to confiscate all Palestinian gas reserves and allot them to future preferential clients: the EU.
Enter the India-Middle East Corridor(IMEC) - actually the EU-Israel-Saudi Arabia-Emirates-India Corridor - conceived by Washington as the perfect vehicle for Israel to become an energy crossroads power. It fancifully imagines a US-Israel energy partnership trading in US dollars – simultaneously replacing Russian energy to the EU and halting a possible export increase of Iran's energy to Europe.
We return to the 21st century's main chessboard here: the Hegemon vs. BRICS.
Beijing has had steady relations with Tel Aviv so far, with lavish investment in Israeli high-tech industries and infrastructure. But Israel's pounding of Gaza may change that picture: no real Sovereign can hedge when it comes to real genocide.
In parallel, whatever the Hegemon may come up with in its various hybrid and hot war scenarios against the BRICS, China, and its multi-trillion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), that will not alter Beijing’s rational and strategically formulated trajectory.
This analysis by Eric Li is all one needs to know about what lies ahead. Beijing has mapped out all relevant tech roads to follow in successive five-year plans, all the way to 2035. Under this framework, BRI should be considered a sort of geoeconomics UN without the G7. If you’re outside of BRI – and that concerns, to a large extent, old comprador systems and elites - you’re self-isolating from the Global South/Global Majority.
So what remains of this “pause” in Gaza? By next week, the western-backed cowards will restart their genocide against women and children, and they will not stop for a good long while. The Palestinian resistance and the 800,000 Palestinian civilians still living in northern Gaza - now surrounded on all sides by Israeli troops and armored vehicles - are proving that they are willing and able to bear the burden of fighting the Israeli oppressor, not only for Palestine but for everyone, everywhere, with a conscience.
Despite such a terrible price to be paid in blood, there will eventually be a reward: the slow but sure evisceration of the imperial construct in West Asia.
No mainstream media narrative, no PR move to soften the genocide, no containment of “public opinion turning on Israel” can ever cover the serial war crimes perpetrated by Israel and its allies in Gaza. Perhaps this is just what the Doctor – metaphysical and otherwise - ordered for mankind: an imperative global tragedy, to be witnessed by all, that will also transform us all.
Republished from The Cradle.
On 15 November, The Guardian caused a social media stir by removing a letter from its website written by the late Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, titled "A Letter to America." The missive, which had remained on the media outlet's site for over two decades, delved into the reasons behind the fateful 9/11 attacks on the US, which it said was a response to US injustices in Afghanistan, Palestine, and other parts of the Islamic world.
Bin Laden's letter went viral, and was heavily shared among American youth on social media platforms, with many agreeing with his message about malign US foreign policies in West Asian and prompting a reevaluation of the western narratives that have supported endless ‘wars on terror.’
This unusual incident might not have occurred had Israel not been bombing the occupied Gaza Strip mercilessly for the past six weeks. The Palestinian resistance's 7 October Al-Aqsa Flood operation in southern Israel - and Israel's disproportionate response to it - has thoroughly shifted global sentiment against Israel and its American benefactor, destroying decades of carefully laid western narratives and redirecting global ire at the US for its instigation of conflict, destruction, and terrorism in West Asia and beyond.
The battle for the Global South
The battleground for influence in the Global South has become a western priority, according to an article earlier this year in the Financial Times, which observed that "the fate of the democratic world will largely be decided in the so-called Global South."
This sentiment was echoed by US Vice President Kamala Harris at this year’s Munich Security Conference (MSC), emphasizing the need for persuasion and partnership with Global South countries, especially those “on the fence.” Other western leaders, such as French President Emmanuel Macron, have openly acknowledged the west's failure to address double standards, urging a new deal to win back the Global South.
Writings and statements throughout the year emphasized the urgency of developing a western strategy that respects Global South nations, addresses their concerns, and demonstrates a genuine commitment to collaboration. It is particularly daunting to address the global majority's prevailing belief that the west practices double standards through its much-ballyhooed ‘rules-based order.’
