By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese
This week, Latin American countries allied with the United States are meeting in Colombia to invoke a post-World War II treaty, the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, TIAR in Spanish, which would permit military intervention in Venezuela. This comes as the US-appointed coup-leader Juan Guaido faces the end of his term as president of the Venezuelan National Assembly and all efforts to install him as the president of Venezuela have failed. We speak with William Camacaro, a Venezuelan activist living in the United States, about the impact of TIAR and what people in the United States can do to stop US interference in Venezuela. We also discuss what is happening in the region as the United States loses control. Plus, we provide current news and analysis.
William Camacaro is a Venezuelan living in New York City who is a member of the Solidarity Committee with Venezuela – NYC. He is a long-time activist on food sovereignty and he leads trips to Venezuela to teach others about efforts to create food security.
TRANSCRIPT IN PROGRESS:
Margaret Flowers (MF): You’re listening to Clearing the FOG speaking truth to expose the forces of greed with Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese. Clearing the FOG is a project of PopularResistance.org. You can subscribe to us on iTunes, SoundCloud, Mixcloud, Stitcher and Google Play. You’ll also find us on PopularResistance.org and while you’re there, check out the Clearing the FOG gear: tote bags, bumper stickers, water bottles and t-shirts. So today, we interviewed William Camacaro, a Venezuelan activist living in New York City.
Kevin Zeese (KZ): We first met William in Venezuela. He coincidentally was there when we were on our peace delegation to the country and we got to understand his incredible solidarity work with Venezuela and he made a call to action this week because of the threat of military intervention in Venezuela. It’s been escalating lately. And so we talk with him in detail about that and about Bolivia, about Latin America about, you know, the US losing control of its domination of Latin America and Venezuela is part of that.
MF: And we also include what people in the United States need to be doing to counter this. But before we get into that interview, let’s go over some things that are in the news. This week is the beginning of the United Nations Conference of Parties 25th Annual Meeting. The COP 25 taking place in Madrid Spain. It was initially supposed to occur in Chile, but because of the protests there they decided to move it to Spain and interestingly, there was a report that just came out that the President of Chile is not going to be attending that COP meeting in Spain even though Chile is the leader of the meeting because a judge in Spain has said that if he comes into the country, he will be detained for human rights abuses related to the way that the Piñera government has responded to the protests in Chile.
KZ: So he’s not coming. That’s a very wise move on his part. Spain has been very good about using international human rights law to hold people accountable like him. You know the COP meeting is such an important meeting. It’s so disappointing these international meetings in the past, Copenhagen was derailed by Obama and Clinton, Paris put forward the best they could get but it was very weak and inadequate. And now of course Trump has withdrawn from that and on their agenda, they’re talking about corporate solutions. It seems like the UN and COP countries are not really facing the reality of the roots of climate change.
MF: That’s right. We wrote about this in our newsletter this week on Popular Resistance. But basically, the Paris agreement is getting very close to the time that it’s supposed to be implemented and the focus of this COP meeting is on those final rules. There were some disagreements last year over some major topics in those rules of implementing the Paris agreement. The major topic of conversation this year is going to be setting up a global carbon trading market, something that has existed since the Kyoto Protocol and has not actually worked. In fact, a report recently in California found that three years of carbon trading in California, the largest carbon trading program in the world, has actually resulted in an increase of greenhouse gas emissions by 3.5% because what actually happens is that companies are allowed to buy these carbon credits that allow them to continue to emit pollution.
KZ: And some of those carbon credits are just fake. I mean, they’ll buy carbon credits by purchasing a company that’s out of business and not doing anything so it’s not polluting. So they can fake it and as a result in California, the largest cap and trade market, it’s failed and yet now they’re talking about that for a global solution when it’s a non-solution. They cannot face the reality that the problem is fossil fuel industry. The problem is capitalism, the problem is the consumption based society. We need dramatic changes globally particularly in the United States, which is the largest problem. I mean, I know that people like to point to China, which has, you know, almost two billion people compared to the US’ 320 million. So the real problem is the US and the US denialism, Australia’s denialism. These Western countries that have very high standards of living, very high per capita fossil fuel use. That’s the problem. There are other countries around the world that have very low fossil fuel use and actually need to increase their use in order just to lift them out of poverty. So it’s a very complicated problem. But the, you know, the one good news about Trump withdrawing may be without the US there, they’ll actually confront some of the issues that the US has prevented them from confronting like firm limits on greenhouse gas emissions. The US blocked that in Copenhagen, blocked that in Paris. Maybe with the US no longer involved, there’ll be an opportunity for the rest of the world to do a better job of coming up with an international agreement.
