Thursday, 3 August 2017

Jezza Maintains 'Radio Silence'

Image result for radio silence + images

Jeremy Corbyn has maintained 'radio silence' since events in Venezuela took a real turn for the worse, but a Labour frontbencher (Chris Williamson) gave a clear indication of where his leader's sympathies lie in an interview with the BBC which is reported here by Politics Home.

Despite what Mr Williamson says the issue here is not Hugo Chavez, but the powers that Nicolas Maduro has taken to himself in recent times which are effectively the powers of a dictator.

In recent days Jezza has found the time to comment on the future of Arsenal football club (which he supports), but has been too busy to say anything at all about the increasingly desperate situation in Venezuela.


Labour frontbencher Chris Williamson hits out at US 'interference' in Venezuela turmoil
By Josh May - Politics Home

A Labour frontbencher and ally of Jeremy Corbyn has criticised the “shady” US for the current crisis in Venezuela, as he defended the socialist regime in the Latin American country. 

Labour MP Chris Williamson - Credit: PA Images

Chris Williamson said there was a “one-sided, one-eyed view” of the current turmoil in Venezuela, where president Nicolas Maduro claimed victory in a recent election for members of a constituent assembly.

Opposition leaders, meanwhile, have been taken from their homes and placed under arrest.

Senior Labour politicians call for Jeremy Corbyn to personally condemn Venezuelan regime

Ken Livingstone blames US and ‘establishment elite’ for Venezuela crisis

But Mr Williamson, the Shadow Fire Minister, said Venezuela had been “chaotic” and suffering from “terrible inequality” before Hugo Chavez, the forerunner to Mr Maduro, rose to power.

And he refused to be drawn on whether he was closer to the politics of the Venezuelan government or the New Labour policies of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

The Labour MP told BBC Newsnight: “That’s an interesting question. I don’t like to characterise these things as left or right; for me it’s right and wrong… When a government is doing good things, as they certainly were under Hugo Chavez – a huge reduction in poverty, investment in healthcare and housing, and really improved the quality of life for ordinary people – that’s surely a good thing that we should celebrate, shouldn’t we.”

Mr Williamson, who is a close supporter of Labour leader Mr Corbyn, pointed the finger at the US, claiming Washington had helped to precipitate the circumstances for the current crisis.

He said: “Circumstances have changed substantially in Venezuela over recent years: the collapse in the oil price and of course these violent protests which have been aided and abetted by the United States of America, who have been funding opposition groups and have a very shady record going back many decades of interfering in Latin America… you’ve had these manufactured shortages, with factory owners stopping production of products to create these shortages in the shops…

“Clearly it can't be right, can it – in a situation where there is a massive crisis in Venezuela – to impose sanctions on the country. Surely it would be far better to try and bring the sides together, to facilitate talks and to encourage the right-wing opposition to stop these protests on the streets.”

Mr Corbyn has faced pressure to speak out personally about the current political disturbances in Venezuela, after protests against the Maduro government – prompted by a food crisis, soaring inflation and rising crime levels – sparked rioting and have so far claimed the lives of more than 120 people.

Mr Corbyn has not spoken publicly about Venezuela since 2015 when he said its policies were a “cause for celebration”.

Mr Maduro previously branded Mr Corbyn a “friend of Venezuela”.

Looney Tunes President (02/08/17)

Venezuela is led by President Nicolas Maduro who insists that his predecessor (Hugo Chavez) appeared to him after his death in the form of a little bird.

Yet despite this obvious sign of mental illness, or cynical demagoguery, Labour's Ken Livingstone says that America is to blame for Venezuela turning its oil-rich economy into a basket case.

Livingstone, of course, is one of Jeremy Corbyn's key allies and has form in the area of international politics with his bizarre comments about Hitler and Zionism which were met with widespread derision at the time and led to his suspension from the Labour Party.

Livingstone backs Maduro and blames US meddling for Venezuela collapse

By Lucy Fisher - The Times
The former mayor of London says the country has been led to the brink of bankruptcy not by President Maduro but by business owners and the USALAN WELLER/GETTY IMAGES

Ken Livingstone has backed President Maduro and accused an “establishment elite” of playing a part in Venezuela’s economic decline.

