On March 20th 2013 several thousand people gathered at Dundas Square in Toronto to participate in a pro marijuana rally. As the clock struck 4:20 hundreds of protesters simultaneously lit joints, bongs and other implements clouding the square with pot smoke to protest what many Canadians view as unfair laws.
Right at the same time a group of about a dozen people connected to the Hugo Chavez People’s Defense Front parked themselves at the northwest corner of the square. Carrying signs promoting Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro, the group cheered as if he was the next messiah. It seemed strange at first, why would they chose to do this during the 4/20 protest? The answer came a few days later when it was discovered that video of the event was used to create pro-government propaganda for people back in Venezuela.
Venezuela Unmasked is a two part series. Part I will look into the phenomenon of Canadians staging pro-Venezuelan propaganda, incidents where it was used by the government and its supporters, and how it’s all connected to one of Canada’s most influential anti-oilsands protesters. Part II gets even more exciting when we explore how one the Hugo Chavez People’s Defense Front’s leaders was denied transit through the US after meeting with a DHS designated terrorist group in Ireland.
People of The Hugo Chavez Defense Front:
On the 23rd of February 2015 a group of self-described “Solidarity groups, representatives from political parties and unions, and activists against war” gathered at the back of the Vancouver Art Gallery “to show their support to Venezuela and to reject the violence and vandalism from small groups against the Venezuelan people”.
The most interesting participant was Macdonald Stainsby, a long-time oilsands protester whose work was recently quoted in the RCMP’s leaked paper on the risk of anti-energy extremists. Stainsby was quoted on the Hugo Chavez People’s Defense Front’s website praising the Venezuelan government saying:
“the Revolution got a overwhelming victory that shows what the will of the people is”.
If it’s not weird enough watching one of Canada’s leading oilsands opponents cheering on the government of the Venezuelan petrostate, what’s even more curious is that Venezuelans used Stainsby’s event to create pro-government propaganda. The above screenshot comes from an article published on their consulate’s website in Arauca, Columbia- it uses the same quote, only in Spanish (the quote was also used on the website of the Venezuelan consulate in Vancouver):
“la Revolución obtuvo una victoria aplastante que refleja la voluntad de la mayoría de los venezolanos”
So, who is this Stainsby fellow, and what’s his relationship with the Venezuelan petrostate?
Macdonald Stainsby: Oilsands Protester And Hugo Chavez Fanboy
Macdonald Stainsby is a BC based professional protester who’s been a fixture on the anti-oilsands circuit for the past couple of decades. Stainsby is an extremist’s extremist- when debating the value of electoral politics in 2012 he declared it was “problematic” to even consider elections because:
“we have but one option, which is to either die in ecological collapse in the next couple of years or hope that climate catastrophes, continued economic collapses and the reality of peak oil force people into making the requisite changes needed –revolution–“
One of the lead authors of the IPCC’s climate report recently warned us about the dangers of alarmists. Stainsby is the perfect example- it’s three years after his two-year “end is neigh” story and the world hasn’t ended yet. He’s also a good example of why the Canadian government might me so interested in environmental extremists.
It all comes back to that word “revolution”- Stainsby’s life work. In an early 2005 article he wrote about how radicals need to keep a “united front” to save the world from imperialism- “whether your inspiration is Chavez, Marx, Guevara or Simon Bolivar himself”. In 2013 he ended a soppy ode to Hugo Chavez saying:
“Commander, thank you for so much beyond the borders of your magnificent country. The dignity you have instilled in the people cannot be destroyed. Only capitalist plots can be destroyed. You warned the people well of imperial plots. They are peaceful, but not unarmed. You will see it. We will fight because to struggle is life.”
A few minutes later, demonstrating he may have felt he was unclear about his feelings, Stainsby publicly declared his love for his recently passed away Commander:
One of Stainsby’s most flag raising posts was in early July 2014 (shortly before a climate conference in Caracas) when he praised Venezuela’s efforts to stop climate change. He argues in the post that Canada has taken an active role “trying to undermine the democratically elected government of Venezuela” by developing the oilsands. He also calls for revolution saying:
“See you in Caracas! The fourth world war began here in 1989– oil elites attempting to crush the people into starvation, the people rose in the Caracazo. Where is our climate Caracazo? Where is our collective resistance that understands the enemy?”
The Caracazo “is the name given to the wave of protests, riots, looting, shootings and massacres” in and around Caracas in 1989. The riots ultimately helped Commander Chavez get into power, it’s been reported that 100’s or 1000’s of people died in the process.
Stainsby Fights Amnesty International Over Irish Produced Propaganda:
In 2012 Irish filmmakers Kim Bartley and Donnacha Ó Briain had the opportunity of a lifetime- exclusive direct access to make a fly-on-the-wall documentary about Commander Chavez. The duo spent seven months filming in Venezuela and lucked out to be in the presidential palace in the middle of an attempted coup against Chavez.
Their documentary The Revolution Must Be Televised framed a rosy and highly contested story about the coup. Critics pointed out that important shots were out of sequence, the opposition claimed that it misled viewers about violence emanating from Chavez’s supporters. Critics tore the film apart in a counter-documentary titled X-Ray of a Lie.
The film was scheduled to be shown at the Canadian Amnesty International Film Festival in 2003, but AI recognized the controversy and pulled it. Stainsby got angry and launched an attack on AI, criticising them for “censoring” the film, ending his article in VenezuelaAnalysis.com calling it “nothing short of extraordinary”.
Venezuelan government owned television has played the documentary many times, an unconfirmed report commented it’s been used at times of civil unrest. What better way to show the people the government has legitimacy than an Irish documentary praising the Commander or an article about Canadians celebrating the revolution in a public square!
World War IV: Fighting The Oilsands For Commander Chavez?
In his March, 2014 CounterPunch.org article Doubling Tar Sands production for Imperial War, Stainsby argues that “western imperial nation-states” are on a collision course with Venezuela and Russia and how new Canadian pipelines like Energy East may be strategically important:
If the US military is to operate in a world of peak oil but expanding temporary access, using oil as a weapon needs to be available. It is here in general– and with regard to pipelines in particular– the strategic importance of Canada’s tar sands to possible Western imperialist strategies of confrontation with either Venezuela or Russia going ahead. It may be of geopolitical significance.
If there’s one thing that can be learned from the Irish documentary it’s that Venezuela is unstable. So yes, it’s a no brainer, countries that rely on their oil supply need other options- Canadian oil has geopolitical importance. Stainsby believes the West plans to use this power to bring down the Venezuelan government:
“For the United States and Canada to double down on overthrowing the Bolivarian Revolution means having a contingency for the roughly 10% of US daily supply that still comes from Venezuela today.”
So, let’s put all of this together: Macdonald Stainsby has a cult like love for the dear departed Commander Chavez and his Bolivarian Revolution, he sees Canadian pipelines as strategically important for helping the US overcome dependence on Venezuelan oil, and he’s made it his life’s work to fight them. Is this an example of the “fourth world war” he was telling us about?
Stay Tuned For Part II:
In Part II of this series we’ll jump back to Eastern Canada and look into the story about Ontario’s craziest Maoist, his 2014 Toronto attack on a Venezuelan dissident, connections to Irish militants, and how the Department of Homeland Security used terrorist legislation to deny his travel through the US.