Turkey finds sarin gas in homes of suspected Syrian Islamists – reports

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May 30, 2013

Turkish security forces found a 2kg cylinder with sarin gas after searching the homes of Syrian militants from the Al-Qaeda linked Al-Nusra Front who were previously detained, Turkish media reports. The gas was reportedly going to be used in a bomb.

The sarin gas was found in the homes of suspected Syrian Islamists detained in the southern provinces of Adana and Mersia following a search by Turkish police on Wednesday, reports say. The gas was allegedly going to be used to carry out an attack in the southern Turkish city of Adana.

On Monday, Turkish special anti-terror forces arrested 12 suspected members of the Al-Nusra Front, the Al-Qaeda affiliated group which has been dubbed “the most aggressive and successful arm” of the Syrian rebels. The group was designated a terrorist organization by the United States in December.

Police also reportedly found a cache of weapons, documents and digital data which will be reviewed by police.

Following the searches, five of those detained were released following medical examinations at the Forensic Medicine Institution Adana. Seven suspects remain in custody. Turkish authorities are yet to comment on the arrests.

Russia reacted strongly to the incident, calling for a thorough investigation into the detention of Syrian militants in possession of sarin gas.

“We are extremely concerned with media reports. Russia believes that the use of any chemical weapons is absolutely inadmissible,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said on Thursday.

In a separate incident in Adana, police reportedly received intelligence that an explosive-laden vehicle had entered the town of Adana on Thursday, the Taraf daily reports.

Ankara has attempted to bolster the Syrian opposition without becoming embroiled in the Syrian civil war, a policy which Damascus claims lead to the deadliest act of terrorism on Turkish soil.

On May 11, 51 people were killed and 140 injured after two car bombs exploded in the Turkish town of Reyhanlı, located near the country’s border with Syria.A dozen Turkish nationals have been charged in the twin bombings, and Ankara has accused Damascus of helping the suspects carry out the attack.

“This incident was carried out by an organization which is in close contact to pro-regime groups in Syria and I say this very clearly, with the Syrian Mukhabarat [intelligence agency],” Interior Minister Muammer Guler said.

Syria’s Information Minister Omran Zoubi denied any link the attack, saying his country “did not commit and would never commit such an act because our values would not allow that”.Zoubi further charged the Turkish government had facilitated the flow of arms, explosives, funds and fighters across the country’s border into Syria, claiming that that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his party bear direct responsibility [for the attack].”

Reports of chemical weapons use by both Damascus and the Syrian opposition have surrounded the conflict in Syria for months.

In this image made available by the Syrian News Agency (SANA) on March 19, 2013, a man is brought to a hospital in the Khan al-Assal region in the northern Aleppo province, as Syria’s government accused rebel forces of using chemical weapons for the first time (AFP Photo)

In March, the Syrian government invited the United Nations to investigate possible chemical weapons use in the Khan al-Assal area of rural Aleppo. Military experts and officials said a chemical agent, most likely sarin, was used in the attack which killed 26 people, including government forces.

Damascus claimed Al-Qaeda linked fighters were behind the attack, further alleging Turkey had a hand in the incident.

“The rocket came from a placed controlled by the terrorist and which is located close to the Turkish territory. One can assume that the weapon came from Turkey,” Zoabi said in an interview with Interfax news agency.

US President Barack Obama has warned any confirmed use of chemical weapons by Damascus would cross a “red line” which would prompt further action. Both Washington and London claimed there was growing evidence that such chemical agents had been used.

Less clear perhaps is whether a similar red line would apply to Syrian opposition groups such as Al-Nusra by the US and NATO allies. Author and historian Gerald Horne, for one, told RT that there are greater political dynamics at work.

“Well, one would think so, but of course we know that the United States along with its NATO partners Britain and France are quite close to the main backers of the rebels — I’m speaking of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. We know, for example, according to the Financial Times that Mr Sarkozy, the former president of France, is in very close financial relationship with the Qataris,” says Horne.

