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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Vincent Cooper : Muslim Immigration and the Future of Europe: Where’s the Democracy?

Muslim Immigration and the Future of Europe: Where’s the Democracy?


The Canadian writer and broadcaster Mark Steyn asks a simple but fundamentally searching question about the problem of Islamic terrorism in Western society today, a question that few mainstream liberal politicians want even to acknowledge, let alone attempt to answer.
The simple question Steyn asks is: 

What’s the happy ending here?

In other words, Steyn is asking if Islamic terror in the West, and Europe in particular, is ever going to end and allow us to get back to normal living, to get back to those days when Islam didn’t dominate our news screens, back to those days when we weren’t threatened on our living-room TV screens with beheading if we did not show “respect”, or has Islamic terrorism now become a major and integral part of our Western way of life, just as it is in the Middle East and much of the Muslim world?

Throughout the Western world today, largely because of the post Second World War liberal consensus on Muslim immigration and growing Islamic terrorism on our streets, the West’s ruling liberal clerisy is under unprecedented pressure from an enraged public.

Witness the growing electoral strength of the anti Muslim-immigration AfD party in Germany; the growing strength of the Front National in France which, although losing to Mr Macron in the recent general election, has established Muslim immigration as an issue of serious voter concern, with the FN now a major force in French politics. Witness the growing strength of Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, whose electoral support for a ban on Muslim immigration frightened the pro-immigration prime minister Mark Rutte into telling Muslims who don’t like “our values” to leave Holland. And, of course, the election of Donald Trump, whose victory over the bien pensant clerisy of America’s East and West coasts had much to do with ordinary voter concerns about security and Muslim immigration. And of Brexit, where the British people were deeply concerned about Angela Merkel’s almost unilateral open invitation to the world’s Muslims to come and settle in Europe.

The Western, but particularly the European political landscape is changing. It’s no longer simply the traditional Left/Right questions of economics that divide people, but something much more fundamental: the question of a Muslim threat to Europe’s historical identity as a Christian/secular culture. Islamic immigration is now a major defining feature of European politics.

Everyone can now see the literally bloody disastrous results of jihadist terrorism on their streets, results that far outstrip even the dire predictions of the clichéd British bogyman Enoch Powell (Powell predicted irrational inter-racial violence on Britain’s streets, not targeted and deliberate civilizational destruction).

European, American, Canadian and Australian peoples now see their towns, their cities, their airports, even their Christian churches and private homes turned into slaughtering dens by jihadi killers, many of them second and third generation “Westernised” Muslims who, according to that same Western liberal consensus, should today be fully-functioning secular Muslims enjoying the benefits of mini-skirted Muslim women and same-sex Muslim marriage.

Of course, that great liberal dream of a secularised “Western Islam” hasn’t worked out as the liberals hoped, and anyone who understood Islam always knew it never would.

Although much of the European Union political class simply will not admit it, a real inconvenient truth today is that Muslim immigration and Islamic terrorism are showing clear signs of fracturing Europe’s cultural identity. 

Conservative anti-immigration movements throughout Western Europe today blame not simply Muslim immigration, but Western liberalism itself for what they see as Western Europe’s political and cultural decay. Liberalism, many believe, has given Europe in particular a catastrophic and perhaps in the long term an unsolvable security problem, with jihadism now deeply embedded in Western European society.

France, for example, is still in security lockdown since the Paris 2015 gunning down of innocent teenagers and the Nice 2016 jihadi truck slaughter. Germany is in a similar state after the Munich jihadi truck attack. And now Stockholm, perhaps the most generous country to immigrants, has experienced its own truck jihad slaughter. As I write, the Louvre in Paris is under siege from an Islamic jihad attack, with much of the city’s transport closed down.

All of these jihadist outrages have in common a cowardly assault on innocent men, women and children in public areas going about their normal business. These innocents were targeted precisely because they were innocent, freedom-loving Western people, many of them so innocent in fact that they had supported the right of Muslim immigrants, including their killers, to come and live among them.

The truth is that we in the West today, but again particularly in Europe, have imported an existential threat to every basic value we hold dear.

The extraordinary truth is that today much of Continental Europe’s famed public culture of easy-going street life is now done only under armed police protection. Because of militant Islam, many people in Europe are now fearful of doing things that were once considered perfectly safe and normal, such as strolling carefree in their towns and cities, or women walking or travelling alone. In one report, a German train company, Mitteldeutsche Regiobahn, has introduced women-only carriages, apparently in response to the widely-reported Cologne sex-attacks by Muslim gangs.

These are enormous changes to our way of life in Europe today, brought about in many cases by jihadi killers in the Muslim immigrant community. In many parts of Europe, public street life is now so tense and threatening that it is dangerous to go out at night, as I personally experienced in the northern French towns of Amiens and Verdun on a First World War commemoration tour in 2015.

This, of course, is not what Muslim immigration was supposed to have been about. This was not how immigration was sold to us all those years ago, back in the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies, to a sceptical public that never wanted and never voted for large-scale immigration in the first place.

Europe’s public were always told, and still are told, in spite of evidence to the contrary, that Muslim immigration would enrich and enhance our Western way of life. Muslims, we were told, came to Europe because they valued our secular pluralist society. Be tolerant, said our European liberal class, and you will see that we are all one big happy multicultural family.

As is now patently obvious, that’s not how things have worked out, not by a long shot. Much of Western Europe’s public life today is effectively under armed guard, and all because of mass immigration and jihadist terror.

But it’s not simply, or even mainly, the past or present that is of most concern to Europeans now. It’s Europe’s future with continuing Muslim immigration and a growing Muslim population that is of most serious concern. What is Europe’s Muslim immigrant future to be like? Will there ever be an end to this Islamic violence in our European homeland?

This brings up Steyn’s simple question again: what’s the happy ending here? When is this terror threat going to end? The truck jihads, the machine-gunning of innocents, the knife attacks on police in their own homes and clergy saying Mass, the security lockdowns, the women only carriages and street police protection for what was once spontaneous free behaviour, is all this a temporary nightmare, or is this what Muslim immigration intrinsically means for Europe, a permanent terror threat that will intensify long into Europe’s future?

These are perfectly reasonable and important questions for any European to ask, and nobody should feel intimidated for asking them. Nor should anyone feel intimidated by truthful answers.

But that’s not what is happening. Western liberal political culture has effectively erected a language barrier that can criminalise honest criticism of Islam in the West today. The liberal class have appropriated the language of social justice, and any criticism of the West’s pro-Muslim immigration policies, any expressed concern about Muslim immigration and the future of Western culture is labelled “racist”, and has to break through the language barrier of liberal prejudice before even beginning to make a case.

For example, it is de rigueur for most mainstream politicians today to preface all debates about Islamic terrorism in Europe with the mantra “it has nothing to do with Islam”. Someone who may want to question that claim, or question its universality has first to prove he is not Islamophobic, something that is almost impossible to do in our liberal culture because, by definition, anyone who disagrees with the liberal claim is Islamophobic.

