Yugoslavia, Argentina, Egypt, Tunisia, Greece ... Venezuela

How to depen a crisis and accelerate conflict or how to make a killing

The example of Yugoslavia
Basil Davidson's review of Susan Woodward's The Balkan Tragedy
Venezuela

The liberal BBC is not only putting the blame mainly on Maduro, but ignores any alternative. 

If it is not about a regime change to replace the current regime with a pliant U.S. ally and open the country to privatisation for more local and foreign capital, why don't other countries (which are not subordinate the the American hegemony), or international agencies negotiate with the Venezuelan government to create a "humanitarian zone" to provide aid in both Venezuela and Colombia?

What the U.S. and  the opposition are trying to do now is to split the Venezuelan army or push a faction in it to overthrow Maduro. And we all know what that might lead to. One does not have to look at Syria and how army defectors did not tilt the balance for those who rose up against al-assad's repressive machine. Worse, this is not an uprising or a revolution in Venezuela. 

We have been here before. The day the current situation escalates to an armed conflict, more media and political attacks on Maduro and his government will follow. Then any alternative that had been put forward or anyone who said no to imperialist involvement will be sidelined...

...and another another spectacle begins.
From the archive

Iraq 2003: was it...
Blood for oil?
My favourite article on Venezuela (so far).

Excerpts (an individual or institutional subscription is required to read the full piece)

"Beset by five-digit inflation, food shortages and rising poverty and unemployment, the economy contracted by more than a third between 2013 and 2018, and has slid even further since. This has wiped out the real gains made by most of the population between the mid-2000s and the time roughly when Maduro succeeded Hugo Chávez as president in April 2013.

There is no doubting, either, that Maduro has failed to address this crisis. Hampered by the razor-thin margin by which he won his mandate in 2013 – 1.5 per cent – he has governed with a combination of bluster and repression. He stuck to a disastrous exchange-rate policy even though it was visibly making things worse for most of the population.

The effects of this were made even worse by the US sanctions that started under Obama, who in March 2015 declared Venezuela an ‘extraordinary threat’ to US national security; under Trump, they have been extended several times.

But Maduro’s intransigence has been more than matched by that of the opposition. Its leaders are fervently committed to overturning chavismo, driven by a visceral loathing that often comes with a strong dose of racism. The first direct challenges to Maduro’s rule came in early 2014, with a series of protests, the guarimbas, led mainly by the middle class and students.

Venezuela’s opposition is a fractious alliance of different tendencies but for the past few years it has been dominated by its most vociferously right-wing components... Even ‘moderates’ such as the former minister of planning Ricardo Hausmann have recently begun openly calling for a US military intervention.

Guaidó’s claim to power rests on the idea that, since this vote was invalid, not only is Maduro not the legitimate president but, according to a Transition Law the opposition released on 8 January, there is no president. Constitutionally, this is shaky ground. Article 233 of the 1999 Venezuelan constitution specifies the circumstances under which a president can be replaced: death, resignation, removal by the supreme court, physical or mental incapacity, abandonment of post. The National Assembly has a supervisory role to play in each of these scenarios, but nowhere does the constitution say that the legislature can claim executive power for itself.

[T]he opposition’s programme for governing Venezuela although the outlines are clear: the ‘centralised model of economic control will be replaced by a model of freedom and markets’; the chavistasocial programmes will be replaced by direct (i.e. monetary) subsidies; ‘public enterprises will undergo a process of restructuring … including public-private agreements’ (i.e. privatisations). What’s being promised is a return to the conventional neoliberal wisdom of the 1990s – precisely the set of policies that produced misery in Venezuela, and which propelled Chávez to power in the first place.

 It’s no accident that this comes at a moment when the right is flexing its muscles across Latin America; the eagerness with which forces outside Venezuela are seeking to put paid to chavismo is all too apparent.

It was the Trump administration, however, that really accelerated the pace of events. Regime change in Venezuela has been on Washington’s agenda since the early 2000s, but the failed coup against Chávez in 2002, and the boost he got through successive electoral victories and high oil prices, made it impracticable for several years. 

