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Recent Articles

Latest News from Bolivia: Curated by CODEPINK

The Strength of Women:  Venezuelan Commune Members Facing the Blockade

Trump Doesn’t Have Time for Starving Venezuelans

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US sanctions 'suffocating' ordinary Venezuelans

Bachelet: “Sanctions Against Venezuela are Exacerbating the Political Crisis”

Unilateral Coercive Measures as Weapons of Modern Warfare – The Venezuelan Case

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Sanctions Don't Work!

Two Brothers on Opposing Sides in Venezuela’s Political Conflict

The Struggle against Sanctions: The Case of Venezuela

Venezuela Community builds Solidarity Pharmacy to Counter US Sanctions

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Media Resources (highly recommend CEPR’s daily Latin American News Roundup - LANR)

Resource Documents

The Campaign to End US and Canada Sanctions Against Venezuela

Activist Toolbox(Reference: Campaign Resource Documents File)

Economic Sanctions as Collective Punishment

Unilateral Sanctions and International Law

UN Report

English language version of the government's response to the UNHCR draft:

Alfred de Zayas' Human Rights Corner

The Gray Zone


Embassy Protectors Defense Committee

North American Anti-Sanctions Resolution (sample)

City Council of Berkeley

Railroad Workers United

Venezuela Crisis: FAQs

1. Why is there an economic crisis in Venezuela?

Venezuela relies upon its oil sales for its external revenue. Oil prices have collapsed over the past decades. This has meant that Venezuela’s ability to import goods — including food and medicines — has been compromised by lack of foreign exchange.

US economic sanctions have harshly curtailed Venezuela’s ability to raise funds to upgrade its oil sector and to raise funds to diversify its economy (to grow food, for instance). These sanctions have also hurt Venezuela’s ability to use its off-shore refining capacity to add value to the crude oil that it extracts from the ground. US and Canadian companies have been suing Venezuela’s oil firm for broken contracts. They have used Venezuela’s weakness to plunder the oil firm by attacking its inability to honour contracts made when oil prices were higher.

The Venezuelan government used all kinds of mechanisms — many of which failed — to raise funds to prevent a wholesale collapse of the economy. The crisis provoked by collapsed oil prices and by the economic sanctions as well as the difficulties of controlling the situation has led to hyperinflation in the country and general economic instability. Corruption exists in Venezuela, as it exists elsewhere, but it is not the author of the economic crisis. The authors are the lowered price of oil, the devastation of the economic sanctions and the difficulties of raising finance to overcome this situation.

2. Is there an acute humanitarian crisis in Venezuela?

The United Nations’ Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order Alfred De Zayas – an American lawyer — said on February 20, 2018: ‘I have compared the statistics of Venezuela with that of other countries and there is no humanitarian crisis. Of course, there is scarcity, anxiety and shortages but those who have worked for decades for the United Nations know the situation of countries in Asia, Africa and some in the Americas. They know that the situation in Venezuela is not a humanitarian crisis’.

Certainly, there are undernourished people in Venezuela. The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation says that 11.7% of the people of Venezuela are undernourished. This compares with 23.2% of the people in Sub-Saharan Africa who are undernourished and 31.4% of people from Eastern Africa. Closer to Venezuela, 16.5% of the people of the Caribbean suffer from undernourishment. This is a problem of poverty and of the unequal relations in the world between the North and the South. Poverty rates in Venezuela have dropped since the 1990s, but hunger has not been erased.

3. Has the Government of Venezuela done anything to alleviate hunger?

The government of Venezuela has pushed at least two programmes to tackle the problem of hunger:

  1. Comité Local de Abastecimiento y Producción (CLAP). The Local Committees for Supply and Production is made up of local neighbourhood groups who grow food and who receive food from agricultural producers. They distribute this food to about six million families at very low cost. Currently, the CLAP boxes are being sent to households every 15 days.
  2. Plan de Atención a la Vulnerabilidad Nutriocional. The most vulnerable of Venezuelans — 620,000 of them — receive assistance. The National Institute of Nutrition has been coordinating the delivery of food to a majority of the country’s municipalities.

