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Moral Low Ground

Articles

Greensboro Man Derwayne Wesley Sharp Charged with Child Rape, Dog Sex

Derwayne Wesley SharpA North Carolina man has been arrested and charged with raping a young girl and having sex with a dog, crimes that allegedly occurred at the same time back in 2005.

Derwayne Wesley Sharp, 38, of Greensboro was arrested by Guilford County Sheriff’s deputies on January 11, according to the News & Record. Sharp is charged with first-degree rape of a child, sexual exploitation of a minor, taking indecent liberties with a child as well as crime against nature for the alleged sexual assault of the girl and a dog. His bond has been set at $300,000.

Sharp is the latest in a string of people from around the US who have been arrested and charged with bestiality-related offenses.

Last Friday, habitual zoophile Michael C. Bessigano was arrested after allegedly sexually assaulting a Guinea fowl in a Lowell, Indiana park.

Last month, 23-year-old Kara Vandereyk was arrested by Las Vegas police who witnessed her having sex with a pit bull in her backyard.

In late January, sheriff’s deputies in Wharton County, Texas arrested 29-year-old Andrew Mendoza, who confessed to having sex with his neighbor’s horse and trying to make “a horseman baby.”

Also in January, Charles Ralph Horton, 57, of Cedar Springs, Michigan was charged with sodomy after allegedly raping a lab/shepherd mix on multiple occasions last year.

And earlier in January, Milford, Delaware couple Samantha L. Golt, 24, and her 25-year-old boyfriend James P. Crow were arrested and charged with bestiality. Golt allegedly had sex with a dog while Crow is accused of filming the action.

Dark Day for Fine Dining: Diners at Copenhagen’s Noma Stricken with Norovirus; Fire Damages Berkeley’s Chez Panisse

Noma norovirus

It was a dark day in the world of fine dining as two of the world’s most iconic restaurants were stricken by major crises.

In Copenhagen, Denmark, Noma, widely regarded as the world’s best gourmet restaurant, 67 people have fallen ill with vomiting and diarrhea after allegedly being infected with Roskilde Sickness, a form of norovirus. According to the Copenhagen Post, Fødevarestyrelsen, the Danish equivalent of the US Food and Drug Administration, conducted an inspection of the restaurant on February 20. The inspection followed reports that dozens of Noma diners had fallen ill with norovirus after eating there between February 12-16. During that period, 63 of the 78 guests at Noma became ill after dining at the bastion of New Nordic cuisine

“There has been illness among staff who have handled the food products,” Fødevarestyrelsen’s report stated. “The inspection visit was due to guests complaining of vomiting and diarrhea.”

The Fødevarestyrelsen report criticized Noma for its failure to sanitize its kitchen in time to prevent the norovirus from spreading, as well as for lacking hot water in the taps used by staff to wash their hands. The agency issued Noma an official warning.

Meanwhile, in Berkeley, California, Chez Panisse, the cradle of California Cuisine, was badly damaged by a pre-dawn fire. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the damage was largely limited to the building’s exterior, thanks to an effective sprinkler system. Founder and world-famous chef Alice Waters, who popularized the use of local, organic ingredients in cuisine with the opening of Chez Panisse in 1971, told the Chronicle that she was “pretty shaken” by the blaze.

Waters said that the restaurant’s upstairs cafe “can open real soon if we find a way to camouflage the front of the building.”

“I think we’ll have to put up one of those big screens that has pictures of what the restaurant looks like, like they do in Italy when they’re doing reconstruction,” she told the Chronicle.

View more videos at: http://nbcbayarea.com.

UNICEF: Israel Guilty of “Cruel and Inhuman” Abuse of Palestinian Children

A Palestinian child is detained by Israeli occupation forces (Photo: Fadi Y. Sarhan)

A Palestinian child is detained by Israeli occupation forces (Photo: Fadi Y. Sarhan)

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has released a report alleging “widespread, systematic and institutionalized” mistreatment of Palestinian children detained and imprisoned by Israel, abuse described as “cruel and inhuman.”

The 22-page UNICEF report, “Children in Israeli Military Detention: Observations and Recommendations,” offers advice on measures Israel can take to ensure that children detained during the ongoing 7-decade occupation of Palestine are treated in accordance with UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, a legally binding agreement to which Israel is signatory, the UN Convention Against Torture, and other international standards.

