Revealed: Secretive British unit planning for ‘reconstruction’ of Venezuela

Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act have exposed a secretive Foreign Office unit aimed at the ‘reconstruction’ of Venezuela. The files also reveal private discussions between Venezuelan opposition figures and UK officials, detailing proposals for the promotion of British business after a planned coup.

LITTLE BOY IN SHORT TROUSERS THE US PUPPET IN VENEZUELA THE MOST BLATANT US COUP IN ALL HISTORY ...

UK support for coup attempt in Venezuela

Over the past 16 months, the UK government has consistently supported Venezuelan opposition figure Juan Guaidó’s attempts to topple the elected government of president Nicolás Maduro.

In late January 2019, for example, the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) urged the Bank of England to grant Guaidó access to £1.2bn of Venezuelan gold reserves.

The Department for International Development (DFID) has also pledged some £40m of ‘humanitarian assistance’ to Venezuela, but it has refused to reveal where this assistance is going.

‘Venezuela Reconstruction Unit’

In January 2020, GuaidĂł travelled to London to meet with UK government officials and shore up international support for his flailing efforts to overthrow the Venezuelan government.

Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act offer details of his visit, and reveal the existence of a specialist unit within the FCO dedicated to the ‘reconstruction’ of Venezuela.

On his visit, GuaidĂł met with foreign secretary Dominic Raab, minister for the Americas Christopher Pincher, and director for the Americas Hugo Shorter.

Notably, the list also includes “Head [of the] Venezuela Reconstruction Unit, FCO”, John Saville. The existence of this unit has never been publicly acknowledged by either the FCO or Saville, who was formerly UK ambassador to Venezuela (2014-2017). Saville’s biography on the UK government’s website, for instance, bears no mention of the unit.

When asked what the purpose of the Venezuela Reconstruction Unit is and why its existence had not been revealed, an FCO spokesperson told The Canary:

The UK is committed to working with international partners to bring an end to the appalling crisis in Venezuela.

The FCO’s Venezuela Reconstruction Unit was set up in Autumn 2019 to coordinate a UK approach to international efforts to respond to the dire economic and humanitarian situation in Venezuela.

This response is virtually indistinguishable from UK government public messaging on Venezuela. Three weeks before Guaidó’s arrival, Saville shared an FCO statement declaring:

The United Kingdom underlines its support for interim constitutional President GuaidĂł and his efforts to lead Venezuela towards a peaceful and democratic resolution of the appalling crisis the country is facing [emphasis added].

Saville was a central figure in organising Guaidó’s visit and, by January 2020, plans were already underway for a violent incursion into Venezuela by US and Venezuelan mercenaries – a plan which, according to the US mercenary in charge, was signed off by Guaidó himself. Indeed, the full contract leaked to the Washington Post names Guaidó as “Commander in Chief” of the entire operation. Guaidó has denied involvement.

This was not the first scandal of its type. In February 2019, Guaidó was assisted over the Venezuelan border by a Colombian narco-paramilitary cartel before attending an ‘aid’ concert organised by Richard Branson. Funds raised by this concert were then reportedly embezzled by the Venezuelan opposition, and food packages were left to rot.

The UK government’s commitment to bringing “an end to the appalling crisis in Venezuela” through a secretive FCO unit thus seems, to put it lightly, insincere.

The existence of the unit also raises a more fundamental question: What business does the UK government have in the “reconstruction” of a sovereign nation? The people of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria may have something to say about this.

‘Gang busters’

Private discussions surrounding Guaidó’s visit to London also reveal the importance that the FCO and Venezuelan opposition figures placed in sympathetic media attention.

On 17 January, an official notes that an unnamed media company in London “wants [Guaidó] to come into the office for a roundtable with their editors and they could do a special feature on the resurrection”.

Another unnamed official boasts on 21 January 2020 that: “This [visit] has gang busters”, meaning a massive impact: “Now CNN International wants to be squeezed in between BBC and FT.”

Private discussions with Guaidó’s UK representative

Another Freedom of Information request can reveal private discussions between Guaidó’s UK representative, Vanessa Neumann, and UK government officials.

“I would like to request a meeting with Secretary Raab, as soon as feasible,” Neumann wrote to FCO officials in July 2019:

I understand he was the FCO’s legal liaison to the ICC [International Criminal Court] for years, and his family background is almost identical to mine and Madeleine Albright’s

In July 2019, Neumann also described meeting former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright as “a dream come true for me: meeting my teenage idol
 Now I hope to glean some of her wisdom to help me fight for Venezuela’s freedom.”

Journalist Glenn Greenwald has described Neumann’s “teenage idol” as “one of the most deranged and bloodthirsty warmongers to occupy a high government position in decades”. In 1996, for instance, Albright told PBS News that the deaths of “half a million [Iraqi] children” resulting from US economic sanctions were “worth it”.

