Month: March, 2017
In Ecuador, Lasso’s Campaign Caught Promising ‘Jobs’ for Votes
worker | March 31, 2017 | 7:17 pm | Analysis, Ecuador, Lenin Moreno | Comments closed

  • Ecuadorean presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso

    Ecuadorean presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso | Photo: EFE


“My fellow Ecuadoreans, why are we letting a banker humiliate us like this?” asked activist Ebi Camacho.

For weeks, Ecuador’s right-wing opposition has accused the government of foul play ahead of Sunday’s presidential election. Today, they were caught red-handed committing the same crimes they accuse the leftist government of doing.

Analyst: If Elected, Guillermo Lasso Will Destabilize Ecuador

Ecuadorean activist Ebi Camacho released a video Thursday showing presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso’s campaign workers offering “jobs” to Quito residents in exchange for vote pledges, which violates the country’s laws.

According to Article 204 of Ecuador’s Code of Democracy, “candidates and political organizations can not give donations or gifts to citizens.”

But it gets even worse. The so-called “jobs” that Lasso’s campaign was offering to Quito residents were a total lie. Camacho found thousands of completed “job” applications in trash cans near Lasso’s campaign headquarters.

“My fellow Ecuadoreans, why are we letting a banker humiliate us like this?” Camacho asked in the video.

“We (our government) have many tasks to complete, but it’s not worth seeing our dreams and hopes, in the form of thousands of names, in the garbage.”

This isn’t the first time Lasso’s campaign has come under fire for questionable, and possibly criminal, campaign tactics.

Lasso Wants Ecuador to Be Paramilitary State: Colombian Analyst

On Monday, his campaign was caught giving out free Lasso-branded basic food products to voters in a move that many have likened to vote-buying. If investigated, he can be charged with violating Article 204 as well.

Lasso campaigners gave the branded bread and milk to citizens in northern Quito, one of the city’s poorest areas. According to witnesses, people were told by supporters of Lasso’s CREO party to vote for the banker-turned-politician, while claiming that there will be fraud in the April 2 vote.

“We reject such practices. They undermine the values of democracy, participation and respect for people,” rival Alianza Pais presidential candidate Lenin Moreno said in a statement.

“We demand the CNE prohibit this type of practice and activate the respective control mechanisms, as mandated by the Code of Democracy.”

The banker has also been accused of helping to create Ecuador’s 1999 banking crisis, which left millions impoverished, forced millions to leave the country, while a few wealthy elite, including Lasso, got up to 30 times wealthier.

‘Impossible’: Ecuador’s Electoral Missions Address Fraud Claims
worker | March 31, 2017 | 7:10 pm | Analysis, Ecuador, political struggle | Comments closed

‘Impossible’: Ecuador’s Electoral Missions Address Fraud Claims

  • People hold signs reading

    People hold signs reading ‘No to fraud’ and ‘(Election) Run-off now’ as they protest near the electoral council in Guayaquil, Ecuador Feb. 20, 2017. | Photo: Reuters

While the right-wing candidate claims the Correa government is rigging the elections, all observer missions flatly reject any such allegations.

Just few hours into the tight first round of Ecuador’s presidential race between left-wing candidate Lenin Moreno and his right-wing opponent Guillermo Lasso, the conservative opposition began to promote the unsubstantiated claim that the elections authorities in the country were committing fraud in favor of the ruling party PAIS Alliance and its wheelchair-bound candidate.

Analyst: If Elected, Guillermo Lasso Will Destabilize Ecuador

The fantastic assertion came despite the fact that 200 election observers were present at polling stations around Ecuador. Lasso and his running mate Andres Paez personally accused Juan Pablo Pozo, the head of the National Electoral Council, of personally overseeing the alleged fraud, predicated on the election officials refusal to declare whether candidates would head to a second round.

“Mr. Pozo is a well-educated and polite gentleman, but he only responds to the interests of his boss,” Lasso said referring to outgoing President Rafael Correa.

In various press conferences, Pozo had said that due to the fact that the race was tight, his council would take its time counting votes and resolving “irregularities” before announcing the final official results, a process that could take up to three days after the vote.

But for the banker and former finance minister, those three days were tantamount to a “shameless” attempt by the government and the council to “get their hands” in the election results.

Moreno finished the first round with 39.2 percent of all votes, just short of the required 40 percent and 10-point difference to avoid a runoff, as Lasso fell behind in second place with almost 28.3 percent of the votes.

