Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein MP dismisses criticism over role in Venezuela election

Sinn Fein MP Mickey Brady has dismissed criticism over his role in the Venezuelan elections, saying that his party "has never and will never tell the people in Venezuela or any other country how to vote".

The Newry and Armagh MP was invited to observe the country's elections and the redrafting of its constitution by the National Electoral Council, a branch of the Venezuelan government that operates independently.

The US government has described the elections for a new legislature as a "sham" and imposed sanctions on Venezuela's president Nicolas Maduro, freezing his personal assets.

The Venezuelan president has also had to defend himself against accusations from Smartmatic - the e-voting company that administered the country's election - that the official turnout figures in the election had been manipulated by at least a million votes.

Mr Brady was responding to criticism from Fianna Fail TD and party spokesman on foreign affairs Darragh O'Brien, who accused Sinn Fein of giving "cover to an underhand regime that is actively interfering in elections and over-inflating turnout figures".

"In my opinion, no party which believes in democracy and the rule of law can stand over what is currently happening in Venezuela," he said.

Mr O'Brien also called on the party to join the "growing number of voices who unreservedly condemn those who are pursuing an anti-democratic agenda in Venezuela".

Responding to these remarks, Mr Brady said: "It has yet to be revealed just what Darragh O’Brien or Fianna Fáil has ever done to assist the democratic process in Venezuela.  They have issued four statements attacking Sinn Féin since April despite not mentioning the country publicly in decades."

Mr Brady accused Fianna Fail of being a "hurler on the ditch" in relation to issues affecting nationalists in Northern Ireland, and that "now it seems they are doing so with foreign affairs".

Earlier this year Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin was a "hurler on the ditch" after he criticised the party for refusing to take its seats in Westminster.

On Sinn Fein's role in the Venezuelan elections, Mr Brady said: "We simply stand for the principles of democracy, human rights and self-determination, and against poverty, inequality, imperialism, and oppression."

He said that his party were "concerned" about the reports of voter fraud and would condemn any potential irregularities that may be found through investigation, and also acknowledged the Venezuelan opposition's right to boycott the election.

In recent months, more than 120 people have died in a wave of anti-government protests while amid a weakening economy, Venezuela's 30 million citizens have been suffering from basic goods and food shortages.

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