28 June 2019 marks the 10-year anniversary of the US-backed coup in Honduras that toppled the democratically elected government of Manuel Zelaya. The timing is apt. Because the Central American nation has seen extensive protests for around two months over the government’s privatization plans, which were set in motion by the 2009 coup.
That night ten years ago…
On 28 June 2009, armed men stormed Zelaya’s house in the middle of the night and led him away at gunpoint. His actions in office had rumbled the country’s ruling elites. He’d begun a process of resisting neoliberalism and embarked on a program of social spending and public investment. This was unacceptable to powerful interests both at home and abroad. His plan to convene a constituent assembly to rewrite the country’s outdated constitution, meanwhile, was a step too far; and these interests conspired to remove him.
Venezuelan intelligence says it has foiled an assassination attempt against President Nicolas Maduro, which envisioned a group of rogue officers storming the presidential palace and installing an imprisoned general in his stead.
The plot by current and former military officers involved breaking retired General Raúl Isaías Baduel out from a maximum security prison in Fuerte Tiuna, where he is kept since 2017 for wanting to overthrow the government, and seizing state-run Venezolana de Televisió where he would be pronounced president. Intelligence agencies said they had been unraveling the plot for 14 months.
On June 19, The Washington Post reported that Trump has apparently lost interest in the Venezuela coup attempt and taken to attacking members of his own administration for their failure to oust the government of President Nicolas Maduro. The article quotes anonymous administration officials who claim that Trump believes John Bolton and other officials working on the Venezuela coup “got played” by both Venezuelan coup leaders and members of the Maduro government. Trump is said to have “chewed them out” at an angry meeting about the failure to topple Maduro. Apparently, Trump believed that doing so would be “low hanging fruit” and an easy win that he could “tout as a major foreign policy victory,”. This should come as no surprise, however. As Counterpunch reported at the time, the coup attempt was already stalling by late February – just a month after it had first been launched.
Like Trump, the coup’s cheerleaders in the mainstream press have been scratching their heads as to why Washington’s puppet – so-called ‘interim president’ Juan Guaido – didn’t quickly succeed in seizing power. Certainly, the lasting popularity of the policies enacted by the late Hugo Chavez and the revulsion at the idea of US intervention held by most Venezuelans are major factors. But there is another more subtle, but also more significant factor at play – the decline of US power in the Trump era. Under his presidency, the US imperial apparatus has fallen into the hands of a child in an adult’s body who can’t stay on subject when talking, let along on point when acting. Indeed, Washington’s traditional foreign policy establishment – including Henry Kissinger – endorsed Clinton in the 2016 presidential race. She was the preferred option because she would be the more competent administrator of empire.
In January, Donald Trump and officials in his administration spoke confidently about how their plan to topple Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro and install their puppet – so-called ‘interim president’ Juan Guaidó – would be a quick victory. But as the months went by, the coup attempt stalled and faltered. Maduro stayed firmly in power; and crucially, the military overwhelmingly stayed loyal to him. Now, six months after the launch of the coup attempt, a report suggests Trump is losing interest and pushing blame onto both Venezuelan opposition leaders and his own officials.
Trump “chewed out” his own staff for failing on “low-hanging fruit”
On 19 June, the Washington Post published an article quoting anonymous Trump administration officials on growing frustrations about the coup attempt in Venezuela. According to the report, Trump had initially considered ousting Maduro to be “low-hanging fruit”. He assumed it would be an easy foreign policy “win” that he could tout as “a major foreign policy victory.”
The beginning of this month saw the sorry spectacle of Trump’s state visit to the United Kingdom. In spite of him hurling insults at London’s mayor and shamelessly intruding into British political affairs by endorsing Boris Johnson in the Conservative Party leadership race, the UK government nonetheless rolled out the red carpet and spared no expense in kissing his derrière. Though only two members of his immediate family have official positions within his administration, Trump brought the whole clan along for the festivities, including a four-course banquet hosted by the Queen, which the UK government didn’t hesitate to accommodate. This nauseating act of sycophancy was, of course, funded entirely by public money. This is no small matter in a country in which a significant proportion of its population, according to a recent United Nations report, has been subjected to “systematic immiseration” as a result of a decade-long austerity program enacted by successive Conservative governments.
