LABOUR MP Graham Jones declares that he would have “gone further” than shadow foreign minister Liz McInnes’s criticism of Venezuela.
McInnes had urged “the government of Venezuela to recognise its responsibilities to protect human rights, free speech and the rule of law.”
She demanded a response to concerns expressed by the “international community” about supposed authoritarianism and very real hardships affecting Venezuela’s people. This is presumably the US-led “international community” rather than regional states such as Bolivia, Ecuador and Cuba that have declared solidarity with Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution.
Jones, who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on Venezuela, advised Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn that he must make a statement “at some point” and told frontbencher Chris Williamson that “he’s backing the wrong side.”
Several Labour MPs, including Corbyn, and many unions support the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign, but Jones wants “everybody in the Labour Party (to) condemn the Venezuelan regime” for not looking after its citizens. His colleague Angela Smith asks Corbyn to condemn President Nicolas Maduro’s government as “a very serious threat to democracy in that country.”
If Williamson is on the “wrong side,” it follows that Foreign Minister Sir Alan Duncan, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable and Tory MP Mark Pritchard, who all attacked Corbyn for his silence, while on holiday, over Venezuela, must be on the right side.
Duncan backs sanctions imposed unilaterally by Washington on the Maduro government and would support global, preferably UN-developed sanctions.
The minister said that “demonstrators (are) being killed,” that a Sky reporter had been shot at and that Venezuela is “in meltdown.”
Opposition supporters defying a ban on street demonstrations during the constituent assembly election to build barricades, block streets and attack police are routinely described in our mainstream media as “peaceful protesters.” When did peaceful protest include, as the very Sky News footage cited by Duncan revealed, masked men carrying firearms and a roadside bomb blasting police motorcyclists?
The opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (Mud) agreed to take part in Vatican-mediated negotiations with the government but walked away from talks earlier this year, adopting a new strategy of violent street confrontations to destabilise society.
Jones points out that “the third, fourth and fifth-largest parties in Venezuela” are members of the Socialist International to which Labour is affiliated and the ruling Unified Socialist Party of Venezuela is not.
Affiliation to a nominally “socialist” international is less important than where a party stands on imperialism.
Williamson understands this, pointing out in his Newsnight interview that the US has a track record of interference at all levels, including military overthrow of inconvenient governments, in Latin America.
Washington backed the briefly successful 2002 coup against Hugo Chavez in which contemporary Mud leaders played key roles.
Britain’s Socialist International affiliate, under Tony Blair, fell in behind the US imperialist invasion of Iraq, bringing a million dead, the country’s fragmentation and the Islamic State (Isis) death cult’s birth. Yet Jones failed to mention Iraq when indicating his preference for Blair over Maduro and Chavez.
Venezuela is a divided society with many problems, some self-inflicted but most caused by US backing for an opposition led by representatives of a 200-family-strong plutocracy that has never reconciled itself to ceding power to a government committed to raising the majority from abject poverty.
Whatever errors are made along the way, the Maduro government and the Venezuelan people are entitled to expect understanding and solidarity from socialists overseas.