Financial Education: Investopedia Videos

Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Swaps* (*But Were Afraid To Ask)

Hello, dummies
It's your old pal, Fuzzy.
As I'm sure you've all noticed, a lot of the stuff that gets posted here is - to put it delicately - fucking ridiculous. More backwards-ass shit gets posted to wallstreetbets than you'd see on a Westboro Baptist community message board. I mean, I had a look at the daily thread yesterday and..... yeesh. I know, I know. We all make like the divine Laura Dern circa 1992 on the daily and stick our hands deep into this steaming heap of shit to find the nuggets of valuable and/or hilarious information within (thanks for reading, BTW). I agree. I love it just the way it is too. That's what makes WSB great.
What I'm getting at is that a lot of the stuff that gets posted here - notwithstanding it being funny or interesting - is just... wrong. Like, fucking your cousin wrong. And to be clear, I mean the fucking your *first* cousin kinda wrong, before my Southerners in the back get all het up (simmer down, Billy Ray - I know Mabel's twice removed on your grand-sister's side). Truly, I try to let it slide. I do my bit to try and put you on the right path. Most of the time, I sleep easy no matter how badly I've seen someone explain what a bank liquidity crisis is. But out of all of those tens of thousands of misguided, autistic attempts at understanding the world of high finance, one thing gets so consistently - so *emphatically* - fucked up and misunderstood by you retards that last night I felt obligated at the end of a long work day to pull together this edition of Finance with Fuzzy just for you. It's so serious I'm not even going to make a u/pokimane gag. Have you guessed what it is yet? Here's a clue. It's in the title of the post.
That's right, friends. Today in the neighborhood we're going to talk all about hedging in financial markets - spots, swaps, collars, forwards, CDS, synthetic CDOs, all that fun shit. Don't worry; I'm going to explain what all the scary words mean and how they impact your OTM RH positions along the way.
We're going to break it down like this. (1) "What's a hedge, Fuzzy?" (2) Common Hedging Strategies and (3) All About ISDAs and Credit Default Swaps.
Before we begin. For the nerds and JV traders in the back (and anyone else who needs to hear this up front) - I am simplifying these descriptions for the purposes of this post. I am also obviously not going to try and cover every exotic form of hedge under the sun or give a detailed summation of what caused the financial crisis. If you are interested in something specific ask a question, but don't try and impress me with your Investopedia skills or technical points I didn't cover; I will just be forced to flex my years of IRL experience on you in the comments and you'll look like a big dummy.
TL;DR? Fuck you. There is no TL;DR. You've come this far already. What's a few more paragraphs? Put down the Cheetos and try to concentrate for the next 5-7 minutes. You'll learn something, and I promise I'll be gentle.
Ready? Let's get started.
1. The Tao of Risk: Hedging as a Way of Life
The simplest way to characterize what a hedge 'is' is to imagine every action having a binary outcome. One is bad, one is good. Red lines, green lines; uppie, downie. With me so far? Good. A 'hedge' is simply the employment of a strategy to mitigate the effect of your action having the wrong binary outcome. You wanted X, but you got Z! Frowny face. A hedge strategy introduces a third outcome. If you hedged against the possibility of Z happening, then you can wind up with Y instead. Not as good as X, but not as bad as Z. The technical definition I like to give my idiot juniors is as follows:
Utilization of a defensive strategy to mitigate risk, at a fraction of the cost to capital of the risk itself.
Congratulations. You just finished Hedging 101. "But Fuzzy, that's easy! I just sold a naked call against my 95% OTM put! I'm adequately hedged!". Spoiler alert: you're not (although good work on executing a collar, which I describe below). What I'm talking about here is what would be referred to as a 'perfect hedge'; a binary outcome where downside is totally mitigated by a risk management strategy. That's not how it works IRL. Pay attention; this is the tricky part.
You can't take a single position and conclude that you're adequately hedged because risks are fluid, not static. So you need to constantly adjust your position in order to maximize the value of the hedge and insure your position. You also need to consider exposure to more than one category of risk. There are micro (specific exposure) risks, and macro (trend exposure) risks, and both need to factor into the hedge calculus.
That's why, in the real world, the value of hedging depends entirely on the design of the hedging strategy itself. Here, when we say "value" of the hedge, we're not talking about cash money - we're talking about the intrinsic value of the hedge relative to the the risk profile of your underlying exposure. To achieve this, people hedge dynamically. In wallstreetbets terms, this means that as the value of your position changes, you need to change your hedges too. The idea is to efficiently and continuously distribute and rebalance risk across different states and periods, taking value from states in which the marginal cost of the hedge is low and putting it back into states where marginal cost of the hedge is high, until the shadow value of your underlying exposure is equalized across your positions. The punchline, I guess, is that one static position is a hedge in the same way that the finger paintings you make for your wife's boyfriend are art - it's technically correct, but you're only playing yourself by believing it.
Anyway. Obviously doing this as a small potatoes trader is hard but it's worth taking into account. Enough basic shit. So how does this work in markets?
2. A Hedging Taxonomy
The best place to start here is a practical question. What does a business need to hedge against? Think about the specific risk that an individual business faces. These are legion, so I'm just going to list a few of the key ones that apply to most corporates. (1) You have commodity risk for the shit you buy or the shit you use. (2) You have currency risk for the money you borrow. (3) You have rate risk on the debt you carry. (4) You have offtake risk for the shit you sell. Complicated, right? To help address the many and varied ways that shit can go wrong in a sophisticated market, smart operators like yours truly have devised a whole bundle of different instruments which can help you manage the risk. I might write about some of the more complicated ones in a later post if people are interested (CDO/CLOs, strip/stack hedges and bond swaps with option toggles come to mind) but let's stick to the basics for now.
(i) Swaps
A swap is one of the most common forms of hedge instrument, and they're used by pretty much everyone that can afford them. The language is complicated but the concept isn't, so pay attention and you'll be fine. This is the most important part of this section so it'll be the longest one.
Swaps are derivative contracts with two counterparties (before you ask, you can't trade 'em on an exchange - they're OTC instruments only). They're used to exchange one cash flow for another cash flow of equal expected value; doing this allows you to take speculative positions on certain financial prices or to alter the cash flows of existing assets or liabilities within a business. "Wait, Fuzz; slow down! What do you mean sets of cash flows?". Fear not, little autist. Ol' Fuzz has you covered.
The cash flows I'm talking about are referred to in swap-land as 'legs'. One leg is fixed - a set payment that's the same every time it gets paid - and the other is variable - it fluctuates (typically indexed off the price of the underlying risk that you are speculating on / protecting against). You set it up at the start so that they're notionally equal and the two legs net off; so at open, the swap is a zero NPV instrument. Here's where the fun starts. If the price that you based the variable leg of the swap on changes, the value of the swap will shift; the party on the wrong side of the move ponies up via the variable payment. It's a zero sum game.
I'll give you an example using the most vanilla swap around; an interest rate trade. Here's how it works. You borrow money from a bank, and they charge you a rate of interest. You lock the rate up front, because you're smart like that. But then - quelle surprise! - the rate gets better after you borrow. Now you're bagholding to the tune of, I don't know, 5 bps. Doesn't sound like much but on a billion dollar loan that's a lot of money (a classic example of the kind of 'small, deep hole' that's terrible for profits). Now, if you had a swap contract on the rate before you entered the trade, you're set; if the rate goes down, you get a payment under the swap. If it goes up, whatever payment you're making to the bank is netted off by the fact that you're borrowing at a sub-market rate. Win-win! Or, at least, Lose Less / Lose Less. That's the name of the game in hedging.
There are many different kinds of swaps, some of which are pretty exotic; but they're all different variations on the same theme. If your business has exposure to something which fluctuates in price, you trade swaps to hedge against the fluctuation. The valuation of swaps is also super interesting but I guarantee you that 99% of you won't understand it so I'm not going to try and explain it here although I encourage you to google it if you're interested.
Because they're OTC, none of them are filed publicly. Someeeeeetimes you see an ISDA (dsicussed below) but the confirms themselves (the individual swaps) are not filed. You can usually read about the hedging strategy in a 10-K, though. For what it's worth, most modern credit agreements ban speculative hedging. Top tip: This is occasionally something worth checking in credit agreements when you invest in businesses that are debt issuers - being able to do this increases the risk profile significantly and is particularly important in times of economic volatility (ctrl+f "non-speculative" in the credit agreement to be sure).
(ii) Forwards
A forward is a contract made today for the future delivery of an asset at a pre-agreed price. That's it. "But Fuzzy! That sounds just like a futures contract!". I know. Confusing, right? Just like a futures trade, forwards are generally used in commodity or forex land to protect against price fluctuations. The differences between forwards and futures are small but significant. I'm not going to go into super boring detail because I don't think many of you are commodities traders but it is still an important thing to understand even if you're just an RH jockey, so stick with me.
Just like swaps, forwards are OTC contracts - they're not publicly traded. This is distinct from futures, which are traded on exchanges (see The Ballad Of Big Dick Vick for some more color on this). In a forward, no money changes hands until the maturity date of the contract when delivery and receipt are carried out; price and quantity are locked in from day 1. As you now know having read about BDV, futures are marked to market daily, and normally people close them out with synthetic settlement using an inverse position. They're also liquid, and that makes them easier to unwind or close out in case shit goes sideways.
People use forwards when they absolutely have to get rid of the thing they made (or take delivery of the thing they need). If you're a miner, or a farmer, you use this shit to make sure that at the end of the production cycle, you can get rid of the shit you made (and you won't get fucked by someone taking cash settlement over delivery). If you're a buyer, you use them to guarantee that you'll get whatever the shit is that you'll need at a price agreed in advance. Because they're OTC, you can also exactly tailor them to the requirements of your particular circumstances.
These contracts are incredibly byzantine (and there are even crazier synthetic forwards you can see in money markets for the true degenerate fund managers). In my experience, only Texan oilfield magnates, commodities traders, and the weirdo forex crowd fuck with them. I (i) do not own a 10 gallon hat or a novelty size belt buckle (ii) do not wake up in the middle of the night freaking out about the price of pork fat and (iii) love greenbacks too much to care about other countries' monopoly money, so I don't fuck with them.
(iii) Collars
No, not the kind your wife is encouraging you to wear try out to 'spice things up' in the bedroom during quarantine. Collars are actually the hedging strategy most applicable to WSB. Collars deal with options! Hooray!
To execute a basic collar (also called a wrapper by tea-drinking Brits and people from the Antipodes), you buy an out of the money put while simultaneously writing a covered call on the same equity. The put protects your position against price drops and writing the call produces income that offsets the put premium. Doing this limits your tendies (you can only profit up to the strike price of the call) but also writes down your risk. If you screen large volume trades with a VOL/OI of more than 3 or 4x (and they're not bullshit biotech stocks), you can sometimes see these being constructed in real time as hedge funds protect themselves on their shorts.
(3) All About ISDAs, CDS and Synthetic CDOs
You may have heard about the mythical ISDA. Much like an indenture (discussed in my post on $F), it's a magic legal machine that lets you build swaps via trade confirms with a willing counterparty. They are very complicated legal documents and you need to be a true expert to fuck with them. Fortunately, I am, so I do. They're made of two parts; a Master (which is a form agreement that's always the same) and a Schedule (which amends the Master to include your specific terms). They are also the engine behind just about every major credit crunch of the last 10+ years.
First - a brief explainer. An ISDA is a not in and of itself a hedge - it's an umbrella contract that governs the terms of your swaps, which you use to construct your hedge position. You can trade commodities, forex, rates, whatever, all under the same ISDA.
Let me explain. Remember when we talked about swaps? Right. So. You can trade swaps on just about anything. In the late 90s and early 2000s, people had the smart idea of using other people's debt and or credit ratings as the variable leg of swap documentation. These are called credit default swaps. I was actually starting out at a bank during this time and, I gotta tell you, the only thing I can compare people's enthusiasm for this shit to was that moment in your early teens when you discover jerking off. Except, unlike your bathroom bound shame sessions to Mom's Sears catalogue, every single person you know felt that way too; and they're all doing it at once. It was a fiscal circlejerk of epic proportions, and the financial crisis was the inevitable bukkake finish. WSB autism is absolutely no comparison for the enthusiasm people had during this time for lighting each other's money on fire.
Here's how it works. You pick a company. Any company. Maybe even your own! And then you write a swap. In the swap, you define "Credit Event" with respect to that company's debt as the variable leg . And you write in... whatever you want. A ratings downgrade, default under the docs, failure to meet a leverage ratio or FCCR for a certain testing period... whatever. Now, this started out as a hedge position, just like we discussed above. The purest of intentions, of course. But then people realized - if bad shit happens, you make money. And banks... don't like calling in loans or forcing bankruptcies. Can you smell what the moral hazard is cooking?
Enter synthetic CDOs. CDOs are basically pools of asset backed securities that invest in debt (loans or bonds). They've been around for a minute but they got famous in the 2000s because a shitload of them containing subprime mortgage debt went belly up in 2008. This got a lot of publicity because a lot of sad looking rednecks got foreclosed on and were interviewed on CNBC. "OH!", the people cried. "Look at those big bad bankers buying up subprime loans! They caused this!". Wrong answer, America. The debt wasn't the problem. What a lot of people don't realize is that the real meat of the problem was not in regular way CDOs investing in bundles of shit mortgage debts in synthetic CDOs investing in CDS predicated on that debt. They're synthetic because they don't have a stake in the actual underlying debt; just the instruments riding on the coattails. The reason these are so popular (and remain so) is that smart structured attorneys and bankers like your faithful correspondent realized that an even more profitable and efficient way of building high yield products with limited downside was investing in instruments that profit from failure of debt and in instruments that rely on that debt and then hedging that exposure with other CDS instruments in paired trades, and on and on up the chain. The problem with doing this was that everyone wound up exposed to everybody else's books as a result, and when one went tits up, everybody did. Hence, recession, Basel III, etc. Thanks, Obama.
Heavy investment in CDS can also have a warping effect on the price of debt (something else that happened during the pre-financial crisis years and is starting to happen again now). This happens in three different ways. (1) Investors who previously were long on the debt hedge their position by selling CDS protection on the underlying, putting downward pressure on the debt price. (2) Investors who previously shorted the debt switch to buying CDS protection because the relatively illiquid debt (partic. when its a bond) trades at a discount below par compared to the CDS. The resulting reduction in short selling puts upward pressure on the bond price. (3) The delta in price and actual value of the debt tempts some investors to become NBTs (neg basis traders) who long the debt and purchase CDS protection. If traders can't take leverage, nothing happens to the price of the debt. If basis traders can take leverage (which is nearly always the case because they're holding a hedged position), they can push up or depress the debt price, goosing swap premiums etc. Anyway. Enough technical details.
I could keep going. This is a fascinating topic that is very poorly understood and explained, mainly because the people that caused it all still work on the street and use the same tactics today (it's also terribly taught at business schools because none of the teachers were actually around to see how this played out live). But it relates to the topic of today's lesson, so I thought I'd include it here.
Work depending, I'll be back next week with a covenant breakdown. Most upvoted ticker gets the post.
*EDIT 1\* In a total blowout, $PLAY won. So it's D&B time next week. Post will drop Monday at market open.
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Forex Trading Basics Reddit - Forex Glossary Terms For Beginners

