A Labour MP has refused to say he regrets his long-standing support for embattled Venezuelan president, Nicholas Maduro, a deeply divisive leader who had led the country which is currently wracked with poverty, hyper-inflation and a political crisis threatening to split it in two.
He wrote at the time: “Victory for the Labour Movement in Venezuela: bus driver, trade unionist and socialist Nicolas Maduro elected as President of Venezuela.”
Since Maduro has been in power, Venezuela has spiralled into economic collapse.
BURGON: “In 1989, a few years before Chavez came to power, 3,000 people were killed in a single day protesting against the government.
“The vast majority of people lived in poverty, there wasn’t a healthcare system or an education system. That Chavez government did do some good things similar to the Labour government after the Second World War.
BRUCE: “No, we’re talking about, do you regret Labour’s support for Maduro previously?”
BURGON: “Well I tweeted congratulations to Maduro for being elected by the people in 2013 as a successor to Chavez who’s done many good things, but Venezuela’s always had problems.”
BRUCE: “I still can’t hear if you regret it or not?”
BURGON: “I certainly don’t regret the introduction, under Chavez, of free healthcare and free education. But where we are now, talking about 2019, I’ve said that it doesn’t do anyone any good to pretend the situation is anything other than dire.
“But millions of people oppose Maduro’s government but millions of people support it as well. We want to avoid this spiralling into a civil war. It shouldn’t be used as a political football over here, it’s a serious matter and another intervention in an oil rich country from other rich countries, won’t help Venezuelans.
“So if we’re serious about helping Venezuelans in this dire situation, we should listen to the calls for negotiated talks from the Vatican, from Mexico, from Uruguay and other countries”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters have long held up Venezuela as shining example of the benefits of socialism after Hugo Chavez took power in 1998. Critics say the country’s economic success has been more dependent on booming oil prices than the government’s policies.
At the time of Chavez’s death in 2013, Venezuela lacked basics such as toilet paper and coffee.
Two years later and the socialist healthcare system implemented by Chavez had collapsed and Venezuelans were dying due to a lack of basic medical supplies.
During this time, Labour MPs such as Burgon and Corbyn continued to celebrate the Venezuelan government.
Successor Maduro, who took power following a contested election, has presided over skyrocketing inflation, a collapsing economy and widespread shortages of basic goods, with 90% of the population living in poverty.
Maduro has faced international condemnation for his efforts to assume nearly unlimited powers and the detention of leading Venezuelan opposition figures.