Professional Scam Artists – part 35

From Mining Watch Canada:
The south pit of Bisha mine in Eritrea, which is owned through subsidiaries by Vancouver-based Nevsun Resources. While Nevsun is set to argue at the Supreme Court of Canada that allegations of human rights violations at the Bisha mine should not be heard in Canadian courts, a mining watchdog says foreign nationals need a way to hold Canadian companies accountable at home for their operations overseas. (NEVSUN)

“Canada’s overseas mining practices on trial in alleged rights abuse case” by Jennifer Wells (Toronto Star via Mining Watch Canada)

An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:

Should a Canadian mining company be held to account for human rights abuses in operations abroad?

This is not a trick question. When the Supreme Court of Canada sits for the hearing into Nevsun Resources next week, scheduled for Wednesday, the court will consider whether to allow a novel cause of action to proceed to trial, thereby dismissing the appeal of the Vancouver-based miner, or stop in its tracks the four-year long journey of former mine workers who allege abuse, including forced labour, at the company’s Bisha mine in Eritrea…

In 2017 the U.S. State Department released its human rights report on the country. “The most significant human rights issues included arbitrary deprivation of life; disappearances; torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment by security forces, including for political and religious beliefs; harsh prison and detention center conditions; arbitrary arrest; denial of fair public trial.”

The list goes on.

The country has had no elections since President Isaias Afwerki came to power upon the country’s independence in 1993 and still has no constitution nor independent judiciary. When the United Nations Special Rapporteur tabled her final report last June, she found no human rights improvements through her six-year mandate and called for an end to indefinite service to the country’s National Service Program, which in practise functions as forced conscription that can last decades.

It is on this last point that we come to the Nevsun case. The plaintiffs, now Eritrean refugees (two are resident in the U.S. and one in Canada), sued the company in Vancouver, alleging that they had been conscripted into national service and forced to work at the mine for two subcontracting companies, engaged by Nevsun, one of which was allegedly owned by the Eritrean military.

From CBC:
Executives at Vancouver-based mining firm Nevsun Resources have denied direct knowledge of human rights violations at their gold and copper mine in the Bisha mining district in northern Eritrea, adjacent to Sudan. (CBC)

“What did Canadian mining executives know about possible human rights violations in Eritrea?” by Scott Anderson (CBC News)

An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:

For years, Vancouver-based mining firm Nevsun Resources has dismissed allegations that forced labour was used to build its mine in the repressive east African country of Eritrea.

Nevsun executives have denied direct knowledge of human rights violations at their Bisha mine site in a CBC interview and during an appearance before a parliamentary committee.

But company documents filed in the Supreme Court of British Columbia last November and reviewed by CBC’s The Fifth Estate show executives at the highest level appear to have been informed of issues of forced labour at their mine site a decade ago.

Former Bisha mine workers are suing Nevsun in B.C. for alleged human rights violations — including forced labour, slavery and torture.

“Mexican president’s Mayan Train project rejected by Indigenous peoples” by Brent Patterson (Rabble)

An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:

=== == =
In their analysis of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), Peace Brigades International (PBI) Mexico comments:

“The organizations that we accompany continue to be concerned for AMLO’s position on the rights of Indigenous populations, given that his public discourse seems to respect their autonomy, but he continues to propose initiatives of megaprojects such as the Mayan Train or new mining investments.”

The Mayan Train (Tren Maya) refers to the construction of a train track that would link Mayan archaeological sites as tourist destinations in five southeastern states: Campeche, Chiapas, Quintana Roo, Tabasco and the Yucatán.

The incoming director of Mexico’s National Fund for Tourism Development (FONATUR) has stated that the project could attract more than 3 million tourists in its initial years of operation.

The $6 to 8 billion project would involve the building of 1,500 kilometres of railroad track, nearly one-third of it through tropical forests.

The track would also be used to move commercial freight.

Significantly, AMLO is championing a project that lacks the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous peoples in Mexico.
= == ===

Tar Sands – Alberta

“The war on boycotts” by Michael Bueckert (Briarpatch)

An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:

“Alberta will no longer be a soft target,” declared Jason Kenney. “We will fight back for our economic survival.”

Kenney, the leader of Alberta’s right-wing United Conservative Party (UCP), was giving a keynote address at the party’s founding annual general meeting in May 2018. In his provocative speech, which he expanded on during an October 2018 conference hosted by New West Public Affairs, Kenney detailed his plans to go after the so-called “green left” – environmentalists – using “every tool available.” Painting a picture of an Alberta energy sector under siege by anti-tarsands campaigners, Kenney explained that Alberta must aggressively defend the tarsands from its critics – by cracking down on dissenting views.

