Cable, not Corbyn, is right on Venezuela

The most famous example is in the 1960’s: the Cuba of Fidel Castro turned dictatorial after he let the Soviet Union take over training domestic policing and his secret service (in exchange for buying up his sugar an most of Cuban cigars; see Tad Szulcs biography of Fidel).

But also in the 1980’s the regime of Robert Mugabe over Zimbabwe appeared to start out in 1980 as a better alternative to South African Apartheid, but there the instant imposition and eternal prolongation of the State of Emergency, the role of the North Korean (guaranteed Stalinist) military training mission, their Zimbabwean Fifth Brigade pupils and their Gukurahundi 1983-7 offensive  suppressing Nkomo’s democratic opposition, disillusioned many supporters very fast. When in 1987 the presidency got real executive powers and Nkomo’s party was absorbed in Mugabe’s regime, things turned sour “for keeps”, resulting in misrule, murderous peasant evictions, clobbering opposition leaders to a pulp, and hyperinflation.

The 1979 Sandinista revolt in Nicaragua under Daniel Ortega kept on the democratic, progressive path during the 1980’s, but after losing the 1990’s election Ortega forced social democratic party veterans like Ernesto Cardenal and novelist Sergio Ramírez out, becoming  more autocratic. Ortega and his clique in 1990 kept the nationalized enterprises as their property, and after returning to government in 2006, Ortega was illegally re-elected president in 2011. Ortega, having fought the Roman Catholic hierarchy up to 1990, co-operated with the orthodox wing of that church (archbishop Obando) after returning to government in 2006, banning abortion in all circumstances (his main campaign issue and that of the “liberals”. Human Rights Watch since reported that bleeding pregnant women don’t get treated for fear of breaking that ban, and the Health Ministry ignores complaints about pre- and postnatal care.

Of course, Ortega was an example for and supporter of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela. He doesn’t care if the women who supported him during the Revolution now suffer bad reproductive care and can’t do family planning, prolonging structural deprivation, teen pregancies and poverty, which once legitimized his Revolution.

The Venezuelan “Revolution” derailed in just the same way as these predecessors:

In condemning these derailments, European Social Democracy used to be a solid ally of Social Liberals, Greens and other progressives.

But now fellow travelers like Corbyn applaud and continue to befriend Daniel Ortega, Hugo Chavez and Maduro. In that the Labour Party, now a big party where his Greek (PASOK), Spanish (PSOE), French and Dutch sister parties almost disappeared after disastrous elections, is deviating from the democratic, humanitarian Max van der Stoel KCMG  tradition of Social Democrats.

Corbyn’s only European allies are Podemos (Spain) and Die Linke (Germany): leftist no-hopers.

* Bernard Aris is a Dutch historian (university of Leiden), and Documentation assistant to the D66 parliamentary Party. He is a member of the Brussels/EU branch of the LibDems.

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  • The article doesn’t mention Cable at all. On what basis is he right? (I’m not saying he is or isn’t – I have no idea either way)

  • Liberal Maverick 11th Aug '17 - 10:43am

    The left of the Labour party of which Corbyn has always been part have usually been quick to condemn authoritarian regimes of the right but reluctant to do the same with those claiming to be left wing.

    Cuba is a very good example where the likes of Tariq Ali in a documentary following Fidel Castro’s death would not condemn serious human rights abuses by the ‘communist’ regime in that country.

    There are plenty of other examples particularly from the Soviet era.

    The plain fact is that UK Labour and the trade unions are authoritarian bodies that can’t abide individualism.

    There starting point is that an elite (them) is required to decide what is best for us.

    Is it any wonder they get all starry eyed about left wing dictators?

  • nigel hunter 11th Aug '17 - 11:02am

    ‘There starting point is that an elite (them) is required to decide what is best for us’ This is to be treated like children, we know best and you do as you are told. As a result a certain number will always disagree (the way of things). These are treated harshly, the rest cower,fear of punishments untill the lid comes off. If Corbyn is elected and is not flexible their could be dissatisfaction in the country.

  • Jayne Mansfield 11th Aug '17 - 11:19am

    The hypocrisy is stunning.

    Our government including during the the coalition government has been selling millions of pounds of military equipment to Venezuala and to governments with even worse human rights records.

