FILE PHOTO - “Tianguis de Tlateloco” Mural by Diego Rivera inside Mexico’s National Palace
A Victor’s Narrative
The narratives we are given about the state of civilization in the continent later baptized America is a narrative designed to obscure the truth of one side in favor of another. Our text books refer to it as the “New World” and to the first Western European arrivals as “settlers”. These terms elicit a certain imagery in our minds of virgin lands, unperturbed by man until the “Christians” came.
The superiority of European technology and culture was such – the story goes -, that the genocide, ethnic cleansing and erasure of indigenous culture, which followed was an inevitable consequence of contact. It follows an accepted line of Western thought, which states that the “victor” always writes history. But, the concept of victory, itself, is part of the things that separate these two sides of the world.
Few dare question the narrative. Indeed, most are not even aware it is a narrative at all. It is simply assumed to be a historical fact. Should it be challenged, many will instinctively come to its defense with vitriol and utter contempt for whoever has the gall to inject even the slightest doubt into the conqueror’s tales. They will point to the brilliant scientific discoveries and technological breakthroughs, like genetic sequencing and the moon landing, as proof of their civilization’s clear primacy and advantages.
Defenders of the narrative will rally around these ahistorical claims, shrouded in racial supremacist thinking and take them as gospel. The cumulative effect of knowledge transfer over the course of millennia between multiple civilizations completely escapes them. And it is no wonder, since this too, is a feature of the narrative of so-called Western civilization.
The idea that “rational” thought and the fruits of the Enlightenment are part of an unbroken civilizational lineage, that stretches back to Ancient Greece is nothing more than part of an overarching theme of the birth of “Academia” emerging out of 19th century Germany, where the modern-day seminary-style university model was developed. Martin Bernal dispels this myth in his seminal, two-volume work, “Black Athena – The Afro-Asiatic Roots of Western Civilization”.
Another oft-repeated refrain are the radical improvements in life-expectancy and medical advancements brought forth by our White brethren. And indeed, Europeans’ life expectancy and general health did improve dramatically as a result. But, here’s the part that is ignored: It was Europe that was sick and dying, struck by the plague and chronically ill. It was their societies, which were failing and caught in a spiral of death and wars of attrition.
What they found on the other side of the Atlantic were thriving, healthy civilizations living in harmony with their environment. So healthy, that the diseases carried by the invading foreigners killed them by the millions because they had never been exposed to them. Just like the rats carrying the bubonic plague into Europe, European “settlers” brought sickness into the Amerindian societies.
Columbus and all who followed him also found copious amounts of food and agricultural technologies, that supported populations in the millions. Crops in varieties and numbers unheard of in their pastoral homelands. Vegetables, fruits and nuts in such abundance, the “Conquistadors” could barely believe their eyes.
When Hernán Cortez wrote about “El Nuevo Mundo” to his royal benefactors in Castile, he was literally describing a new world. A world that represented nothing less than a lifeline for a decaying world, rife with war, hunger and disease.
It is, perhaps, one of history’s greatest ironies, that Western Europeans would sail thousands of miles across the ocean with their horses, swords and guns under the banner of Christianity, purporting to bring salvation to a “savage” people.
Revisiting the accepted historical narrative, even superficially, reveals this to be a classic case of projection. The ones who needed saving were the Europeans themselves and it was the Native people of the American continent who saved them.
A Retelling in Time
Narratives are important. It is the stories that we tell ourselves, which determine the actions we ultimately take. As we stand on the threshold of an environmental catastrophe, we are beginning to understand that our actions are leading us down a dangerous road. It is in these moments, that we must re-examine our motives. We have to revisit the narrative and identify the points that are not congruent with our reality.
The climate disaster, which is presently unfolding on this planet is the consequence of the same unsustainable way of life that led to the near collapse of Western European civilization at the dawn of a renaissance underwritten by Native and indigenous people.
Our increasingly polluted rivers, oceans and air; the rampant deforestation and resource extraction; the unsustainable fossil fuel energy paradigm that is not only driving wars around the world, but is also causing our atmosphere to warm and threatens to extinguish life on earth as we know it. These are all manifestations of the same spirit that crossed the Atlantic 500 years ago as a self-destructive civilization survived its imminent demise by leaching off of societies working successfully to reach an equilibrium with nature.
A Call to Action
My documentary Ghost on the Water revisits the Colonial narrative in order to expose the lies we continue to tell ourselves about how we got here and where all this is leading us. If you feel this is a worthwhile endeavor, consider making a contribution so we can continue production:
American actor Marlon Brando (1924 - 2004) listens as an unidentified actor speaks close to one ear in a still from the film, 'The Godfather,' directed by Francis Coppola, 1972. (Photo by Paramount Pictures/Courtesy of Getty Images)
Snakes in the Grass
Jeanne Humphreys’ beautiful home at 210 Harbor Drive, Key Biscayne, Florida had a snake problem, but a recent trip to Jamaica had given her some food for thought. She learned that farmers on the island had introduced the mongoose into the local fauna to fight a snake infestation during the 1870’s. Curly Humphreys’ wife found herself thinking about the snake-killing carnivores one night at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach and innocently broached the subject with her husband’s associate and friend, Johnny Rosselli.
“What do you know about the word mongoose?” She asked Rosselli.
Shocked by the question, the gangster balked. “Are you crazy?”, Rosselli inquired before nearly spilling the beans on the CIA’s top-secret plot to kill Fidel Castro, in which he and Jeanne’s husband, were deeply involved.
“This Castro stuff is OK’d by the G [U.S. government]. We’re not supposed to talk about it”, Rosselli protested. “I can’t believe believe Curly would talk about such a thing.”
Jeanne Humphreys had no idea what Johnny was talking about and, wondered aloud what Castro had to do with the snakes in her front yard. Realizing his mistake, Rosselli asked Jeanne to keep it to herself. “Look, I just fucked up.” He said. “Please don’t tell Curly.”
The plot was the brainchild of then Vice President, Richard Nixon, who was angling for the presidency and calculated that a coup in Havana would get him there. After the scheme was hatched at a National Security Council meeting in the Spring of 1960, Nixon encouraged his military aide, General Robert Cushman, to meet with exiled Cuban militants and put a group together for its execution. Originally called Operation Pluto, the plan’s name was later changed to Operation Mongoose and it called for the invasion of Cuba and the assassination of Fidel Castro along with his top retinue of revolutionaries.
“I had been the strongest and most persistent for setting up and supporting such a program”, wrote Nixon, years later. But, the ragtag collection of exiles didn’t inspire the greatest confidence in the planners, and the decision was made to enlist the help of Johnny Rosselli, Curly Humphreys and a handful of other mobsters from the Chicago Outfit.
Murray “Curly” Humphreys was the brains of the Chicago mob, otherwise known as The Outfit. His intellectual abilities would help them outmaneuver many a legal problem. But, one particular maneuver was such a stroke of genius, it would be enshrined in the most celebrated film in American history – The Godfather.
“I refuse to answer on the grounds that it might incriminate me.”, was the phrase crafted by the brilliant, former jewel thief to repel the onslaught of questions by U.S. Senators during the United States Senate Special Committee to Investigate Crime in Interstate Commerce, known as the Kefauver Committee. Over and over, Outfit members called to testify simply repeated the mantra, to the immense frustration of the dais.
The Committee called eight hundred witnesses in fifteen cities across the country during an eleven-month-long investigation, that resulted in more than 11,500 pages of testimony and must-watch TV. First broadcast in New Orleans, the hearing’s popularity soon drew in the big markets of New York and Los Angeles, among others. The record ratings attained during the 1950 World Series a year earlier were shattered, attracting between 20 and 30 million viewers. Committee Chairman Estes Kefauver became a household name and, at one point, the front-runner for the 1952 Democratic presidential nomination.