The fact is that the intellectually dishonest liberal/Left language barrier, where “Islamophobia” is plastered all over any reasonable criticism of Islam and Muslim immigration, makes it impossible to get an honest debate on the most urgent issues of our day: Muslim immigration, Muslim demographics and the future of Europe.

How has this intellectual dishonesty in debate come about?
The problem was always Western liberalism. Since the end of the Second World War, liberal Europe has experienced, largely because liberal Europe greatly encouraged, an immigration programme from the Muslim world the scale of which no other society in history has ever even contemplated.

Not coincidently, such an immigration programme fitted very well the new consensus among left-wing intellectuals that it was the non-white Third World native, not the now affluent and embourgeoised white industrial working class, that needed liberation from exploitative Western capitalists. Third World immigration to the welfare West was, and still is, seen as a moral crusade to “expropriate” the ill-gotten gains of the affluent West, a form of punishment and payback for years of supposed colonial exploitation.

Western Enlightenment teleological liberalism (a secular outgrowth of Christianity) has always had at its heart the assumption that the world’s civilizations are moving towards one goal: a universal Western secular culture. Third World Muslim immigration to the West was seen as part of the process that would bring about this universal goal.

Liberals simply assumed that Muslim immigrants to Europe would grasp at the chance to become freedom-loving secular liberals. They assumed that the sheer power of Europe’s traditional homogeneous secular culture would unify Muslim, Christian and secularist and eventually create a religion-free modus vivendi, turning Europe into a secular heaven on Earth, with eventually the whole world becoming an Enlightenment secular civilisation.

Alas, this liberal globalist dream, as Europe very much to its cost now knows, is over. Many of Europe’s Muslims, perhaps the vast majority of them, reject most, if not all of the West’s secular liberal programme. And who can blame them?

So too do many Westerners. The election of Donald Trump and the Brexit result are, to some degree, a rejection of what many see as a long-running Western liberal drift into anarchic, nihilistic secularism. In America and Britain, the blue-collar proletariat and much of the middle class have revolted, not just out of economic self-interest, but out of perfectly reasonable concerns about Islamic terror and the threat to Western values from relentless mass immigration.

But liberal Europe’s problems go way beyond the election of Donald Trump and Brexit. Europe now has a legacy of over fifty years of heavy Muslim immigration, and whether or not it is culturally or politically acceptable to say it, Europe now has a problem, not just with individual acts of Islamic terror, but, many would argue, with Islam itself, as even the former socialist President Hollande of France finally, after many years of denying it, admitted.

The fact is that the supposed unifying power of Europe’s traditional homogeneous culture has failed in its liberal-inspired historic task of creating a homogenised, secular modus vivendi out of Europe’s fractured mass-migrant culture. Europe today is dividing, not so much racially, but along cultural, or rather civilizational fault lines, and to any reasonable person the policy of unquestioned, never-ending large-scale Muslim immigration must now, surely, be questioned.

Yet amazingly, Europe’s liberal political class, and much of the media, are effectively in denial about the impact that Muslim immigration has had, and continues to have, on Europe’s culture and political stability.

Political correctness, misplaced sensitivity, but particularly fear, fear that speaking the truth might offend or could cause social unrest, have all combined to create throughout Europe an almost schizophrenic public mentality on anything to do with Islam. Many simply do not feel free to speak their mind on the dangers they see ahead for their continent.

The politicians say one thing, yet the ordinary people know it’s not true. There are two worlds in Europe today when it comes to Islam: one a fabrication of the liberal politicians and media, and one actually inhabited by ordinary people. 

The people want the truth, they want an honest debate about Islam and immigration, but suspect that the political class and the media are running scared of that debate.

In Britain, everyone knows that the press buckled under the threat of Islamic violence by refusing to publish the Muhammad cartoons. Whatever the security concerns may have been, the public can see that the press surrendered to threats, and now have little respect, particularly for the mainstream media.
Currently, many in the British media are furious at the British Government’s proposed press legislation, particularly section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013. The Act will curtail the freedom of the press, they say. But of what use is this much-vaunted press freedom if the media do not have the courage to use and defend that freedom?

The fact is that much of the political class and the mainstream media simply do not speak freely and honestly about Islam, particularly about the religious and ideological source of jihadist terror and its threat to Europe’s future. As the political philosopher, John Gray — very much a traditional liberal — put it:

  • Britain is a country “where a minority of fundamentalist Muslims that is estranged from whatever remains of a common culture, and which rejects the tacit norms of toleration that allow a civil society to reproduce itself peacefully, has effectively curbed freedom of expression about Islam in Britain today”. (Postliberalism: studies in political thought)

Even after 9/11, when one might have expected a change of tack on Muslim immigration, liberals reiterated their absolutely unquestionable mantra: “Islamic terrorism has nothing to do with Islam” (therefore we can continue with relentless Muslim immigration). Incredibly, instead of perhaps even a moratorium on further immigration after 9/11, many Western countries actually increased Muslim immigration.

Such a denial of common-sense public concerns about Islam and immigration — many would say a denial of reality — is surely perverse. “Islam is not the problem”, insists the West’s ruling liberal political class. “We will defeat the terrorists”, says Merkel and the other EU leaders. Jihadi terrorism has nothing to do with Islam, they insist, without even considering the possibility that they might be wrong, or that they may not understand the theology of Islam, and that the concerns of the ordinary man on the street might just have a point.

“It’s just a few bad men”, liberals insist after every jihadi act of terror, and we will “take them out”, they say. And when the bad men are “taken out”, we can all go back to peaceful living, go back to secularised Muslims and secularised Christians living together in a secular pluralist state where we can all walk the streets again without fear of a lorry being driven at us, without our children being knifed because they are wearing swimwear, or being blown to bits while innocently standing in an airport queue.

Such hopes about Europe’s multicultural, multi ethnic future are surely nothing more than that — hope. It’s a refusal even to consider the historical and contemporary facts about at least certain interpretations of Islam.

While the majority of Muslims are peaceable and law-abiding, what liberals refuse to acknowledge is what more and more ordinary people in the West now understand and see as militant Islam’s historical propensity to violent cultural assertiveness, Islam’s difficulty sharing space with non-Muslims, and the fact that Islam has bloody borders right around the world, even in countries that have nothing to do with the Middle East. Peaceable, law-abiding Muslims seem to have made little difference.

Of course, Islam is not the only religion to have a bloody history. However, as Samuel Huntington wrote in his prescient book The Clash of Civilizations:

  • “Wherever one looks along the perimeter of Islam, Muslims have problems living peaceably with their neighbours. The question naturally rises as to whether this pattern of late-twentieth-century conflict between Muslim and non-Muslim groups is equally true of relations between groups from other civilizations. In fact, it is not. Muslims make up about one-fifth of the world’s population but in the 1990s they have been far more involved in inter-group violence than the people of any other civilization. The evidence is overwhelming.” (The Clash of Civilizations page 256)

The evidence is indeed overwhelming, and there is no reason whatsoever to believe that Europe, with its large and growing Muslim population, will escape this bloody clash of civilizations. At the very least, on any rational assessment of Europe’s immigrant-based future, Huntington’s findings would surely be a consideration in all honest and serious political debate.

