Sunday, 15 March 2020

COVID-19 : SARS-Cov2, A source of Bat soup or BioWeapon?


Source : https://www.livescience.com/coronavirus-mutations.html
The outbreaks of yet another (officially classified) pandemic, with vague origins have set a course of speculation and conspiracy theories flooding social media platforms and other news channels. Suggestions ranging from bat soup and snake dishes to Biological warfare weapons have dominated the discussions. Yet, no conclusion for the definitive source (patient zero) of the virus has come forth from the experts who specialise in the subject. But, what we do know thus far:

  • The virus is named SARS-CoV-2 and is a family of the Coronavirus strains, specifically the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, SARS-CoV discovered in 2002/2003.
  • The disease caused by this virus is classified as COVID-19.
  • This strain is one of only three (out of 7 Coronaviruses) viruses that have caused a global pandemic in the last 20 years, with a fatality rate of up to 35% for one of the strains. These being SARS-CoV of 2003 (fatality of 10%), MERS-CoV of 2012 (fatality of 35%) and SARS-CoV-2 of 2019 (fatality of approx. 4%).
  • Although its infection rate is higher than the other two strains, the rate of fatality is much lower, at around 3 to 5%.
  • The genetic makeup of the virus suggests that its origins were found in bats (CoVZXC21), although it also assumes characteristics of the human SARS-CoV strain, thus giving its name SARS-CoV-2.
  • Elderly citizens aged 60 and above with vulnerable immune systems, are mostly affected with a majority of the fatalities coming from this demographic.
  • Person-to-person transmission is primarily through “respiratory droplets from coughing and sneezing”. Thus, person-to-person transmission occurs mainly through close contact between individuals.
From the time of the first outbreak of the SARS pandemic back in 2003, the real source of the SARS/MERS strains have never been conclusive.  The link of transmission between different species, ie. Animal and human has been mere speculation and assumption, rather than hard evidence and cold facts. For example, the transmission from bats to humans has been attributed to bat food consumed in China. However, the explanation for the virus assuming characteristics of the common coronavirus flu and that of the bat virus has not been offered. My knowledge of viruses and pandemics is zero to none barring what I read in the media, but even I know that two separate types of virus strains cannot “fuse” through mutation……? Or am I smoking something very strong?

Further speculation suggests that the origins of the current strain may have mediated between bats and humans via another mammalian host. This speculation is derived from another assumption that the original SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV had intermediary hosts in the Himalayan Palm civet (SARS-CoV) and Dromedary camel (MERS-CoV) before “jumping” to humans. But, there is no evidence to confirm this theory (Hence the continuous search for the source, patient zero). Speculation abounds!

Although the origin for the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus puts the food market of Wuhan in the spotlight and the likely cause, this explanation has been nullified with cases of the virus surfacing in the US and other regions where carriers had no connection to the Wuhan food market, ie. The source of their infection was not in China. With this new information discovered around February 26, the Wuhan narrative as the origin, makes the whole investigation of finding patient zero that much more complicated.

Given that there is a big gap in Academic theory and hard evidence to substantiate this theory, speculators and conspiracy theorists usually enter the discussion, because this is the gap where they ply their trade; this is where political maneuverings overlap with Science skepticism; and Geopolitics for political points scoring, takes over. That said, the suggestion that the COVID-19 outbreak could possibly be a Biological weapon unleashed between players for Geopolitical dominance was right up there with some other conspiracy theories. In fact, this theory was endorsed and confirmed to be a very high possibility by one Francis Boyle, who authored the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989. When someone with his credentials makes statements like this, the idea is taken very seriously with dire implications. Then there is the theory that the virus was developed in a Lab in Canada, and transported to China to be released in Wuhan. Other theories suggest that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation may have been involved because of an exercise hosted by the John Hopkins Centre for Health Security, in which the Gates Foundation participated.  The exercise focused on emergency preparedness in the event of a “very severe pandemic” that may occur as a result of a Coronavirus outbreak.  The allegation is that participants had inside knowledge of an impending outbreak….. 

The fact that there is little evidence to conclusively prove the origin and source of the SARS series of strains, speculation will take over and drown out the very little facts the wider global audience knows.  I, for one, started believing alternative narratives, because of this lack of conclusive evidence. However, given the current Geopolitical and Geo-economic climate between the major superpowers, being the USA, China and Russia, bio-weapon warfare may not be ruled out (stay with me on this). The fact that the US is currently at war, not only militarily, but economically, politically and even culturally with most nations in the East, the prospects of the US government doing the unthinkable, may be very possible. That said historically, the US is the only country to have used weapons of mass destruction in Wars in Asia and elsewhere, for example, Nagasaki and Hiroshima (August-1945), North Korea (1953) and Tokyo (March-1945). Ironically, none of these acts of brutality (over 4 million civilians dead) was necessary because the relevant wars, (WW2 and Korean war) was already over at the time those incendiary bombs were dropped. Not to mention the endless wars in the Middle East where Phosphorus and depleted Uranium weapons were used on civilians. The scale of brutality unleashed on populations who just happened to be in the way of the US war machine (as exposed by Julian Assange in Iraq) is arguably unrivaled by any other empire in history.

Ok, where was I…….so given that the US government is capable of unleashing terror on the global population like they have been doing for decades since the second world war, who is to say they are not capable of a bio-weapons raid on an unsuspecting public for political and economic gain? Finally, it’s a well-known fact that the US economy and its place in the global leadership hierarchy is declining, with China and Russia slowly taking over economically and militarily.

However, conspiracy theories will abound until gaps in academic theory is concluded with evidence and hard facts.

But as always, in times like these, the question remains, Cui Bono?


Thursday, 5 September 2019

The Colour Revolution in Hong Kong


- Cui Bono?

