Jeremy Corbyn has no idea what it’s like for ordinary Venezuelans like me to live under Maduro’s chaotic regime

The president continues to do as he pleases, dancing in public while citizens from the young to the elderly are dying in droves. And still the Labour leader appears to support him

Gina Rodriguez-Prenovost
Thursday 31 January 2019 16:25 GMT
Trump administration announces sanctions against Venezuela worth billions of dollars

I am writing today on behalf of millions of Venezuelans currently fighting to get their country back and to recover their dignity, after being trampled by a man that Jeremy Corbyn seems to openly support despite his part in burying an entire nation in the utmost misery.

While I understand how foreign intervention in our domestic conflict could be considered worrisome, I don’t think those concerns move Corbyn. He has not directly expressed his position in relation to the Venezuela crisis and, during his meeting last week with ambassadors from Latin America and the Caribbean, only a spokesman from the Labour Party addressed the issue in a general statement.

In the past, Corbyn has openly given his support for the now deceased Hugo Chavez, but he has never explicitly expressed his position towards Chavez’s successor, Nicolas Maduro, dismissing pressure from his peers to do so. I highly doubt that he cares about what is happening in our country. Much worse, he brazenly ignores it.

I would like to point out to Corbyn that during the last 20 years, Venezuela has gone through more elections than many Latin American nations put together. But amid ongoing turmoil, we still believe in democracy, and have done our best to respect it and maintain it.

However, Maduro’s government has, in my view, mocked the Venezuelan constitution, violated our human rights; destroyed our economy; starved the citizens; killed sick children left abandoned by the regimen in hospitals that significantly lack resources; forced mothers to give away their children because they cannot feed them; and forced more than 3 million citizens to abandon their country in hopes of finding a way to feed themselves and their families.

The Maduro regime is, in my opinion, responsible for making thousands of children live in the streets, barefoot, barely dressed and searching for food in garbage bins. It has made Venezuelan women sell their hair for money, and sent doctors, engineers, teachers, nurses, researchers and scientist to work as taxi drivers, cleaners, waiters or dishwashers in numerous countries where these jobs provide them with a higher income than their original careers in Venezuela.

Maduro has destroyed PDVSA – an iconic oil and gas company in our country that vastly contributed to our economy – through alleged corruption, not to mention fiscal irresponsibility. And yet, he continues to do as he pleases, even going as far as launching his own salsa radio show and staging dances in public amid all the aforementioned chaos. Meanwhile, citizens from the young to the elderly are still dying in droves.

In perhaps the most overt threat to democracy from the president, the same move that has drawn condemnation worldwide, Maduro has also been accused of forging the results of the last election, as well as openly threatening his citizens with blocking their access to Comités Locales de Abastecimiento y Producción (Clap) bags, if they did not vote in the government’s favour.

Originally introduced by Chavez, the Clap bags are the product of Maduro’s flagship scheme to manage food distribution in the Venezuela. The bags are managed by the Local Committees of Supply and Production, which ensure that only those registered with the government party receive them.

Sadly, none of the above is hyperbole; these are all widely documented facts.

So why does Corbyn still appear to recognise this man as the rightful president of a nation that bleeds from within and longs for its freedom from him?

I had the opportunity as a young journalist to meet and talk with Chavez, the man who 20 years ago set up the country to live its worst political tragedy known to modern times.

I cannot say that Corbyn reminds me of this man, who undoubtedly exuded charm and a devastatingly magnetic personality. No one would accuse Corbyn of possessing those traits. However, when I hear him spread his ill-conceived rhetoric and see his body language, I can’t help but think of Chavez.

I never supported Chavez, and, in fact, I left my country a year after he took power. I foresaw what was coming, having met the man, but when I later moved to the UK 12 years ago, I was inclined towards what I thought were the beliefs of the Labour Party – a less dramatic version of the positive aspects of socialism.

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Now, based on my observation of the Corbyn-led party, my vision has changed. I am fearful of the prospect of reliving the social resentment I experienced with Chavez. Chavez stirred people’s hatred towards each other and created a polarised society that did not exist before. The strategy to “divide and conquer” shouldn’t be applied in this context where the lives and destinies of millions are at stake.

Does Corbyn have any idea how long it will take Venezuela to recover from this political, social and economic catastrophe? Doesn’t he think we have the right to start our recovery as soon as possible?

All Corbyn appears to be doing at this point is confusing the debate with thoughtless, yet highly predictable contributions. Part of the general statement of the Labour Party, says that “all parties need to respect the rule of law, human rights and democratic processes”. Where have these been for the last 20 years?

Does Corbyn think that Maduro will follow these suggestions? The rest of their statement denies any support to outside interference in Venezuela “…the future of Venezuela is a matter for Venezuelans”. But this is exactly what the Venezuelans are trying to do, to have their country and their democracy back.

The Labour leader doesn’t seem to have any notion of the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. Juan Guaido does not have the intention to ally with foreign powers to consolidate himself in the presidency of Venezuela. Guaido’s first goal is to get international help to attend to the genuine humanitarian crisis we are living thanks to Maduro. Why on earth would Corbyn oppose that?

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