Since Juan Guaido proclaimed himself “interim president” last April, the U.S. has increased its efforts to try to control Citgo, Venezuela’s largest asset abroad, valued at up to US$13 billion.
Oct 12 (teleSUR) The Venezuelan opposition is asking for help from United States lawmakers to pressure Washington to make a US$913 million payment due at the end of the month so Citgo refinery benefits would stay in their hands and not the people of Venezuela.
U.S. lawmakers, including Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, wrote a letter to President Donald Trump this week requesting that he take executive action to prevent Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA’s bonds from seizing U.S. refiner Citgo.
“Legitimate claimants against the Maduro regime should be made whole, but the burden of the claims should be entirely carried by the Maduro regime or by a democratically elected successor in Venezuela,” seven lawmakers wrote in a letter dated Oct. 10 seen by Reuters.
All but one of the signatories, Representative Lizzie Fletcher, were Republicans, like Trump. Except for Rubio, all represent Texas or Louisiana, where Citgo has refineries.
Juan Guaido, the isolated lawmaker who self-declared himself interim president of Venezuela in April, earlier this year assumed control of Citgo —a PDVSA subsidiary whose three refineries process 750,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude—after Washington recognized him as the nation’s leader.
However, if the Venezuelan opposition fails to make the payment of US$913 million due at the end of the month, the refinery would be property of PDVSA’s 2020 bond, which is backed by a 50.1 percent stake in Citgo.
This PDVSA’s 2020 bond payment is part of Guaido’s effort to control the Venezuelan state’s overseas assets, an illegal goal. The National Assembly, which has been in contempt of court since 2016, decided in February to change the Citgo’s board of directors by appointing people related to transnational oil companies. That decision, however, is illegal since the Venezuelan Court of Justice decided that all the National Assembly’s actions are null and void.
Within the framework of unilateral coercive measures, however, the U.S. government issued a 2017 executive order that blocked the issuance of new PDVSA debt securities. In addition, President Trump prohibited the transfer of Citgo’s dividends towards the Venezuelan state.
Rubio, from Florida, has been among the most vocal supporters on Capitol Hill for Trump’s “maximum pressure” policy on Venezuela. Florida is home to many conservative voters of Venezuelan and Cuban descent with privileged background who support a hard line on Latin American leftists, and is a swing state key to Trump’s 2020 re-election.
But the Citgo issue has divided conservatives. A coalition of right-wing groups including Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform wrote Trump last month arguing he should stay out of the issue, since an executive order protecting Citgo would interfere with property rights and the free market.
Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly, which Guaido leads, made a US$71 million interest payment earlier this year to take over Citgo, but does not appear to have the resources to make the much larger payment due on Oct. 28.
Guaido’s allies are also considering challenging the validity of the 2020 bond in U.S. courts, and requesting a U.N. asset protection order.
Beijing, Oct 11 (Prensa Latina) Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday congratulated Miguel Diaz-Canel on his election as the President of the Republic of Cuba, and highlighted the friendship between the two peoples while reiterating the willingness to work together to strengthen bilateral ties.
In his message, Xi assured that the two countries are good friends, partners and brothers, and had built a solid fraternity for over 50 years, with sincere trust and sharing the same destiny.
He also confirmed his willingness to expand bilateral cooperation and further promote the stability of the ties between the two socialist States.
Xi Jinping also spoke with Raul Castro, first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee, and conveyed his greetings following the success of the 4th Extraordinary Session of the National Assembly of People’s Power (Parliament), held on Thursday to elect the leadership of the country.
China attaches great importance to the development of relations with Cuba, is willing to maintain communication with Raul and jointly write a new chapter in the friendship between our two nations, the Chinese president said.
Diaz-Canel was elected on Thursday as the President of the Republic of Cuba by an absolute majority in a free, direct and secret vote during the parliamentary session.
The legislative body also approved Salvador Valdes as Vice President of the Republic and both leaders received a mandate through 2023, when the current legislature of the Cuban Parliament ends.
The vote was a result of the new State leadership structure as established in the Constitution of the Republic of Cuba approved by the Cuban population in February, which came into force following its approval by the ANPP in April of this year.
Havana, Oct 12 (Prensa Latina) Artists from nine countries will participate in the fifth International Colloquium on Latinos in the United States, which will be held in the Cuban capital from Tuesday to Thursday, as announced at a press conference.