These are two of a series of programmes by the government to tackle the problem of hunger in the country.

4. Has the Government of Venezuela Refused Foreign Aid?

The Government of Venezuela has been in contact with the International Committee of the Red Cross, the United Nations (notably the Food and Agriculture Organisation) and the World Health Organisation to coordinate receipt of medical aid and food aid as well as finance for longer-term agricultural projects. Already, the World Health Organisation and the Pan-American Health Organisation have delivered more than 50 tonnes of medical supplies to Venezuela in 2018.

Venezuela’s Government has been open to non-political delivery of aid. There is no question of being insular when it comes to the economic crisis created by the fall of oil prices and the US-driven economic war.

5. Is the US ‘aid’ humanitarian or is it a pretext for regime change?

The United States has historically used ‘humanitarian aid’ as a pretext for regime change. This is precisely the formula used against the Government of the Dominican Republic in 1965. The Organisation of American States backed that invasion (and the use of humanitarianism as a pretext); fifty years later, it apologised for that act. In the 1980s, Elliot Abrams – the man tasked by US President Donald Trump to manage the Venezuela file – openly used humanitarian shipments to Central America to smuggle in weapons. It is the United States that has made ‘humanitarian aid’ into a political matter.

It is because the US has made ‘humanitarian aid’ into a political weapon that the International Committee of the Red Cross’ Dominik Stillhart said on 1 February 2019 that whatever plans that US officials ‘have to help the people of Venezuela, it has to be shielded from this political conversation. We are not an implementing agency for any donor, specifically not to implement things that have a political tone’.

The US has promised $20 million in aid. At the same time, the US sanctions have cost Venezuela $23 billion in 2018. Furthermore, the US Government is trying to seize $20 billion in Venezuelan assets. The Bank of London has already taken $1.2 billion in gold that the Venezuelans own. Venezuela has lost billions of dollars as a result of Western policy. The $20 million aid packet is a humiliating gesture in comparison.

Furthermore, the $20 million aid would purchase 60 tonnes of food. The CLAP scheme by the Government of Venezuela by itself delivers 50,000 tonnes of food per months to needy Venezuelans.

The US has used military aircraft to bring in this modest aid, driven it to a warehouse and then said that the Venezuelans are not prepared to open an unused bridge for it. The entire process is political theatre. US Senator Marco Rubio went to that bridge — which has not been very open — to say in a threatening way that the aid ‘is going to get through’ to Venezuela one way or another. These are words that threaten the sovereignty of Venezuela and build up the energy for a military attack. There is nothing humanitarian here.

6. Why has the Venezuelan government arrested its opponents?

The Government of Venezuela has allowed the opposition to continue to hold its protests and to organise openly. It has not shut down any of the media outlets that continue to take a position against the president and his government.

On the other hand, the Government of Venezuela has arrested people who have been involved in the assassination attempt against Nicholás Maduro and those who have been involved in the armed attacks by the opposition that have been going on for the past two years. Leopoldo Lopez, for instance, was arrested for inciting violence in 2014. Judge Susana Barreiros found Lopez guilty based on – among other things — 700 tweets that called for his supporters in the movement known as La Salida (The Exit) to go on the streets and wreak havoc. The violence led to the death of 43 people, most of them bystanders and security personnel. In court, Lopez said to Barreiros, ‘You are more afraid to read out the sentence than I am to hear it" — a threat that should have earned him more jail time. Two years ago, the courts decided to move Lopez to house arrest, where he is serving the rest of his thirteen-year sentence.

Should the Government of Venezuela not prosecute a citizen who openly calls for violence and then celebrates when his party members act violently (including killing people)?