As soon as the results were released showing that Moreno had won the round but would face a second round contest against Lasso, observer missions began releasing information about the voting, flatly dismissing any suggestion of fraud and hailing the transparency of the process.

“The Mission has not observed evidence of fraud,” Gerardo de Icaza, director for the Department for Electoral Cooperation and Observation at the Organization of American States, told teleSUR Wednesday from Washington D.C., adding that “any allegation of fraud should be supported by evidence,” which Lasso’s campaign has failed to do.

De Icaza further noted that the National Electoral Council (CNE) “has taken measures, some of them recommended by the OAS, to improve the process and make it more reliable and transparent.”

Also following the first round’s results, the electoral mission of the Union of South American Nations, Unasur, rejected the fraud claims with the head of the mission, Alexander Vega, arguing that delay in the release of final results is a normal vote-counting procedure and called for people to be calm and wait for the final results.

Vega also clarified that despite his claims to supporters and media, Lasso did not actually file a protest to electoral authorities.

“No one has claimed fraud,” Vega said on Feb. 21 just two days after elections day, adding that it is difficult to believe “that the National Electoral Council would have invited more than 200 observers for a fraud.”

50 Experts Warn of Neoliberal Threat in Ecuador Before Election

He added that the Ecuadorean system is “so transparent that whoever wins can download the transcripts, add the votes and will get the same result.”

The election mission of the OAS had also issued a report praising the government and the election authority for the transparency of the process and the steps taken to improve voting.

Leonel Fernandez, the head of 66 election observers from the OAS held a press conference in the capital Quito on Feb. 23 sharing with reporters his mission’s findings. “On election day, OAS observers visited 375 polling stations in 17 provinces of the country,” Fernandez told reporters reading from the report. “Despite some inconveniences during the elections, the mission observed progress in the organization and administration of elections and recognizes the efforts made by officials at the National Electoral Council (CNE) led by its president Juan Pablo Pozo.”

He further hailed the measures adopted to expand the exercise of political rights for all Ecuadoreans “through mechanisms like voting from home and voting in prisons” and “the special assistance for people with disabilities, the elderly, and pregnant.”

The OAS report also shut down any claims of fraud stressing that allegations of already marked ballots were highly isolated incidents and that only three people have come forward regarding such cases.

“Despite social networks echoing this situation, the truth is these were isolated cases and these votes were not counted,” said the former president of the Dominican Republic.

While mounting evidence in fact confirms that the first round of the presidential elections was fraud-free, Lasso and Paez have continued to reiterate their allegations, and have even threatened to overturn the election of PAIS Alliance legislators once in office.

These persistent actions from opposition politicians have raised concerns that they will once again claim fraud in the second round – in spite of lacking evidence – in an effort to rally their supporters

Speaking during a CNE workshop held with representatives from the electoral missions in Quito on March 20, Vega said it was “impossible” to have fraud in the next round of the vote on April 2, calling the opposition’s warnings about a possible fraud in the next round “reckless” and urging all political actors to be calm and responsible.

While fraud is out of the question in the upcoming vote, observers say that as in the first round irregularities are expected to occur.

Ecuador Elections: Housing, Poverty Reduction Will Drive Moreno’s Government

In the first round the ruling party PAIS Alliance had submitted complaints to the election authorities regarding such incidents, which observers say are common part of any election and fundamentally different than fraud.

De Icaza defined irregularities as “mistakes” or “Isolated electoral offences, such as vote buying” adding that such incidents occur in every electoral process. “These are normally isolated and do not have the scope and width to alter the results of an election.”

When such incidents take place and are detected by observers at poll stations “we report any irregularities we observe and we hand any complaints we receive to the competent electoral authorities.”

While irregularities are isolated events, fraud is “the systematic intention to alter results and the will of the people,” the OAS election expert argued.

When asked about when electoral missions begin to worry about irregularities he said when they “become generalized and there is a clear and systematic intention to alter the results of the election we can talk of fraud.”

Such a situation could easily be discovered in the Ecuadorian elections because it “is being very closely observed by political parties, the media, civil society organizations and national and international observers,” he concluded.

Venezuela’s Maduro Commits to Resolve Institutional Impasse
worker | March 31, 2017 | 7:05 pm | Analysis, political struggle, Venezuela | Comments closed

  • Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro address the Digital Caracas conference on Mar. 31, 2017.

    Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro address the Digital Caracas conference on Mar. 31, 2017. | Photo: teleSUR


The announcement comes after the country’s attorney general criticized a controversial ruling by Venezuela’s Supreme Court.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro addressed the impasse between the country’s major institutions, calling a meeting this evening to resolve the differences between the Supreme Court and the attorney general.