Promoted by the Casa de las Americas, the event will bring together some 48 intellectuals from Argentina, Mexico, Chile, Puerto Rico, Salvador, Brazil, Spain, the United States and Cuba.
Among the participants is Alicia Arrizon, a professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of California (United States), and Maria Jose Buchanan, a scholar of the Upper Middle Division at the University of Monterrey (Mexico).
The program includes 15 papers focused on the management of Latino cultural industries in the United States and their transnational spaces.
The event will also feature a musical space, this time with special guest American pianist Arturo O’Farrill, who will perform at the close of the Colloquium on the 17th.
Ben Norton speaks about his reporting in Venezuela, where he investigated how bipartisan US sanctions and Trump’s embargo are making lives hell for civilians.
Guest: Ben Norton, journalist from The Grayzone, who just returned from reporting for two months in Venezuela
AARON MATÉ: Welcome to Pushback. I’m Aaron Maté. I’m here with my colleague Ben Norton, a reporter at The Grayzone.
Ben, at The Grayzone we’ve been covering the US-backed coup and economic warfare attempt on Venezuela since the start. You have just come back from Venezuela after a few months. Talk to us about your impressions.
BEN NORTON: Yeah this was my second trip to Venezuela this year. And I will say that in some ways nothing really has changed, which is a good sign. There’s peace; there’s political stability; people have enough to eat; they have enough to survive; they’re getting the bare necessities.
But at the same time the economic situation is more difficult; it’s absolutely true. And you know corporate media outlets say Venezuela is a “humanitarian catastrophe”; there is this new Jack Ryan series; it’s all just ridiculous propaganda. But it’s true that there is a major economic crisis going on in Venezuela.
And for a lot of average Venezuelans, prices are out of control; inflation is really bad. And of course one of the main causes of this, not the only cause, but the largest factor behind the economic crisis is the embargo.
The Trump administration declared a full economic embargo of Venezuela on August 5, and before that the Trump administration had very aggressive sanctions against Venezuela, that of course were started under the Obama administration.
And people are really feeling the impact.
Now what’s interesting though is that the people who are impacted the least by the sanctions are the opposition, of course the ones who are supporting the sanctions. And the people who support the government tend to be disproportionately poor.
And what’s really wild is whenever I was in a working-class barrio, whenever I was walking around Caracas, poor and working-class people are much, much more likely to support the government, much, much more likely to support Maduro.
And in the eastern rich part of Caracas known as Chacao, a different district with a different local government which is controlled by the opposition, there is staunch opposition to the government.
But ironically at the same time the faction that the US government has chosen behind the coup, the Juan Guaidó folks, are actually quite unpopular, increasingly unpopular. And we at The Grayzone have reported on their corruption.
But what’s actually wild is I went to an opposition rally and there were like 50 people there. The opposition, the coup attempt has really fizzled out, and the opposition is not unified by these figures like Juan Guaidó, many of whom are in exile, opposition figures in Miami, in Colombia, who are lobbying for aggressive sanctions that are hurting average people. And it’s pretty clear, the effects are quite obvious.
AARON MATÉ: Speaking of sanctions, the US keeps imposing them on different aspects of the Venezuelan state. Recently again the Trump administration imposed new sanctions on CLAP, the Venezuelan food program that gives boxes of food to millions of Venezuelans every single month. Explain what’s going on there.
BEN NORTON: The CLAP food program is extremely important. More than 80 percent of the public in Venezuela receives these regular CLAP food boxes. And I went to a distribution site when I was there on this trip; we’re gonna have a report at The Grayzone showing how every single 15 days in some communities, or every 30 days in other communities, the government helps provide these giant boxes [or bags] of food with major staples — wheat, corn, condensed milk, lentils, oil, things that people rely on, the staples, to eat to survive.
And it’s not just government supporters that receive these boxes; it’s the vast majority of the population, more than 6 million families.
So the Trump administration has decided to target this program as a way of attacking the government by really just using hunger as a weapon. That is the strategy. It’s the same strategy the Trump administration is using against Iran, against Nicaragua, and other countries.
And Venezuela is still heavily reliant on food imports. But a new development that’s interesting: Now actually — so we were in Venezuela in February and March, and I returned in the last two months, in August and September — and what’s interesting is that the food boxes under the CLAP program have increased in size; there’s more of them; they’re bigger in frequency as well.
