Trump and White Supremacy

By Oscar Valdes 4/26/19

One of the issues at the core of Mr Trump’s turbulent presidency has been and remains his unwillingness to take the lead in confronting the resurgence of white supremacy in our nation. His inability to do so defines him as a man who is not integrated, a person that although intelligent and energetic, appears unable to confront his fears. Therein lies the great paradox of his presidency, that the leader of the free world is not a free man himself.

Free men will have prejudices – it comes with being human – but truly free men are willing to question themselves and struggle to resolve such prejudices. More than two years into his presidency we have yet to see evidence that Mr Trump has such ability.

Racism is a false belief, born out of a desire to prematurely close the inquiry into what makes each of us human. At the root of such desire is fear – fear of knowing the other – and when such fear is unexamined it leads to their devaluing and opens the door to their mistreatment.

Members of the white race have done wonderful things for humanity. Their accomplishments have been there to be enjoyed by all. The great men and women of science, industry and the arts, who happened to be white, never did think that what they had accomplished had anything to do with the color of their skin. Rather, they were well aware that their contribution to their fellow human beings rested solidly on the capacity to conceive and imagine the fullness of ideas, and then to muster the tenacity to carry them out.

Members of the white race have also done horrible things to humanity; the Holocaust, the torture and enslavement of Black Americans, the cruelty to Native Americans. And yet, through it all, the majority of the white race strives on, willing to examine themselves, determined to reach the higher ground that comes from greater self knowledge.

But where is Mr Trump? Where is the leader of the Free World? Where is the leader of the evolving consciousness that lies at the heart of what means to be free?

The great performer, the entertainer, the great seeker of attention, is sadly silent on the issue.

Not willing to confront his own fears he is thus unwilling to take on white supremacists, and so ends up encouraging them.

Mr Trump seems to believe that sitting in the White House absolves him of his flaws. Alas, it has  magnified them. What his followers fail to see, so far – for eventually they will – is that our president is a distraction leading us away from the path to greater achievement, which comes from our full development as human beings and is only possible when we accept our flaws as a necessary first step to understanding them.  

The hatred of others is incompatible with the path to self realization. And it is so because ‘the other’ lies within us – deep in our breast – ingrained in our soul, ceaselessly yearning to be embraced. Each one of us is all of humanity, containing at least a sample of nature’s plenitude, at least a grain of the misshapen, the ugly, the restricted, the divine, the beautiful and the gifted. And so with colors, for whiteness, a beautiful color indeed as all colors are, is but a variety in the garden of nature and not a reflection of supremacy.

To hate the other is to hate ourselves. The self aware struggles with such hate, day in and day out, for it is the price of calling ourselves free.

Mr Trump has been unable to grasp this essence and so he is not a free man. He cannot or will not perceive the larger picture. He cannot or will not say to his base, ‘let us join hands and overcome our fears and we shall seek real freedom, the freedom that comes from the quest to find our truth and which will lead us to genuine achievement’.

That more than 2 years into his presidency Mr Trump has been unable to do so, is a grave flaw of character and a blatant shirking of responsibility, the responsibility that comes from being the leader of the most powerful free nation in the world – a country that remains a beacon to the hopes of mankind – and a fountain of ideas to remedy some of the most difficult problems humanity is facing.

America – all included – the white, the black, the brown and the yellow; the blue, the red and shades in between; the fully developed and the developing, the clear headed and the confused, the open hearted and the presently bigoted, all deserve a better president.

Nicolas Maduro’s Mirror

By Oscar Valdes 3/17/19

A Short Short Story.

He awakened early in the morning and the news was that the national blackout was still going. He had hoped that, overnight, by some stroke of good luck, the power would be restored. But things had not been going well lately, so he knew it was too much to ask. Even though he had personally spoken to the head electrical engineers and made it clear that the nation would be forever grateful for their extra effort. Special honors would be coming to them to be awarded in a public ceremony broadcast nationwide. Venezuelans would revere them as national heroes.

He didn’t tell his engineers that he had already called Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping and asked them for emergency technical assistance, just in case. The technicians were in flight. He had thought of calling Diaz Canel, also, the new Cuban president, but he reasoned that the problem at hand would be beyond Cuba’s capabilities. They were mostly good for intelligence, i.e. spying and sowing intrigue to keep everyone in line. But he appreciated what they did, which was well earned since he kept sending oil to Cuba – at cost. Where could they get a deal like that? But they were his socialist brothers and sisters and he had made a promise to Hugo Chavez, as he lay in his deathbed, that no matter what disagreements he and the Cubans would have he would stick to the agreement.