Forex Trading Basics Reddit - Forex Glossary Terms For Beginners

What is Forex - Terminology

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The FOREX market is the largest financial market in the world. On a daily basis, trillions of dollars are traded in different currencies around the world.
Being FOREX the basis for international capital transactions, its liquidity and volume are much greater than any other financial market. It is estimated that the average volume traded by the world's largest stock exchange, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in a full month, is equal to the volume traded daily in the Forex currency market. In addition, it is estimated that this volume will increase by 25% annually.
80% of transactions are between the US dollar (USD), the euro (EUR), the yen (JPY), the British pound (GBP), the Swiss franc (CHF), and the Australian dollars (AUD) and Canadian (CAD).

What is traded in the Forex market?

We could just say that money. Trading in FOREX simultaneously involves buying one currency (for example euros) and selling another (for example US dollars). These simultaneous purchase and sale operations are carried out through online brokers. Operations are specified in pairs; for example the euro and the dollar (EUR / USD) or the pound sterling and the Yen (GBP / JPY).
These types of transactions can be somewhat confusing at first since nothing is being purchased physically. Basically, each currency is tied to the economy of its respective country and its value is a direct reflection of people's perception of that economy. For example, if there is a perception that the economy in Japan is going to weaken, the Yen is likely to be devalued against other currencies. In other words, people are going to sell Yen and they are going to buy currencies from countries where the economy is or will be better than Japan.
In general, the exchange of one currency for another reflects the condition of the health of the economy of that country with respect to the health of the economy of other countries.
Unlike other financial markets such as the stock market, the currency market does not have a fixed location like the largest exchanges in the world. These types of markets are known as OTC (Over The Counter). Transactions take place independently around the world, mainly over the Internet, and prices can vary from place to place.
Due to its decentralized nature, the foreign exchange market is operated 24 hours a day from Monday to Friday.
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Forex Trading Basics - Basic Forex Terminology

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As with any new skill that is learned, it is also necessary to learn its terminology. There are certain terms that you must know before you start trading Forex. Here are the main ones.

• Major and minor currencies

The 8 most widely used currencies (USD, EUR, JPY, GBP, CHF, CAD, NZD, and AUD) are known as “ major currencies ”. All other currencies are called " minor currencies ." You don't need to worry about minor currencies, as you probably won't start trading them for now. The USD, EUR, JPY, GBP, and CHF currencies are the most popular and most liquid currencies on the market.

• Base currency

The base currency is the first currency in any currency pair. It shows how much the base currency is worth against the second currency. For example, if the USD / CHF has a rate of 1.6350, it means that 1 USD is worth 1.6350 CHF. In the forex market, the US dollar is in many cases the base currency to make quotes, the quotes are expressed in units of $ 1 on the other currency of the pair.
In some other pairs, the base currency is the British pound, the euro, the Australian dollar, or the New Zealand dollar.

• Quoted currency

The quote currency is the second currency in the currency pair. This is often referred to as a "pip-currency" and any unrealized gains or losses are expressed in this currency.

• Pip

A pip is the smallest unit of the price of any currency. Almost all currencies consist of 5 significant digits and most pairs have the decimal point immediately after the first digit. For example EUR / USD = 1.2538, in this case, a pip is the smallest change in the fourth decimal space, which is, 0.0001.
A notable exception is the USD / JPY pair where the pip equals $ 0.01.