Venezuela Fake News Debunked: Assembly Not Annulled, No Coup

“I am activating Article 323 of the constitution, and have already summoned the Security Council to process and resolve any differences that may exist between constituted powers,” Maduro said Friday. “There is a controversy and it must be resolved through dialogue, not with extreme positions or by giving arguments to those who want to intervene Venezuela.”

The Venezuelan president referred to statements earlier Friday by Venezuela’s Attorney General Luisa Ortega criticizing a decision by the top court, calling it “a rupture in the constitutional order.”

In a Wednesday ruling on an appeal filed by the Venezuelan Corporation of Petroleum to Article 33 of the Organic Law of Hydrocarbons, the court stated that the National Assembly had authority to approve such ventures. The court ruled that since the National Assembly continues to be in contempt of the constitution, the top court will “ensure the rule of law” and will exercise parliamentary powers where necessary in the ruling issued today on the joint venture.

“As long as the disrespect and invalidity of the proceedings of the National Assembly persists, this Constitutional Chamber will ensure that the parliamentary powers are exercised directly by this Chamber or by the body it has in place to ensure the rule of law,” said the ruling.

US Cries ‘Power Grab’ After Venezuela Court Ruling Backs Constitution

The U.S. State Department responding by calling the verdict an attempt to “usurp” the power of the National Assembly, while OAS General Secretary and opposition ally Luis Almagro said Venezuela was undergoing a “self-coup.” Regional leaders including Juan Manuel Santos and Michelle Bachelet expressed concerns, while Bolivia and Ecuador called for Unasur-mediated negotiations to advance.

While opponents of the Bolivarian government have often trumpeted claims of lack of separation of powers in the South American nation, the Venezuelan leader responded that he knew nothing of either the statement by Ortega, nor the court decision Wednesday.

“But since I apparently control everything, I suppose I wrote both the attorney general’s statement and the court’s statement,” Maduro said sarcastically.

Since January 2016, the Supreme Court ruled that the National Assembly was in contempt of the constitution over fraud charges involving opposition deputies from the state of Amazonas. The officials were caught in a recording illegally offering sums of taxpayer money to citizens, encouraging them to vote for opposition candidates. When the Supreme Court ordered the National Assembly to hold elections to replace the corrupt leaders, the legislative body refused to follow the appropriate process to do so.

Trump Just Another Head of the US Hydra
worker | March 31, 2017 | 7:00 pm | Analysis, Donald Trump, Imperialism, political struggle | Comments closed
President Donald Trump gestures while sitting in an 18-wheeler truck while meeting with truckers and CEOs regarding healthcare on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Thursday, March 23, 2017.

Trump Just Another Head of the US Hydra

© AP Photo/ Andrew Harnik

Get short URL
Finian Cunningham

American militarism under President Donald Trump is raising its ugly head like never before. US air strikes are slaughtering civilians in Iraq and Syria with a bloodlust that is taking even hardened observers by surprise.

US army generals and Trump’s Pentagon chief James Mattis are also calling for more American firepower to be deployed in Yemen even though the poorest country in the Arab region has already been devastated by two years of Washington-backed Saudi aggression.

That latter move is part of a wider US strategy to confront what Washington calls “Iranian meddling” in the region. That’s rich coming from the biggest destructive meddler on the planet.Then, of course, there is renewed American saber-rattling in the Asia Pacific towards China over the disputed South China Sea, and towards North Korea.

And let’s not forget that while Trump has previously called for friendly relations with Russia, he appears to be a lone voice on that score within his administration. His vice president, Mike Pence, as well as defense secretary James Mattis and Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, have all made provocative statements alleging Russian aggression towards Europe.

Trump is pushing for a splurge in total spending on American military – up by $54 billion annually or 10 per cent – on an already gargantuan budget of some $600 billion a year.The Trump administration is also loosening restrictions on arms exports to Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf dictatorships, such as Bahrain. Any misgivings that Washington may have publicly claimed over human rights concerns in those despotic regimes are being abandoned by the Trump administration to recklessly promote the sale of American war machines.

But hold on a moment. Wasn’t Trump promising a new beginning when he was advertising himself for the presidency? A major part of his election campaign for the White House was based on denouncing his Democrat rival Hillary Clinton and his predecessor Barack Obama for disastrous overseas wars.

In his populist-sounding inauguration speech in January, Trump said the days of America imposing its power on other countries around the world were over. He vowed to “make America great again” by henceforth focusing its economy on rebuilding US infrastructure and on restoring “forgotten” impoverished American communities.