Maduro went into the bathroom and stood in front of the washbasin but closed his eyes.

He didn’t want to look at himself in the mirror. Not this morning. He took a deep breath. He reached for the hot water tap and opened it. Ah. The water was hot. How fortunate he was. And he thought of the poor people, how they didn’t have the powerful generators that he had in his presidential residence. And he felt sad for them. The whole thing was a conspiracy, of course, the Americans sending in special agents to get the grid to malfunction and destabilize the country. Those Americans, always plotting to take over Latin America. And he wondered how they managed to find special agents that not only spoke perfect Spanish but perfect Venezuelan. You could not tell them apart, and yet they were foreign agents. Amazing.

Maduro cupped his hands under the hot stream of water and splashed it on his face. But he didn’t open his eyes just yet.

The country was falling apart. He knew it. His days were counted. He knew that, too.

He thought of putting on a helmet, like Salvador Allende had done in Chile before the presidential palace was bombed to pieces. But he didn’t want to scare the poor people who still believed in him. And, in truth, he still thought there was some hope left for him. Somewhere.

He now opened his eyes and stared at himself.

Why had Chavez chosen him as his successor? There were obviously other people better prepared to handle the responsibility, so why him?

Chavez had been in a hospital bed in Havana, agonizing from the pain he was in, when he had called him in. The fabled comandante had become so paranoid that he didn’t trust Venezuelan doctors, men and women with a tradition of excellence and an outstanding reputation, and so, against his better judgment he had gone to Cuba so he could be treated by Cuban doctors, and be close to Fidel and Raul, his mentors. Chavez had reasoned that their emotional support was critical.

In spite of all the good efforts to rid him of his ailment, things had gone from bad to worse and so, as he lay in his room at the VIP hospital in Havana, the comandante had called for Maduro. Chavez was staying in the same room where Fidel Castro had stayed when he had had his last brush with death.

While in the hospital, other very important people had been called in for secret one on one meetings with Chavez, so Maduro didn’t know exactly why he was being summoned. As he waited he felt apprehensive and his hands had turned sweaty. Maduro had wanted to go in alone but the minute he was called, he had looked at his wife and seen how desperately she wanted to accompany him, for it was such a historic moment and she didn’t want to miss it. So he said okay.

Alone in the room with Chavez, the dying man gestured for Maduro to pull up a chair. The man looked wan and ghostly, like he already had a foot on the other side. Maduro had remained standing. With great effort, and barely a whisper, Chavez again motioned to Maduro, “Sit, Nicolas.”

“It’s okay, comandante, this is a historic moment, so I want to be on my feet,” Maduro had finally replied, his words filled with emotion and the love he had for Chavez. His wife stood right next to him as she held his hand, and both saw how Chavez grimaced from the deep pain he was in.

The efforts from the Cuban surgeons had been in vain. The surgeons had opened and closed him, the rumor went, and nothing had changed inside Chavez’s belly.

Chavez reached over, slowly, and took Maduro’s hand in his. Pausing dramatically, he then looked up at him and said, “Nicolas… I want you to succeed me.”

A tremor shot down from Maduro’s head to his feet. He felt his knees almost buckle under him and he thought how lucky he was that his wife was there to prop him up. Still, he could not manage to reply, even as the comandante kept staring at him and waiting. Maduro knew what the comandante wanted from him, but what he really wanted to say to Chavez was, ‘Me? Me, succeed you? But why? I don’t understand, comandante, just what is it that you see in me?”

And he was about to say those words in that great historic moment when his wife pinched him in the butt and Maduro had blurted out, “Si!”.

Oh how that pinch in the butt had changed history.

The day before that fateful moment, with Chavez lying in his bed and nearly delirious, Fidel and Raul Castro had approached him and, in the strictest confidence, had said to him that in order to maintain the extraordinary bond of brotherhood between Cuba and Venezuela, and the steady supply of cheap oil, selecting Maduro as his heir would be the most appropriate choice. In the midst of his agony Chavez, whose love for Venezuela was unquestioned, had replied that he worried that Maduro was simply too loyal. Chavez didn’t remember a time when Maduro had disagreed with him on anything, and it concerned Chavez that, given that circumstances on the ground were ever changing, a better choice would be a man with a more independent bent that could deviate from the rule book. Fidel and Raul had listened solemnly to his argument, then replied, “We can work with Nicolas, and we’ll help him.”

