Swaziland‘s government has sold maize donated by the Japanese government to feed hungry Swazis for $3m (£2m) and deposited the money in the Central Bank of Swaziland.
The nearly 12,000 tonnes of donated maize was sold by the ministry of economic planning and development in 2011, but the sale was not made public until an item about the transaction appeared in a performance report the ministry presented to the Swaziland parliament for review last week.
Swaziland has not produced enough food to feed itself since the 1970s. It depends on international food aid to bridge a gap that varies from year to year, ranging from two-thirds of the country’s 1.2 million people in 2007 to about one-tenth of the population this year, after a better than average rainfall, according to the World Food Programme.
CYPRUS BAILOUT; Residents Rush To Pull Money From Cyprus Banks As EU Takes Aim At Russian Deposits; GREECE CONNNECTION
‘Cypriot banks are invested heavily in Greek government bonds, which were restructured last year at the EU’s demand, incurring big losses on bondholders.’ – FOX News
The Cyprus bailout is therefore spill over from the Greek bailout… it looks like the EU dominos have already begun to fall.
This could additionally be viewed as some sort of economic warfare against Russia, or Russian oligarchs, possibly for their continued to support of Syria, but I’m not convinced of this scenario. It appears more like a cash grab by the ECB to set a precedent so this can occur in other EU countries as the dominos continue to fall.
2013.3.18 Residents Rush To Pull Money From Cyprus Banks As EU Takes Aim At Russian Deposits (foxnews.com):
Cypriots rushed to pull their money out of banks and ATMs before the tiny Mediterranean nation’s government could finalize a plan to seize depositors’ funds to satisfy euro zone leaders, sparking a run that prompted banks to be closed until at least Thursday.
The island nation’s leaders were huddling to come up with a way to soften the blow on average depositors, with one proposal targeting accounts with deposits above $130,000. The plan elicited an angry response from Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose nation’s oligarchs may have as much as $19 billion secretly deposited in Cyprus banks.
“Putin said that this decision, in case of its adoption, will be unfair, unprofessional and dangerous,” Russian news agencies quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying.
The Brussels-based euro zone agreed on Saturday to give Cyprus a $13 billion bailout, but demanded levies that would take between 6.75 and 9.9 percent of bank deposits.
Analysts believe the measure is designed to ensure that the bailout doesn’t go toward propping up Russia ‘s billionaires – including Putin himself.
“It is clear that (Cyprus) is under tremendous pressure from the European Union,” Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Shatalov told Interfax.
The $19 billion figure comes from Moody’s, and would account for as much as half of all Cypriot deposits. Cyprus’ bank deposits dwarf by 8-to-1 the gross domestic product of the nation of 1 million, indicating a dangerously oversized banking system stuffed with foreign cash. And Cypriot banks are invested heavily in Greek government bonds, which were restructured last year at the EU’s demand, incurring big losses on bondholders.
News of the coming bank accounts seizure sent shockwaves rippling through Europe and beyond. Not only did it spook wealthy foreigners who have long parked money in the island nation’s banks, it was seen as possibly setting the stage for similar grabs in bigger nations within the troubled euro zone.
“If I were a saver, certainly in Spain or maybe Italy, I think I’d be looking askance at these measures and think this could yet happen to me,” Peter Dixon, global financial economist at Commerzbank, told Reuters.
The Cypriot Parliament put off a vote on the measure until Tuesday in order to blunt the pain for small savers. But without the EU bailout, Cyprus would be headed for default, according to experts. If depositors – especially the foreigners who have made Cyprus the Cayman Islands of Eastern Europe, pull their money from banks, action by the European Central Bank may be all that can stop regional contagion. The Cypriot central bank announced all banks will remain closed until Thursday while talks on the savings seizure continue.
Russian mining tycoon and owner of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets Mikhail Prokhorov said euro zone leaders “had set a real financial mine under the idea of a single Europe.”
“And this is not because it touches Russian business, which can afford to lose $2 [billion] or $3 billion,” Prokhorov told the Kommersant business daily. “The European Union essentially opened a Pandora’s box.”
Some analysts say the move could send billions in Russian deposits to safer havens, such as Luxembourg, leaving Cyprus no way to pay down its bailout.
“The unhappiest of the Russians will simply look for other places to put their money,” Paragone Advisory Group analyst Alexander Zakharov told the Global Post.
White House spokesman Jay Carney declined to comment on the events, but said “a stable and strong Europe” is in the U.S.’s interest and that the President Obama is focused on domestic economic growth, which can help insulate the U.S. from foreign tumult.