  • Bernard Aris 11th Aug '17 - 12:57pm

    @geoffrey Payne

    The Sandinistas (fighting “awful” Reagan were celebrated throughout European Social Democracy (I think they joined the Socialist “Second” International) all through the 1980’s. I think if you look up Michael Foot you’re likely to find something.

    But Corbyn knows that anything positive about Ortega these days opens him up to a curious double-barreled attack: one by feminists (mostly inside is party; don’t underestmate the young Third Wave); and by the tabloids (outside his party).

    @ Tom Holder

    You’re absolutely right but if you have to tell stories from the 1980’s {you have to be over 35 to remember those) in 500 words, things have to be left out.

    I wanted to tell the stories of a series leftwing regimes who after a period of fame in Labour/Militant/Monumentum kind of circles (the Zimbabwe Lancaster House agreement were called an example for pacifying Cold War Third World conflicts until Mugabes North Koran friends got going), since have fallen into disrepute.

  • Bernard Aris 11th Aug '17 - 1:10pm

    I forgot to mention the present Greek Syriza government in my list of Chavezx/Maduro supporters, but their domestic leftwing credibility has been shot after they, having ornanized and won a referendum against the Euro EMU group (under DutchLabour minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem; remember his public spats with Varoufakis as told in Varoufakis’ recent book “adults in the room”), caved in and have since followeed EMU/ECB prescripts punctually.

    The Greeks had plenty of good reasons to distrust the thoroughly corrupt, nepotistic old big parties PASOK and Nea Demokratia;
    but after Syriza’s stupid referendum they will have trurned cynical to ALL politicians, including thee Social Liberals To Potami under Theodorakis.

  • Didn’t papers like Guardian say nice things about them in past? I seem to remember that they did. And the Clash.

  • Dave Orbison 11th Aug '17 - 2:16pm

    I agree with Jayne Mansfield as to the hypocrisy here. In reality all the faux outrage about Corbyn on this is another effort to attack Corbyn with little, or rather no real interest, in Venezuela.

    There were many positives to the Chavez government in Venezuela.


    I remember attending a Labour LGBT with Chris Bryant with the first UK gay Venezuelan ambassador appointed by Chavez. Bryant wasn’t as keen then to criticise Venezuelan as he now is – with the rest of the Progress Party – desperate to find anything to discredit Corbyn . Of course Chavez’s Government was fiercely opposed by the US and their track record for meddling in affairs of other countries are well known.

    Corbyn has criticised violence on all sides but whatever he says in not enough.
    Meanwhile I recall Vince Cable approving export licences for arms to Saudi Arabia. He claims he had assurances on restrictions on how they would be used. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at his naivety at such a statement. A repressive regime is a repressive regime does he think they would use arms ‘nicely’.

    To criticise Corbyn on Venezuela whilst looking the other was on what Cable did as Minister in approving arms sales to Saudi Arabia is really standing things on its head.

  • Steve Trevethan 11th Aug '17 - 4:58pm

    As Mr Orbison suggests, is it accurate or objective to discuss and/or get selected politicians to discuss the governance of Venezuela without reference to the possibility of external agents, false flag operations and the like?
    In 2015, Mr Obama’s executive order declared Venezuela a threat to US national security. he said, “We are committed to protecting the US financial system — from Venezuela.”

  • nvelope2003 11th Aug '17 - 8:25pm

    There were elections in Venezuela in 2015 and Maduro’s party lost. He ignored the Assembly and then got another body called the Constituent Assembly elected by his own supporters which has seized the building occupied by the National Assembly. How democratic is that ? By all accounts there are shortages of essentials such as food and medicines despite Venezuela having massive oil reserves.The problem is that the Venezuelan Socialists have deliberately undermined the economy to enable them to control it in the interests of certain people who get favoured treatment. Of course left wing Socialists here like Mr Orbison will seek to apologise for the current disaster as those who supported Stalin praised him until the truth was revealed by Khruschev.

    Hugo Chavez was no doubt well intentioned but he is dead and those who succeeded him have a rather different agenda. Despite recent falls the oil price is higher than it was when Chavez came to power.

  • Dave Orbison 11th Aug '17 - 8:42pm

    nvelope2003 – I’m not defending anything in my previous post. So it’s rather an unpleasant leap to suggest I am some sort of apologist for Stalin. Utter nonsense and the sort of lazy slur too often used these days in place of healthy debate.