Source: Asia Times; No, this is NOT a protest in the US
The protests in Hong Kong initially started as a push-back against an extradition law passed by the Hong Kong government to extradite suspected criminals from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan to mainland China for prosecution. Globally, such an agreement is signed between many nations (Hong Kong HAS an Extradition Treaty with the US and Britain), and is regarded as normal legislature, but as a result of the push-back the Bill was shelved indefinitely. What then is the purpose of the ongoing protests, if said objective was achieved? To get a perspective of what is going on in Hong Kong, we need to understand the historical significance of the current situation.

A Colonial Enclave

Hong Kong was ruled by Imperial Britain for 156 years between 1841 (after the First Opium war against China) and 1997. Contrary to popular belief, Hong Kong was no democracy. There was no elected government, no right to a minimum wage, unions, decent housing or health care, and no freedom of the press or freedom of speech. A British Governor was appointed to rule Hong Kong to ensure the protection of British economic interests, until the handover to China in 1997.

Under British Capitalist rule, Hong Kong became a Bastion of free trade. The (Fascist) Heritage Foundation Index for Economic Freedom has crowned Hong Kong as the freest economy for the last 25 years. This accolade was bestowed primarily as a result of low taxes, strong property rights and overall business freedom; lenient regulations to global commerce and a vibrant entrepreneurial climate; but most importantly, no restrictions on foreign banks. Under this favorable trading environment, Hong Kong produced no fewer than 20 Billionaires who holds the monopoly of all trade.

With its reintegration to China in 1997, the “One country, two systems Agreement” ensured the government maintain the Capitalist system for another 50 years to guarantee that its economic prosperity was preserved. Some would argue it was a British façade to maintain its colonial and economic influence over Hong Kong. Others claim that the Chinese were desperate to have funds released from Hong Kong for development on mainland China, as a sanctions and trade blockade by the British after the 1949 Revolution, ensured no economic progress and development on the mainland. Either way, both parties seemed to derive benefit from it.

At the time of this agreement, Hong Kong’s contribution to the Chinese economy was around 27%. It was largely seen as the economic engine for the mainland. Its GDP growth was an average of 6% per annum. In comparison to OECD first world countries, Hong Kong’s GDP per Capita was the highest at US$49,000 compared to an average of US$30,000. Over the last 10 years, the Government has accumulated a GDP surplus of HK$690Billion (US$88,4B), with HK$1,1Trillion (US$141B) in reserves. Unemployment is the lowest of the OECD countries, with a labour force at 100% of the working population. With low taxes, tariff-free trade and very lenient trade regulations, Hong Kong became the poster boy of free market Capitalism in Asia.

On the surface, everything about Hong Kong looks swimmingly positive, but scratch below the surface and a whole different picture emerges.

An Inequality that competes with the worst

According to a Hong Kong census report, its Gini-coefficient has risen from 0.533 in 2006 to the current figure of around 0.54. When compared to other developed countries, it ranks as the worst, with Singapore at 0.356, United States at 0.391, United Kingdom at 0.351, Australia at 0.337 and Canada at 0.318. Suffice it to say that a Gini-coefficient of 0.54 is one of the worst reflections of inequality globally, as most developed countries have a Gini-coefficient below 0.40. This is a clear reflection of the widening gap between the rich and the poor in Hong Kong, and indicates that the government has no appetite for reducing poverty.

How did this inequality come about in one of the richest regions in Asia?

The total net worth of the wealthiest Oligarchs, in 2018, amounted to HK$1,83Tr (US$234B), which is a tad more than the country’s total fiscal reserves. The top 5 tycoons received HK$23Billion (US$3,2B) in untaxed dividends on investment stocks. A company profits tax of 16,5% is substantially lower than the 28% average of the OECD countries. Although government has accumulated a HK$690B (US$88,4B) surplus over the last ten years, expenditure on Healthcare and Social programs has decreased considerably. The government has spent the least on public services out of all the first world OECD countries. It has failed to allocate sufficient resources to reduce the gap in inequality, and may arguably be seen as a reflection of a poor economic system, where the rich get richer, but the poor do not benefit from the country’s economic fortunes.

The number of the population living in poverty has risen to 21% in the last 10 years. That’s one in every 5 people of the population totaling 1,38 million and that number has increased by 25,000 in the last 2 years. This was primarily due to an aggressive increase in property rentals (sub-divided apartments whose size is less than a parking space), a lower than inflationary increase in the minimum wage, and a rising cost of public services (which is run by Private sector Enterprises – a familiar trend of a Neoliberal Capitalist system). As a result of the government’s failure to allocate sufficiently for Social Programs, the most vulnerable of Society became the victims;
  • A general increase in the number of pensioners falling into poverty, because of pension benefits not keeping up with inflationary costs.
  • One in every three elderly persons lives in poverty, at a rate of 36.6% of the elderly population.
  • A poverty rate among children stands at 25.2%, with a serious shortage of Child care Services.
  • The poverty rate among ethnic minorities is around 23.5%.
Corruption – You’ll find it everywhere

With the most liberal and lenient banking laws globally, Hong Kong has become a sanctuary for illegal money transactions, money laundering, and shady investments amounting to billions of dollars. Because of lax financial regulation, this behavior is seldom called out or exposed by the Hong Kong Authorities.  As such, the Oligarchs are being investigated by the Chinese government for a range of fraud and corruption charges. Among them are Jimmy Lai (Chi Ying), Martin Lee, Joseph Zen and Anson Chan. Their shady business relationships with prominent politicians have been the bedrock of the enormous wealth they’ve acquired. Then there’s Joshua Wong, the leader of the Desmosisto Party who led proceedings during the protests, and Nathan Law the US College student who mobilizes protesters from his dorm room in the US.

Jimmy Lai, the Media Tycoon, is under investigation for corruption involving various political party donations in return for business favours. Anson Chan Fang On-sang, the former Chief Secretary under British Governor Chris Patton, accumulated her wealth during and after her stint as Chief Secretary. Her cozy relationship with the Oligarchs during her tenure has prompted the Chinese government to take a special interest in her accumulated wealth. Martin Lee and Joseph Zen, the primary instigators and organizers of the Occupy Central protests in 2014, is known for their close ties with influential officials in the US Government and receiving millions of dollars from the National Endowment for Democracy, (aka CIA tool to spread “Democracy”) and the National Democratic Institute. These “NGOs”, funded by the US government, are notorious for bankrolling the Colour Revolutions that spread across Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Latin America. [The most recent being the attempted coup by the Opposition (Juan Guaido and Leopoldo Lopez) to the Maduro Government in Venezuela and the Maidan coup in Ukraine in 2014, which was funded and organised by the NED in collaboration with Ukrainian Oligarchs, Petro Poroshenko, Vitaly Klitschko, Yulia Tymoschenko.]