That would be under the existing paragraph in the story: US President Barack Obama has warned any confirmed use of chemical weapons by Damascus would cross a “red line” which would prompt further action. Both Washington and London claimed there was growing evidence that such chemical agents had been used.

This case being similar to an earlier one, with the findings of UN chemical weapons expert Carla Del Ponte  – who had found evidence of their use by the rebels – some think the fallout will be what it was then as well.

Journalist and RT contributor, Afshin Rattansi believes that the same fate will befall this story, as far as media coverage goes. All possible doubts will either be hushed or directed elsewhere, as they were toward Del Ponte’s findings.

“Carla Del Ponte – one of the greatest experts on this from the United Nations – did do an in-depth investigation only a few weeks ago, and of course, the mainstream media tried their best to ignore it and to character-assassinate Del Ponte… she did masses of work on this, and [found] It was the rebels and not the government.”

Rattansi goes on to say that “the news management of the Syria story has been incredibly sophisticated, and I don’t think it will be on the front pages of any newspapers in Britain or the United States – it will quietly disappear like Del Ponte’s case. The big story, of course, will be Russia and the delivery of the S-300.”

A day before the Reyhanlı bombing, Erdogan released a statement claiming he had evidence the Syrian government had had used chemical weapons, crossing the red line set by President Obama.The accusation contradicted a statement made at the time by a leading UN investigator. Carla Del Ponte, who heads the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, said there were “concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas” in Syria.

“This was use on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities,” Del Ponte continued.

Exposure to large quantities of sarin gas, whose production and stockpiling was outlawed by the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993, causes convulsions, paralysis, loss of respiratory functions and potentially death.

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Should the US bomb Syria?

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By Stephen Gowans

There is no compelling evidence that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons against the rebel forces which seek its overthrow. But even if chemical weapons have been used, a military intervention by the United States, its NATO allies, or its regional proxies, would fail the test of humanitarian intervention. First, it would exacerbate, not reduce, the suffering of Syrians. Second, it would be undertaken for concealed reasons of economic and geostrategic gain, not to protect Syrians from chemical weapons, not for the promotion of multi-party representative democracy, and not to encourage tolerance of dissent, as the promoters of intervention would have us believe.

Moreover, a successful US-led intervention would eliminate a pro-Palestinian, anti-Zionist, anti-colonialist, anti-imperialist state committed to secularism, non-sectarianism, and public ownership of the commanding heights of its economy, and would, install, in its place, a US-client regime that would adopt a pro-US foreign policy, abandon the Palestinians, capitulate to Israel, and cater to Western investors and corporations. “Syria,” remarked president Bashar al-Assad, not without substance, “is an independent state working for the interests of its people, rather than making the Syrian people work for the interests of the West.” [1] This orientation would be completely reversed if a US intervention succeeded.

Three reasons the chemical weapons case against the Syrian government is weak at best

1. Britain and Israel claim to have evidence that the Syrian army used chemical agents against armed rebels. The British evidence is based on tissue samples taken from armed rebels who claim to have been gassed by loyalist forces. To concretely make the case that the Syrian army used chemical weapons:

• The tissue samples would have to test positive for chemical agents.
• There could be no possibility the samples were tampered with.
• A direct link between the contaminated tissue and an attack by Syrian forces would need to be established.

Concerning the first point, we have nothing to rely on but the word of British authorities. Should we believe them? Britain has been implicated in attempts to concoct pretexts for military intervention with phony evidence before (see the bogus WMD claims used to justify the war on Iraq and the genocide fear-mongering pressed into service to justify NATO’s 1999 air war on Yugoslavia.)

What’s more, Britain is hardly a neutral party to the conflict in Syria, and therefore has an interest in manufacturing justifications for more open and direct meddling. That’s not to say that the tissue sample didn’t test positive, only that it would be foolhardy to suppose that a country that “sexed up” evidence to justify a war on Iraq can be trusted.

Secondly, “the samples collected by Britain may have been tainted by rebels who want to draw the West into the conflict on their side” [2], a point made by US officials.

