Two of the big news stories at the moment concern the British General Election and unrest in Venezuela. There might seem to be little in common between the two, yet there is a connection.
The leading figures in the British Labour Party have been emphatic in their praise for the Venezuelan Government. Of course the Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn never met a Marxist dictator he didn’t like. But it is not just him. Emily Thornberry, Corbyn’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, declares that nation is the “social development model” to others.
John McDonell, Corbyn’s Shadow Chancellor, was among the MPs who signed a House of Commons motion paying tribute to Venezuela’s dictator Hugo Chavez, after his death. The motion lamented the loss of “a supporter of the poor and oppressed everywhere.” Chavez’s successor Nicolas Maduro has faithfully continued with the brutal experiment.
Of course Diane Abbott, Corbyn’s Shadow Home Secretary, never wanted to be upstaged. “Venezuela has shown us that another way is possible,” she once said, referring to austerity cuts. She added that this was shown by the different approach adopted by the regime to “fighting poverty”.
Indeed, according to parliamentary records, in October 2012 Abbott accepted £2,967.90 worth of flights and accommodation from the Venezuelan National Electoral Council “to witness the Venezuelan Presidential election 2012.”
Abbott is right to say it has been distinctive. Venezuela’s decline in living standards and descent into violence and tyranny has shocked the world. Socialists in other countries have also expressed solidarity. Senator Bernie Sanders said it was Venezuela that was realising the “American dream” by achieving greater equality.
The extent of its failure has been extraordinary. Oil production was hit by the regime sacking employees from the state oil company and replacing them with clueless political cronies. Socialism has resulted in a country with huge oil reserves unable to feed its own people.
The rule of the United Socialist Party has brought bitter division and violence. Human Rights Watch summarises it as follows:
“Under the leadership of President Hugo Chávez and now President Nicolás Maduro, the accumulation of power in the executive branch and erosion of human rights guarantees have enabled the government to intimidate, persecute, and even criminally prosecute its critics.
“Severe shortages of medicines, medical supplies, and food have intensified since 2014, and weak government responses have undermined Venezuelans’ rights to health and food. Protesters have been arbitrarily detained and subject to abuse by security forces.
“Police and military raids in low-income and immigrant communities
have led to widespread allegations of abuse. “
We all make mistakes. But surely of the 200 or so countries in the world it takes something to single out Venezuela as the great example to follow. Now we are left to look on in horror as armoured vehicles are driven into protesters.
Over the next month, as Labour Party figures are constantly taking to the airwaves, wouldn’t it be welcome if at some point they were invited to apologise for their role as apologists of this despicable regime?
I don’t expect much rigorous questioning from Jon Snow of Channel 4 News – who was himself fawning in his admiration of Chavez – but it is time that these British politicians were forced to account for their views.