Alastair Thompson is reading Politics and Economics at Bath University.
Venezuela, the poster child for a nation gone to ruin, is at a precipice. The former jewel of South America has been crippled by a form of typical socialist tyranny – a dictatorship. One whose origins have routinely been praised by not only odious backbenchers within the Labour Party, such as Chris Williamson, but even the Leader of the Opposition himself, Jeremy Corbyn.
Yet earlier this week, Venezuela took a step back from tyranny and a step towards freedom. Juan Guaidó took a public oath swearing himself in as the acting President of Venezuela. A move was recognised as legitimate by the Organisation of American States, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and the United States. Yet his move has not been accepted by some within Venezuela itself.
Nicolas Maduro, the dictator who has overseen the mass murder of protestors and who has overseen political opponents detained, remains in power. His legitimacy lies under the faux authority of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice. This tribunal is the highest court of law within Venezuela: its authority cannot be challenged. Yet Venezuela’s judicial system is so barren of legitimacy that it was declared by the most corrupt in the world by Transparency International in 2014. This corruption was exceptionally apparent when, in early 2016, three lawmakers were stripped of their seats, preventing a challenge to Maduro’s dictatorship.
The United Kingdom should take a stand. The motto of the Conservative Party relating to Brexit has been a “global Britain”. What could be more global than standing for the democratic rights of oppressed peoples abroad? Let us stand with the people of Venezuala, as we would hope they would stand for us under tyranny.
But let us not simply denounce Maduro, as Jeremy Hunt rightly did yesterday, and have the Government praise Guaidó. Let’s not just have Theresa May announce that the Government recognises his legitimacy. If we wish to announce our support for democracy, we should do so democratically. Let’s have our representatives, our Parliamentarians, vote on the matter. Jeremy Corbyn and his cabal of appeasers should be challenged on their record, in Parliament – so let’s have them vote. Let’s see if the Labour Party stand with the many oppressed in Venezuela, or the few who oppress them for reasons of ideology and corrupt self-benefit.
Across the pond, Senator Lloyd Bentsen famously said to Senator Dan Quayle “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy.” It is time for the Conservative Party to step forward and show that Corbyn is no Clement Attlee, no Harold Wilson. Rather, he is besotted with whichever left-wing dictator is in fashion amongst the Hard Left. He is not the friend to human rights that the other Attlee and Wilson were. He is simply the friend of tyrants.
Let’s see that truth demonstrated in Parliament itself. If Corbyn is challenged on this matter, the likely outcome is that will he vote, in effect, for Maduro’s dictatorship, and show his support for tyranny in law. How then, could moderate Labour MPs stand with a man who prioritises ideology over innocent life? How can these MPs support a leader who stands by as lives are sacrificed on the altar of socialism?
So let’s bring forward a bill to recognise Venezuela’s rightful president. Let us help to save a country where even such basics as food are so devoid of supply that hard-working citizens have turned to eating their pets. And let us demonstrate to the people of the UK that we are seeing the death of any Labour Party worthy of the name. For what party could truly say that it supports labour, while lending support to the butchery of labourers?