Delivered in Plenary - 11th February 2010
Press freedom and free democratic government are the foundations of the EU. For Hugo Chavez, the pseudo-dictator of Venezuela, they are simply obstacles on his path to absolute power. He is a demagogue, not a democrat, and has ruined the Venezuelan economy.
Yet, still, this House has its fair share of Chavez apologists, like Mr Higgins: perhaps because Chavez reflects their virulent anti-Americanism and their resentment of the success of President Uribe in neighbouring Columbia. It is lamentable that other political groups on the Left refuse to join with us in the political mainstream of the House in condemning the increasingly arbitrary and serious affronts to basic freedoms perpetrated by the Chavez regime. His response to a TV station critical of his rule was simply to take it off the air.
It reminds me of a similar situation in the PRC – China – where the Communist regime tried to stop a European company from broadcasting anti-Communist TV programmes. Chavez has, therefore – unashamedly – identified himself alongside China’s authoritarian and hard-line rulers. His closest friends internationally are dictators Castro, Lukashenko and Ahmadinejad, which speaks volumes.
My group, the ECR, supports the Venezuelan people in their efforts to bring genuine democracy to that country.