By Greg Palast for Vice Magazine
Thursday, March 14, 2013
London, February 2002. A tiny, dark and intense woman waited at the end of a lecture until I was alone, brought her face strangely close to mine and whispered, “President Chavez needs you. Right now. To Caracas. Right now. You must come to see him.”
President Who? All I knew about this Hugo Chavez guy was that he was an Latin-American jefe, led a bungled coup and was filled with a lot of populist bullshit and a lot of oil.
And I also knew that no one at BBC Newsnight was going to blow the budget for me to fly to South America to talk about a nation that 92 percent of our viewers couldn’t find on a map and wouldn’t want to.
“Send me an email.”
“There will be a coup. March 15.”
“The Ides of March. I like that. Aren’t there always coups down there?”
“They’ll kill him, undo everything. He needs you to stop it, he wants to explain it to you because he knows you understand.”
Actually, you’d be surprised at the amount I don’t understand at all. “So talk.”
She did – for four hours – and wore me down into submission. But back at Newsnight I looked like an idiot when March 15 came and went with just a little gunfire in Caracas.
Three weeks later, the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, was kidnapped and held hostage by the head of Venezuela’s Chamber of Commerce. Suddenly the BBC had to get me on a plane.
When I got to the Presidential Palace, Chavez was already back at his desk, though the bullet holes in the palace’s walls weren’t yet filled in.
Chavez told me that he’d agreed to be taken hostage by gunmen on the condition that his staff and their trapped children would be allowed to escape. He was bundled into a helicopter, and when it swerved out to sea he assumed he would be pushed out: “I was calm. I was ready.”
So who was behind it?
Chavez gave me information on US military attachés who had met with the plotters. While I couldn’t verify any specific US directive to seize him, I didn’t have to: I had grinning photos of George W Bush’s new US Ambassador, Charles Shapiro, congratulating Chavez’ kidnappers.
The question was, why? Why the need to eliminate Chavez, by coup, by bullet, by propaganda, embargo, or, as we later discovered, by screwing with Venezuela’s vote count?
As a purgative for the crappola fed to Americans about Chavez, my foundation, The Palast Investigative Fund, is offering the film, The Assassination of Hugo Chavez, as a FREE download. Based on Palast’s several meetings with Chavez, his kidnappers and his would-be assassins, filmed for BBC Television. DVDs also available. Watch the Video and share the link.
No doubt that for Bush’s oil-o-crats, Chavez’ doubling the royalties paid by Exxon and Chevron was worth the price of a bullet; but it was no more than the amount that Sarah Palin would seize from the oil companies when she ruled Alaska. So what was it?
The answer was in the movie Network.
“AM I GETTING THROUGH TO YOU, MR. BEALE? The Arabs have taken billions of dollars out of this country, and now THEY MUST GIVE IT BACK!
“It is ebb and flow, tidal gravity. You are an old man who thinks in terms of national and peoples. THERE ARE NO NATIONS. There are no peoples. There is only ONE HOLISTIC SYSTEM OF SYSTEM, one vast and immense, interwoven, interacting, multi-variate, multi-national dominion of dollars. Petro-dollars. Electro-dollars. Multi-dollars. IT IS THE INTERNATIONAL SYSTEM OF CURRENCY which determines the totality of life on this planet. Am I getting through to you? ”
Third World nations are not supposed to keep the dollars paid to suck out their oil and mineral blood. For every dollar US consumers pay the Saudis for their oil, about $1.24 is given back as Saudis return the funds by purchasing US Treasury debt or hunks of US banks, CitiCorp for one.
Above: World Capital Flow 2005, from Armed Madhouse by Greg Palast
In 2005, the US spent $227 billion in Latin America, sapping its properties and resources. But the money turned right around and, added to the funds sent to Miami by Latin America’s elite, immediately became a $379 million loan to the US Treasury and financiers.
Argentina leant the US at 4 percent interest, then had to borrow its own money back at 16 percent – the whirring wheel, this grinder, left school teachers in Buenos Aires hunting in garbage cans for food. Riots followed and – in Peru, Ecuador, Argentina and elsewhere – this led to tanks in the street, currency collapse, crisis and the “rescue” by the IMF. Rescue meant forcing the mass sell-off of state industries, from oil to water systems, to the crushing of labour unions and to swallowing the whole bottle of poisons kept by the elite of the Northern Hemisphere for just such occasions.
And that was the plan. Literally. I’ve held the proof in my hands, about five thousand pages of financial agreements, all labelled “confidential” and “not to be distributed except by authorised persons”, which bore benign titles like “World Bank Poverty Reduction Strategy, Argentina.”