Nevertheless, none of the nineteen legislative recommendations issued by the committee’s report were ever implemented, and Kefauver himself, was found to be an avid gambler who was constantly broke as a result. Jewish mob boss, Meyer Lansky, confronted the hypocritical Senator. “What’s so bad about gambling?, asked the infamous New York Commission boss, “You like it yourself. I know you’ve gambled a lot.” Kefauver admitted as much, but revealed his true bigoted motivations in his repsonse: “That’s right, but I don’t want you people to control it.”
Forty-six “contempt of Congress” citations were issued during the hearings over the mobsters’ repeated use of Humphreys’ legal device. Only three were upheld by the courts. An incredible victory for the man who invented ‘Taking the fifth’, immortalized in Francis Ford Coppola’s seminal film.
The Godfather movie, itself, was a tribute the mob – which controlled most of Hollywood then – made to itself. Paramount producer Bob Evans had the rights to Mario Puzo’s novel and was unceremoniously turned down by MGM president, Jim Aubrey, when he tried to accommodate Coppola’s choice for the role of Michael Corleone – an unknown actor with an “unbreakable” contract with the competing studio, named Al Pacino. Undeterred, Evans sought help from Tinsel Town’s notorious fixer, Sidney Korshak.
“He never heard of the schmuck, either.”, recounted Korshak to Evans about how he dealt with the reluctant Aubrey. “I asked him if he wanted to finish building his hotel.”, said Korshak. The thinly veiled threat was enough for MGM to release Pacino from his contract and allow him to play the part, which would establish him in as one of the biggest names in the business.
A Fucking Hoofer
The Outfit’s incursion into the entertainment industry had begun after the end of Prohibition forced them to find other rackets to grow and launder their fortunes. The movie business, with its massive budgets and licensing opportunities, was the perfect vehicle. But, before film, the mob had taken over the music industry and bankrolled many of its brightest stars. Frank Sinatra was, perhaps, the brightest of them all.
The mob not only made Frank Sinatra, but also saved his career when it was foundering in the early 1950’s. Despite his marriage to Hollywood A-lister, Ava Gardner, Frank’s bid to jump-start his career again by getting a part in Harry Cohn’s upcoming movie, “From Here to Eternity”, was falling flat with the producer, who wanted a real actor for the part. “You’re nothing but a fucking hoofer”, Cohn told the desperate crooner, who immediately appealed to his mob buddies for a helping hand.
In a scenario similar to the one, that would play out years later between Korshak and MGM’s Aubrey, Johnny Rosselli came to Frank’s rescue and made Cohn an offer he couldn’t refuse. The movie won a total of eight Oscars, with Sinatra taking home the award for Best Supporting Actor and a new professional lifeline.
Meanwhile, things were picking up over in Havana, Cuba; the very place where Sinatra’s career had been launched. Santo Trafficante, Jr. was making a killing in the revamped casino business in Havana, in league with dictator Batista, who made Trafficante’s partner, Lansky, “adviser on gambling reform”.
The Commission boss soon opened a casino inside the iconic National Hotel, designed by Igor Plevitski, who also designed The Biltmore in Coral Gables. Six years earlier, a historic meeting between the biggest mafia bosses took place at the legendary hotel. Yet another pivotal moment also dramatized in The Godfather, when the heads of all the families gathered at the National to discuss something that was left out of the classic film – their participation in a highly classified, CIA-sponsored operation. Just before the mob summit, Frank Sinatra landed in Havana with two million dollars in a suitcase for the CIA’s point-man, Lucky Luciano.
Charles “Lucky” Luciano was recruited by CIA-precursor, OSS in 1942 to ostensibly safeguard New York harbor from acts of sabotage by the enemy axis. After being convicted to 30 years in federal prison for running a prostitution ring, Luciano was approached by undercover OSS agents , the precursor organization of the CIA, and offered a deal, that would mark the beginning of a far-reaching partnership between the U.S. government and the Sicilian and Italian-American mafia.
An argument can be made, that the CIA was created for the sole purpose of managing this partnership, which involved the creation of secret militias financed by world-wide heroin trafficking, called Operation Gladio.The meeting at the National Hotel in Havana was made to convince the Gambinos, Genoveses, Accardos and other top mafia families to get into the narcotics game, many of whom considered a dishonorable endeavor, and help Uncle Sam “fight communism”. The money Sinatra delivered to Luciano in Havana was part of a down payment he intended to distribute among the guests.
The Wrong Cuban
Cubans were becoming part of America’s collective consciousness, thanks in large measure to the “I Love Lucy” show, which featured the bongo-playing Ricky Ricardo, Lucile Ball’s real-life husband and the sitcom’s producer, Desi Arnaz.
Arnaz is credited with inventing the multiple-camera sitcom method, which made his production house, Desilu Studios, one of Hollywood’s most successful, at the time. In 1959, Arnaz had another hit on his hands. The Untouchables, a show about fabled law-enforcer, Elliot Ness and his mobster-chasing adventures, ran for four years on ABC and became one of television’s classic shows. But, the Italian-American community did not take well to the portrayal of their culture on the series and it drew special ire from the real crime bosses, who went after the producer.
Desi’s childhood friend had been none other than Sonny Capone, the only son of the legendary mob boss, Al Capone. It was Sonny who first complained to Arnaz about the problem he had stirred up, but Arnaz insisted he was the best person to make such a show because of his own personal connection to the subject matter. From there, the issue only escalated and Sam Giancana, nominal head of the Chicago Outfit, sent Frank Sinatra to talk some sense into the Cuban.
The conversation between Arnaz and Sinatra ended with the singer storming out and pulling all of his productions from of Desilu Studios. Outraged, Giancana dispatched two of his henchmen to remove Desi Arnaz from this earth. Al Capone’s widow, Mae, stepped in to call off the hit and Ricky Ricardo was spared.
As it turns out, the mob had been worried about the wrong Cuban. Fidel Castro was about to turn the mob’s Havana dreams into a nightmare as his revolutionary forces ousted Batista and his entrenched elite. With Eisenhower riding out the last year of his Presidency and more worried about how his legacy would be affected by starting a conflict 90 miles from the U.S. mainland, Castro caught a break.
Nevertheless, the calculation regarding Castro seems to have changed among the real policy-making circles of America, and Castro’s sudden take-over of the island was seen as more of a boon than a detriment to U.S. designs for the rest of Latin America.
Cuba, after all, had no value besides that of a playground for the rich. In terms of natural resources, for instance, it was hardly worth the trouble to invest any kind of man-power to the goal of regime-change, even if such efforts were comprised of disposable mobsters and Cuban exiles. On the other hand, having a communist boogie man they could wave around as a warning to those in the continent who dared to dream of self-determination was much more valuable.
The Snake Pit
After the fiasco in the Caribbean, the upper echelons of the mafia saw the writing on the wall and made the necessary adjustments. Trafficante, Jr. cut a deal with the new island boss and gave Castro a piece of the bolita proceeds, a street-level gambling racket up and down the U.S. east coast. In contrast, Johnny Rosselli would go down with the ship.
Rosselli, like many of his Italian-immigrant brethren, dreamed of becoming full-blooded Americans. For him and his ilk, legitimizing their fortunes and joining the ranks of the “upperworld”, or the realm of sanctioned wealth creation, was also part of that aspiration.
He considered himself a patriot and his sincere commitment to anything the “G-men” would ask of him bore this out more than once. As far as Rosselli was concerned, he had reached the dream. Narrowly escaping fire from Cuban forces and twice having to jump out of speed boats during failed CIA-missions in the Caribbean, Rosselli had the war stories to prove it.
The era of the “Goombahs”, however, was coming to a close. The new RICO laws were successfully used to dissolve the crime family model in the United States. Rudy Giuliani, future Mayor of New York and Italian-American son, was the first and most prolific prosecutor of the mafia under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, passed in 1970.
In 1976, Filippo Sacco’s decomposing body – Johnny Rosselli’s real name – was found in a 55-gallon steel drum floating near Miami, Florida after he had been called to testify before the Church Committee for a second time about who had killed Kennedy. As it turned out, Johnny Rosselli had a snake problem of his own and would have been better served by following his friend Curly’s advice all those years ago and taken “the fifth”.
