US – Hands Off Latin America!

More than 50 activists turned up for an emergency picket of the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square London on Wednesday 17 Sept called at short notice by the Bolivia Solidarity Campaign and Hands off Venezuela, with the support of Equadorians in the UK, Colombia Solidarity Campaign and Global Women’s Strike.

35 years after a CIA-backed coup brought down the Allende government in Chile, the US are still at it, backing right-wing violence that has killed over 30 supporters of the Bolivian president Evo Morales and setting up a plot to get rid of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.

Both countries have expelled their US ambassadors in response to these attempts, which seem to be part of a Bush initiative to end his time in office by pulling down any left-wing governments in Latin America. Equador is also under threat from such illegal actions by US agencies.

The US  re-established its Fourth Fleet on July 1; this was disbanded some 50 years ago when the Americans realised there was no longer a threat from the German navy and submarines to allied convoys, and the new fleet is intended to intimidate countries in the Caribbean, Central and South America

Jeremy Dear, Venezuelan flag and armed police guard at US Embassy

There were a number of speeches in English and Spanish, including one by NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear. The picket was followed by a rally at the NUJ’s offices with speakers expected to include ambassadors, MPs and union leaders, although I was unable to continue to this.

The area around the US Embassy has been extensively remodelled, establishing a pedestrian area in place of the roadway and also surrounding the building with reinforced bollards to prevent vehicle attacks. It does make it a more pleasant area in which to hold protests.

While the picket was being held, one of the Met’s Jankel armoured Guardian TIV (Tactical Intervention Vehicles) was at the south corner of the area and work was being carried out on one of these bollards. Jankel is a Weybridge-based company (with strong connections to Jordan) that specialises in conversions such as these heavily armoured bomb blast and bullet proof vehicles on a Ford 4×4 truck chassis.  Company founder Robert Jankel, who died in 2005, was earlier noted for his sports and luxury car designs.

These sinister looking vehicles are often used around Heathrow and also carry the specialist firearms officers of CO19 – they can transport 6-8 officers.

More pictures at My London Diary

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