The London Underground bombings, the Madrid train bombings, the Brussels airport bombing, the Paris and Nice jihad slaughter, the Berlin truck rampage, the Stockholm truck rampage, German, Swedish and Danish knife and gun attacks, all pose a disturbing question, particularly for Europeans: is Europe, after over half a century of heavy Muslim immigration, now a new Islamic jihadi front? Is Europe now a permanent part of Islam’s violent perimeter?

These are disturbing but absolutely essential questions that people in a free society must feel free to ask. That Europe might now be facing a long-term terrorist future seems to have been confirmed by the former socialist French Prime Minister Manuel Valls who, ominously, told the French people after the Nice jihadi truck outrage to “learn to live with terrorism”.

Equally, London’s socialist Muslim mayor Sadiq Khan has said terrorist acts are “part and parcel” of city life today.

What Mr Valls and Mayor Khan failed to point out is that such despicable acts of terror did not happen before large-scale Muslim immigration.

Given the level of public concern about immigration, and given the possibility that the French Prime Minister was right and that Islamic terrorism will continue to be an integral part of European life, surely all debate about Europe’s future must now address the question of whether continued Muslim immigration is compatible with the survival of European culture and Europe’s long-term security. On any reasonable assessment of Europe’s predicament, Europe must now debate whether Western European states are now, in Samuel Huntington’s phrase, an integral part of Islam’s bloody borders.

Not everyone, of course, will be so pessimistic. For those of a more positive outlook, it could be argued that Europe’s security forces will manage to contain Islamic violence within certain “acceptable levels”, in Reginald Maudling’s phrase about IRA violence.

To that end, “learning to live with terrorism” might well be the only rational, long-term strategy our liberal political elite have to offer us. Under the protection of what might be some form of martial law, “normal” life could continue and Europe’s cultural values maintained.

But such a prospect, even if one were prepared to accept it, is surely wishful thinking. It is a common belief that sharia law, for example, is a product of Islamic fundamentalism. Defeat the fundamentalists, Western liberal governments say, and you nullify or defeat sharia. If you nullify sharia in Europe, then multicultural secular Europe will be at peace. A non-sharia Islam, or an Islam that dissolves on contact with Europe’s hedonistic and consumerist culture, seems to be the Western liberal’s idea of an ideal Westernised Islam.

The idea of a non-sharia Islam was, and still is, a common hope in Western liberal thought; but it is almost certainly a mistake. Sharia law is not a product of fundamentalism, but in fact is a product of ordinary mainstream Islam. The Irish writer, Conor Cruise O’Brien (another traditional liberal) has this to say on the attempt to distinguish fundamentalist and non-fundamentalist Islam:

  • “Fundamentalist Islam is a misnomer which dulls our perceptions in a dangerous way. It does so by implying that there is some other kind of Islam, which is well disposed to those who reject the Koran. There isn’t. Islam is a universalist, triumphalist and political religion. It claims de jure dominion over all humanity.” (Independent, Jan 5, 1995)

This was written in 1995, before large-scale Islamic terrorism in the West.
The fact is that Western consumerist materialist culture has not, as hoped, weaved its magic on Europe’s successive generations of Muslims. Today’s younger generation of European Muslims is even more committed to sharia than were earlier generations, an intriguing example of Islamic indigenization taking root, not in a Muslim country but right in the heart of secular/Christian Europe.

So, on any reasonable assessment, there will be no sharia-free Islam in Europe. Several opinion polls of Europe’s Muslims have shown large numbers to be strongly supportive of sharia law, and not just for Muslims, but for everyone. Many Muslims believe sharia should be the main legal source in their new European homeland.
A German government-funded study (WZB Berlin Social Science Centre) of Moroccan and Turkish immigrants in Europe found that 65 percent believed that sharia law is more important to them than the laws of the country in which they live.
In the Irish Republic, where Islam is now the fastest growing religion, 57% of Muslims, according to one poll, want the country ruled by sharia law. In Britain, according to some polls, 40% of Muslims support sharia law for the whole of the UK.
On that basis, it is perfectly reasonable to claim that, with an ever-growing Muslim population in Europe, by sheer demographic weight sharia law will gradually begin to elbow-out and replace traditional Western values over large areas of the Continent.
It’s already happening. Today in many European countries, the deliberate self-segregation of Muslims is gradually creating semi-Balkanised communities in many of Europe’s cities, where secular pluralist values are explicitly rejected and where deeply conservative, even illegal Muslim traditions are reinforced.
There are now in Britain’s heavily Muslim areas well-established sharia courts or “councils”, dispensing “justice” according to Islamic law, mainly in matters of marriage, inheritance and divorce. According to lawyer Aina Khan as reported in the Daily Telegraph of 2015, there are up to 100,000 sharia “marriages” in Britain, many of them polygamous.
These marriages are not recognised under UK law but, either out of indifference or liberal accommodation, or even out of a craven deference to Muslim demands, the authorities condone and encourage these polygamous relationships by tailoring welfare entitlements to the many vulnerable wives and children. The British taxpayer is effectively reinforcing the consolidation and spread of fundamentalist Muslim culture in Britain.

Germany has similar concerns, with the German courts regularly incorporating sharia principles into mainstream law, where polygamous marriages are recognised for all welfare entitlements, provided the “marriages” were legally performed in a Muslim country.

In France, Muslim demographics and violence are creating hardened separate cultural identities. Almost routine Muslim banlieue riots have turned large tracts of French cities into no-go areas, except for the riot police and fire-fighters to douse the torched cars.
And such rioting has little to do with the by now boring liberal excuse of social injustice or “Islamophobia”. As the writer, Andrew Hussey put it in his disturbing book The French Intifada, the Muslim banlieue gangs who rioted and torched cars in 2007 were shouting Na’al abouk La France — Fuck France: “the rioters, the wreckers, even the killers of the banlieues are not looking for reform — They are looking for revenge.”      
Clearly, many French Muslims do not want to live in French secular culture; they want to live as Muslims under sharia law, but in welfare France. 
And of course, such hardened separate identities are reinforced by continuing large-scale Muslim immigration from poor and traditional Muslim societies, with welfarism locking them into a state of permanent dependence and permanent grievance, with rioting as a way of extracting more money out of the state.

The ruling liberal establishment in the EU are in denial about the true significance of what is happening in many of Europe’s cities. 
They acknowledge there’s a problem, but with the usual platitudes deny it has anything to do with Muslim immigration and the self-segregation and cultural separateness favoured by many Muslims.
Again and again it’s the same old “social injustice” and “Islamophobia” story.
Invest more taxpayers’ money in Muslim communities and end Islamophobia, they say. Europeans must change their ways and pay more tax, then we will have an integrated, happy pluralist society.