As if to signal US intentions, on 25 January Trump appointed as his special envoy to Venezuela Elliott Abrams, the man who ran the Reagan administration’s dirty wars in Central America, and who worked in the Bush White House during the last US-backed coup attempt in Venezuela in 2002.

Whatever this crisis is about, it isn’t about restoring democracy and prosperity to Venezuela. To read the Western press, you would think the country’s people were at last about to be set free from the tyranny under which they have been groaning for years, in a Caribbean rerun of the Arab Spring. But we’ve been here many times before. In Latin America alone, the long and disastrous record of US-led interventions is enough to cause alarm about the possible outcomes of this crisis."

—Tony Wood, London Review of Books

One should add the EU stance in supported a self-appointed president should be seen in the context of siding with a hegemon. The core capitalists states of the EU are subodinate to the US in major international issues. They put disagreements and rivalry aside, especially when it comes to fighting anything that smells "left"

The Battle for Venezuela
Britain

"I find it hard to believe that the government would have made the decision to strip a British born subject of their citizenship and the media and public being so supportive of the decision if Shamima Begum had been a 15 year-old impressionable white girl who had made the same foolish and immature decisions.

If this was a young BRITISH white girl she would be sitting on a Breakfast TV sofa recounting her traumatic adventurous experience with book deals and film scripts piling up at her door and with Newsnight and Dispatches competing for an exclusive interview.

Such is the subtlety of society’s unspoken racism, the nature of our warped reality and the power of the state to manufacture and manipulate public opinion to serve their own nefarious desires." 
 —Ishmahil  Blagrove, 22 February 2019

"I think that she should be returned to face an investigation and for justice. That a court of law should decide what happens from there, rather than a court of Facebook and media. That any sentence should be determined by a judge who makes appropriate decisions based on evidence, rather than a politician who bases their judgment on their own personal gain. I believe that if she and her child are allowed to grow in an environment of hatred, then they could become more of a national risk than having her serve a sentence in the UK."—Brendan Woodhouse, 22 February 2019

The patriotic voice shouts out loud: "But we live in an exceptional situation today (Brexit, threat of Islam, immigration, etc). A situations that requires exceptional measures. Law could be put aside for now."

At the heart of this is consolidating social control at home: there are a few threats against "our values" and "democracy". In order to reproduce social relations and power relations, various tools are deployed, including ideological demonization of the Other even when that Other was born and brought up in our midst. There is always the enemy within and the enemy without. 
Venezuela

A disaster caused by 
- the economic policies of the government, 
- the sanctions imposed by the US, 
- and the control of what is left of food and foreign aid by the "mafia" food.

ويرجع عدد من التقارير المتخصصة أسباب هذه الأزمات إلى سياسات الحكومة الاقتصادية، إلى جانب الحصار الاقتصادي الذي فرضته الولايات المتحدة على فنزويلا، إضافة إلى سيطرة "مافيا" الغذاء والدواء على ما تبقى من مواد غذائية أو ما يصل من مساعدات خارجية.


ماذا خلف المساعادات الإنسانية لفنزويلا



"Aid groups on the ground worry, however, that a political operation thinly padded with humanitarian objectives could send a precarious situation down an even worse path—disastrous American efforts to intervene in Latin America from decades past serve as a reminder of how badly things can go.

Even some liberals tell us that

The examples are numerous. The United States sought to overthrow Chile’s socialist president Salvador Allende in the 1970s, a move that eventually led to the brutal 27-year rule of Augusto Pinochet. It used a humanitarian-aid program in Nicaragua in the 1980s to hide $27 million in weapons for right-wing groups fighting a leftist government, fueling a civil war (a scandal that involved Elliott Abrams, who is now Donald Trump’s special envoy for Venezuela). And in 1989, the U.S. left hundreds of civilians dead in Panama when American forces invaded to overthrow the country’s de facto leader, Manuel Noriega.