Obama and his “Pivot to Asia”
Obama's Pivot to Asia; US military bases encircling China

The collusion between these influential businessmen and top US government Officials, namely, John Bolton, Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo has been openly flaunted in the media. This relationship started way back in 1994, three years before the handover of Hong Kong to the Chinese government. With funding from the US government through the NED and NDI, the US built up a strong opposition, and pro-Western, Fifth Column of resistance against the Beijing Government. Shortly before the current protests, the Oligarchs met US officials at least once on US soil. The primary agenda for these meetings was to plan and stage the destabilization of the Hong Kong political establishment. The blatant displays of US and UK flags by protesters, further demonstrates the influence these countries have on disrupting the order of business.

US intentions of destabilization on the Asian continent are nothing new.  During the Obama era, his foreign policy for Asia was primarily to “contain” China through his “Pivot to Asia” doctrine. The recent spat in the South China Seas involving the Spratly Islands, and the disruption of shipping by the US navy is testament to the US goal of maintaining control in the region. (What would the US do if the Chinese or the Russians did the same thing in the Gulf of Mexico?) The current trade wars and ever burgeoning trade sanctions on Chinese officials and trading goods is just a continuation of the “Pivot to Asia” policy. The goal is to disrupt the Chinese economy and cause chaos in Asian markets, in order to maintain control over these markets with the exclusion of Beijing’s influence. The liberal banking laws and lenient trade regulations in Hong Kong is used by Global banking giants like the fraudulent HSBC and Citi Group precisely for this purpose.

As mentioned, the initial reason given for the protests was a rejection of the extradition law, which was eventually withdrawn and shelved indefinitely. Then an alternative narrative flaunted in the mainstream media repeats the holier-than-thou belief that the people are fighting to maintain their democratic rights, rather than be ruled by the autocratic Chinese government. Its no coincidence that a similar rhetoric was repeated during all the Colour Revolution protests in Eastern Europe. When asked on the streets of Hong Kong, the protesters were unclear what their goal was and what was the primary reason for the ongoing protests. Some spewed the “democracy” narrative, while others uhm’ed and erred in confusion. There were scattered groups of individuals who voiced their concern of the declining living standards and the spiraling costs of living; these were the protesters with real issues that they felt needed to be resolved.

The general consensus among the adult population in Hong Kong is that they prefer integration with the Chinese government as a majority have learnt over the years how the local Government works in cahoots with the elite, yet exclude the millions from reaping the benefits from the mainstream economy. The Oligarchs predominantly used the naive youth to drive an empty “democratic” agenda that serves the purposes of their Western friends, and masks their real intentions of dodging the Beijing extradition bullet.

So who REALLY benefits from the protests?

To summarize, we need to demystify the myths from reality:

  1.  The narrative of fighting for freedom, democracy, liberty and rights is nothing but a political smokescreen. The double standards displayed by Western nations in supporting this narrative is astounding when compared to the same protest issues happening in France with Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests). Here, the French people have been protesting for the last 40+ weeks, against the suppression of their Liberté, égalité, fraternité as a result of sweeping, draconian labour reforms by Emmanuel Macron. The difference between the two acts of rebellion is that in the Hong Kong case, the protesters are being used by Billionaire tycoons to prevent criminal prosecution and the restriction of their rights to milk the economy dry, with the US stoking the fire for their own “Pivot to Asia” agenda. The French situation is a genuine protest of preserving democracy in France and a rebellion against corruption and greed. Only one of these cases is of huge interest to the powers that be, while the other is barely mentioned in the media.
  2. While Hong Kong’s economy was voted as the freest for the last 25 years, due to lenient trade regulations, what is not revealed is that the economy is monopolised by a handful of Billionaires. Not to be excluded from the Oligarchs mentioned earlier, the richest man in Hong Kong, one Li Ka Shing owns a chain of supermarkets, pharmacies and furniture/appliance stores, complemented by thousands of square metres of property; with his son dominating the television services space. One can barely call it a free economy when its run by a few Billionaire tycoons who have easy access to political influence that ensures competition is suppressed in major Industries.
  3. Hong Kongers do not despise their mainland neighbours. Hong Kong is closely intertwined with Mainland China through the economy and society. Most Hong Kongers have family and friends on the mainland and travel there frequently. Businesses are dependent on mainland tourists as their primary source of revenue. Hong Kongers may not agree with China’s policies, but they have much in common with the mainland people.
  4. Hong Kong’s economy is NOT vital to China. Currently, its contribution to China's economy is a measly 2,7%, with occasional funding from the Beijing government. The contributions from Shanghai and Shenzhen province to the Chinese GDP have surpassed Hong Kong and have grown to become the main economic powerhouses in the PRC. The poverty rate in Hong Kong is the highest between all the provinces, compared to only 1% on the mainland. GDP per Capita in real wages has decreased substantially compared to Shanghai and Shenzhen. Over the last few decades Shanghai has become the financial hub of China, where the US dollar is bypassed as the preferred currency of trade. Thus, Hong Kong has become insignificant to the Chinese government, due to its lacklustre growth (only 0,5% GDP growth for 2019), a widening inequality gap, and its abuse of the Capitalist system that is slowly destroying the economic prosperity of the broader population.
  5. Hong Kongers want to remain a British Colony. Based on the diverse reasons for the protests, one could conclude that this is debatable. However, to reiterate, the majority of protesters are the disillusioned youth who are being used to smokescreen an agenda contrary to what they believe for what they protesting. They barely understand what their cause is after the announcement of the withdrawal of the Extradition Bill. Although they don’t agree with China’s policies, most adults favour reintegration, because they are comfortable in the knowledge that the Beijing government is able to provide for them what the Hong Kong administration is lacking, i.e. eradicating poverty among the masses and reversing the inequality gap. This is seen as a minor issue in the eyes of the Hong Kong administration and the elite.
What is the reality?
  1. The "One Country, Two systems" Agreement, allows Hong Kong the status of a semi-autonomous territory with its own Judicial, Legislative, and economic systems. Through the years these systems have been compromised by government deregulation policies that favoured the minority of elite businessmen at the expense of the wider population.
  2. Based on the agreement, the Colonial intervention in the Hong Kong administration were to end as at 1997, signalling the end of the rule of a British appointed governor with the Chief Executive replacing his authority. The Chief Executive's role has become increasingly weak as the policies of deregulation slowly shifted the balance of economic power to private Business.
  3. Hong Kong is no longer the "Goose that lays the Golden egg" for China. That was 20 years ago, but instead has become more of a burden on the Chinese economy when compared to the other high growth territories like Shanghai, Shenzhen, Jiangsu and Shandong.
  4. The intervention of US government officials in Hong Kong is starkly evident and is a direct violation of the handover agreement. Their tactic to disrupt the Hong Kong markets in an attempt to unsettle the Chinese economy, will be less significant than it may have been twenty years ago, when Hong Kong was the primary economic hub for the Chinese economy.
  5. Hong Kong, as a province of Sovereign China has an Extradition Treaty with the US and Britain, but none with China, its benefactor.