Why would the IMF, World Bank and the bankers not want to make their wonderful plans for reducing poverty public? It was for the same reason the finance ministers who signed the documents didn’t even tell their own presidents: they were in fact “reduce-to-poverty” plans, complete resource surrender.
For these deliberately bankrupted nations, it was sign or starve. Until Hugo Chavez came along. Early on, Chavez withdrew $20 billion of Venezuela’s money leant to the US Federal Reserve, to create a giant micro-lending programme for his citizens. Then he went a step too far, establishing what the Wall Street Journal called, “a tropical IMF”.
In 2000 and after, when the IMF and banks moved to financially strangle these nations by making their debts unsalable, Hugo Chavez would roll up in his oil-gilded chariot. He effectively underwrote Argentina’s debt, providing 250million dollars worth of loans, and assistance to Ecuador. After Enron seized Argentina’s water system and Occidental seized Ecuador’s oil fields, Argentina’s President Nestor Kirchner, followed by Ecuador’s Correa, told US banks to go fuck themselves. And the IMF, too.
Then there was the big one: Brazil. The World Bank/IMF “Poverty Reduction Strategy” for Brazil required the nation to close its publicly-owned banks, to sell off its vast oil properties, to give away its power industry and, to please the new foreign owners, slash wages and pensions. But with Chavez prepared to back up its new President, Lula Ignacio de Silva, the mighty little man from the Socialist Workers Party could tell the IMF to stick it where the free market don’t shine.
The late Hugo Chavez wearing the author’s hat
For the first time in contemporary history, resource states refused to give back the money received for their resource. At Chavez’ funeral, Lula, former President Ignacio de Silva of Brazil, praised this as Chavez’ most revolutionary act.
Now, instead of billions flowing North, Latin American capital was staying in Latin America. It is delicious irony that the European and American financiers, fleeing from the economic conflagration they’d ignited in their home countries, are loading their loot onto planes for Brazil. And that Venezuela’s central bank made a mint on its intra-continental loans.
And so, a coup was called for.
In 2002, Chavez’ oil company chief, Ali Rodriguez, told me: “America can’t let us stay in power. We are the exception to the New Globalisation Order. If we succeed, we are an example to all the Americas.”
That you were, Hugo Chavez. That you are, Venezuela. And all the Americas are ready.
NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Obama administration is drawing up plans to give all U.S. spy agencies full access to a massive database that contains financial data on American citizens and others who bank in the country, according to a Treasury Department document seen by Reuters.
The proposed plan represents a major step by U.S. intelligence agencies to spot and track down terrorist networks and crime syndicates by bringing together financial databanks, criminal records and military intelligence. The plan, which legal experts say is permissible under U.S. law, is nonetheless likely to trigger intense criticism from privacy advocates.
Financial institutions that operate in the United States are required by law to file reports of “suspicious customer activity,” such as large money transfers or unusually structured bank accounts, to Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).
The Federal Bureau of Investigation already has full access to the database. However, intelligence agencies, such as the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, currently have to make case-by-case requests for information to FinCEN.
The Treasury plan would give spy agencies the ability to analyze more raw financial data than they have ever had before, helping them look for patterns that could reveal attack plots or criminal schemes.
The planning document, dated March 4, shows that the proposal is still in its early stages of development, and it is not known when implementation might begin.
Financial institutions file more than 15 million “suspicious activity reports” every year, according to Treasury. Banks, for instance, are required to report all personal cash transactions exceeding $10,000, as well as suspected incidents of money laundering, loan fraud, computer hacking or counterfeiting.
“For these reports to be of value in detecting money laundering, they must be accessible to law enforcement, counter-terrorism agencies, financial regulators, and the intelligence community,” said the Treasury planning document.
A Treasury spokesperson said U.S. law permits FinCEN to share information with intelligence agencies to help detect and thwart threats to national security, provided they adhere to safeguards outlined in the Bank Secrecy Act. “Law enforcement and intelligence community members with access to this information are bound by these safeguards,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
Some privacy watchdogs expressed concern about the plan when Reuters outlined it to them.
A move like the FinCEN proposal “raises concerns as to whether people could find their information in a file as a potential terrorist suspect without having the appropriate predicate for that and find themselves potentially falsely accused,” said Sharon Bradford Franklin, senior counsel for the Rule of Law Program at the Constitution Project, a non-profit watchdog group.