    My point was clear. There are clearly unacceptable behaviours on both sides of the political divide in Venezuela. But there are undemocratic influences in play too that should be condemned such as the US, once again, interfering in another nation.

    Since, nenvelope2003, you highlight the lack of democracy as a significant issue re your condemnation of Venezuela, I am surprised you failed to address the curious headline to this post.

    Whereas Corbyn has consistently criticised human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia and demanded an end to arms sales, how should we view Vince Cable who approved arms sales to Saudi Arabia whilst a minister?

  • Dave Orbison

    It would be nice if Corbyn “consistently criticised human rights abuses” full stop. Of course, Saudi Arabia has an appalling human rights record, but what about Iran, which has now overtaken Saudi in annual executions some of whom are gay men hanged for being gay? Corbyn has famously done paid propaganda work for this regime (and unpaid lobbying). What about the Assad regime (which had long been a brutally repressive dictatorship, well before the civil war there)? What about the Putin regime? As for being an “apologist for Stalin” – well two of Corbyn’s closest advisors, Seamas Milne and Andrew Murray, are unrepentant Stalinists. (Murray’s even supported North Korea or “People’s Korea”) Stalin was, of course, a genocidal tyrant.

  • Jayne Mansfield 11th Aug ’17 – 11:19am…

    You forgot to add that it was Jo Swinson, who said “It smacks of double standards for the Tories to attack the Labour leadership for supporting Venezuela whilst selling arms and security equipment to dictators and regimes with even worse human rights records.”

    It seems that Jo should, perhaps, look closer to home for ‘double standards’

  • Since when has Corbyn ever been, or even claimed to be, a social democrat?

  • …..In a surprise intervention, Donald Trump said he would not rule out using military force as the country descends further into civil unrest……“We have many options for Venezuela, this is our neighbor,” Trump added. “We’re all over the world and we have troops all over the world in places that are very very far away, Venezuela is not very far away and the people are suffering and dying. We have many options for Venezuela including a possible military option if necessary.”…….

    Well, that’s one way of ‘condemning’ Maduro….. However, such action has got a lot more likely as anti-government forces are looting weapons from the military….A ‘shooting unrest’ may well give Donald the opportunity to play his ‘Big Boy’ card in a ‘little’ country without nuclear weapons…

  • Dave Orbison 12th Aug '17 - 10:01am

    expats – not to mention oil. And Trump has already said once they become ‘involved’ in counties, the US are entitled to their oil. With friends like these….

  • nvelope2003 13th Aug '17 - 9:19am

    Dave Orbison: Trump is wrong. He should not interfere and has damaged the cause of democracy. As regards arms sales to Saudi Arabia and Venezuela we are a trading nation or so we are told by the Brexiteers and we have to sell things to survive, distasteful as it may be.
    If we did not sell arms then others would. All countries have the right to defend themselves against aggression but not to interfere in other countries.

    I did not say you were personally an apologist for Stalin but you are like those who were in the way you apologise for people like him.

  • Seems to me that if you take some of the above comments to a logical conclusion, the only way politicians can avoid accusations of hypocrisy or double standards is to say nothing about human rights abuses anywhere at all !!!
    (Of course, then the same politicians would be blasted for their silence)…..

  • nvelope2003 13th Aug ’17 – 9:19am……If we did not sell arms then others would….

    That is the argument of the drug dealer, people smuggler, etc…There must be a moral limit on all sales…Accepting that it would be wrong to sell arms to a terrorist group is, in itself, a moral decision…

  • Dave Orbison 13th Aug '17 - 11:01am

    nvvelope2093 – so you seek to score a political point by attacking Corbyn for not condemning the Venezuelan Government whilst defending our trade in arms with the very same regime.

    Priceless. Just shows how cynical those that have trumped up this latest Corbyn slur. You couldn’t make it up

  • Bernard Aris 13th Aug '17 - 1:14pm

    It is very well possible that The Guardian praised Ortega for resisting Ronald Reagan and Oliver North; its likeminded Dutch paper De Volkskrant (with whom The Guardian shares articles and co-operates in projects like the Edgar Snowden revelations) surely did that.

