From Corbyn to Podemos, Don't Forgive Maduro’s Cheerleaders

Venezuela is on fire. Two decades of mismanagement by a corrupt regime has left its people starving, fleeing, and cowering from government death squads. Venezuela, the world’s most oil-rich state is in ruins. The extent of the spoil has been so thorough that it now imports more oil from the United States than it produces. Much of this is because of the severe deficiency of refinement infrastructure. In addition, hyperinflation has been a major battle for the administration. For a nation which does not print its own currency, this surely is a cruel fate. Cash money has become a rare sight. Probably due to the fact that the government can barely afford to buy new currency. Last Christmas, a plane from Basingstoke (a quaint Hampshire town) touched down in Caracas, filled with newly printed Bolivars. The lowest valued note onboard was already worth less than a single US cent.

But the problems for the Venezuelans weren’t just limited to financial setbacks. It includes corruption, violence, and extreme disparity within the economic classes―which fueled tensions. In 2016, the incumbent President, Nicolas Maduro created a new wing of the police, the Special Action Force or FAES. Various human rights groups have accused them of acting as Death Squads. They have allegedly entered low-income neighbourhoods to harass and, sometimes, execute the rivals and competitors of the regime. Since the beginning of the year, forty-three protestors have been confirmed to have died in clashes with the police.

Nicolas Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chavez have taken actions that have had a tragic effect on the lives of ordinary Venezuelans. Over 3.4 million people now live as refugees, desperately trying to flee poverty. The wealthiest nation of South America, just a few decades ago, is now a page out of a book and nothing more. But what makes the Maduro regime so unique is the support it gets from many useful idiots across the developed world. While dictators like Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe and Bashar Al-Assad in Syria have arguably committed far more heinous crimes against their own people, neither can boast such a committed fan base in wealthy nations.

Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the UK Labour Party and Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition is an avid fan of the Chavez-Maduro regime. He has personally called Maduro to congratulate him on an election victory in 2016. This is the very election which was decried as unfair by Human Rights Watch. The Labour Party is the second largest party in the United Kingdom’s House of Commons and the largest political movement in Europe by membership. Its prominent members include Owen Jones who wrote in 2012, “Chavez’s critics in the West are entitled to passionately disagree with him. But it’s time they stopped pretending he is a dictator”. That was 4 years after Chavez expelled Human Rights Watch from the country. In 2014, Corbyn’s top lieutenant John Mcdonnell said, “Here you had the contrast between capitalism in crisis, and socialism in action.”

Now, this article isn’t about the asinine debate on whether the Venezuelan economy can truly be considered socialist or not. I personally doubt a regime as corrupt as Chavez’s could have ever carried out the necessary reforms to institute a socialist economy. But we should remember the man who may soon be the UK Chancellor of The Exchequer (Finance Minister), lauded Venezuela a ‘socialist’ regime, saying it was a nation worth emulating.

The Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, was the only European head of government who had attended Hugo Chavez’s funeral, way back in 2012. There he praised Venezuela as an anti-capitalist model country, and has since remained friendly with the Venezuelan regime. This has continued over the current crisis. It should be noted that Tsipras hasn’t instituted the type of authoritarian reforms of the Chavez and Maduro regimes for his own country. But his fondness for their government begs the question: what would he have done if Syriza had achieved a majority in the Greek Parliament or if he didn’t have the European Union overseeing his administration ready to sanction it for anti-democratic policies. Jean-Luc Melancon, the leader of the French Left, also in the past, praised the Chavez regime. In 2013, he described it as a “source of inspiration”. However, since then, he has changed his mind claiming that he doesn’t “support dictatorship”, and that he has “never supported dictatorship anywhere in the world”.

Then there is Podemos, the Spanish Left-wing party. Since, its foundation, it has had a special relationship with the Bolivarian regime in Venezuela. Several of its founders, including its leader Pablo Iglesia, have been economic advisors to the Venezuelan government. Iglesia once called Venezuela “one of the most consolidated democracies in the world”. According to a think tank, which is close to the party, Podemos has received millions in funding from the regime, as published in the Spanish newspaper ABC. Nevertheless, Iglesia has now u-turned on his support for the dictatorship. Earlier this year, he was caught on record saying, “I don’t agree with some of the things I said in the past, and I believe that the political and economic situation in Venezuela is disastrous. To rectify in politics is a good thing”.

In a few months, voters all across Europe will have the chance to vote, in free and fair elections, for who they want as their representatives in the European Parliament. Voting is a hard-fought privilege held by far less than half of the world’s population. It was once the right that the people of Venezuela had. If the European Left’s radical leaders, who supported Chavez and Maduro, win the elections they are, of course, unlikely to institute the authoritarian policies as seen in Venezuela. This is because Europe’s civic institutions are strong and it’s people remember what a dictator looks like. Having said that though, we must remember that the support of the radical Left for the Venezuelan regime is a cause for grave concern to the lovers of democracy. It resonates the hard truth, as to what type of policies all these leaders would like to introduce, if only they had the power they believe they deserve.

The Pangean does not condemn or condone any of the views of its contributors. It only gives them the space to think and write without hindrance.