• Purchase price (bid)

The buying price (bid) is the price at which the market is ready to buy a specific currency in the Forex market. At this price, one can sell the base currency. The purchase price is displayed on the left side.
For example, in GBP / USD = 1.88112 / 15, the selling price is 1.8812. This means that you can sell a GPB for $ 1.8812.

• Sale Price (ask)

The asking price is the price at which the market is ready to sell a specific currency pair in the Forex market. At this price, you can buy the base currency. The sale price is displayed on the right-hand side.
For example, at EUR / USD = 1.2812 / 15, the selling price here is 1.2815. This means that you can buy one euro for $ 1.2815. The selling price is also called the bid price.

• Spread

All Forex quotes include two prices, the bid (offer) and the ask (demand).
The bid is the price at which the broker is willing to buy the base currency in exchange for the quoted currency. This means that the bid is the price at which you can sell.
The ask is the price at which the broker is willing to sell the base currency in exchange for the quoted currency. This means that the ask is the price at which you will buy. The difference between the bid and the ask is popularly known as the spread and is the consideration that the online broker receives for its services.

• Transaction costs

The transaction cost, which could be said to be the same as the Spread, is calculated as: Transaction Cost = Ask - Bid. It is the number of pips that are paid when opening a position. The final amount also depends on the size of the operation.
It is important to note that depending on the broker and the volatility, the difference between the ask and the bid can increase, making it more expensive to open a trade. This generally happens when there is a lot of volatility and little liquidity, as happens during the announcement of some relevant economic data.

• Cross currency

A cross-currency is any pair where one of the currencies is the US dollar (USD). These pairs show an erratic price behavior when the operator opens two operations in US dollars. For example, opening a long trade to buy EUR / GPB is equivalent to buying EUR / USD and selling GPB / USD. Cross-currency pairs generally carry a higher transaction cost.

• Margin

When you open a new account margin with a Forex broker, you must deposit a minimum amount of money to your broker. This minimum varies depending on each broker and can be as low as € / $ 100 at higher amounts.
Each time a new trade is executed a percentage of your account margin balance will be the initial margin required for a new trade based on the underlying currency pair, current price, and the number of units (or lots) of the trade. .
For example, let's say you open a mini account which gives you a leverage of 1: 200 or a margin of 0.5%. Mini accounts work with mini lots. Suppose a mini lot equals $ 10,000. If you are about to open a mini lot, instead of having to invest $ 10,000, you will only need $ 50 ($ 10,000 x 0.5% = $ 50).

• Leverage

Leverage is the ratio of the capital used in a transaction to the required deposit. It is the ability to control large amounts of dollars with relatively less capital. Leverage varies drastically depending on the broker, it can go from 1: 2 to even 1: 2000. The most common level of leverage in Forex can currently be around 1: 200.

• Margin + leverage = dangerous combination

Trading currencies on margin allows you to increase your buying power. This means that if you have $ 5,000 in account margin that allows you a 1: 100 leverage, you can then buy $ 500,000 in foreign exchange as you only have to invest a percentage of the purchase price. Another way of saying this is that you have $ 500,000 in purchasing power.
With more purchasing power you can greatly increase your potential profits without an outlay of cash. But be careful, working with a high margin increases your profits but also your losses if the trade does not progress in your favor.
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US Venezuela Policy is About Oligarchy, Not Democracy

US Venezuela Policy is About Oligarchy, Not Democracy

The proven oil reserves in Venezuela are recognized as the LARGEST in the world, totaling 297 billion barrels.
While ignoring (and even supporting) the atrocities of authoritarian regimes in places like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Uzbekistan, US oligarchs have targeted Venezuela for “regime-change” in the name of “democracy”.
Currently, the US is engaging in economic warfare against Venezuela to foment a coup and remove its democratically elected president Nicolás Maduro.
Without providing solid evidence, our corporate-controlled government and mainstream media portray Maduro as a corrupt, repressive, and illegitimate leader with little to no support.

Ask yourself:

Do I ever see officials from the Venezuelan government appear in corporate news shows to tell THEIR side of the story?
What people DO get to comment on Venezuela and what are their credentials and agenda? Are these people essentially public relations agents for the US-orchestrated coup?
Does corporate news provide me with historical background of US imperialism in Venezuela to put these current events in context?

What Corporate-Controlled Media will NOT Tell You

The CIA was involved in the failed coup against Venezuela's popular leader Hugo Chavez in 2002.
Venezuela is not a strictly socialist country; it has a “mixed” economy - not unlike Norway or other Scandinavian countries.
Venezuela is a DEMOCRACY - unlike US-allies Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait.
In 2012, Jimmy Carter went on record saying:
“As a matter of fact, of the 92 elections that we've monitored, I would say the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world”
The opposition to Maduro knew they were going to lose the last election and so boycotted it in attempt to delegitimize the results.
The US actually tried to dissuade Maduro’s opponents from running!
Maduro invited international observers into the country in 2018 to monitor the last election but the opposition asked the UN not to send observers!
More than 80% of the Venezuelan population had not even HEARD of Juan Guaidó before Trump and the US state proclaimed him the “rightful” president.
Maduro’s approval ratings within his country are on par with opposition-controlled National Assembly. According to an October poll by opposition-aligned pollster Datanalisis, Venezuela's National Assembly, of which Juan Guaidó is president, has a disapproval rating of 70%.
Venezuela WANTS to sell its oil to the US – the US is their largest market and refines a majority of their oil.
US companies Chevron Corp, Halliburton, Schlumberger, Baker Hughes and Weatherford International all have operations in Venezuela, and are allowed to continue to engage in transactions and activities with PDVSA and its joint ventures through July 27.
“No State or group of States has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other State. The foregoing principle prohibits not only armed force but also any other form of interference or attempted threat against the personality of the State or against its political, economic, and cultural elements.” Organization of American States Charter

Why is the US Corporatocracy so Keen to Remove Maduro?

While Venezuela’s economy is not a strictly-state-run economy, its oil industry is nationalized and uses its revenues for the benefit of its citizens (especially the poor).
After years of crippling US sanctions Maduro stepped over a crucial line in October when his government announced that Venezuela was abandoning the US dollar and would be make all future transactions on the Venezuelan exchange market in euro.
Saddam Hussein also went off the dollar in favor of the euro in 2003 – we started dropping bombs on him the next month.
A similar decision by the Gadhafi government in Libya (2011) was quickly followed by a devastating US-orchestrated conflict - culminating in Gadhafi's capture by radical Islamists who sodomized him with a bayonet before killing him. Since then, Libya has gone from Africa's wealthiest country to a truly failed-state complete with a slave trade! To make matters worse, after the collapse of the Libyan government, its military arms were smuggled out of that country and into the hands of ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria - enabling US-orchestrated chaos in those countries.

Who cares what currency a country uses to trade petroleum?

Answer: US oligarchy

The US dollar is central to US world economic domination.
Like all other modern currencies, it is a fiat currency – backed by no real assets to prop up its value.
In lieu of a “gold standard” we know operate on a de-facto “oil-standard”:
"After the collapse of the Bretton Woods gold standard in the early 1970s, the United States struck a deal with Saudi Arabia to standardize oil prices in dollar terms. Through this deal, the petrodollar system was born, along with a paradigm shift away from pegged exchanged rates and gold-backed currencies to non-backed, floating rate regimes.
The petrodollar system elevated the U.S. dollar to the world's reserve currency and, through this status, the United States enjoys persistent trade deficits and is a global economic hegemony." Investopedia
“The central banking Ponzi scheme requires an ever-increasing base of demand and the immediate silencing of those who would threaten its existence. Perhaps that is what the hurry [was] in removing Gaddafi in particular and those who might have been sympathetic to his monetary idea.” Anthony Wile

US Foreign Policy is about Oligarchy Not Democracy

Since World War II, the US has attempted to over-throw the 52 foreign governments. Aside from a handful of exceptions (China, Cuba, Vietnam, etc.), the US has been successful in the vast majority of these attempts.
US foreign policy is not about democracy – it is about exploiting the world’s resources in the interests of a small, ultra-wealthy global elite.
This exploitation benefits a small percentage of people at the top of the economic pyramid while the costs are born by those at the bottom.