Open Letter To The UN Secretary General & High Commissioner For Human Rights

To The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and The High Commissioner For Human Rights Michelle Bachelet

From Alfred de Zayas, 23 February 2019

D0G2_k0WoAA7IX9.png-large.pngDear Michelle Bachelet and Antonio Guterres:

As former UN Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order (2012-2018), I would like to urge you to once again make your voices heard and make concrete proposals for mediation and peace in the context of the Venezuelan crisis.

The most noble task of the United Nations is to create the conditions conducive to local, regional and international peace, to work preventively and tirelessly to avoid armed conflicts, to mediate and negotiate to reach peaceful solutions, so that all human beings can live in human dignity and in the enjoyment of the human right to peace and all other civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights.  I am particularly worried by the Orwellian corruption of language, the instrumentalization and weaponization of human rights and now even of humanitarian assistance.

I look back at my UN mission to Venezuela in November/December 2017 as a modest contribution to facilitate the cooperation between the United Nations and the Venezuelan government and to open the door to the visits of other rapporteurs.  See my report to the UN Human Rights Council and the relevant recommendations.

I believe that it would be timely and necessary for both of you to issue a statement reaffirming General Assembly Resolutions 2625 and 3314 and the 23 Principles of International Order that I formulated in my 2018 report to the Human Rights Council.  See para 14.

It would be appropriate to recognize the fact that the government of Venezuela has put into effect some of the recommendations contained in my report -- and in the six-page confidential memo that I personally gave to Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza upon my departure. 

Indeed, first the Venezuelan government released 80 detainees -- including Roberto Picón and 23 others whose release I had specifically requested -- that was on 23 December 2017, followed by other releases in the course of 2018.  Alas, there has been practically no information about this in the mainstream media, although it is easily accessible on the internet.  See also the comments of Venezuela on my report, in particular, paragraph 46:

(xvi) As a result of this on 23 December 2017, 80 people arrested for acts of violence during the protests in the country were released; and on 1 June 2018, 39 more people were released.

and paragraph 46:

(xviii) In this regard, the Venezuelan Government values the willingness and disposition of the Independent Expert, who was pleased to inform the competent authorities of the requests he received from some relatives of the persons deprived of their liberty. His recommendations were accepted.

Shortly after my visit Venezuelan authorities met with the UN agencies and made additional cooperation accords, thanks to the valuable efforts Peter Grohmann, the UNDP representative in Caracas.

Now the government of Venezuela has formally asked the United Nations for humanitarian assistance in connection with the current crisis.  We must not let them down.

I think that the US should turn over all the humanitarian assistance and medical supplies it has flown into Colombia and have them distributed as soon as possible with the help of the United Nations and other neutral organizations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Another item of information that is sorely missing from the mainstream media is the delivery last week of 933 tons of food and medicines at port La Guaira -- coming from China, Cuba, India, Turkey etc

Moreover an additional 300 tons of medicines and medical supplies provided by Russia arrived by air.

As I know from my conversations with Venezuelan ministers during my visit in 2017 and the recent conversations I have had with Venezuelan Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Jorge Valero --

Venezuela has always welcomed and repeatedly asked for assistance from neutral and friendly governments so as to overcome the adverse human rights impacts of the financial blockade and the sanctions. Such help should be offered in good faith, without strings attached.

I believe that this is the moment for Michelle Bachelet to accept the invitation of the government of Venezuela, extended to her in December 2018, to visit Venezuela personally.  Her presence in Venezuela should ban the growing danger of a military intervention by foreign entities. She should endorse the efforts at mediation launched by Mexico and Uruguay at the Montevideo mechanism.

There are ominous parallels with the run-up to the Iraq invasion in 2003 -- an illegal war, as Kofi Annan said on repeated occasions.