Despite these concerns, legal experts emphasize that this sharing of data is permissible under U.S. law. Specifically, banks’ suspicious activity reporting requirements are dictated by a combination of the Bank Secrecy Act and the USA PATRIOT Act, which offer some privacy safeguards.
National security experts also maintain that a robust system for sharing criminal, financial and intelligence data among agencies will improve their ability to identify those who plan attacks on the United States.
“It’s a war on money, war on corruption, on politically exposed persons, anti-money laundering, organized crime,” said Amit Kumar, who advised the United Nations on Taliban sanctions and is a fellow at the Democratic think tank Center for National Policy.
The Treasury document outlines a proposal to link the FinCEN database with a computer network used by U.S. defense and law enforcement agencies to share classified information called the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System.
The plan calls for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence – set up after 9/11 to foster greater collaboration among intelligence agencies – to work with Treasury. The Director of National Intelligence declined to comment.
More than 25,000 financial firms – including banks, securities dealers, casinos, and money and wire transfer agencies – routinely file “suspicious activity reports” to FinCEN. The requirements for filing are so strict that banks often over-report, so they cannot be accused of failing to disclose activity that later proves questionable. This over-reporting raises the possibility that the financial details of ordinary citizens could wind up in the hands of spy agencies.
Stephen Vladeck, a professor at American University’s Washington College of Law, said privacy advocates have already been pushing back against the increased data-sharing activities between government agencies that followed the September 11 attacks.
“One of the real pushes from the civil liberties community has been to move away from collection restrictions on the front end and put more limits on what the government can do once it has the information,” he said.
This is a must see… Greg Palast hits another home run (it’s too bad he included the Global Warming nonsense at the end, but we’ll forgive him this time).
It’s interesting to see the how the oil money funds the politicians, how the politicians reward the oil men, how they’re all involved in election fraud, and how they all seem to be racists… isn’t that called Fascism? Another term could be “Oiligarchy”.
2013.3.11 Congressman Tim Griffin Accused Of ‘Voter Caging’, Fronts XL Pipeline For Koch Brothers (Greg Palast) (TheRealNews, youtube.com):
Greg Palast: Griffin worked with Karl Rove, now backed by Koch brothers, fronts for tar sands pipeline in Congress.
Newsnight also has new allegations by ‘Chavistas’ that US funding is behind three plans to assassinate President Chavez. – Greg Palast
After hearing all the ridiculous lies and defamation of Hugo Chavez by the mainstream media, and then having to hear the same thing repeated by the so called “Christian”, so called “Patriot”, so called “Alternative Media” (ie, the Tangy Tangerine Jonestown repeaters) I just have to point out a few facts.
- Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans are lining up to mourn the premature death of their democratically elected leader Chavez.
- Chavez will go down in history as the greatest modern leader of Venezuela, and one of the greatest leaders in Latin America.
- Chavez nationalized Venezuela’s oil and brought that oil wealth to the people of Venezuela (the fastest way to get put on a hit list).
- Chavez brought a great majority of Venezuelans out of severe poverty.
- Chavez brought education to Venezuelans.
- Chavez brought healthcare to Venezuelans.
- Chavez won all his elections fairly and democratically… this was NOT a dictator.
GEORGE W. BUSH (BUSH JR.):
- No one will mourn Bush Jr.’s death, nor his father’s death, except for their immediate family, the Fascists that surround them, and the fake mainstream media.
- Bush Jr. will be remembered as one of the worst Presidents in US history.
- Bush Jr. was involved in the 911 attack plot to create a war, and is responsible for the deaths of nearly 3000 people.
- Bush Jr. lied a number of times, and was assisted by the media, to create a war with Iraq.
- Bush Jr. is responsible for authorizing torture and should be charged with war crimes.
- Bush Jr. left office with the US mired in two unnecessary wars, and he left the US economy completely destroyed and broken.
- Bush Jr. cheated and stole BOTH elections he supposedly won… this is “Democracy”????
So let’s move on… now we have Obama in office, who acts like he needs to prove he’s even more of a dictator than his cousin Bush Jr.. Obama has just chosen for his new Secretary Of State another cousin (yes, it’s like a plague on America), Bush Jr.’s cousin and Nazi Skull & Bones brethren, New World Order dreaming lunatic war monger who goes by the name of John Kerry (real name Kohn).
The following videos should be enough to convince you that Chavez was on a US kill list since at least 1999 (ie, Colombia Paramilitary hit = US authorized hit), and then of course there was the failed CIA coup attempt by Bush Jr. in 2002… yes, the plan was to remove Chavez, fly him out into the ocean, and drop him to his death from a helicopter… Bush style.
