The US sanctions and embargo are preventing Cuba from rebuilding after Hurricane Ian. The Biden Administration needs to act right now to help the Cuban people. Hurricane Ian caused great devastation. The power grid was damaged, and the electrical system collapsed. Over four thousand homes have been completely destroyed or badly damaged. Cuba must be allowed, even if just for the next six months, to purchase the necessary construction materials to rebuild. Cubans are facing a major setback because of Hurricane Ian. Despite Cuba’s well-known preparedness for natural disasters, the damage from this hurricane has been immense. In the western province of Pinar del Rio, famous for Its tobacco production, over 5,000 farms were destroyed. In small towns like San Luis, 80% of all homes were left damaged.
For the past five years, with the rapid decline of the U.S. empire and the peaceful rise of China, the U.S. has rapidly developed a baffling policy of anti-China hysteria. From Trump to Biden, Republicans and Democrats, neo-cons and “progressives,” are all now focused entirely on a racist cold war of China-bashing and Russophobia, rather than doing anything constructive for the people of the United States and global society. From a never-ending trade war, financial war, sanctions and the war against Huawei they turned to spreading unfounded stories of Chinese communist “high-tech” spies in the U.S., and a “Wuhan man-made” virus hoax. They play at “gunboat diplomacy” by sending aircraft carriers to the South and East China Seas in an effort to intimidate China, while they provoke ethnic and social tensions by playing their “Taiwan card,” their “Hong Kong card” and their “Xinjiang card,”.
Ambassador Alex Saab, a victim of the US economic war to achieve regime change in Venezuela, has been under arrest for over two years. This article recounts the developments in the diplomat’s court case. Saab is fighting against his illegal detention and extradition before the 8th District Court in Miami. As Venezuela’s special envoy and a deputy ambassador to the African Union, Saab has diplomatic immunity from arrest and detention under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Although a party to the convention, the US has flouted this principle of international law. Alex Saab was targeted by the US because of his role in helping circumvent their sanctions imposed on Venezuela. These measures, a form of collective punishment, are intended to make conditions so onerous that the people would renounce their elected government. Such unilateral coercive measures constitute hybrid warfare and are illegal under international law.
Iran is an anti-imperialist state and the recipient of long-term, deep-seated hostility from Washington and its allies. Iran has good relations with China, Cuba, Venezuela, Algeria, and Russia. The Islamic Republic is also known for its unremitting solidarity with the people of Palestine. Domestically, too, the country has seen great progress since its 1979 revolution, with considerable achievements in poverty reduction and welfare provision and improvements in health and education. Iran has a mixed economy with a large state sector. These achievements have been maintained despite constant imperialist destabilisation attempts, including sanctions, and its own growing internal dissenters drawn almost exclusively from the urban Bourgeoisie. It is our duty to defend Iran against imperialist attempts to launch a rightwing counterrevolution which would no doubt see the selling of its economic assets to Western businesses.
More than a year after it froze $7 billion of Afghanistan’s central bank reserves in the wake of the Taliban’s military victory, the US has announced it will use half the money to establish a fund at a Swiss bank to help stabilize the cratering Afghan economy. President Joe Biden’s refusal over the past year to allow the Afghan central bank access to its own reserves has caused an economic crisis that has pushed most of the population into extreme poverty and malnutrition. Moreover, in February, Biden announced that he was reserving half of Afghanistan’s money for families of 9/11 victims, sparking international outrage—and yawns from TV news outlets (FAIR.org, 2/15/22). The establishment of the “Afghan Fund” is a half measure that, while almost certain to provide some much needed relief, continues both the unjust theft of half the funds and the hobbling of the country’s recovery by undermining the central bank.
European society is currently undergoing a real-time experiment in energy contraction. Sanctions imposed on Russia in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine conflict have led to a dramatic reduction in imports of Russian oil and natural gas. The Europeans are still receiving some Russian oil via pipeline though that flow was reduced last month. The reasons for the decline in natural gas deliveries from Russia—deliveries not prevented by Western sanctions—are disputed with each side accusing the other of being the cause. Those of us who have been warning about the coming energy stringency believed that it would result from the rising cost of extracting hydrocarbons—and the inability to bring new production online faster than production is declining from existing wells. In Europe, we are getting an early preview of what such a future looks like when a society is unprepared for a sudden decline in the availability of oil and natural gas.
On September 24, leaders from Cuba and Venezuela will speak at an event titled “The People’s Summit: Democracy Beyond the US Empire”. The event is convened by the International Peoples’ Assembly, an international network of people’s movements and organizations. The event will be held in the historic Riverside Church in Morningside Heights, as the UN General Assembly convenes further downtown in Manhattan. Speakers include Bruno Rodriguez, the Foreign Minister of Cuba, Carlos Faria, the Foreign Minister of Venezuela, Kristin Richardson Jordan, District 9 Council Member for New York City, Vijay Prashad, Director of the Tricontinental Institute of Social Research, and Claudia De La Cruz, Co-Executive Director of The People’s Forum.