For most ordinary people in Europe today this liberal explanatory model is little more than an insult to their intelligence. It simply does not account for what people see and experience in their own towns and cities across the European Continent.
It is now an observable fact that the appearance and atmosphere of many of Europe’s public spaces and city landscapes are becoming more and more Islamic, as anyone who has travelled round Western Europe in recent years will confirm, as will those who remember Paris and Lyon, and many German towns and cities from the 1960s. These enormous demographic and cultural changes to Europe’s cities have, for many Europeans, resulted in a strong sense of alienation from their own traditional European roots, an alienation they never wanted and never voted for. Hence the rise of anti-immigration right-wing and far-right parties.

And with growing Muslim immigration to Europe, such cultural changes are set to continue and deepen. Very likely, at some point in the future the adhan, or call to prayer, will almost certainly become a prominent feature of many European cities, and sharia dress code enforced (or advisable) in autonomous or semi-autonomous Muslim areas. In time, more and more areas of many of Europe’s cities will look and sound Islamic.

Europe’s central and local governments will also, very likely, begin to reflect the changing demographics. Separate Muslim education (there will almost certainly, eventually, be a separate Muslim educational system, no matter what Europe’s governments say today) would very likely have a school curriculum catering exclusively for Muslim beliefs and values. How would such a Muslim curriculum teach World War Two and the Holocaust, for example? Or evolutionary science? With a growing Muslim demographic, Europe may well find it impossible to maintain the common assumptions that for centuries have underpinned the norms of Western education.

The Muslim holidays of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha would also very likely become official holidays, street names may even change (as was actually recommended for France in a report commissioned by former Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault), and foreign policy, particularly on Israel, would almost certainly begin to reflect the new European Muslim dispensation.

Whether one welcomes these changes as part of an unstoppable evolution towards some ideal happy multicultural world of the future, or sees them as an extremely ominous development for Western culture and values, the fact surely needs to be publicly acknowledged, certainly as part of mainstream public debate, that Muslim immigration is radically changing Europe.

It has to be acknowledged that large-scale Muslim immigration does not add to what Europe already has, it changes what Europe has always been. More Muslim immigration means less Europe. That’s an empirical fact, and it’s a fact that the political class and the media need to be frank and honest about.

With continuing Muslim immigration, higher than average Muslim birth rates and below-replacement native European birth rates, by the sheer weight of demographic numbers a determined, hyper-identity political Islam is surely on course to turn many European cities semi-Islamic. Why would this not happen, if the demographics are there to support it? The burden of proof is surely now on those who would disagree.

To point all of this out is not necessarily to criticise Islam, and certainly not to pass judgment on all Muslims. But it is to say that Europe is experiencing by far the greatest change in its history, and that if Europe is democratic, then the European peoples should be consulted on these historic changes, and their views respected.

Yet amazingly, one of the most extraordinary facts about post-Second World War Western European democracies is that this democratic consultation on Muslim immigration did not happen. The European peoples have been systematically ignored and denied a democratic say on who, and how many, should be allowed to settle in Europe.

This extraordinary lack of democracy in the EU, including Britain, is captured by the American journalist Christopher Caldwell in his book: Reflections on the Revolution in Europe, where he quotes a European cabinet minister on the subject of immigration to the EU:
  •  “We live in a borderless world in which our new mission is defending the border not of our countries but (of) civility and human rights” (page 270).

New mission? Who sanctioned this “new mission”? Does this anonymous EU cabinet minister have a mandate to create a borderless Europe? Have the European peoples given him and his EU colleagues a mandate to globalise European culture?

Very unlikely, when you consider that, as Caldwell points out: “Only 19 percent of Europeans think immigration has been good for their countries” and “73 percent of French people think their country has too many immigrants, as do 69 percent of the British.”

Those statistics represent opinion in 2009. Today, with Europe experiencing perhaps the heaviest Muslim immigration in its history, a wide-ranging Chatham House survey of European opinion shows that eight out of ten European countries want an end specifically to Muslim immigration.

And yet European countries and the European Union continue to ignore public opinion on the issue. The EU’s ruling liberal class, from both Left and centre Right of the party-political spectrum, appear to believe that Third World immigration to the EU must happen, irrespective of the democratic will of the voters. It’s as if there were some historically determined imperative for Islam to come and settle in Europe. And to ensure that this moral imperative is carried through, to ensure that Islam comes to Europe, Muslim immigration is to be decided, not by the European voters, but only by the high priests of the bien pensant liberal class.

It was this high priest bien pensant class in the US and throughout much of the West that exploded in rage when Donald Trump, during his election campaign, first suggested that the American people — meaning the voters — should have a say in Muslim immigration to the United States. It wasn’t that liberal opinion simply disagreed with what Trump had said; it was that there should be no place, democratic or otherwise, for such an opinion. To question Muslim immigration to the West was to question the very direction of history itself.

The late Robert Bork, an American judge and conservative jurist, captured well the contempt that modern liberals have for popular democratic opinion:

  • “Modern liberalism is fundamentally at odds with democratic government because it demands results that ordinary people would not freely choose. Liberals must govern, therefore, through institutions that are largely insulated from the popular will. The most important institutions for liberals’ purposes are the judiciary and the bureaucracies. The judiciary and the bureaucracies are staffed with (liberal) intellectuals—–and thus tend to share the views and accept the agendas of modern liberalism.” (Robert H, Bork Slouching Towards Gomorrah 1996 page 318) 
Many in the European Union power structure believe they should be insulated from public opinion on a large range of issues, particularly on globalisation and Third World Muslim immigration.
The West’s liberal class today believe that a normative liberal agenda of open borders and unlimited Third World immigration to the West should be the default, unquestionable position of the whole of Western society.
We saw this default position in operation when Angela Merkel, unilaterally, welcomed to Germany unlimited numbers of unassessed, mainly male Muslim migrants, and then sought to spread them around EU countries whose peoples had had no say in the matter.

By contrast, the American primaries and caucuses offer a much stronger sense of democratic accountability. At the recent US elections, the people of the United States were finally offered a voice on Muslim and Third World immigration, and they gave Donald Trump a democratic mandate to act. The vote for Trump was a vote to change direction and to at least begin to preserve what remains of America’s traditional Judeo-Christian core identity.

Because of Donald Trump, debating Muslim immigration is no longer a taboo subject in the US. Thanks to Donald Trump, Muslim immigration is now a central part of the national political debate.

No such debate has yet taken place among the ruling liberal class in Europe. Muslim immigration, in spite of widespread public concern and the rise of anti-immigration movements throughout the continent, is still a taboo subject among the mainstream political class and media. The majority of Europeans want an end to large-scale Third World immigration, yet the European Union continues to ignore this democratic voice.

