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More political game-playing

WHEN the US State Department asserts that, because five Venezuelan-born, high-ranking officials of the US subsidiary of Venezuela’s PDVSA state-owned oil company carry US passports, they have rights under international law, it is correct.

The fact that the US legal system has trodden roughshod over the rights of foreign nationals, say, Mexican passport holders, putting them to death after denying them access to consular officials despite Mexican government protests, does not invalidate the international convention.

The Venezuelan government, fortunately, does not model its attitude to international law on the example provided by a lawless US administration.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro observed in August that relations with the US are at an all-time low.

Former US president Barack Obama’s unjust decision to impose and then extend sanctions against Venezuela has been exacerbated by current White House incumbent Donald Trump, who encapsulated US contempt for international law by announcing that his administration has “many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option if necessary.”

In contrast, Maduro told him that bilateral relations should be normalised and a dialogue established, adding: “You and I should talk. Only by speaking can we understand each other.”

The five men are among 60 people charged with embezzlement related to a $4 billion deal to refinance company bonds, which, the prosecution says, deprived Venezuela of funds to buy food and medical supplies.

They must answer for their deeds in a Venezuelan court and be accorded full legal rights, as well as access to US consular officials.

Their US passports do not, however, and will not, entitle them to exceptional rights over and above those enjoyed by all Venezuelan citizens and there is certainly no legal basis for their extradition to the US.

A predictably bad Budget with predictably bad results

ECONOMIC assessments by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and the Resolution Foundation of Philip Hammond’s Budget and the Tories’ entire government record are totally depressing.

Hammond, in common with hapless predecessor George Osborne and Liberal Democrat partner in crime Vince Cable, based their strategy on wiping out the deficit by 2015, choosing spending reductions, cuts in essential services and pay curbs as their means of achieving it.

Failure serves only to make them more obdurate in applying the same deflationary agenda while claiming that the age of austerity is over.

The prospect, according to IFS, of workers’ average earnings being lower in real terms in 2021 than in 2008 — when the private banking sector’s reckless conduct crashed the international finance system — is bleak indeed.

Hammond acknowledges frequently referencing these orthodox think tanks’ forecasts, suggesting merely that government will try to prove them wrong.

This is a classic example of making the same mistakes twice and expecting different results. It won’t happen.

Squeezing workers’ pay until at least 2025 will hit the already declining living standards of those least able to cope.

For all the figures quoted by government mouthpieces about the burden of taxation, especially income tax, being borne by the wealthiest, the Resolution Foundation offers a different scenario.

“The poorest third of households will be on average £715 a year worse off by 2022-23 while the richest third of households will be an average of £185 a year better off,” it says.

Many will suffer, but a few will prosper, which explains why the Tories still receive more in donations than all other parties. They are bought and paid for by big corporations and rich individuals.


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