Alberta’s current NDP government is already spending millions on a propaganda campaign to pump up Alberta’s oil industry, but unlike the NDP, Kenney has made environmental activists and organizations his explicit target. If his party is elected in 2019, he could put these plans in motion…

Kenney’s “fight-back strategy” against what he called a “foreign-funded campaign of defamation to land lock Canada’s oil” is not unique. Many of its elements – a “war room” to monitor online activity, targeting the charitable status of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), using the courts against critics – have already been field tested by the Israeli state and its supporters as part of their own anti-boycott initiatives…

Israel provides one of the most visible and extreme models for other states that want to turn the tables on their boycotters, and one that Kenney is almost certainly aware of. Kenney has repeatedly positioned himself as a hardline supporter of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, and has condemned the BDS movement many times, including in Jerusalem in 2009 when he boasted of cancelling funding to the ecumenical NGO Kairos for supporting BDS (although they had not).

From Common Dreams:
“In the House, even as the idea has picked up momentum with voters and members of the Democratic caucus, Democratic leadership has remained deeply skeptical,” reports The Intercept’s Ryan Grim. (Photo: Molly Adams/Flickr/cc)

“As Energy for Medicare for All Soars, Pelosi Aide Reportedly Assured Insurance Industry That Democratic Leaders Remain ‘Allies'” by Jake Johnson (Common Dreams)

An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:

As Medicare for All advocates point to surging grassroots energy behind the bold policy and argue that the key question now “is not if we will win, it is when,” a report by The Intercept on Tuesday intensified concerns that the Democratic leadership will continue to resist the rising tide of enthusiasm for single-payer even as it is embraced by a growing number of lawmakers, 2020 presidential candidates, and 70 percent of the public.

According to The Intercept, Wendell Primus—the top healthcare adviser to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)—reassured Blue Cross Blue Shield executives during a private meeting shortly after the November midterm elections that the Democratic leadership “had strong reservations about single-payer healthcare and was more focused on lowering drug prices.”

“The Single Stupidest Argument In The Entire Stupid Salad Of Russiagate” by Caitlin Johnstone (Rogue Journalist)

An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:

The other day Hawaii congresswoman and Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard came out with what remains the strongest rejection of the Trump administration’s regime change interventionism in Venezuela out of anyone likely to run for the presidency in 2020.

“The United States needs to stay out of Venezuela,” Gabbard tweeted. “Let the Venezuelan people determine their future. We don’t want other countries to choose our leaders–so we have to stop trying to choose theirs.”

Boom. Unambiguous, unequivocal, and without any of the “Yeah Maduro is an evil monster, but” modifiers that other officials (including Bernie Sanders) have been prefacing their feeble objections to Trump’s campaign to topple the Venezuelan government with. Which of course outraged all the usual war pundits, including the Washington Post‘s most reliable military-industrial complex fluffer Josh Rogin.

“Again, @TulsiGabbard shares the same foreign policy position as Russia and the Assad regime,” Rogin tweeted in response to Gabbard’s statement. “It’s probably just a coincidence. #TusiAssad2020”

“Promoting the indefensible: Saudi Arabia’s Brussels lobby shop” by ? (Corporate Europe Observatory)

An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:

Corporate Europe Observatory can exclusively reveal that, according to an industry insider, MSL Brussels – part of French media conglomerate Publicis Groupe – has had a contract to represent the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the EU from at least October 2015. However, despite MSL Brussels having an entry in the EU’s lobbying Transparency Register, they have not included Saudi Arabia in their list of clients. Given the kingdom’s brutal reputation there are plenty of reasons for MSL Brussels to wish to keep this contract quiet…

Between 2015 and late 2017, MSL Brussels’ support to the Saudi Arabian Foreign Office included running the website and Twitter accounts of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Mission to the EU (which also serves as its embassy to Belgium and Luxembourg). They lobbied MEPs, sent daily monitoring reports concerning Belgian and international press to the client, and placed stories promoting Saudi Arabia’s positions in the media. They also sent relevant political updates from the European and Belgian parliaments to the Saudi Mission. They helped with Mission events and set out to organise trips for Saudi parliamentarians to the European Parliament. Their lobbying targets were often MEPs in the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Delegation to the Arabian Peninsula. They also wrote and sent out a monthly newsletter to a long list of key politicians and officials in the European Parliament, the Commission, and the European External Action Service (the EU’s diplomatic service, which is responsible for EU foreign and security policy).