MF: Well, it’s really critical that this happens. Reports keep coming out showing how bad the situation is. Leading up to the COP meetings, 7 prominent scientist issued a letter basically saying that predictions that have existed actually underestimate the impacts of the climate crisis, that they’re finding not only is the climate crisis here, but major sectors of the world’s ecosystems are being impacted in such a way that they’re actually reinforcing each other and escalating the climate crisis. So according to the Paris treaty, in order to meet its goals, we need to be reducing overall carbon emissions by 7.6 percent each year even to meet their modest goals, which may not actually be sufficient, but instead of that global greenhouse gas emissions are rising. In the United States alone our gas consumption rose by 10 percent last year as these swings in temperature, very hot summers very cold winters, that’s causing a lot of people to need to use more climate control in their homes and their buildings. So we need to be aware of this in the United States. We are the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases and the third largest per capita emitter after Saudi Arabia and Australia, countries that have much smaller populations than we have here in the United States.
KZ: Historically, we’re the largest and also we have to remember a lot of that greenhouse gas is coming from the Chinese because China is doing a lot of manufacturing for the United States. And so China is polluting because they have become the industry source for the US and much of the world. And so we need to face the reality ourselves. You know, it’s a bipartisan problem in the United States. We cannot forget President Obama going to Texas oil executives and bragging about how all the infrastructure for oil and gas and how he has made the US the largest exporter of oil and gas. Of course, we have President Trump who is openly saying there’s no climate crisis, it’s not human-caused, there’s nothing we should be doing about it. You know, the only person who’s put out a really honest science-based climate plan is the Green Party candidate or the person seeking the Green Party nomination, Howie Hawkins. I mean at HowieHawkins.us you can see a real eco-socialist Green New Deal. Sanders is probably the best as far as the Democrats go but a recent review of his proposal gave it a C+ and he’s the best of the Democrats and so we don’t really see US elections as confronting this issue. And so we have to find other ways to do it.
MF: That’s something that we write about in the newsletter, what people can do because there’s a lot of conversation about that going on right now, but people should know that this past weekend there were protests around the world leading up to the COP meeting calling for a climate emergency and climate action. In Germany alone, 630,000 people came out in 30 cities as well as protests all across the European Union and Asian countries. And of course Friday, many refer to it as Black Friday, when people do their holiday shopping, but many also see it as Buy Nothing Day and act to reduce our consumption and our carbon footprint. And there were also protests on Buy Nothing Day in Europe against Amazon, you know, a major corporation. It’s a huge market of selling products and also has terrible environmental practices. They throw away tons and tons of items that they don’t sell each year.
KZ: Amazon really exemplifies the consumer-based society that the US and Western Europe and more and more of the world is becoming and that’s really one of the root cause problems of the climate crisis is our consumerism. And you know, we also have to recognize that there are protests in the United States and those are also escalating. We’re seeing them regularly in Washington, DC and around the country and in New York and lots of activity. And you know in Spain they’re very worried about protests. They actually called up more than 5,000 police to confront the protesters who are coming in from all over the world to protest for real action on climate at the COP meetings.
MF: Right. And I forgot to mention that December 6th, this Friday, is going to be a major worldwide day of action, another Global Climate Strike. So people can find out what’s going on in your community. Groups like Friday for the Future, Sunrise Movement, Extinction Rebellion are all involved in this Friday Global Climate Strike. Also resistance groups against Amazon in the United States are coming together through a new body called Athena and they’ve actually had some big wins in the United States, forcing Amazon to pay a $15 minimum wage, stopping the big warehouse in New York and also Amazon tried to buy a city council seat in Seattle and unseat the Socialist councilmember Kshama Sawant, and despite putting millions of dollars into that Amazon’s effort failed and Sawant was re-elected.
