Document:Ken Livingstone: Venezuela should have followed my economic advice
The former mayor of London also said America had played a major part in Venezuela's crisis, that Hugo Chávez's failure to kill the country's oligarchs is a "problem", and that Nicolás Maduro seemed a nice and fair man when he met him.
Livingstone spoke to Julia Hartley-Brewer this morning about the mounting crisis surrounding Maduro, which escalated further this week following the arrest of two leading opposition figures.
Livingstone told Julia Hartley-Brewer that he'd offered personal advice to Venezuela's minister of finance, telling the country to move away from its economic dependence on oil.
But, Livingstone said, "he ignored my advice... and that's one of their problems."
Another problem, Livingstone said, was that Chavez "didn't kill all the oligarchs. There were about 200 families that control 80% of the wealth. He allowed them to live and carry on and I suspect a lot of them are using their power... to undermine Maduro."
The veteran left-winger said he met Maduro in 2008 while negotiating a fall in the oil price, and "there was nothing to suggest that Maduro was anything other than a genuine, democratic socialist. There was nothing threatening, nothing arrogant at all."
Media reports about Maduro's repression, he said, were nothing more than "propaganda", adding that "people are trying to overthrow this government.
"If there was any evidence Nicolás Maduro wants to create a one-party state, I would immediately oppose it."
Turning to the US, he said:
- "If you look at the history of Latin America, America screwed up economies like Brazil in 1964, or Argentina and Chile in the 1970s, to create the conditions in which a government they don't like gets overthrown. The governments they overthrew were no different from the Labour government here."
When pressed as to the root cause of Venezuela's current crisis, Livingstone said:
- "We won't know until 30 years from now, when all the papers get published."