As Nicolás Maduro fights for survival with the help of 400 Russian ‘private military contractors’, Venezuela is rapidly turning into yet another flashpoint capable of conflagrating the world.
Venezuela has severed diplomatic relations with the US after the Trump administration recognised the opposition leader Juan Guaidó as interim president.
Both the US and Britain are trying to impound Venezuelan assets, and President Trump refuses to rule out military intervention. As far as America is concerned, the Monroe Doctrine has never been repealed.
Both Putin’s and Xi’s governments are rather unhappy about this. Putin threatened that any such interference would spell a “direct path to bloodshed”, and he didn’t just mean the odd shootout between his ‘private contractors’ and the 82nd Airborne.
But I don’t want to talk about such nasty things. I want to talk about love, especially of the type that can hurt.
Indeed, politicians like Putin, Xi, Tsipras, Mélenchon love Venezuela.So do ‘celebs’ like Sean Penn, Oliver Stone and Michael Moore.
Even Pope Francis harbours warm feelings about that country, although he doesn’t express them in the same forthright manner.
However, all these gentlemen have something good going for them. None of them can become the prime minister of Britain.
Jeremy Corbyn can, and in my gloomier moods I feel certain he will. That’s why his love of the regime begotten by Chávez and Maduro worries me.
It has to be said that Jeremy’s heart has a huge capacity for love, but not necessarily of the kind taught by Christ.
Jeremy has never seen a terrorist organisation he couldn’t adore. Hezbollah, Hamas, IRA, ETA, ISIS – you name it, Jeremy loves it. He does dislike Jews, but his multiple loves shine so much brighter against the backdrop of that darkish animosity.
Yet none of his love objects runs a country. But Chávez did and Maduro does.
Hence Jeremy’s love of their regime suggests that he sees it as a model he’d like to replicate in Britain, should he get the chance. I can’t take credit for this insight because he isn’t at all reticent about it.
Thus, when Jeremy was overcome with grief over Chávez’s death, he spoke from the heart:
“Thanks Hugo Chavez for showing that the poor matter and wealth can be shared. He made massive contributions to Venezuela and a very wide world.”
“In Chavez let’s remember someone who stood up, was counted, was inspiring, is inspiring, and in his death we will march on to that better, just, peaceful and hopeful world.”
“Chavez showed us that there is a different and a better way of doing things. It’s called socialism, it’s called social justice and it’s something that Venezuela has made a big step towards.”
Jeremy’s voluminous heart easily accommodates love of the poor, something he has in common with all socialists, including Messrs Chávez and Maduro. In fact, they love the poor so much, they make sure their numbers grow exponentially.
Just 20 years ago Venezuela was one of the world’s richest countries, with proven oil reserves 20 per cent greater than Saudi Arabia’s sloshing underfoot.
The country had a content, prosperous and reasonably well-educated population living in peace both internally and externally. And then Jeremy’s role models took over.
Following the economic principles they shared with Corbyn, they instantly pumped oil revenues into relieving poverty, including naturally their own. Blood-sucking capitalists were expropriated, just as Marx prescribed, and their industries nationalised.
All those measures were introduced overnight, with the exuberance so characteristic of the Latin temperament. And they worked the same way such measures always do.
In short order Venezuela became an economic basket case, with food disappearing from the supermarkets and people queuing for hours just to buy a handful of flour. Even the oil production steadily declined, from 3.5 million barrels a day in 1998 to 1.5 million barrels now.
To make matters worse, the government banned private plots and even fishing – the state had to enjoy a monopoly. Chavez’s goons roamed the coast, arresting fishermen and confiscating their catch.
Starving people looked for food anywhere they could find it, shooting wild creatures like flamingos and even raiding zoos to kill the animals. For it takes money to buy even flour, and that became a problem.
The bolivar, the national currency, was crushed by inflation. Quite a lot of it, actually: this year it’s expected to reach 10,000,000 per cent.
Given their subtle understanding of economics, Corbyn and his shadow chancellor McDonnell probably see this as an opportunity for enrichment. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every pound you own became ten million within a year?
Wouldn’t you like to drive a hundred-billion-pound car? I know I would.
Alas, Venezuelans didn’t quite see it that way. Hungry and desperate, they tried to take to the streets, which urge was nipped in the bud.
In the good socialist tradition, the democratic government quickly turned into a totalitarian dictatorship. Public protests were banned, dissidents thrown into prison, some quietly disposed of – well, you know how socialism operates in all its glory.
Unable to protest, Venezuelans went on to vindicate the immutable law of history: when socialism comes in, people run away. Millions fled, mostly to the adjacent countries, creating a refugee crisis of their own.
What used to be a prosperous, peaceful country has become a hellhole ridden with poverty, disease and crime. Caracas’s murder rate is twice that of Cape Town and 80 times that of London. With a murder rate of 111 per 100,000, Venezuela puts to shame the US, by a factor of 25.
When the time came to pay lip service to democracy, Maduro’s gang rigged the 2018 elections without even bothering to throw a smokescreen around it.
Now Juan Guaidó, head of the National Assembly, is trying to depose Maduro’s gang, and his alternative government has already been recognised by the US, Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Australia and most Latin American countries.
Yet Maduro has his champions too: Russia, China, Cuba, Iran, South Africa – and Jeremy, who may soon be given the chance to turn Britain into Venezuela in the name of socialism, social justice and love of any tyrants who hate the West as much as he does.
Those who say that Corbyn can’t possibly become PM or, even if he does, will be unable to destroy Britain to the Venezuelan blueprint, are much too complacent.
They don’t realise how brittle our institutions are, how wafer-thin is the partition separating every civilised country from institutionalised evil.
It takes insomniac vigilance to preserve our civilisation, whatever is left of it. Looking at our youths, who block city centres stampeding in their thousands to see a performance by a ‘genderless’ freak, one doubts such vigilance is top of their minds.
How will they vote next time around? I’m convinced that, unless Parliament passes an emergency decree raising the voting age to 30, we’ll have the British answer to Maduro at 10 Downing Street.
And then our only salvation could come from a latter-day Thomas Pride. Where are you, colonel, when we need you?