KZ: It was not just Sawant. They targeted other members and they lost all these elections. They could not buy them despite spending an incredible amount of money, Amazon failed in Seattle to take over the city council. So this coalition has come together in order to continue to fight Amazon, which is having not only an impact on climate but having tremendous negative impacts on downtown urban and small city areas across the country because they are putting mom and pop shops, independent businesses out of business because people just go on the web and order from Amazon and that’s also having a gigantic impact on the whole bookselling market. Booksellers are having a hard time competing with Amazon. So Bezos and Amazon are doing terrible damage. And of course, we can remember they do other damage because they have a very large contract with the CIA of hundreds of millions of dollars a year and Bezos owns the Washington Post, which is essentially a vehicle for neoliberal capitalism and US military and regime change actions around the world. So Bezos really is, in fact the only thing in politics he’s done is he got behind the whole effort to elect veterans and former intelligence officers in the 2018 election. A lot of the Blue Wave was more in that direction than the direction of AOC and a few other people who are progressive. It was really much more of a former veteran, former intelligence election that got covered up by the highlight of AOC and a few others.
MF: This past week also was the 50th Annual Day of Mourning at Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts. On Thursday, hundreds of people gathered there to remember the landing of the pilgrims and the devastation that that brought to indigenous communities in that area. Next year is actually going to be the 400th anniversary of that Plymouth landing. And so the events next year in Plymouth will be really big. We encourage people to check that out. One of the organizations that is behind organizing that is the United Native Americans of New England, UNAINE.org.
KZ: And on Popular Resistance, we cover on every holiday including Thanksgiving and Columbus Day and others, Veterans Day. We make efforts to get the truth out about those holidays. And so if you ever are interested in learning about the history of Thanksgiving, how it’s so strange and so sad that the United States is basically celebrating the ethnic cleansing and land theft of tens of millions of indigenous people who lived here before the white colonizers from Europe came to this continent. We’ve turned that war crime, that crime against humanity into a national celebration and I think that’s something that we really need to reflect on and come to recognize the truth of and somehow reconcile with. We need a Truth and Reconciliation process to deal with the slaughter of the indigenous as well as the enslavement of people brought against their wishes to be property as slaves from Africa.
MF: And this past two weeks in Syracuse, there was a major action that went on. At Syracuse University, hundreds of students sat in at the Barnes Center over racist and hate incidents that have occurred on campus. This is not just things that happened in isolation this year. This has been an ongoing problem at Syracuse University as it likely is it many predominantly white universities around the country. Students are upset with the lack of response by the administration at Syracuse. They had a huge sit-in. They used the hashtag NotAgainSU. So you can follow them that way, it’s #NotAgainSU. Basically they have 19 demands that they gave to the head of the school. The head agreed to 16 of those. The students are continuing to push to make sure that all of those demands are met.
KZ: And graduates of Syracuse University have said this has been a long-time problem at the university. We have to give a lot of credit to these current activists who took this long-time problem and turned it into it not just an issue in Syracuse at the University, but in Syracuse and in New York and nationally. So it really shows that a small group of students who act strategically and are persistent can impact not only the university but also impact the national dialogue on racism.
MF: Let’s talk about an economist from UC Berkeley, Gabriel Zucman, who came out with some important information recently. He looked at the 400 wealthiest people in the United States and compared their income over the past 10 years from 2009 to 2019. He found that that income more than doubled. If you account inflation, it went up by a hundred and thirty-six percent and that their taxes over that period went down from 27% to 23. The warning is that nothing has changed compared to that trend over the past 10 years and that that trend is likely to continue unless something is done.
KZ: And this is a long-term problem. I mean wages have been stagnant for most workers since the 70s and the trickle-down economics where give money to the wealthy through tax breaks and subsidies for their corporations and that will then trickle-down supposedly to the working class and the poor has been in effect since the Reagan Era. It’s been heightened by Bill Clinton, by President Obama, by Republicans, Democrats alike. And so we have a real challenge to remake our economy and with a very likely recession coming in 2020. That’s kind of the predominant view of economists that 2020 will be a recession year. People don’t know when, will it be, early in the year, late in the year, how it will affect the election but that will be an event that will require people to really rise up and demand investment in the economy from the bottom up not from the trickle-down approach that’s been used for the last 40 years.