Roland Freudenstein, vice president of the European GLOBSEC Study Center, argues that “respectful communication must go hand in hand with concrete efforts to address the material issues and dependencies of the Global South."
Bloomberg published an article titled "The west must offer the Global South a new deal," where the author stresses that winning the battle against China and Russia requires the west to win over countries of the Global South by focusing on issues that matter to them. And Politico maintains that “to punish Putin, the west must talk to the Global South as partners.”
This may be nigh near impossible. Intelligence firm GIS Reports contends that “the west still misunderstands the Global South,” a fact made crystal clear when the collective west threw considerable weight behind Israel's destruction of Gaza.
The events of 7 October illustrated the elements the west sought to downplay: double standards, hypocrisy, and a self-centered approach.
Global South's diplomatic pushback
To counter Russia and confront China, the west has adopted the narrative of "defending the rules-based world order," a rallying cry employed by EU and the US during the Ukrainian war. However, the west's simultaneous support for Israel’s genocidal actions against Palestinians has exposed a selective application of international norms driven by geopolitical interests.
A Foreign Policy article warns that “the longer the Israel-Hamas war goes on, the greater the risk to western credibility in the global south becomes.”
The global majority's response to the war transcends the Palestinian issue, particularly in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Viewing the conflict through the lens of their own struggle against colonialism and imperialism, their anger has only consolidated and intensified with each passing week of the war. The inconsistency of the west, defending “blond-haired and blue-eyed” Ukrainians while arming the massacre of “brown” Palestinians in Gaza, has singlehandedly destroyed the efficacy of every single western narrative since World War 2.
To put this into perspective, the number of Palestinians killed in only one month has already exceeded the 9,806 civilian deaths in two years of war in Ukraine.
This disparity in human valuation is being strongly registered in the Global South. The question is whether it will seize this opportunity to seek retribution for decades of western-inflicted injustices, including this one in Palestine.
Indeed, public opinion in the Global South has prompted several heads of state to take action against the occupation state. Bolivia was the first to sever ties with Tel Aviv, while Belize suspended theirs. Elsewhere, Chile, Colombia, Honduras, Bahrain, Jordan, Turkiye, Chad, and South Africa withdrew their ambassadors.
Although the Global South has not yet spoken definitively, the aftermath of this conflict is poised to shape its perception of, and potentially, its relations with the west. Unconditional support for Israeli actions could trigger an irreversible backlash against Washington's critical interests in its strategic competition with Beijing, Moscow, and Tehran.
US soft power erosion
Perspectives from academic researchers offer a deeper understanding of some potential consequences. Brazilian scholar Lucas Goalberto do Nascimento, of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, explains to The Cradle that:
"Most public opinion in the Global South will have a negative attitude toward the United States and its allies in support of the ongoing Israeli invasion. As a result, the Global South will view other powers that respect Palestinian statehood in a positive way, as they counterbalance the unilateral attempts to impose their will."
Dr Mario Antonio Padilla Torres from Cuba asserts that:
"The United States has always supported Israeli Zionism and is therefore also guilty of genocide against Palestinians. I believe that the United States will lose credibility in the world because of this war, and that China, Russia and other emerging powers will be more credible."
According to Dr Monogit Das, an Indian geopolitical researcher:
"A negative view of the United States in the Global South could create opportunities for other powers such as Russia and China to strengthen their influence, especially if they position themselves as advocates of a more balanced and principled approach to conflicts in West Asia."
Armenian researcher Ashkhin Givorjian also anticipates a negative view of the US in the Global South, potentially influencing government attitudes, while Maria Aniyukhovskaya, a researcher at Belarusian State University, advocates for world powers like Russia and China to intervene and become a lifeline for those impacted by unwanted Atlanticist intervention in regional conflicts.
Palestinian power and the Global South
Importantly, Israel's ethnic cleansing campaign in Gaza has also dealt a severe blow to the west's longstanding efforts of cultivating soft power via the younger generation, whose embrace of the "western model's aesthetic" has been critical to manufacture consensus for a US-led global order.
