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Ken admires Hugo's extraordinary courage

Martin Rosenbaum | 11:39 UK time, Friday, 8 December 2006

We know Ken Livingstone is keen on the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, but does he have to express it like this?

'I have long had the greatest admiration for the extraordinary courage and tenacity with which you have acted to improve the lives of the people of Venezuela and resolutely resisted external pressures to alter the just and progressive course of your government.'

That is an extract from a letter the London Mayor sent in January this year to Hugo Chavez. This was obtained by the BBC using freedom of information. The Mayor's Office supplied us with the Spanish version and an English translation.

And the letter continues in the same tone. Livingstone told Chavez how 'In London ... we have been deeply moved by your country's initiative, in partnership with Cuba, to provide free eye care to many' and 'your courage and tenacity have won many admirers in our city.'

Sadly for the Mayor, however, it is possible that his great admiration for President Chavez may not be completely reciprocated. Last month Chavez suddenly cancelled Livingstone's planned visit to Venezuela at short notice, leaving the Mayor having to cope with much embarrassing bad publicity.

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 03:18 PM on 08 Dec 2006,
  • Kurt wrote:

By the tone of this blog I am assuming that Martin Rosenbaum disagrees with the sentiments expressed by Ken Livingstone in his letter to the Venezuelan President. What is so terrible about providing free eye tests for the poor and embarking upon a state programme of welfare provision for the country's underprivileged at the expense of oil conglomerates? Surely these are honourable objectives for any national leader.

  • 2.
  • At 03:57 PM on 08 Dec 2006,
  • Pav Akhtar wrote:

I'm in Venezuela at the moment.

This morning I visited a barrio - the front line of where Chavez's reforms are supposed to make their greatest impact. In short, what I evidenced deserved nothing less than Livingstone or any other progressive person's admiration: for the first time, real money and resources are being invested in publicly funded services and infrastucture.

I'm quite sure that if only the foreign press would only come and see what a positive impact Chavez's policies are having on the most marginalised and historically neglected people of his country, then we'd not spend time taking cheap swipes at Ken and instead concentrate on bringing our own government to account for not being radical enough in this country!

So my advice to the snipers on the sidelines: grow up and do something constructive with your lives.

  • 3.
  • At 05:33 PM on 08 Dec 2006,
  • Michael Kilpatrick wrote:

My wife (a Czech) grew up in Venezuela from the age of 5. Unlike Livingston she actually knows something about the country. Regardless of the undoubted fact that some poor people may have been better off, Chavez is nothing but a dictatorial thug and a posturing loony. He has done little but create a divided society in what was once a tolerant and generous society. My mother-in-law with her blonde Czech looks is now often treated frostily as an alien. Chavez is surrounded by yes-men who are too scared to disagree with him. There are endless stories of threats against those who support him: his democratic credentials are as low as those of Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

  • 4.
  • At 11:57 PM on 08 Dec 2006,
  • John Pelan wrote:

So what is the point of this article?

I cannot for the life of me see anything controversial about what the Mayor of London is communicating to the President of Venezuela?

Am I missing something?

  • 5.
  • At 09:29 AM on 09 Dec 2006,
  • Ben wrote:

What a curious article. The President of Venezuela uses the country's oil wealth to bring free health care to the poor for the first time in their lives - as well as the advances in education - and Ken Livingstone writes to express his admiration.

Are Chavez' achievements not worthy of celebration?

And Michael Kilpatrick's comments on democratic credentials are laughable. Venezuela has had more free elections and referendums than most states in recent years and even US observers are forced to declare them so, despite White House aid to Chavez' opposition.

Keep it up Ken!

  • 6.
  • At 12:39 PM on 09 Dec 2006,
  • Martin Rosenbaum wrote:

Interesting reaction from some of you above - I'm certainly not expressing a point of view for or against Chavez, I just found the tone of the letter rather striking.

  • 7.
  • At 12:59 PM on 09 Dec 2006,
  • Phil wrote:

"Venezuela has had more free elections and referendums than most states in recent years"

In Chavez we are talking about a leader who was unwisely pardoned for leading a military coup attempt in 1992.

When public opinion stops going his way, Ben, do you really think he will be upholding democracy?

In fact, do you care? Or like most of the far left, do you see democratic freedoms as dispensable when they are unhelpful to you?

  • 8.
  • At 05:56 PM on 09 Dec 2006,
  • Claire wrote:

Although i'm not a fan of Hugo I can see he has made some positive changes to the country (as some people above have mentioned). If you cant see that then your blinkers must be even further down that Bush's (who supported a coup to remove Hugo, where have we seen that happen before in Latin America...)

  • 9.
  • At 08:34 PM on 09 Dec 2006,
  • John Pelan wrote:


What do you mean, "striking"?


  • 10.
  • At 09:05 PM on 09 Dec 2006,
  • Will wrote:

Wow -- what a saint Chavez is. Now those with poor eyesight will be able to see the thugs coming to kill them. (Read up on Venezuela's skyrocketing murder rate since Chavez took over.) I feel sorry for you Brits. How you could let a spineless brown-noser represent you I'll never know. It's not that I don't think Chavez has done SOME good things, (after all Hitler did many good things for the Germans) but Hugo (as was Hitler) is not good for Venezuela or the world. He seeks to ally himself with the likes of Ahmahdi-nejad. Come on brother Brits - wake up!
Will in America

  • 11.
  • At 09:43 PM on 09 Dec 2006,
  • morgan wrote:

This is nothing new..Ken has said this at meetings even in Trafalgar Square..and at a public meeting when Chavez visited London as why publish it now?

  • 12.
  • At 12:29 AM on 10 Dec 2006,
  • Ben wrote:

Do I detect an anti-Ken agenda from Mr Rosenbaum? Erm, I wonder what reason there could be for that!

  • 13.
  • At 03:18 PM on 10 Dec 2006,
  • Martin Rosenbaum wrote:

John (10) -

'Striking', in that (whatever the merits of Chavez or otherwise) some people may find the mode of expression pompous and grovelling.


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