The parallels with Venezuela are particularly concerning. Neumann consistently encourages “strong targeted sanctions” against Venezuela which, according to the Centre for Economic and Policy Research, “killed 40,000 people
 between 2017 and 2018”. More recently, former UN human rights expert Alfred de Zayas estimated that this number likely exceeds 100,000.

In May 2019, Neumann wrote to FCO officials that she had “reached out to Rory Stewart at DFID for a meeting that will
 sustain British business in Venezuela’s reconstruction [emphasis added]”. This suggests the very nature of British ‘reconstruction’ of Venezuela: garnering favourable conditions for British business. And one can only guess at what these “British business” interests might be within a country that reportedly sits on the world’s largest proven oil reserves.

Indeed, in September 2019, Neumann was reportedly secretly recorded “surrendering Venezuela’s claim to the disputed Essequibo region in exchange for political support from the UK government”.

Also in May 2019, meanwhile, Neumann privately encouraged the FCO to publicly “pronounce itself in support of our democratic forces, your partners
 before my interview on BBC World Service to discuss the matter in one hour”.

Later the same day, Neumann was reassured by an FCO official that “the Foreign Secretary [Jeremy Hunt] has just tweeted” in support of Edgar Zambrano, who was charged with treason, conspiracy, civil rebellion, usurpation of responsibilities, criminal association, and public instigation to disobey the law after joining an armed coup attempt.

The private discussions between Neumann and FCO officials also entail “Venezuela debt restructuring” and a ‘new Venezuela military attaché’, though these conversations have been redacted almost entirely.

“We are consistent in our view that Maduro is illegitimate”, the FCO’s Latin America department head Nigel Baker assured Neumann in May 2019, “and in our support for Juan Guaido”.

“Excellent. Thank you, Nigel,” responded Neumann. “We appreciate your support, which is critical for us now and in our reconstruction.” Elsewhere, Neumann praises Britain’s “historic role in concepts of liberty and justice (I used to teach political philosophy, and particularly loved the British thinkers)”.

Asymmetrica

Neumann is also the CEO of Asymmetrica Limited, a “strategic communications” firm whose website dons quotes from Henry Kissinger.

Alongside Neumann, the names Alec Bierbauer and Michael Marks were listed in 2015 as co-directors of Asymmetrica. Both are closely connected to the US military and intelligence services. Bierbauer was a central figure in the development of Washington’s drone warfare programme. Marks, meanwhile, “has worked around the world within the US intelligence and special operations community, a career that stretches from the jungles of Nicaragua to the mountains of Afghanistan”.

In 2018, Bierbauer and Marks published a book entitled Predator Rising: How a Team of Renegades Broke Rules, Shattered Barriers, and Launched a Drone Warfare Revolution. The book offers “the inside story of how a CIA agent and an Air Force officer joined forces to develop America’s most powerful tool in the War on Terror”.

In this light, Asymmetrica’s name appears to be a reference to the Asymmetrical Wafare strategies developed after 11 September 2001, and now being exported to Venezuela.

As Guaidó’s UK representative, Neumann’s proximity to people connected to the CIA and US armed forces is likely to raise eyebrows. Indeed, in 2017, Neumann told then-CIA director Mike Pompeo that “regime change [in Venezuela] looks to be – we hope – imminent or spiralling down”.

Curiously, Asymmetrica recently partnered with a California-based loan firm, offering loans to US-based businesses worth up to $5m. This seems to be quite a departure from typical ‘ambassadorial’ duties, particularly given these loans are offered exclusively to US companies. Neumann’s latest venture also raises questions regarding the collection of funds for the Venezuelan opposition, which has long been an issue clouded by murky waters.

Asymmetrica did not respond to a request for comment. Nor did Neumann.

UK contribution to coup efforts

The existence of a secretive Venezuela Reconstruction Unit within the FCO, combined with the FCO’s private discussions with Guaidó’s UK representative, seems to demonstrate the extent to which the UK government is committed to the overthrow of the Venezuelan government.

These documents also suggest that ‘regime change’ in Venezuela is following the typical procedure: the countries that contribute most during the destabilisation phase can expect to share the financial spoils in the ‘reconstruction’ phase.

This episode sits within a long line of UK support for right-wing forces in Latin America.

The Trump Impeachment Jew Coup Matters to Anti-Semites

Antisemitism: This term is used to refer to prejudice against European Jews, incorrectly implying they constitute a Semitic race as opposed to only a religion. Example: An Arab is a Semite. An Arab Jew is a Semite. The European Jew is not a Semite.