What's certain is that the Global South, already deeply motivated to helm its own rudder in a multipolar world, is in a much stronger position to collectively reject the double standards, pressures, and diktats of Washington and its allies. The brutal mass murder of Palestinian civilians has not only refocused international attention on the Palestinian cause, but is also serving as a stern reminder that the collusion of just a few western states can pose an existential threat to the international community.
At a time when western leaders are seeking optimal strategies to regain influence in the Global South - after losing out to Russia during the Ukrainian conflict - today, Israel's actions have firmly thwarted all Atlanticist initiatives aimed at rehabilitating the west's “benevolent” image.
Essentially, the Palestinian resistance has dealt a severe blow to the collective western endeavor of securing influence in the Global South. If anything, as Israel's brutality continues unabated, the global majority is likely to more openly and stridently resist the rules-based paradigm, undermining the west's strategic objectives against rival powers.
The crucial question is whether Washington's competitors will seize this opportunity to further their own interests.
Forward Ever: 40 Years on from the End of the Revolution and the U.S. Invasion of Grenada. By: Amy Li BakshRead Now
In the throes of the Cold War, a tiny Caribbean island dared to wage a revolutionary experiment. As the Revo imploded, the United States invaded.
if it must be
you speak no more with me
nor smile no more with me
nor march no more with me
then let me take
a patience and a calm
for even now the greener leaf explodes
sun brightens stone
and all the river burns.
Now from the mourning vanguard moving on
dear Comrades I salute you and I say
Death will not find us thinking that we die.
With this poem, George Lamming, Barbadian novelist and poet, ended his address at a December 1983 memorial service in Trinidad for Maurice Bishop, Jacqueline Creft, Norris Bain, Vincent Noel, Unison Whiteman, and all who had been killed during the abrupt end to the Grenada Revolution.
“It is the tragedy of a whole region which has brought us here,” said Lamming during his address. “The landscape of Grenada and its people are the immediate victims… But all of us are now the casualties of the American invasion.”
When an intra-party conflict broke out, leading to the killing of revolutionary leader Bishop and other victims on October 19, 1983, the Reagan administration seized the pretext to invade. On October 25, 1983, thousands of U.S. troops landed on the island.
This year, Grenada commemorates both 50 years as an independent nation and 40 years since the violent implosion of the People’s Revolutionary Government and subsequent U.S. invasion. For the first time, the government of Grenada has recognized October 19 as a national holiday, designated as “National Heroes Day.” Decades on, reckoning with the events of 1983 continues.
Writer Marise La Grenade-Lashley spoke at the inaugural National Heroes Day gathering, where she echoed sentiments expressed in her article in Now Grenada a year prior. “The shocking events of 19 October 1983, whose effects reverberated across the Caribbean and beyond, created deep psychological wounds that have never really healed. One coping mechanism adopted by some persons directly affected by the events of that fateful day has been to retreat in silence,” she wrote.
“While silence is a common reaction to trauma, it has, in the case of Grenada, created a void in our society that needs to be filled with factual and unbiased information related to those four and a half years during which Grenada embarked on an alternative path to development that crumbled so abruptly, so brutally, so tragically,” La Grenade-Lashley added.
The designation of National Heroes Day includes a mandate to bring the history of Grenada’s revolution to civics classes in Grenadian schools.
A Revolutionary Movement Provokes U.S. Ire
In 1979, Maurice Bishop and his New Jewel Movement (NJM) took control from the increasingly authoritarian regime of Sir Eric Gairy, Grenada’s first prime minister. Gairy, an ally of Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet and creator of the notorious “Mongoose Gang” private militia, modelled after the Haitian Tonton Macoutes, had lost public support and remained in power through rigged elections.
The insurrection installed the NJM as the People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG), suspended the 1974 Constitution, and declared Bishop prime minister. The government’s first steps were to encourage trade union representation, introduce free medical services, and to prioritize education and adult literacy programs as well as projects benefitting small farmers and farmworkers.
One month into the PRG’s rule, Bishop gave a national broadcast after a visit from U.S. Ambassador Frank Ortiz. “The ambassador pointed out that his country was the richest, freest, and most generous country in the world, but as he put it, ‘We have two sides,’” said Bishop. “We understood that to mean that the other side he was referring to was the side which stamped on freedom and democracy when the American government felt that their interests were being threatened.”