The former Labour London mayor, 72, highlighted claims of meddling by the owners of domestic companies and the US to explain why the nation was on the verge of bankruptcy.

President Maduro has claimed victory in a vote, condemned by critics as a sham, for a constituent assembly that is expected to hand his ruling Socialist Party more power.

Opposition politicians boycotted the ballot and millions of Venezuelans shunned the process.

Asked if he supported President Maduro and the nation’s Bolivarian revolution, Mr Livingstone told The Times yesterday: “Oh God, yes.”

Before annoucing his bid for the Labour leadership in 2015, Jeremy Corbyn praised the politics of Venezuela as “a cause for celebration”. He has been less forthcoming since.

The country’s economy has shrunk by a third since 2014 and is expected to contract by 12 per cent this year. Shortages of basic items are common.

Mr Livingstone said that Venezuela’s economic malaise stemmed in part from its reliance on its oil reserves which made it vulnerable to the crash in oil prices, but suggested that other factors had also contributed.

Fascists, Assassins, Murderers (21 March 2014)

I can't say I'm surprised that events in Venezuela seem to be spinning out of control with members of the Government, up to and including the President Nicolas Maduro, stoking things with their use of angry rhetoric and inflammatory language.

In recent weeks the country's protesters (mainly students) have been described regularly as "fascists" and now the President has started to accuse members of the American administration of being "assassins" and "murderers".

Bizarre behaviour, but perhaps no more strange than some of the other things that Nicolas Maduro has got up to during his short reign as President such as his claim that the image of his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, miraculously appeared on a construction site wall.  

Venezuela president urges US to join 'peace commission'

President Nicolas Maduro warned he could send his forces to dislodge opposition protesters

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro has urged the United States to discuss "peace and sovereignty" in a high level commission mediated by the Union of South American Nations (Unasur).

Mr Maduro also asked President Obama not to heed US factions that he says want to kill the Venezuelan leader.

Venezuela blames the US for the anti-government protests that have left 28 people dead in the past month.

The US says Venezuela is using it as a scapegoat for its internal problems.

Earlier, thousands of government supporters marched through the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, to thank the country's security forces for their policing of the recent unrest.

Mr Maduro and several military leaders held speeches praising the "civic-military" partnership.

He also proposed the creation of a "high-level commission" to discuss "peace and respect to the sovereignty" in Venezuela.'Humble bus driver'

The Venezuelan president said he wanted the head of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, to negotiate with a "high-level officer" of the US administration under the auspices of Unasur.

Thousands of government supporters and members of the armed forces marched through Caracas
There were renewed clashes between police and protesters in the Caracas neighbourhood of Altamira
A leader of the opposition said the pro-government march had been 'ordered by Cuba'

"President Obama: give peace, and respect, a chance and let's set the foundation for a new type of relations between the US, Venezuela and if possible, Latin America and the Caribbean," he told the crowd in a speech broadcast on radio and TV.

Mr Maduro also warned Mr Obama against agreeing to alleged plans to kill him, put forward by "extremists" in the US administration.

"It would be the worst mistake in your life to authorise the assassination of President Nicolas Maduro and fill [Venezuela] with violence," he told the crowd, adding he was a "humble president and bus driver" who like Mr Obama also had "African grandparents".

The opposition has called for further protests on Sunday against "Cuban repression" in the country and criticised the government's march.

"We know soldiers and officials are against this act ordered by Cuba," Maria Corina Machado, an opposition leader, wrote on Twitter.

On Saturday, there were renewed clashes in the Caracas neighbourhood of Altamira, where protesters have been occupying a square for days.

Earlier, Mr Maduro had vowed to disperse the crowd even if that took the use of force.

On Friday, Venezuela's Foreign Minister Elias Jaua accused US Secretary of State John Kerry of inciting violence and called him a "murderer".

Mr Jaua was reacting to comments by Mr Kerry, who accused Venezuela of waging a "terror campaign against its own people" in its response to protests.

The American Congress is considering sanctions on the oil-rich nation.

The current wave of protests started in the western states of Merida and Tachira at the beginning of February by students demanding more security in the region.

