Events in Venezuela shook the world on Wednesday, with many left wondering if January 23 was the beginning of the end for the government of President Nicolas Maduro and the beginning of a new chapter of U.S. interventionism.
Here are five reasons why it’s unlikely that this latest drama in the South American nation is the “endgame” that the mainstream media is hyping up.
1. “Interim president” … who, what?
On Wednesday, amid massive anti-government mobilizations, the U.S. and a number of Latin American states – along with Canada and some regional organizations such as the Organization of American States – all recognized National Assembly leader Juan Guaido’s self-proclamation that he would thereby be the “interim president” of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
A relatively unknown 35-year-old member of the opposition-held National Assembly can’t simply snap his fingers and assume the presidency, even if he has the diplomatic nods of some powerful countries in the region or across the globe.
To illustrate the absurdity of the move, a comparison would be like Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responding to “not my president” chants at a Women’s March by declaring herself “interim President of the United States of America Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces” – with the consecration of Russia, Turkey, Iran and El Salvador. Such a move to recognize an unelected president as the legitimate leader of the country would fly in the face of the Constitution as well as international law – and such is the case in Venezuela as much as it would be in the U.S.
Guaido only entered the fractured world of opposition lawmakers – who’ve seen a carousel of leaders come and go – in 2015, and was only pulled from relative obscurity into the national and international limelight in the past couple months.
The man has shown few signs that his declaration of a coup and appeals to the military will be any more successful than the opposition’s many failed attempts to take power since the U.S.-backed coup in 2002.
2. Foreign alliances
Venezuela remains far from alone on the international arena, and a number of powerful countries have refused to fall in line with the United States-led refusal to recognize elected President Nicolas Maduro as the country’s legitimate leader.
Russia, China, Iran, Turkey and regional heavyweight Mexico, as well as a number of other smaller countries, have each signaled that despite the wishful thinking of Maduro’s opponents, business-as-usual will proceed with their Venezuelan counterparts.
And while a united position from Europe may have the potential to hedge in Venezuela’s government even more – with Britain, Germany, Spain and EU bureaucrats signaling their support for the opposition – Brussels is yet to make its move official.
Such divisions show that Venezuela is nowhere nearly as isolated as the U.S. would like to think.
3. The Venezuelan military is well-armed, organized, and ready to fight
Despite a few flare-ups of rebellion within the ranks of the National Bolivarian Armed Forces, the country’s military leadership remains firmly at the side of President Maduro.
On Thursday, Defense Minister Padrino Lopez addressed the nation and blasted the U.S. “criminal plan that flagrantly threatens the sovereignty and independence of the nation” and urged Venezuelans to avoid opening the door to civil war while stressing that he stands beside “our commander-in-chief, the citizen Nicolas Maduro.”
Venezuela’s large and very well-armed military will play the decisive role in this drama. It enjoys modern Russian attack helicopters, jets, armor and the latest AK-103 assault rifles from Russia, and in addition to its 120,000-strong armed forces, there are a number of armed militia among the ranks of the citizenry.
4. The opposition is large, but don’t underestimate Maduro’s support from the population
While President Maduro has his detractors in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, the controversial former bus driver and elected leader has supporters in at least equal numbers, if not more.
Were it not for such support, he would have been gone long ago. Yet, through various legal maneuvers, the leader has maintained popular support and has used it to neutralize the massive opposition at every turn and amid skyrocketing inflation and recession.
Yet throughout it all, Maduro’s popular touch – and the enthusiasm that the Chavismo brand of socialism continues to inspire among the country’s poor, despite its problems – has allowed his government to win the battle of hearts and minds among some of his most jaded and weary supporters. Despite his flaws, most Venezuelans would never imagine siding with a U.S. threatening war over their own government.
If there’s one thing that will unite a fragile and nationalistic country, it’s the aggression of a foreign enemy.
5. The United States is being aggressive, but may not have the appetite to wage another massive, ruinous long war
After the debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan, is the U.S. really willing to risk a so-called “humanitarian intervention” against a country that’s bristling with arms, is twice the size of Iraq, and whose disintegration would unleash social instability across the hemisphere?