The report found that more than 7,000 Palestinian children between ages 12 and 17 have been arrested, interrogated and prosecuted for resisting Israeli occupation and associated policies and actions over the past decade. An average of two children per day are detained by Israeli forces, usually for throwing rocks at occupation troops. For children aged 12 and 13, the maximum legal term of imprisonment is six months. But for older children, convictions can result in imprisonment for as long as 20 years, according to the report.

“In no other country are children systematically tried by juvenile military courts that, by definition, fall short of providing the necessary guarantees to ensure respect for their rights,” the report states.

The report detailed abuses commonly experienced by Palestinian children detained, imprisoned and interrogated by Israeli forces. Many children are “aggressively awakened in the middle of the night by many armed soldiers” before “being forcibly brought to an interrogation center tied and blindfolded, sleep deprived and in a state of extreme fear.”

Many children are physically and verbally abused while in transit to Israeli detention centers, with some subjected to painful restraints as well as exposure to the elements and deprivation of food, water and access to toilets.

As for the interrogation process, UNICEF found that it “mixes intimidation, threats and physical violence, with the clear purpose of forcing the child to confess.”

“Children have been threatened with death, physical violence, solitary confinement and sexual assault, against themselves or a family member,” the report states.

The report claims that many children do confess, and are often forced to sign forms in Hebrew that they cannot understand.

Children are also held in solitary confinement for periods as long as a month before appearing in court, a particularly cruel form of punishment that has been known to drive even adult prisoners insane.

In court, Palestinian children, broken by their experiences in Israeli custody, are judged by evidence consisting primarily of their own confessions, which were “in most cases extracted under duress during interrogation,” the report states.

“Ultimately, almost all children plead guilty in order to reduce the length of their pretrial detention,” the reports states. “Pleading guilty is the quickest way to be released. In short, the system does not allow children to defend themselves.”

Speaking of defending themselves, critics of Israeli policies and actions assert that the vast majority of Palestinian children who do engage in stone-throwing and other largely symbolic acts of defiance are only doing what anyone would do if their homeland was occupied by foreign invaders. It is considered almost taboo in Israel to acknowledge the fact that the establishment of the state of Israel was accomplished by the expulsion of more than 700,000 Palestinians from their homes and villages, an event that even many Israeli observers call ethnic cleansing, and the military occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights since 1967.

This occupation, which is illegal under international law, has been characterized by extreme economic hardship and daily humiliation. Palestinian efforts to resist the occupation are usually met with an escalation of Israeli brutality. This January, a 17-year-old Palestinian boy was shot dead by Israeli forces following a stone-throwing incident near the occupied West Bank town of Budrus.

White House Spokesman Jay Carney: Obama Won’t Use Drones Against Americans on US Soil

President Obama does not have the authority to order lethal drone strikes against Americans on US soil, the White House announced today in response to Sen. Rand Paul’s epic filibuster.

Politico reports that White House Press Secretary Jay Carney announced what appeared to be a reversal of Attorney General Eric Holder’s earlier assertion that the president could authorize the assassination of Americans within the United States in “an extraordinary circumstance.”

Speaking on Thursday, Carney assured reporters that “the president has not and would not use drone strikes against American citizens on American soil.”

“Does the president have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil? …The answer to that question is ‘no,'” Carney continued, quoting a March 7 letter from Holder to Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).

Sen. Paul followed through on a threat to stall the nomination of John Brennan as CIA director until the Obama administration clarified whether or not it asserted the power to kill Americans on US soil. Paul’s epic filibuster lasted nearly 13 hours, during which time the Tea Party favorite railed against what he called Obama’s unconstitutional drone policy.

The Huffington Post reports that Carney said Holder’s latest letter should end the “great deal of confusion” surrounding the president’s drone policy.

“The legal authorities that exist to use lethal force are bound by, constrained by, the law and the Constitution,” Carney said. “The issue here isn’t the technology… Whether it’s a drone strike or a gun shot, the law and the Constitution apply in the same way.”

Sen. Paul sounded a victorious tone in response to Carney’s clarification.

“Hooray!” he told Fox News. “For 13 hours yesterday, we asked him that question. So there is a result and a victory. Under duress, and under public humiliation, the White House will respond and do the right thing.”

‘The Moral High Ground’: Rand Paul Delivers Epic Senate Filibuster Against Obama’s Drone Policy

It’s a sad day in America when a Tea Party Republican is the most progressive congressional voice defending our civil liberties.