Over the next four years, Bishop spoke often of the U.S. pressure on the PRG. He felt that the Reagan administration was seeking to destabilize the revolution through the media and through economic trade disruptions. The Monroe Doctrine had given way to the Reagan Doctrine, and closer Cold War ties from Grenada to Cuba and the USSR could not be tolerated. As Hugh O’Shaughnessy, a British journalist who was on the ground in Grenada when the invasion finally happened, put it: “The State Department and the Pentagon in Washington…had been seeking ways of putting an end to the left-wing government of Grenada.”
Meanwhile, the PRG was putting in place a variety of projects, one of which was a program—the National Cooperative Development Agency (NACDA)—to deal with the joblessness and landlessness faced by the country’s youth. Trinidadian-born Regina Dumas moved to Grenada in March 1980 to take up a role as registrar of cooperatives within NACDA. “It was like all my dreams had come true,” Dumas said when we spoke on October 17, a few days before the National Heroes Day celebrations. “Here I am, working with rural people, farmers, and listening to them talk, and realizing—these people know what they want.”
In her book, Memoir of a Cocoa Farmer’s Daughter, Dumas describes her work at NACDA, which involved helping to get privately held, uncultivated land into the hands of young prospective farmers tasked with reviving the local and export agriculture markets.
In those days, Dumas often took Sunday afternoon drives to visit the construction site of the new international airport. Supported by Cuba and other countries, the airport was one of the PRG’s flagship projects. “That the government of Cuba chose to support this initiative by providing a skilled work force…was the cause of much rancour with the United States which stridently opposed it,” Dumas writes in her memoir.
During a nationally televised address in March 1983, Reagan displayed a picture of the airport runway under construction. “The Cubans with Soviet financing and backing are in the process of building an airfield with a 10,000-foot runway,” he said. “Grenada doesn’t even have an air force. Who is it intended for?” The implication was clear. During the invasion later that year, the airport would be one of the locations bombed by the U.S. military.
The Revolutionary Government Implodes
Months away from the Revolution’s fifth anniversary, divisions within the PRG between Bishop and his deputy prime minister, Bernard Coard, began to come to a head. “Why, when they knew that the Reagan administration was poised to pounce at the slightest error made, would they play into their hands so easily?” said Dumas. “I dismissed, completely out of hand, the rumors that I heard as counter-revolutionary propaganda. What an error on my part!”
The rumors were becoming reality. Disagreements between Bishop and Coard over a plan for shared leadership turned sour, and Bishop was deposed and placed under house arrest in the first week of October 1983. On October 19, six days after Bishop had been placed under house arrest, Dumas recalls hearing the chanting of hundreds of Grenadians marching the streets in support of Bishop. “The plan, apparently, was to march to the residence of Maurice Bishop, where he was being held, confront the members of the People’s Revolutionary Army (PRA), who were holding him hostage, and forcibly, if necessary, free him from his temporary prison and reinstate him as prime minister,” she said.
After gathering her two children from school and returning home, Dumas watched in horror from her veranda as the march, which had successfully liberated Bishop, went to Fort Rupert (originally called Fort George, but renamed after Bishop’s father Rupert, who had been killed by Gairy’s Mongoose Gang in 1974). Once at Fort Rupert, they were faced with a hail of bullets. “Armored personnel carriers began to shoot directly into the crowd of people who were climbing the fort, singing and dancing with Maurice on their shoulders,” Dumas writes in her book. “With no other point of exit…I watched as people leaped over the edge of that fort, quite substantial in height, and into the crashing waves and rocks below.”
Within hours, Bishop had been executed alongside 10 others at Fort Rupert. General Hudson Austin issued a national announcement: “With immediate effect, and until further notice, anyone caught on the streets of St. George’s and environs will be shot on sight.”
The Invasion Strikes
For Dumas, the events were both political and personal. “They had killed the prime minister of the country and others of their own group and party. They had killed my friend Jacqui, thus leaving her young son an orphan,” she said. “They had decidedly opened up the gates to those who had always opposed the revolution.”