The opposition says it will continue to protest against Venezuela's high inflation, food shortages and violence levels until there is a change of government.

Voices from Venezuela (28 February 2014)

In my view the President of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, is a dangerous demagogue and political charlatan so I'm not surprised that he's taken to calling his opponents 'fascists' and demanding that some of them be thrown in prison. 

Here's an article from the Guardian which highlights why the protestors are taking to the streets in Venezuela and I have to say that none of them sound remotely like fascists to me - more like ordinary people saying they're fed up with the way their country is bring run. 

But that's the whole point about demagogues and demagoguery - it's not about logic, reason or political debate - it's about propaganda, passion, emotion and demonising your political opponents.    

Venezuela protests: demonstrators tell us why they're taking part

We asked protesters in Venezuela why they have taken part in the anti-government demonstrations. Here is a selection of their views

By Philippa LawJames Walsh and Guardian readers
mu6box says this photo was "taken at the peaceful demonstration in Valencia" and depicts the "most prevalent anti-Maduro symbol". Photograph: mu6box/GuardianWitness

Scenes of political turmoil have swept across Venezuela as citizens protest against unemployment, a rise in violent crime and surging inflation.

Demonstrators have also been protesting against the detention of opposition leader Leopoldo López, who surrendered to authorities on Wednesday after making a speech to thousands of supporters.

The government has claimed the protests and clashes are the early stages of a US-backed attempted coup. Recent weeks have also seen pro-government rallies and protests in support of the President, Nicolás Maduro.

Guardian readers below share their reasons for supporting and taking part in the protests. Live in Venezuela? Whether you support the protests or are part of the pro-government rallies, share your views in the comments thread below, or via GuardianWitness.

“It would be easier to ask why we would not protest”

Venezuelans have a million reasons to protest. We have one of the highest murder rates in the world – two people per hour – rampant inflation at a rate of 60% a year, basic products like milk, oil, sugar, chicken are not available in supermarkets, if we want to travel we have to go through a bureaucratic nightmare to be able to buy foreign currency limited to less than £2000 a year, we have no liberty of expression if we do not concur with the governments ideas we are completely ignored. We are protesting for our lives and our dignity.


“Scarcity of everyday goods is raising, corruption is rampant...”

Official numbers put 2013 inflation rate at around 56% and murder casualties at more than 24000, two numbers that have only increased during 15 years. Scarcity of everyday goods is raising, corruption is rampant... but instead of listening to the protests who very accurately point at the government, what we have gotten is repressive use of the public force AND armed civil gangs which has resulted in at least 6 deaths, hundreds of injured and dozens of students in jail. All of this has been silenced from national media because of heavy censorship.We’re sick of hearing this sorry excuse for a president to blame “the Empire” and the “far-right” as culprits of his own mess.

Julio Gutierrez

“The reality is it is becoming a failed state”

I have lived in Venezuela for 19 years and seen many opposition and government marches. Violence is actually not that common but escalates when the opposition grows. The present reason for demonstrations is caused by the mismanagement of the oil revenue which is quite considerable along with corruption and has been going on for years.

There are many shortages and rationing... you cannot find margarine, sugar, P.A.N arena (maize), flour, toilet paper, washing up liquid, bleach, and milk and bread are rationed from shop owners. Cement, car parts, foreign goods too. It is almost impossible to buy an international air ticket as airlines have not been allowed to change the soft Bolivar for hard currency so they don’t sell tickets in Venezuela but you can buy the same flights in dollars at the arrival location.

Jobs are few and a reasonable salary is about £50/month... people are a lot worse off due to inflation and devaluation. Crime and the murder rate are one of the highest in the world.

Venezuelan people, all of them want and deserve better. Everyone is complaining, including government tied voters.

Finally Venezuela politics does not fit “left or right wing”. Venezuela severely lacks both capitalism (business) and socialism (social benefits) and the reality is it is becoming a failed state.


“This is about power and dictatorship”

After Hugo Chavez was elected president, we started a journey of lies, manipulations and abuse of power. The last presidential elections in Venezuela was full of illegalities and, with it, we have lived a year of severe inflation, food and medicine shortages, impunity, negligence, high rates of murders and much more. The reaction of the government has been always to pretend that nothing is going on or to blame opposition of everything, but we just got fed up with being abused and threatened.