But all political prejudice aside, a Tea Party Republican has pretty much been the only voice consistently fighting an executive branch that is increasingly trampling on the constitutional rights, which are supposedly sacrosanct and inviolable.

That voice belongs to Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, and I take back what I said about it being a “sad day.” It was anything but that on the Senate floor on Wednesday as Paul held up the nomination of John Brennan as CIA director for nearly 13 hours with a legendary old-school filibuster that ranks among the longest in history.

At issue were unmanned aerial drones– specifically, the Obama administrations shocking assertion that the president has the power to order the assassination of an American citizen on US soil, without charge or trial, if he decides that American poses a threat to national security. In a letter to Sen. Paul, Attorney General Eric Holder insisted that such blatantly unconstitutional murders would only occur in “an extraordinary circumstance,” but Paul was having none of it. He threatened to filibuster Brennan’s nomination if the administration refused to reject the unconstitutional use of domestic drone strikes against Americans, and that’s exactly what he did on Wednesday until nature called him away from the Senate floor.

Here are some highlights from his legendary day:

– “I rise today to begin to filibuster John Brennan’s nomination for the CIA,” Paul declared at the start of his epic stall. “I will speak until I can no longer speak, until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our Constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found guilty by a court.”

– “When I asked the president, can you kill an American on American soil, it should have been an easy answer. It’s an easy question. It should have been a resounding an unequivocal ‘no.’ The president’s response? He hasn’t killed anyone yet. We’re supposed to be comforted by that… He goes on to say, ‘… and I have no intention of killing Americans, but I might.'”

– “The Fifth Amendment says that no person shall be held to answer for a capital offense or otherwise infamous crime unless on presentment or indictment of a grand jury… The Fifth Amendment… should protect you from a president that might kill you with a drone. We were granted due process.”

– “I can’t understand the president’s unwillingness to say he’s not going to kill noncombatants… I’m not talking about someone with a… grenade launcher on their shoulder. Anyone committing lethal force can be repelled with lethal force. No one argues that point. I’m talking about whether you can kill noncombatants, because many of the people being killed overseas are noncombatants… we’re talking about people eating in a cafe, at home, in a restaurant.”

– “Alarm bells should go off when people tell you that the battlefield’s in America. Why? Because when the battlefield’s in America, we don’t have due process… Another way to put it is to call it martial law… They are telling you that the Bill of Rights don’t apply… We can’t have war that is part of our daily life in our country, that we’re going to say that from now on in our country, you don’t really have the protections of the Bill of Rights.”

– “Barack Obama of 2007 would be right down here with me arguing against this drone strike program if he were in the Senate. It amazes and disappoints me how much he has actually changed from what he once stood for.”

Eventually, nature forced Paul to end his historic filibuster. He went out with a joke: “I discovered that there are some limits to filibustering and I’m going to have to go and take care of one of those in a few minutes,” he said.

In addition to Sen. Paul, 13 Republicans joined in the filibuster. They were: Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Mike Lee, Pat Toomey, John Thune, John Barrasso, Tim Scott, John Cornyn, Jerry Moran, Ron Johnson, Jeff Flake, Mitch McConnell and Saxby Chambliss. Only one Democrat– Oregon’s Ron Wyden– spoke out as part of Paul’s stall effort.

Where was all the progressive outrage at an administration that has already established its right to indefinitely detain Americans without charge or trial, to spy on phone calls and electronic communications involving Americans and to criminally prosecute protesters exercising their First Amendment rights? Where was Bernie Sanders, for goodness sake?

As I’ve long argued, there isn’t much difference between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to so many matters of grave importance to our nation. Sadly, in this case, Republicans seem more concerned with protecting our constitutional right to not be murdered by our own government without due process of law than their so-called ‘progressive’ colleagues.

Arkansas Legislature Overrides Governor’s Veto, Affirms 12-Week Abortion Limit

(Photo: Jimmy Emerson)

(Photo: Jimmy Emerson)

Arkansas lawmakers defiantly voted to override Gov. Mike Beebe’s veto of a measure banning abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy.

The Associated Press reports that Arkansas will soon have the nation’s most restrictive abortion law, barring a lawsuit or court action, after the Republican-dominated legislature voted to override the Democratic governor’s veto.