The real scope and implications of what Rosselli was lending himself to, through his participation in the anti-Castro plot and other deep state operations probably escaped him and other members of the Outfit who were a part of them. Ultimately, they were pawns in a covert war that continues to this day, under different guises and with different players.
If you would have carried out a poll in early November of 1963 about who was most likely to be assassinated that month between the President of the United States and Fidel Castro, the final tally would have likely tilted toward the latter. The fact that the bearded, cigar-smoking revolutionary remained in power for another five decades should tell us something.
The Cuban exile community blames Kennedy for the failure of the Bay of Pigs. But, it is clear that a decision had been made by more powerful, invisible players to keep Castro in power. The same ones who made the decision to remove Kennedy, and his entire mob-connected family, from it.
The scramble for power between the time of JFK’s assassination and Nixon’s resignation almost a decade later, was real. America’s post-war superpower status was seriously threatened by the Arab oil embargo. The Vietnam war and other internal strife had frayed the social fabric of the country.
Concurrently, Operation Gladio was unraveling in Europe and the usefulness of the CIA’s partnership with the mafia was becoming a liability. Luciano’s Sicilian networks and their affiliation with CIA-sponsored right-wing terrorists were being exposed by Italian law enforcement and attracting unwanted international attention. The whole house of cards was starting to come down and it would have, had it not been for the operation’s success in Afghanistan, where the Soviet military was exhausting itself fighting Gladio-financed Mujahidin led by one Osama Bin Laden.
Despite teetering on the brink of collapse, “anti-communism” was still fungible currency in American political theater, which could be traded for lowering protectionist barriers and other obstacles to U.S. interests at home and abroad. Fidel Castro, as a gatekeeper for an economic embargo that destroyed the lives of the Cuban people – not to mention a clear and present “nuclear threat” to the region, represented a valuable hegemonic tool for these same interests.
Sleep with the Fishes
The mob developed Hollywood’s proof of concept and built the industry’s SOPs. Today, the CIA and the Military Industrial Complex exerts direct control and oversees the messaging of almost every theater release; especially in the superhero/comic movie genre, which is little more than war propaganda.
The Cuban Missile Crisis and Ricky Ricardo are two sides of a false dialectic. Nuclear annihilation or Merengue; starvation or dinner with Ethel and Fred. The ‘TV-fication’ of America allowed simple yes/no narratives to be delivered right to the viewers’ prefrontal cortex.
Today, the ‘Internetification’ of America is bypassing even this step in the flow of perception and taking it straight to the limbic system, where discernment is an afterthought and the need for a narrative is eliminated altogether.
It’s smack in the middle of Winter, but yesterday was as hot as a Summer’s day in Miami and the VIP’s slated to sit in the bleachers behind the President had been standing in the scorching weather, dripping sweat under the suits and makeup for hours. The only respite turned out to be a garden hose, fortuitously attached to a spigot on the wall, which a few of the less self-conscious invitees used to splash their faces and take long, refreshing drinks.
“One line!”, was the repetitive refrain shouted by the Miami-Dade Police contingent assigned to door #3 of the Ocean Bank Convention Center in FIU, as they tried to move the Very Important People backwards to facilitate the seemingly interminable security screening process happening inside the air-conditioned paradise just through the double-doors. Most of the guests pretended not to understand the instructions, feigning a language barrier to avoid losing their spot.
The surprisingly small venue began to fill out by three in the afternoon. Soon thereafter, three people ascended the stage. One led those present in a prayer, another followed with the Pledge of Allegiance and, finally a third delivered a slightly over-the-top rendition of the National Anthem to get the political performance underway.
Setting the Stage
I have never seen former Florida Governor, and now Senator Rick Scott so animated. He almost seemed human, projecting a commanding stage presence and flawlessly executing his messaging behind that podium. There’s no doubt that speech writers and coaches at the federal level are a cut above. Unfortunately, all that good work was somewhat diminished towards the end, when he reverted to his bad habit of addressing Hispanic crowds in his stabbing attempts at Spanish.
Ultimately, though, it was about one thing: Socialism is evil. Maduro is evil, because socialism. Socialists commit evil by simply drawing breath. Evil, thy name is socialism.
This was the premise for every speaker who followed, up to and including the President of the United States. “Little” Marco Rubio whom Trump would call a friend and an expert about Cuba and Socialists, in general, came out to deliver his own variation on the theme of the evils of socialism. He started issuing ultimatums to the Venezuelan military, whom – he said – had until Saturday to decide whether they wanted to cooperate with the Atlanticist’s dictums regarding the delivery of so-called “humanitarian aid” or become fugitives from justice.
Newly elected Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, made an appearance, as well. He also exhorted the Maduro regime to step down and provided his own list of grievances against evil socialists around the world, blaming the ideology for the “starving Venezuelans” and other distorted pictures painted about a country, whose economic woes have been imposed not by Socialist policies, but by direct economic warfare from the Atlanticist block.
After these relatively minor political celebrities, National Security Advisor, John Bolton, took to the stage and sealed the anti-socialism narrative with his trademark phrase – designed to create a media-ready soundbite, which can be drilled into the mainstream consciousness. Bolton, who just might be a cloned Mark Twain, pointed his accusative finger to Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua – The “Troika of Tyranny”. Catchy. Also the three countries, which happen to be the places of origin of the most prominent exile communities in Miami.
Everybody was expecting Bolton to finally introduce the man of the hour, Donald Trump. The hour, however, had originally been 4 o’clock and we were well past by this point. Instead, he pulled what looked to be – at first – a stroke of crowd-pleasing genius when he announced that none other than Juan Guaidó, the self-sworn President of Venezuela was there to speak to them.
The audience’s surprise and excitement was palpable, but soon fizzled when it became apparent that Guaidó wasn’t actually present and that the video of him coming through the big screens wasn’t even a live feed, but a run-of-the-mill, pre-recorded message made in an undisclosed location somewhere in Venezuela.
The Guaidó speech was over quickly and thereafter, the stage sat empty for a good three-quarters of an hour or more. The rally-goers were free to mull over the opening acts and their main takeaways: Socialism is evil; Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua are run by evil socialists; and don’t vote for evil socialists in the United States.
The main attraction had to wait until a few local luminaries arrived fashionably late and took their places in the reserved seating area stage left, along with the previous speakers. Among the special guests were the Mayors of the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County, Francis X. Suarez and Carlos A. Gimenez. Mario Diaz-Balart, who had just been in Cúcuta, Colombia with fellow Senator, Marco Rubio, making threats against a foreign military also took his seat.
Finally, The Rolling Stones were muted for the announcer’s voice.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the First Lady of the United States
You know that when Melania deigns to visit, the fashion and political stakes are higher. True to form, the First Lady dazzled in a white dress with a colorful “Latin American-ish” pattern. She was led down the catwalk by Trump and after a few twirls for the crowd, took center stage at the podium to deliver a short, trite speech like a regular beauty pageant contestant.
Her husband, much like a pageant host, followed up with compliments for his wife and egged on the audience to back him up on her physical attributes as she walked back to her spot in the reserved seating area, waving at the people.
Donald Trump would now bring it all together. The red hatted crowd held up their iPhones and their multi-colored flags. The evils of socialism had marinated. It was time for the Commander In-Chief to expound on the concept and accentuate the narrative with emotional cameos by for the Venezuelans in the room – the mother of a man killed by Maduro forces and exiled Venezuelan politician David Smolansky.
The Atlanticist-created crisis in Venezuela dovetails with the incumbent’s strategy for 2020 and what happened yesterday at FIU was nothing less than the President’s inaugural campaign speech.
Miami will be a republican stronghold, as always. It is, after all, the refuge of the oligarchs who were thrown out of their own countries when popular uprisings and revolutions reversed their multi-generational fortunes, built on the backs of exploited underclasses.