It is obvious to any first-year law student that the constant threats against Venezuela are contrary to article 2(4) of the UN 'Charter.  What many do not realize is that the threats, the economic war, the financial blockade and the sanctions violate the principles contained in Article 3 of the OAS Charter:

“Every State has the right to choose, without external interference, its political, economic, and social system and to organize itself in the way best suited to it, and has the duty to abstain from intervening in the affairs of another State. Subject to the foregoing, the American States shall cooperate fully among themselves, independently of the nature of their political, economic, and social systems; f. The American States condemn war of aggression: victory does not give rights; g. An act of aggression against one American State is an act of aggression against all the other American States; h. Controversies of an international character arising between two or more American States shall be settled by peaceful procedures; I. Social justice and social security are bases of lasting peace…”

Moreover, they violate numerous articles of Chapter 4 of the OAS Charter, Article 17:

Each State has the right to develop its cultural, political, and economic life freely and naturally. In this free development, the State shall respect the rights of the individual and the principles of universal morality.

Article 18:

Respect for and the faithful observance of treaties constitute standards for the development of peaceful relations among States. International treaties and agreements should be public.

Article 19:

No State or group of States has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other State. The foregoing principle prohibits not only armed force but also any other form of interference or attempted threat against the personality of the State or against its political, economic, and cultural elements.

Article 20:

No State may use or encourage the use of coercive measures of an economic or political character in order to force the sovereign will of another State and obtain from it advantages of any kind.”

Dear Michelle Bachelet, dear Antonio Guterres:

The world looks up to you in the hope that you can avert even greater suffering to the peoples of Venezuela.  They need international Solidarity. (Draft Declaration Right International Solidarity)

I remain respectfully yours

Professor Dr. Alfred de Zayas, Geneva School of Diplomacy

Solidarity with Garifuna Land Defenders

FAQs on Bolivia

Please note that this FAQ is a brief overview of the situation in Bolivia following the coup. For more information, please read the articles and watch the videos we have linked to.

Was there a coup in Bolivia?

Yes. Following the October 20th elections, in which President Evo Morales was reelected, right-wing groups started violently protesting throughout the country and engaging in anti-indigenous hate crimes. There was also a concerted effort to intimidate and harass politicians allied with President Morales. For example, the mayor of the town of Vinto, an indigenous woman, was dragged out of her office, beaten, drenched in paint, had her hair shorn off and then forcibly marched down the street, surrounded by thugs. Other MAS politicians faced similar harassment and threats (MAS – the Movement Towards Socialism, is Evo Morales’ political party). In fact, the top leaders in Bolivia’s two houses of congress were forced to resign because of threats they received. Several had their homes burned down by violent opposition demonstrators. Victor Borda, president of the Chamber of Deputies (the lower house), had his house burned down and his brother taken hostage. The kidnappers demanded he resign, otherwise his brother would be killed. Borda resigned, as did many government leaders because of these threats.

Evo Morales himself faced similar threats. His home and his daughter’s home were burned. Also, in early November his presidential helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing, leading many to believe that it had been sabotaged by extremists who wanted him dead.

As the violence grew in Bolivia, President Morales asked the police, and subsequently the military, to maintain order. They refused. The police basically mutinied, staying in their barracks and letting the right-wing protestors have the run of the streets. The military not only refused, but the head of the military and the head police asked President Morales to resign. Fearing widespread bloodshed and facing threats to his family, he agreed to resign.

Although the right-wing protests were covered in the media as being spontaneous, leaked audio conversations showed that the coup was planned before the elections even took place. Opposition politicians, right-wing civic leaders and former military officials had previously decided to sow unrest on the streets to delegitimize the elections and President Morales.

Were the elections fraudulent?

No. There is absolutely no evidence of fraud in the October 20 elections. The claims of fraud stem from a report issued by the Organization of American States. This body, in which most of the hemisphere’s countries are represented, has a long history of electoral interference, most blatantly in the 2000 presidential elections in Haiti, where the OAS flipped the results and installed a U.S.-friendly president. The OAS claims have been discredited by the DC-based Center for Economic and Policy Research, the Latin American Strategic Center for Geopolitics (a think tank with offices in eight Latin American countries), members of the European Parliament who monitored the elections, Professor Walter Mebane (a University ofMichigan expert on electoral fraud), and more than 115 economists and statisticians in an open letter. In fact, two experts invited by the OAS to monitor the elections questioned the report’s release, its methodology and its completeness; they were later denounced as spies by OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro for not toeing the line.