President Reagan ordered troops to invade Grenada on October 25. As O’Shaughnessy wrote: “At 6:40 on the morning on Thursday 27 October 1983 a platoon of U.S. marines edged nervously past the main branch of Barclay’s Bank in St. George’s, the capital of Grenada, towards Fort Rupert. They need not have worried. No resistance awaited them there.”
The arrival of the U.S. military brought a rain of bombings across the forts and levelled a mental health hospital, killing 30 patients and wounding many more.
Neville Warner, a Tobago-born son of a Grenadian family, recalls to me how the PRG had built a factory in St. George’s to begin producing mango nectar on a large scale for local consumption and export, as part of the government’s push to localize food production and reduce dependence on imports. The factory was one of the locations bombed as the U.S. troops landed. The space where it stood now hosts a factory producing Coca-Cola.
During the invasion, Cubans were rounded up from the Cuban Embassy and sent back to their homeland. In November, Fidel Castro would pay tribute to the Cubans killed in Grenada during the destruction of the airport. “The U.S. government looked down on Grenada and hated Bishop. It wanted to destroy Grenada’s process and obliterate its example. It had even prepared military plans for invading the island—as Bishop had charged nearly two years ago—but it lacked pretext,” Castro said in a speech in Havana. He lauded Grenada’s social and economic advances despite the U.S. hostility.
“Bishop was not an extremist,” Castro continued. “Rather, he was a true revolutionary—conscientious and honest…Grenada had become a true symbol of independence and progress in the Caribbean.”
The events that unfolded in Grenada would echo throughout the Caribbean and the world. With a quick military victory secured, the emboldened Reagan administration doubled down on counterinsurgency in Central America, supporting ruthless regimes in Guatemala and El Salvador and backing the Contras in Nicaragua. Six years after landing in Grenada, U.S. troops invaded Panama.
For La Grenade-Lashley, there’s more to be done in the work of remembering 1983 and the Revolution that preceded it. “Rather than lament the irretrievable, we can look to the future with optimism,” she writes. “To teach and enlighten our youth, accurate and unbiased information can be culled from the many books, articles and papers written on the Grenada Revolution.”
“We have heard of Truth and Reconciliation Commissions around the world,” she continues. “In Grenada, although we have had our own Truth and Reconciliation Commission, it remains vital that we pay closer attention to the ordering of these three words. Truth and reconciliation. Truth precedes reconciliation.”
Amy Li Baksh is a Caribbean writer, artist, and activist based in Trinidad and Tobago. Their academic background is in Caribbean history and literature with a particular interest in postcolonial social movements across the region.
This article is syndicated in partnership with the North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA)
Any sympathizer with the Palestinian cause must recognize the aptness of the Palestinian people's decision to resist and achieve liberation. Solidarity is not about pitying the Palestinians for their grave suffering but rather honoring their will to resist their oppressors.
I won't rest until I plant my heaven in this world. Or I'll uproot the world's heavens from it
Hamas: rising as the military vanguard in Palestine
Hamas, which literally translates to "fervor" in Arabic, is an acronym for the Islamic Resistance Movement(حركة المقاومة الإسلامية). The roots of the movement trace back to founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin a Palestinian cleric and activist, affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, who oversaw charity work in the West Bank and Gaza back in the 1960s.
Hamas, however, wasn't institutionalized as a political organization until the First Intifada in 1987. The tumultuous popular uprising of the First Intifada was the founding momentum for the Islamic Resistance Movement. Hamas steadily grew more radicalized by the recurrent crimes committed by the Israeli war machine. In parallel, the group grew more popular among the Palestinian masses through its welfare programs and activism.
In 1993 after PLO leader Yasser Arafat signed the Oslo Accords peace deal, Hamas grew even more popular at the expense of Fateh among the Palestinian people as it was seen as remaining steadfast and committed to liberation through armed struggle.