    The Economist this weekend reminded us that Ortega has an even more famous fellow Latin American dictator who introduced exactly the same, inhuman, total ban on any abortion whatsoever: Augusto Pinochet. see:
    The difference is: there a progressive president (Bachelet) works to get rid of that inheritance, whereas Mr. Ortega lets it stand without any qualms…

  • nvelope2003 14th Aug '17 - 5:48pm

    Dave Orbison: I did not attack Corbyn. You seem to invent comments and ascribe them to me and then criticise what you have invented. Priceless. I was amused by your comment that you could not make it up but you do it all the time.

    Expats: Drug dealing and people smuggling are illegal activities. Manufacturing and selling arms are not illegal. There are a lot of nasty people in this world and we and our allies have the right to deter them from stealing other people’s land and property, with armed force if necessary, regrettable though that may be. I wish we lived in a peaceful world where wars did not happen but this is not yet the case.

  • Dave Orbison 15th Aug '17 - 10:01am

    nvelope 2003 You state that “I did not attack Corbyn. You seem to invest comments…” You went to say “Of course left wing Socialists here like Mr Orbison will seek to apologise for the current disaster as those who supported Stalin praised him until the truth was revealed by Khrushchev.” This under article headed “Cable, not Corbyn, is right on Venezuela”.

    You claim that these comments are not an attack on Corbyn and that you did not say I was an apologist for Stalin whilst adding “people like me apologise for the likes him [Stalin]”. I think in the context of your comments my interpretation of your comments were a fairer representation.

    Sales arms to such regimes may be legal but just because something is legal does NOT make it the right thing to do.

    Given your comments and your criticisms of left-wing socialists (are there any other kind?) I stand by view that those defending arms sales to such regimes, as you do, are not on terribly solid ground when sitting in judgement on those they feel ought to be more vociferous in criticising such regimes. Oh for an Ethical Foreign Policy.

  • velope2003 14th Aug ’17 – 5:48pm….Expats: . There are a lot of nasty people in this world and we and our allies have the right to deter them from stealing other people’s land and property, with armed force if necessary, regrettable though that may be.

    I’m sure such excuses went down well with the peaceful demonstrators in Bahrain and are of comfort to Yemeni civilians….Still, you can take comfort in the fact that such ‘lessons’ will scotch any ideas of invasion that those people might have held..

  • Dave Orbison: There you go again ! I have read all my posts and cannot find a word of criticism against Jeremy Corbyn who I admire. He has put the case for Socialism with greater clarity than anyone else since Lenin.

    However I am old and I despise those who follow ideologies, whether of the right or the left or the centre, which seem to promise a cure for the world’s ills. Time and again these fantasies have often led to disaster and misery, not for the leaders who continued to send their children to special schools and build up massive bank balances in some off shore accounts, but for the ordinary people who, perhaps naively, sometimes voted for them, and also for those who did not but still had to endure the pain. I suppose the latest thing is the almost hysterical clamour for “Brexit” as another cure all for Britain’s alleged problems. I hope they are right but past experience makes me not so sure to put it mildly. It could be another disaster.

    National Governments of all kinds have to protect the economy and security of the countries they govern. An ethical foreign policy would be one where we did not use armed force except to defend ourselves against foreign aggression. If we have to maintain armed forces then we have to provide them with the means to act in the event of an invasion. Other countries need the means to do so as well.

    I want a world without war but my experience of ordinary people is that many of them seem to like wars as they lead rather uninteresting lives and wars provide excitement.
    I have been fortunate in that boredom does not feature much in my life and wars make me feel depressed but I would not have wanted other countries ruling Britain as I do not want us ruling other people. However even occupation might have been preferable to the slaughter of recent wars, although I do not think most people would agree. The problem is that the innocent as well as the guilty suffer in wars.

  • @ envelop 2003 “I want a world without war but my experience of ordinary people is that many of them seem to like wars as they lead rather uninteresting lives and wars provide excitement.”

    You must have had some odd life experiences to come to that conclusion envelop, though I detect your satisfaction that you think you lead a more interesting life than ‘ordinary people’. That was not the experience of my relatives who had to take part in both world wars whether they liked it or not.

    They and I prefer the comment of that great old Whig Prime Minister Robert Walpole, “They may ring their bells now, before long they will be wringing their hands.”

  • For the benefit of those who have lived a rather sheltered life and did not learn that it is not polite to spell other people’s names incorrectly I should explain that by “ordinary people” I meant those who were not political obsessives, extreme nationalists or just found wars exciting as some do.

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