They are the politically expeditious demographic who are pandered to every election cycle and, now, also serve to advance a foreign policy goal, which has nothing to do with the “freedom” and “democracy” being peddled at these type of events.
“The communists are coming” has been used for decades to win votes and commit crimes against humanity. It’s an old and tired MO. But, it still works here, just blocks away from Calle Ocho where the voting base continues to drink from the same political poison well.
Italian authorities were on the trail of Roberto Calvi and the Banco Ambrosiano’s irregular activities, oblivious to the incredible chasm of corruption, blood and terrorism that lay open just behind him. Founded in 1896, the bank had cultivated a pristine reputation as a model of integrity and independent governance, thanks to its policy of restricting the total amount of stock any single entity could own in the institution to 5%. Calvi had created a web of shell companies with myriad subsidiaries to get around these limitations, and by such means attained 16% control of the bank on behalf of the Vatican.
When the scandal broke all over the Italian press, the Pope himself was implicated in a conspiracy so large and dark, that even the most audacious spy novelists would balk at the premise. A wide-ranging Masonic fraternity called P2, comprising hundreds of powerful government figures and mobsters, was exposed as a central mover in the multi-billion-dollar scandal. Even high-ranking Vatican officials were part of the fraternity – a violation of Church tenets.
Banco Ambrosiano’s long-established good name had been tarnished beyond recovery, but the Milan-based institution’s role barely scratched the surface of a far bigger and much more sinister reality emanating from the deep recesses of post-World War II America; a burgeoning superpower intent on asserting itself on the rest of the world, bleeding from the shores of the Mediterranean all the way to Latin America.
Dubbed “God’s Banker”, Calvi was in charge of laundering billions of dollars generated through world-wide heroin trade networks established years earlier by the CIA and its precursor agency, the OSS. Allen Dulles, future Director of the CIA, and his spy mentor “Wild” Bill Donovan, devised a plan at the conclusion of World War II to prevent – as claimed – a Soviet invasion of Europe. The concept revolved around recruiting Nazi officers and other extreme right wing elements to form so-called “stay-behind” units throughout the old continent, stationed clandestinely in several countries ready to act on a moment’s notice. They called the operation “Gladio”, and though the awaited red invasion never materialized, the services of the covert militias, who stashed CIA-provided armaments in thousands of secret locations, were requisitioned on multiple occasions as the need to quash left-leaning movements arose.
Calvi’s boss, Michele Sindona, had been the first to establish and manage the laundering networks for the IOR (Instituto per le Opere di Religione), the Vatican’s invisible bank, through which all drug trade, arms sales and miscellaneous illegal profits were funneled. His vast connections to the Sicilian mafia made him the perfect go-between in the early days, but Calvi’s more sophisticated knowledge and financial creativity offered Gladio the necessary expertise to scale their ever-increasing thirst for dirty money. Calvi’s stealth takeover of Banco Ambrosiano was a salient example. Sought out for its solid reputation, he would go on to open several international branches of the bank to facilitate the movement of Gladio-destined funds around the world. Among the places Calvi incorporated these brass-plate shells were Luxembourg, Nassau in the Bahamas and Managua, Nicaragua.
The Heart of Liberation
Anastasio Somoza Debayle ruled the small Central American nation of Nicaragua the way any scion of a foreign-backed, generational ruling family would. Protected by Washington from the start, Somoza had little to threaten his fiefdom. As long as his benefactors in Langley, Virginia and the U.S. State Department gave their tacit approval, there was no manner of corruption or repression he wouldn’t avail himself of to remain in power.
Agrarian movements and peasant revolts were ubiquitous in the entire region. Nicaragua was no exception. The Sandinistas had always been a thorn on the side of Somoza, but had little chance of mounting a successful revolution as long as American interests remained steadfast behind the dictator. But, the rise of left-leaning groups and political factions were a predictable consequence of the oppressive presence of U.S.-sponsored, right-wing dictatorships not only in Nicaragua, but all over Latin America. Most concerning for the Gladio intelligence clique, however, was the emergence of a grassroots religious movement, led by local Catholic bishops and clergymen called Liberation Theology.
To the immense consternation of a Vatican leadership, which was fully invested in the suppression of leftist ideologies and the imposition of conservative, right-wing governments in Italy and all over Europe, Liberation Theology began to draw a great number of advocates within dioceses all over Latin America. The concern was, of course, shared by their partners in the CIA who aided the Vatican in the subsequent persecution of priests, nuns and other members of the clergy who supported the movement through the already established, transnational spy network known as Operation Condor, centrally relayed through Southcom headquarters in Panama.
Spurred on by his superiors at the top of Gladio’s hierarchy, Roberto Calvi created a web of corporate fronts in different countries to facilitate the flow of black funds from the IOR to Latin American dictators, in order to round up, incarcerate and kill tens of thousands of dissidents. Argentina’s “dirty war” was only one of the operations of state terrorism financed by the Vatican/CIA nexus, which slaughtered, kidnaped and tortured over 30,000 people. Among Argentine dictator Videla’s informers was one Fr. Jorge Mario Bergoglio, then the Provincial General of the Jesuits, better known today as Pope Francis I.
By the Skin of their Teeth
Years later, when the noose was tightening around Calvi as Italian judge Carlo Palermo uncovered more and more of the astonishing truth, Gladio’s financial wiz wrote a letter threatening to expose the Vatican’s deep ties to the murderous state repression unleashed by the coterie of military dictators halfway around the world, revealing that he had been tasked with creating:
an effective politico-religious penetration into secular society by securing control over banking institutions. The enormous importance of what I just said induced me to incur debts in foreign currency in order to buy Banco Ambrosiano shares in sufficient quantity to guarantee IOR control over the institution… On more than one occasion, I believed that my life was at risk as I rushed from one Latin American country to another, seeking to oppose the ferment of anticlerical ideologies. I did my upmost in every sense even to the point of concerning myself with the supply of warships and other war material…
The gauntlet was about to come down. Ambrosiano’s collapse was opening leads Italian law enforcement might think twice about before following them. Carmine “Mino” Pecorelli, the Journalist who first published the P2 member list, was promptly murdered. Judge Palermo was nearly killed when a car bomb exploded just as he was arriving at the office he opened in Sicily to continue his probe, and the head of Italy’s Military Intelligence, Guiseppe Santovito – whom Palermo had arrested and was scheduled to be interrogated by Italian investigators – was killed in his holding cell. The real culprits behind Italy’s “days of lead” were being exposed as right-wing Gladio saboteurs and not communists, as was propagated by those same Gladio networks. The CIA saw the writing on the wall and started leaving its partners in the lurch. Michele Sindona was indicted in New York and convicted after a convoluted attempt at a staged kidnapping, which ended up exposing even more P2 members and widening the net for Italian prosecutors, who would eventually try and convict over 72 members of the Sicilian mafia in connection to Gladio.
As the 70’s rolled around, several other factors began to interfere with the smooth execution of the operation. The OPEC nations’ boycott following the Arab-Israeli war reverberated across the world economy and directly impacted Gladio’s cash sources, which stretched across different currency baskets.
President Jimmy Carter’s policies would also interfere with the international scheme. Carter ended support for the Somoza regime and opened the door for the Sandinista revolution, which ultimately drove the U.S.-backed dictator out of power.
Nevertheless, Gladio had managed an enormous victory as the USSR found itself hopelessly embroiled in Afghanistan, where the CIA had successfully created cells of radical Islamic militants to wage Jihad against the Russian-backed government of Afghanistan, going as far as recruiting African American Muslims through proxy organizations in the U.S. to go fight in the Gladio-created holy war.
However, the Sandinista takeover of Nicaragua and imminent collapse of the Italian Gladio networks, thrust the American deep state into damage control mode. George H.W. Bush, who along with Henry Kissinger, represented the top of the Gladio pyramid, mobilized their political machinery to take the White House. The infamous “October Surprise” was engineered through Gladio’s Turkish networks, which delivered weapon caches to the Iranian government in exchange for delaying the hostages’ release and putting the Reagan/Bush ticket in office.