Chavez still had doubts, and he asked Fidel and Raul to step out and let him consult with Simon Bolivar before making a final decision. Chavez and the long dead Bolivar had a history of  chatting but, of late, the comandante had not been able to make contact. It may have been interference from the weather, as stormy clouds had gathered over Cuba. Chavez was very open about his special relationship with Bolivar and just the day before, both Fidel and Raul had been invited to listen in on the comandante’s earnest attempt to reach the Venezuelan hero.

Seeing that Chavez was determined to try again, both Fidel and Raul bowed respectfully and left the room.

Chavez was a stubborn man and he was confident that in that hour of great need, Bolivar would not fail him.

Being all alone in his ample suite, he touched his fingers to his temples and focused his concentration.

“Simon…?” began Chavez, “are you there?”.

There was complete silence for a moment. “Simon…?” again intoned Chavez with what little strength he had left. “Do not fail me in this historic moment…”. And then, miraculously, and with a clarity that Chavez had never heard, a voice from who knows where came to him. “Yes, Hugo?” It was soft but so clear, the clearest he’d ever heard Bolivar speak to him, and he had spoken to Bolivar a lot. And not only was the voice clear but it was filled with compassion and understanding. So this was unprecedented, a miracle in fact.

The pain in his abdomen shot through once again and the comandante almost cried out, but he pressed his lips together in one valiant effort and retained his composure. He did not want to complain while speaking to Bolivar.

What clarity, though, the comandante reflected. He did think that the voice had a very slight Cuban accent, but he also knew that Bolivar had been a multitalented and well traveled man and was able to adapt to his environment. So he dismissed it.

“Simon… I’m dying,” said the comandante. Bolivar did not reply. “Fidel… and Raul… want me to choose…” And the pain shot through again, only harder, and Chavez gasped as his eyes filled with tears. After a moment to recover, he continued, “Simon… I love my Venezuela… I love my country… is Maduro the right choice?” And Bolivar had replied, “Si.”

Chavez closed his eyes slowly and let out a long breath, the final approval from Bolivar bringing him a sense of peace. “Gracias, Simon… I will soon be with you… at your side.” And Bolivar had answered, “Si.”

Chavez turned his head in the pillow and tried to get a little rest from the pain.

Meanwhile, Fidel and Raul had stood in the hallway outside, drinking a little Cuban coffee. They both had been up since before dawn to make sure they didn’t miss the historic moment. Just then, a middle aged man emerged from a room next to where Chavez lay. The man approached Fidel and Raul and, stopping a few feet before them, he bowed deeply. “As per your instructions,” the man said.

And Fidel had opened his arms and gestured for the man to come closer. “Gracias,” he had said to him softly as he shook his hand. “I will be sure not to miss your next performance at the National Theatre.”

The man smiled appreciatively, bowed to Raul, and left.

Of course, Maduro had not known that any of this had transpired before he had been summoned in a great hurry and had travelled from Caracas to Havana in a middle of the night flight, his airplane flanked by Cuban and Venezuelan fighter jets. He just knew that it was one hell of a responsibility that Chavez was entrusting him with, and he wasn’t sure he could deliver.

He was a socialist to the core, Maduro reminded himself, and he truly loved Venezuela, but he just didn’t think he was presidential material. But if Hugo Chavez, the great comandante, wanted him to step up, he would do it.

Chavez was now drifting as Maduro remained standing in front of him, still holding the comandante’s hand.

“Work with the Cubans…”said Chavez with a barely audible voice, “…no matter what.”

Maduro then reached over and kissed the comandante on the forehead. He stared at him. He was not sure he would see his great mentor again. But how would anyone know of the man’s final wishes, he wondered. He turned to his wife, and they both exited the room.

Just outside, Fidel and Raul stepped up to him and shook his hand. “Congratulations, Nicolas.”

“How did you know?,” he asked, bewildered.

“Due to the extraordinary circumstances,” began Fidel Castro, “we have the room wired.”

Castro removed a small microphone from his ear. “It’s such an historic moment that we wanted to capture every bit of it. For posterity. For those who will continue the heroic socialist fight against imperialism after we’re gone.” Fidel Castro then leaned in a bit and added, “Vladimir,  Mugabe, Daniel Ortega, all have asked to please send them a transcript for their personal libraries.”

Maduro did not know what to say, but both Fidel and Raul Castro proceeded to embrace him and his wife. “Congratulations, Mr President,” had said Fidel as Raul smiled.

Back in his presidential residence, six years after that encounter, (Chavez had returned to die in his own country), in a Venezuela that was falling apart, Maduro stared at himself in the mirror as he felt the overhead light flicker. Maybe the generators were about to fail at his presidential residence too.  