The truth will come out eventually, but a likely scenario is that Chavez’s cancer was caused by repeated polonium poisoning, just like Alexander Litvinenko and Yasser Arafat.
2009.9.26 Hitman Says $25 Million Offered ‘For Killing Chavez’ (AlJazeeraEnglish, youtube.com):
Al Jazeera has obtained exclusive footage of a Colombian contract killer detailing an alleged $25m plot to kill Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president.
He says the money was offered by Manuel Rosales, one of Chavez’s main political rivals, during a secret meeting in 1999.
A Colombian paramilitary group took up the offer, according to the hitman.
Chavez has long said there is a plot by Colombia to kill him, and the relation between the two countries is tense.
Al Jazeera’s Gabriel Elizondo reports.
The following video is an excellent overview of Bush Jr.’s failed coup, and failed murder, of Hugo Chavez on 2002.4.11.
2013.1.11 The Assassination Of Hugo Chavez By Greg Palast (Properly Titled ‘The Coup Against Hugo Chavez’, Aired 2002.5.13) (BBC, youtube.com):
Greg Palast reporting for BBC Newsnight
First Broadcast May 13th, 2002
March 5, 2013 – Newsnight also has new allegations by ‘Chavistas’ that US funding is behind three plans to assassinate President Chavez. Comandante Guillermo Garcia Ponce, leader of Chavez’ political organisation said: “From the information we have gathered, credible information: there are three components to the [plots to] kill our president.
Video link HERE
The last time the nation’s tax code was overhauled, in 1986, Congress tried to end a big corporate giveaway.
But this valuable perk — the ability to finance a variety of business projects cheaply with bonds that are exempt from federal taxes — has not only endured, it has grown, in what amounts to a stealth subsidy for private enterprise.
A winery in North Carolina, a golf resort in Puerto Rico and a Corvette museum in Kentucky, as well as the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and the offices of the Goldman Sachs Group and the Bank of America Tower in New York — all of these projects, and many more, have been built using the tax-exempt bonds that are more conventionally used by cities and states to pay for roads, bridges and schools.
In all, more than $65 billion of these bonds have been issued by state and local governments on behalf of corporations since 2003, according to an analysis of Bloomberg bond data by The New York Times. During that period, the single biggest beneficiary of such securities was the Chevron Corporation, which issued bonds with a total face value of $2.6 billion, the analysis showed. Last year it reported a profit of $26 billion.
At a time when Washington is rent by the politics of taxes and deficits, select companies are enjoying a tax break normally reserved for public works. This style of financing, called “qualified private activity bonds,” saves businesses money, because they can borrow at relatively low interest rates. But those savings come at the expense of American taxpayers, because the interest paid to bondholders is exempt from taxes.
What is more, the projects are often structured so companies can avoid paying state sales taxes on new equipment and, at times, avoid local property taxes. While some deals might encourage businesses to invest where they might otherwise not have invested, there are few guarantees that job creation or other economic benefits actually occur.
Budget analysts say these bonds amount to a government subsidy, in the form of forgone tax revenue. While it is difficult to calculate the precise dollar amount of the subsidy, given the number and variety of these bonds, experts say the annual cost to federal taxpayers could run into the billions.
“The federal government doesn’t cut a check for this, but it costs the government in terms of lower tax revenue,” said Lisa Washburn, a managing director at Municipal Market Advisors, an independent municipal research firm in Concord, Mass., that assisted The Times with its analysis.
“If these companies were to issue taxable bonds instead, then the federal government would receive tax revenues on them.”
Ms. Washburn added that the gain to companies, and bond buyers, can be big and long-lasting.
Chevron used most of its federally tax-free borrowings to expand a refinery in Pascagoula, Miss. Archer Daniels Midland, the agribusiness giant, used about $180 million in tax-exempt bonds to improve its grain-processing facilities in Indiana and Iowa. Alcoa raised $250 million to renovate an aluminum plant in Iowa.
Such financing arrangements are now worrying some state and local officials. Many are concerned that the budget battles in Washington will mean less federal money for them, and that the federal government might try to limit the scope of their own tax-free financing.
Some of the subsidized business projects are almost indistinguishable from public works. American Airlines, for instance, another big user of tax-exempt bonds over the last decade, used $1.3 billion of these securities to finance a new terminal at Kennedy International Airport. That terminal is owned by the City of New York; American is the builder, the borrower and a tenant.
