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Via America’s Lawyer: Abby Martin joins Mike Papantonio to talk about the US sanctions against Venezuela, and why it has forced her to shut down her show “Empire Files.”


Mike Papantonio: US sanctions against Venezuela have intensified under the Trump administration. These sanctions have not just weakened the country’s economy, but they’ve also deprived millions of viewpoints questioning US policies abroad. As a result of US sanctions against Venezuela, shows like the Empire Files with Abby Martin, a show that’s released more than a hundred documentaries, interviews, on-the-ground exposes has been forced to shut down production completely.

We’re joined by journalist, Abby Martin, to get the complete story. Abby, talk about the latest sanctions against Venezuela and why your show has been shut down, as a result. I got to wonder, you know, is there more to this story? I can’t help but think there is. What’s your take?

Abby Martin: Yeah, so just some quick background. Even though the Bush administration was instrumental in that coup against Hugo Chavez in 2002, where they kidnapped him and shut down TeleSur. Sanctions weren’t actually implemented against Venezuela until the Obama administration in 2015. Oddly enough, a country with the largest oil reserves in the world was randomly declared a unique, national security threat from Obama.

TeleSur was still able to function under those sanctions. It wasn’t until the Trump administration, which really, really narrowed its focus on reinstalling hegemony in the region of Latin America that kind of got out of control during the Bush, and subsequently Obama administration. He really implemented draconian sanctions. He kept escalating these sanctions, Pap, until the latest round completely seized TeleSur’s ability to function. This was right after the democratic reelection of Maduro in his landslide victory. The US penalized the Venezuelan people for the punishment of voting and electing the wrong candidate according to the US.

What those sanctions have done is exactly as they are intended to do. They hurt the most vulnerable and poor people of any designated country. What we’re seeing in Venezuela is, of course, the poorest of the poor people are not able to get food and medicine access. Of course, that reason is used to exacerbate even more sanctions. Unfortunately, one giant collateral damage of the latest round of sanctions is to completely seize all operations of TeleSur.

All contract journalists for the last six months have been unable to receive funds all around the world. Even though TeleSur is funded by actually five Latin American countries, all of those countries’ ability to transfer funds in and out through Caracas have also been completed halted, Pap. We’re left kind of wondering what’s next here? If this is some sort of larger operation, going along with the whole online censorship coordination with these tech giants and the US government here.

Mike Papantonio: So many foreign organizations simply trying to tell stories that corporate media in the United States can’t tell. They can’t tell the stories, because their advertisers forbid them from doing that. You got a guy like Andy Lack, who I call Andy Lackey up there, for example, with NBC. Whenever an advertiser calls in and says, “You know what? We really don’t like that story you told about the government. We don’t like that story that you told about this manufacturer, this corporate entity or Wall Street.”

Andy Lack and Phil Griffin, as you know, are the first ones to shut the story down. That’s not just MSNBC. It’s CNN, ABC, CBS, you name it. All of a sudden we have other alternatives that people can go to and hear stories like you told. There’s got to be some connection here. I would hope that we could better understand what’s actually going on in that regard.

Abby Martin: There’s a reason why people like you, people like me, work for outlets like RT, like TeleSur. There’s very little places, virtually no places obviously in the corporate media apparatus, that you can tell the truth to challenge corporate tyranny and this US imperialist narrative of constant regime change all around the world. We’re told who are enemies and our allies are cartoonishly by the corporate media.

That’s why I’m with TeleSur. I’m very proud to be with TeleSur. TeleSur was actually created as a joint project between Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro to challenge that corporate media hegemony. That was basically confronting their countries and trying to install regime change in them over a decade ago. TeleSur has actually been a constant source of attacks and threats from the US-backed opposition in Venezuela over the last decade. Plus there was even a coup plot that involved bombing the headquarters of TeleSur back in 2015 that was foiled.

So yes, I think that days after this assassination attempt of Maduro, that actually turned out to be linked to Miami and Bogota, evidently. Days after that, you saw Venezuela Analysis, which is an independent alternative outlet that has nothing to do with the state, being shut down by Face arbitrarily. You saw TeleSur being shut down by Face arbitrarily. Reinstated later, but for bizarre, ambiguous reasons. This is after the sensitive content bans, the age restrictions already on TeleSur’s videos and our videos.

Pap, I think that this is part and parcel what this larger operation of these tech giants, working hand in glove with these CIA-stacked think tanks like the Atlantic Council, that are literally curating our reality. Trying to paint anything that challenges this establishment narrative as conspiracy theories, as disinformation, as Russian trolls. The methodology is a black box algorithm that we can’t actually determine what is actually going on. How are these people determining what can be backpaged on Google? Why these algorithms restrict leftist content?

It’s a very dangerous and slippery slope that we’re on. I just think it’s time that we take a step back and actually fund the journalists that we want to see and want to support. Unfortunately, that’s the state that we’re in with this abysmal media consolidation in the US.

Mike Papantonio: Well, I got to tell you, Abby. Before you get back, before Empire Files starts back, and I know it will. Please spend a lot of time with me on this show, so we can talk about those stories that you want to talk about.

Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.