Just months into the new administration, the first of two failed Gladio assassination attempts occurred when Bush family friend, Hinckley Jr. shot Ronald Reagan. Pope John Paul II, who had incurred the network’s ire by holding secret talks with the Soviets, was slated to be removed later that Fall.
Power By Any Other Name
Roberto Calvi’s body would be discovered dangling over the Thames river in London. Bricks would be found in his trousers – a Masonic signature. The Pope would miraculously survive the bullets shot at him by multiple Turkish assassins, belonging to the Grey Wolves Gladio unit and the capture of Ali Agca nearly derailed the planned cover story to blame communists for the attempted murder. Ronald Reagan survived, as well, but he was mentally weakened enough from the trauma, that Bush could operate just as well from the Vice Presidential office.
Soon after the former spokesperson for General Electric recovered from his bullet wounds, he officially declared narcotics a matter of U.S. National Security and the “War on Drugs” was launched in earnest. A few years later, the Berlin Wall came down and George H.W. Bush assumed power directly, moving Gladio into the second phase of operation in a post-Soviet world.
The War on Drugs is yet another manifestation of the original Gladio operation, designed to maintain American hegemony in Latin America, as well as subvert any attempt at self-determination by countries in the region.
Framing it as a battle between Capitalism and Communism allows factions to align themselves on either side of an ideological debate, that is in itself, false. On final analysis, this is all just a gambit of power. The ultimate goal is to consolidate resources and energy in the fewest hands. The right-left paradigm is a Hegelian dialectic, and who ever participates in it – no matter which side they fall in – simply furthers the final objective.
By the time the big name speakers were done and gone, the line of cars along 87th Avenue flanking the right southbound lane was still backed up for a quarter of a mile as more Venezuelans continued to arrive – hours late – to a12 o’clock-scheduled rally at Doral Central Park.
The energy of the crowd was decidedly lukewarm and never really numbered more than a thousand people at one time. Jose Antonio Colina, who leads many of these Venezuelan opposition events in Miami, was visibly frustrated with the people’s laissez faire disposition on this mildly hot Saturday afternoon and tried teasing them with jokes, at first. As the proceedings moved on, the attendees’ demeanor was not meeting with the former military man’s expectations. Eventually, Colina resorted to cheerleading at the top of his lungs over already booming speakers hoping, fruitlessly, to elicit a response in kind.
Some on the portable stage, towed there earlier, seemed to credit the weather via indirect remarks for the seeming lack of emotion. But, it was not particularly warm for South Florida standards and definitely far less humid than usual. No. This wasn’t a weather-related dud of a crowd. Perhaps, deep down, they all knew something was wrong.
A Telegraphed Coup
Few were caught off guard when Juan Guaidó swore himself in as president of Venezuela last week. The systematic attacks against the Maduro regime by the Atlanticist axis, led by U.S. economic sanctions, manipulation of oil prices and outright theft of sovereign assets in excess of a billion dollars have had the desired result in the South American country. Buttressed by sabotage from oligarchic factions within the country itself, which (contrary to Western media propaganda) control important business sectors, the nation’s economy has been brought to its knees. Guaidó’s “inauguration” was simply part of the same, ongoing subversive operation.
The usual suspects immediately declared themselves on Twitter, which seems to be the platform of choice for dissemination of Atlanticist discourse. Senator Marco Rubio came out ahead of the rest, throwing his total support behind the CIA-bred usurper and rallying the other pro-coup members of the house and senate. The Tweeter-in-Chief chimed in soon enough and the chorus began to regurgitate the party line around the globe. Brazil, recently fitted with their very own far-right, rich man’s populist was among the first countries to ratify the brazen affront to national sovereignty. A slew of aligned governments around the world followed in tow and the lapdog press has been treating Maduro’s downfall as a fiat accompli.
The reality, of course, is much different. Maduro remains in control as the Venezuelan military and a big enough base continues to support him. Washington’s de jure president has been appointing his cabinet while embassy hopping; hiding first in the American and then the Colombian embassy – as has been reported. Meanwhile, Maduro has offered to hold a dialogue with the pretender; a strange move for a so-called “dictator”. Guaidó, predictably declined to entertain the idea as such optics would ruin the pretense.
Speaking of pretense, all of it was dropped when Trump’s National Security Advisor, John Bolton, matter-of-factly stated America’s intention of taking Venezuela’s oil as ransom. Such imperialist candor is very 21st century, ushered in as it was by the controlled demolition of two skyscrapers and a CIA vault (building 7) and subsequent declaration of perpetual war. The real estate developer cum reality star Donald has taken it to the next level, of course. The “open conspiracy” is here and Venezuela is quickly becoming a case study on how the world’s only superpower plans on flexing its muscle hereafter.
Guaidó himself issued a formal request for a U.S. invasion of his own country within the first 24 hours of self-appointing himself head of the Venezuelan people, cloaking it as “humanitarian aid”. The news cycle, currently embroiled in another tabloid scandal involving high school yearbooks, has not kept us abreast of the progress of his request. But, we can be sure it is being processed.
Exiles in Arms
Almost from the get-go at Doral Central Park, a distinction was drawn between those who are waiting to return to Venezuela and those residing permanently in Miami; the latter being the largest contingent, by far. Jose Antonio Colina and later, exiled clergyman Jose Palmar, exhorted those present to keep resisting Maduro’s regime from afar.
Palmar fled Venezuela in 2018 via Mexico, after years of criticizing the Bolivarian government of Venezuela on social media and leading anti-government protests. The catholic priest claims he was arrested and tortured by state forces in multiple attacks beginning in 2014. According to Palmar, he became a target after exposing corruption in the state-run oil concern PDVSA back in 2007.
Given Venezuelans’ ubiquitous religiosity, the father’s emotive delivery managed to generate excitement behind the barricades. It was intended to set the stage for the political luminaries who were about to come on the platform and drive home the message of exile-to-exile solidarity.
First up was Juan Carlos Bermudez, Mayor of the city of Doral. Cuban-born Bermudez would lead off with references to the Cuban exile experience, assuming a paternalistic tone as he urged Venezuelans to follow the path laid down by his anti-Castro brethren. Bermudez showed no trace of topical awareness when he twice joked about assuming power in Miami-Dade County on account of Mayor Gimenez’ absence. Only his fellow grifters waiting under a small tent beside the stage laughed.
Next up came Miami-Dade Commissioner for district 12, Jose “Pepe” Diaz, who laboriously made his way onto the stage and continued with parallels between Venezuela and Cuba, though his shockingly unintelligible Spanish likely precluded anyone present from actually understanding anything he was saying. Florida Senator, Jose Javier Rodriguez, and Miami Mayor, Francis X. Suarez followed with similar talking points.
In between, a three-headed hydra of the new, pro-war left came on to deliver short, trite speeches. Recently elected Congresswoman, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, struggled to look up from her lengthy notes, while her congressional colleague, Donna Shalala, had nothing much to say beyond a smattering of embarrassingly jumbled Spanish words. Of the three democratic members of the federal government, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz was clearly the most prepared and seasoned speaker. Of the three – and possibly of all those present – she also has he most to gain from the events currently unfolding in Venezuela.
Wasserman-Schultz was just appointed to lead the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs. Her District (22) is home to a number of security firms with extensive links to the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and she has a long history of taking money from defense industry sources, including General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and BAE Systems.
Her demeanor on and off stage betrayed the importance she is giving this particular issue. At one point, she walked along the entire barricaded perimeter with her assistant, collecting photo ops with rally-goers. None of the other politicians did anything close. Just the fact that she used this event to build political capital foreshadows bad tidings, as we are left to wonder how she intends to spend it.
Surely, someone in the building only a few yards away can offer an educated guess.