As political controversy over the federal deficit has mounted, some fiscal experts have taken aim at this sort of tax-exempt borrowing. The team at the Bipartisan Policy Center led by Alice M. Rivlin, a former member of the Federal Reserve, and Pete V. Domenici, the former Republican senator, has called for ending it. A spokeswoman for the center said that such a change could bring in $50 billion for the federal government over 10 years.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who went from a young conspiratorial soldier who dreamed of revolution to the fiery anti-U.S. leader of one of the world’s great oil powers, died March 5 in Caracas of complications from an unspecified cancer in his pelvic area.
He was 58 and had been president since 1999, longer than any other democratically elected leader in the Americas. Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced the death.
Mr. Chavez first revealed in a brief, dramatic television address in June 2011 that he had undergone two surgical procedures in Cuba. He would go under the knife two more times, greatly weakening the once robust leader. Mr. Chavez had been elected in October 2012 to a third six-year term. But he missed his swearing-in ceremony on Jan. 10 while lying gravely ill in a Havana hospital after undergoing what his aides had called a complex operation a month before.
VENEZUELA DEPLOYS ITS ARMY AND POLICE...
Accuses USA of giving Chavez cancer...
Demise Deepens Crisis in Divided Country...
Venezuela Expels American Diplomats...
CLAIM: Chavez Had Amassed Private Fortune of $2 Billion...
By Greg Palast
Tuesday, March 5, 2013
For BBC Television, Palast met several times with Hugo Chàvez, who passed away today.
Venezuelan President Chavez once asked me why the US elite wanted to kill him. My dear Hugo: It’s the oil. And it’s the Koch Brothers – and it’s the ketchup.
Reverend Pat Robertson said,
“Hugo Chavez thinks we’re trying to assassinate him. I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it.”
It was 2005 and Robertson was channeling the frustration of George Bush’s State Department. Despite Bush’s providing intelligence, funds and even a note of congratulations to the crew who kidnapped Chavez (we’ll get there), Hugo remained in office, reelected and wildly popular.
But why the Bush regime’s hate, hate, HATE of the President of Venezuela?
Reverend Pat wasn’t coy about the answer: It’s the oil.
“This is a dangerous enemy to our South controlling a huge pool of oil.”
A really BIG pool of oil. Indeed, according to Guy Caruso, former chief of oil intelligence for the CIA, Venezuela hold a recoverable reserve of 1.36 trillion barrels, that is, a whole lot more than Saudi Arabia.
If we didn’t kill Chavez, we’d have to do an “Iraq” on his nation. So the Reverend suggests,
“We don’t need another $200 billion war….It’s a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with.”
Chavez himself told me he was stunned by Bush’s attacks: Chavez had been quite chummy with Bush Senior and with Bill Clinton.
So what made Chavez suddenly “a dangerous enemy”? Here’s the answer you won’t find in The New York Times:
Just after Bush’s inauguration in 2001, Chavez’ congress voted in a new “Law of Hydrocarbons.” Henceforth, Exxon, British Petroleum, Shell Oil and Chevron would get to keep 70% of the sales revenues from the crude they sucked out of Venezuela. Not bad, considering the price of oil was rising toward $100 a barrel.
But to the oil companies, which had bitch-slapped Venezeula’s prior government into giving them 84% of the sales price, a cut to 70% was “no bueno.” Worse, Venezuela had been charging a joke of a royalty – just one percent – on “heavy” crude from the Orinoco Basin. Chavez told Exxon and friends they’d now have to pay 16.6%.
Clearly, Chavez had to be taught a lesson about the etiquette of dealings with Big Oil.
On April 11, 2002, President Chavez was kidnapped at gunpoint and flown to an island prison in the Caribbean Sea. On April 12, Pedro Carmona, a business partner of the US oil companies and president of the nation’s Chamber of Commerce, declared himself President of Venezuela – giving a whole new meaning to the term, “corporate takeover.”
U.S. Ambassador Charles Shapiro immediately rushed down from his hilltop embassy to have his picture taken grinning with the self-proclaimed “President” and the leaders of the coup d’état.
Bush’s White House spokesman admitted that Chavez was, “democratically elected,” but, he added, “Legitimacy is something that is conferred not by just the majority of voters.” I see.
With an armed and angry citizenry marching on the Presidential Palace in Caracas ready to string up the coup plotters, Carmona, the Pretend President from Exxon returned his captive Chavez back to his desk within 48 hours. (How? Get The Assassination of Hugo Chavez, the film, expanding on my reports for BBC Television. You can download it for free for the next few days.)
Chavez had provoked the coup not just by clawing back some of the bloated royalties of the oil companies. It’s what he did with that oil money that drove Venezuela’s One Percent to violence.