When humanitarian aid is used as a weapon to bring down regimes (The Atlantic)

In 2002, Abrams reportedly “gave a nod” to the military coup that attempted, ultimately unsuccessfully, to remove the democratically elected Hugo Chavez from power. The Observer, which broke the story, called Abrams “the crucial figure around the coup.” Abrams has had his eye on toppling Venezuela’s government for some time.
When Hamas defeated Fatah in the 2006 Palestinian election, Abrams, then the point man for George W. Bush’s Middle East policy, helped implement a scheme to nullify the results by fomenting a Palestinian civil war which, they hoped, would remove Hamas from power. When the plan backfired, with Hamas emerging victorious and in full control of Gaza, Abrams accused Hamas of staging a “coup.”
Elliott Abrams: a criminal record
The cosmopolitan project for unifying humanity through the agency of the dominant capitalist states—on the normative basis that we are all individual global citizens with liberal rights—will not work: it is more likely to plunge the planet into increasingly divisive turmoil. 

There is another version of cosmopolitanism abroad today, which places at the centre of its conception of a new world order the notion of a democratic global polity. This comes in a number of different editions, some scarcely distinguishable from liberal cosmopolitanism save for more voluble democratic piety. But in its most generous version, exemplified by Daniele Archibugi’s essay in these pages, this is a programme with the great merit of seeking to subordinate the rich minority of states and social groups to the will of a global majority, in conditions where the bulk of the world’s population remains trapped in poverty and powerlessness. Yet even its best proposals suffer from two crippling weaknesses. They focus too narrowly on purely political institutions, while ignoring the fact that a Herculean popular agency would be required to realize even these against the united colours of the Pacific Union. Any prospect of bringing humanity towards genuine unity on a global scale would have to confront the social and economic relations of actually existing capitalism with a clarity and trenchancy from which most representatives of this current shrink; and any hope of altering these can only be nullif i ed by evasion or edulcoration of the realities of the sole superpower. Timothy Brennan has criticized the self-deceptions of a complacent cosmopolitanism of any stripe. The best antidote to them comes from clear-minded advocates of the present order itself. As Robert Kagan and William Kristol wrote, with tonic accuracy, in the National Interest (Spring 2000): 

Today’s international system is built not around a balance of power but around American hegemony. The international financial  institutions were fashioned by Americans and serve American intersts. The international security structures are chiefly a collection of American-led alliances. What Americans like to call international ‘norms’ are really reflections  of American and West European principles. Since today’s relatively benevolent circumstances are the product of our hegemonic influence,  any lessening of that infl uence will allow others to play a larger part in shaping the world to suit their needs . . . American hegemony, then, must be actively maintained, just as it was actively obtained. 

In other words, US power will not come to an end until it is actively detained. No scheme for universal harmony, however long-term, is credible if it tries to sidestep it.

— Peter Gowan, "Neoliberal Cosmopolitanism", New Left Review September-October 2001

Then came the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. The great recession of 2007/08 has not undermined US power projection. Neither has the crisis in the EU nor Russia's intervention in Ukraine and Syria. The level of inequality today, the trade 'war' with China and a prospect of an intervention in Venezuela, among others, are a confirmation of a behaviour of a hegemon, cloaked in 'liberalism' and 'human rights', but whose practice of 'free trade' has to maintain her global primacy.
"[T]he extraordinary support for Israel among the U.S. political class isn’t all about the Benjamins. If AIPAC and the dozens of political action committees (PACs) whose contributions it coordinates were trying to convince politicians to adopt a policy that did not contribute to maintaining and expanding the American empire in the Middle East and beyond, then we would be hearing comments like Kevin McCarthy’s truly antisemitic tweet quoted above with great regularity from across the political spectrum. It’s the confluence of imperial interests, political money and the popular Jewish and non-Jewish understanding of Israel as the moral legatee of the victims of Nazi mass murder that have combined to shut down debate on US Middle East policy."
Joel Beinin, merip, 18 February 2019
The Sicilian