But as far as American militarism and foreign interventions are concerned it’s evidently a case of more of the same. For US imperialism, it’s not merely business-as-usual. Under Trump, the American war machine is ferociously going up a gear.

Trump was supposed to be the “Washington outsider” who would do things differently from previous US administrations. In particular, the tycoon-turned-politician said he would use his self-declared business acumen to put America on a new path of regeneration and international cooperation.

And one suspects that is how Trump defied the media pundits and got elected last November. American citizens were sick and tired of decades of warmongering. They voted for Trump because they wanted a government that would finally prioritize their needs for jobs and public services. That’s why many of them rejected Clinton and the American political establishment whose foreign policy was all too-often a byword for abusing countries with US military power.

U.S. President Donald Trump reacts after delivering his first address to a joint session of Congress from the floor of the House of Representatives iin Washington, U.S., February 28, 2017
© REUTERS/ Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool

Only halfway into Trump’s first 100 days at the White House and it is cruelly obvious that the American electorate have been cheated by a charlatan. American militarism, death and destruction, is entering a new, bloody phase. On steroids.Trump befuddled the conventional US political categories. He wasn’t conservative or liberal, or their more recent incarnations of neoconservative and neoliberal. Instead, the billionaire New York property developer set himself up as the “non-politician” and “a man of the people”.

All such presumed variations in American politics are illusory. They are all just different heads of the same beast – American imperialism.
Like the Greek mythological hydra, the American beast is basically one body whose only variation is the rotating emergence of different heads.

Grotesque militarism is how the American hydra functions. It is an integral and oversized part of US capitalism. Without militarism, the US economy would wither and die. And without wars and destruction, American militarism would likewise atrophy.

That is why Trump and his new administration contradict so much of what he had said earlier about ending American overseas military forays. Under prevailing conditions of US capitalism – subsidizing corporations with taxpayer largesse – America cannot be anything other than a warmongering beast.

All indicators show that the Trump presidency is more militarist than any other. And because of his maverick nature, this president could turn out to be most dangerous yet.

One issue where Trump sounded relatively progressive was in his stated desire to normalize relations with Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin.“Wouldn’t it be nice if we got along with Russia?” Trump had said earlier, with a refreshing semblance of common sense that distinguished him from the usual Washington mindset of Russophobia.

However, even on that score, Trump’s apparent friendly intentions towards Russia are being seriously crimped. The relentless political and media campaign in the US over alleged Russian interference in the presidential elections is gradually killing any chance of normalization between the two nuclear superpowers. And hence Trump seems to have of late suppressed his erstwhile overtures towards Moscow.

With Trump’s friendly policy towards Russia being emasculated under pressure, that pretty much leaves an administration whose dominant hallmark is militarism, militarism and more militarism.

The disturbing conclusion from this is that American power is incorrigible. American power dictated by capitalist logic is congenitally driven by war. The record of history proves that. Out of its 241 years of existence as a modern state since 1776, the US has been at war for over 95 per cent of those years.

No other country since the end of the Second World War has violated international law so routinely with such barbarism. No other nation has as much blood on its hands from wars, coups, subversions and subterfuges as the United States of America.

Donald Trump may have used rhetoric promising a new, peaceful and prosperous beginning for Americans. But like a typical wheeler-dealer real estate magnate, his words are shown to be a sham.

Trump is just another head that has emerged on the American hydra.

The traditional electoral process in the US is evidently futile, if a real change for the better is be achieved. American people, driven by the democratic needs of the vast working majority in that country, need to rise up, create a new form of politics and to figuratively slay the beast that is US capitalism. For their own sake and for the rest of the world.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.

Filipino communists call for ‘armed revolution’ against ‘US imperialism’

Filipino communists call for ‘armed revolution’ against ‘US imperialism’
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) vows to continue an armed battle against US imperialists and their local supporters, just as the party is heading into peace talks with the Filipino authorities.

“The Party program reaffirms the necessity of waging armed revolution in order to counter the armed violence employed by the US imperialists and the local reactionary ruling classes and end the oppressive and exploitative semicolonial and semifeudal system,” read the communique, released on Wednesday.

It also denounced the “pseudo-democratic” regime, which led to “deteriorating socio-economic conditions of the Filipino people,” urging the Philippines communists to “be ready to sacrifice their lives if necessary in the struggle to bring about a new Philippines that is completely independent, democratic, united, just and prosperous.”