MF: Well, in fact rather than trickling down what exactly happened is it has been hoarded at the top. We’ve seen a very insane amount of wealth accumulation in the United States. We now have three people in the United States who have the same wealth as half of our population.
KZ: That’s why the wealth tax is so popular that Warren and Sanders, Hawkins and a handful of others are talking about taxing wealth finally, taxing not only wealth, but high incomes. Some are saying we shouldn’t even have billionaires, there should be an income cap and really a cap on wealth. What’s the purpose of having billionaires? Because it’s a hoarded wealth situation. When you put money into the pockets of the poor and working-class, they spend it and that creates a foundation for the economy where people can benefit but when a billionaire has money they sit on it and they pass it down to the next generation to keep the royalty of wealth continuing. Some are saying we have to take some more drastic measures not just wealth taxes, but income taxes that are very high on the high-income earners as well as a ban on billionaires.
MF: We have to recognize that those people who became wealthy didn’t become wealthy in isolation and they depended upon workers. Workers in the US are producing more and getting less of a share of what they produce. Let’s talk about another study. This one came out of the Oregon Health Sciences University and they were looking at the rise in drug prices for drugs that are used to treat multiple sclerosis. And so they interviewed numerous people in pharmaceutical corporations who are involved with pricing of drugs and they found that the increases in the prices of pharmaceuticals in the United States basically depend on whatever the market will allow them to charge. It has nothing to do with production costs. In fact, over time production costs generally go down, in other countries the cost of medications also go down over time, you know, along with that but what these pharmaceutical executives said is that unlike in other countries, in the United States, they’re allowed to charge as much as they can get away with and that’s why drugs are so unaffordable.
KZ: And that’s just one more indication of the pharmaceutical industry that is in crisis because it does not serve the public interest. The whole opiate epidemic comes from the profiteering, from selling very high-powered opiates and it really is an indication that this is an industry that probably has to be nationalized, that we have to take the profit motive out of pharmaceuticals. Like we have to take the profit motive out of healthcare. Already the taxpayer funds a large amount of the research in the pharmaceutical arena. We could probably do much better. In fact a lot of the research I think dollars are wasted because it’s not really producing new drugs just producing new forms of drugs to get them to the market and make more money. And so we’re doing a lot of disservice to people’s health, to the healthcare system, to our economy by allowing pharmaceuticals to be so corrupt.
MF: This is something that a national improved Medicare for all or national single-payer healthcare system could address. We do have a piece of legislation in the House, Pramila Jayapal introduced the Medicare For All Act. It’s about the best health care bill that we have out there in Congress right now. It is superior to Sanders bill and if people want to learn more about that, you can go to the website health over profit dot o– r– g– to learn more about that legislation. But under that piece of legislation, not only would it allow the United States government to negotiate for fair drug prices, but if they’re not able to get a pharmaceutical corporation to agree to fair prices, it gives the government the ability to take over that production of that drug so that it can be provided at a reasonable cost to people in the United States. Another interesting fact that came out recently, this was a study done by the Wall Street Journal, found that Google has a relationship with a private health network of 2,600 hospitals called Ascension where since 2018 Ascension has been providing people’s health information to Google, something called Project Nightingale, and it’s now being investigated as possibly being in violation of what’s called the HIPAA law, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which limits what medical information can be shared without permission from the patient. This really argues again for a single-payer healthcare system because it’s this kind of privatization of healthcare that allows these types of agreements to happen against the will of the people who likely weren’t even informed that their health data was being shared with Google.
KZ: It comes down to profit-making and profiteering really by the healthcare industry, from the insurance companies, the for-profit hospitals, the pharmaceuticals. You know, these are all corporations that are not serving the public interest but serving the interests of their shareholders and their executives, serving the interests of profits and that’s why we called our campaign Health Over Profit for Everyone, health over profit dot-org because we think the foundational change that needs to happen in healthcare is to take the profit out of the system and make it a system that serves the public interest.