U.S. Southern Command is the head of the spear in American interventions from the Caribbean to Tierra de Fuego. So, it was more than appropriate for this anti-Maduro rally to take place within earshot of Southcom headquarters in Doral. It’s unlikely that any of the people wearing Venezuelan flag colors that day understood where they actually were. Most Americans, to be frank, don’t know what Southcom is or does, either.
They don’t know, for instance, that when this military agency was headquartered in Panama, it played a vital role in assisting right-wing military dictatorships all over South America murder, torture and repress their citizens. Southcom was the central relaying point for intelligence on left-leaning political and social groups in the hemisphere.
They also don’t know, that a few decades ago it became the single lead agency in the interdiction of drugs both inside and outside of the United States. A much more comprehensive treatment of these facts can be found in my recently completed docu-series “Borderline – The Unhinged Truth About the Drug War”, which is streaming free online.
The so-called drug war, is intimately related to the events happening in Venezuela. As I posit in my series – far from being the failed policy alleged by many – the war on drugs is actually a tool of American hegemony in this hemisphere and beyond.
Accusations against the Maduro government of engaging in state-sponsored drug trafficking follow the same pattern utilized against any target country in the farcical drug war. More than once during the rally was the Venezuelan government branded as “Narcoterrorista”, an amalgam between narco-trafficking and terrorism emerging from the neo-con, post-911 perpetual war crew in Washington.
If an invasion of Venezuela does take place, it will be Southcom leading the way. Indeed, thanks to the drug war bilateral agreements signed by Venezuela’s closest neighbors, drug-war-trained troops are already lining up along their borders. It will also displace millions of people, creating an avalanche of refugees and placing undue pressure on neighboring states. Southcom has been preparing to manage an exodus of this magnitude since, at least, 2007 when they published “United States Southern Command Command Strategy 2016 – Partnership for the Americas”.
Unless the army has integrated psychics into their ranks, we should take this as a clear sign that there is much more than meets the eye to what is happening in Venezuela.
Ignorance of Treason is No Excuse
It might not be part of their conscious awareness yet, but the men, women and children who came out to support the Atlanticist coup of Venezuela on Saturday in Doral, Florida seemed to have a funny feeling about the whole affair. Their awkward silences and less than enthusiastic reactions when called to cheer Guaidó’s name revealed that, perhaps, in the back of their minds they don’t really believe this is the right course of action.
Regardless of the very real problems facing the Venezuelan people, much of it critically exacerbated by sabotage from without, the unabashed frothy-mouthed war hawks openly declaring their lust for Venezuela’s oil – the cornerstone of the country’s economy – might have given some of them pause.
After all, what will the future generations of Venezuela say of those who lent their support to the military invasion of a country they no longer call home, but still claim as their own and willingly handed over its most important natural resource to the invaders themselves?
If you were dropped in the middle of Mexico City, Buenos Aires or Bogotá and tried to find a Latin American, you would never come across a single person who described themselves as such. No matter how deep into Rio’s favelas or the most recondite parts of the Nicaraguan jungle you looked, such a creature would be more elusive than the Loch Ness monster.
Although coined by the French during their Napoleonic bid for a world empire the term has seeped, naturally, into the lexicon of the current and far more powerful global hegemon, the United States of America. Its purpose then was much the same as it is now: to homogenize a plurality and subsume separate and distinct peoples under a singular socio-political paradigm, based on etymology. Never mind that millions of the region’s inhabitants – the original ones, in fact – spoke and speak their own native languages, which are completely unrelated to the romance varieties imported from Europe.
Latin Americans, Latinos and the more recently concocted Latinx are all things, that only exist here in the house McDonald’s built; an expedient way to identify television market share, with no real social value. Second and third generation immigrants might adopt the format in public. But, behind closed doors, at family reunions and when they go back to visit grandma in the old country, nobody claims to belong to a contrived pan-lat-am diaspora. They are loyal to their own vocabularies and songs, unique to the places they come from.
The American penchant for lumping people from different backgrounds and cultures together is not new, of course. Their infamously bad grasp of geography is often on display and hardly draws any shame. On the contrary, they seem to relish it; as if not knowing where Peru is on a map is a sort of humblebrag display of domination.
Just yesterday, none other than the éminence grise of American broadcast journalism, Tom Brokaw, revealed his own cultural chauvinism when he tried to backtrack from comments he had made about Hispanics on a TV show. The comment itself calling on “Hispanics” work harder on assimilation, while reeking of MAGA-esque intolerance, was not particularly noteworthy or unexpected. It was his clumsy Twitterpology (yes, I made it up), that perfectly encapsulates my argument.
i feel terrible a part of my comments on Hispanics offended some members of that proud culture
Historians typically frame Simon Bolivar’s attempt to bring every nation of the Americas under one flag in a noble light. But, it was just another imperialist doing what imperialists do. I didn’t work then and no amount of Latin Grammy award shows will make it work now.
P.T. Barnum could not have imagined a more salacious character to feature on his marquee posters. Donald Trump doesn’t even need make up; the orange skin, discoloration around the eyes and the bright yellow hair already give him a naturally clownish appearance. The act itself is grotesque. The elephant man, himself, would struggle to cause such revulsion. But, any apprehension by circus-goers, would fail to overcome the irresistible urge to see, once and for all, if the lion will eat the lion tamer.
The 45th President of the United States is the greatest show on earth, and the mainstream media are cashing in day-in and day-out. The Don Lemons, the Rachel Maddows, the Sean Hannities and the Tucker Calrsons climb on their fiber-optic high horses nightly to deliver their inflammatory monologues and preside over faux-opposition panels while behind the big top, animals are whipped and starved in their cages. The business of empire continues unabated while the people are transfixed by the loudmouth on the pulpit. The real actions and persistent policies of the American government are completely ignored.
MAGA hats and border walls make for riveting campaign rallies in the poorly educatednooks and crannies of this nation. Promises to “bring back jobs” and restore America to shining beauty are nothing but empty rhetoric designed to maintain the pretense of a popular base; to keep the illusion of democracy alive and give the voices of political analysts that flavor of sincerity. Underneath the pomposity and vulgarity of the Piñata Don extravaganza, hides an increasingly worried contingent of powerful corporate interests trying to salvage a global investment trade regime, which has been slipping away over the last decade.
The Best Laid Plans
When the Berlin Wall came down in the late eighties, Western investment bankers, lawyers and assorted capitalist enterprises went to work on the world with a blowtorch and a pair of pliers. Decades of slogging through the slow, and – in their eyes – ineffective protocols of the Bern Convention and WIPO, spurred corporate American giants like Pfizer, IBM, Dupont among others to change the focus of world trade from goods and services to intellectual property rights, setting their sights on the ongoing GATT negotiations.
They attacked the Uruguay round of talks, led by Pfizer CEO, Edmund Pratt, and managed to introduce IP into proceedings with the Basic Framework document. Though only a modest gain, it marked a significant victory for American multinationals, most of which relied heavily on investment in research and development to drive growth.
Out of the ashes of GATT, that drew to a close after Uruguay, emerged the WTO. What followed was a deluge of bilateral and multilateral trade deals largely benefiting Western corporations, and a tiny clique of lawyers, who cornered the market on writing, executing and arbitrating any disputes arising from these deals.
Hundreds of trade deals would be signed over the following ten to fifteen years. Riding the post-cold war propaganda wave of MTV, blue jeans and Michael Jordan, the U.S. hooked country after country on onerous agreements, which stipulated private companies could sue sovereign governments over internal legislations or other national developments, which might infringe on their investments and patent protection rackets. According to a study published in 2012 co-authored by Corporate Europe Observatory and the Transnational Institute, the number of investment arbitration cases ballooned from 38 to 450 between 1996 and 2011.
