Graham Jones MP: It is vital we support the people of Venezuela in this new Bolivarian people's revolution
Our Government, along with those of other democratic countries, has a duty to the Venezuelan people in their struggle for a future that is free and without fear, says Graham Jones MP.
Since the last Westminster Hall debate was held on Venezuela in September 2017, the country has continued its economic death spiral, producing one of the biggest migrant crises of our time along with the Rohingya and Syria and finally capturing the attention of the world’s media.
As Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Venezuela for nearly the same amount of time, I have chaired many debates and discussions on different aspects of what is a beautiful country that has an abundance of both natural resources and narcissistic kleptocratic authoritarian leaders who hold grand delusions and no morals.
Since 2017, there has only been the strengthening of a usurper President Nicolas Maduro through a presidential election in 2018 that was unconstitutional and largely condemned as being anything but free and fair by its neighbours in the Lima Group and democracies including the British Government. The opposition was essentially banned from standing and polling stations populated largely the barrios next to the government food coupon provider.
The political problems began when, in the last free and fair elections, the opposition won a supermajority in Parliament which permitted constitutional changes. In response, Maduro established a replacement – the Constituent Assembly.
The deterioration of a free and democratic society towards a brutal dictatorship has accelerated the downward spiral of living standards for all Venezuelan people.
In the widely shared footage of running battles between security services and anti-government protesters, the unreported story is that both sides now experience shortages of food and basic goods.
For many Venezuelans who attend our meetings or who I meet as a Parliamentarian, the events currently taking place started by the swearing in of Juan Guaidó from the National Assembly as Acting President last week are the first fragile glimmers of hope for many years.
With Maduro no longer able to even feed those in his own security service and command the support of the Barrios – traditionally the staunchest places of support for Chavismo – it is a question of when more than if his stranglehold on power will end. It is vital we support the people of Venezuela, this new Bolivarian people's revolution.
It is important though that in supporting the people and target the leaders with individual sanctions. It is welcome that the USA has continued to buy 25% of Venezuela's crude oil and provided means of refinement for that heavy crude. That input into Venezuela from the US is offset by heavy sanctions on named individuals and on any of the bogus multiple currencies, the Chavismo Boligarchs create to line their own pockets. Chavez own daughter is reportedly worth $4.5 billion.
Chavez and Maduro’s authoritarian and clueless economic authoritarianism of the 21st Century now plagues Venezuelans with destitution and dictatorship.
Maduro has no food, no medicine or jobs to offer his citizens now – only beatings, imprisonment and torture. Last year two shocking reports by Amnesty and separately the UN Commission on Human Rights highlighted a gross underreporting of human rights abuses including torture and murder.
I am proud to stand with Juan Guaidó, a member of Labour’s sister socialista party (Popular Will) in Venezuela. PSUV are a bunch of clueless Marxist thugs and clearly not affiliated to Socialist International.
Our Government, along with those of other democratic countries, has a duty to the Venezuelan people in their struggle for a future that is free and without fear.
Recent statements of support by Jeremy Hunt towards Juan Guaidó have been weak. Hunt’s second hapless mistake following his mistimed UN motion on Yemen received only two supporters (the Netherlands and Peru) should invigorate Labour and our fight to support the Venezuelan people.
I wrote to the Secretary of State for International Development, Penny Mordant, late last year pointing out that £10.2m in aid was pathetic but not as pathetic as the lack of international response. The UK is doing anything but looking out towards the rest of the world.
According to the UN, 2.4 million Venezuelans have fled unbearable conditions since 2014. This is now one of the world’s biggest migrant crises but hardly any resources or discussion has been given to it.
Accounts of people fleeing on foot, for hundreds of miles, with their children to the Colombian border are heart-breaking. They cannot even survive in their home country, let alone live. Half of those fleeing are children, starving and sleeping rough, who turn to prostitution or other illegal work – anything they can in order to eat one meal a day. Columbia and other neighbouring countries cannot cope.
It's heart-breaking as Krishnan Guru-Murphy in his Channel 4 piece highlighted last year.
The Venezuelan people need help now.
I hope my colleagues in Parliament and the wider British public will bear this in mind over the coming days and weeks.
For the international community to fail the Venezuelan people now will be cruellest and most tragic failure they will experience. We should care about our fellow human beings.
Graham Jones is Labour MP for Hyndburn.