The Arkansas House voted 56-33 on Wednesday to override the veto, following a Tuesday Senate vote of 20-14.

The legislature’s vote comes just days after state lawmakers overrode a similar veto of another abortion bill, one which prohibited nearly all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Unlike the 20-week measure, which went into effect immediately, the 12-week ban does not begin until this summer.

The 12-week limit will not apply to victims of rape or incest, or in cases where the mother’s life is in danger, or in cases of highly lethal fetal disorders.

While women who violate the 12-week limit will not be prosecuted under the law, doctors who perform such abortions face possible revocation of their medical licenses.

Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway), who sponsored the bill banning abortion after 12 weeks– the point at which a fetus’ heartbeat can usually be detected via abdominal ultrasound– said he was “grateful” that the legislature voted to override Gov. Beebe’s veto.

“I’m just grateful that this body has continued to stand up for the bills that have passed,” Rapert told the AP. “The eyes of the entire nation were on the Arkansas House of Representatives today.”

But Beebe, who believes that the measures are unconstitutional because federal law gives women up to 24 weeks to have an abortion, warned that the state would end up wasting taxpayers’ money defending the bills in court, where they would likely be struck down.

Reproductive rights advocates slammed the 12-week limit as “extreme.”

“The Arkansas Legislature has once again disregarded women’s health care and passed the most extreme anti-women’s health bill in the country,” Jill June, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, told the AP. “With this bill, the Arkansas Legislature will force many women to seek unsafe care.”

The Arkansas House vote came just hours after a federal judge struck down a similar law in Idaho which banned most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Idaho was one of seven states that adopted so-called ‘fetal pain’ laws since 2011. In rejecting Idaho’s law, US District Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled that the measure places an undue burden on a woman’s right to have an abortion.

Somebody Bid $105,000 to Deflower Brazilian Sex Doll ‘Valentina.’ Really.

Someone is willing to pay $105,000 to sleep with this doll. (Photo: Sexônico)

Someone is willing to pay $105,000 to screw this doll. (Photo: Sexônico)

The manufacturer of Brazil’s first ‘life-like sex doll’ is auctioning off the opportunity to ‘deflower’ the faux-femme, and bidding has now surpassed $100,000.

Her name is Valentina, and she’s being billed as the “first Brazilian Real Doll.” She’s made by a company called Sexônico, which also sells a Barack Obama sex doll and is hosting the First Annual International Inflatable Doll Show in São Paulo this week.

Coinciding with the show is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for one lucky guy (or gal, I suppose) to de-virginize Valentina by being the highest bidder in what’s got to be the most unusual auction I’ve ever seen. In addition to securing the right to make sweet, synthetic love to Valentina, the winner will receive: flights to and from São Paulo, a night’s stay in the Presidential Suite at Motel Swing (a ‘love motel’ in São Paulo), a candlelight champagne dinner, an aromatic rose petal bath, sexy lingerie for Valentina and a digital camera to capture scenes from the erotic encounter to share with friends.

So, you’re asking yourself, what kind of man would bid for the ‘privilege’ of being the first to screw an inflatable doll, and how high have the offers gone? Are you sitting down? Well, as of Friday afternoon, a gentleman named Raul Espindola has bid $105,100 for Valentina’s maidenhead. This is no joke. Raul is perfectly willing to drop the cost of a new Porsche 911 convertible or a condo in Brazil for a one-night stand with a doll.

Valentina’s not just any old blow-up doll, mind you. According to Sexônico, she’s covered in a life-like ‘cyberskin’ with joints made of PVC. “She has green eyes, fleshy lips, full breasts and a body that is the envy of every woman,” the company promises.

Some of you might get the feeling that there’s something familiar about this story, and you’re right– with one big difference. A pair of real young Brazilian women have recently made global headlines by auctioning off their virginity. The most famous of the two, 20-year-old Catarina Migliorini, sold hers for $780,000 to a Japanese businessman named Natsu last year, while 18-year-old Rebecca Bernardo claimed she was auctioning hers out of desperation to pay for her mother’s medical expenses.

Santa Fe High Art Teacher Jaimie Dominy Page Accused of Sex with Student

March 7, 2013 by Brett Wilkins in Crime & Punishment with 1 Comment

(Photo: MySpace)

(Photo: MySpace)

A former teacher at a Texas high school has been arrested and charged with having an illicit sexual relationship with an underage male student.

