Houses of Parliament, London 2004-7-9
Jeremy Corbyn MP: Thanks very much. I'm sorry I wasn't here earlier, I was at a very interesting meeting with Hans Blix, who was describing what it was like searching Iraq for nonexistent Weapons of Mass Destruction. He said two very interesting things - one interesting thing, and one thought that came to me. The interesting thing was, he was asked what it was like representing the UN weapons inspectors, and he said, "If you're a weapons inspector or working as a diplomat, you should always tell the truth, because it only takes 45 minutes to lose your reputation if you tell a lie!" And I then sort of thought that if we can have a Swede as an English football manager, there are other jobs that Swedes could do in this country! Like telling the truth about Iraq and the war that was there. It was an absolutely fascinating meeting and that's why I wasn't here earlier on.
But of course the connections, whilst Blix, where I disagree with him, said this current Iraq war is very little about oil and much more about American power - I think he's slightly wrong in that, I think it is about American power but it's also about oil, in fact the two things go together, one shouldn't completely separate it. And what is happening in Venezuela is in part because of American greed against Venezuela or against any country anywhere in the world that has a huge reserve of natural resources that they want.
Look at the United States economy, and you begin to see an awful lot of answers. It is a country that spends as much on military hardware as the rest of the world put together. In less that 200 years it exhausted 90% of its natural resources. Look at any of the precious metals, and most of the oil, and the US is a net importer, not an exporter, whereas only 50 years ago, it was a net exporter of most of those things, and you look at it as a high consumerist economy that has to get its resources from somewhere, or change its ways. Well, it aint gonna change its ways, so it's going to use that military to get resources from elsewhere. Hence the two Iraq wars, hence the attack on Venezuela.
And I am one of many people that - I can't have been the only person that was completely appalled, that when the initial coup took place against the Chávez government in Venezuela, the US welcomed it. Dennis McShane of behalf of the Foreign Office also welcomed it, it was absolutely scandalous. And then I said to him on Monday afternoon, by which time Chávez was back in the Presidential Palace, I said, "Dennis, could you tell me which government in Venezuela we're recognising at the present time?" And his answer was, well, one of the words began with an F - so I wouldn't want to describe the rest of it to you!
That to me was one of the most impressive things, that the attempted coup took place, popular movements put Chávez back in office in a very very short time indeed. Now, why? Because internationally he is denigrated and to some extent isolated, around the world. It's quite simply because he has insured though his government that the poorest people get food, the poorest people get education, the poorest people are getting healthcare, which was denied to them ever before.
And why do the US hate him so much? Is it because they think Venezuela is wasting its resources any more than Cuba's wasting its resources? No! It's because they cannot cope with the threat of example all over Latin America. Because if you do it in Venezuela, you can do it anywhere else in the whole continent, and all those vested interests of the USA will then be under threat.
Now Venezuela is one of only two countries in Latin America I haven't had the privilege of visiting at some time. But what I would say is, that in the past when there have been huge movements in Latin America, and solidarity movements have developed, in a strange sort of way the solidarity movements around the world mirror the colonial interests of the nineteenth century, in the sense that there is much more solidarity with activities in Latin America in Spain than there is in Britain. Likewise the other way round with former British colonies. Well, I think it's important that we break away from the nineteenth century model, and indeed we should break away from the Monroe Doctrine, on the location of solidarity movements.
Now when the revolution took place in Nicaragua, the solidarity movements were very very important around the world. Not because we won votes everywhere or we won support everywhere - we raised the game, we raised the debate, we forced the media to engage in the debate, and begin to recognise what was happening in Nicaragua, what's happening in Cuba.
In the case of Chile, after the coup took place in 1973, solidarity movements were formed. Looking back on it, and I've had a lot of involvement in Chile all my life, I regret we didn't form a solidarity movement in 1970, when the Popular Unity government won the 1970 election. We didn't, we waited until it had been removed by a fascist coup, and then set up a brilliant solidarity movement, and we were fantastic as a solidarity movement with the people of Chile against a fascist government. Frankly I think they would've been quite grateful if we'd set one up in 1970, before the fascist government took over. And so, that's why I think it's important that we do mobilise opinion in this country.
Now like others, I followed the media very very closely over the last few months, in what's been going on in Venezuela. And if there are criticisms to be made, it's of ourselves for not doing more, all of us, and I include myself in that. Not doing more to spread the word about what the achievements of the revolution in Venezuela have been. But also, I think one should say, in a friendly and kindly way, to the Venezuelan official representatives in Britain, what were they doing to counter the lies in the British press about what Chávez was doing? And I say that as a friend, that they have to be challenged. Because if it goes unchallenged, then, if even The Guardian and The Independent aren't reporting anything positive about what's going on in Venezuela, then you're not going to get much change out of Sky TV, the Daily Express, the Daily Mail or anybody else.
Now, I think it's important that we therefore challenge the media perceptions about Venezuela, and invite guests to come to this country and speak. And since we were successful within the Labour Party in defeating the invitation to Allawi to come and speak at the Labour Party conference, I did give a suggestion to the Labour Party head office they could invite Chávez instead, because he's democratically-elected, he represents social movements, he represents something positive around the world, and he's not a stooge of the United States. I haven't heard back yet from Tony Blair on this one, but no doubt it's because he's been busy and unable to give me an answer to that!
We have to recognise the amazing achievements that have happened in Venezuela in the recent past. And also recognise that there have been two attempts to remove the regime in Venezuela. One was the attempted coup, the second was the build-up to this referendum. Because this referendum, make no mistake about it, was a right-wing plot to call it in the first place, that's why they spent all that time and money collecting those signatures, and the result was absolutely amazing.
They are not going to stop there. Why are Colombian and American planes regularly overflying, illegally, Venezuela, on the border, other than a provocation? Why is Kerry making those statements? Why does Bush make those statements? And I think whoever said it, they're right that Bush did not want chaos in Venezuela at the present time. A re-elected Bush administration sure as hell will want chaos in Venezuela, very very quickly.
And if by that time, they've been forced to withdraw to some extent, if not completely, from Iraq, they'll be looking for something else, they'll be looking for something else within their own hemisphere. And I think that is why we need to build up worldwide solidarity movements with the principles that are about distribution of wealth, about education, about health, about all those things that are such great achievements in Venezuela at the present time. There are such great achievements in Cuba, that have been taken away from the people of Nicaragua, and make that comparison.
The poorest people in the whole continent are those who enjoyed good healthcare in the '80s in Nicaragua, and who've now seen all that taken away, as all those public enterprises have been privatized, all that public spending had been cut, all those principles have been destroyed. If we don't do a lot to build support for Venezuela, then the Venezuelan people will reap the whirlwind of retribution of the mighty and powerful in the United States, who cannot stand the threat of the example of Venezuelan. Thank you.
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