But none of this seems to matter to the mainstream press on both sides of the Atlantic, which waxed lyrical about the so-called “Special Relationship” between the two nations. Odes were sung to (now former) Prime Minister Theresa May’s jubilant talk of an “enduring partnership” and Trump’s promise that his administration will work to forge a “phenomenal” trade deal with a post-Brexit UK. The coverage got particularly gushing when May harkened back to the two countries’ cooperation on D-day during the Second World War, which forms part of the Anglo-American mythology that it was “us,” rather than the Soviet Union, that defeated Hitler.
Former US vice president Joe Biden has been leading many polls for the Democratic Party nomination since announcing his candidacy in April. Some liberal commentators are describing him as “the best shot at beating Trump”. But as reports emerge of his controversial upcoming fundraisers, it’s important to remember that he represents the very same corporate interests as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. And that’s precisely why he’s the worst candidate to face Trump in 2020.
Same old story of electoral corruption
On 18 June 18, the Hill received information that Biden will be attending several events with wealthy donors in California to build his campaign war chest. Each of them will cost $2,800 a head to attend, with proceeds going directly to his campaign. Commentators expect him to raise between $20m and $25m by the end of his fundraising drive. And he’s already well on his way, having secured $6.3m in just 24 hours after announcing his intention to run for president. At a recent event in Los Angeles, he raised around $700,000 in just one day.
Fast food restaurant McDonald’s has long come under attack from anti-globalization campaigners for its homogenizing effect on global food systems, cityscapes, and local cultures. The marketing of its unhealthy and potentially addictive foods – especially to children – has also been criticized by public health advocates. Now, its marketing techniques seem to have become a bizarre caricature of the company’s own worst features.
Typical manipulative marketing and cultural appropriation
On 6 June, McDonald’s in the US unveiled its new ‘International Currency Exchange’. Customers will be able to use foreign currency to purchase four new items on its so-called ‘Worldwide Favorites’ menu at participating US McDonald’s stores. This new menu includes the supposedly Dutch delicacy ‘Stroopwaffel McFlurry’ and a purportedly Spanish dish named the ‘Grand Extreme Bacon Burger’.
Despite his tough anti-immigration stance, President Donald Trump is exploring the idea of granting Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelans fleeing the country still under US sanctions after its Washington-backed failed coup.
TPS is a federal government designation for people residing in the US who have fled from severe natural disasters or armed conflict. It currently applies to people from ten different countries, including war-torn Yemen, Somalia and Sudan. The bill to apply TPS to Venezuelans was introduced to congress by Florida Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart and Darren Soto in January. The legislation passed through the committee stage last month and is now awaiting a vote on the House floor.
The Environmental Working Group has released findings of research showing “troubling levels of glyphosate, the cancer-causing ingredient in the herbicide Roundup” in food products including children’s breakfast cereals.
The Washington, DC-based advocacy group said in a statement released June 12 that the chemical, was detected “in all 21 oat-based cereal and snack products sampled in a new round of testing.”
Furthermore, all of the products but four were found to contain levels higher than EWG’s safety threshold for child consumption, which is 160 parts per billion (ppb). The products “Cheerios” and “Honey Nut Cheerios Medley Crunch” were found with the highest glyphosate levels with 729 ppb and 833 ppb respectively. The findings follow two previous research studies conducted with independent labs conducted last year.
The Intercept has released documents showing that prosecutors, and even the presiding judge, in the case against former president Lula da Silva conspired to railroad him and his party’s chances in the presidential election.
The Intercept published three exposés, Sunday, showing political motivation by members of a taskforce of prosecutors in charge of, and even the judge presiding over, one of the biggest corruption scandals in Brazil’s history. Known as ‘Operation Car Wash’, the scandal has implicated scores of politicians in Brazil and the wider Latin American region from across the political spectrum.