Up against five adversarial pundits, Labour MP Chris Williamson fought his way out of a ‘debate’ on Venezuela on BBC Politics Live.
Countering regime-change propaganda
The pundits were discussing whether Donald Trump and other states were right to recognise Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó as president, instead of sitting president Nicolás Maduro. On 29 January, Blairite Labour MP Rachel Reeves led the charge against Williamson, saying:
I don’t see how anyone can believe that Maduro should stay in his position… The only basis that anyone says that he should be there is that he won an election. It was a rigged election; it was a fake election… Juan Guaidó… won an election, being recognised by Germany, by France, by Australia, by Canada, by the UK as well. And he should be given a chance to turn around his country.
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But Williamson countered the false narrative that the election was “rigged”:
Whatever my position is in many ways is irrelevant… It’s not for us, it’s not for the UK, it’s not for the United States of America to determine who should be the government in Venezuela. There was an election… previous elections in Venezuela have been declared the safest elections anywhere in the world by no less than Jimmy Carter, who has an election observatory…
As well as host Jo Coburn, the other guests were Conservative justice minister Rory Stewart, political editor of the Sun Tom Newton Dunn, and UK correspondent for German newspaper Die Welt Stefanie Bolzen.
"It was a rigged election. It was a fake election” Labour's Rachel Reeves on Maduro.However Chris Williamson sets the record straight “Previous elections in Venezuela have been declared the safest elections anywhere in the world“ Can we please have more MPs like Chris?
Posted by The Left Bible on Tuesday, 29 January 2019
The catastrophic impact of US sanctions
On the BBC, Williamson called out the impact of US sanctions:
The sanctions… are basically crippling the economy there… There is a UN rapporteur who said that the sanctions are illegal and could amount to crimes against humanity. So you’ve got the US imposing appalling sanctions. And you’ve got the elites in Venezuela who are engaged in an economic boycott, which is obviously having a significant effect on poor people in Venezuela… They’ve turned out in huge numbers to vote for Maduro at the election last year.
Before Donald Trump’s economic warfare, Venezuela’s oil production was declining at a similar rate to Colombia’s. But as the chart below shows, Venezuela’s production nose-dived after Trump applied wide-ranging sanctions. In August 2017, Trump banned any US individual or institution from financing the Venezuelan government.
The major drop in oil production is devastating for a country where 95% of its exports are oil.
A recent poll suggests that the vast majority of ordinary Venezuelan people oppose both US sanctions and the prospect of foreign military intervention.
Exposing disinformation about Venezuela’s electoral system
Facilitated by host Coburn and the BBC, Reeves then spread more pro-regime change disinformation. In response to Williamson, she claimed that “not all parties could stand” in the elections last year. But that’s just not right. And again, Williamson set the record straight, saying:
The main opposition boycotted the election. That’s their decision.
With a low turnout of just under half the eligible voters, Maduro won 68% of the vote in May 2018. The closest runner-up was Henri Falcón with 21%. Other right-wing opposition leaders such as Guaidó boycotted the election (even though they could have won if they’d united). Instead, they apparently opted to try and force the collapse of Maduro’s government through a combination of US sanctions, protests, and propaganda.
Guaidó’s supporters claim that the election is not valid because the voting system is corrupt. But the opposite seems to be true. Because former US president Jimmy Carter, for example, had previously called the Venezuelan voting system “the best in the world”. Cross-party observers, for example, audit the electoral process – which includes fingerprint scanners, voting receipts and high-tech systems.
There is a clear gulf between the reality in Venezuela and propaganda in the Western media. Thankfully Williamson had little problems facing off five adversarial pundits on the BBC. He deserves high respect for that.
Featured image via The Left Bible/ Facebook
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