I have been robbed twice, I cannot find basic products in the supermarkets such as milk, toilet paper and chicken, I have to ask my friends to buy my medicine (for hypothyroidism) abroad, if I take public transportation I could be robbed by young thieves asking for money (forcing you to give them a “contribution” or suffer the consequences), I can buy red meat one week, let’s say at 5 GB pounds, and the next week I have to pay 8 GB pounds, and so on. Students have been stolen, threatened and even raped within the universities and that is why they decided to massively protest against the situation. During the protest, Venezuelan “special” forces shoot against them and killed and hurt students while they were running for their lives. The reaction of the government was to blame opposition for promoting violence against them. They never assume the responsibility about nothing.

Nere Márquez

Spitting Image (12 November 2013)

Anyone looking for confirmation that Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro, is nothing more that a political snake-oil salesman should consider his latest crazy antics - his claim, for example, that a 'miraculous' image of Hugo Chavez (his mentor and predecessor) appeared on the wall of an underground construction site.

Now I've posted the 'miraculous' image with this post and have to say that I can't see this as the 'spitting image' of Hugo Chavez - no matter how hard I try.

In fact it looks at best to me like one of those misshapen vegetables that attract publicity from time-to-time as loosely resemble a human face - good for a laugh perhaps, but that's all.

Yet Nicolas is keen on interpreting this as another miracle, a sign that Hugo Chavez is somehow watching over his country and giving his blessing from beyond the grave to the increasingly wacky Maduro administration - which has price inflation running at an astonishing 50%. 

Now Nicolas is a 'socialist' politician of course, but he seems more than happy to inject a little voodoo into his pitch to the voters - many of whom are deeply religious.  

Which is a load of old bollix, if you ask me - and while you would think that no socialist worth their salt would indulge in this kind of mumbo jumbo, President Maduro appears unabashed.

So, I would not be in the least surprised if he is carted off by men in white coats any day now - or perhaps even the military - because there seems little doubt that the President is losing the plot.   

Here's a report on the 'Chavez is everywhere' story from the Telegraph newspaper - which made me laugh out loud. 
Hugo Chavez 'appears' on construction site wall

President Nicolas Maduro claims marks on a wall are the image of late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez

Stories of Chavez appearances draw mockery from the roughly half of Venezuelans who do not support Mr Maduro Photo: Reuters

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said an image of his political idol and predecessor, the late socialist leader Hugo Chavez, had appeared miraculously in the wall of an underground construction site.

Since his death from cancer earlier this year, Chavez has taken on mythical proportions for supporters, and Mr Maduro has spoken of seeing his former mentor's spirit several times, including in the shape of a bird.

In the latest incident, Mr Maduro said Chavez's face briefly appeared to workers building a subway line in Caracas in the middle of the night.

"My hair stands on end just telling you about it," Mr Maduro said on state TV late, showing a photo of a white-plaster wall with marks that appear like eyes and a nose.

"Who is that face? That gaze is the gaze of the fatherland that is everywhere around us, including in inexplicable phenomena," added Mr Maduro, who won an April election to replace Chavez after his 14-year presidency.

Mr Maduro's reverence for Chavez plays well with government supporters, who treat the charismatic former leader's memory with religious adoration. The 50-year-old Maduro, who mixes Catholic beliefs with a penchant for Asian spirituality, has been a devoted personal follower of Chavez since first meeting him at a jail in 1993.

Workers took the photo with a mobile phone during the image's brief appearance, the president added.

"Just as it appeared, so it disappeared. So you see, what you say is right, Chavez is everywhere, we are Chavez, you are Chavez," Mr Maduro said during an event on live TV.

Stories of Chavez appearances draw mockery, however, from the roughly half of Venezuelans who do not support Mr Maduro. Many of them regard him as a buffoon riding on Chavez's image and causing embarrassment for Venezuela's international standing.

Both sides are gearing up for local elections in December that will be a major test of Mr Maduro's standing in the OPEC nation of 29 million people. Rampant violent crime and economic problems are the main issues taxing voters.