The truth is that in Europe today, Third World and Muslim immigration are not subjects to be decided by democracy, therefore immigration policy continues as if 9/11 never happened, as if the London Underground bombings never happened, as if the Paris slaughter of well over 100 people never happened. The Nice truck attack that killed 87, the Madrid train bombings that killed almost 200 and injured 2,000, relentless Muslim immigration continues as if they had never happened.
Europe today desperately needs its Donald Trump.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Manchester attack: Salman Abedi named as bomber by police

Manchester attack: Salman Abedi named as bomber by police

  • Less than a minute ago
  • From the section UK
Eight-year-old Saffie Roussos and Georgina Callander are among the dead
Salman Abedi has been named by police as the suspected suicide bomber who killed 22 people and injured 59 at Manchester Arena on Monday night.
The 22-year-old was Manchester born and from a family of Libyan origin, the BBC understands.
Abedi, who had at least three siblings, had lived at several addresses in Manchester, including a property at Elsmore Road, Fallowfield, which was earlier raided by police.

So far three victims have been named - Saffie Rose Roussos, eight, Georgina Callander and John Atkinson, 28.

Greater Manchester Police said the priority was to establish whether Abedi had worked alone or not.

A vigil is being held in front of the town hall in Manchester's Albert Square.
'Vigil for peace' at Manchester's Albert Square

Abedi is thought to have blown himself up in the arena's foyer shortly after 22:30 BST on Monday, as fans were beginning to leave a concert by US singer Ariana Grande.

Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Ian Hopkins passed on "heartfelt sympathies to all the innocent people caught up in last night's despicable act", adding that specially-trained family liaison officers were supporting families.
Eight-year-old Saffie Rose Roussos was a pupil at Tarleton Primary School, in Lancashire.
Her head teacher, Chris Upton, said she had been "simply a beautiful little girl in every aspect of the word" and was "loved by everyone".
John Atkinson was from Bury in Greater Manchester.
Student Georgina Callander, believed to have been 18, has also been named as among the dead.
She had been studying health and social care at Runshaw College in Leyland, Lancashire.

The wounded are being treated at eight hospitals around the city, with 12 children under the age of 16 among them.

Several people are still missing, including teenagers Laura MacIntyre and Eilidh MacLeod, from Barra in the Outer Hebrides, 15-year-old Olivia Campbell, Chloe Rutherford, 17, and Liam Curry, 19.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said police were in contact with Laura and Eilidh's families, adding: "It is hard for any of us to imagine the anguish that their families are going through right now.
"They are in our thoughts."
Theresa May says the Manchester attack was an act of 'sickening cowardice'
In a statement in Downing Street on Tuesday, the prime minister said the bombing had been a "callous terrorist attack" that targeted "defenceless young people".
Number 10 later said Mrs May - who is now in Manchester - had been updated "through [Monday] night" and had phoned Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn at 04:00 BST to brief him.
It is the worst terrorist attack in the UK since the 7 July bombings in 2005, in which 52 people were killed by four suicide bombers. 

So-called Islamic State has said - via IS channels on the messaging app Telegram - it was behind the Manchester attack, but this has not been verified.
In other developments:
  • Relatives are using social media to hunt for missing loved ones, and an emergency number - 0800 096 0095 - has been set up
  • Flags are flying at half mast outside Number 10 and political parties have suspended general election campaigning until further notice
  • Theresa May chaired a meeting of the government's emergency Cobra committee and is now in Manchester where she has visited the children's hospital and signed the book of condolence at the Town Hall
  • Extra armed officers will be deployed to Wembley and Twickenham on Saturday, while security at all upcoming events and venues in England are under review. The Met Police has also increased the numbers of officers on duty across the capital
  • World leaders have expressed solidarity with the UK, including US President Donald Trump, who called those behind the attack "evil losers"
  • Exam boards are telling schools directly affected by the attack that they can re-arrange GCSE and A-level exams in the wake of the attack
  • Police have established a help centre at Manchester City's Etihad Stadium, access Gate 11, for anyone who needs assistance in tracing loved ones
  • The Queen extended her "deepest sympathy" to all those affected and other senior royals have said they are "shocked and saddened"; Pope Francis offered "heartfelt solidarity" with the victims and their families
  • Take That are among a number a performers who have cancelled concerts "out of respect", including for the rest of the week at Manchester Arena
Witnesses at the arena described seeing metal nuts and bolts among the debris of Monday's bomb, and spoke about the fear and confusion that gripped concert-goers. 

Andy Holey, who had gone to pick up his wife and daughter, said: "An explosion went off and it threw me about 30ft from one set of doors to the other set of doors."
Emma Johnson, who went to pick up her children, aged 15 and 17, said: "The whole building shook. There was a blast and then a flash of fire afterwards. There were bodies everywhere."
Teenager Abigail Walker, who was at the concert, told the BBC: "I had to make sure I had my sister. I grabbed hold of her and pulled hard. Everyone was running and crying.
"It was absolutely terrifying."

The explosion happened shortly after US singer Ariana Grande had left the stage and the 23-year-old actress-turned-singer, tweeted: "broken. from the bottom of my heart, i am so so sorry. i don't have words".

Controlled explosion

Armed police have also arrested a 23-year-old man in Chorlton, south Manchester, in connection with the attack.
Mr Hopkins said searches at two addresses had been carried out, including the one in Fallowfield, where a controlled explosion had been used to gain "safe" access.
He said Abedi had not been formally identified and so would not comment further.

At least 22 dead, 50 injured, in suicide bomb attack at Manchester Arena
The horror unfolded at about 10.30pm on Monday at the end of a concert by the American singer Ariana Grande, whose music is popular with children and teenagers.

The attack, which took place in the foyer area of the arena, left hundreds of people fleeing in terror, with young people at the concert separated from their parents in the chaos. It left carnage inside the concert venue, with medics describing treating wounds consistent with shrapnel injury.

One witness said he could see nuts and bolts strewn on the floor of the foyer after the attack, which could suggest a nail bomb was involved.

Britain’s prime minister, Theresa May, said: “We are working to establish the full details of what is being treated by the police as an appalling terrorist attack. All our thoughts are with the victims and the families of those who have been affected.”
The attack came less than three weeks before Britain’s general election on 8 June and May has suspended her campaign, as have the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National party. Labour is expected to follow suit.

The PM will chair an emergency meeting of the government’s crisis committee, Cobra, at 9am on Tuesday.

The home secretary, Amber Rudd, paid tribute to emergency services, saying: “This was a barbaric attack, deliberately targeting some of the most vulnerable in our society – young people and children out at a pop concert. My thoughts and prayers go out to the families and victims who have been affected.”

Greater Manchester police have confirmed that they believe the bombing was the responsibility of one man armed with an improvised explosive device. The man is among the dead.

Chief constable Ian Hopkins said: “We have been treating this as a terrorist incident and we believe that while the attack last night was conducted by one man, the priority is to establish whether he was acting alone or as part of a network.”
“The attacker, I can confirm, died at the arena. We believe the attacker was carrying an improvised explosive device, which he detonated, causing this atrocity.”