In Caracas, I ran into the reporter for a TV station whose owner is generally credited with plotting the coup against the president. While doing a publicity photo shoot, leaning back against a tree, showing her wide-open legs nearly up to where they met, the reporter pointed down the hill to the “ranchos,” the slums above Caracas, where shacks, once made of cardboard and tin, where quickly transforming into homes of cinder blocks and cement.
“He [Chavez] gives them bread and bricks, so they vote for him, of course.” She was disgusted by “them,” the 80% of Venezuelans who are negro e indio (Black and Indian)—and poor. Chavez, himself negro e indio, had, for the first time in Venezuela’s history, shifted the oil wealth from the privileged class that called themselves “Spanish,” to the dark-skinned masses.
While trolling around the poor housing blocks of Caracas, I ran into a local, Arturo Quiran, a merchant seaman and no big fan of Chavez. But over a beer at his kitchen table, he told me,
“Fifteen years ago under [then-President] Carlos Andrés Pérez, there was a lot of oil money in Venezuela. The ‘oil boom’ we called it. Here in Venezuela there was a lot of money, but we didn’t see it.”
But then came Hugo Chavez, and now the poor in his neighborhood, he said, “get medical attention, free operations, x-rays, medicines; education also. People who never knew how to write now know how to sign their own papers.”
Chavez’ Robin Hood thing, shifting oil money from the rich to the poor, would have been grudgingly tolerated by the US. But Chavez, who told me, “We are no longer an oil colony,” went further…too much further, in the eyes of the American corporate elite.
Venezuela had landless citizens by the millions – and unused land by the millions of acres tied up, untilled, on which a tiny elite of plantation owners squatted. Chavez’ congress passed in a law in 2001 requiring untilled land to be sold to the landless. It was a program long promised by Venezuela’s politicians at the urging of John F. Kennedy as part of his “Alliance for Progress.”
Plantation owner Heinz Corporation didn’t like that one bit. In retaliation, Heinz closed its ketchup plant in the state of Maturin and fired all the workers. Chavez seized Heinz’ plant and put the workers back on the job. Chavez didn’t realize that he’d just squeezed the tomatoes of America’s powerful Heinz family and Mrs. Heinz’ husband, Senator John Kerry, now U.S. Secretary of State.
Or, knowing Chavez as I do, he didn’t give a damn.
Chavez could survive the ketchup coup, the Exxon “presidency,” even his taking back a piece of the windfall of oil company profits, but he dangerously tried the patience of America’s least forgiving billionaires: The Koch Brothers.
How? Well, that’s another story for another day. [Watch this space. Or read about it in the book, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits. Go to BallotBandits.org).
Elected presidents who annoy Big Oil have ended up in exile—or coffins: Mossadegh of Iran after he nationalized BP’s fields (1953), Elchibey, President of Azerbaijan, after he refused demands of BP for his Caspian fields (1993), President Alfredo Palacio of Ecuador after he terminated Occidental’s drilling concession (2005).
“It’s a chess game, Mr. Palast,” Chavez told me. He was showing me a very long, and very sharp sword once owned by Simon Bolivar, the Great Liberator. “And I am,” Chavez said, “a very good chess player.”
In the film The Seventh Seal, a medieval knight bets his life on a game of chess with the Grim Reaper. Death cheats, of course, and takes the knight. No mortal can indefinitely outplay Death who, this week, Chavez must know, will checkmate the new Bolivar of Venezuela.
But in one last move, the Bolivarian grandmaster played a brilliant endgame, naming
Chavez sent Maduro to meet me in my downtown New York office back in 2004. In our run-down detective digs on Second Avenue, Maduro and I traded information on assassination plots and oil policy.
Even then, Chavez was carefully preparing for the day when Venezuela’s negros e indios would lose their king—but still stay in the game.
Class war on a chessboard. Even in death, I wouldn’t bet against Hugo Chavez.
Palast is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, Armed Madhouse and the highly acclaimed Vultures’ Picnic, named Book of the Year 2012 on BBC Newsnight Review.
28 Feb 2013
Syria’s opposition has won fresh financial and material support from the US but its demands for weapons to fight Bashar al-Assad were ignored in favour of calls for a “political solution” to end the crisis. John Kerry, the new US secretary of state, announced at a conference in Rome on Thursday that $60m (£45m) in “non-lethal” assistance would go to the western-backed Syrian National Coalition (SNC) while food and medical supplies would — for the first time — go directly to the opposition’s supreme military council, attempting to co-ordinate strategy by the Free Syrian Army and other units. [So, Congress and Obama are poised to slash Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid -- but there's no shortage of money to back the thugs and war criminals trying to overthrow al-Assad so US corpora-terrorists can steal Syria's oil.]
