Members of U.K. Parliament Praise Venezuelan Government

During a parliamentary debate about U.K.-Latin American relations Tuesday, several members of parliament supported the Venezuelan government’s anti-poverty programs, including the British Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs.
Member of Parliament Jeremy Corbyn, who introduced the debate on U.K.-Latin American relations Tuesday (Cuba Solidarity)

Mérida, March 6th 2009 ( — During a parliamentary debate in the United Kingdom about U.K.-Latin American relations Tuesday, several members of parliament supported the Venezuelan government’s anti-poverty programs and nationalizations of strategic industries, and urged the British government to take a more constructive approach to the South American nation. Also, the British Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, expressed support for Venezuela’s anti-poverty programs.

Introducing the debate, MP Jeremy Corbyn highlighted that in Latin America today, “there is in the air a sense of optimism and, in many countries, of liberation from past oppressions.”

“The huge changes that have recently taken place in Venezuela… show that there are different paths to development and out of poverty. Those paths do not necessarily rely solely on the traditional development of trade patterns,” Corbyn continued.

MP Geoffrey Clifton-Brown challenged Corbyn with regard to the Venezuelan government’s policy of nationalizing strategic industries. “Does [Corbyn] think that seizing assets by nationalization, whether in Venezuela or Bolivia, will encourage investment in delivering mineral resources, which in turn benefit the people through trade and exports?” he asked.

“Any government has the right to take into public ownership resources, industries and services,” Corbyn responded. “That is what a sovereign nation can do… we have just taken several banks into public ownership.”

Corbyn and other MPs also addressed what they said has been the misrepresentation of Venezuela and other Latin American countries in the British media.

“If one reads most of the press, one assumes that Evo Morales is some kind of stooge of President [Hugo] Chávez of Venezuela and that Bolivia is tantamount to a Venezuelan colony. That is absolute nonsense – there is no such feeling,” he said. “There is a feeling of mutual support and solidarity.”

MP Colin Burgon, the chair of the Labour Friends of Venezuela group within the parliament, cited three examples of falsehoods printed in the British media about Venezuela, including the assertion that President Chávez is a dictator who jails political dissidents, and asked that the parliament “make sure that we do not engage in, or succumb to, the kind of misinformation that we have experienced over the past few years.”

Burgon noted the millions of Venezuelans who have emerged from poverty and gained access to primary health care through the Barrio Adentro program, and praised Venezuela for having the highest minimum wage and some of the most comprehensive social security benefits in Latin America.

Burgon also said Venezuelans’ approval of a constitutional amendment to lift term limits on elected offices in a national referendum last month “once again underlined President Chávez’s overwhelming support amongst Venezuelans.”

“What I am really asking for is a cool, dispassionate acknowledgment of the great social progress that has been made in Venezuela,” Burgon concluded. “We should build a constructive and open dialogue with the people of Venezuela and their leader, Hugo Chavez.”

Likewise, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Gillian Merron stated, “I want to emphasize, as I have done before, how much we welcome President Chavez’s emphasis on policies to help the poorest and most vulnerable people.”

Toward the end of Tuesday’s debate, several MPs agreed to continue to discuss the trade relationship between the European Union (EU) and the Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR) at an upcoming EU-South American ministerial meeting in Prague this May.