The investigation into the attack involves the police counter-terrorism network and Britain’s domestic security service, MI5.

The death toll would make it the worst event of its kind in Britain since the 7/7 bombing in 2005, which hit London’s transport network, killing 52 people.

Witnesses in Manchester described how, after the concert had finished, the house lights came up and then a loud bang was heard. Majid Khan, 22, said:
“A huge bomb-like bang went off that hugely panicked everyone and we were all trying to flee the arena.
“It was one bang and essentially everyone from the other side of the arena where the bang was heard from suddenly came running towards us as they were trying to exit.”

Oliver Jones, 17, who attended with his 19-year-old sister, said:
 “The bang echoed around the foyer of the arena and people started to run.”

People outside the concert were visibly upset, as a cacophony of sirens were heard and police and ambulance vehicles arrived at the scene.

Erin McDougle, 20, from Newcastle said:
“There was a loud bang at the end of the concert. The lights were already on so we knew it wasn’t part of the show. At first we thought it was a bomb. There was a lot of smoke. People started running out. When we got outside the arena there were dozens of police vans and quite a few ambulances.”

A group of young men from Sheffield said they had seen at least five people covered in blood and others being carried out by bouncers.
 “Ariana Grande had just gone behind the curtain and the lights came up when there was this massive bang and a big cloud of smoke. I saw five people with blood all down them,” said one.
Sophie Tedd, 25, from Darlington, said, “Everyone started screaming and we nearly got trampled on. There was a burning smell.”

A woman with her husband and three young children said there was a loud bang as the concert ended. She said: “I just freaked. Everyone started screaming. We did not see any explosion but it smelled bad, like burning.”

The attack happened despite years of warnings and tightening of security, especially around crowded paces. Investigators will want to find out who carried out the attack and for what reason. They will also investigate where the material for the suspected device was bought and how it was designed.

Since the attack on London in 2005, measures have been put in place to restrict the purchase of materials that can be used to make homemade explosives.

The Manchester attack came after weeks of heightened activity and disrupted plots by police and MI5. In March, four people and the attacker died after an attack on Westminster, central London, which targeted the Houses of Parliament.

The terrorist threat level for Britain is at severe, meaning an attack is highly likely. Security is expected to be reviewed for major venues in Britain and elsewhere.
In the US, the Department of Homeland Security warned of extra security measures: “The public may experience increased security in and around public places and events as officials take additional precautions.”
In a statement just before 3am, Ian Hopkins, the chief constable of Greater Manchester police, said the police had received reports of an explosion at 10.33pm at the conclusion of the Ariana Grande concert.
He said: “We are currently treating this as a terrorist incident until we have further information, we are working closely with national counter-terrorism policing network and UK intelligence partners. This is clearly a very concerning time for everyone. We are doing all that we can, working with local and national agencies to support those affected as we gather information about what happened last night.”
Hopkins urged people to remain vigilant and to stay away from the area of the attack so emergency services could continue their work.

The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, tweeted his sympathy for the victims: “Terrible incident in Manchester. My thoughts are with all those affected and our brilliant emergency services.”

The Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron, said: “This is a shocking and horrific attack targeting children and young people who were simply enjoying a concert,” and paid tribute to the emergency services.

Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester city council, said the incident was “horrifying”.
“If it is confirmed this was a terrorist attack it is a monstrous act but also a deeply futile one. Manchester is a proud and strong city and we will not allow those who seek to sow fear and division to achieve their aims,” he said.
“We give heartfelt thanks to our emergency services for their response and council staff are doing all they can to support.”
The metro mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: “My heart goes out to families who have lost loved ones, my admiration to our brave emergency services. “A terrible night for our great city.”

The Manchester Arena has a 21,000 capacity and is one of the largest music venues in Europe.

The ambulance service covering Manchester, which is dealing with a significant toll of wounded people, asked people to contact them only if they are in a life-threatening situation because of the “large number of resources” at the incident.

The Death Toll in Venezuela's Unrest Has Hit 51 as Divisions Emerge Among the Ruling Socialists

The Death Toll in Venezuela's Unrest Has Hit 51 as Divisions Emerge Among the Ruling Socialists

Opposition activists clash with riot policemen during a protest against the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas on May 22, 2017

Venezuela's state prosecutor has panned unpopular President Nicolas Maduro's plan to create a grassroots congress, deepening a rare public split among the ruling Socialists as the death toll from two months of unrest hit 51.

Chief State Prosecutor Luisa Ortega stunned the crisis-hit country in March when she lambasted the Supreme Court for annulling the powers of the opposition-led National Assembly.

Since then, she has been a wild card within the publicly homogenous Venezuelan government, whose foes accuse it of seeking to dodge elections by creating a parallel assembly with powers to rewrite the constitution.

Socialist Party official Elias Jaua, in charge of the "constituent assembly" project, confirmed on Monday that Ortega had written him to express her discontent in a letter that was previously leaked on social media.

"It is my imperative to explain the reasons for which I have decided not to participate in this activity," Ortega's two-page missive reads.
"Instead of bringing stability or generating a climate of peace, I think this will accelerate the crisis," she said, mentioning it would heighten uncertainty and alter the "unbeatable" constitution launched under late leader Hugo Chavez.

Jaua acknowledged receipt of Ortega's letter, but quickly said she was merely expressing a "political opinion," without any power to change the situation.
"We consider that the only organ the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela's constitution empowers to interpret the constitution is the Supreme Court's constitutional chamber," he said at a news conference, in reference to the pro-government top court.

Venezuelans are scrutinizing Maduro's government and the armed forces for any cracks as protesters take to the streets daily to demand early elections, humanitarian aid to alleviate food and medicine shortages, and freedom for jailed activists.While there are no outward signs of major fissures that would destabilize 18-years of 'Chavista' rule, demonstrators have been cheered by Ortega's public dissent and by some public denunciations of officials by their relatives.

Rising death toll

While anti-government protests have brought hundreds of thousands to the streets, Venezuelans are increasingly concerned about spates of nighttime looting and barricades popping up in many neighborhoods.

Masked youths man roadblocks, turning back traffic or asking motorists for a monetary "collaboration" to be allowed through.

The worst nighttime unrest has largely been concentrated outside the capital, however, with the jungle and savannah state of Bolivar hard-hit overnight.
Some 51 buses were burned after a group attacked a transport company in the city of Puerto Ordaz, the prosecutor's office said on Monday. Barricades and clashes with the National Guard were also rippling through the city on Monday, according to a Reuters witness.

There also was trouble on Monday in Barinas, the rural state where Chavez was born and which is regarded by his supporters as the "cradle of the revolution."
Mobs burned the headquarters of the Socialist Party in the state capital, and clashes and looting raged throughout the day, witnesses and authorities said.
Several opposition leaders have condemned the violence, but the episodes highlight the risks of protests spinning out of their control amid widespread anger at Maduro, hunger, and easy access to weapons in one of the world's most violence countries.