At this point, I think it’s plain to see who really benefits from ongoing disruptions and chaos in Hong Kong. The Chinese Government is well aware of the influence of external forces in the rebellion, in conjunction with the motives of the Oligarchs. The fact that they have not cracked down forcefully on the protests, may be an indication that they are not willing to waste political capital on an entity that is serving no real benefit to the mainland in general. That the Extradition Bill has been withdrawn is not a reflection of weakness from the Chinese government, but merely a minor setback. It must be acknowledged that Beijing does not operate on short term objectives, but would have already mapped out a long term strategic goal for the region. Hong Kong has a population of 7,4 Million people compared to China's 1,3 Billion, and Beijing is not going to allow a small group of islanders to pull rank on them.

Could the premature end of the “One country, two systems” Agreement be seeing its final hours? One thing is certain, the Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, has inadvertently ended her political career by withdrawing the Extradition Bill against Beijing's wishes, and will be replaced with someone who can deliver what Beijing wants.


Sunday, 14 July 2019

Venezuela: The Bolivarian Revolution is alive and kicking



The Rise of Simon Bolivar – The Revolutionary



Simon Bolivar, the Criollo aristocrat who championed the revolutionary cause for Hispanic America, lives and breathes in the hearts and minds of every patriotic Venezuelan.

In 1821, the quest for the Independence of Venezuela was concluded at the Battle of Carabobo, when Bolivar and his revolutionaries defeated the Spanish army to secure Caracas. He subsequently, proceeded to liberate, from Spanish Colonialism, the modern States of Peru, Columbia, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Panama.  Thus, the struggle for Freedom and Independence from Imperialist Colonialism in Hispanic America had set its course.

For two centuries the battle for the control of Latin America and its vast resources continue to this day as Venezuela fights to defend its Independence from modern day colonial powers. Depending on whom one engages the fight for Dictatorship? or Western style Democracy is neither here nor there. Like most sovereign nations, Venezuela is no exception when Revolution is required to free its people from the tyranny of subjugation and oppression delivered by the Ideology of Colonialism. The birth of the Bolivarian Revolution became the catalyst for Social and Political change in Venezuela.

In the late 1980s, the Neoliberal policies (primarily the increase in petrol prices that offset a rise in the costs of Public Transport) of the Perez administration caused widespread Social protests in the Capital of Caracas that culminated in repressive violence from the military and police which resulted in over 3000 deaths.  (As an aside, imagine a country with vast oil reserves, increasing the price of locally produced petrol, which makes the already poor majority practically poverty stricken) Constitutional rights were suspended, the economy tanked, several newspapers, television and radio stations had been shut down or censored and a State of Emergency was imposed.  In 1992, two failed coup attempts, by the military leader Hugo Chavez was averted, with the coup plotters, imprisoned. In 1993, Perez was impeached under a cloud of corruption and fraud charges. He was succeeded by Rafael Caldera in 1994, who pardoned Chavez for his role in the coup attempts.

Hugo Chavez, the Ultimate Socialist

Chavez started his political career with the formation of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), who came to power in 1998, due to his widely popular policies on Social Transformation, which spurred a renewal of the Constitution and subsequently giving rise to the Bolivarian Revolution. His focus on Social Reform and Economic development saw the radical Nationalisation and regulation of the Oil Producing company PDVSA as the driving force for economic emancipation of the poor. Prior to Chavez coming into power, poverty was a National crisis, with 43% of the population being subjected to it. Furthermore, 17% of the population was living under extreme poverty conditions, i.e. living under $1 per day. Chavez's Social and Economic Development Policies were employed with the specific purpose of uplifting the poor and poverty stricken millions.

From the time Chavez came to power in 1998 to his untimely death in 2013, Venezuela prospered economically, primarily from the proceeds of PDVSA Oil sales on the back of a favourable oil price. Chavez’ Policies were largely centred on a dozen Social and Economic “Missions”, like the Mission Sucre (Free Higher Education), Mission Bario Adentro (Healthcare), Mission Corazón Adentro (Arts and Culture), Mission Viviendas (Construction, affordable housing), etc. Under this new Socialist Model, Poverty and Extreme Poverty were reduced from 43% to 26% and 17% to 7% respectively, School attendance (due to the introduction of various food programs) increased from 45% to 90% of school going students. The number of College Student enrolment quadrupled from 900 000 to over 4 Million. Illiteracy was totally eradicated by 2005. The number of pensioners receiving grants increased from 370 000 to 3,2 Million. As a result of free Universal Healthcare, the rate of infant mortality dropped by an astounding 50% between 1999 and 2017. The Mission Viviendas achieved a total of 1, 6 Million homes built for the poor, in the period between 2013 and 2017. Contrary to popular belief, housing was provided at affordable cost, and not given away freely.