US CIA Coup Playbook:

How to Plunder Resources from Foreign Countries While Pretending to Support Democracy
  1. Find a country with resources you want.
  2. Send in an “Economic Hitman” to offer bribes the country’s leader in the form of personally lucrative business deals. If he accepts the deal, the leader will amass a personal fortune in exchange for "privatizing” the resources you wish to extract.
If the leader will not accept your bribes, begin the regime-change process.
3) Engage in economic warfare by imposing crippling sanctions on the country and blame the ensuing shortages on the leader’s “socialist” policies.
4) Work with right-wing allies inside country to fund and organize an “astroturf” opposition group behind a corporate-friendly puppet.
5) Hire thugs inside country to incite unrest and violence against the government in coordination with your opposition group. Use corporate media to publicize the orchestrated outbursts as popular outrage and paint a picture of a “failed state” mired in corruption and chaos.
6) When the government arrests your thugs, decry the response as the brutal repression. Use corporate-owned media to demonize the target government as a despotic regime while praising your puppet opposition as champions of democracy.
7) Work with right-wing military leaders to organize the overthrow the government (offer them the same business deals the current leader refused).
8) If a military-led coup cannot be organized, create a mercenary army to carry out acts of terrorism against the government and its supporters. Portray the mercenaries as “freedom fighters” and their acts of terrorism as a “civil war”.
9) If the target government has popular and military support and is too well-defended for your mercenaries to over-throw: label the country a “rouge state” and wait for the right time to invade. Meanwhile, continue to wear the country’s government and populace down using steps 3 – 8.
10) Escalate the terror campaign within the country to provoke a military response from the country against the US. If they won’t take the bait , fabricate an attack or threat that you can sell to the US population as justification for an invasion.
11) Once the government is removed, set up your puppet regime to provide the illusion of sovereignty. The regime will facilitate and legitimize your appropriation of the country’s resources under the guise of "free" trade.
12) As you continue to extract the country’s resources, provide intelligence and military support to the puppet regime to suppress popular dissent within the country.
13) Use the demise of the former government as yet another example of the impracticality of “socialism.”
What Can I Do?
Call your senators and representatives to voice your opposition to US regime-change efforts in Venezuela.
https://www.commoncause.org/find-your-representative/
Please share this message with others.
Sources included at: https://link.medium.com/8DiA5xzx4T

‘Venezuela’: Media’s One-Word Rebuttal to the Threat of Socialism

ALAN MACLEOD FEBRUARY 8, 2019
A recent Gallup poll (8/13/18) found that a majority of millennials view socialism favorably, preferring it to capitalism. Democratic socialist Bernie Sanders is the most popular politician in the United States, while new leftist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (AOC) policies of higher taxes on the wealthy, free healthcare and public college tuition are highly popular—even among Republican voters (FAIR.org,1/23/19).
Alarmed by the growing threat of progressive policies at home, the establishment has found a one-word weapon to deploy against the rising tide: Venezuela. The trick is to attack any political figure or movement even remotely on the left by claiming they wish to turn the country into a “socialist wasteland” (Fox News, 2/2/19) run by a corrupt dictatorship, leaving its people hungry and devastated.
Leading the charge have been Fox News and other conservative outlets. One Fox opinion piece (1/25/19) claimed that Americans should be “absolutely disgusted” by the “fraud” of Bernie Sanders and Democrats like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker, as they “continue to promote a system that is causing mass starvation and the collapse of a country,” warning that is exactly what their failed socialist policies would bring to the US. (Back in the real world, while Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez identify as socialists, Warren is a self-described capitalist, and Booker is noted for his ties to Wall Street, whose support for his presidential bid he has reportedly been soliciting.) A second Fox Newsarticle (1/27/19) continues in the same vein, warning that, “At the heart of Venezuela’s collapse is a laundry list of socialist policies that have decimated its economy.”
The Wall Street Journal (1/28/19) describes calls for negotiations in Venezuela as “siding with the dictator.”
In an article entitled “Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Corbyn and the Starving Children of Venezuela,” the Washington Examiner (6/15/17) warned its readers to “beware the socialist utopia,” describing it as a dystopia where children go hungry thanks to socialism. The Wall Street Journal (1/28/19) recently condemned Sanders for his support of a “dictator,” despite the fact Bernie has strongly criticized Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, and dismissed Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chavez, as a “dead Communist dictator” (Reuters, 6/1/16).
More supposedly centrist publications have continued this line of attack. The New York Times’ Bret Stephens (1/25/19) argued: “Venezuela is a socialist catastrophe. In the age of AOC, the lesson must be learned again”—namely, that “socialism never works,” as “20 years of socialism” has led to “the ruin of a nation.” The Miami Herald(2/1/19) cast shame on Sanders and AOC for arguing for socialism in the face of such overwhelming evidence against it, describing the left’s refusal to back self-appointed president Juan Guaidó, someone whom less than 20 percent of Venezuelans had even heard of, let alone voted for, as “morally repugnant.”
This useful weapon to be used against the left can only be sustained by withholding a great number of key facts—chief among them, the US role in Venezuela’s devastation. US sanctions, according to the Venezuelan opposition’s economics czar, are responsible for a halving of the country’s oil output (FAIR.org, 12/17/18). The UN Human Rights Council has formally condemned the US and discussed reparations to be paid, with one UN special rapporteur describing Trump’s sanctions as a possible “crime against humanity” (London Independent, 1/26/19). This has not been reported by any the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN or any other national US “resistance” news outlet, which have been only too quick to support Trump’s regime change plans (FAIR.org, 1/25/19).
Likewise, the local US-backed opposition’s role in the economic crisis is barely mentioned. The opposition, which controls much of the country’s food supply, has officially accepted responsibility for conducting an “economic war” by withholding food and other key goods.
For example, the monolithic Empresas Polar controls the majority of the flour production and distribution crucial for making arepa cornbread, Venezuela’s staple food. Polar’s chair is Leopoldo Lopez, national coordinator of Juan Guaidó’s Popular Will party, while its president is Lorenzo Mendoza, who considered running for president against Maduro in the 2018 elections that caused pandemonium in the media (FAIR.org, 5/23/18).
Conspicuously, it’s the products that Polar has a near-monopoly in that are often in shortest supply. This is hardly a secret, but never mentioned in the copious stories (CNN, 5/14/14, Bloomberg, 3/16/17, Washington Post, 5/22/17, NPR, 4/7/17) focusing on bread lines in the country.
Also rarely commented on was the fact that multiple international election observer missions declared the 2018 elections free and fair, and that Venezuelan government spending as a proportion of GDP (often considered a barometer of socialism) is actually lower than the US’s, and far lower than most of Europe’s, according to the conservative Heritage Foundation.
The London Daily Express (2/3/19) demonstrates that redbaiting works equally well on either side of the Atlantic.
Regardless of these bothersome facts, the media has continued to present Venezuela’s supposedly socialist dictatorship as solely responsible for its crisis as a warning to any progressives who get the wrong idea. So useful is this tool that it is being used to attack progressive movements around the world. The Daily Express (2/3/19) and Daily Mail (2/3/19) condemned UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn for his “defense” of a “dictator,” while the Daily Telegraph(2/3/19) warned that the catastrophe of Venezuela is Labour’s blueprint for Britain. Meanwhile, the Greek leftist party Syriza’s support for Maduro (the official position of three-quarters of UN member states) was condemned as “shameful” (London Independent, 1/29/19).
“Venezuela” is also used as a one-word response to shut down debate and counter any progressive idea or thought. While the panel on ABC’s The View (7/23/18) discussed progressive legislation like Medicare for All and immigration reform, conservative regular Meghan McCain responding by invoking Venezuela: “They’re starving to death” she explained, leaving the other panelists bemused.
President Trump has also used it. In response to criticism from Senator Elizabeth Warren over his “Pocahontas” jibe, he replied that she would “make our country into Venezuela” (Reuters, 10/15/18).
The weapon’s effectiveness can only be sustained through a media in lockstep with the government’s regime-change goals. That the media is fixated on the travails of a relatively small and unimportant country in America’s “backyard,” and that the picture of Venezuela is so shallow, is not a mistake. Rather, the simplistic narrative of a socialist dictatorship starving its own people provides great utility as a weapon for the establishment to beat back the domestic “threat” of socialism, by associating movements and figures such as Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jeremy Corbyn with an evil caricature they have carefully crafted.

Corporate Propaganda Blitz Against Venezuela’s Elected President: MSM Will Not Let Facts Interfere With Coup Agenda