Maduro accuses his opponents of an "armed insurrection," backed by the United States, his ideological foe.
His government blames "fascist" protesters for looting and deaths in the unrest since early April.

The death toll increased to at least 51 people after a policeman, Jorge Escandon, died after being injured in Carabobo state and three people died in protests in Barinas, the prosecutor's office said on Monday.

Hundreds of people also have been injured and more than 2,600 arrested, with about 1,000 still jailed, according to rights groups.

On Monday, opposition supporters and doctors in white robes tried to march to the Health Ministry in Caracas to demand access to proper treatment amid major shortages of medicines ranging from painkillers to chemotherapy drugs.

"Today, I'm not here as a lawmaker, I'm here marching for my sister who has a cerebral tumor, a tumor that is growing again and producing paralysis, a tumor for which Venezuela used to receive medicine and the injections for this not to happen," said opposition lawmaker Miguel Pizarro.

"Today I walk for my brother, who is diabetic, and who, like my mom, can't find medicine," added Pizarro, part of a new generation of opposition leaders who have been at the forefront of protests and often been tear-gassed.

In a scene repeated over and over in recent weeks, security forces fired tear gas at demonstrators and clashes erupted with hooded youths who threw rocks.

Venezuela's irreconcilable visions for the future

Venezuela's irreconcilable visions for the future

  • 22 May 2017

 Signs reading "No more dictatorship" are a common sight at anti-government protests
"Venezuela is now a dictatorship," says Luis Ugalde, a Spanish-born Jesuit priest who during his 60 years living in Venezuela has become one of the South American nation's most well-known political scientists.
A former rector of the Andres Bello Catholic University in Caracas, Mr Ugalde does not mince his words.
He compares Venezuela to an ailing patient who is on the brink of being killed off by well-meaning but incompetent doctors.
Venezuela's problems are not new, he says. At their heart is the mistaken belief that it is a rich country.
He argues that while it may have the world's largest proven oil reserves, Venezuela should be considered overwhelmingly poor because it hardly produces anything except oil.

The curse of oil

A lack of investment in anything but the booming oil industry in the 20th Century meant that its human talent was never really fostered and its economy never diversified, resulting in an absolute reliance on imports.
Venezuela's late leader, Hugo Chávez, further compounded the illusion of Venezuela's wealth to the detriment of the country, Mr Ugalde argues.

While oil prices were high, Hugo Chavez could afford to fund social programmes
"He told the Venezuelan people that there were three things standing between them and prosperity: the US empire, the rich and the entrenched political elite, and that he would deal with all three so that the people could enjoy Venezuela's wealth."
Investing Venezuela's oil revenue in generous social programmes, building homes and health care centres, expanding educational opportunities and providing the poorest with benefits they did not previously have, gave the government of President Chavez a wide support base.
But with falling global oil prices, government coffers soon emptied and investment in social programmes dwindled.
The death from cancer of President Chávez in 2013 further hit the governing socialist PSUV party hard.
His successor in office, Nicolas Maduro, lacked not only the charisma of President Chávez but also his unifying presence at the top of the party and the country.
Mr Ugalde does not doubt that President Maduro came to power democratically in 2013.

Luis Ugalde says that Venezuela has become a dictatorship
But he argues that what he has done since - such as undermining Venezuela's separation of powers - has turned him into a dictator.
The Democratic Unity Roundtable opposition coalition won a landslide in the December 2015 election and yet it has seen almost all of its decisions overturned by the Supreme Court, a body which opposition politicians say is stacked with government loyalists.
An attempt by opposition politicians to organise a recall referendum to oust President Maduro from power was thwarted at every step by Venezuela's electoral council, another body opposition politicians say is dominated by supporters of Mr Maduro.

'Final straw'

But for many the final straw came on 29 March 2017, when Supreme Court judges issued a ruling stripping the National Assembly of its powers and transferring those powers to the court.
While the Supreme Court suspended the most controversial paragraphs just three days later, the ruling managed to unite the hitherto divided opposition and spur them into action.
There have been almost daily protests and more than 45 people have been killed in protest-related violence.
While many of those protesting against the government share Mr Ugalde's view, the government is adamant it is defending democracy in Venezuela.
It argues that the National Assembly was in contempt when it swore in three lawmakers suspected of having been elected fraudulently and that all of the decisions made by the legislative body since then are therefore invalid.

New constitution call

The government has responded to the most recent wave of protests by calling for a constituent assembly.
Drawing up a new constitution will bring together the people of Venezuela and create peace where there is now unrest, President Maduro argues.
He also says he wants to enshrine some of the social programmes created by the socialist government in the new constitution.

At a pro-government rally, a sergeant in the National Bolivarian Militia, a body created by the late President Hugo Chavez, says he whole-heartedly backs the idea.
"We're against terrorism, those people protesting violently who're burning buses, we support the constituent assembly," Gerardo Barahonde says.
Marta Elena Flores, 60, says the opposition is "out to wreck everything" achieved under the socialist government.
"We need to protect all the benefits the government has given to the people," she says.
"We need to enshrine them in the constitution so that the opposition doesn't even have the chance to rob us of them."
"I personally have been able to have two operations thanks to the government's medical programmes. The opposition begrudges us those benefits."

Opposition politicians have been dismissive of the president's call for a constituent assembly, saying it is a ruse to delay overdue regional elections and further strengthen the power of President Maduro.
Representatives of the major opposition parties declined a government invitation to discuss the creation of the assembly and, three weeks after the idea was first mooted by President Maduro, little progress has been made.
Previous attempts at dialogue backed by former international leaders and even the Vatican have failed.

Anti-government marches meanwhile have been spreading throughout the country and clashes between protesters and the security forces have become more frequent and the number of dead has been on the rise.
Those opposed to the government say they are determined to keep the protests going until fresh general elections are called and the government is ousted.
Some analysts have said that what it will take for the government to fall is for the protests to spread to the "barrios", the poor neighbourhoods which have been the support base of the governing socialist party.

Miguel Pizarro, an opposition lawmaker who represents the barrio of Petare, one of the poorest in Caracas, dismisses that argument.
"The only contact people who make that argument have with the barrio is through their cleaning lady," he says.
"There has been resistance to the government in the barrios for a long time, that is how I got elected!"
Others think that it will take the military to switch sides for the government to be ousted.
But with Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino taking to Twitter on 20 May to accuse protesters of fomenting anarchy and international organisations of being "immoral accomplices who don't denounce the violence" there is little sign of that happening any time soon, at least within the highest ranks.
In the short term at least, there seems little chance of the current deadlock in Venezuela being broken and every likelihood that the crisis will worsen.

Venezuela’s paradox: People are hungry, but farmers can’t feed them

Venezuela’s paradox: People are hungry, but farmers can’t feed them

With cash running low and debts piling up, Venezuela’s socialist government has cut back sharply on food imports. And for farmers in most countries, that would present an opportunity.