By virtue of his vision to transfer power to the people, Hugo Chavez committed to amend the constitution to introduce a Constituent Assembly that is more representative of the people.  The Constituent Assembly would serve as a voice of the people, where Constitutional amendments are likewise promulgated. This Assembly would take the form of a 50% territorial and a 50% Sectorial representation. The Territorial representation would be elected, by secret vote, per Municipality, while Sectorial representation, also by secret vote, would be represented by eight Social and Economic Sectors, namely; Labour, Academia, Indigenous Cultures, Private Business, Agriculture, Fisheries, the Disabled and Senior Citizens. The objective was to restrict political interference of Sovereign ownership of the country. The Venezuelan government commits up to 70% of its budget to Social Programs for the integration of the poor into the mainstream economy. 

Born Free, Sanctioned to Death

By 2017, the Venezuelan economy had shrunk by an excruciating 87% due to a decline in oil sales and a deflated valuation in the Bolivar. The fact that the situation was a result of a mixture of internal and external factors did not matter to the minds of neoliberal, capitalist thought proponents. As oil prices plummeted in 2014, income from oil sales relatively declined, causing a knock-on effect on the economy that stifled local production Industries. The external political attacks on the Bolivar, by means of extracting and thereby reducing the availability of cash, caused its value to plummet as the currency became scarce internally. One of the preferred tools to destabilize targeted economies is currency manipulation, and the activities of credit rating agencies, which, although they have neither democratic legitimacy nor oversight, have a significant impact on the financial ability of States to issue bonds and obtain financing. The rating agencies, Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch, have consistently issued negative ratings based on the country’s ability to make external payments, conveniently forgetting that the Government has a history of excellent debt repayments. (By any measure of integrity, these are the same rating agencies that rated the CDO and CDS derivatives healthy AAA+ ratings just before the financial crises of 2008, when in fact these investment instruments were worthless, as they were the primary cause of the financial meltdown.)

As the economy is primarily dependant on Oil sales revenue, much of this revenue is in turn used to import goods that are not locally produced. As a result of the reduction in revenue from oil sales in 2014, available capital for imported goods was relatively reduced in line with this loss in Revenue. In conjunction with this, the US government applied Economic sanctions, i.e. Executive Order 13692, which restricted any Financial Institution in the West from doing business with the Venezuelan government.  This followed a string of additional sanctions by Trump in April 2017; March, May, November of 2018; and January, March, and April of 2019.They target income generated from Venezuela’s oil exports, assets abroad; access to imported goods and credit; and the ability to secure, reschedule, or repay loans. Foreign banks are crucial to U.S. economic hegemony. USD is the currency of choice in international trade, making Venezuelan economic trade subject to the USD. To avoid penalties, the banks enforce U.S. mandates on transactions involving dollars.

From 2016, banks refused to handle Venezuelan transactions. They included various global Institutions like Commerzbank of Germany, Credit Suisse, Germany’s Deutsche Bank, Citibank, etc. Sanctions in January 2019 barred U.S. financial institutions from facilitating foreign sales of Venezuelan oil and gold. The effects of sanctions imposed by Presidents Obama and Trump with unilateral measures by Canada and the European Union have directly and indirectly aggravated the shortages of life saving medicines. To the extent that economic sanctions have caused delays in distribution and thus contributed to many deaths. In his report to the UN, the envoy Alfred de Zayas, had this to say to emphasise the effect of economic asphyxiation through sanctions and embargoes:

“Economic asphyxiation policies are comparable to those already practised in Chile, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Nicaragua and the Syrian Arab Republic. In January 2018, Middle East correspondent of The Financial Times and The Independent, Patrick Cockburn, wrote on the sanctions affecting Syria: ‘There is usually a pretence that foodstuffs and medical equipment are being allowed through freely and no mention is made of the financial and other regulatory obstacles making it impossible to deliver them. An example of this is the draconian sanctions imposed on Syria by the US and EU which was meant to target President Bashar al-Assad and help remove him from power. They have wholly failed to do this, but a UN internal report leaked in 2016 shows all too convincingly the effect of the embargo in stopping the delivery of aid by international aid agencies. They cannot import the aid despite waivers because banks and commercial companies dare not risk being penalised for having anything to do with Syria. The report quotes a European doctor working in Syria as saying that the indirect effect of sanctions makes the import of the medical instruments and other medical supplies immensely difficult, near impossible. In short, Economic sanctions kill.’



The Political Escobars of Venezuela


In 2015 the opposition used its support from large producers, importers and distributors to create artificial scarcity of food and hygiene products. Seemingly, international criminal groups were fingered for the theft of public resources, food items and medicines, which have found their way into neighbouring countries. There have been cases of stashing of food, medicines and personal hygiene items, where these items were then released onto the black market.  Opposition groups were found to be responsible for the widespread sabotage of public property, arson attacks on public buildings, buses, ambulances, hospitals, maternity wards and other institutions, destruction of electricity and telephone lines, para-militarism in some regions  and other violent acts equivalent to terrorism.

On the road to Recovery

Since the collapse of the economy around 2014, the government has introduced various policy measures to repair the damage that was done by the internal and external factors mentioned above. Here are a few of those crucial measures enacted:

Due to the lack of capital, a series of repayment plans with various creditors were put in place, e.g. the Maduro government has pledged to repay any outstanding debt to various stakeholders, with crude oil.

Trade agreements and loans to the tune of approximately $5Billion were signed off with China to rebuild the economy.

49.9% of the State owned company PDVSA was transferred to the Russian oil company, Rosneft, in the form of a $1,5Billion loan.

