Ken Livingstone denies blaming Venezuela crisis on Hugo Chávez’s 'unwillingness to kill oligarchs'

Former mayor of London says it is 'sensationalist media reporting aimed at creating clickbait' 

Thursday 03 August 2017 17:16 BST
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Ken Livingstone
Ken Livingstone (PA)

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Ken Livingstone has denied blaming the crisis in Venezuela on Hugo Chávez’s unwillingness to kill “oligarchs”.

Reports suggested the former mayor of London made comments criticising the former president for not using voilence but he has now claimed his remarks have been "misrepresented".

Mr Livingstone, who is currently suspended from the Labour party, has been a longtime supporter of the current president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, and his predecessor Mr Chávez.

“One of the things that Chávez did when he came to power, he didn’t kill all the oligarchs. There was about 200 families who controlled about 80 per cent of the wealth in Venezuela,” Mr Livingstone is reported to have said on Talk Radio.

“He allowed them to live, to carry on. I suspect a lot of them are using their power and control over imports and exports to make it difficult and to undermine Maduro.”

Mr Livingstone has now released a statement denying that he said Mr Chávez should have anyone killed.

"I’m very disappointed at the deliberate misreporting of my comments regarding the situation in Venezuela. I have not said that Hugo Chávez should have killed anyone and nor would I ever advocate it. I even dispel this accusation in the very interview that is being extensively quoted," he said.

"The point I was making is that contrary to some misrepresentations, Hugo Chávez didn’t repress the former ruling elite in Venezuela and many members of the former ruling elite have stayed in the country, seeking to overthrow elected Presidents through unconstitutional and violent means (including the coup in 2002) ever since.

"The situation in Venezuela requires serious discussion in the media and not distorted, sensationalist media reporting aimed at creating clickbait."

Mr Livingstone, had previously blamed the US for trying to “undermine” the country.

“Hugo Chávez did not execute the establishment elite, he allowed them to continue so they’re still there,” he told The Times.

“I think there’s a lot of rumours they’ve been blocking the important food and medicines and things like that because they control a lot of the companies.

“America has got a long record of undermining any left-wing government as well. So I suspect it’s not all just down to the problems of the [Venezuelan] government.”

The South American country is in turmoil after the socialist government was granted powers to overhaul the political system.

Mr Maduro claimed victory in elections for a new Constituent Assembly that will be tasked with rewriting the country’s constitution. The move will place more power in the hands of his ruling Socialist Party.

The current, opposition-controlled National Assembly has been stripped of many of its powers by Venezuela’s Supreme Court, which is generally loyal to Mr Maduro.

Opposition parties boycotted the latest elections and angry protests turned violent.

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