And also what’s interesting is that now the food-organized communities, the way the CLAP program is organized, is very efficient. Because thousands upon thousands of people, volunteers who are not paid, have worked together to organize their communities, to make sure people are not going hungry.
And it’s actually an example of the community stepping up and working in hand with the government; it’s not just the government doing this top-down approach; it very much is bottom-up.
And it has been very impressive to see that, as the crisis has gotten worse, the community has actually stepped up and organized, in alliance with the government.
AARON MATÉ: You mentioned earlier the fact that the support for the coup-plotters is declining, their protests seeing smaller numbers. Meanwhile you have negotiations going on between the Venezuelan government and other factions of the opposition.
There was recently some agreements made between the Maduro government and about four Venezuelan opposition parties, including the release of one prominent opposition member.
Guaidó and his faction were very upset about this. Do you think that they can hold on? Do you see, what do you see is their next move to try to keep their coup going?
BEN NORTON: The Trump administration has made it clear that it does not want any negotiations whatsoever with the government. This is in the words of Mike Pompeo a “maximum pressure strategy.”
And it’s really a strategy that sees diplomacy as a form of, as a concession. They want really diplomatic war; they want complete isolation diplomatically.
So it’s actually very important that elements of the opposition have made an agreement with the government. And it’s very telling that in response to that agreement, instead of welcoming this new peace and diplomacy, the prospects for actually trying to find a solution to the political crisis, the Trump administration released a statement saying that they refuse to recognize this “illegal” agreement, what they said is illegal.
Of course the irony is that they recognize this government that controls nothing. Juan Guaidó was barely known before the coup attempt was initiated. Something around 86 percent of Venezuelans had never heard of him, before he self-declared “interim president.” And he controls nothing.
Meanwhile when I was in the country, I saw many of the incredible projects that are still going on by the government, that is still very much in power, of Nicolás Maduro.
I went to a commune where people who support the government but are working on their own, in alliance with the government, but they have been provided materials by the government and are building a communal house, a giant — not even just a house, a giant building with 80 apartments.
And I’m gonna have a report showing how this massive construction project is being overseen by women Chavistas, by feminists; 80 percent of the people building it are women themselves, 20 percent are men. And I have seen many of these other incredible projects.
Another thing that is a major problem going on in Venezuela right now is that this country is not food sovereign. It has, it really relies on imports. But in fact in the past several months I have seen the transformation, in this last trip just over six months. Now I have seen that in supermarkets, pretty much everything is made domestically.
The thing is it’s made domestically by a lot of private companies, and it’s in the private hands of these right-wing capitalists who support the opposition, who are price-gouging, who are hoarding goods, who are speculating.
So there are a lot of economic problems, and the sanctions are making things worse for average Venezuelans. So at the end of the day what it comes down to is that the US government has made it clear that it is not going to accept any kind of negotiation.
So the question is who in the international community is going to finally say to the US that you can’t continue to strangle Venezuelan civilians, that you have to be able to support some kind of diplomatic process to bring people to the table?
Norway sponsored the most recent peace talks that completely fell through because of the US declaration of the embargo. So until the US government, which is the one that is actually sabotaging the diplomacy and peace negotiations, until the US government actually takes a step back and allows this new process, and allows the new mechanisms to solve the economic problems in the country, I think things are going to continue as they are.
And they are very difficult. People are hanging on; there’s not a humanitarian catastrophe. But there is definitely an economic crisis, and it is really hurting average Venezuelans more than anyone else.
The sanctions are a war on the entire civilian population.
AARON MATÉ: And stay tuned for more of Ben’s reporting from Venezuela at thegrayzone.com. Ben Norton, thanks very much.
Aaron Maté is a journalist and producer. He hosts Pushback with Aaron Maté on The Grayzone. He is also is contributor to The Nation magazine and former host/producer for The Real News and Democracy Now!. Aaron has also presented and produced for Vice, AJ+, and Al Jazeera.
Havana, Oct 12 (Prensa Latina) Leaders of several nations and foreign social and political organizations congratulated Miguel Diaz-Canel for his election as Cuba’s president.
Diaz-Canel was taken up the post by the National Assembly of People’s Power (ANPP, Parliament) in an extraordinary session held on October 10, which elected that day, by mandate of the Constitution approved in April, the highest positions of the State.
In his congratulatory message Russia’s President Vladimir Putin underscored that the Parliament’s decision shows the high political authority of the Cuban ruler.