In 2018, the government expanded gold mining (in view of the fact that the Bank of England literally stole $1,36Billion worth of Venezuelan gold holdings) and other metals like nickel, diamonds, iron ore, aluminium and bauxite to Russian and Chinese mining companies.

The economy was heavily dependent on the import of its food and medicine supplies, thus policies were introduced to diversify the economy for the local Production of basic goods essential to the population; in turn reducing the country’s import bill and creating much needed local employment.

In August 2018 the government decreed that all international trade would be conducted in Euros and Chinese Yuan to bypass the US dollar system. In addition to this, a new internal currency, the Sovereign Bolivar was introduced. This would subsequently be pegged to a Cryptocurrency, the Petro, which would be equivalent to the value of one barrel of oil.

The government is in the process of removing its dependence from the Western backed SWIFT International trade system, by adopting the new Chinese system of trade, the CIPS (Chinese International Payment System). 

And then there is the Constitutional decree; the Government has Gazetted the Chavez proposal of a Constituent Assembly that transfers Constitutional power to the people. By means of this political vehicle, a group representative of the electorate is now able to review and amend the Venezuelan Constitution that suites the greater populace needs. A big fuck you very much to their Imperial neighbors up North.

Conclusion

The United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) of Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro has won a total of 26 regional and national elections since Chavez came to power in 1998. This overwhelming success was repeatedly attributed to a majority vote of more than 70% of the electorate. Rumours of election fraud and vote rigging were nullified by the endorsement of the Carter Foundation and International Election Monitors who praised the electronic electoral system as the best in the world. Therefore, regardless of what the International community have to say of the Maduro Government, the electorate has the final say, and they have done so 26 times over. 

What Hugo Chavez thought was a brilliant idea of nationalizing the Oil Company PDVSA back in the nineties, turned out to be the Achilles heel of the Venezuelan economy. In hindsight very few measures were put in place to backup the oil industry in the event of a global downturn of the oil price. Although his intentions of ensuring the larger, poorer populace benefited from the production and sale of the country’s energy hydrocarbons (approximately 300 Billion barrels of oil and 5,6 Billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas), his economic policies were lacking in  detail of this noble intention. 

Coupled with a very low oil price and burdening US and European economic sanctions, his policy failures came to bear. With the largest oil and gas reserves worldwide, it’s clear why the US is salivating at regime change of the leftist, socialist government for a Western backed puppet that would satisfy their Imperial whims. Suffice it to say, it hasn’t and probably never will come to pass, because with Russian military and Chinese economic aid, the People of Venezuela aren't giving up just yet.


Thursday, 21 September 2017

The (Real) New World Order



Some time ago, I wrote about the intention of the Chinese and Russian governments to implement a global Financial system of payments for International trade as an alternative to the US Dollar, currently the preferred currency of trade and the reserve currency held by all Reserve Banks globally. In addition, the (Petro)Dollar is the primary unit of trade for all oil and gas producing nations (OPEC).

Suffice if to say, this whole system of the US Dollar having supremacy over any other currency for international trade was a wholesome illegal gambit enforced upon nations in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The US secretly entrapped the Saudi Arabian government (being the leading oil producing nation of OPEC at the time) into a deal that would see their government agree to trade oil and gas only in US dollars in exchange for protection by the US military against regional forces assumed to be bent on invading their Kingdom and stealing their natural resources. As a result of this cosy arrangement, ALL countries trading with Saudi Arabia (and subsequently OPEC) for hydrocarbons had to use the US dollar.  This system became extremely beneficial for the US economy, due to the fact that the Federal Reserve could print US Dollars ad infinitum regardless of what shape their economy was in. Ever heard of the term Quantitative Easing, Fiat currency?  As a result, the EU followed suite, and created the Euro currency as the preferred financial instrument of trade for all European nations in the EU. Thus, should the EU run out of Euros……just print more. 

Although the Dollar was backed by gold up until 1971 through the Bretton-Woods system of monetary management, a huge exodus from this system by various European states caused President Nixon to dump the system as well, in light of the express devaluation of the US Dollar, triggered by the Europeans' exit of this system. Thus, all currencies not backed by an alternative commodity became Fiat money. This system of free-floating currencies led to the illegal gambit plan with the Saudi’s. Consequently, international trade of commerce between all nations uncompromisingly morphed into the exclusive domain of the US Dollar, and only the US dollar. As mentioned, this was all totally illegal, yet ALL nations were forced to toe the line, why? Because Uncle Sam had everyone staring down the barrel of a gun (US military bases globally).  When Saddam Hussein and Muhammar Gaddafi tried to break free from the economic slavery of the US Dollar by selling their hydrocarbons in an alternative currency, they were taken out and their people were “liberated” by the US and NATO militaries to the extent of total catastrophic destruction of their countries; conveniently staged under the pretext of WMD and regime change. The US government also tried the regime change model with Syria for the same reasons, but the Russians would have none of it, and put a stop to their bullying.

The primacy of the US Dollar took a huge wallop recently with the announcement of the Chinese Government trading hydrocarbons only in Yuan backed by Gold. This comes off the back of the Russian Government similarly  enacting legislation, that trade in US dollars will cease at all Russian Seaports  unconditionally. Similar economic activity was brewing in Venezuela, after the US government arrogantly enforced crippling economic sanctions on the South American oil rich country. With new vast oil fields discovered in this country, its oil reserves have exceeded that of Saudi Arabia and are currently the leading producer in the OPEC group of oil producing nations.  The Maduro Government has declared that all trading partners with Venezuela would use the Bolivar with Gold as an alternative. This obviously pissed off the US big time, resulting in the Venezuelan government being branded a rogue nation who is starving and killing their people; another regime change model in the making, and a famous neocon wet dream. Countries like Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and most Eastern European nations are negotiating trade deals in alternative currencies other than the US dollar. All new Projects and Commercial trade deals between the BRICS countries (mainly Russia and China) and nations they trade with are negotiated in their own currencies backed up by a Gold standard. The US dollar as the preferred currency of trade is slowly bypassed as more countries are beginning to adopt the new system of trade.

