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Monday 5 June 2017

Venezuela: Proof Corbyn's no 'Man of Peace'

Picture of Maikol Mendoza by Cristian Hernandez

Maikol Mendoza is a 17 year old Venezuelan who finally got a chance of life with a rare kidney transplant. The rat infested, medicine deprived state of his country's health care system has now deprived him of that second chance.
Then, Maikol became infected with a highly resistant bacteria borne out of the hospital’s poorly maintained water pipes.
Karla Zabludovsky piece for Buzzfeed on Mendoza and others suffering under a collapsing health care system is but one of many.
Stories like Maikol's are everywhere in Venezuela, where the health care system is on the brink of total collapse and patients who thought they were in the clear are back to fighting a harsh reality. Hospitals have left patients’ families to fend for themselves, scurrying to purchase everything from syringes to anesthesia, often at exuberant black market rates, and forcing doctors to perform surgery with antiquated equipment in operating rooms cleaned with dirty water.
Many of those reading this will have read similar reporting from Venezuela. What escapes me is why the leadership of the UK Labour party, who have so publicly identified themselves with the 'Bolivarian revolution', has not been asked about it.

The great cut off

June 2015 is that last time Jeremy Corbyn said anything on the record about Venezuela. Eight months later he scrubbed his website of any mention of the country.

To my knowledge Diane Abbott, Ken Livingstone, Richard Burgon, Owen Jones, Neil Findlay, and Seumas Milne have also all said nothing since this time. Bar a single reference discovered by Jack Staples-Butler:
As of this writing, Owen Jones has not used the word ‘Venezuela’ in print or online in the English language since 31st May 2015, over 580 days, mentioning it only when interviewed for a Spanish newspaper in June 2016, admitting “Venezuela is in a horrible state”[17] while making no reference to Chávez, socialism or his own involvement.
Since Corbyn's election as the leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition the Venezuelan Solidarity Campaign most prominent public backer has been a Gandalf impersonator from a rail union.

Venezuela? Where's that?

This January Corbyn was in Mexico, on holiday, discussing his "dream of realizing a world government based on justice and fraternity,” with Mexico's Lopez Obrador, Venezuelan state TV channel Telesur reported.

The same month I imagine that Maikol Mendoza was wondering whether his transplant was happening.

A year ago on the day of Theresa May's election and to, presumably, cock a snoot at the Parliamentary Labour Party's meeting, Corbyn instead chose to not comment on May and to attend a Cuba Solidarity event in Parliament.

In the time since he stopped talking about Venezuela the Organisation of American States, Spain and the Vatican have all ramped up their efforts at a peace process President Maduro has trashed.

At the end of April the Pope, in his weekly address, said: "I make a heartfelt appeal to the government and all components of Venezuelan society to avoid any more forms of violence, respect human rights and seek a negotiated solution."

People are starving

Francisco Toro, executive editor of the excellent English language website Caracas Chronicles, spoke to a worker for the Catholic charity Caritas last week:
Caritas constructed a sample of more than two dozen at-risk areas in the poorest parishes of four Venezuelan states and started weighing children under 5 years old. This allows Caritas to measure “global acute malnutrition” — the key mechanism humanitarians use to assign numbers to the severity of hunger. In October, 8.9 percent of the children they measured faced either moderate or severe acute malnutrition. The number was high, and it has kept rising. By April, 11.4 percent of of children in vulnerable areas were experiencing acute malnutrition — well above the 10 percent threshold humanitarian agencies use to declare a food crisis.
Maduro refuses to declare a food crisis, which would trigger international support, and refuses to allow humanitarian aid agencies to properly do their work or to bring in food and medicines. Instead he has publicly joked about starvation and putting the nation on the 'Maduro diet'. The military is now starving the populace for profit.

Chavistas will blame the situation on the fall in the price of oil and the sulfurous Yankees, but malnutrition in children was already reversing from last decade's gains five years ago, before that price fell. The BBC World Service's 'The Inquiry' showed that Venezuela's economy has long had structural problems - and Chavista policies have only made them worse and led to today's situation.

The Maduro regime is now relying on financing from, amongst others, Goldman Sachs. Yes that Goldman Sachs.

Why are they doing this? Because they still believe they are creating a socialist paradise.

Writing for Caracas Chronicles César Crespo explained how Chavez' long game "was always establishing an “alternative” to capitalism." Spanish Marxist Professor Alfredo Serrano Mancilla, the main economic advisor to the government, has been described by Maduro as the "Jesus Christ of the economy." His prescriptions include:
Expropriations, the seizure of businesses, “urban agriculture” on balconies, the soviet supply system and forced employment in the public agriculture sector.
Mancilla wants any crisis hidden and no aid allowed in. According to the Spanish newspaper El Nacional, Mancilla has "solidified the idea that the socialist economic model of the 21st century is unquestionable, and that any failure is the result of attacks from the opposition."

Corbyn could have acted - he chose not to

When his visit to the region he professes to love was reported by Telesur at the beginning of this year Corbyn could have spoken out on Venezuela. When he spoke to the Cuban Solidarity crowd last June he could have spoken out.

He could have demanded:
  1. That the Venezuelan government rejoin the peace process
  2. That the Venezuelan government declare a food crisis
  3. That the Venezuelan government allow humanitarian aid agencies and NGOs to freely operate and to bring in aid
He could have repeated the words, practically word-for-word, of the Pope.

Here's the thing. Even within the worldview of supporters, like him, of Chavismo the country is deemed under attack from the evil behemoth to the North - yet still Corbyn (and all the others) has stayed silent and refused to come to the aid of the 'revolution'.

Never mind what happened 35 years ago or even 14 years ago (see an 'Exclusive!' piece today about Corbyn and North Korea) - what about now? Right now?

Venezuela is Corbyn's opportunity to not just play a 'Man of Peace' but to actually be one. He failed.

I have no doubt that even if I had published this weeks ago it would have had little impact, it is clear that such issues are largely irrelevant in this election. But it remains important that people know - Venezuela is the proof everyone has missed in this election, that Corbyn is no 'Man of Peace'.

Edited to add: Corbyn could have taken a lead from Spain's left wing party Podemos. They realised back in 2014 that they had to distance themselves from Chavismo, something they had previously been entwined with. This has caused the Maduro regime a lot of pain and demonstrates how someone like Corbyn similarly reversing could have a positive impact. See Caracas Chronicles from last May.

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