Boris Johnson’s secret flight to meet Venezuelan autocrat Maduro

Foreign secretary reportedly only informed of the trip when former PM was in the air

Kate Devlin
Politics and Whitehall Editor
Sunday 10 March 2024 18:05 GMT
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Boris Johnson secretly flew to Venezuela last month for talks with the country’s autocratic leader President Nicolas Maduro.

The former prime minister is reported to have taken time out from a holiday in the Caribbean to travel by private jet for the discussions.

Mr Maduro was re-elected in 2018 but only after judges banned his main opponents from taking part, a move which plunged the country into a severe political and economic crisis.

Since then, Venezuela has come under intense international pressure to hold a free and fair election.

Tensions were also inflamed last year when the country claimed sovereignty over a disputed oil- and mineral-rich area of neighbouring Guyana.

The UK minister for the Americas and Caribbean, David Rutley, met with Guyanese president Irfaan Ali in December to stress the government’s backing for the former British colony.

Lord Cameron was told of the summit, by a text message, when Mr Johnson was already en route, according to The Sunday Times, which broke the story.

The war in Ukraine was among the subjects reportedly discussed, amid concerns the country could supply weapons and military support to Russia.

But a spokesperson for Mr Johnson said that the visit’s purpose was to “emphasise the need for Venezuela to embrace a proper democratic process”.

They told the BBC that the ex-PM “repeatedly made clear there can be no hope of normalisation in relations until Venezuela fully embraces democracy and respects the territorial integrity of its neighbours”.

“He also set out the case for the cause of Ukrainian victory to the government of Venezuela.”

The spokesperson also said the trip came at “no cost to the UK taxpayer nor the Venezuelan government”.

It is not the first time that an overseas trip by the former PM has caused controversy.

Last year, senior military figures accused him of “looking for publicity” in a warzone after it was revealed he planned to visit Ukraine.

The former head of the army, Lord Dannatt, also warned that Mr Johnson was a “loose cannon” whose plan could upstage Rishi Sunak.

He also raised eyebrows in November, when he made a surprise visit to Israel, where he was pictured with the former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and met the country's president.

The timing of the trip was considered very sensitive, just weeks after Hamas's attacks on Israel on 7 October, in which 1,200 people were killed.

In previous jobs he has also faced accusations over the number of trips he took. He faced claims he was a ‘part time’ mayor of London in 2015 after he took two jaunts across the Atlantic in just three months.

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