Finally, even if there had been fraud in the elections, Bolivian law calls for specific steps to be taken to investigate and punish those responsible, allowing for due process and other fundamental civil and political liberties. None of this happened in Bolivia; instead, Evo Morales was ousted more than two months before his current term was set to end.

Hadn’t Evo Morales been banned from running for a third term?

No. Bolivia had a referendum in 2016 to abolish term limits. This referendum failed, but later the country’s Constitutional Court ruled that term limits arbitrarily limit people’s political rights. This meant that Evo Morales could run for a third term, which was what the MAS party and many organized social movements wanted.

Was Morales a good president?

Yes. First, some context is necessary. Bolivia’s population is between 60-80% indigenous. Despite this, the country had not had an indigenous leader since the Spanish colonized it almost 500 years ago. From 1533 to 2006, Bolivia’s white elite ruled the country. Evo Morales was elected to the presidency in 2006, becoming the nation’s first indigenous president.

President Morales managed to grow the economy while decreasing poverty and inequality. Under his tenure Bolivia nationalized its oil, gas and mineral resources, and used the profits from those resources for social spending and to build infrastructure. As a result of this, Bolivia modernized its transportation system and saw huge increase in social indicators relating to health, education and income.

More importantly, President Morales became a global symbol of indigenous resistance and success.

Furthermore, he presided over one of the most politically stable eras in Bolivia’s history, given that the country had previously faced 190 coups in 191 years.

If he was good, why did the coup happen?

Despite the fact that the economy was doing well and there was general political stability, Bolivia’s white elite were seeing their privileges slowly erode. This erosion wasn’t the result of policies targeting the elite, but rather the result of policies uplifting the country’s poor, indigenous peoples and campesinos, giving them greater economic opportunities and access to political participation. As the poor and indigenous fought for and won more equality, the white rich elite felt threatened.

President Morales himself says that the coup was driven in part by Bolivia’s vast lithium resources and by his nationalization of the lithium industry.

What happened after the coup?

As a result of the coup, the Senate’s second vice-president, Jeanine Añez, swore herself in as the country’s interim president. Añez belongs to an opposition party that won only 4% of the vote in the October 20th elections; she was the fifth person in the line of succession, but the other four people (all of whom belonged to the MAS party) resigned under duress. Immediately after President Morales’ resignation and Añez’s self-proclamation, Bolivians took to the streets en mass to protest the coup.

One of the first things Añez did was to sign a decree offering immunity to the police and armed forces in their repression of protests. This had deadly consequences: in the two weeks after the coup, at least 34 Bolivians were killed by security forces, including in two massacres in Sacaba and Senkata.

The de facto government of Añez also issued a decree limiting freedom of the press by threatening journalists who covered the protests with sedition. This had a chilling effect on the coverage of protests, as most of the country’s mainstream media outlets fell in line and covered the news from the coup government’s perspective. To this day, many middle class and higher Bolivians have no idea that protestors were fired on with live ammunition.

Finally, the racist aspects of the coup mongers and the Añez de facto government cannot be overstated. Right after President Morales left the country, coup leader Luis Fernando Camacho went into the presidential palace and placed a Bible on top of the Bolivian flag. A pastor who went with him declared that Bolivia belongs to Christ and the Pachamama (the Andean goddess representing Mother Earth) would never return to the government. Not long after this, Bolivian police and military began burning the indigenous Wiphala flag.

What’s going to happen next?

Bolivia will hold new elections in March or April of 2020. At this point, the Organization of American States is set to monitor the elections, despite the fact that this organization lacks credibility in Bolivia. CODEPINK is working with Bolivian activists in the D.C. area to ensure that other, more credible electoral monitors are present for the upcoming elections. Ideally, the United Nations itself would monitor the elections.

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