MF: There’s been so much attention paid to the potential Russian interference in the 2016 election, but a new study by researchers from the United States and Denmark looked at the Twitter use and how it was impacted by what’s called the Russian Internet Research Agency. So let’s basically back up. In 2016, there was a private company, the Internet Research Agency, in Russia that was putting out information through social media kind of clickbait type of information to try to get lots of people to interact with it to capture their data and then sell that to advertisers and that was what was being blamed as Russian interference in our election. So this study, which was called “Assessing the Russian Internet Research Agency’s Impact on Political Attitudes and Behavior of American Twitter Users” in late 2017 found that just as we see typically in the United States, they were really finding people who were already politically polarized and were not actually changing their opinions by putting out this information on Twitter. They were not actually sowing any kind of division or influencing how people thought about things. They were just reinforcing what they already believed.
KZ: Yes, it was really evident from the beginning that the Internet Research Agency was not part of the Russian government. It’s an independent corporation run by a guy who is a food distributor and restauranteur in Russia who learned how to develop internet lists and how he could profit from doing that. It was evident from the beginning of Russiagate, especially when Mueller focused on this Twitter and Facebook social media campaigns, that this was not about affecting the elections. Moon of Alabama has an excellent article that we republished on Popular Resistance that describes how the funding was spent. Most of it was spent after the election. The election funding was not spent on swing states. Some election funding supported Clinton. Some supported Trump. It was more focused on hot button issues. The goal as Moon of Alabama pointed out months ago and just reaffirms in this current, with this current study that the goal of that was not to affect the election, but to build a big database that this corporation could sell for profit and of course Mueller indicted them, but he knows that indictment will never go to trial because what foreign person would come to the United States to face a trial like that? So it’ll never go to trial. So we got Mueller’s indictment and no real analysis or no other side of the story because we essentially had only the prosecutor’s view, a prosecutor whose goal was really to show there was something in Russiagate when there really was not much there.
MF: Let’s talk about the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, the so-called Human Rights and Democracy Act that was signed into law by President Trump. This is an act that actually allows the United States to do an annual review of Hong Kong and if the United States believes that China is not living up to the Basic Agreement made between the United Kingdom and China when Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997. This is seen as a real interference of the US government in the affairs of China and China responded this week saying that it would suspend US military port calls and that it would be sanctioning nonprofits that are operating inside Hong Kong. These are nonprofits that are either supporting the anti-China protests or have possibly been involved in helping to instigate them and support them. So these are groups like Human Rights Watch, Freedom House, the National Endowment for Democracy, National Democratic Institute and International Republican Institute.
KZ: Those last few from National Endowment for Democracy, the Republican and Democratic institutions are wings of the NED regime change operations. They are there to build opposition in various countries to governments the United States as in like these protests in Hong Kong. You know, there’s a lot of good reasons for people to protest in Hong Kong. It’s a neoliberal extreme capitalist system and a government that represents those corporations more than represents the people of Hong Kong and this is a government that China is not in control but is controlled by Hong Kong and was put in place essentially by the UK when it was colonizing Hong Kong. A wing of those protests became very much used by the US to accomplish exactly this, to get this Hong Kong Act passed so the US can intrude into China’s affairs. The US sees the deadline coming for China to have complete control of Hong Kong in 2047. The US wants an independent Hong Kong. They want to be able to put their navy ships in that port. They want a military base because it’s right across the bay from China. The China-US conflict is what the US sees as defining the 21st century. China is the key country in the great power conflict of our national security strategy and the Hong Kong protests were manipulated. People were carrying SOS, Donald Trump save us or the US flag or the UK flag, which colonized them for hundreds of years, a hundred and fifty years, in a brutal way. Carrying UK flags and singing the UK anthem of the net and the Stars and Stripes, US national anthem. It was a very weird wing of the protest and they used violence, increase the violence in Hong Kong has been so amazing by the protesters. It’s incredible. The Hong Kong police have been restrained as are in it’s really incredible that China has not used its military or its police in Hong Kong, even though they have a battalion that is stationed in Hong Kong. They never left their barracks. The Hong Kong police have been restrained compared to the violence of the protesters has been extreme really extreme.