Facts Don’t Interfere With Propaganda Blitz Against Venezuela’s Elected President Joe Emersberger
Guaidó, anointed by Trump and a new Iraq-style Coalition of the Willing, did not even run in Venezuela’s May 2018 presidential election. In fact, shortly before the election, Guaidó was not even mentioned by the opposition-aligned pollster Datanálisis when it published approval ratings of various prominent opposition leaders. Henri Falcón, who actually did run in the election (defying US threats against him) was claimed by the pollster to basically be in a statistical tie for most popular among them. It is remarkable to see the Western media dismiss this election as “fraudulent,” without even attempting to show that it was “stolen“ from Falcón. Perhaps that’s because it so clearly wasn’t stolen.
Graph: Approval Ratings of Main Venezuelan Leaders Nov 2016 - July 2018 Data from the opposition-aligned pollsters in Venezuela (via Torino Capital) indicates that Henri Falcón was the most popular of the major opposition figures at the time of the May 2018 presidential election. Nicolás Maduro won the election due to widespread opposition boycotting and votes drawn by another opposition candidate, Javier Bertucci.
The constitutional argument that Trump and his accomplices have used to “recognize” Guaidó rests on the preposterous claim that Maduro has “abandoned” the presidency by soundly beating Falcón in the election. Caracas-based journalist Lucas Koerner took apart that argument in more detail.
What about the McClatchy-owned Miami Herald's claim that Maduro “continues to reject international aid”? In November 2018, following a public appeal by Maduro, the UN did authorize emergency aid for Venezuela. It was even reported by Reuters (11/26/18), whose headlines have often broadcast the news agency’s contempt for Maduro’s government.
It’s not unusual for Western media to ignore facts they have themselves reported when a major “propaganda blitz” by Washington is underway against a government. For example, it was generally reported accurately in 1998 that UN weapons inspectors were withdrawn from Iraq ahead of air strikes ordered by Bill Clinton, not expelled by Iraq’s government. But by 2002, it became a staple of pro-war propaganda that Iraq had expelled weapons inspectors (Extra! Update, 10/02).
And, incidentally, when a Venezuelan NGO requested aid from the UN-linked Global Fund in 2017, it was turned down. Setting aside how effective foreign aid is at all (the example of Haiti hardly makes a great case for it), it is supposed to be distributed based on relative need, not based on how badly the US government wants somebody overthrown.
But the potential for “aid” to alleviate Venezuela’s crisis is negligible compared to the destructive impact of US economic sanctions. Near the end of the Miami Herald article, author Jim Wyss cited an estimate from the thoroughly demonized Venezuelan government that US sanctions have cost it $30 billion, with no time period specified for that estimate. Again, this calls to mind the run-up to the Iraq invasion, when completely factual statements that Iraq had no WMDs were attributed to the discredited Iraqi government. Quoting Iraqi denials supposedly balanced the lies spread in the media by US officials like John Bolton, who now leads the charge to overthrow Maduro. Wyss could have cited economists independent of the Maduro government on the impact of US sanctions—like US economist Mark Weisbrot, or the emphatically anti-Maduro Venezuelan economist Francisco Rodríguez.
Illegal US sanctions were first imposed in 2015 under a fraudulent “state of emergency” declared by Obama, and subsequently extended by Trump. The revenue lost to Venezuela’s government due to US economic sanctions since August 2017, when the impact became very easy to quantify, is by now well over $6 billion. That’s enormous in an economy that was only able to import about $11 billion of goods in 2018, and needs about $2 billion per year in medicines. Trump’s “recognition” of Guaidó as “interim president” was the pretext for making the already devastating sanctions much worse. Last month, Francisco Rodríguez revised his projection for the change in Venezuela’s real GDP in 2019, from an 11 percent contraction to 26 percent, after the intensified sanctions were announced.
The $20 million in US “aid” that Wyss is outraged Maduro won’t let in is a rounding error compared to the billions already lost from Trump’s sanctions.
Former US Ambassador to Venezuela William Brownfield, who pressed for more sanctions on Venezuela, dispensed with the standard “humanitarian” cover that US officials have offered for them (Intercept, 2/10/19):
And if we can do something that will bring that end quicker, we probably should do it, but we should do it understanding that it’s going to have an impact on millions and millions of people who are already having great difficulty finding enough to eat, getting themselves cured when they get sick, or finding clothes to put on their children before they go off to school. We don’t get to do this and pretend as though it has no impact there. We have to make the hard decision—the desired outcome justifies this fairly severe punishment.
How does this gruesome candor get missed by reporters like Wyss, and go unreported in his article?
Speaking of “severe punishment,” if the names John Bolton and Elliott Abrams don’t immediately call to mind the punishment they should be receiving for crimes against humanity, it illustrates how well the Western propaganda system functions. Bolton, a prime facilitator of the Iraq War, recently suggested that Maduro could be sent to a US-run torture camp in Cuba. Abrams played a key role in keeping US support flowing to mass murderers and torturers in Central America during the 1980s. Also significant that Abrams, brought in by Trump to help oust Maduro, used “humanitarian aid” as cover to supply weapons to the US-backed Contra terrorists in Nicaragua.
In the Miami Herald article, the use of US “aid” for military purposes is presented as another allegation made by the vilified Venezuelan president: “Maduro has repeatedly said the aid is cover for a military invasion and has ordered his armed forces not to let it in, even as food and medicine shortages sweep the country.”
Venezuela Accuses U.S. of Secretly Shipping Arms After Weapons Found on Plane with Possible CIA Ties | Democracy Now!
Calling for international aid and being democratically elected will do as little to protect Maduro’s government from US aggression as being disarmed of WMD did to prevent Iraq from being invaded—unless there is much more pushback from the US public against a lethal propaganda system.

When Is a Democracy not a Democracy? When It’s Venezuela and the US is Pushing Regime Change. Venezuela has as much right to call itself a democracy as does the United States. Until that is understood by enough people, the Trump administration will continue to devastate Venezuela’s economy with illegal sanctions and push it towards civil war.
Suggested Reading:
UN Rapporteur: US Sanctions Cause Death in Venezuela
Guaido is playing it fast and loose with the Bolivarian Constitution to justify a dictatorship
Trump’s Economic Sanctions Have Cost Venezuela About $6bn Since August 2017
How could Venezuela's president 'steal' the 2018 election from an unknown who didn't run?
In other news...
The Largest Protest Ever Was 15 Years Ago. The Iraq War Isn’t Over. What Happened?
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What Is Capitalism?

Capitalism is an economic system in which private individuals or businesses own capital goods. The production of goods and services is based on supply and demand in the general market—known as a market economy—rather than through central planning—known as a planned economy or command economy.
The purest form of capitalism is free market or laissez-faire capitalism. Here, private individuals are unrestrained. They may determine where to invest, what to produce or sell, and at which prices to exchange goods and services. The laissez-faire marketplace operates without checks or controls.
Today, most countries practice a mixed capitalist system that includes some degree of government regulation of business and ownership of select industries.
Volume 75% 2:05

Capitalism

Understanding Capitalism

Functionally speaking, capitalism is one process by which the problems of economic production and resource distribution might be resolved. Instead of planning economic decisions through centralized political methods, as with socialism or feudalism, economic planning under capitalism occurs via decentralized and voluntary decisions.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Capitalism is an economic system characterized by private ownership of the means of production, especially in the industrial sector.
  • Capitalism depends on the enforcement of private property rights, which provide incentives for investment in and productive use of productive capital.
  • Capitalism developed historically out of previous systems of feudalism and mercantilism in Europe, and dramatically expanded industrialization and the large-scale availability of mass-market consumer goods.
  • Pure capitalism can be contrasted with pure socialism (where all means of production are collective or state-owned) and mixed economies (which lie on a continuum between pure capitalism and pure socialism).
  • The real-world practice of capitalism typically involves some degree of so-called “crony capitalism” due to demands from business for favorable government intervention and governments’ incentive to intervene in the economy.

Capitalism and Private Property

Private property rights are fundamental to capitalism. Most modern concepts of private property stem from John Locke's theory of homesteading, in which human beings claim ownership through mixing their labor with unclaimed resources. Once owned, the only legitimate means of transferring property are through voluntary exchange, gifts, inheritance, or re-homesteading of abandoned property.
Private property promotes efficiency by giving the owner of resources an incentive to maximize the value of their property. So, the more valuable the resource is, the more trading power it provides the owner. In a capitalist system, the person who owns the property is entitled to any value associated with that property.
For individuals or businesses to deploy their capital goods confidently, a system must exist that protects their legal right to own or transfer private property. A capitalist society will rely on the use of contracts, fair dealing, and tort law to facilitate and enforce these private property rights.
When a property is not privately owned but shared by the public, a problem known as the tragedy of the commons can emerge. With a common pool resource, which all people can use, and none can limit access to, all individuals have an incentive to extract as much use value as they can and no incentive to conserve or reinvest in the resource. Privatizing the resource is one possible solution to this problem, along with various voluntary or involuntary collective action approaches.

Capitalism, Profits, and Losses

Profits are closely associated with the concept of private property. By definition, an individual only enters into a voluntary exchange of private property when they believe the exchange benefits them in some psychic or material way. In such trades, each party gains extra subjective value, or profit, from the transaction.
Voluntary trade is the mechanism that drives activity in a capitalist system. The owners of resources compete with one another over consumers, who in turn, compete with other consumers over goods and services. All of this activity is built into the price system, which balances supply and demand to coordinate the distribution of resources.
A capitalist earns the highest profit by using capital goods most efficiently while producing the highest-value good or service. In this system, information about what is highest-valued is transmitted through those prices at which another individual voluntarily purchases the capitalist's good or service. Profits are an indication that less valuable inputs have been transformed into more valuable outputs. By contrast, the capitalist suffers losses when capital resources are not used efficiently and instead create less valuable outputs.

Free Enterprise or Capitalism?

Capitalism and free enterprise are often seen as synonymous. In truth, they are closely related yet distinct terms with overlapping features. It is possible to have a capitalist economy without complete free enterprise, and possible to have a free market without capitalism.
Any economy is capitalist as long as private individuals control the factors of production. However, a capitalist system can still be regulated by government laws, and the profits of capitalist endeavors can still be taxed heavily.
"Free enterprise" can roughly be understood to mean economic exchanges free of coercive government influence. Although unlikely, it is possible to conceive of a system where individuals choose to hold all property rights in common. Private property rights still exist in a free enterprise system, although the private property may be voluntarily treated as communal without a government mandate.
Many Native American tribes existed with elements of these arrangements, and within a broader capitalist economic family, clubs, co-ops, and joint-stock business firms like partnerships or corporations are all examples of common property institutions.
If accumulation, ownership, and profiting from capital is the central principle of capitalism, then freedom from state coercion is the central principle of free enterprise.

Feudalism the Root of Capitalism

Capitalism grew out of European feudalism. Up until the 12th century, less than 5% of the population of Europe lived in towns. Skilled workers lived in the city but received their keep from feudal lords rather than a real wage, and most workers were serfs for landed nobles. However, by the late Middle Ages rising urbanism, with cities as centers of industry and trade, become more and more economically important.
The advent of true wages offered by the trades encouraged more people to move into towns where they could get money rather than subsistence in exchange for labor. Families’ extra sons and daughters who needed to be put to work, could find new sources of income in the trade towns. Child labor was as much a part of the town's economic development as serfdom was part of the rural life.

