“It has nothing to do with the needs of the Venezuelan people. It has nothing to do with democracy. It has nothing to do with freedom. And it has nothing to do with aid.” — Roger Waters on the Richard Branson “aid” concert
CÚCUTA, COLOMBIA — Knighted billionaire businessman Sir Richard Branson is hosting a concert on Friday in the Venezuelan border town of Cúcuta, Colombia to raise money for the Washington-backed regime-change push in the Bolivarian Republic.
The area has become a flashpoint in the U.S.-backed coup attempt against Venezuela’s elected president, Nicolás Maduro.
Just a few minutes drive from Cúcuta is the Tienditas International Bridge, which Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused the Venezuelan government of blocking in an effort to keep U.S. aid from reaching “THE STARVING PEOPLE.”
The bridge turned out to be a ruse, however. Despite the many media reports that parroted the state department’s line, the Tienditas International Bridge has never been opened.
The Venezuelan people desperately need humanitarian aid. The U.S. & other countries are trying to help, but #Venezuela’s military under Maduro's orders is blocking aid with trucks and shipping tankers. The Maduro regime must LET THE AID REACH THE STARVING PEOPLE. #EstamosUnidosVE pic.twitter.com/L4ysYJaM6H
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) February 6, 2019
The aid concert in Cúcuta, like the bridge it will be held next to, is also nothing short of a ruse, according to Pink Floyd bassist and composer Roger Waters.
While Branson is seeking to raise $100 million for “humanitarian aid,” it isn’t clear how he will get the “aid” into Venezuela, as Maduro has vowed to block supposed humanitarian assistance from hostile countries and actors.
In a Twitter video, Waters slammed Branson’s concert:
“The important thing about this is that, even if you listen to their shtick, it has nothing to do with humanitarian aid at all. It has to do with Richard Branson — and I’m not surprised by this — having bought the U.S. saying, ‘we have decided to take over Venezuela.’
It has nothing to do with the needs of the Venezuelan people. It has nothing to do with democracy. It has nothing to do with freedom. And it has nothing to do with aid.”
The Red Cross and the UN, unequivocally agree, don’t politicize aid. Leave the Venezuelan people alone to exercise their legal right to self determination. pic.twitter.com/I0yS3u75b6
— Roger Waters (@rogerwaters) February 18, 2019
Waters went further:
I have friends who are in Caracas right now. There is so far no civil war, no mayhem, no murder, no apparent dictatorship, no mass imprisonment of opposition, no suppression of the press. None of that is going on, even though that is the narrative that is being sold to the rest of us.”
We just need to back off, particularly Richard Branson.”
“We’ve got the big bands on our side of the bridge”
Following Branson’s announcement, the government of Venezuela announced a dueling concert called “Hands off Venezuela,” to take place across the bridge from the opposition festival.
Branson brushed off the rival rally, saying, “I’m not sure they’re going to find many artists.“
“All the big South Americans are playing on our side of the bridge,” he said. A number of big names in the Latin American music scene are reported to be performing. Branson also told CNN en Espanol:
[Guaidó] will be coming to the other side of the bridge with maybe a million of his supporters, and I suspect both of us, both sides, will be handing flowers to the military and the people guarding the bridge, and seeing whether they can be persuaded to do what they must realize is the right thing.”
Journalist Max Blumenthal tweeted a promotion flier aimed at “affluent Venezuelan opposition supporters” and offering “luxury vacation packages to the most trendy concert of the decade.”
Richard Branson’s Live Aid interventionist propaganda show has brought the reality of Venezuela’s “humanitarian crisis” into the open:
A local bus line is offering affluent Venezuelan opposition supporters luxury vacation packages to “the most trendy concert of the decade” pic.twitter.com/J0iJEwaFS0
— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) February 20, 2019
According to Branson, it was the U.S.-groomed coup leader who reached out to him, asking him to organize “a beautiful concert to bring global attention to this unacceptable and preventable crisis.”
Branson — who is apparently unaware of the plundered state that Haiti toils in — claimed that Venezuela is “facing the worst humanitarian crisis in the Western Hemisphere.”
“There’s no food,” Branson said, placing the blame squarely on the Maduro government.
— Richard Branson (@richardbranson) February 15, 2019
Such allegations have been roundly debunked numerous times. On Thursday, journalist Max Blumenthal visited a supermarket in Caracas. Blumenthal found a grocery store stacked to the brim with food, noting “the problem isn’t scarcity, the problem is inflation and speculation brought on by the capitalist class of this country.”
It’s no surprise then that Branson is parroting the line of Venezuela’s oligarchical opposition: his interests as a billionaire are in accord with those of the capitalist class waging economic war on Venezuela.
Nonetheless, the canard is an enduring one, and the U.S. is seeking to exploit it alongside Branson’s concert. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is planning to deliver 191 tons of “aid” to Cúcuta, Colombia on Friday – the same day as Branson’s concert. On Saturday, the Venezuelan opposition plans to bring in aid from Colombia, a move that risks serious confrontation that could serve as a pretext for a full-scale intervention by the U.S.