Third, “the detection of chemical agents doesn’t necessarily mean they were used in an attack by the Syrian” army. [3] Rebels, for example, may have been accidentally exposed to chemical agents they, themselves, had in their possession.

The key point is that evidence of tissue contamination (if indeed such evidence exists) is not evidence that the Syrian army used chemical agents, since there are multiple possible ways in which the tissue could have become contaminated.

2. Once US president Barack Obama declared that the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government was a red line that would trigger a more muscular US intervention, the Syrian calculus turned decidedly against their use. Using chemical agents against rebels would play directly into Washington’s hands, giving the bellicose superpower a pretext to intervene militarily in an open and direct fashion. This would be a disadvantage that would grossly outweigh any advantage that accrued from the weapons’ use. On the other hand, once Obama announced his red line, it made a ton of sense for the rebels to falsely claim they were gassed.

3. While an investigation by the United Nations independent commission of inquiry on Syria has found evidence that the rebels used sarin gas, no evidence has been found that the Syrian government has done the same. Commission member Carla Del Ponte reported that, “We collected some witness testimony that made it appear that some chemical weapons were used, in particular, nerve gas. What appeared to our investigation was that was used by the opponents, by the rebels. We have no, no indication at all that the government, the authorities of the Syrian government, had used chemical weapons.” (Emphasis added.) [4]

An intervention would create harm

To reduce suffering, a military intervention would need to reduce harm to a greater degree than the military intervention itself would produce. Judging by previous US-led interventions undertaken for professedly humanitarian reasons, a military intervention in Syria would likely involve air strikes on Syrian military, government and even civilian facilities, with attendant civilian casualties, disruption of essential services, and massive displacement of non-combatants. According to The New York Times’ Elisabeth Bummiler, senior Pentagon officials have warned that “military intervention would be a daunting and protracted operation, requiring at least weeks of exclusively American airstrikes, with the potential for killing vast numbers of civilians.” (Emphasis added.) [5]

To be sure, an open and direct military intervention would be ardently welcomed by Syrian rebels, and their co-sectarian arms suppliers, the Turks, Saudis and Qataris. But it would kill many and make life even more miserable and uncertain for Syrians, especially those living in areas under loyalist control.

Far better to reach a political solution. But one of the reasons the Syrian civil war carries on is because the United States refuses to back a political resolution that would fall short of achieving its chief Syria foreign policy goal, namely, the ouster of Assad and his replacement by a pliant, pro-US government. A genuinely humanitarian intervention would set as its goal an end to hostilities, not the absorption of Syria into the US-Israeli camp.

Intervention would not be based on humanitarian concern

There is no reason to believe that the United States has any genuine interest in protecting Syrians from chemical weapons attacks. Washington dismissed out of hand evidence presented by the United Nations that the rebels used sarin gas, which is hardly what a government would do were it genuinely keen on protecting all Syrians from chemical attack, no matter which side of the conflict they’re on.

Significantly, US regime change policy in Syria antedates Syria’s civil war. The outbreak of the “Arab Spring” in Syria, and Damascus’s response to it, didn’t start the ball rolling on US efforts to force Assad from power. US regime change policy, linked to Damascus’s refusal to become a “peace-partner” with Israel, its alliance with Iran and Hezbollah, and its refusal to fully open its economy to US capital, existed long before the Syrian government cracked down on opposition forces. In fact, one element of US foreign policy was to encourage opposition to the Assad government, [6] that is, to foment the kind of civil unrest that eventually morphed into a full blown civil war.