To point Jews out in any context is anti-semitic to non-Semitic Jews. Article by the Times of Israel 6 December 2019

WASHINGTON (JTA) – On Wednesday, the US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee launched impeachment hearings just hours after the Intelligence Committee, chaired by Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., concluded its own impeachment inquiry

All three witnesses are Jewish: Noah Feldman of Harvard, Pamela Karlan of Stanford and Michael Gerhardt of the University of North Carolina. So are Schiff and Nadler, and so was the Democrats’ counsel who directed the first 45 minutes of questioning, Norm Eisen.

Why does this matter?

Well, predictably, it mattered to anti-Semites.

Ann Coulter, the right-wing agitator, tweeted, “Too little ethnic diversity among the professors for me to take them seriously.” past flirtations with anti-Semitism, one could conclude that she wasn’t faulting the professors just for being white.

TruNews, the YouTube channel run by an anti-Semitic Florida pastor who has coined the term “Jew coup” to describe the impeachment process, took to Twitter to accuse  “Jewish socialist Jerry Nadler” and his “three Jewish witnesses” of “escalating the Jew coup.”

Rick Wiles: “the devil is the father of Zionist Jews.” Wiles warns the Christian Zionists to give up Israel worship and worship Jesus. He is anti-war, anti-evil and pro-USA Pastor in Florida.

TruNews also helpfully informed us that Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University scholar and witnesses called by the Republicans who testified that the evidence for impeachment simply does not add up, is a Roman Catholic.

Twitter removed the tweet. Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt took a screenshot of it for posterity, calling on social media platforms to take action against blatantly anti-Semitic posts.

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt

Why not ignore the blatant anti-Semitism?

Because the fringes no longer have pariah status: TruNews has been accredited for White House news conferences. Trump has taken questions from them (about his plans for Israeli-Palestinian peace, of all things) and his son, Donald Jr., gave TruNews an impromptu interview earlier this year at a Michigan rally. (Trump Jr.’s spokeswoman told The Washington Post that he was not aware at the time of TruNews’ outlook.)

Those views have crept into the mainstream discourse.

“The trepidation is a shame because considerations of how being Jewish shapes one’s outlook should be free of anxieties about what anti-Semites will make of it.”

While the hearings were underway, Breitbart News, the Trump-boosting news site, posted a story, “Norm Eisen, Democrat Impeachment Counsel, Linked to George Soros.” that Soros’s Open Society Foundation had helped fund an ethics watchdog Eisen founded, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, to the tune of $1.35 million in 2017. (This is not a secret: It’s on the Open Society website.)

But the Breitbart story failed to explain the relevance. Eisen is not pretending to be nonpartisan or unaffiliated from a liberal outlook; there is no suggestion that Soros’s money is reaching the committee itself.

Soros, the liberal Jewish billionaire philanthropist, is incessantly attached to conspiracies. Fiona Hill, a former senior National Security Council staffer, noted last month how the baseless Soros conspiracy theories beset the Ukraine scandal and called them anti-Semitic.

Republicans on the panel attempted to depict the three scholars on the Democratic side as effete elitists, another classic trope.

“Democrats still don’t get it,” Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said on Twitter. “They are pushing ahead with impeachment based on opinions from liberal law professors from coastal universities.”

McCarthy, from California, attended a “coastal university” (Cal State, Bakersfield), and Turley, the GOP’s scholar, teaches at one, George Washington — but never mind.

This creates Jewish fear

I got texts from leading Jewish Democrats during Wednesday’s hearings wondering, with not inconsiderable trepidation, whether the scholars were indeed Jewish.

The trepidation is a shame because considerations of how being Jewish shapes one’s outlook should be free of anxieties about what anti-Semites will make of it. And there are meaningful Jewish stories behind the decisions of these witnesses to become constitutional scholars:

“I grew up in Alabama, and I grew up Jewish in Alabama in the 1960s,” Gerhardt told C-Span last year, “and that was a time of great turbulence, and the time the civil rights movement was sort of unfolding, and it was all unfolding in front of me, and I paid attention to it, and that  — those events that arose in the ’60s and early ’70s really shaped my interest in civil rights, but also my interest in law.”

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., gives final remarks during a hearing where former White House national security aide Fiona Hill, and David Holmes, a U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, testified before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019, (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Karlan, delivering closing remarks in 2006 at the annual meeting of the liberal American Constitution Society, called herself one of the “snarky, bisexual, Jewish women who want the freedom to say what we think, read what we want and love who we do,” calling on listeners to “seize back the high ground on patriotism and on love of our country” from the rich, pampered, prodigal, sanctimonious, incurious, white, straight sons of the powerful.”

Feldman, who in 2015 launched Harvard’s Julis-Rabinowitz Program in Jewish and Israeli Law, also helped draft the Iraqi constitution; he is gripped by how and whether religious and civil law can coexist.

“Jewish law and Israeli law (Zionist) are distinct and different,” Feldman was quoted as saying by Tablet at the time of the launch of the Harvard program, “yet they also interact and make claims on each other.”