US special presidential envoy for hostage affairs Roger Carstens is on a case which could lead to freeing Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab. Pressure is building on the Biden administration to swap Saab for some American citizens currently incarcerated in Venezuela. Alex Saab, who has been confined for over two years, is a victim of the US economic war calculated to achieve regime-change in Venezuela. He has been targeted because of his role in helping circumvent the sanctions imposed on Venezuela by the US. These measures, really collective punishment, are intended to make conditions so onerous there that the people would renounce their elected government. Such unilateral coercive measures are illegal under international law.
NPR ran several stories on Afghanistan to mark the anniversary of the August 2021 US withdrawal, even sending host Steve Inskeep to the country to produce a series of pieces. His visit happened to coincide with Biden’s claimed assassination of Ayman al-Zawahiri; Inskeep says that he and his team were staying in close proximity to the Al Qaeda leader. With the anniversary and assassination providing a renewed focus on Afghanistan, NPR could have used this opportunity to call attention to the US policy of starving Afghanistan by restricting its international trade activity and seizing its central banking reserves.
One of the crew members of the Venezuelan plane seized in Argentina lambastes the US for the kidnapping not only the Venezuelan asset, but innocent people, too. “It is something unprecedented because I believe that for the first time in history a situation like this is experienced, of a kidnapping not only of the asset, but also of human beings, yes, directly affecting people,” said Mario Arraga, manager of Administration and Finance of the Venezuelan airline EMTRASUR in an exclusive interview with the Lebanese news outlet , published on Saturday, August 28. Arraga is one of the 19 crew members —14 Venezuelans and five Iranians— of the Venezuelan Boeing 747-300 cargo plane held since June at the request of the United States on Argentine soil.
On August 5, lightning caused a fire at an oil supertanker base in Matanzas, Cuba. The fire caused the collapse of three large oil tanks, killed 16 people and wounded 146 people. Immediately, friendly nations sent aid, including $70 million in oil from Russia, but the United States only provided technical advice to the neighboring Caribbean nation that has been crippled by six decades of the US' economic blockade. Clearing the FOG speaks with Arturo Lopez-Levy of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs about the fire, the Biden administration's continuation of Trump's policies in Cuba and the campaign to change that, as well as the shifting politics in Latin America as more nations defy the illegal blockade and work to create a zone of peace.
The President of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, accused the United Kingdom on Wednesday, August 3, of stealing in a “brazen and outrageous” way the Venezuelan gold deposited in London, where a court announced last week that it would continue to retain the precious metal from Venezuela’s reserves. In a conference with entrepreneurs at the Teresa Carreño facilities in Caracas, the head of state stated that for Venezuela it is an operation of “kidnapping and theft” of the 31 tons of gold, valued at approximately 1,600 million euros. “Venezuela must know that it is an act of piracy and theft, and the whole world must know that there is no legal certainty in London or in the Bank of England, that at any moment the countries of the world can be robbed of their international reserves, their gold reserves,” he said.
The US-led sanctions campaign against Russia has done nothing to stop the war in Ukraine or hurt Vladimir Putin, but the toll continues to mount on Western economies and there are increasing signs that Europe is facing a major economic crisis. The euro has reached a 20-year low against the dollar, inflation is at a record-high 8.6%, and economists are predicting a recession if the EU is cut off from Russian gas. Russia has already stopped supplying some EU members for their refusal to pay in rubles, something Putin required in retaliation for sanctions that targeted Russia’s use of the dollar and euro. The Nord Stream 1 natural gas pipeline that connects Russia and Germany is currently shut down for routine maintenance, but there are growing fears that the pipeline might not come back into service.
The current round of sanctions add to the numerous rounds of similar coercive measures imposed by the US on Iran after the Donald Trump administration unilaterally withdrew from the multi-party JCPOA in May 2018. On Wednesday, July 7, the US Treasury and State Departments announced fresh sanctions on various entities involved in Iranian oil trade with China and other East Asian countries. The fresh sanctions come despite the ongoing efforts to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or the Iran nuclear deal, in Qatar.
Here’s your ‘reserve currency’ thought for the day: Every US dollar is a check written on an account that is overdrawn by 30 trillion dollars. It’s true. The “full faith and credit” of the US Treasury is largely a myth held together by an institutional framework that rests on a foundation of pure sand. In fact, the USD is not worth the paper it is printed on; it is an IOU flailing in an ocean of red ink. The only thing keeping the USD from vanishing into the ether, is the trust of credulous people who continue to accept it as legal tender. But why do people remain confident in the dollar when its flaws are known to all? After all, America’s $30 trillion National Debt is hardly a secret, nor is the additional $9 trillion that’s piled up on the Fed’s balance sheet.