MSL’s lobbying work has been conducted under the radar. For example, it appears as though from 2016 to today, MSL Brussels has misleadingly listed its client as ‘Qorvis’ in the Transparency Register. Qorvis MSLGROUP USA is a sister company based in Washington DC, owned by MSL Brussels’ proprietor Publicis since 2014. Qorvis MSL is also Saudi Arabia’s highest paid lobbying firm in Washington,with a multi-million dollar contract. According to an inside source, Qorvis subcontracted the role of representing the Saudi Foreign Office via the Mission of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the EU to MSL Brussels from late 2015 onwards. This Brussels contract appears to have been severed by Saudi Arabia sometime after the second half of 2017, though the Qorvis MSL contract in the US continues.

Luis Almagro by Nathaniel St. Clair

“How the Organization of American States Became an Agent of Regime Change” by Laura Carlsen (CounterPunch)

An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:

With a Venezuelan opposition leader declaring himself the country’s president and the Trump administration appearing to back a coup, Venezuela is lurching toward a new phase of crisis. And that crisis could be worsened by hardline leadership at the Organization of American States (OAS), the world’s oldest and most influential regional organization. Luis Almagro, the OAS Secretary General, recently announced his bid for another 5-year term at the helm of the organization. That would be a major setback for good governance in the region.

Throughout his tenure, Almagro has acted against many of the basic principles and mandates of the organization and consistently represented U.S. interests above those of its neighbors, generally supporting allies and punishing adversaries of the U.S. government. In particular, he’s actively sought regime change in Venezuela.

Almagro’s often unsubstantiated claims against Venezuela and Cuba echo the rhetoric of dangerous terrorists like Luis Posada Carriles. His open interventions in countries’ internal politics have completely reversed diplomatic advances in resolving controversies, divided the continent, and led his own Uruguayan political party to expel him and advocate for removing him from the leadership of the OAS.

Democratic Senator Dick Durbin expressed support for President Trump as he backed a coup in Venezuela (Photo by AMSF2011)

“Vast Majority Of Democrats In Congress Remain Silent Or Support Coup In Venezuela” by Kevin Gosztola (ShadowProof)

An excerpt from the above linked-to post follows:

As President Donald Trump’s administration backed the overthrow of President Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela, Democratic senators and representatives in Congress were largely silent.

Some influential Democrats sided with Trump and expressed support for Juan Guaido, the right-wing opposition figure who declared himself interim president of Venezuela on January 23. But only three Democrats—Representative Ro Khanna, Representative Tulsi Gabbard, and Senator Bernie Sanders—spoke out against the decision by the U.S. government to give a green light to Guaido and the opposition to oust Maduro.

Representative Julian Castro, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Senator Kamala Harris, and Senator Elizabeth Warren, all Democrats who have announced they will run for president in 2020, apparently had nothing to say about the right-wing coup attempt supported by the Trump administration.

Potential 2020 presidential candidates, like Vice President Joseph Biden, made no statements either.

In These Times journalist Marco Cartolano contacted the offices of Democratic presidential hopefuls. No campaign was willing to say anything on the record, but after ITT published a report, Gabbard and Sanders made statements.

The collective reaction was a reminder of how many establishment Democrats support regime change or look the other way when the U.S. government meddles in the politics of foreign countries. It also was an example of how progressive or left-leaning Democrats often fail or are reluctant to speak out on foreign policy matters…

Democratic Senator Dick Durbin contended Trump, the Organization Of American States (OAS), and other nations “appropriately recognized National Assembly President Juan Guaido as the constitutionally appropriate leader of Venezuela.”

Referring to a trip he made to Venezuela in 2018, he added, “I met with Guaido and many of his talented colleagues elected to the National Assembly during my visit. They are brave patriots who see a more hopeful and democratic future for the Venezuelan people.”

“I plan to speak with him in the days ahead and offer my support for his pledge to lead a thoughtful, peaceful transition to a legitimate election that meets international standards in the immediate future,” Durbin declared.

Still the only Democrat to oppose Trump, Khanna boldly responded, “With respect [to] Senator Durbin, the U.S. should not anoint the leader of the opposition in Venezuela during an internal polarized conflict. Let us support Uruguay, Mexico, and the Vatican’s efforts for a negotiated settlement and end sanctions that are making the hyperinflation worse.”

From AHT:
(The intro image shows left to right US Reps Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Tulsi Gabbard and Bernie Sanders, four members of Congress. Credit: Mintpress News Image/ AP)

“On Venezuela and NATO, the Democratic Party is the “Assistance” Not the “Resistance” to Empire” by Daniel Haiphong (American Herald Tribune)

An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:

The Trump Administration has pursued an open-air coup against the socialist government of Venezuela, with Pence and company nominating the unelected oligarch Juan Guaido as “interim” president of the oil-rich nation. Guaido resides in a National Assembly stock full of white racist oligarchs seeking to overthrow the rule of Bolivarian socialism. The Venezuelan Supreme Court ruled the decisions of the National Assembly illegitimate earlier in 2019 and the people of Venezuela elected President Maduro with sixty-eight percent of the vote in an election that was boycotted by the rightwing opposition in 2017. None of these facts are of any concern to the U.S. empire, which is primarily interested in reproducing itself and the profits that legitimize its racist system. And Bolivarian socialism has been an enemy of the elites since 1998 when the people of Venezuela rejected the U.S. empire by electing the socialist and anti-imperialist military leader Hugo Chavez.