Jaimie Dominy Page, 25, was arrested Thursday afternoon and charged with three felony counts in connection with the alleged relationship, which police say occurred with a boy whose age was not revealed.

Page was charged with sexual abuse of a child, improper relationship between an educator and a student and online solicitation of a minor.

The art teacher, who also allegedly sent the boy sexually explicit photos, resigned during the course of an investigation into her alleged misconduct last month.

The Santa Fe ISD released the following statement regarding the case:

“SFISD believes these are serious charges and believes that such conduct, if it occurred, is unacceptable and despicable. SFISD learned of the possible allegations on February 19, 2013, and immediately began an investigation. During the investigation, Ms. Page resigned. The SFISD Police Department continues to investigate. SFISD encourages any parent or student who may have information to contact the police department. SFISD has notified the State Board for Educator Certification of the alleged conduct and will continue to work with law enforcement on this matter. Santa Fe ISD remains committed to the safety of all students and staff.”

KHOU reports that Page was booked into the Galveston County Jail on bonds totaling $50,000 before posting bond and being released on Thursday afternoon.

Pentagon Sent Retired US Colonels James Steele and James Coffman to Oversee Iraqi Torturers

The Pentagon sent a pair of retired colonels, one of them a veteran of the Central American “dirty wars,” to oversee Iraqi commando units that set up secret torture centers where horrific abuses against prisoners, some of them children, The shocking details of US involvement in Iraqi torture have been revealed following a 15-month BBC Arabic/Guardian investigation, the results of which were aired in a 51-minute documentary film. The investigation was launched after American soldier Bradley Manning released classified US military documents detailing hundreds of incidents in which US troops encountered tortured detainees in secret prisons run by police commandos across Iraq to the whistleblower website Wikileaks. Manning, who was himself subjected to techniques that the United Nations and International Red Cross have described as torture, faces up to 20 years’ imprisonment for leaking the files, some of which detail US war crimes and atrocities.

According to the investigation, Bush-era Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld hand-picked Col. James Steele, a 58-year-old retired special forces veteran, to travel to Iraq and assist in organizing sectarian paramilitary commando forces tasked with crushing the Sunni insurgents who were violently resisting the US-led occupation. Once the Pentagon allowed Shia militias to join state security forces, the special police commando (SPC) ranks swelled with Shia fighters from groups such as the Badr Brigades. Some of these groups received weapons and cash from Iran, which had a keen interest in thwarting the US-led mission in Iraq and in aiding their fellow Shiites.

Assisting Col. Steele in his mission was retired Col. James H. Coffman, who reported directly to David Petraeus, the disgraced former CIA chief who was then an army general in charge of organizing and training the post-Saddam Iraqi security forces. Col. Steele, who was in Iraq from 2003-2005 and again in 2006, reported directly to Sec. Rumsfeld.

According to American and Iraqi witnesses interviewed for the BBC Arabic/Guardian documentary, the two retired colonels and Gen.Petraeus witnessed or knew about the horrific torture of Iraqi detainees in SPC custody.

“They knew everything that was going on there,” Iraqi Gen. Muntadher al-Samari, who worked with Steele and Coffman to organize the commandos, said of the two men. Al-Samari claimed the Americans oversaw “the most horrible kinds of torture” committed by units set up in secret prisons.

“Each one was made up of an intelligence officer and eight interrogators,” al-Samari told the BBC Arabic/Guardian investigation. “This committee will use all means of torture to make the detainee confess, like using electricity or hanging him upside down, pulling out their nails and beating them on sensitive parts.”

“I remember one 14-year-old who was… tied up with his legs above his head,” the general continued. “His whole body was blue because of the impact of the cables with which he had been beaten.”

While there is no evidence that the Americans participated in the torture, they allegedly witnessed some of it while supervising interrogations.

Photographer Gilles Peress was on assignment with the New York Times in Iraq when he encountered Col. Steele in one of the secret torture prisons. “We were in a room… interviewing Steele and I’m looking around, I see blood everywhere,” Peress told the BBC Arabic/Guardian investigation.

Journalist Peter Maas was present at the same interrogation center with Peress. “While this interview was going on with a Saudi jihadi with Jim Steele also in the room, there were these terrible screams, somebody shouting ‘Allah! Allah! Allah!,'” Maas recalled. “These were the screams of pain and terror.”