Multi-party representative democracy, a tolerant attitude to dissent, and eschewal of chemical weapons, have not been relevant components of US foreign policy decision making. Indeed, Washington has shown itself willing to overlook the absence of multi-party representative democracy, to ignore an intolerant attitude to dissent, and to turn a blind eye to the deployment of chemical weapons, where US corporate interests are promoted, either directly, or indirectly through the strengthening of United States’ geostrategic position. For example, Washington and its NATO allies have adopted a tolerant attitude to the violent suppression (aided by Saudi tanks) of a Shiite rebellion in Bahrain against an absolutist Sunni monarchy, while at the same time casually dismissing the UN’s concrete suspicions that the Syrian rebels used sarin gas. Significantly, Bahrain, a paragon of free-markets and free-enterprise, is home to the US Fifth Fleet; Saudi Arabia is a source of generous profits for US oil majors and New York investment banks; and the Syrian rebels are instruments through which US foreign policy goals of regime change in Damascus are to be achieved. If US foreign policy was indeed driven by democracy-promotion, human rights objectives, and non-proliferation goals, its attitude toward Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, Jordan and the possibility of sarin gas use by Syrian rebels, would be very different.

Conclusion

There are sound strategic reasons for the Syrian army to leave chemical weapons in storage. Deploying them would play into Washington’s hands by providing the United States with a pretext to escalate its intervention in the Syrian civil war. On the other hand, any force that would benefit from a more muscular US intervention on the rebels’ behalf has an interest in manufacturing evidence of the use of chemical agents by Syrian forces. This would include the rebels themselves and those of the United States’ allies that would like Washington to refashion Syria in their political or sectarian interests.

Much as intervention by the United States is sold as a humanitarian exercise, it fails the humanitarian test on two levels. First, it would create substantial harm. US military officials have warned that direct military intervention—which would take the form of US air strikes—would create massive civilian casualties. Second, US foreign policy is based on commercial, financial, and geostrategic goals, not the promotion of multi-party representative democracy, tolerance of dissent, and anti-proliferation. This is clear from a simple examination of the countries Washington supports: those with a congenial attitude to US free enterprise and a willingness to submit to US domination, regardless of their practices in connection with multiparty representative democracy, civil liberties and weapons of mass destruction.

For all these reasons the United States should not bomb Syria, and nor should it provide military, diplomatic, or any other kind of assistance to the Syrian rebels. Of course, what it should do and what it will do are very different matters, but all the same we should be clear that the chemical weapons case against Syria is a fraud, as is the idea that direct US military intervention in the Syrian conflict would have either a humanitarian basis or humanitarian outcome.

1. Bashar al-Assad May 19, 2013 interview with Clarin newspaper and Telam news agency.

2. Adam Entous, Joshua Mitnick and Stephen Fidler, “Syria used chemical arms, Israel says”, The Wall Street Journal, April 23, 2013.

3. Ibid.

4. Alex Lantier, “UN says US-backed opposition, not Syrian regime, used poison gas”, World Socialist Web Site, May 7, 2013

5. Elisabeth Bummiler, “Military points to risks of Syrian intervention”, The New York Times, March 11, 2012.

6. Craig Whitlock, “U.S. secretly backed Syrian opposition groups, cables released by Wikileaks show”, The Washington Post, April 17, 2011.

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Colombian FARC-EP Defends People’s Demands in Talks

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May 19, 2013

FARC-EP guerrillas from left to right: Tanja Nijmeijer, (unknown), Iván Márquez, Jesús Santrich, and Andrés París.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People´s Army (FARC-EP) said today that their demands in the negotiation table with the government defend the people´s interests and compliance with constitutional standards.

Ivan Marquez, who leads the FARC-EP delegation to the talks in Havana, rejected the stand of President Juan Manuel Santos of describing as a market list the positions defended by the guerrillas.

Marquez said the neoliberal policies spread poverty and inequality countrywide in Colombia, and rejected official figures according to which the number of poor fell from 30 to 20 million people in a nation of 46 million inhabitants.

Those figures are based on neoliberal, technocratic measurements that fail to take into account the human development index or the existence of a humanitarian crisis generated by State terrorism, he said.

Marquez made a positive assessment of the six-month talks with the government in Havana and denied they were running slowly.

“We have to deal with these issues thoroughly and with serenity if we really want to pave the way for the construction of stable, lasting peace,” he said.

The FARC-EP delegation leader said there has been considerable progress on land-related issues, the first point in the agenda.