He caused the killings of hundreds of thousands of people, more than what Pinochet, Mubarak, Suharto or Al-Assad did. He overthrew an ally of the free world. He imposed a decades-long embargo on his own country and starved his own people, driving them to drown in the ocean. He tried to invade Miami many times in order to establish a system against human nature in the United States, but failed. He established an illegal prisoner where he held his enemies without charge, torturing them and depriving them of fair trials, because they were against his way of life. He supported dictators in many countries, providing them with hundreds of doctors in order to spread his evil ideology all over the globe and help friendly regimes maintain their authoritarian powers.  He poured them with arms and financial assistance. More fundamentally, he outlived 10 U.S. presidents, without being democratically elected once. For that the CIA made many attempts to assassinate him

A historian asks: "Should Britain apologise for Amritsar massacre?" (the BBC Viewpoint)

That is a dangerous question that might open a floodgate:
Should Britain apologize for massacres against those who resisted or rose up against British rule:

-the Mau Mau in Kenya)
-the Zulu in South Africa
-the Mahdists in Sudan
-the Arabs in Iraq
Should Britain apologize to
-the Irish
-the Bengalis (the engineered famine)
- the Iraqis (1990 to the present)
-the Greek resistance
-the Palestinians (for her long support of Israel)
-the Egyptians (for her long support of Mubarak and El-Sisi)
-the Saudis (for her long support of the monarchy)
-the Yemenis (for her supply of weapons to the Saudis)
-'Third World' countries (for her IMF-backed restructural adjustment programme and its consequnces, debt enslavement, etc)
...
I am sure I have missed a few more.

The massacre in context
An interesting, but timid analysis that is afraid of calling global capitalist policies (from inequality and wars to underdevolopment and imperialist designs), the breeding ground of reaction against state violence, as extremists and radical.

"The Chinese detention centers’ goal of ideological transformation is also central to CVE [Countering Violent Extremism]. CVE began in Britain in the early 2000s and has since spread to innumerable countries, including the United States, the UK, and various Muslim majority states. It’s also been uncritically embraced by multilateral and intergovernmental institutions, like the UN. CVE is based on a theory of “radicalization” that holds that in order to become ”terrorists,” individuals must first embrace a way of thinking inclining them toward violence; that this “radicalization” can be predicted, in part, by theological and cultural factors; and that identifying these factors can help governments prevent terrorism. According to this philosophy, there is no distinction between so-called extreme beliefs and violence – the former, even if non-violent, leads, inexorably, to the latter."


"Countering Violent Extremism"
UK
"Campaigners estimate that last year, at least 58 veterans took their own lives
The Ministry of Defence spends £22 million pounds a year on mental health for veterans, while the NHS has dedicated around £6m annually since 2016."
But it is worth it. They have died as heroes, "defending our values" and stopping "terrorists" from coming to our country.


"As a university lecturer I often find that my students take today’s dominant economic ideology namely, neoliberalism for granted as natural and inevitable. This is not surprising given that most of them were born in the early 1990s, for neoliberalism is all that they have known. In the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher had to convince people that there was “no alternative” to neoliberalism. But today this assumption comes ready-made; it’s in the water, part of the common-sense furniture of everyday life, and generally accepted as given by the Right and Left alike. It has not always been this way, however. Neoliberalism has a specific history, and knowing that history is an important antidote to its hegemony, for it shows that the present order is not natural or inevitable, but rather that it is new, that it came from somewhere, and that it was designed by particular people with particular interests." 
—Jason Hickel, 2012
Hickel is a lecturer at the London School of Economics and Political Science

Similarly, my students take "democracy" for granted and as natural and inevitable. They get surprised when I ask: how do you call a 'liberal democracy' a system that includes: (global) social injustice in the name of the 'free market', exploitation, obscene inequality, corruption, arms sales, media monopoly, invading countries, debt enslavement, support of authoritarian regimes, uneven development, weakening or banning of trade unions, a capitalist system that created climate change, etc?

