Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Chavez's popularity with the left hides his worrying trend towards totalitarianism

9th July 2010

Hugo Chavez is being allowed to escape the condemnation he deserves because of support from left-wing politicians, European Conservatives and Reformists group foreign affairs spokesman Charles Tannock has said today. The parliament has today adopted a resolution authored by the centre-right EPP and ECR groups, which the socialist group would not sign.

Speaking in the parliament's human rights debate this afternoon, Charles Tannock heavily criticised the Chavez regime.

His remarks stand in stark contrast to those of former Labour Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, who welcomed Chavez to City Hall and signed an oil deal with him in 2007. After being voted out of office, he even took a role advising Mr Chavez.

He said:

"The sheer demagoguery of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez seems to know no bounds.

"He has now targeted the judiciary as the next obstacle to his assumption of absolute power. The arrest and imprisonment of Judge María Lourdes Afiuni Mora represents his most audacious and brazen attempt yet to silence dissent and undermine the rule of law. How this judge can hope for a fair trial is beyond me. Chavez has already labelled her a 'bandit', accused her of taking a bribe and said she should be jailed for thirty years. He also said that Simon Bolivar would have had her shot – an extremely inflammatory statement in Chavez's self-styled Bolivarian republic, and in my view a reckless incitement to violence.

"Chavez gets away with this behaviour, largely because he remains an hysterical critic of the United States, and as such is popular with many on the Left. This paradox continues to undermine our collective efforts to expose the alarming trend towards totalitarianism in Venezuela.

"We should stand up to all autocrats who flagrantly disregard the rule of law and human rights, not just right wing ones. We are taking the right steps to support democracies in South America, such as President Santos' Colombia, but we must also not cease in condemning despots."