Mercantilism Replaces Feudalism

Mercantilism gradually replaced the feudal economic system in Western Europe and became the primary economic system of commerce during the 16th to 18th centuries. Mercantilism started as trade between towns, but it was not necessarily competitive trade. Initially, each town had vastly different products and services that were slowly homogenized by demand over time.
After the homogenization of goods, trade was carried out in broader and broader circles: town to town, county to county, province to province, and, finally, nation to nation. When too many nations were offering similar goods for trade, the trade took on a competitive edge that was sharpened by strong feelings of nationalism in a continent that was constantly embroiled in wars.
Colonialism flourished alongside mercantilism, but the nations seeding the world with settlements were not trying to increase trade. Most colonies were set up with an economic system that smacked of feudalism, with their raw goods going back to the motherland and, in the case of the British colonies in North America, being forced to repurchase the finished product with a pseudo-currency that prevented them from trading with other nations.
It was Adam Smith who noticed that mercantilism was not a force of development and change, but a regressive system that was creating trade imbalances between nations and keeping them from advancing. His ideas for a free market opened the world to capitalism.

Growth of Industrial Capitalism

Smith's ideas were well-timed, as the Industrial Revolution was starting to cause tremors that would soon shake the Western world. The (often literal) gold mine of colonialism had brought new wealth and new demand for the products of domestic industries, which drove the expansion and mechanization of production. As technology leaped ahead and factories no longer had to be built near waterways or windmills to function, industrialists began building in the cities where there were now thousands of people to supply ready labor.
Industrial tycoons were the first people to amass their wealth in their lifetimes, often outstripping both the landed nobles and many of the money lending/banking families. For the first time in history, common people could have hopes of becoming wealthy. The new money crowd built more factories that required more labor, while also producing more goods for people to purchase.
During this period, the term "capitalism"—originating from the Latin word "capitalis," which means "head of cattle"—was first used by French socialist Louis Blanc in 1850, to signify a system of exclusive ownership of industrial means of production by private individuals rather than shared ownership.
Contrary to popular belief, Karl Marx did not coin the word "capitalism," although he certainly contributed to the rise of its use.

Industrial Capitalism's Effects

Industrial capitalism tended to benefit more levels of society rather than just the aristocratic class. Wages increased, helped greatly by the formation of unions. The standard of living also increased with the glut of affordable products being mass-produced. This growth led to the formation of a middle class and began to lift more and more people from the lower classes to swell its ranks.
The economic freedoms of capitalism matured alongside democratic political freedoms, liberal individualism, and the theory of natural rights. This unified maturity is not to say, however, that all capitalist systems are politically free or encourage individual liberty. Economist Milton Friedman, an advocate of capitalism and individual liberty, wrote in Capitalism and Freedom (1962) that "capitalism is a necessary condition for political freedom. It is not a sufficient condition."
A dramatic expansion of the financial sector accompanied the rise of industrial capitalism. Banks had previously served as warehouses for valuables, clearinghouses for long-distance trade, or lenders to nobles and governments. Now they came to serve the needs of everyday commerce and the intermediation of credit for large, long-term investment projects. By the 20th century, as stock exchanges became increasingly public and investment vehicles opened up to more individuals, some economists identified a variation on the system: financial capitalism.

Capitalism and Economic Growth

By creating incentives for entrepreneurs to reallocate away resources from unprofitable channels and into areas where consumers value them more highly, capitalism has proven a highly effective vehicle for economic growth.
Before the rise of capitalism in the 18th and 19th centuries, rapid economic growth occurred primarily through conquest and extraction of resources from conquered peoples. In general, this was a localized, zero-sum process. Research suggests average global per-capita income was unchanged between the rise of agricultural societies through approximately 1750 when the roots of the first Industrial Revolution took hold.
In subsequent centuries, capitalist production processes have greatly enhanced productive capacity. More and better goods became cheaply accessible to wide populations, raising standards of living in previously unthinkable ways. As a result, most political theorists and nearly all economists argue that capitalism is the most efficient and productive system of exchange.

Capitalism vs. Socialism

In terms of political economy, capitalism is often pitted against socialism. The fundamental difference between capitalism and socialism is the ownership and control of the means of production. In a capitalist economy, property and businesses are owned and controlled by individuals. In a socialist economy, the state owns and manages the vital means of production. However, other differences also exist in the form of equity, efficiency, and employment.

Equity

The capitalist economy is unconcerned about equitable arrangements. The argument is that inequality is the driving force that encourages innovation, which then pushes economic development. The primary concern of the socialist model is the redistribution of wealth and resources from the rich to the poor, out of fairness, and to ensure equality in opportunity and equality of outcome. Equality is valued above high achievement, and the collective good is viewed above the opportunity for individuals to advance.

Efficiency

The capitalist argument is that the profit incentive drives corporations to develop innovative new products that are desired by the consumer and have demand in the marketplace. It is argued that the state ownership of the means of production leads to inefficiency because, without the motivation to earn more money, management, workers, and developers are less likely to put forth the extra effort to push new ideas or products.

Employment

In a capitalist economy, the state does not directly employ the workforce. This lack of government-run employment can lead to unemployment during economic recessions and depressions. In a socialist economy, the state is the primary employer. During times of economic hardship, the socialist state can order hiring, so there is full employment. Also, there tends to be a stronger "safety net" in socialist systems for workers who are injured or permanently disabled. Those who can no longer work have fewer options available to help them in capitalist societies.

Mixed System vs. Pure Capitalism

When the government owns some but not all of the means of production, but government interests may legally circumvent, replace, limit, or otherwise regulate private economic interests, that is said to be a mixed economy or mixed economic system. A mixed economy respects property rights, but places limits on them.
Property owners are restricted with regards to how they exchange with one another. These restrictions come in many forms, such as minimum wage laws, tariffs, quotas, windfall taxes, license restrictions, prohibited products or contracts, direct public expropriation, anti-trust legislation, legal tender laws, subsidies, and eminent domain. Governments in mixed economies also fully or partly own and operate certain industries, especially those considered public goods, often enforcing legally binding monopolies in those industries to prohibit competition by private entities.
In contrast, pure capitalism, also known as laissez-faire capitalism or anarcho-capitalism, (such as professed by Murray N. Rothbard) all industries are left up to private ownership and operation, including public goods, and no central government authority provides regulation or supervision of economic activity in general.
The standard spectrum of economic systems places laissez-faire capitalism at one extreme and a complete planned economy—such as communism—at the other. Everything in the middle could be said to be a mixed economy. The mixed economy has elements of both central planning and unplanned private business.
By this definition, nearly every country in the world has a mixed economy, but contemporary mixed economies range in their levels of government intervention. The U.S. and the U.K. have a relatively pure type of capitalism with a minimum of federal regulation in financial and labor markets—sometimes known as Anglo-Saxon capitalism—while Canada and the Nordic countries have created a balance between socialism and capitalism.
Many European nations practice welfare capitalism, a system that is concerned with the social welfare of the worker, and includes such policies as state pensions, universal healthcare, collective bargaining, and industrial safety codes.

Crony Capitalism

Crony capitalism refers to a capitalist society that is based on the close relationships between business people and the state. Instead of success being determined by a free market and the rule of law, the success of a business is dependent on the favoritism that is shown to it by the government in the form of tax breaks, government grants, and other incentives.
In practice, this is the dominant form of capitalism worldwide due to the powerful incentives both faced by governments to extract resources by taxing, regulating, and fostering rent-seeking activity, and those faced by capitalist businesses to increase profits by obtaining subsidies, limiting competition, and erecting barriers to entry. In effect, these forces represent a kind of supply and demand for government intervention in the economy, which arises from the economic system itself.
Crony capitalism is widely blamed for a range of social and economic woes. Both socialists and capitalists blame each other for the rise of crony capitalism. Socialists believe that crony capitalism is the inevitable result of pure capitalism. On the other hand, capitalists believe that crony capitalism arises from the need of socialist governments to control the economy.
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US Venezuela Policy is About Oligarchy, Not Democracy

US Venezuela Policy is About Oligarchy, Not Democracy

The proven oil reserves in Venezuela are recognized as the LARGEST in the world, totaling 297 billion barrels.
While ignoring (and even supporting) the atrocities of authoritarian regimes in places like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Uzbekistan, US oligarchs have targeted Venezuela for “regime-change” in the name of “democracy”.
Currently, the US is engaging in economic warfare against Venezuela to foment a coup and remove its democratically elected president Nicolás Maduro.
Without providing solid evidence, our corporate-controlled government and mainstream media portray Maduro as a corrupt, repressive, and illegitimate leader with little to no support.

Ask yourself:

Do I ever see officials from the Venezuelan government appear in corporate news shows to tell THEIR side of the story?
What people DO get to comment on Venezuela and what are their credentials and agenda? Are these people essentially public relations agents for the US-orchestrated coup?
Does corporate news provide me with historical background of US imperialism in Venezuela to put these current events in context?