Some students feel uncomfortable at even hearing such a questioning. It disturbs their comfort zone and want to close the brackets and go back to our lesson.
A book review 

"In one of No Enough's most important insights, Moyn suggests that the gradual abandonment of equality in favour of a minimalist focus on securing a basic minimum has made human rights unthreatening in a neoliberal age. Moyn’s account of the compatibility of human rights and neoliberalism is powerful and astute. Human rights did little to alter the course of neoliberal reform, offered no real alternative to it, and did not demand egalitarian distribution either at the national or transnational level, he argues. Moreover, human rights and what he terms their “economic rival” shared the same moral individualism and the same suspicion of collectivist projects such as nationalism and socialism. Consequently, even social and economic rights became adjuncts to humanitarian philanthropy, which viewed global poverty through the lens of humanitarian suffering, not structural inequality. 


Moyn provides a strikingly original account of the ways in which demands for a ‘New International Economic Order’ (NIEO) were taken up in sanitised form by philosophers of ‘global justice,’ who increasingly shifted the emphasis from permanent sovereignty over natural resources to individual rights. He also suggests that the human rights movement was compatible with neoliberalism in part because it resisted rights to development and self-determination, which it saw as shields for state sovereignty. Yet, far from simply being compatible, sections of the human rights movement found common cause with neoliberal thinkers and organisations in combatting post-colonial economic demands."


 Not Enough: Human Rights in an Unequal World by Samuel Moyn 
Venezuela

What Vice-President Pence could not say in public when he spoke about helping the Venezuelan "people" get their "freedom".

"There is no room for any outside influence other than ours in this region [Latin America]. We could not tolerate auch a thing... Until now Central America has always understood that governments which we recognize and support stay in power, while those which we do not recognize and support fall."—Robert Olds

Quoted in Peter Baofu's The Rise of Authoritarian Liberal Democracy, Cambridge 2007, p. 85

Recent interventions aside, Mark Rosenfelder (1996) counted, for instance, that between 1846 and 1996 alone, there were more than "79 U.S. military interventions in Latin America and Haiti..."

Egypt
There is an impression that Egypt's authoritarianism under Sisi got worse with the U.S.-led support after Trump assumed the presidency. No mention that it goes back to Obama's administration.
"The international community" is evoked as if it was not dominated by the same powers which the author finds complicit in Egypt's new authoritarianism.
No single paragraph about the labour movement as if it had disappeared.
"There is no other time in Egypt’s modern history when the widespread government assault on rights has been more severe. The state’s attempt to dominate the social and political field indicates a significant change in the current regime’s view of authoritarian governance in the aftermath of the popular uprising that broke out on January 25, 2011. Eight years later, despite the regime’s tight control of the street and state institutions, Sisi’s public pronouncements about the 2011 uprising often warn of a determination to prevent its reoccurrence: “What happened seven or eight years ago, will not happen again in Egypt. What didn’t work then, will not work now. No…it looks like you don’t know me well.”
This unprecedented state of repression would not have been possible without Sisi’s internal consolidation of power within Egypt’s state institutions since 2013, winning the support and complicity of the United States and the European Union (EU) along with the financial backing of Egypt’s Gulf allies such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the increasingly permissive international and regional environment for autocrats and authoritarians, firmly embraced by President Trump, outlined in Pompeo’s Cairo speech."

Egypt's Arrested Battlegrounds
Here is another example of someone who does not know where the interests of "underdeveloped countries" are. Nor does she know that the major Western powers and Western-dominated international institutions have been helping poor countries through aid, loans, and advice on how to run their economies, "liberalise, restructure, plan, adjust, budget, and inject the spirit of entrepreneurship."

This article is written by a graduate in economics from Sultan Qaboos University, Oman. An insignificant university in the world. The former student condemns the International Monetary Fund as an instrument of "domination, plunder and enslavement through debt", quoting a Western writer. She also gives the example of Malaysia under Mahathir Mohamad who refused to have the country indebted to the IMF and abide by the Fund's diktats.

By contrast, in 'prestigious' Western universities a student believes that the IMF is a force of good in the world, with a mission of helping "emerging" economies and poor countries develop. In one of those universities, the director had a career in high positions at the IMF and the World Bank.

I wonder who is on the right side. The graduate from an unknown university that may not even feature at all in the 500 list of the Times, and with almost no history, or a student with enormous wealth, equipment, resources, libraries, world renowned researchers and professors, accumulated over more than 400 years, behind him/her.