He also assured that this expresses acknowledging Diaz-Canel’s skills in solving current tasks in the economic and social development of Cuba, according to a Kremlin statement.
Xi Jinping, president of the People’s Republic of China, also congratulated Diaz-Canel and reaffirmed his willingness to expand bilateral cooperation and boost the stability of ties between the two socialist States.
Cuba’s Foreign Ministry released a message of congratulation sent by the Secretary General of the Communist Party and President of Vietnam Nguyen Phu Trong.
Other authorities of Vietnam also expressed their compliments, such as the Head of the National Assembly Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan who addressed a letter to Esteban Lazo Hernandez elected this Thursday as president of the ANPP and the Cuban State Council.
Dang Thi Ngoc Thinh, deputy State minister of Vietnam, also congratulated Salvador Valdes Mesa on his election as vice president of the Republic, the VNA agency reported.
Different solidarity organizations with Cuba sent congratulatory messages to the Cuban President, who on a tweet thanked everyone who congratulated him, even through social networks.
‘I appreciate a lot your congratulations; they move, support and make grow my commitment. Together we will move forward. We will never let down trust,’ Diaz-Canel tweeted.
In his inauguration speech, Cuba’s president was grateful to those who give his helping hand to Cuba.
Havana, Oct 11 (Prensa Latina) President of Cuba Miguel Diaz-Canel, accompanied by Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, received this Friday the credentials of new ambassadors to the island.
Ambassadors Perry John Calderwood (Canada), Heidrun Tempel, (Federal Republic of Germany), Ariana Campero Nava (Plurinational State of Bolivia), and Alain Thierry Jean Baptiste Ouattara (Burkina Faso) attended the solemn ceremony.
Likewise, Harisoa Lalatiana Accouche (Seychelles), Evelyn Patricia Sanchez Granados (Costa Rica), Tomas Wiklund (Kingdom of Sweden), and Miguel Ignacio Diaz Reynoso (United Mexican States) were accredited.
“The ‘tale’ to explain the Ecuadorean people’s massive protests is that I am ‘destabilizing’ the government from Venezuela. If the stupidities paid VAT, [the Ecuadorean authorities] would not call the IMF… They would be well-funded!
Facing this type of nonsensical claims, the Venezuelan President also responded with a touch of humor.
“Lenin Moreno said that what happens over there is my fault, for I move my mustache and overthrow governments,” Maduro said.
To contextualize what is happening in Ecuador, a country which reached significant economic achievements between 2007 and 2017, the Venezuelan President recalled that Latin America is currently the scene of the dispute between two different visions of the economy.
“We have two models: the IMF model which privatizes everything and takes away the people’s rights to health, education and work; and the humanist-progressive model which is emerging in Latin America and has the Bolivarian Revolution at the forefront,” Maduro he said.
President Maduro’s pronouncement occurred after Lenin Moreno blamed him for the Ecuadorean popular protests and dared to call him an “authoritarian bastard” during a television broadcast.
New restrictions on sending remittances from the U.S. to Cuba and the ban on specific bank transactions, known as “U-turns,” came into effect this Wednesday, as reported a month ago by the Department of the Treasury.
Then, the U.S. Federal Register officially published the regulation related to these limitations, which had been advanced in April by now former National Security advisor John Bolton, in an address in Miami.
The measures limit the sending of family remittances to 1,000 dollars per quarter for a Cuban national. In addition, they maintain the ban on sending remittances to the island’s senior government officials and “prohibited members” of the Communist Party, a decision that is now extended to all of their “close relatives.”
An authorization that allowed remittances in the form of donations was also eliminated, but the possibility of “unlimited remittances to certain persons and non-governmental organizations” was maintained, which will be extended to private sector workers.
Nor can “U-turn” transactions, “transfers of funds that pass through U.S. banks, but that do not begin or end in this country, and in which neither the issuer nor the recipient are under U.S. jurisdiction, be made to Cuba,” Prensa Latina news agency explains in a report.
Thus, if a European bank wants to transfer or receive money from the island through a branch of its own in the United States, from now on it will not be able to do so, something that was already happening very rarely for fear of the implications of the economic embargo on Cuba.
Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin said that with these amendments to the regulations, the Department of the Treasury denies Cuba’s access to foreign currencies.
The Trump administration justified the new measures as part of the strategy established to strengthen the policy against Cuba defined in a memorandum in June 2017.