In the period leading to the Second Intifada, Hamas rose to be more radical and thus became more popular among the Palestinian people while Fateh (the PLO) grew more pacifistic and thus became less popular. Hamas slowly consolidated itself as the vanguard of the Palestinian resistance.
Gaza: The Archimedes Point of Resistance
The liberation of South Lebanon in 2000 marked a watershed moment in the history of the Arab struggle against Zionism. Four months after which, Al-Aqsa Intifada (the second Intifada) started burgeoning in Palestine. The victory of the Islamic resistance in Lebanon reinvigorated Arab fervor against Israeli colonialism. The second Intifada lasted until 2005 resulting in the liberation of Gaza. Even a prime minister as extremist as Ariel Sharon was forced to pass the "Disengagement Plan Implementation Law" which effectively neutralized all Israeli settlements and IOF presence in Gaza.
The liberation of south Lebanon following a prolonged war of resistance, the liberation of Gaza following the 5-year Intifada, and the futility of the Oslo Peace Accords proved to the Palestinian people that armed struggle is the only viable means for liberation: increasing Hamas's popularity. This was evidenced by the 2006 legislative elections which consolidated Gaza as the stronghold of the resistance.
Over the years, the Israeli occupation has waged aggression campaigns against Gaza to undermine the infrastructure of the resistance in what has been called a strategy of "mowing the loan", however, the resistance persevered and only proliferated its military capabilities.
When studying the constant and complicated motion of the universe, the ancient Greek physicist Archimedes stipulated that if he could find at least one fixed point he would be able to move the universe. This philosophical trope resonates profoundly when studying the politics of Gaza. Gaza became the Archimedes point of the Palestinian resistance to liberate Palestine.
Since 2006, Gaza has become both the sword and shield of the Palestinian cause: relentlessly striving for the liberation of the Palestinian nation, land, and sanctities while enduring the occupation's brutality.
The Demonization Campaign
“If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”
― Malcolm X
Since October 7th, Hamas quickly replaced Russia as the Western propaganda machine's new obsession. Playing along McCarthytic lines, Western media and politicians rushed to complement the Israeli war with a vile campaign of demonization to manufacture consent for genocide among the Western public.
Ranging from misinformation and spinning facts to straight-out lying, the Western narratives had two main objectives:
Some media platforms shamelessly propagated extremist narratives that painted the Palestinian resistance as "irrational anti-semitic terrorists motivated simply by their hatred for Jewish people and hellbent on their extinction". But most narratives held some sort of nuance to appeal to wider audiences: to ensure that the public, at the very least, opposes the Palestinian resistance even if they don't support "Israel".
Orientalism: Reductio ad ISISThe most popular narrative was identifying Hamas with ISIS to delegitimize it as a national liberation movement because of adopting an Islamic ideology.
Such speaking points lack any meaningful line of reasoning and are propagated for the sake of associating Hamas with terrorist organizations (like ISIS) in the general political discourse.
Hamas is an indigenous liberation movement that adopts Islamic principles and aesthetics similar to how the Irish liberation movement in the 1860s adopted catholic principles and aesthetics.
"Palestine is a land whose status has been elevated by Islam, a faith that holds it in high esteem, that breathes through it its spirit, and just values, and that lays the foundation for the doctrine of defending and protecting it," the Preamble of Hamas' 2017 document of general principles and policies reads.
In the document, Hamas defines itself as being an Islamic national liberation movement fighting against a racist colonial regime for all Palestinians of all religions and cultures.
"Hamas believes in and adheres to, managing its Palestinian relations on the basis of pluralism, democracy, national partnership, acceptance of the other, and the adoption of dialogue. The aim is to bolster the unity of ranks and joint action to accomplish national goals and fulfill the aspirations of the Palestinian people."
In “Class Struggle: A Political and Philosophical History”, the Italian Marxist Dominoquo Losurdo explains that, historically, the classes of society achieved initial awareness of the national question through religion: that It was through religious idioms and prospects that people became conscious of real material contradictions. “Marx and Engels carefully avoided indiscriminate liquidation of movements inspired by religion... Religious affiliation can be experienced very intensely and mobilized effectively in political and historical upheaval, but is not the primary cause of such conflict" (Losurdo, 2016).