ماليزيا وصندوق النقد الدولي






Ungrateful, ignorant Tunisians who do not know their interests

For decades the IMF has been doing its best to help Tunisia, and other countries, develop a strong capitalist economy and "democracy". It has even had women like Nemat Shafi and Christine Lagarde, help restructring economies to achieve prosperity for all and liberate Tunisian women .... It seems that Tunisians do not get it.

Taking on the IMF


From the archive (2016)

A good overview on the MENA region.

Making and Unmaking of the Greater Middle East

"And, you know, there's no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look after themselves first." 
--Margaret Thatcher in 1987

Nine million Britons suffer from loneliness, according to the British Academy
Brexit

One form of the fantasy is ‘CANZUK’ — a revival of a white, Christian, trading empire including Britain’s former settler colonies in Canada, New Zealand and Australia. In another form, Britain becomes an enlarged version of Singapore. For a Trump-supporting faction on the right, Britain would be a glorified airstrip for the US in a larger game of great power rivalry. None of it makes sense, but all of it can be pushed to the public, via rightwing media, as a new imperialist ideology.

Behind all the hashtags, anger and parliamentary manoeuvring is the existential crisis of a ruling class. Britain is ruled by a super-rich elite with scant material interest in operations in the UK. If necessary it will form an alliance with people in poor, white, low-skilled communities to disrupt the multilateral order.

It is an interesting read, but I don't like the silly t-shirt!

Britain's impossible futures
"The ease with which parts of the international community have recognised Guaido reflects not principled support for democracy, but a global reconfiguration of power. This includes not only the rise of a multi-polar world - exemplified by Russian and Chinese support for Venezuelan sovereignty - but also a rightward swing across Latin America alongside the warring colonial conceits of the US and Europe." 

Some truths in the article, especially that those who defend the Venezuelan leader of the opposition are U.S. subordinates and right and far-right governments, but the author ignores the role of Maduro's government and its mismanagement and mishandling of the situation. He write in defence of the Bolivarian revolution, but with no criticism. 

More importantly, there is no mention in the articles I have seen,  and which condemn imperialism and the oligarchs in Venezuela, of the predicament: that Chavez and Maduro have done little to break the power of capital and the oligarchy in the country, that there have been modest changes and little cooperation in the region for a broader change when a handful of countries had left-wing governments, that the power of international capital, the U.S. hegemony, etc cannot be confronted with half-measures and in isolation, that the balance of forces has not favoured the establishment of a new sociol economic structures...

I have also seen others rightly criticising the BBC half-truths in reporting about Venezuela, but without criticism of Maduro. Some of them are the same "anti-imperialists" who have defended the Syrian regime!

Venezuela's slow coup continues
Education starts at home

If you want to know more about socialism, you don't need to look back at the Soviet Union and eastern Europe. Look at Venezuela. And if you need to have theoretical and ideological understanding of what socialism is, follow Fox News.

I wonder though why the journalist here adds this sentence that demolishes his has arguments against "socialism". "But no country has ever successfully enacted a system that matches Marx’s vision for the world – a reality even the staunchest Marxist will admit."

It is also convenient to call Bernie Sanders, a social democrat, a socialist because it helps the child learn more about the evils of socialism and how to protect the American way of life from it

How to get your child say no to socialism
The on-going coup in Venezuela
By Jorge Martin (Hands off Venezuela)