Over the last several years, many countries have either reneged on existing deals or have simply refused to renew their relationship with Western corporate entities. African nations extricated themselves from these agreements altogether, terminating existing ones and issuing a moratorium on signing new ones. Meanwhile, Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela withdrew from the World Bank’s body, that administers trade disputes, the ICSID. Even Australia, a fellow Western nation, decided it would no longer include investor-state dispute provisions in its trade agreements.
The legal fees and the punitive judgments arising from the lawsuits pursued by corporations against sovereign countries can threaten the vital social services of many developing countries. Cases like Plama Consortium vs Bulgaria and Fraport vs The Philippines highlight the risk these legal fights pose to the sued nations’ populations. In the first lawsuit, although Bulgaria was awarded US$7m in legal fees, it remained on the hook for US$6.25m – which could have covered the salaries of over 1,700 nurses during a healthcare crisis, which was affecting the country at the time. The Philippines, was forced to spend US$58m to defend against two cases involving one plaintiff.
UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) found that legal and arbitration costs average US$8m. Adding insult to injury, “tribunals most frequently [require] parties to share tribunal and administrative costs equally and absorb their own legal fees”, which means that sovereign nations lose even when they win.
This secret tug of war between profit-driven behemoths and foreign national interests, which has been unfolding over the last few years never makes it to the nightly news in America. As usual, people are only fed narratives which will serve to sway public opinion, that will justify the necessary measures – whether the soft stick of economic sanctions or the outright use of Apaches and Cruise missiles.
The story lines are always simple and geared towards the common denominator. Even if Americans were so frivolous as to get behind the bombing of Brazil for better prices on tin for General Electric, it’s probably easier to make up a narrative of evil doers and bad hombres.
Lurking behind the “free trade” infrastructure is the other arm of the hegemonic beast, expressed alternatively as the drug war in Latin America or Western-funded terrorism in oil-rich Middle East. These are points of entry for the muscle when Western diplomats and arbitration lawyers fail to get their point across.
Donald Trump’s job is to signal to the world, on behalf of Western corporate interests, that the trade regime is not going as they wish and that all bets are off until the world gets back in line. In the meantime, the military-industrial complex is sharpening its knives and waiting for the go-ahead. The trade-dealer in Chief already has his marching orders.
Colin Kaepernick has just betrayed everything he ostensibly stood (or knelt) for by signing on to be the face of Nike’s recurring “Just Do It” campaign. In doing so, he becomes an ambassador for child labor and worker exploitation throughout the world.
Nike, which manufactures its athletic-wear through third-party contractors in Asia has come under fire many times over the years, for lax oversight, and tacit encouragement of their business partners’ exploitative practices.
In 1997, scandalous working conditions were revealed in Nike’s third-party manufacturing plants in Vietnam, when their government brought legal action against the contractors and Nike after dozens of employees reported mistreatment, wage tampering and even sexual molestation.
Jill Ker Conway, a Nike director at the time, tried to assure board members stateside, that the company was addressing the allegations and doing everything in their power to correct the situation, but she was caught more than once obfuscating the facts and even lying on national television.
Working conditions in Nike’s other operations in the region, such as China and Indonesia, have never been scrutinized in the same manner as a result of stricter controls over information and corporate protection by those nations. Vietnam, itself, is not exactly a bastion of the free press, but its particular history with the United States and struggle to resolve the ongoing tragedy of UXO (unexploded ordinance), which has claimed more than 100,000 Vietnamese victims since the end of the war, gives them a reasonable axe to grind.
Minimum wage in Vietnam back in 1997 was approximately $42 a month, a figure Nike contractors were undercutting. Even at this pay-rate, a $150 pair Air Jordans – a normal retail price at the time – would cost Nike $1.50 to make. Such margins are unheard of for most businesses, but for transnational corporations like Nike, slave-wage labor is the reason they can afford to pay millions for world-scale marketing campaigns like “Just Do It”.
Kaepernick is literally profiting from the worst of capitalism, while he dons the likeness of Malcom X and Fidel Castro on his shirt, and proclaims solidarity with the victims of police brutality in America.
Could it be a case of simple ignorance? Is Kaepernick just not aware of Nike’s history? In a sense, that really doesn’t matter. The fact that it IS Nike may make it more egregious. But, at its core, the problem is that he is leveraging a real and pervasive issue in the country, which he himself brought to the national consciousness, to make a buck.
Had he gone with Krispy Kreme doughnuts instead of Nike, it would hardly make a difference. The point is that everything he claimed to be about can now be called into question, and dismissed as nothing but an attention ploy and/or a lucrative business move.
He has made a mockery of Baltimore and Trayvon Martin, desecrated the image of true civil rights warriors like King, Robinson and Ali. What’s perhaps worse and more insidious is that he has given massive global corporations like Nike cover to pretend that buying their overpriced, slave-labor-manufactured products is some kind of action for social justice, as some people on Twitter are already implying:
On the flip side, you have the faux patriots, predictably taking the opposite end of the absurd narrative and are defacing or destroying their Nike merchandise, reinforcing the entirely false premise propagated by the flag-waving, Monday-morning quarterbacks, that denounce NFL players who won’t stand for the national anthem from their laz-y-boys.
Trump, of course, seized the political moment and drove a deeper wedge into the American people, who are now more polarized than ever. Both sides of the divide now uphold completely self-defeating positions, and are allowing further encroachment by the ever-strengthening corporate-government alliance.
Not only are police departments around the country increasingly turning to militarized tactics and equipment, but the tech giants – who’ve now successfully corralled the vast majority internet users in their centralized platforms – are implementing social-justice-flavored censorship strategies.
With this latest move, Nike is appealing to their uninformed, young customers whose brand awareness eclipses their historical awareness. They’re lining up and picking teams in a completely contrived, bogus game to the great detriment of society.
Colin Kaepernick is like a quarterback who throws an interception and starts blocking his own teammates to make sure the opposing team runs it back for a touchdown. Frankly, I wouldn’t want a guy like that on my team, either.
HOMESTEAD, FL – The detention and separation of families at the U.S.-Mexico border has sparked a swell of protests and marches across the country, as the mainstream media made this not-so-new problem headline news last week. The immediate outpouring of support for migrants and the, by now, predictable social media sniper fire from both sides of the proverbial aisle is part of a cycle, that began with the inauguration ceremony of Donald J. Trump as president of the United States.
Since then, the polarization of American society has been razor sharp, and its subsequent manipulation by complicit media organizations, a case-study of Goebellian propaganda tactics. Nevertheless, at the center of it all, is the American people’s cognitive dissonance regarding what their country actually does around the world. Hollywood and network television have conditioned generations to believe in the righteous, virtuous American profile. On the surface, between L.A. and New York city, this narrative is plausible enough. But, once the metaphorical stars and stripes engages with resource-rich nations outside its borders, a fog of ignorance descends upon Americans, who by-and-large have little understanding of how their government’s foreign policies affects the populations of the rest of the world.
On Saturday, June 23, over a thousand people gathered under the intense heat of one of the farthest reaches of Miami-Dade County – a stones-throw from the most biologically vibrant part of the Everglades ecosystem – to march a few hundred yards towards a detention center, where reportedly dozens of youngsters, intercepted with their families at the border, are being housed away from their parents.
Earlier that day, two politicians were given a tour of the facilities. Scandal-plagued Wasserman-Schultz, who’s running for Congress and Senate candidate Bill Nelson, who had been turned away the day before. Nelson’s opponent, and current governor of Florida, Rick Scott, has not weighed in on the matter. A third politician, Nicolas Kimaz, was there to meet the marchers, busy propping up his foam board campaign signs, which kept toppling over from the winds of encroaching rain clouds. Kimaz, is seeking to fill the seat for Florida’s 22nd district, which includes the site of the recent school massacre, Parkland, FL. After informing me, unsolicited, about his qualifications to speak about the issue at hand, due to his own experience as a child soldier in Lebanon, he told me – with no sense of irony – that he was in Homestead that day to condemn the political exploitation of the children detained in the compound behind us.