In addition, also as a measure of pressure for Havana’s support for the government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, which the United States wants to overthrow. Mnuchin said last month that they were taking these additional steps to financially isolate the Cuban regime, which is responsible for supporting Maduro’s “illegitimate regime.”
This group of restrictions are added to the prohibition of cruise trips to Cuba, the strengthening of measures that limit Americans’ travel of to the island, not granting political asylum to Cubans who present themselves on the border with Mexico and the limitation of visas and residence permits within the framework of the migration agreements.
The Minister of Defense, Vladimir Padrino Lopez, declared a new violation of the airspace of that Bolivarian nation by an intelligence aircraft belonging to the United States.
Oct 9 (teleSUR) Venezuelan Minister of Defense, Vladimir Padrino Lopez, expressed through his official Twitter account a new violation of the airspace of that Bolivarian nation by an intelligence aircraft belonging to the United States.
The publication explained that this irruption in the sovereignty of the South American country was captured and recorded by the sensors of the Integral Aerospace Defense Command (Codai), this Wednesday, October 9th.
“Once again the sensors of the Comprehensive Aerospace Defense Command detected a United States RC-135 strategic intelligence aircraft,” Padrino said.
#Denuncia#Hoy Nuevamente fue detectada por los sensores del @CODAI_FANB una aeronave de #EEUU tipo RC135 de inteligencia estratégica, la cual puso en riesgo la seguridad de las operaciones aéreas al norte de Venezuela al ingresar al #FIR sin cumplir protocolos internacionales
#Complaint #Today A new US # RC135 type strategic intelligence aircraft was detected by the @CODAI_FANB sensors, which jeopardized the safety of air operations in northern Venezuela upon entering the #FIR without complying with international protocols
“Imperial arrogance, in its siege strategy, does not cease its eagerness to know all commercial activity, air and sea movement in our area of influence, once again putting air operations at risk in the Flight Information Region (FIR Maiquetía) “, clarified the minister.
Padrino López has repeatedly denounced the flagrant invasion of the air and maritime space of Venezuela, by ships and artifacts directed by U.S. Government forces.
The cruise multinational denied the accusations filed in a U.S. court by a Cuban-American doctor, who considers that the company benefited from the port of Santiago de Cuba, which was nationalized after the 1959 Revolution.
The Carnival cruise multinational denied the accusations filed in a U.S. court by a Cuban-American, who considers that the company benefited from the port of Santiago de Cuba, which was nationalized from his family after the 1959 Revolution.
Carnival, the first company sued after the activation last May of Title III of the Helms-Burton Act of 1996 that allows these lawsuits, denied the complaints presented by Doctor Javier García Bengoechea.
In a 21-page court document, published this Tuesday by the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, Carnival rejected that it had intentionally used the port and that it was aware that the property was nationalized.
In that sense, it also rejected its responsibility for economic compensation.
The company, which in 2016 began to travel to the island with its cruise ships, said it would object to the request for a jury trial.
In the lawsuit, García Bengoechea says he is the “legitimate” owner of the port of Santiago de Cuba, which was expropriated from his family by the “communist” government in 1960.
“Carnival was the first cruise line that trafficked on our properties, they then deserve the ignominious distinction of being the first to be sued,” said the doctor after filing the lawsuit in May in a court in Miami, South Florida.
Previously, the company had asked a judge in Miami to reject another lawsuit for the use of port facilities in Cuba for considering that it has no legal basis.
That request referred to the one presented by the heirs of the Behn family, owners of Havana Docks, the current Sierra Maestra terminal in Havana, and argued that the lawsuit opened under the umbrella of the Helms-Burton Act was unfounded for two reasons: the controversial law does not apply and the concession for the use of the port facilities expired in 2004.
At least 18 lawsuits against companies, especially involving tourism, have been filed in the United States, 16 of them in Florida, since Title III was activated, according to the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council.
According to the council’s president, John Kavulich, the U.S. authorities have “certified” 5,913 cases of citizens and businesses in the country that can qualify for Title III, for a total of 1.9 billion dollars, which with interest for more than 60 years would amount to 8.521 billion.
But, in addition, there are many more “uncertified” lawsuits that could be filed.
The Helms-Burton Act intends to punish foreign companies that have businesses in Cuba and use properties, or have interests in them, that were nationalized in the early 1960s. In its content it defines that act as a case of “trafficking with intervened properties” and for which there had been no compensation.