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UN investigators say Syrian rebels used chemical weapons, not Syrian govt.

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The following article below was originally published by Reuters

Syrian doctors and nurses treating victims of sarin gas nerve agent.

U.N. has testimony that Syrian rebels used sarin gas: investigator

By Stephanie Nebehay
May 5, 2013

U.N. human rights investigators have gathered testimony from casualties of Syria’s civil war and medical staff indicating that rebel forces have used the nerve agent sarin, one of the lead investigators said on Sunday.

The United Nations independent commission of inquiry on Syria has not yet seen evidence of government forces having used chemical weapons, which are banned under international law, said commission member Carla Del Ponte.

“Our investigators have been in neighboring countries interviewing victims, doctors and field hospitals and, according to their report of last week which I have seen, there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated,” Del Ponte said in an interview with Swiss-Italian television.

“This was use on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities,” she added, speaking in Italian.

Del Ponte, a former Swiss attorney-general who also served as prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, gave no details as to when or where sarin may have been used.

The Geneva-based inquiry into war crimes and other human rights violations is separate from an investigation of the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria instigated by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, which has since stalled.

President Bashar al-Assad’s government and the rebels accuse each another of carrying out three chemical weapon attacks, one near Aleppo and another near Damascus, both in March, and another in Homs in December.

The civil war began with anti-government protests in March 2011. The conflict has now claimed an estimated 70,000 lives and forced 1.2 million Syrian refugees to flee.

The United States has said it has “varying degrees of confidence” that sarin has been used by Syria’s government on its people.

President Barack Obama last year declared that the use or deployment of chemical weapons by Assad would cross a “red line”.

Commander says Iran is ready to train Syrian army in light of Israeli attacks

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May 5, 2013

Iran has denounced a reported Israeli attack on Syria and offered to assist ‘train’ the Syrian army if Damascus asks for help, commander of country’s ground forces stated. Iran has been urging for neighboring nations to stand against the assault.

“As a Muslim nation, we back Syria, and if there is need for training we will provide them with the training, but won’t have any active involvement in the operations,” IRNA news agency quoted the commander of the Islamic republic’s army ground forces, General Ahmad Reza Pourdastan as saying.

“The Syrian army has accumulated experience during years of conflict [with Israel], is able to defend itself and doesn’t need foreign assistance,” he added.

Israel reportedly carried out its second airstrike in three days on Syria early on Sunday, a Western intelligence source confirmed to Reuters, targeting Iranian-supplied missiles to Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah. The attack hit the Jamraya military research center, Syria’s state TV reported; while a senior Israeli official told AFP that the Israeli airstrike was carried out near Damascus Airport.

Iran has spoken out against the alleged airstrike, arguing that it was meant to create instability and insecurity in the region and urging the countries in the region to remain united against Israel, the Fars news agency quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast as saying.

Events in Syria show the intent to weaken the existing government and give more room to the terrorists, RT Arabic quoted the opening statement of the Iranian parliament’s session. According to the statement, the reasons behind the Israeli attack are the success of Syrian national army is battling against the armed groups.

Iran also urged other countries in the region to stand united against Israel’s’ actions and demand a stop to unwarranted attacks, RT Arabic reports.

So far Israel has remained silent on the issue. Earlier Israel stated that they would not tolerate Hezbollah being supplied with arms, as Tel Aviv considers Lebanon’s Hezbollah a terror organization.

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Venezuelan Audit Can’t Find Any Different Result in Presidential Election, Statistical Analysis Shows

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The following statement below was originally published by the Center for Economic and Policy Research

Probability of Getting First Audit Result, If Election Were Stolen, is Less than One in 25 Thousand Trillion

By Dan Beeton
April 26, 2013

Washington, D.C. - A statistical analysis by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) has shown that if Venezuelan opposition claims that Nicolás Maduro’s victory was obtained by fraud were true, it is practically impossible to have obtained the result that was found in an audit of 53% of electronic voting machines that took place on the evening of Venezuela’s April 14 elections.  The odds of this occurring would be far less than one in 25 thousand trillion.