How had Venezuela become such a mess?

Maduro shook his head slowly, the mood despondent and at a loss for words.

And where were the Cubans, anyway? How had they let this happen? Had they learned anything since they took over in 1959?

Maduro felt a deep bitterness come over him. And the bitterness turned into anger. More than that, the anger became sheer loathing. And he glowered at himself in the mirror as it occurred to him that the Cubans had learned nothing at all about running a country successfully. He had had his doubts all along but had been too afraid to bring it up to Chavez, but now it was coming to him, full blown. Just what kind of expertise in nation building did the Cubans really have? Nothing. Nothing at all. Where did Cuba rank among Latin American nations in productivity? Near the bottom, that’s where, and they had been in power since 1959, that was 60 years! A country as wealthy as Venezuela, how could you trash it? It took some major bungling to accomplish that, and the Cubans had been right there from the start, with their so called ‘seasoned’ advice. Malarkey is what it was. Self serving bunk. The Cuban government didn’t give a damn about Venezuela and never had.

And Maduro stared at himself harder in the mirror and realized that he hadn’t been doing his own thinking. That his own teacher, Hugo Chavez, the great comandante, had been dead wrong about forging an alliance with Cuba. An alliance that, in the name of socialism, had meant shipping lots and lots of oil to Cuba and other countries, while failing to educate and train their own people.

A cold shiver run through him as he dared think his own thoughts.

Maduro felt his heart sink from the crushing shame.

It had taken for Venezuela to come to the edge of the precipice for him to see the light. Damn it! Carajo! Cabrones! He cursed loudly. Having surprised himself with his outburst, he turned to peek into the bedroom to see if his wife was still there. She wasn’t.

He returned to the mirror. The one theme that ran through the entire Cuban ideology was that it was the Americans keeping them for thriving. Mind you, the Americans were no angels, they were in it for themselves and they had done their own share of meddling too, but no, there had to be more to it. Look at the Chinese, look at the South Koreans, even the Vietnamese. Those people had pulled themselves up or were pulling themselves up and where were the Cubans compared to them? Nowhere. If it weren’t for tourism they’d all be starving to death. If it weren’t for Venezuelan oil they would have nothing to run their meagre industry. Even their sugar production, the Cubans had managed to wreck. The height of incompetence. So no, that system did not work and Chavez had been wrong to ally himself with them. Yes, he was saying it now. Chavez, his much admired mentor had been dead wrong and he, Nicolas Maduro, had not dared raise his voice to question him. Ever. How can you be the leader of a nation if you don’t dare question the great heroes?

Maduro sighed. He felt defeated.

There was no one to turn to. No one at all, not even his wife. He was on his own.

He had copied Chavez and the Cubans in blaming Americans for all his country’s problems but where had that got them?

He loved his country but there it was, falling apart, and he was their leader. The responsibility was ultimately his.

How was he going to lead Venezuela out of the mess it was in?

And now there was this character, Juan Guaido, a nobody who had come from nowhere and was daring to challenge his legitimacy. What audacity.

But just as he thought this, he acknowledged that he felt a twinge of envy.

What?

Yes. He was a little envious of Juan Guaido.

Yes, he was, ‘admit it’, he told himself. Be honest.

But what did he envy, exactly?

The guts. The courage. And Nicolas Maduro now thought that he would like to start all over again and be more like Juan Guaido.

He paused.

No, he wanted to start again and be more like whatever Nicolas Maduro had to offer. He wanted to start again and discover who he really was. He loved his country but had allowed another nation to meddle in Venezuela’s battle for its own identity.

And maybe he was a true socialist after all and maybe he was not, but what had now become very clear to him was that he would not stand by as his country self destroyed with him as their leader.

And Nicolas Maduro felt that what was clamoring now in his heart and soul at that very instant was a yearning to be himself, to be a true Venezuelan. And that it should be for Venezuelans themselves to decide what they needed to do with their country.

And as he stared at himself in the mirror, his saw his jaw drop, just as a sly smile began to show in his eyes and the corners of his mouth. There was hope, dammit! Yes, there was! He was not defeated! He would make a comeback! He would stand up for Venezuela and for himself!

He would go on national television, while giving no advanced notice at all of what he would say, and declare to the nation that he was ordering all Cuban nationals to leave the country immediately. And that meant everybody! And no, there would be no more oil shipments to Cuba. Work it out on your own, carajo! You’ve had 60 years to figure it out.

Venezuela might be in tatters, but they were a resourceful people, and they would work things out by themselves.