Right in front of the building in question, three senior citizens, had arrived early to set up their pro-Trump, pro-detention counter-protest ‘kiosk’. Recycling a few hand-made signs seen before at other Trump-related events in Miami, these die-hard Trump groupies sat comfortably on their portable lawn chairs, equipped with water to keep hydrated and umbrellas to shield them from the scorching sun. As they awaited the marchers, the men indulged in a few wise-cracks about the protestors who were still nowhere to be seen. They seemed to feel safe, surrounded by a half dozen police cruisers and, at least, a dozen Miami-Dade police officers – themselves somewhat more apprehensive as they decided the best way to cordon off the area. As storm clouds got closer and darker, one of the old men remarked that “God” was going to punish the marchers with what, at this point, looked like an inevitable deluge. A comment only possible from someone who’s never had to cross a desert with a child in tow.
The Flood of Humanity
The silhouette of cardboard signs and flags began to be distinguishable in the distance at around 5:30 in the afternoon. A wave of protestors started to make their way down 288th street; the heat mercifully subsiding as incoming clouds produced a canopy over the area. Monitored and followed by policemen on foot and motorcycle, the demonstrators marched past two enormous petroleum silos belonging to the Homestead Air Force base, located just north of the detention center.
Media presence was limited to a few local TV stations, but otherwise not significant. The crowd’s chants started to filter in, as the large multitude approached. Within minutes, the cul-de-sac created by police tape and parked cruisers was crammed with hundreds of protestors, with hundreds more following behind. Upon seeing the three Trump-supporters happily perched in front of the center, one of the marchers smartly suggested to a cop that they might want to remove them, given the numerical disparity between them and the imminent mob. The police officer agreed, in principle, but soon there would be no time to maneuver.
Just as the first flank of the demonstrators flooded the detention center’s entrance, many bringing stuffed animals and toys to leave at the gates, the skies opened up to a torrential downpour, which drenched everything within a 5-mile radius. Caught as they were between the anti-child detention horde and the actual child-detention complex, it would be a miracle if the three Trump supporters were able to save their signs from mother nature’s wet wrath. Unfortunately, I was unable to determine their fate, as I walked through the rainstorm hoping for a miracle of my own – that my expensive camera and lenses wouldn’t get soaked.
Ideals vs Reality
Thankfully, I reached the small roof cover of the gas station half a mile away with perfectly functioning photographic equipment. I took some last shots of the marchers, some of whom also took cover alongside me, while others continued on undeterred by the rain and thunder. These were essentially good people who felt the need to express their opposition to something they believe is wrong. The three Trump supporters, are good people, as well. They, too, felt the need to defend something they believe is right. Neither (for the most part), understand the reality, that has brought them here on this day to stand by their respective principles.
The foreign policy of the United States towards Latin America is a very complicated, but consistent regime of oppression and economic subjugation framed within the parameters of the Monroe doctrine, which basically claims everything south of the Rio Grande as the exclusive purview of American interests. Strategy and implementation have varied throughout the decades, but the ultimate goals of resource extraction, debt burdens or perpetual trade advantages have been achieved through the subversion of the political processes in Latin America, including direct interference in presidential elections and actively backing the region’s most repressive dictatorships, while assisting in the overthrow of many others.
America’s policy in Latin America over the last forty years has been dominated by the war on drugs, which has decimated subsistence economies and is largely responsible for the constant flow of migrants northward, in search of deliverance from the clutches of increasingly powerful drug cartels and the corrupt governments, which run their countries. The fundamental role, that the United States plays in this state of affairs is never examined by mainstream news sources, and rarely by anyone else.
In my documentary series “Borderline – The Unhinged Truth About the Drug War”, I break down how this so-called failed policy is really a vital tool of American hegemony. Part one details an event, which occurred in the northern Mexican state of Coahuila just a few years ago, and which shows the horrific reality that people only a few miles away from the border are facing.
The true scope and consequences of the U.S.’ foreign policy in Latin America are exposed as the series unfolds. I’m sure that at its conclusion, viewers will see the immigration crisis in America through a new, and more informed lens. I’ve included a special access link to part one at the end of this article, and I invite everyone to watch and share.
The Trump Sink Hole
Like Saturday’s washout, any energy we waste shaking our fists against Donald Trump or screaming our support for him, is energy that will never be used to address the real causes behind the problems that lie at our doorstep. Instead, we keep falling into the big, orange sink hole, because we lack the necessary information.
The children being separated from their families and detained in so-called “tender-age” camps are a symptom of a much bigger and systemic problem. Eight U.S. administrations have waged the disastrous war on drugs, year after year, decade after decade. Trump will continue to wage it. Hint: it’s not really about drugs.
BORDERLINE – PART ONE | Access Password: “borderlinepremiere”
MIAMI BEACH, FL – Trump nemesis, and former Mexican President, Vicente Fox Quesada delivered the inaugural keynote address in front of a few thousand guests, exhibitors, and invitees at the fifth iteration of eMerge Americas, one of the newest technology conferences in the country, focusing on Latin American and local tech startups.
Known for his straightforward style, and colorful language, Fox got right to the point, beginning with a soliloquy on what he called the “underground” threat to globalization. Citing Brexit and the separatist movement in Catalonia, he then singled out Donald Trump as the new driving force behind the sinister plot to break up the “progress” and “enlightenment” so far achieved by the breaking down of national barriers to trade and people.
Fox warned, with the tone of a man with inside knowledge, that President Trump was not revealing his true intentions to the American people.
Trump “Has not yet shown what is below the surface; has not clearly stated to the American people where he is taking this nation. He’s got a plan,” Fox said, “he knows where he’s going. But, I don’t think U.S. public opinion knows what the path is.”
He continued with a look into the future, in which he forecasted human lifespans of 130 years, and a civilization enjoying the fruits of robot labor. The six-foot-four, one-time Coca-Cola executive, declared that NAFTA had achieved its goal of bridging the economic gap between north and south, and predicted that all of North America would reach one-to-one economic parity in the coming years.
After his relatively brief address, Fox sat down for a discussion with John Harwood, Chief Washington D.C. Correspondent for CNBC, who pressed him on his remarks about Trump.
“Now, if I understood you correctly,” Posed Harwood, “you said you thought that the president, our president has only revealed part of what his agenda is. But, there’s much more coming, that we have not seen. What do you mean by that?”
Fox, however, didn’t provide any hard evidence for his claim, and instead went on to talk generally about the dangers of populist governments, like those which litter the history of Latin America.
The conversation then veered off into the speaking engagements he’s taken on since his exit from public office, candidly telling his audience, that he only does it to generate revenue for his three foundations. Harwood, at one point, asked him how his anti-Trump t-shirt sales were going, to which the former president responded, that he had yet to see the numbers.
His mention of a Cannabis conference he will be hosting at Centro Fox in Mexico, opened the door to expounding on his views concerning drugs and legalization, as he is in favor of complete legalization. After Harwood asked sarcastically whether he didn’t believe Mexico was at fault for the drug problem in the United States, Fox stated categorically that the “headquarters” of the big drug cartels are not in Mexico, but here in the United States.
“Those who distribute here. Those who raise the money here. Those who benefit from the crime and drugs are the U.S. cartels.” Said Fox.
Eventually, the topic would inevitably turn back to Trump and his protectionist policies, pointing out the folly in shutting out 80% of global GDP, or the rest of the world. “What’s going to happen with GM, with Chrysler, with Ford?” Asked Fox, “They make the profits out there.”
Harwood ended the discussion with a question he’d been trying to get an answer to from the beginning; whether Fox thought there would be a new NAFTA deal. Fox came back with an emphatic yes, but left a 5% chance for a negative outcome.
“This is another false promise…” Fox said, referring to Trump’s threat of scrapping the North American Free Trade Agreement. Mexico’s newly expanded trade deal with the EU, agreed to in principle only days ago, might be the reason for his optimism.
But with presidential elections looming south of the border, and a populist candidate from the left leading in all polls, the only certainty is that you won’t live to 130.