“The U.S. government must know this, too,” said CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot, economist and co-author of a forthcoming paper with economist and computer scientist David Rosnick. “So it is difficult to explain why they are refusing to recognize the elected president – in opposition to all of the countries in Latin America and most of the world.”

The results of Venezuela’s April 14 presidential election returned 7,575,506 votes for Nicolás Maduro, and 7,302,641 votes for challenger Henrique Capriles Radonski.  This is a difference of 272,865 votes, or 1.8 percent of the two-way total between the candidates.

In this election, voters express their preference by pressing a computer touch-screen, which then prints out a paper receipt of their vote.  The voter then checks to make sure that the receipt was the same as her choice, and deposits  the paper receipt in a sealed box.

When the polls closed, a random sample of 53 percent [i] of all the machines (20,825 out of 39,303) was chosen, and a manual tally was made of the paper receipts.  This “hot audit” was done on site, in the presence of the observers from both campaigns, as well as witnesses from the community.  There were no reports from witnesses or election officials on site of discrepancies between the machine totals and the hand count.

Immediately after the election results were announced on the night of April 14th, the Venezuelan opposition demanded a full “recount” of all of the voting machines’ paper receipts and subsequently called for an audit – or manual count – of the 46% of the sealed boxes containing the paper receipts that had not yet been audited.  After the Venezuelan Electoral Council’s (CNE’s) decision to grant their request, on April 18th, the main opposition party came up with a series of new demands suggesting that they did not believe that a full audit would provide evidence of any significant fraud.  On April 26 they announced that they would “boycott” the audit that they had requested the previous week.

What if it were true that there were enough mismatches in the 39,303 machines to have given Maduro a 50.8 percent majority, when Capriles had been the true winner?  CEPR calculated that the probability of getting the results of the first audit would then have been less than one in 25 thousand trillion.

“The results are pretty much intuitive,” said Weisbrot.  “With a sample that huge verified during the April 14 ‘hot audit,’ if there were any discrepancies between the machine count and the paper ballots, it would have shown up somewhere. But it didn’t.”

It is therefore practically impossible that an audit of the remaining 46 percent of ballot boxes could find enough discrepancies to reverse the result of the election.

The forthcoming paper also calculates the probability that the remaining 46 percent of ballot boxes, if audited, could change the outcome. It also looks at other possible scenarios, including allegations from Capriles that there were irregularities in some 12,000 of the remaining machines, and other ways that the unaudited machines could have enough errors to change the result.  The above calculation can be seen here.  The full paper will be available next week.


[i]  Another 1 percent was audited the next day.

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Venezuelan President Maduro vows to “radicalize” revolution in face of right-wing violence

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The following article below was originally published by Fight Back! News, the news wing of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization

April 17, 2013

The streets of Avenida Bolivar turn red with supporters of Pres. Maduro, along with billboards in tribute to Chavez and declaring “they won’t return” (Alex Guzman / AVN)

On April 16, newly elected Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro called on workers to resist the wave of right-wing violence that broke out after the recent presidential election. Speaking defiantly to a crowd of workers in Miranda state on Tuesday, April 16, Maduro said, “If they continue with violence, what we can do is to radicalize this revolution.”

In the two days since Maduro’s victory, the Venezuelan right-wing opposition has attacked supporters of the Bolivarian Revolution and resorted to violence to oust the democratically elected president. These confrontations left seven people dead and more than 60 people injured. Armed bands of opposition forces, angry at their defeat in the election, attacked Venezuelans who gathered to celebrate the victory of Maduro in several states. These dangerous attacks are part of a deliberate attempt by the U.S.-supported opposition to destabilize the revolutionary Venezuelan government.

Lacking any commitment to democracy in Venezuela, opposition gangs firebombed the United Socialist Party of Venezuela’s (PSUV) party headquarters in Anzoategui and Tachira while people worked inside, April 16. Elsewhere, upper class students led deadly confrontations with Venezuelan security forces. According to Russia Today, these opposition mobs attacked a government-run clinic in a central Venezuelan state.