At the UNGA-2017 (United Nations General Assembly), the Donald (Trump)
lambasted countries seen by the US as “rogue” nations or “An Axis of Evil”, referring to the nations of Syria, Iran, Venezuela and North Korea. There are no prizes for guessing why these countries are demonised and threatened with military intervention.{In the case of North Korea, it is the conduit passageway to containing and surrounding the Chinese.} The US government is well aware of the gradual collapse of their casino-style Dollar-based monetary system, therefore the pressure on them trying to contain the disaster results in the usual military style bullying by the smaller nations unable to defend themselves. This was the exact reason why the Russians intervened in the Syrian crisis in late 2015. The country has now been fully liberated and because the US lost that fight, they’ve now turned their sights on North Korea, Venezuela and Iran.  But, given that all three countries are recognized allies and strategic trading partners of China and Russia, the chances of the US stooges making any headway in destroying any of them is nothing but another stupefying neocon wet dream. The fact that China imports most of their oil from Iran and Venezuela, their safety from US military intervention is all but guaranteed.

Gradually, as the Western Dollar-backed financial system becomes less prominent, the Eastern model led by Russia and China gains traction with European and Asian nations slowly considering the alternative, and re-evaluating their options. All new trade deals forged with these two countries are finalized in currencies other than the US Dollar. That said, the amount of trade deals signed off at the European Economic Union Conference earlier this month, between attending nations, was equivalent to a staggering 400 billion US dollars. At the recent BRICS Summit in China, projects to the equivalent of $4,5 Billion were approved between these countries, and will be denominated in an alternative basket of BRICS currencies backed by, you guessed it, Gold.

I said this before, but will reiterate; as the US meanders along threatening nations, and spewing all kinds of hateful rhetoric at everyone that opposes their moronic agendas, Messrs Putin and Jinping are forging commercial trade deals with anyone interested in their vision of a Multipolar world, where no nation holds sway over another economically, politically, socially or militarily. This is the Real New World Order envisioned by the rising Superpowers of 2030.


Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Is Cryptocurrency the currency of the 21st century?


The first time I heard of Bitcoin was around 2009 through a documentary on an International TV News Channel. At the time the concept of cryptocurrency was barely discovered, and while watching the show, I brushed off the idea of buying into something that may not last beyond the year 2009.  At the time the currency was trading around one US dollar per Bitcoin. Since then, I didn’t bother pursuing or following the trend until recently when I heard Bitcoin was trading around US$4500 per bitcoin, and approaching US$5000 at lightning speed. That’s when I realized my utter stupidity for not buying and investing at least 100 US dollars in Bitcoin!

Cryptocurrencies are a relatively new digital financial instrument that has its trading platform entirely independent from traditional financial trading markets. The first cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, was developed in 2009, by Satoshi Nakamoto. Although the founder has never revealed himself to the public, the general consensus is that this name is just a pseudonym to hide the founder’s real identity. Why? Your guess is as good as mine. Digital cryptocurrency trading has grown with new currencies like Etherium, Zcash, Litecoin, Ripple, etc entering the market. The phenomenal growth in terms of trading price has grown with these currencies and out-performed the growth of traditional commodities, like gold or natural gas. So what are Cryptocurrencies, and why all the hype around it?

A Cryptocurrency is a digital currency that uses cryptography as a means of security in the exchange of this digital currency during trade. This cryptography in turn is also a means of creating new digital currencies based on complex algorithms processed by the Bitcoin application software.  Bitcoin was the first cryptocurrency that was created and traded through a digital trading market. The trading of Bitcoin is referred to as a Peer-to-Peer trading system for online payments that does not require a central authority or third party to vet or manage the transaction, as in the traditional trading market where brokerage firms manage your share trading. Bitcoins are generated or “mined” by miners with specialised computer hardware that processes transactions and packages them into a blockchain. A blockchain is a collection of linear, timestamped series of transactions formulated in a block. The blockchain is essentially a digital transactional ledger which is freely shared and is under no control of any regulatory body.

The Real value of Bitcoin & Crypto Currency [Source: Youtube -Beschrijving]

Bitcoins can be used to trade any goods and services. It is also a convenient investment vehicle through manipulation of its market price. Bitcoins can be used to trade in Forex and can be exchanged for any currency. It is a purely digital entity and has no physical appearance. It is usually stored in digital Wallets that are protected by Cryptographic signatures. All transactions, cryptographic signatures and Private keys are protected by sophisticated encryption algorithms generated by the Bitcoin application software. It therefore protects a transaction and currency from being traded to two different recipients.  

What is Bitcoin [Source:Youtube; WeUseCoins]


Due to the huge success of the Bitcoin, several other crypto coins have emerged on the market that offers additional trading services which are not offered with Bitcoin. Etherium cryptocurrency  has additional service offerings through their smart contract applications. Where Bitcoin’s primary function is Peer-to-Peer transacting, thus eliminating the middleman in the form of a Broker or trading entity, Etherium takes this one step further where application code can be developed to form contracts that, in essence eliminates any third party or middleman between two transacting entities. Thus, a smart contract can be developed to sell your house directly to a buyer without an intermediary of an estate agent or any lawyers. This naturally reduces additional expenses and time incurred through these middlemen.
Source: Blockgeeks.com


There are several other Cryptocurrencies in circulation. As of July 2017, more than 900 cryptocurrencies were available for trading over the Internet. Bitcoin is currently the largest blockchain network with a market capitalization of 75 Billion US Dollars. The total market capitalisation of all cryptocurrencies is around 175 Billion US Dollars. The purposes for development of these cryptocurrencies varies from servicing the legalized Cannabis community in the US (Potcoin) to the trusted storage of any kind of small data, like DNS entries, KPIs, or SSL protocol data (Emercoin). There is even a cryptocurrency that services the adult entertainment industry, called Titcoin!