And he, Nicolas Maduro, would go on the history books as the man who dared lead his nation to achieving true sovereignty.

Maduro didn’t even shave. He kept smiling at himself in the mirror as he splashed some cold water on his face, the generator having stopped heating the water. But he felt great. He would have himself driven directly to the government’s main television station and make his announcement.

He stepped out of the bathroom and sent for his driver and his bodyguards. His wife, alarmed at his sudden determination, wanted to know what was up, could he please tell her, but he didn’t say a word to her. It was his move. He was the president. She could sit in the audience while he made his short speech. And it would be short. But it would be a Venezuelan’s speech, proud of his heritage, and finally fully aware, that Venezuelans could chart their own course.

His wife, now in a panic that maybe an American agent looking and speaking like a Venezuelan had slipped a drug in her husband’s morning coffee, immediately called the Chief of Staff of the Venezuelan army but the man could not be found on such short notice and instead one of his aides, a high ranking officer, came to the phone to speak with Maduro.

Maduro glared at his wife as she handed him the phone but he took the call anyway. At the other end, the high ranking officer asked Maduro what he would be saying to the nation, that he needed to know because it was his responsibility to have the troops ready, just in case, and anyway, governing Venezuela was a cooperative effort and decisions needed to be made after proper consultation with the socialist brotherhood. Maduro listened, then asked, “General, are you Venezuelan or Cuban?”

The high ranking officer at the other end paused for a second, then said, “I’m a socialist, Mr President.”

And Maduro had smiled and said, “See, that’s the problem right there, we have to be Venezuelans first.”

He hung up, walked out of the presidential residence, boarded the special bullet proof vehicle he travelled in, and went directly to the television station where he was to make his address.

On the way there he reflected, that he had never felt better in his life.

The Juan Guaido Effect

Oscar Valdes. oscarvaldes.net 3/7/19

Earlier this year Juan Guaido seized the moment when, as head of Venezuela’s legislative assembly, he proclaimed himself president after Nicolas Maduro, the preceding president, had coerced the supreme court of the land into approving his sham reelection.

Garnering the support of more than fifty nations worldwide – from Latin America, North America and Europe – Juan Guaido then led a multinational effort to bring sorely needed humanitarian aid to the Venezuelan people.

The valiant effort has been blocked but has not been defeated. It is waiting for the next Juan Guaido, the Juan Guaido than will come from within the military.

That the Venezuelan military has not yet risen against the brutal dictatorship of Mr Maduro does not mean that plans for his overthrow are not being hatched.

At this very moment there are military officers, in every part of the nation, hard at work conceiving or planning actions that will lead to toppling the government.

And it cannot be otherwise.

The absurdity of a regime that has led to the exodus of more than 10% of the population, that has ravaged their oil industry, that has empowered bullies and drug dealers, cannot go on.

The few countries that support Mr Maduro are all examples of the repression of free speech. Cuba, Russia, Nicaragua, Turkey. How can they be models for anyone but thugs?

How can that be lost on the conscience of the educated career officers of the Venezuelan military?
The military officers with conscience cannot turn away from the effects of the violent repression of their brothers and sisters, the malnutrition owing to the food shortages, the lack of medical care.

They cannot because it hurts deeply.

And that pain will fire up the Juan Guaido that exists deep in the heart of every decent Venezuelan officer. That pain will spark the courage and resolve that is needed to take the fight to those who, having divorced themselves from the plight of their countrymen, lend their cowardly support to a regime bent on destroying the soul of the nation.

Venezuela’s history demands the insurrection of the military against the forces of despotism.

Venezuela’s history demands that brave officers step front and challenge the corruption that is destroying the country.

This is the time to act.

Right now.

Juan Guaido himself, could consider declaring a national strike in the nation, to further erode Mr Maduro’s hold on power and facilitate the necessary military uprising.

Venezuela Rising

2/23/19 By Oscar Valdes. oscarvaldes.net

The push to deliver humanitarian aid to the desperate Venezuelan populace is working.

Nicolas Maduro’s opposition to allowing the aid to go in has stirred protests that have begun to fracture the military. Defections are mounting.

Venezuelan soldiers are being asked to restrain or shoot their countrymen because they are begging for food.

The conditions are given for a mass revolt to follow.

Will the military slaughter the hungry people?

I do not remember another instance in Latin America when there has been such strong solidarity with the turmoil in a sister nation. This is unprecedented.

Mr Guaido, the newly proclaimed president of the country has been bold and put himself in the front lines against the repressive forces of Mr Maduro.