The so-called Democratic Party “resistance” to Trump has largely been silent on the issue of Venezuela. Self-proclaimed Democratic Socialists such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have declined to comment on whether the Trump Administration is in fact waging a coup against Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro. Bernie Sanders stuck to his “dead communist dictator” (in reference to Hugo Chavez) line that he presented in the 2016 election by accusing Nicolas Maduro’s government of waging a “violent crackdown” while espousing opposition to regime change in Venezuela. The strongest statement against the U.S. coup against Venezuela from the newly elected “progressive” Democrats in Congress came from Minnesota representative Ilhan Omar. Omar tweeted opposition to the U.S.-backed coup and support for a peaceful dialogue led by Latin American nations such as Mexico and Uruguay, both of which have voiced support for Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro…

Support for NATO and the coup against Venezuela is a good measure of what to expect from the Democrats in the period leading to the 2020 election.

“Venezuela Blitz: Tyrants Don’t Have Free Elections” by ? (Media Lens via Dissident Voice)

An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:

In our new book, we describe a ‘Propaganda Blitz’ as a fast-moving campaign to persuade the public of the need for ‘action’ or ‘intervention’ furthering elite interests. Affecting great moral outrage, corporate media line up to insist that a watershed moment has arrived – something must be done!

A classic propaganda blitz was triggered on January 23, when Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared himself ‘interim President’. This was presented as dramatic new evidence that the people of Venezuela had finally had enough of Nicolas Maduro’s ‘regime’.

In reporting this news the following day, the BBC website featured a disturbing graphic of a captive with arms tied behind his back being tortured. The caption read:

Inside Venezuela’s secret torture centre

The image linked to a complex interactive piece that allowed readers to explore the torture centre. There was also a long report on the same centre. The interactive report included this statement by a former prisoner, Rosmit Mantilla:

In a country like Venezuela there’s no difference between being in or out of prison. You are equally persecuted and mistreated, and you can die either way.

Venezuela, then, is a giant gulag. The interactive piece had clearly taken a good deal of time and effort to produce – odd that it should appear on the same day that news of Guaidó’s coup attempt was reported. The BBC followed this up with a piece on January 25 openly promoting ‘regime’ change:

Venezuela’s Maduro “could get Amnesty”

Self-declared leader Guaidó also appeals to the powerful army, after receiving foreign backing.

In fact, Guaidó, also received foreign rejection from China, Russia, Turkey, Greece, Syria and Iran…

Hands Off Venezuela (photo by Socialist Appeal)

“Canada’s Ugly Role in the US-led Coup in Venezuela” by Yves Engler (Canadian Dimension)

An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:

Most Canadians think of their country as a force for good in the world, but recent efforts by Justin Trudeau’s government to overthrow Venezuela’s elected government have once again revealed the ugly truth about the Great White North. We are an important partner in imperialism, willing to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, up to and including the use of military force, to benefit the perceived self-interest of our elites.

Over the past two years Canadian officials have campaigned aggressively against President Nicolás Maduro. Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has repeatedly criticized Caracas’ democratic legitimacy and human rights record. Recently she said, “the Maduro regime is now fully entrenched as a dictatorship” while in September Ottawa asked (with five South American nations) the International Criminal Court to investigate the Venezuelan government, which is the first time a government has been formally brought before the tribunal by another member…

Ottawa has long provided various other forms of direct support to an often-violent opposition. In recent years Canada channelled millions of dollars to opposition groups in Venezuela and 18 months ago outgoing Canadian ambassador, Ben Rowswell, told the Ottawa Citizen that “we became one of the most vocal embassies in speaking out on human rights issues and encouraging Venezuelans to speak out.”

Alongside its support for the opposition, Ottawa expelled Venezuela’s top diplomat in 2017 and has imposed three rounds of sanctions on Venezuelan officials. In March the United Nations Human Rights Council condemned the economic sanctions the US, Canada and EU have adopted against Venezuela while Caracas called Canada’s move a “blatant violation of the most fundamental rules of International Law.”

Since its August 2017 founding Canada has been one of the most active members of the “Lima Group” of governments opposed to Venezuela’s elected government. Canada is hosting the next meeting of the “Lima Group”. Freeland has repeatedly prodded Caribbean and Central American countries to join the Lima Group’s anti-Maduro efforts.

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