Humanitarian aid as a trojan horse
The legacy of United States aid begins with the 1763 Siege of Fort Pitt (modern Pittsburgh), when the U.S. was still a part of Great Britain. British officers ordered and paid for two blankets to be taken from a Smallpox hospital to be gifted to the Lenape tribe in order to “convey the Smallpox to the Indians,” according to an entry in captain William Trent’s ledger. It was then that the U.S. set its precedent for using humanitarian aid as a trojan horse.
USAID has been involved in regime-change plots in Cuba, Ukraine, Syria, and many more.
The United States has previously used aid to South America as a pretext for arming coups d’etat. Neocon war criminal Elliot Abrams, who was recently named U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela, was involved with a plot to deliver $27 million in weapons disguised as humanitarian aid to Nicaraguan contras in the 1980s. While the program was not run by USAID, it is a testament to the ulterior motives often inherent in U.S. humanitarian assistance.
— Abigail Williams (@Abs_NBC) February 21, 2019
USAID, while not apparently involved in that plot, has a far more appalling history in South America. President John F. Kennedy established the agency, placing the existing Office of Public Safety (OPS) — an international police training program — under its purview. According to Mark Ames, “OPS was essentially a CIA proxy, headed by an agent named Byron Engle.”
One small-town cop, Dan Mitrione, joined OPS to train Brazil’s police force in the early 1960s. A few years later, a U.S.-backed coup “installed a right-wing military dictatorship that ruled for the next two decades.” There, Mitrione would learn to kidnap homeless people from the streets and use them as guinea pigs when instructing Brazilian police on torture methods.
Some 100,000 Brazilian police were trained under this program, and another 600 police officers were flown into the U.S. for USAID training in explosives and interrogation. One president was assassinated by the junta, and another is suspected to have been; while former President Dilma Rousseff, a student at the time, was tortured with a car battery.
After his work was done in Brazil, Mitrione moved on to Uruguay, where he personally oversaw the installation of a sound-proof cellar in his home so that the locals would not grow wise to the torture being conducted by the U.S. humanitarian agency.
A CIA double-agent secretly working for Cuba, Manuel Hevia described witnessing Mitrione train Uruguayan police with indigent subjects:
There was no interrogation, only a demonstration of the different voltages on the different parts of the human body, together with the uses of a drug to induce vomiting — I don’t know why or for what — and another chemical substance.
If you ask me whether any American official participated in torture, I’d say yes, Dan Mitrione participated. If you ask me whether there were interrogations, I’d say no, because the unfortunate beggars who were being tortured had no way of answering because they were asked no questions. They were merely guinea pigs to show the effect of electric shock on different parts of the human body.”
Richard Branson’s taste for regime change and other hobbies
Sir Richard, for his part, is closely connected to power as a friend to President Barack Obama, who spent his first post-presidency vacation kitesurfing with him on his private island, Necker.
Branson is also no stranger to U.S. meddling. In the second installment of MintPress News’ investigation into eBay founder and media mega-donor Pierre Omidyar, we explored an initiative spearheaded by Branson called “Enterprise Zimbabwe.”
The campaign sought to “catalyze investments from philanthropic and commercial donors to fund small and medium-size businesses and social development initiatives.” And who better to spearhead the campaign than Richard Branson, who owns more than 400 companies?
Few traces of the campaign exist today online, with the website inaccessible and Branson’s page on it scrubbed. Former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe slammed Branson as a “vulture disguised as an angel.” As MintPress News reported, “a ruling party-linked columnist denounced Branson’s attempts to ‘re-colonise Zimbabwe.’”
In the forthcoming and final installment of MintPress’ investigative series on Omidyar, we will reveal Branson’s ties to elite sex cult called “Nxivm” (pronounced Nexium). The cult allegedly subjects women to sexual slavery and physically abuses them by branding their pelvic regions. A spokesman for Branson says that the billionaire has never heard of cult leader Keith Raniere, but the billionaire had previously endorsed a seminar from Raniere as “potentially world changing!” Cultists believe that Raniere can heal them with sex and reportedly held “wild parties” on Richard Branson’s private island.
This information may be of particular interest to Juan Guaidó, who requested Branson hold the “benefit” concert. Many believe Guaidó has already displayed his longing to expose himself in public. Maybe save it for the afterparty?
Editor’s note: a previous version of this article referenced an upcoming MintPress News article on Richar Branson’s membership in an elite sex cult called “Nxivm.” The upcoming article will cover Branson’s ties to Nxivm, not his membership in the group. We regret this error.
Top Photo | Venezuelan singer Carlos Baute, left, gets ready to embrace Venezuela Aid Live concert organizer Sir Richard Branson, prior to the start of the concert on the Colombian side of the Tienditas International Bridge on the outskirts of Cucuta, Colombia, on the border with Venezuela, Feb. 22, 2019. Fernando Vergara | AP
Alexander Rubinstein is a staff writer for MintPress News based in Washington, DC. He reports on police, prisons and protests in the United States and the United States’ policing of the world. He previously reported for RT and Sputnik News.