Venezuela: terminal crisis of the rentier petro-state?

By Edgardo Lander, published in Transnational Institute, September 2014, translated from the Spanish by Sara Shields

Edgardo Lander is one of the leading thinkers and writers on the left in Venezuela. He is actively involved in social movements in the Americas that defeated the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA). He is a member of the Latin American Social Science Council’s research group on hegemonies and emancipations and on the editorial board of the academic journal Revista Venezolana de Economía y Ciencias Sociales. He is currently part of the steering committee of the Hemispheric Council of the Social Forum of the Americas. The following essay is 16 pages long.

Introductory section:

Over the 15 years of the Bolivarian government in Venezuela, significant changes have taken place in the political culture, the social and organisational fabric, and the material living conditions of previously excluded low-income groups. Through multiple social policies (known as “missions”) aimed at different sectors of the population, levels of poverty and extreme poverty have been reduced significantly. » Read more..

Rabkor editorial: Economic sanctions have Russia seeking compromise with West over Ukraine

Will Russian President Vladimir Putin abandon eastern Ukraine’s rebels?

Guest editorial by Vasily Koltashov and Boris Kagarlitsky, from Rabkor (Worker Correspondent), Oct 10, 2014, translated from the original Russian by Gaither Stewart

President Vladimir Putin speaks in Sochi, Russia on Oct 24 to the 11th conference of the Valdai Discussion Club, photo Office of President Putin

President Vladimir Putin speaks in Sochi, Russia on Oct 24 to the 11th conference of the Valdai Discussion Club, photo Office of President Putin

It seems that Russian authorities have found a way towards accommodation with the West. Liberals have become more powerful and are leading the talks.[1] They are ready to make concessions and see no problem in the sacrifice of Novorossiya, and, if necessary, even Russia’s own interests. There’s just one remaining question: who will remove the Russian president’s head and present it on a platter to the USA?

Negotiations between Russia and the West about ending the “sanctions war” and resolving the crisis in Ukraine are moving full speed ahead. This was spoken of in October at the G20 finance ministers’ talks in the USA. The Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov discussed the subject with Secretary of State John Kerry. The Ukrainian question will be a major subject for many participants at the G20 summit in Australia next month. Although Russian authorities deny they will ask for revocation of the sanctions, talks are underway about this issue. » Read more..

On the front lines of fighting ebola, it is “hell on earth”

Introduction by Roger Annis, Oct 27, 2014

So far, three U.S. governors are imposing mandatory quarantines of anyone returning from travel and medical assistance to the countries of west Africa struck by the devastating ebola epidemic. The enforced quarantines will further complicate and disrupt the urgent international duty to mobilize medical personnel and support infrastructure to assist the fight against the disease. The wealthy countries of the world have to date failed in this duty, contrasting miserably with Cuba’s outstanding contributions as well as those of Doctors Without Borders and other charities.

Cuban medical personnel treating ebola in Africa

Cuban medical personnel treating ebola in Africa

The enclosed three articles shed light on the history of colonial domination that has left stricken countries of west Africa in poverty and without modern health care provision. This is why ebola has struck. The articles also describe the system of international “aid” that places foreign charities in charge of essential nation-building tasks such as eradication of poverty and provision of health care services. » Read more..

Hysteria and posturing over “terrorism” after Canadian soldier killed in Ottawa

​By Roger Annis, Oct 24, 2014

Today, the Vancouver Sun has published a description of the troubled man who killled a guard soldier in Ottawa two days ago and then entered Canada’s Parliament building carrying his gun. He was shot and killed by police.

The Sun reporters speak to people who knew Michael Zehaf-Bibeau while he lived in Vancouver during recent years and they describe an angry and troubled man grappling with mental illness and drug addiction. He has lived in Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal at various times in the past five years. He died at age 32.

Breaking: A key argument by the federal government and police agencies for new laws providing for preventive detention and heightended surveillance of targeted individuals and other trampling of democratic rights is that Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was a “terrorist” who intended to travel to Syria and join extremist groups. The National Post is reporting that Susan Bibeau, the mother of the mentally ill gunman, denies that claim. In response, RCMP Deputy Commissioner Mike Cabana has acknowleged the accuracy of her statement, saying police made a “mistake”. Bibeau wrote to the RCMP asking for a public correction; Cabana says the force has “no record” of that request. Susan Bibeau has written a letter to the National Post in which she explains that her son’s shooting rampage was “the last desperate act” of a mentally ill person.

» Read more..

Difficult talks over winter gas supply and price to Ukraine from Russia

Introduction by Roger Annis, Oct 23, 2014

Two rounds of talks involving Russia, Ukraine and the European Union over the pricing and supply of natural gas to Ukraine this coming winter took place in Milan and Brussels on May 18 and 21, resp. In Milan, a price framework was announced in which Ukraine would pay $385 per 1,000 m3 of gas. That’s roughly an average price of Russian gas sold in Europe. There is no agreement announced from Brussels. The enclosed article from RIA Novosti news agency explains the background to Ukraine’s dispute with Russia over gas supply and pricing.

Latest news: Russia and Ukraine failed to reach an accord on gas supplies for the coming winter in EU-brokered talks on Oct 21 but agreed to meet again in Brussels in a week in the hope of ironing out problems over Kiev’s ability to pay.–Reuters, Oct 21, 2014

» Read more..