Witness the below video, where enthusiastic members of the Venezuelan military promise Washington a “Latin American Vietnam” if the U.S. chooses to invade:
The danger of the U.S. stepping into a trap that they can’t escape is real, and Washington hardly has an appetite for such pain – especially not while rivals like China are rising and the world curiously witnesses the ongoing shutdown debacle.
And while the U.S. may choose to “lead from behind” and let regional countries like Colombia and Brazil do the fighting, Colombia’s President Ivan Duque has shown little willingness to intervene militarily while the tough-talking new Brazilian leader Jair Bolsonaro appears to be more bluster than bite.
The United States may be able to talk big and apply sanctions with reckless disregard for international law, but it remains highly doubtful that it would be willing to incur the military, political or financial costs of an all-out war on the people of Venezuela.
Washington must know by now that it’s one thing to start a war, but quite another to finish it.
WATCH: Video Shows Bullets Fly as Armored Car Crew Narrowly Escapes Brutal Heist
Dramatic dash cam footage from Pretoria, South Africa, shows the moment that the crew of an armored car narrowly escaped an attempt by armed robes to stage a heist.
The shocking video shows a pair of private security officers transporting cash in a bulletproof Toyota truck on April 22 before they suddenly come under attack by armed assailants.
For the first minute of the roughly three-minute-long video, the security guards can be seen routinely driving down a highway.
The vehicle then comes under fire as bullets can be heard slamming into the driver side of the car, with the window by the driver’s side shattering.
The driver, who maintains his calm and composure during the attack, manages to escape amid the traffic. He also seems to slam into one of the two vehicles belonging to the attackers.
“They’re going to shoot. They’re going to f**king shoot,” the driver then says, urging his colleague to pull out the rifle and prepare to defend their lives.
As gunshots continue to ring out, the two drive silently as the tension builds. The driver then shouts to his colleague: “Phone Robbie, phone Josh! Ask them where they are.”
As the video ends, the driver can be seen stopping the vehicle and grabbing his colleague’s rifle. At that point, it becomes clear that the assailants have realized that their attack was futile they had already fled the scene.
“The suspects fired several shots at the [Cash-In-Transit] vehicle in an attempt to stop it during a high-speed chase,” said police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo , reports News24.
“The driver of the CIT vehicle managed to evade the robbers for a while but later stopped in wait for the robbers,” Naidoo added. “The robbers fled without taking any money. No arrests have yet been made.”
Online users have praised the steel nerves of the armored car’s crew in navigating what could have been a deadly attack.
After Strong Backlash, NYPD Kicks Robotic Dog “Spot” to the Curb
The New York City Police Department decided this week to stop leasing a robotic dog from Boston Dynamics following a sustained outcry from residents and lawmakers, who denounced the use of the high-tech, four-legged device in low-income neighborhoods as a misallocation of public resources and violation of civil liberties.
When the NYPD acquired the K-9 machine last August, officials portrayed “Digidog”—the department’s name for the camera-equipped, 70-pound robot—as “a futuristic tool that could go places that were too dangerous to send officers,” the New York Times reported earlier this week.
Inspector Frank Digiacomo of the department’s Technical Assistance Response Unit said in a television interview in December: “This dog is going to save lives. It’s going to protect people. It’s going to protect officers.”
Instead—thanks to strong backlash from critics, including people who live in the Bronx apartment complex and the Manhattan public housing building where the robotic dog was deployed in recent weeks—the department is returning “Spot,” as Boston Dynamics calls the device, months earlier than expected.
According to the Times:
In response to a subpoena from City Councilman Ben Kallos and Council Speaker Corey Johnson requesting records related to the device, police officials said that a contract worth roughly $94,000 to lease the robotic dog from its maker, Boston Dynamics, had been terminated on April 22.
John Miller, the police department’s deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism, confirmed on Wednesday that the contract had been canceled and that the dog had been returned to Boston Dynamics or would be soon.
