Venezuela crisis due to ‘not killing oligarchs,’ says London ex-mayor

Author: AFPFri, 2017-08-04 03:00ID: 1501788657042117700LONDON: Outspoken former London Mayor Ken Livingstone on Thursday suggested that one of the causes of Venezuela’s current crisis was that former President Hugo Chavez “didn’t kill all the oligarchs.”“There are real problems and (current President Nicolas) Maduro’s got to tackle them,” said the left-wing politician, who is currently suspended from the main opposition Labour party for saying Adolf Hitler was initially “supporting Zionism.”“But one of the things that Chavez did, when he came to power — he didn’t kill all the oligarchs,” Livingstone told TalkRadio.“There’s about 200 families that control 80 percent 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 control over imports and exports, medicines and food to make it difficult and undermine Maduro.”When asked whether there would be no crisis if the oligarchs had been killed, he said “they wouldn’t be able to undermine the present government,” but said he was “not in favor of killing anyone.”Livingstone was London mayor between 2000 and 2008, overseeing the city’s response to the 7/7 suicide bombings, but has long been a controversial figure.Almost half of Labour MPs signed a letter to party leader Jeremy Corbyn in April condemning the failure to expel Livingstone over his Zionism comments. He was suspended pending an investigation.Maduro faces mounting accusations of trampling on democracy in Venezuela with Sunday’s controversial election for an all-powerful “Constituent Assembly.”The country has been rocked by four months of clashes at anti-Maduro protests that have left more than 125 people dead.Livingstone, who as mayor negotiated a deal with Chavez for Venezuela to supply the fuel for London’s buses, was asked earlier this week if he still supported Maduro, and told The Times: “Oh God, yes.”On Thursday, he also blamed the US for the situation, saying: “I suspect we’ll discover that a lot of this crisis has been engineered, as it was in Brazil in ‘64, in Argentina, in Chile.”Veteran socialist Corbyn, riding high after far exceeding expectations in June’s general election, has come under pressure to criticize Maduro after having previously called him “an inspiration to all of us.”Vote tamperingMeanwhile, Maduro defiantly dismissed allegations that official turnout figures for the election of an all-powerful Constituent Assembly were manipulated, accusing the international software firm behind the claim of bowing to US pressure to cast doubt over a body that he hopes will entrench an even more staunchly socialist state.In his first meeting with assembly delegates Wednesday night, the president not only stood by the official count of 8 million-plus votes cast in Sunday’s divisive election, but proclaimed that an additional 2 million people would have voted if they had not been blocked by anti-government protesters.Maduro also announced a one-day delay in the assembly’s installation, saying it would convene on Friday instead of Thursday as planned, in order to “organize it well in peace and tranquility.”The body is empowered to rewrite Venezuela’s Constitution and Maduro vows he will use it to target his opponents and solidify the socialist system installed by Chavez. Maduro called the vote in May after weeks of protests fueled by widespread anger over food shortages, triple-digit inflation and high crime — unrest that continues and has caused at least 125 deaths.The head of voting technology company Smartmatic said earlier Wednesday that the National Electoral Council’s voter turnout number was off by at least 1 million, further darkening uncertainty over the veracity over the results. Independent analysts and opposition leaders have contended that the actual participation level was much lower.With the opposition boycotting the election, virtually all the candidates were supporters of Maduro’s ruling socialist party, so turnout was watched as one of the only indicators of how much popular support there is for the constituent assembly.
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