New York Times and Human Rights Watch: Ukraine using cluster bombs in its war in the east

Introduction by Roger Annis, Oct 22, 2014

Cluster munition in an unexploded Uragan rocket in a field in territory controlled by the Ukrainian government near Novomykhailivka on October 14, 2014; photo by Ole Solvang, Human Rights Watch

Cluster munition in an unexploded Uragan rocket in a field in territory controlled by the Ukrainian government near Novomykhailivka on October 14, 2014; photo by Ole Solvang, Human Rights Watch

The New York Times and Human Rights Watch are each reporting findings that Ukraine has used cluster bombs against the civilian population in the east of the country during the recent war. Below is the introduction and link to the Times article. The nine-page Human Rights Watch report is here.

Human Rights Watch says:

During a week-long investigation in eastern Ukraine, Human Rights Watch documented widespread use of cluster munitions in fighting between government forces and pro-Russian rebels in more than a dozen urban and rural locations. While it was not possible to conclusively determine responsibility for many of the attacks, the evidence points to Ukrainian government forces’ responsibility for several cluster munition attacks on Donetsk. An employee of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was killed on October 2 in an attack on Donetsk that included use of cluster munition rockets.

“It is shocking to see a weapon that most countries have banned used so extensively in eastern Ukraine,” said Mark Hiznay, senior arms researcher at Human Rights Watch…

Canada’s public broadcaster, the CBC, has declined to report this story on its news website. The New York Times article was posted to the Globe and Mail online on Oct 21. The same day, the Toronto Star published a wire service video report giving prominence to Ukraine government denials. Their print editions of Oct. 22 contained the first print reports on the story, consisting of wireservice reports by Reuters (in the Globe and Mail) and LA Times (in the Toronto Star). Each print report features denials by Ukraine government officials that its armed forces use cluster bombs. 

The same Reuters report as in the Globe and Mail appeared in The Guardian online on Oct 21 and in print on Oct 22.

* * *

Ukraine used cluster bombs, evidence indicates

By Andrew Roth, New York Times, Oct 20, 2014

DONETSK, Ukraine — The Ukrainian Army appears to have fired cluster munitions on several occasions into the heart of Donetsk, unleashing a weapon banned in much of the world into a rebel-held city with a peacetime population of more than one million, according to physical evidence and interviews with witnesses and victims. » Read more..

Interview with Kurdish commander: ISIS has lost in Kobanê

Introduction by Roger Annis, Oct 20, 2014

Days after the interview below was published, the US Air Force has begun dropping ammunition and other supplies to the defenders of the Kurdish city of Kobanê (Kobani) in northern Syria and the Turkish government has relented and agreed to allow Kurdish peshmerga forces from Iraq to cross its territory to reinforce the city. Kobanê straddles the Turkish border in north, central Syria.

Until now, Turkish President, Tayyip Erdogan has refused to allow military and other assistance to flow to the autonomous forces in Kobanê, the People’s Protection Units (YPG). And the BBC reports, “The U.S. air drops represent a significant shift in Washington’s policy towards the Syrian Kurds.”

The YPG are politically allied with the left-wing PKK in Turkey and its affiliate in Syria, the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD). The PKK is proscribed as “terrorist” by Turkey, the United States, Canada and other imperialist countries.

* * *

Interview with YPG commander: ISIS has lost in Kobanê

Interview with Mehmûd BerxwedanPublished in The Rojava Report, Oct 17, 2014

Mehmûd Berxwedan, a member of the General Command of the YPG, has spoken with journalist Ersin Çaksu in a new interview for Özgür Gündem. Berxwedan told Çaksu that all those who said that Kobanê ‘had fallen’ or ‘will fall’ had themselves be defeated, and that if a corridor is opened to the city ISIS will be entirely cleared from the area. Below is the full interview translated into English. » Read more..

Bolivia’s Evo Morales re-elected, but important challenges lie ahead

By Richard Fidler, published on the author’s blog, ‘Life on the Left’, Oct 19, 2014

As expected, Evo Morales and his Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) government won a resounding victory in Bolivia’s national presidential and parliamentary election October 12. » Read more..

Reader on the Ebola virus epidemic in western Africa

Enclosed: Four articles and three items weblinked

1. How the West made the Ebola problem much worse, by Tony Burman, special to the Toronto Star, Oct 18 2014

Ebola in West Africa, map by WHO, Sept 26, 2014

Ebola in West Africa, map by WHO, Sept 26, 2014

2. What went wrong in response to the Ebola crisis?, by Jennifer Yang, global health reporter, Toronto Star, Oct 18, 2014

3. We need medical boots on the ground now, by Amy Goodman, Truthdig, Oct 15, 2014

4. Australian gov’t resists pressure to deploy medical specialists to west Africa, by Daniel Hurst, The Guardian, Oct 16, 2014

5. Ebola, capitalism and the idea of society, By Rob Urie, Counterpunch, Oct 18, 2014 (weblink only)

6. Visualized: How ebola compares to other infectious diseases, in The Guardian, Oct 15, 2014

And see:
* In the medical response to Ebola, Cuba is punching far above its weight, Washington Post, Oct 4, 2014
* Ebola, capitalism and the idea of society, by Rob Urie, Counterpunch, Oct 17, 2014
Cuba’s impressive role on ebola, Editorial, New York Times, Oct. 19, 2014

* * * » Read more..

Hundreds have been killed in eastern Ukraine since a ceasefire was declared on Sept 5, and other news

By Roger Annis, Oct. 14, 2014

A press release on October 8 by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights explains that despite the ceasefire signed in Minsk, Belarus on September 5, at least 331 people have been killed in ongoing shelling and clashes between September 6 and October 6 in eastern Ukraine. That’s about ten people dying per day. » Read more..