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Denis MacShane: Time for change in Venezuela
February 07, 2019
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The Venezuela crisis is producing a division in Europe where once again the EU has been unable to act with one voice. Pedro Sanchez, the socialist prime minister of Spain, and most social democratic ministers, including Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas, are supporting the call for a new presidential election in Venezuela. But Italy’s populist anti-EU coalition government, has vetoed a joint EU position.

The authoritarian populists in Rome have lined up with Putin in Russia in backing the Maduro regime despite the well-documented evidence of election stealing, death squads, and millions fleeing one of the world’s richest countries following the turn to dictatorship after the death of Hugo Chavez.

The evidence is clear that Maduro has betrayed the Chavez revolution. The iron law of history that revolutions devour their children is sadly once again proven right in Venezuela. As in France after 1789 or Russia after 1917, the hopes of progress and social justice collapse as a police state takes over.

The British army has 85 generals. Venezuela, with half the population of Britain, has 2,000 generals. They help themselves to different parts of the economy much as the Turkish or Egyptian military, or the Russian security apparatus, are deeply involved in business activity to enrich themselves.

Maduro depends on them for survival but unlike Chavez has no military background. What happens in Venezuela will turn on whether the generals decide a new presidential election is necessary.

Meanwhile Maduro is counting on support from the global network of authoritarian and populist politicians. On the democratic left the Socialist International, to which the vast majority of socialist, Labour and social democratic parties are affiliated, has made it clear Maduro should go. The Socialist International general secretary, Luis Ayala, a Chilean, was imprisoned during the Pinochet dictatorship after 1973. The president of the London-based SI is George Papandreou, who had to spend years in exile when a regime of army officers took over in Greece 1967-74.

The Socialist International held its council meeting last week in Santo Domingo. It repeated its criticism last year that “the electoral process of May 2018 lacked democratic credibility, as they were carried out through the outlawing of leaders and political parties, obliging this international to repudiate this process that is contrary to the democratic norms of competition, freedom and guarantees. The National Assembly is the legitimate authority to lead the democratic transition.”

The world’s left parties condemned “the repression carried out against the Venezuelan people by the illegitimate regime of Nicolas Maduro, and urges the full restoration of the constitutional order. To date, 35 people have been killed in the protests, more than 850 detained and hundreds injured, especially in the poorer districts of the entire country, at the hands of the security forces commanded by Nicolas Maduro.”

The socialists backed the efforts of “Juan Guaido, president of the National Assembly and recognised by a significant part of the international community as interim president of Venezuela, to bring about a transition to democracy, supported by the legitimate National Assembly.”

In a warning to President Trump and his gung-ho interventionist aide, John Bolton, the global left leaders stressed “that the democratic legitimacy of the president and government in Venezuela comes only from the freely expressed will of the Venezuelan people and categorically rejected any form of external military intervention to bring about regime change in Venezuela.”

Meanwhile Maduro supporters are trying to organise international backing for the beleaguered Venezuelan president. His former chief of staff Temir Porras Ponceleon, now in Paris, is calling for “new general elections to resolve the current dispute”. Maduro and the generals have no problem with new general elections for the national assembly but what the Venezuelans want is a new presidential election conducted under free and fair conditions overseen by election observers from the international community.

So far, the protests have been peaceful but if Maduro insists like a South American Robert Mugabe on clinging onto power on the basis of a stolen election then the tensions may explode into something far more sinister.

The Independent

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