01 Mar 2013
Russia has said that decisions made in the Rome meeting to increase aid to foreign-backed militants in Syria only encourage extremists who want to seize power by force. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich said on Friday that the promises of aid to the Syrian opposition made by the US and other countries in the meeting of the so-called “Friends of Syria” in Rome will encourage further violence rather than a negotiated solution. “The decisions taken in Rome…directly encourage extremists towards precisely a violent seizure of power, despite the suffering of ordinary Syrians,” Lukashevich said. Lukashevich’s remarks came a day after “Friends of Syria” group decided to increase political and material support for the foreign-backed militants operating in Syria after a meeting in the Italian capital.
Since September 11, 2001, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has claimed many victories in the war on terror.
Each time a domestic terror suspect is arrested, the public is told that another horrific plot has been averted.
But after combing through thousands of pages of court documents, investigative journalist Trevor Aaronson came to a different conclusion — that most of the men arrested could never have done what they were accused of if the FBI hadn’t given them the tools to do so.
In his new book, “The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s Manufactured War on Terrorism,” Aaronson argues that the U.S. government is responsible for “hatching and financing more terrorist plots in the United States than any other group.” He spoke to Heather Maher.
You began your research by asking whether the FBI is “busting terrorist plots — or leading them?” What did you find out?
Trevor Aaronson: The FBI is looking for what they term “a lone wolf terrorist,” which is someone holed up in an apartment somewhere who sympathizes with Al-Qaeda but may lack the specific means to do that. And so the FBI uses sting operations to [find] these people — these people who may want to commit an act of terrorism, are right on that line from moving from sympathizer to operator — and then through these sting operations, lure them out and get them involved in a terrorism plot that they’re ultimately prosecuted for.
But what I found is that of these cases, we can point to a handful of real, dangerous terrorists, like Faisal Shahzad, who came close to bombing [New York's] Times Square, or Najibullah Zazi, who came close to bombing the New York City subway system. But so many more of them, more than 150 people, were these men who were caught in sting operations who never had the means and, in some cases, never had the idea for the terrorism plot, and it was the FBI that provided them with everything — the bomb, the transportation, everything they needed to move forward in a terrorism plot that on their own, they never would have been able to do. And certainly evidence suggests that in most of these cases, they never had any specific connections to terrorism. So it’s really hard to believe that they ever would have had or acquired the means to commit some sort of act of terrorism.
How do these FBI sting operations go down?
Aaronson: In a terrorism sting operation, the FBI informant or undercover agent poses as an Al-Qaeda operative or an operative of another terrorist group and says to the target, “You know, I have what you need if you want to move forward on a terrorist plot. I can provide the bomb, I can provide the transportation, everything you need I can give you.” And when they move forward in that plot, when they get the bomb together, and they put it in a car, and they drive it to a location and the target of the sting operation dials the cell phone that he believes is going to detonate the bomb and kill dozens of people, he’s then arrested. And so in sting operations, essentially the government becomes part of the plot and then ultimately prosecutes the target of the sting operation based on his involvement in that plot, the actions that he took as part of that plot.
You write that key to these sting operations are informants who find terror sympathizers and bring them to the FBI’s attention. Who are these informants and what’s in it for them? Aaronson: The FBI has an unprecedented number of informants — there’s a total of 15,000 informants. And they are paid — in some cases handsomely; $100,000 in some cases, $400,000 in a case in California – they are paid to find people who are interested in committing an act of terrorism, people who are espousing some sort of violence, who say they want to commit some sort of violent act, but may not have the means to do that, and it’s their job to target them and to get them involved in these sting operations.
But the problem I found in a lot of these cases is that there’s a real question of whether the informant is actually a worse criminal than the target of the sting operation could ever be. In these sting operations, the FBI has used drug dealers frequently as informants, they’ve used an accused murderer, in a Seattle case; they’ve used a child molester — people who are just odious in every way. And they also have a direct incentive to find terrorists and see them prosecuted because they can make so much money as informants.
So when they enter mosques and they look for people who are interested in committing acts of terrorism, they know there’s a lot of money riding on it for them to find that person. And as a result of that, what they’re ultimately finding in most of these cases are people on the fringes of society who are economically desperate, in some cases mentally ill, and these are people who are easily susceptible to a strong-willed informant.