Ken Livingstone ‘did not advise Venezuelan government to kill oligarchs’
The former London mayor defended Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro and insisted he is not a dictator.
Former London mayor Ken Livingstone has stressed he did not advise the Venezuelan government to “kill all the oligarchs” who oppose the socialist regime.
Mr Livingstone, who is suspended from Labour over his claims about Adolf Hitler’s links to Zionism, again defended Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro and insisted he is not a dictator.
Mr Maduro has been accused by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson of behaving like the “dictator of an evil regime” as he cracked down on political opponents after a widely disputed vote to give his government nearly unlimited powers.
The president called the vote for a constitutional assembly to overhaul Venezuela’s political system in May after a month of protests against his government, which has overseen the country’s descent into a devastating crisis during its four years in power.
Plunging oil prices and widespread corruption have left the formerly prosperous nation struggling with widespread shortages of food and medicine.
But Mr Livingstone blamed the US – which has a record of “screwing up” Latin American countries with left-wing governments – and oligarchs, whose wealth has been redistributed among the population by Mr Maduro and his predecessor Hugo Chavez, for the country’s woes.
He claimed the world will not know the truth about what has happened in Venezuela “for decades”, suggesting secret US government papers will need to be seen as part of that process.
The old ally of Jeremy Corbyn said he once advised the Venezuelan finance minister to invest in infrastructure to move away from oil dependence but was ignored.
On talkRADIO, Mr Livingstone went on: “There are real problems and Maduro’s got to tackle them but one of the things that … he didn’t kill all the oligarchs, there was about 200 families who controlled about 80% of the wealth in Venezuela, he allowed them to live, to carry on.
“And I suspect a lot of them are using their power and their control over imports and exports, medicines and foods, to make it difficult and to undermine Maduro.”
Asked whether the country would not be in crisis if the oligarchs had been executed, Mr Livingstone said: “I didn’t advise them to kill the oligarchs, I advised them to invest in infrastructure. I’m not in favour of killing anyone.”
But he added: “They wouldn’t be able to undermine the present government.”
Asked again if Venezuela would be a better place if the oligarchs were killed, Mr Livingstone said: “No I’m not saying that, what I’m pointing out is that until Chavez came to power, about 200 families controlled virtually all the wealth in Venezuela, he didn’t kill them, he introduced a fairer system.
“But they’re still there and still got real power and they will do anything to get rid of Maduro.”