But this is Venezuela, whose economy operates on its own special plane of dysfunction. At a time of empty supermarkets and spreading hunger, the country’s farms are producing less and less, not more, making the caloric deficit even worse.
Drive around the countryside outside the capital, Caracas, and there’s everything a farmer needs: fertile land, water, sunshine and gasoline at 4 cents a gallon, cheapest in the world. Yet somehow families here are just as scrawny-looking as the city-dwelling Venezuelans waiting in bread lines or picking through garbage for scraps.

Having attempted for years to defy conventional economics, the country now faces a painful reckoning with basic arithmetic.

“Last year I had 200,000 hens,” said Saulo Escobar, who runs a poultry and hog farm here in the state of Aragua, an hour outside Caracas. “Now I have 70,000.”
Several of his cavernous henhouses sit empty because, Escobar said, he can’t afford to buy more chicks or feed. Government price controls have made his business unprofitable, and armed gangs have been squeezing him for extortion payments and stealing his eggs.

Venezuela’s latest public health indicators confirm that the country is facing a dietary calamity. With medicines scarce and malnutrition cases soaring, more than 11,000 babies died last year, sending the infant mortality rate up 30 percent, according to Venezuela’s Health Ministry. The head of the ministry was fired by President Nicolás Maduro two days after she released those statistics.

Child hunger in parts of Venezuela is a “humanitarian crisis,” according to a new report by the Catholic relief organization Caritas, which found 11.4 percent of children under age 5 suffering from moderate to severe malnutrition, and 48 percent “at risk” of going hungry.

‘The Maduro diet’
The protesters who have been marching in the streets against Maduro for the past seven weeks scream, “We’re hungry!” as riot police blast them with water cannons and tear gas.

In a recent survey of 6,500 Venezuelan families by the country’s leading universities, three-quarters of adults said they lost weight in 2016 — an average of 19 pounds. This collective emaciation is referred to dryly here as “the Maduro diet,” but it’s a level of hunger almost unheard-of outside war zones or areas ravaged by hurricane, drought or plague. 

Venezuela’s disaster is man-made, economists point out — the result of farm nationalizations, currency distortions and a government takeover of food distribution. While millions of Venezuelans can’t get enough to eat, officials have refused to allow international aid groups to deliver food, accustomed to viewing their oil-rich country as the benefactor of poorer nations, not a charity case. 
“It’s not only the nationalization of land,” said Carlos Machado, an expert on Venezuelan agriculture. “The government has made the decision to be the producer, processor and distributor, so the entire chain of food production suffers from an inefficient agricultural bureaucracy.”

With Venezuela’s industrial output crashing, farmers are forced to import feed, fertilizer and spare parts, but they can’t do so without hard currency. And the government has been hoarding the dollars it earns from oil exports to pay back high-interest loans from Wall Street and other foreign creditors.

Escobar said he needs 400 tons of high-protein imported animal feed every three months to keep his operation running, but he’s able to get only 100 tons. So, like many others, he’s turned to the black market. But he can only afford a cheaper, less nutritious feed, meaning that his hens are smaller than they used to be — and so are their eggs.

“My quality went down, so my production went down, too,” he said.

Escobar’s hogs also are skinnier. An average full-size pig weighed 242 pounds two years ago, he said. “Now they weigh 176.” Last year, he lost 2,000 hogs in three months when the animals got sick and he couldn’t find vaccines.
The piglets born since then are undersized. Many have bloody wounds at the tips of their ears. “When an animal has a poor diet, it looks for nourishment elsewhere,” explained Maria Arias, a veterinarian at the farm. “So they end up chewing off the ears of other pigs.”

‘There are no profits’
Venezuela has long relied on imports of certain foodstuffs, such as wheat, that can’t be grown on a large scale in the country’s tropical climate. But trade statistics show that the land policies of the late Hugo Chávez, Maduro’s predecessor, made Venezuela more dependent on imported food than ever.

When oil prices were high, that wasn’t a big problem. Now Venezuela’s blend of heavy crude is worth barely $40 a barrel and the country’s petroleum output is at a 23-year low, in part because refineries and pipelines are breaking down and investment in new infrastructure isn’t keeping pace.

The government hasn’t published farming data in years. But Machado, the agriculture expert, said annual food imports averaged about $75 per person until 2004, then soared after Chávez accelerated the nationalization of farms, eventually seizing more than 10 million acres. The government expropriated factories, too, and Venezuela’s domestic food production plummeted.

By 2012, annual per capita food imports had increased to $370, but since then, oil prices have slumped and imports have dropped 73 percent.

Instead of spurring growth in domestic agriculture, the government has strangled it, farmers say. Domestic production of rice, corn and coffee has declined by 60 percent or more in the past decade, according to Venezuela’s Confederation of Farmer Associations (Fedeagro), a trade group. Nearly all of the sugar mills nationalized by the government since 2005 are paralyzed or producing below capacity.

Only a small, well-off minority of Venezuelans can afford to buy much food on the black market, where a pound of rice imported from Brazil or Colombia sells for about 6,000 bolivares. That’s roughly $1 at the black-market exchange rate, but for an ordinary Venezuelan worker it’s an entire day’s wage, because the bolivar has lost 99 percent of its value in the past five years.

Venezuelans who don’t have access to hard currency depend on government-subsidized groceries doled out by pro-Maduro neighborhood groups, or wait in supermarket lines for rationed, price-capped items. Those who join anti-government protests have been threatened with losing their food supplies.
The price controls have become a powerful disincentive in rural Venezuela. “There are no profits, so we produce at a loss,” said one dairy farmer in the state of Guarico, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he feared retaliation from authorities. To get a new tractor, he said, he would have to spend all the money he earns in a year. “It’s a miracle that the industry is still alive,” he said.
Four of his cows were stolen this month, probably by hungry families in the nearby village, he said.

According to Vicente Carrillo, the former president of Venezuela’s cattle ranchers’ association, the overall size of the country’s herd has dropped in the past five years from 13 million head to about 8 million.

Carrillo sold his ranch more than a decade ago, tired of threats from squatters and rural activists who accused him of being an exploitative rural capitalist. His family had owned the land for more than a century. “I dedicated more than 30 years of my life to this business, but I had to leave everything behind,” he said.
Escobar, the chicken and hog farmer, said the only way for farmers to remain in business today is to break the law and sell at market prices, hoping authorities look the other way.

“If I sold at regulated prices, I wouldn’t even be able to afford a single kilogram of chicken feed,” he said.

If it’s not a fear of the government that keeps Escobar awake at night, it’s criminal gangs. Since one of his delivery trucks was robbed in December, he has been forced to make “protection” payments to a mafia boss operating out of the local prison. Every Friday, three motorcycles stop by the farm to pick up an envelope of cash, he said. Calling the police would only escalate the danger.
“I know how to deal with chickens and pigs,” Escobar said, “but not criminals.”