A US official speaking for Gen. Petraeus told the Guardian that the general “did learn of allegations of Iraqi forces torturing detainees” during his tenure in Iraq, but that he “shared (the) information immediately with the US military chain of command, the US ambassador in Baghdad… and the relevant Iraqi leaders.”

But Iraqi Gen. Adnan Thabit, who headed the special commandos, refutes claims that the Americans were unaware of detainee torture.

“The Americans knew about everything I did; they knew what was going on in the interrogations and they knew the detainees,” Gen. Thabit told the investigation. “Even some of the intelligence about the detainees came to us from them– they are lying.”

Further evidence that Gen. Petraeus was unconcerned about detainee torture came in September 2005, when Jabr al-Solagh, who was closely associated with the brutal Badr Brigades, was appointed as Iraq’s interior minister. Al-Solagh’s tenure was characterized by torture and brutality, and under his watch the SPCs evolved into death squads. According to the Guardian, high-ranking Iraqi officials warned Gen. Petraeus of the grisly consequences of appointing al-Solagh, but their warnings were ignored.

US backing of sectarian death squads ultimately fueled a civil war that, at its height, saw 3,000 Iraqis killed each month.

Col. Steele had plenty of experience dealing with death squads by the time he arrived in Iraq. The Vietnam veteran headed a team of US advisers that trained Salvadoran security forces in counterinsurgency tactics during El Salvador’s civil war in the 1970s and ’80s. Among the atrocities committed by US-backed Salvadoran military and paramilitary forces, many of them trained, armed and funded by the United States, during the early 1980s were the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero and the mass killing of mourners at his funeral in 1980, the kidnapping, torture, rape and murder of four American church women later that year, the massacre of more than 900 Mayan villagers at El Mozote in 1981 and the murder of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter in 1989. In 1986, Petraeus visited El Salvador and became a staunch supporter of brutal methods employed in the fight against leftist insurgents.

A Tale of Two Neighbors: US Embraces Colombia’s Murderous Regime, Vilifies Hugo Chávez

¡Viva la Revolución Bolivariana! (Photo: Globovisión)

¡Viva la Revolución Bolivariana! (Photo: Globovisión)

President Barack Obama once called Hugo Chávez “a force that has interrupted progress in the region,” a statement that defies any notion of reality and smacks of a deliberately disingenuous or woefully ignorant regard for history. Chávez has never invaded or menaced any country in the region. He has actually been the leading figure in promoting cooperation among Latin American and Caribbean nations.

The United States, on the other hand, has intervened in, attacked, invaded or occupied countries in the region no less than 55 times. It has overthrown or helped to overthrow democratically elected leaders in Guatemala, Guyana, Ecuador, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Chile, Bolivia and Haiti, and unsuccessfully attempted to do so in Costa Rica, Jamaica and, as you’re about to see, Venezuela. Washington has also meddled in elections in no less than 11 different Latin American and Caribbean nations.

It has armed, trained and funded forces backed by American business interests and local economic elites as they ruthlessly crushed the hopes of the impoverished and repressed masses in nearly every single country in Latin America. Which country, Venezuela or the United States, sounds more like “a force that has interrupted progress in the region?”

While it is true that Chávez demonstrated an increasingly authoritarian leadership style that alarmed even sympathetic observers, he was elected by the Venezuelan people not once, not twice but three times in elections deemed fair by international observers and uncontested by the losers. Said former US President Jimmy Carter:

“Of the 92 elections that we’ve monitored, I would say the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world… [while] we (the United States) have one of the worst election processes in the world, and it’s almost entirely because of the excessive influx of money.”

It is the very apex of hypocrisy that the US would berate Venezuela over its democratic shortcomings, especially when you consider George W. Bush’s so-called ‘stolen election’ of 2000 and the fact that the Bush administration supported a very undemocratic coup against Chávez in 2002. The coup failed miserably, and Chávez was swept back into the presidential palace after a two-day absence on a wave of massive popular support and backing from loyalists within the armed forces.

