Mary Lou de­fends SF at­tend­ing Venezue­lan strong­man in­vesti­ture

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - Today In Your - Philip Ryan

SINN Fein pres­i­dent Mary Lou McDon­ald has de­fended the at­ten­dance of two se­nior party mem­bers at the in­au­gu­ra­tion of con­tro­ver­sial Venezuela pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro.

Ms McDon­ald said Mr Maduro’s elec­tion was “open and demo­cratic” be­fore draw­ing com­par­isons be­tween poverty lev­els in Ire­land and Venezuela.

More than 80pc of Venezue­lans live be­low the poverty line. The EU has said Mr Maduro’s re-elec­tion “lacked cred­i­bil­ity” and the US said it was a “sham” elec­tion.

Sinn Fein MLA Conor Mur­phy and gen­eral sec­re­tary Dawn Doyle at­tend events in Venezuela re­lated to Mr Maduro’s re-elec­tion.

“Yes, we had rep­re­sen­ta­tives in Venezuela for the in­au­gu­ra­tion of the demo­crat­i­cally elected pres­i­dent,”Ms McDon­ald said. “Pol­i­tics in­creas­ingly is re­flec­tive of the fact that we live in a global vil­lage. We were there as part of a del­e­ga­tion, we were there be­cause we were in­vited and I’m very glad that two Sinn Fein rep­re­sen­ta­tives were in at­ten­dance,” she added.

Ms McDon­ald said it was for the peo­ple of Venezuela to de­cide who they want to be their pres­i­dent.

“There are peo­ple in this coun­try who would not en­dorse Leo Varadkar on the ba­sis that they have en­dured poverty... we also have to ac­cept that he is the Taoiseach.”

“In this democ­racy you would have peo­ple who are very crit­i­cal of Gov­ern­ment of the ba­sis that they are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing poverty and that they are hav­ing a hard time,” she added.

The IMF has pre­dicted that Venezuela will suf­fer 10,000,000pc in­fla­tion this year. By the end of 2018, prices were dou­bling ev­ery 19 days on av­er­age.

THE US yes­ter­day stepped up its crit­i­cism of Venezue­lan leader Ni­co­las Maduro with an ex­plicit call for the for­ma­tion of a new gov­ern­ment in the South Amer­i­can coun­try.

The US state de­part­ment said it stood be­hind the head of Venezuela’s op­po­si­tion-run congress, Juan Guaido, who said last Fri­day that he was pre­pared to step into the pres­i­dency tem­po­rar­ily to re­place Maduro.

And yes­ter­day Brazil’s gov­ern­ment said it recog­nised Venezuela’s con­gres­sional leader as the coun­try’s right­ful pres­i­dent.

The US state­ment was the lat­est in a se­ries of Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion at­tacks on Maduro, whose in­au­gu­ra­tion to a new term as pres­i­dent last Thurs­day has been widely de­nounced as il­le­git­i­mate.

“The peo­ple of Venezuela de­serve to live in free­dom in a demo­cratic so­ci­ety gov­erned by the rule of law,” State De­part­ment spokesman Robert Pal­ladino said. “It is time to be­gin the or­derly tran­si­tion to a new gov­ern­ment. We sup­port the Na­tional As­sem­bly’s call for all Venezue­lans to work to­gether, peace­fully, to re­store con­sti­tu­tional gov­ern­ment and build a bet­ter fu­ture.”

US Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo spoke to Guaido ear­lier last week shortly af­ter the 35-year-old was elected to lead the Na­tional As­sem­bly.

Pom­peo told re­porters trav­el­ing with him that the events tak­ing place in Venezuela were “in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant”, adding: “The Maduro regime is il­le­git­i­mate and the US will con­tinue... to work dili­gently to re­store a real democ­racy to that coun­try.”

Guaido, speak­ing to a crowd block­ing a Cara­cas street a day af­ter Maduro’s in­au­gu­ra­tion, said he was will­ing to be­come in­terim leader. But he said he would need sup­port from the pub­lic, the armed forces and other coun­tries and in­ter­na­tional groups be­fore try­ing to form a tran­si­tional gov­ern­ment to hold new elec­tions to re­place Maduro.

Seven­teen Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries, the US and Canada de­nounced Maduro’s gov­ern­ment as il­le­git­i­mate in a mea­sure adopted last Thurs­day at the Or­gan­i­sa­tion of Amer­i­can States in Wash­ing­ton.

Guaido asked Venezue­lans to mass in a na­tion­wide demon­stra­tion on Jan­uary 23 — the day when a mass upris­ing over­threw dic­ta­tor Mar­cos Perez Jimenez in 1958.

The con­sti­tu­tion as­signs the pres­i­dency to the head of the Na­tional As­sem­bly if Maduro is il­le­git­i­mate.

The mil­i­tary gen­er­ally has re­mained firmly be­hind Maduro so far de­spite some re­ports of small-scale at­tempts at re­volt.

A once wealthy oil na­tion, Venezuela is gripped by a grow­ing cri­sis of re­lent­less in­fla­tion, food short­ages and mass mi­gra­tion.

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