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Issue #1864      April 10, 2019

In Solidarity

US refuses entry to Canadian journalist

His overt support for Venezuela appears to be the reason why Canadian journalist, author and social media activist Arnold August was denied entry to the United States on March 16.

August told Prensa Latina that he was on his way to participate in the #HandsOffVenezuela march, held by ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) on March 16 in Washington, DC.

“I was planning to bring a message from Canada, citing thousands of social activists in my country, and its more than five million trade unionists, who have positioned themselves against the policies of Donald Trump and the Lima Group, in which the Canadian government is playing a lead role,” he said.

But at the airport in Montreal, “I was taken aside and sent to the Homeland Security Office and its Customs and Border Protection Department. After a long wait, I was interviewed by an official.”

He was told that, according to FBI data in the possession of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), he had been convicted three times in Canada, between 1972 and 1974. (These were for activities related to political protests,” he told Prensa Latina.) This criminal record, said the official, prevents him from being admitted to the United States.

“I objected, arguing that this was not the first time I had been taken aside by Homeland Security and even questioned about the same charges. Yet, they had never denied me entry to the United States.”

“I wanted to know what had changed, I asked ‘Why Now?’ And when there was no response, I challenged again: ‘Why Now?’ but I got no answer. I persisted and she then repeated that ‘today they are enforcing a regulation that prevents anyone with a criminal record from entering the United States.’ ”

August could not hide his amazement, since everything he was told by Homeland had been known to the authorities for over four decades. He asked again for an explanation and was handed a form known as the Homeland Security Waiver Application, “should he wish to challenge the decision.”

“After that, they escorted me out of the boarding area to the main entrance of the airport.”

August is the author of three books, as well as a series of articles on Venezuela that he has published since his visit to Caracas on February 4, directed in particular at a US audience. He commented that the March 16, 2019, border incident brought to mind previous occurrences that have now taken on greater significance in today’s context of increasing hostility in Washington towards Venezuela and Cuba.

He recalled from his old notes that on May 29, 2014, a Homeland Security official at the Montreal airport had questioned him about articles, apparently found by Googling on the Internet, that he had written about the coup against President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras.

The official also wanted to know if he had ever attended meetings with senior officials of the Cuban government, to which he replied that he had met Fidel Castro twice.

On another occasion, several months in the 2010s, he was asked his opinion about the Caribbean island and replied: “I support the Cuban Revolution.”

In yet another incident at the airport the following year, challenging yet another incident of harassment, August asked whether it had to do with his political opinions and was told that the only problem was his criminal record. The 1972-74 date, the official said, was a date of reference if at any time Homeland determines that “you are a danger to the US.”

“So, on March 16, 2019, they’re using those old incidents as a pretext to regard me as an alleged threat to the security of the United States,” he said.

“It’s perfectly clear that what really matters to them is not some archived file from the early 1970s but my political opinions today. That is why I was barred from the United States on March 16,” he concluded. Apparently, ‘the date of reference (1972-74)’ arrived on that Saturday morning in March after more than four decades of those events filed by the FBI.”

Here Arnold’s speech:

Dear friends,

Millions of workers across the country have taken a very strong stand, alongside the thousands of people within social and political movements who have been demonstrating in cities across Canada over the last few months, in support of elected President Nicolas Maduro and Venezuela’s right to self-determination – and against the Trump/Lima Group/Trudeau government alliance seeking regime change. This is the Canada that I know!

I share here a cross-section of quotes from supporters.

Quote from the Canadian Labour Congress and its 3 million workers:

“The CLC vehemently rejects a militarised solution to this crisis; the people of Latin America have not forgotten the brutal history of military rule in the region. Venezuelans need to resolve their differences through constructive dialogue and democratic processes. The CLC calls on the Government of Canada to abstain from seeking regime change and intervening in the sovereign affairs of Venezuela. Canada’s role on the world stage is better suited to promote stability through constructive dialogue with the international community.” (Canadian Labour Congress, “Canada’s unions urge federal government to help restore peace in Venezuela,” January 30, 2019.

Quote from the Canadian Union of Public Employees and its 650,000 workers:

“The Canadian government was one of the first governments in the world to declare support for Juan Guaidó. In doing so, they have chosen to side with a self-declared leader over President Nicolás Maduro, who was duly elected by the people of Venezuela. They have also chosen to side with Donald Trump and US foreign policy.” (Canadian Union of Public Employees, “CUPE Statement on the situation in Venezuela,” January 25, 2019.

Quote from the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) and its 50,000 members:

“CUPW Condemns Canada for Supporting US-Backed Coup in Venezuela.

It is deeply disturbing that the Canadian government has chosen to support this US-backed coup, which is in direct violation of international law. By following the US agenda in Venezuela, Canada has aligned itself with the right-wing regimes of the Lima Group and Donald Trump, who resemble past US governments who intervened and disrupted democratically elected governments in the Americas and elsewhere in the world. This is unacceptable.

Venezuelans created their Bolivarian Constitution from the ground up and have held several democratic elections. Venezuelans are capable of running their country without interference and harassment from the United States and its allies, including Canada.

The presidential elections of May 20, 2018 were free, transparent, reliable, secure and in accordance with the law, according to observers from around the world, including a CUPW delegate, who travelled to Venezuela to observe the elections.

President Maduro won with 67.84% of the vote.” (Canadian Union of Postal Workers, “CUPW Condemns Canada for Supporting US-Backed Coup in Venezuela,” February 7, 2019.

Issuing similar statements, the Vancouver and District Labour Council (VDLC) titled its view with “Hands Off Venezuela”:

“The VDLC condemns the attempted coup taking place in Venezuela, which aims to install an unelected figure, the acts of terrorism against government officials and public facilities. We call upon the Canadian government to end its sanctions against Venezuela, and promote dialogue and diplomacy instead of economic interference and threats.” Vancouver and District Labour Council, “Hands Off Venezuela,” January 26, 2019.

Toronto and York Regional Council:

“Latin America has not forgotten the horrific history of military rule in the region. The Government of Canada must refrain from seeking regime change.”

Thank you.

Hands off Venezuela!

Arnold August Washington, D.C March 16, 2019

Next article – The capitalist illusion – The independent state

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