MF: These so-called pro-democracy protesters have been attacking and even killing people in Hong Kong who disagree with them or appear to disagree with them.
KZ: Or just appear to be Chinese really, look like they’re from mainland China, they get attacked and beaten up by these protesters. It’s a very virulent anti-China protests by a minority of the protesters in Hong Kong and they’re starting to get pushback from the people of Hong Kong and they’re shrinking into the you know much smaller size than they were initially because of this violence.
MF: I’m sure people are getting tired of it. This has been going on since June of this year. Let’s quickly turn to Latin America before we do our interview with William Camacaro. Some news, this past weekend a delegation from Argentina traveled to Bolivia to interview people there and do a report on what’s actually happening. They did a preliminary report over the weekend. They found that there was in fact a coup. I don’t think that’s a big question, but they found that the de facto government has committed crimes against humanity. There have been murders, disappearances, rapes, incredible violence and injury against people, targeting of social justice movement organizers and members of the legislature who are from the Movement towards Socialism or MAS Party in Bolivia.
KZ: Bolivia announced that they’re going to have elections in March of next year. They have to first elect a national electoral commission and that’ll be done by the national legislature and it’s hard to imagine that these right-wing coup mongers are going to allow a truly fair election because if they do it’s hard to imagine them winning. The brutality they’ve shown has been reprehensible. I’m sure it has turned off people who were unsure about Evo Morales. 70% of the population is indigenous. So it’s hard to imagine a fair election that these right-wing coup mongers will win but I suspect we’ll see something like we saw in Honduras where the elections were a sham. And even when the coup president lost the election, a few days later he won it and so I expect we’ll see some serious problems in that Bolivian election. I hope people are very alert to it and watch for it. This is certainly not a story that’s ended. It’s a story that’s in the middle.
MF: And recently the United States took two more steps against Latin American countries. The Donald Trump Administration declared that Nicaragua is a national security threat and is getting ready to prepare new sanctions or new economic unilateral coercive measures against Nicaragua. This is something that the US can do because of the NICA Act that was passed in Congress. And we have to remember what happened to Venezuela in 2015 when Obama called it a national security threat. It really sent a message to investors, don’t invest in this country and caused some harm to the economy there.
KZ: Well, that was, that Obama finding it a national security threat was the foundation for escalating the sanctions. The first sanctions were in 2004 by President Bush, very minor but they grew under Obama and with the national security threat language, they escalated and how you can call tiny Nicaragua, which is I think smaller than any state in the United States, how you can call Nicaragua a national security threat. It really shows the US is losing control over Latin America an area it has dominated through the existence of the United States. They’re losing control, they’re desperate and they’re taking actions that just on their face are absurd.
MF: Right and let’s keep an eye on Mexico because the Trump Administration also designated the cartels down there as terrorists in order to justify potential US military intervention in Mexico. This would be unprecedented, at least on an overt scale and President SMLO of Mexico is saying that he’s concerned that there’s a right-wing coup being planned against him. Of course. he is the first somewhat leftist president to be elected in Mexico.
KZ: I mean the reality is of course, we stole one-third of Mexico in the Mexican-American War and we occupied Mexico in the early part of this last century. So it’s currently, that would be unusual to have an open use of the military. I really hope it doesn’t happen. But as soon as AMLO was elected, people began to worry that we’d expect to see a color revolution or some kind of regime change effort because finally the conservatives were kicked out of office at not just the presidential level but also at the legislative level and landslides and so it’s an administration that the US would like to see changed.
MF: Well with that, let’s take a short musical break, and we’ll be right back with our interview with William Camacaro.
MF: You’re listening to Clearing the FOG, speaking truth to expose the forces of greed with Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese. And now we turn to our guest William Camacaro. William is a Venezuelan activist living in New York City and he’s with the solidarity committee with Venezuela of New York City. Thank you for taking time to join us, William.
William Camacaro (WC): Thank you for having me.