Labour frontbencher Diane Abbott hailed Venezuela’s socialist regime | Politics | News

The shadow home secretary, a close ally of Jeremy Corbyn, lauded Hugo Chavez’s hard-left government in an open letter written in 2007.

She claimed its “sweeping social, political and economic agenda” had boosted the lives of “millions” in the South American country.

Ms Abbott’s comments, made while she was a backbencher, have been uncovered as Venezuela teeters on the brink of economic catastrophe.

As a result of Chavez’s policies – which have continued under his successor Nicolas Maduro – the socialist state is now in deep financial ruin.

The value of its largest banknote has plunged to just 2p, while inflation for staple foods such as chicken has soared to around 700 per cent.

Human rights groups have also condemned Maduro’s increasingly authoritarian regime for its a harsh crackdown on anti-government protestors.

The pro-Chavez open letter was co-signed by other high-profile Labour politicians, including Tony Benn and then-London mayor Ken Livingstone.

Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas – who was then an MEP – also added her name to the gushing letter, published in the Guardian.

The signatories wrote: “We believe that the lives of millions of Venezuelans have been transformed by the progressive social and democratic policies of Hugo Chavez’s government.

“Extreme poverty has been halved, illiteracy nearly eliminated, participation in education has more than doubled and free basic healthcare extended to nearly 20 million people. Unemployment has fallen to a historic low.”

The letter was published a day before Venezuela held a referendum on Chavez’s proposed changes to its constitution.

Ms Abbott and the other signatories urged “the international community to respect the outcome” of the vote.

They added: “President Chavez’s sweeping social, political and economic agenda, has been endorsed by Venezuelans in 11 democratic elections that have been consistently judged free and fair by international observers.”

Venezuelans voted against changing the constitution, but Chavez insisted he would “continue in the battle to build socialism”.

Although Mr Corbyn did not sign the letter, he also been outspoken in his support for Venezuela’s hard-left leadership.

In 2013, two years before he became Labour Party leader, he hailed its Marxist policies for providing an “alternative to austerity cuts”.

Speaking at an event held by the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign, he added: “We salute Chavez and the people of Venezuela for turning the clock of history full circle.

“I look…

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