The presidents of Colombia and Chile have joined Mr Guaido, standing shoulder to shoulder on the ground in the border town of Cucuta in Colombia, supporting the humanitarian aid. The British financier Richard Branson has lent his effort by sponsoring concerts in support of the resistance.

Lawmakers in the opposition have joined the people in the fray, lending their guidance to the unrest.

Brazil, on the southeast corner, has given the opposition to Mr Maduro’s regime full support, and the first truck filled with aid to push in broke through its border with Venezuela.

Carnage may still happen, but the military will be digging its own grave because the international pressure is sure to continue to mount.

Obtuse military leaders may choose to not look at the reality of the nation’s worsening tragedy, and still decide to defend a corrupt elite that, in the name of a false socialism chose to enrich itself and ravage a nation. But their days are counted.

There will be no respect in Latin America or elsewhere, for members of an armed force, that using their superior power, intentionally, coldly and brutally, murder their brothers and sisters.

The message is out, a new cohesiveness among betrayed people is gathering force.

In this collective effort, the Trump administration and Senator Rubio deserve credit for helping orchestrate the humanitarian aid and for putting sanctions on the purchase of Venezuelan oil.

Oscar Valdes is a self published author and blogger. Oscarvaldes.net

Open Letter to Mr Smollett

2/23/19

From the evidence disclosed to the public, it appears that you staged the attack on your person.

As it stands, the case against you seems daunting.

You were not counting on your accomplices to turn against you but they did.

It was a brazen plan, taking advantage of public sentiment to further your own aims.

All of it was utterly absurd and yet,

You may not be completely trapped,

For there could be a way out, if you come to your senses.

The world may still forgive you, if you own up to the truth.

No one got physically hurt and the greater damage is to you, to your possibilities and credibility.

It is sad to see a person self destroy, publicly.

But just what would coming to your senses entail?

Accepting your guilt.

Stepping out from the lies you’ve invented and still vaunt and own up to the grand deceit.

Doing so will bring you freedom.

Maybe not from the courts and maybe not from a possible prison term,

But if you bare your soul to all of us,

And acknowledge the personal flaws that made you turn to trickery to satisfy your hunger for greater stardom,

You will then be asking the public for mercy,

You will be getting on your knees to ask for sympathy and forgiveness.

You will be asking for understanding,

That no matter the riches bestowed upon you,

In talent and money,

They could not be enough to help you think of yourself as a full human being,

A human being, sir,

Who could accept his limitations as he tried to overcome them by dint of hard and honest work.

Dear Mr Smollett, unless you have something to prove your case,

Then all of this was a grand charade, in which you tried to fool us all,

But ended with you being the fool.

So be bold while there may still be time,

Be bold and embrace the truth,

Step forward and own up to your folly

And limit the damage you’re inflicting upon yourself.

Good luck.

Humanitarian Aid to Venezuela

2/21/19

Humanitarian Aid to Venezuela

By Oscar Valdes

The crumbling socialist regime in Venezuela is kept alive by the military’s allegiance. And, on Nicolas Maduro’s orders, they are to block any shipment of humanitarian aid for the country’s population, no matter how desperate their need.

For the Venezuelan government, accepting the aid is seen as accepting failure, and in spite of the profound need for it, their pride is greater.

Meanwhile, Venezuelans are continuing to flee to neighboring countries, at great cost to themselves and the receiving countries.

The situation on the ground is complex, but it seems critical that the push to get the humanitarian aid into the country not lead to a military clash with the Venezuelan armed forces. If that were to occur it would shift the focus of the struggle from internal to external and delay the continuing internal degradation that will eventually lead to revolt, driven or aided by a faction of dissident military.

It is tragic that the Venezuelan leadership does not acknowledge their failure and the pain inflicted on the population, but the crisis is also a reminder, that the inefficiency and corruption of previous administrations created the conditions for such regime to rise and govern.

Eventually, the Maduro government will fall, and though external pressures by other nations will be a factor in the process, the greater force to overthrow the Maduro regime must come from within. No matter how great the pain, Venezuelans will endure, and they will live to write their history.

Which Way Will the Military’s Guns Point? The Juan Guaido Effect.

2/6/19

By Oscar Valdes.  Oscarvaldes.net

As head of the Venezuelan National Assembly, on 1/23/19, Juan Guaido made the bold move of stepping into the void and assuming the presidency of the country, a void created when Nicolas Maduro, the previous president, fearing defeat at the polls, chose to grab power instead by pressuring the Supreme Court justices into authorizing a sham election.