What Corporate-Controlled Media will NOT Tell You

The CIA was involved in the failed coup against Venezuela's popular leader Hugo Chavez in 2002.
Venezuela is not a strictly socialist country; it has a “mixed” economy - not unlike Norway or other Scandinavian countries.
Venezuela is a DEMOCRACY - unlike US-allies Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait.
In 2012, Jimmy Carter went on record saying:
“As a matter of fact, of the 92 elections that we've monitored, I would say the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world”
The opposition to Maduro knew they were going to lose the last election and so boycotted it in attempt to delegitimize the results.
The US actually tried to dissuade Maduro’s opponents from running!
Maduro invited international observers into the country in 2018 to monitor the last election but the opposition asked the UN not to send observers!
More than 80% of the Venezuelan population had not even HEARD of Juan Guaidó before Trump and the US state proclaimed him the “rightful” president.
Maduro’s approval ratings within his country are on par with opposition-controlled National Assembly. According to an October poll by opposition-aligned pollster Datanalisis, Venezuela's National Assembly, of which Juan Guaidó is president, has a disapproval rating of 70%.
Venezuela WANTS to sell its oil to the US – the US is their largest market and refines a majority of their oil.
US companies Chevron Corp, Halliburton, Schlumberger, Baker Hughes and Weatherford International all have operations in Venezuela, and are allowed to continue to engage in transactions and activities with PDVSA and its joint ventures through July 27.
“No State or group of States has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other State. The foregoing principle prohibits not only armed force but also any other form of interference or attempted threat against the personality of the State or against its political, economic, and cultural elements.” Organization of American States Charter

Why is the US Corporatocracy so Keen to Remove Maduro?

While Venezuela’s economy is not a strictly-state-run economy, its oil industry is nationalized and uses its revenues for the benefit of its citizens (especially the poor).
After years of crippling US sanctions Maduro stepped over a crucial line in October when his government announced that Venezuela was abandoning the US dollar and would be make all future transactions on the Venezuelan exchange market in euro.
Saddam Hussein also went off the dollar in favor of the euro in 2003 – we started dropping bombs on him the next month.
A similar decision by the Gadhafi government in Libya (2011) was quickly followed by a devastating US-orchestrated conflict - culminating in Gadhafi's capture by radical Islamists who sodomized him with a bayonet before killing him. Since then, Libya has gone from Africa's wealthiest country to a truly failed-state complete with a slave trade! To make matters worse, after the collapse of the Libyan government, its military arms were smuggled out of that country and into the hands of ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria - enabling US-orchestrated chaos in those countries.

Who cares what currency a country uses to trade petroleum?

Answer: US oligarchy

The US dollar is central to US world economic domination.
Like all other modern currencies, it is a fiat currency – backed by no real assets to prop up its value.
In lieu of a “gold standard” we know operate on a de-facto “oil-standard”:
"After the collapse of the Bretton Woods gold standard in the early 1970s, the United States struck a deal with Saudi Arabia to standardize oil prices in dollar terms. Through this deal, the petrodollar system was born, along with a paradigm shift away from pegged exchanged rates and gold-backed currencies to non-backed, floating rate regimes.
The petrodollar system elevated the U.S. dollar to the world's reserve currency and, through this status, the United States enjoys persistent trade deficits and is a global economic hegemony." Investopedia
“The central banking Ponzi scheme requires an ever-increasing base of demand and the immediate silencing of those who would threaten its existence. Perhaps that is what the hurry [was] in removing Gaddafi in particular and those who might have been sympathetic to his monetary idea.” Anthony Wile

US Foreign Policy is about Oligarchy Not Democracy

Since World War II, the US has attempted to over-throw the 52 foreign governments. Aside from a handful of exceptions (China, Cuba, Vietnam, etc.), the US has been successful in the vast majority of these attempts.
US foreign policy is not about democracy – it is about exploiting the world’s resources in the interests of a small, ultra-wealthy global elite.
This exploitation benefits a small percentage of people at the top of the economic pyramid while the costs are born by those at the bottom.

US CIA Coup Playbook:

How to Plunder Resources from Foreign Countries While Pretending to Support Democracy
  1. Find a country with resources you want.
  2. Send in an “Economic Hitman” to offer bribes the country’s leader in the form of personally lucrative business deals. If he accepts the deal, the leader will amass a personal fortune in exchange for "privatizing” the resources you wish to extract.
If the leader will not accept your bribes, begin the regime-change process.
3) Engage in economic warfare by imposing crippling sanctions on the country and blame the ensuing shortages on the leader’s “socialist” policies.
4) Work with right-wing allies inside country to fund and organize an “astroturf” opposition group behind a corporate-friendly puppet.
5) Hire thugs inside country to incite unrest and violence against the government in coordination with your opposition group. Use corporate media to publicize the orchestrated outbursts as popular outrage and paint a picture of a “failed state” mired in corruption and chaos.
6) When the government arrests your thugs, decry the response as the brutal repression. Use corporate-owned media to demonize the target government as a despotic regime while praising your puppet opposition as champions of democracy.
7) Work with right-wing military leaders to organize the overthrow the government (offer them the same business deals the current leader refused).
8) If a military-led coup cannot be organized, create a mercenary army to carry out acts of terrorism against the government and its supporters. Portray the mercenaries as “freedom fighters” and their acts of terrorism as a “civil war”.
9) If the target government has popular and military support and is too well-defended for your mercenaries to over-throw: label the country a “rouge state” and wait for the right time to invade. Meanwhile, continue to wear the country’s government and populace down using steps 3 – 8.
10) Escalate the terror campaign within the country to provoke a military response from the country against the US. If they won’t take the bait , fabricate an attack or threat that you can sell to the US population as justification for an invasion.
11) Once the government is removed, set up your puppet regime to provide the illusion of sovereignty. The regime will facilitate and legitimize your appropriation of the country’s resources under the guise of "free" trade.
12) As you continue to extract the country’s resources, provide intelligence and military support to the puppet regime to suppress popular dissent within the country.
13) Use the demise of the former government as yet another example of the impracticality of “socialism.”
What Can I Do?
Call your senators and representatives to voice your opposition to US regime-change efforts in Venezuela.
https://www.commoncause.org/find-your-representative/
Please share this message with others.
Sources included at: https://link.medium.com/8DiA5xzx4T

‘Venezuela’: Media’s One-Word Rebuttal to the Threat of Socialism

ALAN MACLEOD FEBRUARY 8, 2019
A recent Gallup poll (8/13/18) found that a majority of millennials view socialism favorably, preferring it to capitalism. Democratic socialist Bernie Sanders is the most popular politician in the United States, while new leftist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (AOC) policies of higher taxes on the wealthy, free healthcare and public college tuition are highly popular—even among Republican voters (FAIR.org,1/23/19).
Alarmed by the growing threat of progressive policies at home, the establishment has found a one-word weapon to deploy against the rising tide: Venezuela. The trick is to attack any political figure or movement even remotely on the left by claiming they wish to turn the country into a “socialist wasteland” (Fox News, 2/2/19) run by a corrupt dictatorship, leaving its people hungry and devastated.
Leading the charge have been Fox News and other conservative outlets. One Fox opinion piece (1/25/19) claimed that Americans should be “absolutely disgusted” by the “fraud” of Bernie Sanders and Democrats like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker, as they “continue to promote a system that is causing mass starvation and the collapse of a country,” warning that is exactly what their failed socialist policies would bring to the US. (Back in the real world, while Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez identify as socialists, Warren is a self-described capitalist, and Booker is noted for his ties to Wall Street, whose support for his presidential bid he has reportedly been soliciting.) A second Fox Newsarticle (1/27/19) continues in the same vein, warning that, “At the heart of Venezuela’s collapse is a laundry list of socialist policies that have decimated its economy.”
The Wall Street Journal (1/28/19) describes calls for negotiations in Venezuela as “siding with the dictator.”
In an article entitled “Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Corbyn and the Starving Children of Venezuela,” the Washington Examiner (6/15/17) warned its readers to “beware the socialist utopia,” describing it as a dystopia where children go hungry thanks to socialism. The Wall Street Journal (1/28/19) recently condemned Sanders for his support of a “dictator,” despite the fact Bernie has strongly criticized Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, and dismissed Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chavez, as a “dead Communist dictator” (Reuters, 6/1/16).
More supposedly centrist publications have continued this line of attack. The New York Times’ Bret Stephens (1/25/19) argued: “Venezuela is a socialist catastrophe. In the age of AOC, the lesson must be learned again”—namely, that “socialism never works,” as “20 years of socialism” has led to “the ruin of a nation.” The Miami Herald(2/1/19) cast shame on Sanders and AOC for arguing for socialism in the face of such overwhelming evidence against it, describing the left’s refusal to back self-appointed president Juan Guaidó, someone whom less than 20 percent of Venezuelans had even heard of, let alone voted for, as “morally repugnant.”
This useful weapon to be used against the left can only be sustained by withholding a great number of key facts—chief among them, the US role in Venezuela’s devastation. US sanctions, according to the Venezuelan opposition’s economics czar, are responsible for a halving of the country’s oil output (FAIR.org, 12/17/18). The UN Human Rights Council has formally condemned the US and discussed reparations to be paid, with one UN special rapporteur describing Trump’s sanctions as a possible “crime against humanity” (London Independent, 1/26/19). This has not been reported by any the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN or any other national US “resistance” news outlet, which have been only too quick to support Trump’s regime change plans (FAIR.org, 1/25/19).
Likewise, the local US-backed opposition’s role in the economic crisis is barely mentioned. The opposition, which controls much of the country’s food supply, has officially accepted responsibility for conducting an “economic war” by withholding food and other key goods.
For example, the monolithic Empresas Polar controls the majority of the flour production and distribution crucial for making arepa cornbread, Venezuela’s staple food. Polar’s chair is Leopoldo Lopez, national coordinator of Juan Guaidó’s Popular Will party, while its president is Lorenzo Mendoza, who considered running for president against Maduro in the 2018 elections that caused pandemonium in the media (FAIR.org, 5/23/18).
Conspicuously, it’s the products that Polar has a near-monopoly in that are often in shortest supply. This is hardly a secret, but never mentioned in the copious stories (CNN, 5/14/14, Bloomberg, 3/16/17, Washington Post, 5/22/17, NPR, 4/7/17) focusing on bread lines in the country.
Also rarely commented on was the fact that multiple international election observer missions declared the 2018 elections free and fair, and that Venezuelan government spending as a proportion of GDP (often considered a barometer of socialism) is actually lower than the US’s, and far lower than most of Europe’s, according to the conservative Heritage Foundation.
The London Daily Express (2/3/19) demonstrates that redbaiting works equally well on either side of the Atlantic.
Regardless of these bothersome facts, the media has continued to present Venezuela’s supposedly socialist dictatorship as solely responsible for its crisis as a warning to any progressives who get the wrong idea. So useful is this tool that it is being used to attack progressive movements around the world. The Daily Express (2/3/19) and Daily Mail (2/3/19) condemned UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn for his “defense” of a “dictator,” while the Daily Telegraph(2/3/19) warned that the catastrophe of Venezuela is Labour’s blueprint for Britain. Meanwhile, the Greek leftist party Syriza’s support for Maduro (the official position of three-quarters of UN member states) was condemned as “shameful” (London Independent, 1/29/19).
“Venezuela” is also used as a one-word response to shut down debate and counter any progressive idea or thought. While the panel on ABC’s The View (7/23/18) discussed progressive legislation like Medicare for All and immigration reform, conservative regular Meghan McCain responding by invoking Venezuela: “They’re starving to death” she explained, leaving the other panelists bemused.
President Trump has also used it. In response to criticism from Senator Elizabeth Warren over his “Pocahontas” jibe, he replied that she would “make our country into Venezuela” (Reuters, 10/15/18).
The weapon’s effectiveness can only be sustained through a media in lockstep with the government’s regime-change goals. That the media is fixated on the travails of a relatively small and unimportant country in America’s “backyard,” and that the picture of Venezuela is so shallow, is not a mistake. Rather, the simplistic narrative of a socialist dictatorship starving its own people provides great utility as a weapon for the establishment to beat back the domestic “threat” of socialism, by associating movements and figures such as Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jeremy Corbyn with an evil caricature they have carefully crafted.