The president's first six months in office have been characterized by dozens of accusations ranging from assassination and coup plots to sabotage of the power grid. Critics say that is a smokescreen to cover up domestic problems.

Edited by Bonnie Malkin

Sleep Disorder (19 October 2013)

I've been taking a keen interest in what's going on in Venezuela these days as I'm fascinated by the rise to power of President Nicolas Maduro to power - because I'm convinced he's a political panhandler, a phoney or as we might say here in Scotland a complete chancer.

My reason for saying this is that the Venezuelan Maduro sees 'dead people' when it suits his purpose and one in particular - his predecessor Hugo Chavez who appeared to him in the form of a little bird at the height of the presidential election.  

But this kind of shameless behaviour has continued with the new President letting it be known that he beds down frequently in the mausoleum where Hugo Chavez's remains have been paid to rest - in the Mountain Barracks which is a 19th century fort in a run-down areas of Caracas.  

Apparently, the 'Great Leader's' tomb is housed in the ornate central atrium of the military barracks and is now guarded - around the clock - by soldiers replete with red and yellow hussars uniforms and swords, although what Hugo Chavez is being protected from is anyone's guess. 

President Maduro 'slipped out' this revelation, quite deliberately of course,  and announced portentously to his people

"I sometimes come at night. At times, many times, I sleep here. We enter at night and we stay to sleep. At night we reflect on things here."

The royal 'we' in this case is the president's entourage who join him in the mausoleum, but it's all clearly just a silly political stunt designed to reinforce the personality cult that grew up around Hugo Chavez - in the hope that some of this will rub off on Maduro.

The latest wheeze from the new President is to ask parliament to grant him special powers - so that Nicolas can govern by Presidential decree for up to three years - allegedly to tackle corruption and economic sabotage.   

Yet the language used by President Maduro in seeking these new powers is very revealing and in a three-hour speech to the Parliament  he reportedly called it a "matter of life or death" for the country's socialist revolution, before adding:

"If corruption keeps expanding and perpetuating its destructive capitalist logic, there will be no socialism here."

Now the problem with this kind of overblown rhetoric is that it's empty-headed, rabble-rousing nonsense of course - since all kinds of people around the world will tell you that 'capitalist' countries have no monopoly on political corruption.

If politics has taught me anything, it's that people with 'left' or 'right' wing views are both very  capable of behaving very badly - and that by and large it's bad for democracy and the body politic for any one person or party to remain in power for too long - because as the saying goes 'Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts, absolutely'.  

Looney Tunes (7 May 2013)

A few weeks ago, the acting President of Venezuela - Nicolas Maduro - told the world that the former President of Venezuela - Hugo Chavez - had appeared to him during the presidential election campaign in the form of a little bird.

Now at the time I said Nicolas was either bonkers or a complete charlatan - and evidence in support of my statement continues to pile up as the Venezuelan leader sees plots around every corner.

Is the President paranoid?, seems a fair question to ask in the circumstances - but I think not, I suspect it's all just a cynical political act.

The latest claim from Nicolas Maduro is that he is the target of an alleged Colombian plot to  assassinate the Venezuelan President - an incendiary charge to make towards a neighbour and one for which Nicolas has not a shred of evidence to back up his claim.

Just like Hugo Chavez appearing to him in the form of a little bird - it's an emotional appeal that's designed to exploit people's feelings - their sense of loss over Chavez and now their sense of resentment towards a neighbouring country, Colombia.

So the newly elected President Maduro has accused former Colombian leader - Alvaro Uribe - of plotting to assassinate him - and Nicolas has alleged other conspiracies against him since taking over from the late Hugo Chavez - and winning disputed elections last month.

The BBC reported Maduro as saying last week:

"Uribe is behind a plot to kill me. Uribe is a killer. I have enough evidence of who is conspiring, and there are sectors of the Venezuelan right involved."

Yet, conveniently, no evidence has been produced - and this latest outburst seems like yet another inflammatory attempt by Maduro to portray his critics variously as  killers, traitors, fascists and bogeymen.

Meanwhile, Mr Uribe responded by describing President Maduro as 'immature' - which seems an very apt description to me of a new President who appears to be way, way out of his depth.