Trading in cryptocurrencies is available for trade in most countries globally, with a few exceptions like Saudi Arabia, Bolivia, Ecuador, etc. Due to the lack of a regulatory framework to govern the crypto markets, although it can be legally traded in most countries, there are specific restrictions of its trade for businesses and financial Institutions. Countries and regional Trade bodies do not have explicit systems that restrict, regulate, or ban cryptocurrency. The decentralized and anonymous nature of cryptocurrency has challenged many governments on how to allow legal use while preventing criminal activity. Most countries are still analysing ways to properly regulate cryptocurrency. Overall, it remains in a grey area as the technological breakthrough has left lawmakers at a loss for a feasible regulatory framework. Recently countries like Russia and China have moved to restrict its trade further so that a more rigid and manageable control can be formulated to prevent criminals from seeking a safe haven to launder and move illegal money around.

The key differences between Cryptocurrencies and your credit/debit cards when trading on the Internet are:

  1. There is no central bank that determines its value or controls the flow of new money being created.  Hence, there is no manipulation of the amount of money in existence by an institution, like the US Dollar  The US Dollar is controlled by the Federal Reserve, but cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, are controlled to produce an amount of coins limited by an algorithm that no single person, company or country or other type of interest can change.
  2. The value of a cryptocurrency is determined by the market .  Countries are not involved, so the welfare of your nation’s economy will not affect the value of your cryptocurrency.  The value of a true cryptocurrency is based solely on supply and demand and functions much like a commodity on the stock market.
  3. Cryptocurrencies command the lowest fees to transfer money anywhere in the world.  The fee is not affected by distance, or country borders.  
At the rate that this Industry is growing and the popularity it’s attracting, the Bitcoin may well be the currency of the future. Although there are some countries that refuse to recognize or allow the trading of cryptocurrencies, it is quite evident that this Industry is here to stay and will grow exponentially based on its current status and trajectory.


Wednesday, 30 August 2017

The Indispensable Nation and the Dear Leader

Image by Rob Rogers

North Korea is branded a rogue nation with their Dear Leader portrayed as a psychopath bent on destroying the US or any nation that criticises him or his alleged provocative actions. His persistent testing of missiles which are assumed to be nuclear capable ICBMs (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles) is condemned daily, by specifically, the US and its allies and perpetuated by a pliant mainstream media. The global perception, as a result of this condemnation and media frenzy, unsurprisingly categorizes the North Korean leader as an evil maniac itching to start another world war. On the face of it, the projected perception makes any logical thinking person agree with this status quo. But as in any situation, there are always two sides to a story, and this little story is no exception. 

The history of the North Korean/US relationship goes way back to the Korean War between North Korea/China and South Korea/US from 1950 through 1953. Near the end of the war, the US military ran amok on the Korean Peninsula, and wiped out approximately 30% of the North Korean population. Included in its vast arsenal of conventional weapons, chemical weapons (Napalm) were used in abundance. The amount far exceeded the quantity used in the entire Second World War by the US. The destruction wrought was a deliberate, horrific slaughter of men, women and children from a war mongering nation against another. In the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, only two buildings were left standing. A total of seventy eight cities were flattened.  The US only relented when the Chinese intervened. The North Koreans will never forget; and all its leaders since, have vowed never again would their nation be subjected to such brutality. Thus, it was agreed that the only way they could protect themselves from such brutality was to create a deterrent. Hence, the North Korean Nuclear arms programme.

Since the Korean war, the US maintained up to 54 military bases in South Korea,  but eventually scaling down to the current 16, with at least three on the border of the two countries. This excludes the bases stationed in Japan and the Island of Okinawa of which there are no less than 20. With these bases in South Korea, the US, in partnership with the South Korean military, conducts annual military exercises on the peninsula with a strategic focus of the “decapitation of Kim Jong Un and his Generals”; basically, regime change. As if that is not enough provocation, the US persistently overflies B-1B bombers over North Korea in “simulations” with their ally.  Suffice it to say, these B-1B bombers flies from a military base in Guam. This may explain the Dear Leader’s threat of a possible attack on Guam. A total of eleven such overflights had occurred since May 2017. The simulation exercises for this year, bizarrely named Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, is taking place throughout this month of August, and includes the militaries of South Korea (50, 000 troops), Australia, Canada, Netherlands and Japan.

By now you are probably wondering why the US is threatening and bullying a small country like North Korea with a population of only 26 million people. Without stressing the obvious fact that the US government is nothing but a schoolyard bully, who finds pleasure in picking a fight with small nations who are unable to fight back, (like Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Granada, Yemen), this is no exception, but with underlying strategic intentions.

Let me put this into perspective. North Korea is the only country in North East Asia that is not an ally of the US/West, but is instead aligned with China and Russia. China is North Korea’s number one economic trading partner, with Russia being the second. The US strategically wants total control over the East China Sea and the Sea of Japan in its bid to contain China’s influence in the region and in so doing have complete control of Regional Economic activity aligned with its own interests. The growth of the Chinese economy and the expansion of their regional influence (throughout Asia and Eastern Europe) have the US government pissing in their pants. The strategic partnership between Russia and China on all diplomatic fronts, has already gained significant traction in Eastern Europe and Central/South Asia through bodies such as ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations), SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) and the EEU (Eurasian Economic Union). The diplomatic relationships and trade partnerships forged between members of these Organisations are changing the political and economic landscapes in the region. For obvious reasons, the US and the West is doing whatever they can to derail this amalgamation of nations.


The Chinese have a standard military agreement in place with North Korea since 1961, in that, should the North Koreans be attacked militarily, the Chinese are obliged to assist militarily. Conversely, should the North Koreans invoke a military provocation and start a war, the Chinese would be neutral. The tense stand-off of the US/Korean crisis, has seen China and Russia call for restraint on both sides and urged the US to refrain from their provocation with their military exercises in exchange for Pyongyang suspending their missile tests. The latest missile test by Pyongyang is a direct response to the persistent military exercises by the US and its allies. Yet, only one side of this situation is covered by the mainstream media with the US playing the victim amid threats of full scale war against North Korea. However, all this rhetoric, sabre rattling and hubris coming out of Washington will amount to nothing lest they forget the implications of starting a fire fight with the Dear Leader.