The party’s convention, held for the first time in almost five decades, coincided with the 48th anniversary of its armed wing, the New People’s Army, which is leading an insurgency against the government in one of the world’s longest-running conflicts.

On Saturday, the communists announced they would declare a unilateral ceasefire by March 31 ahead of resuming peace negotiations with the Philippines government, expecting President Rodrigo Duterte to do the same.

However, the Philippines authorities ruled that out.

“The first agenda item that we will tackle starting April 2 will be the issue of a bilateral ceasefire agreement,” Silvestre Bello, the government’s chief negotiator, told reporters on Friday before flying to Oslo. The talks will be taking place in the Netherlands, with Norway mediating.

Putin: Tycoon Deripaska accused of ties with Trump’s aide should speak in Congress
worker | March 31, 2017 | 6:11 pm | Analysis, Donald Trump, political struggle, Russia | Comments closed

Kremlin “welcomes” any opportunities for Russian businessmen and diplomats to testify before the US Congress, Russian President Vladimir Putin said, but added that American officials wouldn’t let certain people do so.

Russian officials have “many times offered the US Congress and Senate to visit Moscow or [for the Russian delegation] to travel to Washington to meet and clarify all the issues of bilateral relations,” Putin said during this week’s Arctic forum in Arkhangelsk.

But there is no response, nothing,” the Russian leader added.

The president was commenting on the recent allegations involving Russian business magnate Oleg Deripaska. AP has reported that the billionaire who runs Rusal, one of the largest aluminum companies in the world, allegedly paid a former Trump campaign chief to “benefit the Putin government.”

Deripaska has denied the allegations, saying he is ready to take part in “any hearing” in Congress to clear the air over his alleged dealings with Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort.

Moscow “has nothing against” any Russian business representative taking part in a congressional hearing, Putin said, noting that Deripaska has been denied entry to the US for unknown reasons.

READ MORE: ‘Sanctions war’ has nothing to do with Ukraine; it’s just a pretext – Rusal CEO

No one has explained why he was banned [from entering the country]. Let them explain! Let him come to the US and speak in Congress,” Putin said, adding that if any “real accusations” supported by evidence are put forward by American law enforcement or intelligence services, it would clear the picture for Moscow.

We are also ready to host Congress and Senate representatives in Moscow and are always happy to greet our business partners from the US, who work and want to continue to work in Russia,” the Russian leader told the forum.

Assange’s asylum status at stake in Ecuadorian presidential runoff
worker | March 30, 2017 | 9:57 pm | Analysis, Ecuador, Julian Assange, political struggle | Comments closed

Assange’s asylum status at stake in Ecuadorian presidential runoff
The upcoming Ecuadorian presidential election could potentially have dramatic consequences for WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange, as the public chooses between two candidates with vastly different opinions of the whistleblower.

Opposition candidate Guillermo Lasso has spoken out against Assange during his campaign saying, “Ecuador had no business spending a single cent protecting someone who definitely leaked confidential information.”

Lasso said that he would give Assange a 30-day deadline to leave the embassy if elected, reported Reuters.

If forced to leave the embassy, which has protected him since 2012, Assange would face potential arrest, Latin America specialist in the Clinton administration Eric Farnsworth told the LA Times.

“I think it’s pretty clear that Assange’s fate rides on Ecuador’s election returns,” he said.

Bruce Bagley, international relations professor from the University of Miami, warned that along with Sweden, where a charge of rape still stands against Assange, the US may have an interest in Assange if released.

“He could be brought up on charges of purveying secrets of the U.S.,” he said, claiming Donald Trump would likely prosecute him.

READ MORE: Assange must reduce ‘meddling’ in US policies while in Ecuadorian embassy – Moreno to RT (EXCLUSIVE)

Polls open on Sunday for the runoff presidential vote, after ruling party candidate and former Vice President Lenín Moreno failed to secure the 40 percent required for outright victory in February.

Moreno is more likely to be Assange’s candidate of choice – he served under President Rafael Correa who first offered asylum to Assange in 2012.

Unlike his predecessor though, Moreno insists that despite supporting Assange’s asylum he would introduce conditions.

Speaking to RT in February he said, “one of the conditions will be to not meddle into the policies of the countries we are friends with. The same as we do not meddle in their policies.”

Assange responded saying that he is happy to speak to both candidates but that WikiLeaks does not publish from Ecuador and “will not respond to pressure.”

Latest polls show Moreno narrowly edging ahead of Lasso, according to Reuters. However, one of the country’s most closely watched polls put Lasso ahead earlier in the month.