Corporate Propaganda Blitz Against Venezuela’s Elected President: MSM Will Not Let Facts Interfere With Coup Agenda

Facts Don’t Interfere With Propaganda Blitz Against Venezuela’s Elected President Joe Emersberger
Guaidó, anointed by Trump and a new Iraq-style Coalition of the Willing, did not even run in Venezuela’s May 2018 presidential election. In fact, shortly before the election, Guaidó was not even mentioned by the opposition-aligned pollster Datanálisis when it published approval ratings of various prominent opposition leaders. Henri Falcón, who actually did run in the election (defying US threats against him) was claimed by the pollster to basically be in a statistical tie for most popular among them. It is remarkable to see the Western media dismiss this election as “fraudulent,” without even attempting to show that it was “stolen“ from Falcón. Perhaps that’s because it so clearly wasn’t stolen.
Graph: Approval Ratings of Main Venezuelan Leaders Nov 2016 - July 2018 Data from the opposition-aligned pollsters in Venezuela (via Torino Capital) indicates that Henri Falcón was the most popular of the major opposition figures at the time of the May 2018 presidential election. Nicolás Maduro won the election due to widespread opposition boycotting and votes drawn by another opposition candidate, Javier Bertucci.
The constitutional argument that Trump and his accomplices have used to “recognize” Guaidó rests on the preposterous claim that Maduro has “abandoned” the presidency by soundly beating Falcón in the election. Caracas-based journalist Lucas Koerner took apart that argument in more detail.
What about the McClatchy-owned Miami Herald's claim that Maduro “continues to reject international aid”? In November 2018, following a public appeal by Maduro, the UN did authorize emergency aid for Venezuela. It was even reported by Reuters (11/26/18), whose headlines have often broadcast the news agency’s contempt for Maduro’s government.
It’s not unusual for Western media to ignore facts they have themselves reported when a major “propaganda blitz” by Washington is underway against a government. For example, it was generally reported accurately in 1998 that UN weapons inspectors were withdrawn from Iraq ahead of air strikes ordered by Bill Clinton, not expelled by Iraq’s government. But by 2002, it became a staple of pro-war propaganda that Iraq had expelled weapons inspectors (Extra! Update, 10/02).
And, incidentally, when a Venezuelan NGO requested aid from the UN-linked Global Fund in 2017, it was turned down. Setting aside how effective foreign aid is at all (the example of Haiti hardly makes a great case for it), it is supposed to be distributed based on relative need, not based on how badly the US government wants somebody overthrown.
But the potential for “aid” to alleviate Venezuela’s crisis is negligible compared to the destructive impact of US economic sanctions. Near the end of the Miami Herald article, author Jim Wyss cited an estimate from the thoroughly demonized Venezuelan government that US sanctions have cost it $30 billion, with no time period specified for that estimate. Again, this calls to mind the run-up to the Iraq invasion, when completely factual statements that Iraq had no WMDs were attributed to the discredited Iraqi government. Quoting Iraqi denials supposedly balanced the lies spread in the media by US officials like John Bolton, who now leads the charge to overthrow Maduro. Wyss could have cited economists independent of the Maduro government on the impact of US sanctions—like US economist Mark Weisbrot, or the emphatically anti-Maduro Venezuelan economist Francisco Rodríguez.
Illegal US sanctions were first imposed in 2015 under a fraudulent “state of emergency” declared by Obama, and subsequently extended by Trump. The revenue lost to Venezuela’s government due to US economic sanctions since August 2017, when the impact became very easy to quantify, is by now well over $6 billion. That’s enormous in an economy that was only able to import about $11 billion of goods in 2018, and needs about $2 billion per year in medicines. Trump’s “recognition” of Guaidó as “interim president” was the pretext for making the already devastating sanctions much worse. Last month, Francisco Rodríguez revised his projection for the change in Venezuela’s real GDP in 2019, from an 11 percent contraction to 26 percent, after the intensified sanctions were announced.
The $20 million in US “aid” that Wyss is outraged Maduro won’t let in is a rounding error compared to the billions already lost from Trump’s sanctions.
Former US Ambassador to Venezuela William Brownfield, who pressed for more sanctions on Venezuela, dispensed with the standard “humanitarian” cover that US officials have offered for them (Intercept, 2/10/19):
And if we can do something that will bring that end quicker, we probably should do it, but we should do it understanding that it’s going to have an impact on millions and millions of people who are already having great difficulty finding enough to eat, getting themselves cured when they get sick, or finding clothes to put on their children before they go off to school. We don’t get to do this and pretend as though it has no impact there. We have to make the hard decision—the desired outcome justifies this fairly severe punishment.
How does this gruesome candor get missed by reporters like Wyss, and go unreported in his article?
Speaking of “severe punishment,” if the names John Bolton and Elliott Abrams don’t immediately call to mind the punishment they should be receiving for crimes against humanity, it illustrates how well the Western propaganda system functions. Bolton, a prime facilitator of the Iraq War, recently suggested that Maduro could be sent to a US-run torture camp in Cuba. Abrams played a key role in keeping US support flowing to mass murderers and torturers in Central America during the 1980s. Also significant that Abrams, brought in by Trump to help oust Maduro, used “humanitarian aid” as cover to supply weapons to the US-backed Contra terrorists in Nicaragua.
In the Miami Herald article, the use of US “aid” for military purposes is presented as another allegation made by the vilified Venezuelan president: “Maduro has repeatedly said the aid is cover for a military invasion and has ordered his armed forces not to let it in, even as food and medicine shortages sweep the country.”
Venezuela Accuses U.S. of Secretly Shipping Arms After Weapons Found on Plane with Possible CIA Ties | Democracy Now!
Calling for international aid and being democratically elected will do as little to protect Maduro’s government from US aggression as being disarmed of WMD did to prevent Iraq from being invaded—unless there is much more pushback from the US public against a lethal propaganda system.
Suggested Reading:
When Is a Democracy not a Democracy? When It’s Venezuela and the US is Pushing Regime Change. Venezuela has as much right to call itself a democracy as does the United States. Until that is understood by enough people, the Trump administration will continue to devastate Venezuela’s economy with illegal sanctions and push it towards civil war.
UN Rapporteur: US Sanctions Cause Death in Venezuela
Guaido is playing it fast and loose with the Bolivarian Constitution to justify a dictatorship
Trump’s Economic Sanctions Have Cost Venezuela About $6bn Since August 2017
How could Venezuela's president 'steal' the 2018 election from an unknown who didn't run?
In other news...
The Largest Protest Ever Was 15 Years Ago. The Iraq War Isn’t Over. What Happened?
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