Miller told the Times that the police had initially planned to continue testing the K-9 machine’s capabilities until August, when the lease had been scheduled to end.
“Robotic surveillance ground drones are being deployed for testing on low-income communities of color with under-resourced schools,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted in response. “Please ask yourself: when was the last time you saw next-generation, world class technology for education, healthcare, housing, etc. consistently prioritized for underserved communities like this?”
And earlier this month, as Common Dreams reported, footage of the robotic dog walking through a Manhattan public housing building went viral, sparking additional outrage and prompting a city council investigation.
“Why the hell do we need robot police dogs?” Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) asked at the time.
While there are “people living in poverty, struggling to put food on the table, keep a roof over their head, take care of their kids, afford child care—all this going on, and now we got damn robot police dogs walking down the street,” Bowman lamented.
Bill Neidhardt, a spokesperson for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who urged the police department to reconsider its use of the robot following objections from residents and lawmakers, said he was “glad the Digidog was put down.”
“It’s creepy, alienating, and sends the wrong message to New Yorkers,” Neidhardt said.
Republished from CommonDreams.org under Creative Commons
Senate Intelligence Leaders Say Mystery “Sonic Weapon” Attacks on U.S. Officials Increasing
After it was revealed Thursday that US intelligence is investigating at least two potential “directed energy” sonic attacks on White House personnel – one of which is alleged to have happened just off White House grounds – the US Senate Intelligence Committee weighed in on Friday, saying such mysterious incidents appear to be happening with greater frequency worldwide.
Senators Mark Warner (D) and Marco Rubio (R) agreed that such microwave energy attacks have gone on for “nearly five years” and have targeted “US government personnel in Havana, Cuba and elsewhere around the world.” In a joint statement the two ranking members said, “This pattern of attacking our fellow citizens serving our government appears to be increasing. The Senate Intelligence Committee intends to get to the bottom of this,” according to Reuters.
As with the late 2016 into 2017 ‘Havana Syndrome’ attacks in which some 50 diplomatic personnel reported experiencing strange symptoms from vomiting to concussions to extreme nausea to chronic headaches, which was believed the result of some kind of undetected ‘directed energy’ weapon, the most recent incidents saw media reports speculate that Russia or China might be behind them.
It was starting last week that the mysterious incidents returned to national media spotlight after defense officials said they believe Russia is likely behind microwave energy weapon attacks on US troops in northeast Syria. Apparently some US troops occupying the country began reporting”flu-like symptoms” which caused the DoD to investigate possible linkage to microwave or directed energy weapons on the battlefield of Syria. Politico reported that “officials identified Russia as a likely culprit, according to two people with direct knowledge of the matter.”
Despite instances of strange symptoms and even head injuries experienced by diplomatic personnel or troops abroad, no “energy weapon” has ever been found or uncovered that’s believed to have caused any of these alleged attacks. Most often US personnel report the symptoms enough time after the alleged attack took place for the “plot” and culprit to remain undetected. Naturally this has resulted in immense skepticism and pushback.
One deeply critical response to all the reporting late this week quipped: “Another day, another mostly anonymously sourced story about unidentified assailants supposedly assaulting U.S. government employees around the globe. This time, according to CNN, federal agencies are looking into something closer to home: symptoms suffered by a White House employee in Virginia and National Security Council staffer near the south lawn of the White House.”
“Although a government report later concluded the most likely cause was instead some sort of ‘directed, pulsed radiofrequency energy’ (i.e. a microwave weapon), that conclusion was primarily based on a lack of evidence for other causes and received strong pushback from many others in the scientific community.”
The commentary in Gizmodo pointed out further that “No hard evidence of any kind for the technology has ever been publicly presented by the US government. Reports citing government officials who suspect Russian intelligence to be involved have largely been anonymous and buoyed primarily by rumors the Russian government may have resumed Soviet-era research into experimental weapons.”
Republished from ZeroHedge.com with permission
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