But Venezuela and the world would not be fooled.

Three million Venezuelans have left the country, an exodus that represents 10% of the population, an emigration forced by the lack of work, food and medicine.

Abhorred by these events, the great majority of Latin American nations, along with Canada, the United States and leading countries in the European community, have raised their cry of protest and the US has imposed economic sanctions.

What continues to prop up the regime is the guns of the military, a military that has been given a strong hand in running industry, to their enrichment, and which has contributed to wrecking the country’s vital oil production.

Juan Guaido has stepped up while Nicolas Maduro refuses to exit. Which way will the guns of the military point?

It is a day of reckoning for that institution, a moment to look at itself and decide how do they want to make history.

The Venezuelan military institution has a noble past, having played a critical role in supporting democracy before allowing itself to be corrupted.

Will they now not see what is clearly before them, a regime that has fallen because of its own actions?

Will they now not see that the Cuban system, which Nicolas Maduro and Hugo Chavez before him sought to emulate, stands as grand failure of statehood?

Will they now not be moved by the pain and misery that most of their compatriots are now enduring?
Sometimes, for a myriad reasons, institutions lose their way, but there’s always a time to find the way back.

Now is such a time.

Now is the time, for the Venezuelan military to recapture its noble past by taking a stand to help their country find its own way.

Now is the time, for the Venezuelan military to redeem itself, by declaring its independence from Cuba, from Russia, from China, and by supporting the actions of men and women who want nothing for themselves but the freedom and wellbeing of their countrymen.

So rise, noble warriors, rise!

This is your time.

Seize the moment and point the guns towards those who oppose Venezuela’s march to freedom.

Trump in a Panic

Let us not join him. Under pressure from his base he feels he must deliver or else. The democrats are coming! Take cover! Build the wall now! Never mind if it means shutting down the government.

Have we ever seen a president so beholden to what a group of people thinks or wants?

The man can’t govern. The base governs him.

The pundits on the right dictate to him. He is the apprentice. Never mind the briefings he gets, he must turn on Fox News to guide him through complexity. All that matters is that he be in the limelight. That’s the guiding principle.

But we’re better than Trump. The nation is better than him. So we need to breathe and the crisis will pass. We will get through.

We must remain steady as the man breaks down in front of our eyes, unable to stand up to his base and govern for all Americans.

The Trade War. Envy and Competition.

A centerpiece in the increasingly toxic trade war is the fact that China pushed for forced technology transfers from American and other foreign companies seeking to do business in their country.

Did this practice begin recently? No. It’s been going on for years and years.

So why, then, did it take so long for the US government to bring it up and demand that it be stopped?

Profits.

American and foreign investors agreed to Chinese demands because profits made it worthwhile. In the meantime, the Chinese learned from the technology, improved on it and now have risen to become our rivals.

If that has made us upset then it’s time we got over it.

The Chinese did what they did and we let them do it.

One American administration after another talked about stopping the forced technology transfers but ended up doing nothing.

Why?

Profits.

Maybe we thought the Chinese could never get it together or that we would keep coming up with even better technologies and ideas and forever hold an edge over them.

The growth of China forces us to take a good look at ourselves.

Are we being outcompeted?

Have they copied us too well?

If so, then let’s pull up our sleeves and get to work, not just start a trade war.

We’re envious of China. Envious of their drive and their success and we’re not dealing with it appropriately. Instead, we’re choosing to bellyache and let our president be the bellyacher in chief.

The Chinese have succeeded, no question about it, but they are also paying a heavy price for it. They are a regimented society.

We are not and should take comfort in that.

But not too much.

And I say that because there are now forces here in America that would not mind sacrificing basic freedoms so as to increase growth and ape the Chinese.

Look at the steady rise of mega companies and their continuing effort to dominate markets, making it hard to let in new companies so they can vie for a piece of the pie.

Look at the rise of autocrats, who have got into office because we put them there.

What are we thinking?

Companies that moved into China and agreed to the technology transfers demanded by their hosts did so because they were advocates of growth at any price. Never mind what or whom they left behind. Cheaper labor won the day. And they’re still there. Feeding at the trough. Still doing business. Still making money. So what’s the flap about?

If American companies handed over trade secrets and are now outcompeted and not able to come up with better ideas, then get out. Face it. You lost. No bellyaching, please.

The Chinese are coming into their own and are in contention for the title of world’s leading superpower. They’re not there yet but they’re pushing. That’s a reality. We have no choice but to compete.

