Twenty years ago Venezuela was one of the richest countries in the world. Now it is one of the poorest. Venezualans are starving. The farms that President Hugo Chavez expropriated, boasting about the great increase in production that would follow, have failed. Inexperienced management and corruption under both Chavez and the current president, Nicolas Maduro, mean that there is less of each crop each year. Across the country, supermarkets are empty and most ordinary people queue for hours every day just for flour. Many of the animals in Caracas zoo have starved to death, but even those who survive aren’t safe — Venezuelans have taken to raiding the cages to butcher and eat whatever they can find: horses, sheep, pigs. In the wild, they hunt flamingos and anteaters for their meat. Inflation is expected to surpass a mind-blowing 2,200 per cent this year. Yet this is the country that, not so long ago, Jeremy Corbyn held up as a model of social justice.
When Chavez died of cancer on 5 March 2013, Corbyn proposed an early day motion in the House of Commons in which he offered his condolences to Venezuela and acknowledged ‘the huge contribution he made to conquering poverty in his country…. and the way he spoke for the poorest and most marginalised people in Latin America.’
The following day, Corbyn gave an interview to Al Jazeera in which he said: ‘Chavez was a very important figure worldwide… because he was prepared to use his position to argue for a different world order.’ Corbyn attended a vigil in London at which he gave a stirring speech about the great man: ‘Chavez showed us that there is a different and a better way of doing things,’ he said. ‘It’s called socialism, it’s called social justice and it’s something that Venezuela has made a big step towards.