Unlike Hamas, groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS adopt a distorted version of Islam: they are takfiris (i.e. they designate anybody who doesn't adopt their distorted beliefs as an infidel that must be slain).
Israeli-apologists today flaunt references to ISIS and Al-Qaeda to garner support for their war machine when the US, the sponsor and propper of the Israeli occupation, had played a leading role in cultivating ISIS and Al-Qaeda first in Afghanistan, then Iraq, and later Syria.
Hilary Clinton famously revealed that the US had exported Wahhabism from Saudi Arabia to Afghanistan to ideologically subvert and recruit Muslims from across the world to fight the socialist government in Afghanistan and the Soviet Army.
Furthermore, by impoverishing Iraq with sanctions, carpet bombing the country, and dissolving the army, the US created breeding grounds for terrorism. ISIS was born out of Al-Qaeda in Iraq where it massacred Iraqi Christians, Muslims, and others under the auspices of the American occupation.
In Syria, the US actively cultivated Takfiri groups, like Al-Qaeda and ISIS, as reliable footsoldiers in their regime-change war. These groups had also infiltrated into Lebanon where they conducted suicide bombing attacks against social hubs in the suburbs of Beirut.
Today, Zionist sympathizers dare to flaunt the "threat of ISIS", when ISIS was coincidentally locked in deadly battles with the enemies of "Israel" in the region, while its settlements and colonial regime were spared from any ISIS attacks.
More so, former Mossad Chief, Efraim Halevy publicly admitted during a televised interview that "Israel" offered treatment for Al-Qaeda-affiliated fighters from Syria because it was aligned with their geopolitical interests.
Alienating Hamas from Palestine
Another set of narratives aims to discredit Hamas as a national liberation movement by divorcing it from the Palestinian people.
Such narratives were common among those who presented themselves as standing in solidarity with the Palestinian people and being critical of Israeli aggression.
The argument of divorcing Hamas from the will of the Palestinian people presents itself as being a smart third way. This argument draws its legitimacy from condemning Hamas, not from the interest perspective of "Israel", but from the supposed interest of the Palestinian people. The objective of these narratives is to prevent support for the resistance among Westerners sympathetic to the Palestinian cause (which is consequentially equivalent to supporting the occupation but with a moralist packaging).
"Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people," French President Emanuel Macron said on October 24 during a detour to Ramallah after meeting with Israeli officials and pledging firm support for the Israeli war on Gaza in what he described as the "fight against terrorism".
Macron's speaking point, which has been echoed by several others, aims to alienate Hamas from Palestine to undermine its raison d'etre as a Palestinian national liberation movement.
The most immediate indicator of Hamas' popular support, as a Palestinian faction committed against armed struggle, was the 2006 legislative elections in Gaza in which Hamas won with a 77% turnout. The elections were assessed to be "open and fairly contested" by the EU Observer Mission which Macron's France was part of.
Hamas' popular support even spreads out to the West Bank. The Washington-based think tank CFR (Council for Foreign Relations) alleges that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has deliberated to indefinitely postpone elections in the West Bank in fear of a Hamas takeover.
Furthermore, a poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR), which was cited by CFR, shows that more than half of the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank prefer Hamas leadership to assume the presidency over the PLO.
Hamas is not an alien organization parachuted onto the Palestinian people. Hamas is a popular movement that has organically coalesced in Palestine. It's popular among the Palestinian masses precisely because it has chosen the path of armed resistance. Hamas' resistance activity reflects the will of the Palestinians, to whom it has become increasingly clear that there can be no liberation from occupation except through armed resistance no matter how hefty its immediate costs may be.
Anybody sympathetic to the Palestinian cause must recognize the aptness of the Palestinian people's decision to resist and achieve liberation. Solidarity is not about pitying the Palestinians for their grave suffering but rather honoring their will to resist their oppressors.
Sammy Ismail is a Lebanese communist, Philosophy and Political Science graduate- LAU, and Columnist and news-editor at Al Mayadeen. Twitter: @klashinkovv
Originally published in Al Mayadeen.