This trade war we’re in is unnecessary and a dangerous distraction. It is yet another bid for world attention by our self-aggrandizing president. But it is not just any other bid. It carries with it the high risk of driving us into a world recession.

Growth at any price won’t do. The voices that cry for more competition and for greater opportunity here at home must be heard. And so must the voices that say that we have to stop abusing others, and so too the voices that call for curbing carbon emissions. We need the balance because it brings us dignity.

Safeguarding our freedoms is as important as economic growth. In that sense we’re ahead of the Chinese. So let us value what we have. It’s not all about GDP as we have come to know it but just as importantly, about that other kind of GDP, the Growth Dignity Product. We’re still a long way from getting it right but we’re getting there.

We should not let a narrow minded president think that starting a trade war with China and the world is the way for the nation to pull itself up.

Try investing in Americans. Try raising expectations. Try demanding that we rise to the task.

Human Folly – Episode 1 (Khashoggi, The Prince and Trump)

The world had been shocked by his assassination. The victim, a distinguished journalist who had been an adviser to the Saudi royal family, had decided to take a different direction in his life. If he had been a soft critic of the royal family’s injustices against the citizenry, now he would become a harsh one.  

The gradual transition from insider to outsider had been driven by the journalist’s conviction that he had an obligation, as a man and as an intellectual, to stand up for himself and for his fellow countrymen who did not have the gifts and resources he had.

The journalist had weighed the pros and cons carefully. He knew there would be risks, but never did he imagine that the end would be so brutal.

A team of Saudi Arabian hitmen had been lying in wait at theSaudi consulate in Istanbul when the journalist entered. He wanted to get married a second time and needed some paperwork done. He didn’t have a chance. Audio tapes provided by Turkish intelligence revealed that a chain saw had been used to cut him into pieces before disposing of the body.

The world reacted.

There was nearly universal condemnation of the action as calls for justice rang loud.

American intelligence agencies reviewed the facts, listened to the audio tapes the Turkish government had provided and concluded that the assassination could not have happened without the reigning Saudi prince knowing about it.

But our president demurred. He said there was no clear proof. And anyway, our nation needed the oil and money the Saudis had.

Many were critical of the president while others supported him, saying that the world was a rough place and that, in the interest of realpolitik, we all have to swallow some hard facts. In other words, if you have the power, then you get away with it.

The journalist, in his idealism, had thought that standing for principle would give a special meaning to his life. As a man of conscience, he knew he could not turn a blind eye to the suffering of his fellow Saudi Arabians. He had worked as a foreign correspondent and travelled widely. He knew his country stood as an anachronism, out of synch with the rest of the emerging nations. And it pained him.

Saudi Arabia had the good fortune of being one of the leading oil producers, but the wealth was mainly kept by the royal family. Still that was not enough. The Saudi royals also enforced a rigid code that dictated what women could and could not do. And if you objected you were put in jail and kept there.

While in the rest of the world women rose to become heads of state, leading scientists and politicians, prominent artists, intellectuals and creators, in Saudi Arabia the royal family had a code to enforce. Keep the women down.

All of us that pumped gas, paid for the oil that kept the royal family in power while they oppressed more than half of their population.

A distinguished journalist and man of conscience had been  savagely killed and our president, a businessman and father of an independent business woman, didn’t have any pangs of conscience with his decision to ignore the atrocity. If he did, he kept it to himself.

Saudi Arabia is an ally after all, his reasoning went. In addition to the oil, they are a player in the Middle East to help check Iran and they also buy their weapons from us. How can we lose? 

Realpolitik they call it.

By now the journalist’s fate is gradually fading from the headlines. Soon he will be forgotten. Fellow journalists who are sympathetic to his cause will remember him but the public at large will forget.

Our president will meet with the prince and salute him and support him, and we’ll see it on TV, both men smiling.

But did it have to be that way?

Our president could have raised his voice and endorsed the findings of his intelligence services. He could have said, “a prominent journalist who chose to stand for more freedom in his country was murdered by the leadership.” He could have added that America would not stop investigating the crime. But our man did not do that.

Here was an opportunity for a world leader to influence the course of the history of a nation and instead he settled for oil and a contract to buy weapons. Never mind that we have become the top oil producer in the world.

There’s something wrong with that stance, isn’t there?

Yes. Something deeply wrong.

The president’s supporters should pay careful attention.

The man may call his decision an instance of realpolitik and that he is doing it for you. I call it an instance of being amoral and predict it will come back to hurt us.

But it’s not the first time, is it?

No. In fact, it’s happening here at home too, in full view, and we’re looking the other way.

Why?