Even though the coup has not yet succeeded, the impression one gets is that there is an inexorable march forward in its implementation which is pushed mainly from forces abroad rather than in Venezuela itself.
There are now plenty of newspaper reports which detail the way this coup plot was hatched, in the US, with the collaboration of Marco Rubio and top Trump administration officials. The hawks now control the whole operation (having removed "moderates" like Tillerson), Pence, Pompeo, Bolton, Abrams, all of them cold war veterans committed to putting an end to anything which smells of revolution in Latin America. Meetings which have been reported go back nearly two years, but more recently, the plans around Guaidó were discussed in Washington in December, that is BEFORE he was even elected president of the national assembly. 
At a rally with reactionary Venezuelans in Florida on Feb 2, Mike Pence promised to bring "freedom" to Venezuela and then continue to Nicaragua and Cuba (https://www.whitehouse.gov/…/remarks-vice-president-pence-…/).
On Saturday, Feb 1, there were large marches in Venezuela which were useful to gauge the balance of forces as far as mass support is concerned for and against the coup.
In Caracas the chavista march was clearly larger, occupying most of Bolivar Av, and composed mostly of people from the militias and activists from the community councils and the working class neighbourhoods. A proportion of them came from outside Caracas.
The opposition march in Las Mercedes was large, but clearly smaller. Significantly they showed on stage the flags of all countries supporting self-appointed president Guaidó, including those of the US and Israel. That, the presence of US flags and symbols, was a common feature throughout opposition marches, which took place not only in Caracas but also in all main cities in the country. Overall the opposition mobilised more people, but in Caracas the chavista march was larger.
At the march Guaidó announced what is the next step of the plan: to use the cover of "humanitarian aid" to create a provocation at the border. The announcement was backed by Bolton and Pence (https://twitter.com/AmbJohnBolton/status/1091886111134236672). Three "aid" centres are going to be established, in Brazil, a yet unnamed Caribbean island and in Cucuta, Colombia. The latter is the most important one. The US will deliver "aid" there in the next few days, a week or ten days at most. Then there will be an attempt to "deliver" this aid across the border. 
We need to understand that Cucuta is the capital city of paramilitarism in Colombia, which in turn has close links with the state apparatus and the current Duque government, as well as landowners and capitalists in the Venezuelan side of the border, involved in smuggling and other illegal activities. 
There are also so-called "rebel soldiers" in Colombia which can be used for this purpose. Some of them are probably far right former Venezuelan soldiers, others are more likely to be Colombian paramilitaries in disguise. 
They have said openly that they will seek a confrontation with Venezuelan guards at the border "to see if they prevent aid from coming in or they defy Maduro's orders". This is a very dangerous adventure as in practice it amounts to an attempt to invade Venezuela under the cover of humanitarian aid and can very easily lead to an armed clash. That is what they seek. An incident which paints Maduro in bad light and justifies military intervention. 
The stakes are very high.
Also on Saturday, a serving general in the Air Force came out in support of Guaidó. This is the highest ranking serving officer to have mutinied to so far, but he had no command of troops. The Venezuelan ambassador in Iraq also defected. 
As I have explained before, the loyalty of the army high command is mostly linked to their control of the state owned companies. That means that the offer of an amnesty on the part of the coup plotters is not particularly attractive to them. However if economic sanctions get too unbearable and they see a chance of Maduro being overthrown, it is not ruled out that a section of the Army might decide that they would rather enter the scene and take over control of a "transition" process than be left out completely and lose power and wealth. 
Today 19 EU countries issued a joint statement where they "acknowledge and support Mr. Juan Guaidó, President of the democratically elected National Assembly, as President ad interim of Venezuela, in order for him to call for free, fair and democratic presidential elections." (https://www.gov.uk/governm…/…/joint-declaration-on-venezuela). At the meeting of EU FM last Thursday they couldn't get consensus (Greece, Italy and a few others opposed or abstained), so today they issued an ad-hoc statement. This is the result of the outrageous 8 day deadline for Maduro to call for elections issued by Spanish PM Sanchez. 
Sanchez's conduct has been particularly scandalous in this whole affair (as Maduro correctly pointed out in the interview he gave to Salvador, on La Sexta TV on Sunday night). After railing against Trump as a "leader of the far right we must combat" two years ago, he has now aligned himself fully with Trump's coup in Venezuela. 
Both Podemos and IU have opposed Sanchez, but the Communist Party, a key component of IU, has gone further and declared that they are breaking all contact with Sanchez. If this extends to IU then it will mean the end of the Sanchez government. 
The joint EU countries recognition for Guaidó has also created conflict in other countries. Italy has refused to sign in despite Salvini's militancy against Maduro. The M5S was against. In Austria the Foreign Minister (from the far right FPO) was against, but finally PM Kurz (OVP conservative) issued a statement backing Guaidó in very clear terms. 
Meanwhile Maduro has announced a signature collection for an open letter to Trump rejecting military intervention and for peace. While a campaign like this can be a useful tool to mobilise people, it is completely hopeless as a strategy to stop the ongoing coup.

