Billionaire-backed Human Rights Watch lobbies for lethal US sanctions on leftist governments as COVID-19 crisis rages

Posted on 12 Ἀπρίλιος 2020


Billionaire-backed Human Rights Watch lobbies for lethal US sanctions on leftist governments as COVID-19 crisis rages


Regime change-hungry HRW is proudly taking credit for crushing new US sanctions on Nicaragua while pushing to escalate Washington’s economic war on Venezuela. The Grayzone presents a deep dive into the “human rights” arm of US empire.

by Ben Norton

Part 1

Human Rights Watch, the leading so-called rights organization in the United States, has actively lobbied for Washington to impose suffocating sanctions on leftist governments in Latin America. The group has even praised the Donald Trump administration for ramping up its aggressively destabilizing regime-change measures.

NGOs like Human Rights Watch (HRW) depict targeted sanctions as a more palatable alternative to military action, although these measures are widely recognized by international legal experts to be a form of economic warfare that have led to the deaths of many thousands of civilians, destroyed the livelihoods of countless people, and devastated entire nations’ economies.

As the coronavirus pandemic spread across the globe, HRW operatives took credit for new sanctions the Trump administration had imposed on Nicaragua’s democratically elected leftist government. Among those cheering on the escalation of economic warfare was HRW Australia development and outreach manager Stephanie McLennan, who chirped that the fresh round of sanctions were “great news!

Unilateral sanctions are designed to cripple the economies of countries whose governments are being targeted for regime change, locking them out of the US-dominated financial system and collectively punishing the entire civilian population, depriving them of basic human rights so that Washington can install a more friendly regime. The US government routinely implements these coercive measures without the backing of the United Nations or other international bodies.

Rather than challenge the unilateral economic war waged across the globe by the US, Human Rights Watch is taking credit for the escalation of Washington’s assault on Nicaragua – and at the very moment when the small country of just 6 million people grapples with the deadly Covid-19 outbreak, and an arduous peace and reconciliation process.

In 2018, the Trump administration backed a bloody coup attempt in Nicaragua, in which right-wing extremists shot, tortured, and killed state security forces and leftist Sandinista activists, burning down buildings and setting people on fire, in hopes of destabilizing the government. When the putsch fizzled out, opposition groups funded by the US government turned to economic warfare and sanctions as the next weapon in the regime-change arsenal.

Purported “human rights” organizations in Nicaragua that work closely with the right-wing opposition played a major role in this coup attempt, selling outlandish, fabricated statistics that were eagerly regurgitated by the corporate media and international NGOs like HRW.

HRW’s staunch support for US sanctions clearly demonstrates how the group has been instrumentalized as an arm of US pressure against independent states in the Global South, especially socialist ones. NGOs like HRW provide cover for economic warfare, preventing nations like Nicaragua from rebuilding and healing the social divisions that have been exacerbated through successive US-backed destabilization campaigns.

The same strategy is apparent in Venezuela, another leftist country in Latin America targeted by an ongoing US coup attempt. Having spent over a decade demonizing the socialist government in Caracas, HRW is now calling for more painful sanctions to be levied against the country, which is already under an illegal, unilateral US blockade that has caused the deaths of at least 40,000 civilians, and perhaps as many as 100,000.

Scholars and independent human rights experts have long criticized HRW for its blatant double standards against Venezuela. In 2008, following a wave of sabotage and violence by the country’s US-backed opposition, HRW published a massive report uncritically echoing the unsubstantiated claims of right-wing activists as supposed facts, while systematically whitewashing their violence. The dubious report prompted more than 100 scholars to pen an open letter panning HRW for its failure to meet “minimal standards of scholarship, impartiality, accuracy or credibility.

Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth has led the charge for more sanctions on Nicaragua and Venezuela. His pleas for escalating the US economic war have been vociferously amplified by José Miguel Vivanco, the director of HRW’s Americas division.

Vivanco is a close ally of the right-wing opposition forces in Latin America, and is notorious for advancing their most maximalist positions under the guise of human rights concern.  He rejects virtually any effort at negotiations with the leftist states that comprise the Trump administration’s “Troika of Tyranny,” insisting that sanctions are “the only language they understand.

Vivanco has spilled oceans of ink lobbying the US Congress to drop the economic hammer on the few remaining socialist governments in Latin America. His behavior is part and parcel of HRW’s historic mission to destabilize virtually any government the US State Department deems to be insufficiently democratic, and to do so behind the veil of performative concern for the oppressed.

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