Maduro denounced the opposition’s violent tactics in the harshest terms. He vowed to protect the will of the Venezuelan people, saying, “I will fight fascism and those who attack democracy with a firm hand. If they want to topple me, they can come get me.”

In the recent special presidential election, Maduro defeated opposition candidate Henrique Caprilles by a margin of 50.8% to 49.0%. Maduro, a member of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), succeeded the late President Hugo Chavez, who died just months after also defeating Caprilles in the 2012 election.

Maduro won by a narrow margin of about 270,000 votes. Despite the National Electoral Council (CNE) and at least 100 international observers affirming that the election was fair, Caprilles and the opposition are demanding a full recount. Venezuela’s election process is consistently rated by international observers, including former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, as one of the most democratic in the world.

Caprilles’ demand for a recount follows in a sinister tradition of U.S.-backed counter-revolutions in socialist and anti-imperialist countries. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) works closely with the rich and wealthy elites in these countries to delegitimize democratic elections and violate the will of the people. In 2002, the U.S.-backed a coup d’état in Venezuela that temporarily removed then-President Chavez from power. The workers of Venezuela and progressive elements in the military battled these U.S. puppets in the streets and eventually restored Chavez to power. A similar CIA-backed destabilization attempt took place in Iran in 2009, with the so-called “Green Revolution.”

This most recent election marks the second time that the people of Venezuela rejected Caprilles’ anti-worker, pro-corporate agenda at the ballot box. Caprilles currently serves as the face of the wealthy Venezuelan opposition. The corporate elites who funded Caprilles’ campaign lost much of their wealth and power because of the Bolivarian Revolution led by Chavez. They fear Maduro’s presidency will continue the trend towards a more just society.

Maduro indicated that the threat of a coup would open the opportunity to radicalize the Bolivarian Revolution. Even after the privately owned media and major corporations conspired to overthrow him in 2002, Chavez stopped short of outlawing or arresting most opposition leaders. This latest wave of counter-revolutionary violence may open the opportunity for Maduro and the Venezuelan people to break the power of the rich oligarchs once and for all.

Revolutionaries and progressives in the U.S. have an obligation to the Venezuelan people to oppose intervention by their own government in the conflict. Venezuela has a right to national self-determination and progressives in the U.S should support the ongoing national democratic process under the leadership of President Maduro. We should demand, “U.S. hands off Venezuela! U.S. hands off Latin America! Victory to the Bolivarian Revolution!”

Venezuela: Fascist violence met with revolutionary defense

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Maduro’s election victory sparks right-wing backlash

By Gloria La Riva
April 16, 2013

Nicolás Maduro

Longtime socialist Nicolás Maduro was elected president of Venezuela on April 14, in a crucial election held five weeks after the death of revolutionary leader and president Hugo Chávez on March 5.

Notwithstanding the close vote count—50.8 percent to 49 percent—Maduro’s presidency is a critical victory for the Bolivarian revolutionary process and the United Socialist Party of Venezuela’s ongoing struggle for socialism.

On April 19, Maduro will be inaugurated in a historic day for all Latin America and a reaffirmation of the great Bolivarian Revolution begun by Chávez.

Yet, as thousands of Venezuelans broke out in celebrations across the country after Maduro’s victory was announced, the defeated right-wing candidate, Henrique Capriles, refused to concede, following his script written in Washington.

Before Sunday’s vote, U.S. imperialism and the Venezuelan right wing crafted a plan of action to distort the electoral outcome and create violent chaos afterwards, knowing Capriles’ defeat was likely.

Sunday night, April 14, the violence was unleashed.

Seven pro-Maduro supporters were murdered after Capriles called for street actions, giving the green light to his fascist followers. TV and radio stations were destroyed, the homes of PSUV members burned down or vandalized, and people beaten in the streets by roaming right-wing gangs.