Absurdity

The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa)

"1. The domestic policies of the BRICS states follow the general tenor of what one might consider Neoliberalism with Southern Characteristics.
2. The BRICS alliance has not been able to create a new institutional foundation for its emergent authority. It continues to plead for a more democratic United Nations, and for more democracy at the IMF and the World Bank.
3. The BRICS formation has not endorsed an ideological alternative to neoliberalism.
4. Finally, the BRICS project has no ability to sequester the military dominance of the United States and NATO... The force-projection of the United States remains planetary.

If we look into the entrails of the system, we will find that its solutions do not lie within it. Its problems are not technical, nor are they cultural. They are social problems that require political solutions. The social order of property, propriety, and power has to be radically revised..."

—Vijay Prashad, The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South, 2014 ed., pp. 10-11

Cinema

Trailer followed by an interview

Capernaum
A film by Nadine Labaki 
Britain

The Labour council, faced with opposition, is cleaving to its “blame Tory cuts” line, sending out self-congratulatory emails about its successful budgets that don’t even mention these closures, and only talk about the services they’ve managed to protect. In a dynamic that has been replicated all over the country, the Labour council has become the hand-wringing instrument of Conservative austerity.

"Left-wing" councils enact Tory cuts
From the achive

If no bases for a ‘new nationalism’ have yet disclosed themselves, why are politicians so desperate to assert one? Could it be because nationalism empowers politicians to police culture? Or, more accurately, to culturalise social questions, which are then policed?

Labour and new patriotism
"The most powerful states within the capitalist system have historically been the ones which establish the International Political Economy regimes of international capitalism and they establish rules which favour the expansion of their own capitalism." 

—Peter Gowan 2005, an unpublished paper

"Gabriel Hetland (theguardian.com, 24 January) is right to highlight how US sanctions have aggravated the economic crisis in Venezuela, perhaps by deliberate policy. US actions follow a predictable pattern. Just over a year ago, another Latin American country riven by economic and social problems descended into widespread street protests and violence following a disputed election, with dozens of people killed by security forces. That country was impoverished Honduras, where the pro-US Juan Orlando Hernández was re-elected president in an election many, including the Organization of American States, saw as fraudulent. The US response that time was to support Hernández against his rival Salvador Nasralla, who led a centre-left coalition. As ever, US concern is coloured by the political complexion of the candidates."
Scott Wilson
Strathkinness, Fife
New Orientalism

This sounds like "a bad history" by a new orientalist.

From the archive

For what Tuck has established is that modern natural-law theory was forged in integral connexion with "the kind of militarist and imperialist expansion in which the Dutch and English writers gloried." The commercial and colonial expansion of the Dutch and English states in the seventeenth century could be considered, from the angle of the European international order at the time, as something of a sideshow. But Tuck demonstrates with great erudition and theoretical acuity that it was absolutely central to the substance of the modern natural-law tradition, out of which contemporary rights-based liberal individualism has grown. His book might more properly be called "The Origins of Anglo-American Liberalism in the Legitimation of Imperial Expansion."

The Origins of Atlantic Liberalism
Domestic workers in Britain

When escaping an abusive employer is a crime

Don't blame Britain. Blame those abusive Saudis and Kuwaitis who are "backwards" and don't know anything about "women rights".
According to wikipedia, proportionally there are more homeless people in the UK than in China or the U.S

England: Birmingham homeless living in "ruthless conditions'

Like corruption, huge inequality, exploitation (at home and abroad), arms sales, support of dictators, etc, homelessnes is caused by Brussels and the EU. After Brexit these "un-English values" will disappear.

Global Poverty

The Science of (Not) Ending Global Poverty