Back in charge, Chávez continued with the sweeping reforms of the “Bolivarian Revolution” that made him a hero to millions of impoverished Venezuelans and the enemy of the country’s oligarchs. In a nation where more than 80 percent of the population lives in poverty and where most poor people had never seen a doctor or dentist in their lives, Chávez imported thousands of Cuban doctors, dentists and medical professionals (paid for with Venezuelan oil exports) to treat them for free, resulting in plunging infant mortality rates. He instituted land reform to help small farmers and landless peasants, nearly eliminated illiteracy (there are European Union countries with lower literacy rates) by making public education– including university– free for everyone, made food more affordable through government-supported community stores that sell goods well below the market price and provided employment to countless Venezuelans through worker cooperatives and small business loans.

US leaders of both parties demonize Chávez and his populist reforms because many of the changes– especially nationalizing the assets of foreign corporations– threaten Washington’s and Wall Street’s interests and profits. But Venezuela’s human rights record is far cleaner than that of its neighbor Colombia, which enjoys Washington’s full support. The Colombian government, military and paramilitary forces are, by far, the worst human rights violators in the Western Hemisphere. But billions of US taxpayer dollars are poured into Colombia, where the armed forces and paramilitary death squads commit gruesome atrocities, like a series of chainsaw massacres in which hundreds of innocent civilians were slaughtered.

The Colombian Army recently murdered more than a thousand innocent boys and young men, luring them with false promises of employment and then executing them at point-blank range for bonus pay and extra vacation days. Brutal Colombian military officers like Maj. Alirio Antonio Urueña Jaramillo, who tortured old women before stuffing them into coffee sacks and chopping them up with chainsaws, have received training in kidnapping, torture, assassination and democracy suppression at the US Army School of the Americas in Georgia.

American corporations like Coca-Cola, Chiquita, Occidental Petroleum and Drummond Coal have all recently borne responsibility for the torture and murder of labor unionists and other innocent civilians in Colombia and Guatemala who have stood between them and maximum profits. These companies paid paramilitary death squads to brutally crush labor unrest. Hundreds of thousands of Colombians have been displaced by the violence, many of them deliberately, so that multinational mining corporations could get their hands on resource-rich lands.

In 2007 the CIA learned that Colombia’s army chief, General Mario Montoya, was working closely with terrorist groups, one of which was headed by one of the country’s leading drug traffickers. General Montoya and his paramilitary allies carried out an operation in Medellin in which guerillas and civilians alike were hacked to pieces and buried in unmarked graves. Montoya was far from the only prominent Colombian with links to paramilitaries. A former foreign minister, a state governor, the national police chief and several legislators have also been implicated. Still, Colombia receives some $700 million each year in US aid, the most of any country outside the Middle East.

Unlike Colombia, there are no death squads is Venezuela. But unlike Hugo Chávez, who nationalized much of Venezuela’s petroleum industry and was frosty towards Washington, Colombian leaders have flung their nation’s doors wide open to foreign investors. That is why Chávez is vilified while Colombia is lavished with billions of dollars in US aid.

Fed up with American imperialism, Latin America has increasingly turned to Chávez’s Venezuela for friendship and opportunity, which further threatens Washington’s hegemony. Chávez’s Petrocaribe alliance, which provides long-term loans at 1 percent interest to purchase Venezuelan oil, counts 18 regional nations as members. Chávez used Venezuela’s oil wealth not only to raise living standards for millions of Venezuelans but also to assist the poor right here in the United States– Citgo, a subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, has been providing free home heating oil to around half a million low-income Americans each year in 25 states since 2005. Citgo’s December 2011 announcement that it would renew the program came just in the nick of time: three weeks later, Congress and the Obama administration slashed the federal government’s heating assistance program by 25 percent, leaving a million households literally in the cold. How dare we demonize Chávez as an enemy of America when his government is keeping hundreds of thousands of Americans from freezing to death each and every winter?

Far from being the disruptive, dictatorial force that Washington claims, Chávez’s “Bolivarian Revolution” has been an inspiration to tens of millions of Latin Americans who yearn for more just societies. That’s why a whole wave of democratically-elected leftist governments have swept into power throughout Latin America: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, Uruguay, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras all elected progressive governments during the 2000s. Tellingly, leaders of those nations have been labeled as “dictators,” “communists” and even “madmen” by the United States. Progressive leaders like “Mel” Zelaya in Honduras, Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia and Rafael Correa in Ecuador are continuously vilified for pursuing a divergent developmental path from the one favored by Washington and Wall Street. This makes them a threat in the eyes of American elites. But it also makes them heroes in the eyes of countless millions of long-suffering Latin Americans.

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