John Prescott: Venezuela used as another stick to beat Jeremy Corbyn but he will survive regime change call
There is rightly great concern about recent events in Venezuela under President Maduro.
It’s right for Labour and Jeremy Corbyn to condemn concerns about the violence, deaths and the imprisonment of Venezuelans which must be measured, as in any democracy, against the rule of law, justice and human rights.
When I was Deputy Prime Minister, I met the country’s previous President Hugo Chavez many times.
When we held a meeting in London, Chavez was quite impressed with the gavel I used in discussions.
So much so, I gave it to him as a present along with a small model statue of his hero Simon Bolivar, a great South American revolutionary.
Unlike other oil-rich countries and previous Venezuelan leaders, Chavez used the wealth to reduce poverty, provide education and healthcare for the poor.
During my climate change negotiations he offered to provide oil and wealth to developing countries to help reduce the global gap between the rich and poor nations.
But I had to cancel one of our meetings because Chavez faced protests from the business community, right-wing organisations and military leaders who forced him from office.
His replacement was so disastrous, the people protested and Chavez returned to power three days later.
I spoke to him shortly after and asked whether my gavel had played a part in restoring order. He laughed and heartily agreed.
There is no doubt that Venezuela is going through an extremely difficult period – economically due to the collapse of oil prices, and chaos in the administration led by Chavez’s successor, President Maduro.
We should be concerned about human rights breaches and the removal of a previous loyal member as the Attorney General.
But we shouldn’t ignore the power of opposition bent on regime change, encouraged by the US, who’ve sought to destabilise left-wing governments in South America for decades.
The voting system used to recently elect the country’s Constitutional Assembly was run by the UK-based technology firm Smartmatic – whose chair is Lord Malloch-Brown, an ex-UN high official and former Labour foreign minister.
After the election, Smartmatic told the media that turnout figures were at least a million less than the authorities reported.
The country’s National Electoral Council denied the claim.
Malloch-Brown is also co-chair of the International Crisis Group – which called last month for a “transitional government” with a “mutually acceptable interim president”.
I first met Malloch-Brown when he took over my Government flat in Admiralty House when I stood down as Deputy PM.
My strong impression of him was one of considerable arrogance, wealth and right-wing views.
Clearly there are many concerns about the Maduro Government.
But Venezuela is being used as another stick to beat Jeremy Corbyn, who has long supported left-wing governments and democracy in Latin America.
Not just by the Tory Government but also by a small band of his own MPs who actively campaigned to remove Corbyn over a year ago.
None of these Bitterite MPs have raised the issue of Venezuela in the House of Commons before.
Venezuela isn’t the only place they want regime change.
Their coup failed last year. And it’ll fail again.
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