One right-wing reporter, Nelson Bocaranda, falsely claimed to his 1.2 million Twitter followers that Cuban doctors were hiding ballot boxes in CDIs, the free health clinics run by 38,000 Cuban medical workers. Several CDI clinics were suddenly attacked across Venezuela in actions obviously coordinated beforehand.

Two persons were murdered trying to defend a CDI clinic under attack.

The revolutionary government responds decisively

To prevent the danger of further fascist attacks, President Maduro Tuesday morning declared he would not permit a right-wing march to the National Electoral Council (CNE) called by Capriles for Wednesday, April 17: “The march to downtown Caracas will not be allowed. I will not permit it. I will impose a firm hand against fascism.”

Maduro is trying to prevent a massacre similar to what occurred on April 11, 2002. As a prelude to the coup against Chávez, the right wing led a similar march to downtown. There, fascist sharpshooters gunned down and killed 11 people, as a cover to justify the coup.

Tuesday, April 16, at the last moment, Capriles was forced to back down and announced the cancelation of his action.

The same day, a government Official Gazette announced that all police forces, national, state and local, are immediately suspended from active duty until Saturday evening, April 20, except by express permission. In their place, the Bolivarian National Armed Forces (FANB) are to provide public security.

The declaration also prohibits the carrying of arms in public for the same period, to prevent further violence.

National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello announced that the parliament will look to prosecute Capriles for violating the public order and peace. In one twitter message, Cabello wrote: “Pure fascism, they assaulted and destroyed the CDIs, persecute the doctors, burn homes. Irresponsible Capriles, you generated all this.”

U.S. imperialism directs the fascist campaign

The U.S. government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars since Hugo Chávez first took office in 1999 to destabilize the country, counter-organize and even stage a coup and carry out oil sabotage. Its campaign continues.

In Washington on Monday, April 15, President Obama’s press secretary, Jay Carney, insisted on a 100 percent audit of the vote, effectively refusing to recognize Maduro’s presidency. The next day, U.S. State Department spokesperson Patrick Ventrell repeated the demand.

In Caracas, National Electoral Council President Tibisay Lucena has rightfully refused Capriles’ 100 percent recount demand, declaring that 53 percent of the votes were audited, in a process recognized internationally for its exceptionally high standards. Her home was violently attacked afterward.

Meanwhile, Latin American governments across the board are sending congratulations to Maduro and backing Venezuela’s transparent electoral process. Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa has called on Latin American presidents to attend Maduro’s inauguration in a show of support.

The revolutionary masses take action

Hour by hour the people of the Revolution are responding with a combative will to defeat the right wing. Tuesday, April 16, more than 200 community defense units of a new Popular Front in Defense of the Bolivarian Revolution and Peace were created and announced on Venezuelan state television. Hundreds of community radio stations linked together to share information on the right-wing attacks and to help mobilize the people to defend the peace.

Across the country, the people are coming out into the streets through their collective councils, neighborhood groups, and permanent community mobilizations to warn the fascists, “No Pasarán!”

With the right-wing threat, it should be clear that the April 14 vote was much more than a contest between two individuals.

On one side is the Bolivarian Revolution process of 14 years. Huge transformations have been carried out in the economic and social realm: free health care, massive housing projects for the people, education, and the mobilization of millions of people committed to the ultimate objective of socialism.

On the other side is the counterrevolution, whose candidate Capriles—backed by the Venezuelan elite and U.S. imperialism—appealed to the wealthy and middle class and promised a return to the “free market.” He called for the dismantling of Cuban-Venezuelan cooperation.

Venezuela’s rising revolution is causing great consternation within U.S. ruling circles because it is building people’s power and inspiring all the people of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Maduro, the government and the people will now move ahead with the “Plan de la Patria”—the socialist plan for the nation—first unveiled by Chávez in his presidential run last fall.

The millions of Bolivarian supporters who have been mobilized in the streets for more than four months will now be decisive, to defend the Revolution, defeat the right wing and guarantee a life of dignity and peace for the Venezuelan people.

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