Jon Trickett (Hemsworth, Labour)
Thank you, Mr. Cook; I will try to be brief. I congratulate my hon. Friend Colin Burgon on securing this debate on an issue that is important strategically for the part of south America that we are discussing. It is also important in terms of the way that the world is developing, given the globalisation that we are all experiencing.
The American Administration's position might be more nuanced than is reflected in some of the more extreme and bellicose statements that emerge from time to time. Not so long ago, there were discussions that seemed to be positive between parts of that Administration and representatives of the Venezuelan Government. However, it is also true that many bellicose statements are coming out of Washington, and from very senior sources. The statement about assassinating Chavez came not from someone in the Administration, but from someone on the Republican right—I think it was Pat Robertson—but many statements have been made that lead one to be very troubled about what the American Administration's intentions are. This debate provides our Government with an opportunity to clarify their role.
I recently read a document produced by an organisation called the Centre for Security Policy in Washington. It is doing some of the outriding—or some of the more outrageous thinking, some Members might think—in respect of Venezuela. It states that Venezuela
"must change. It can change on its own, or it can invite hemispheric forces with the help of Venezuela's broad democratic opposition, to impose the changes. Either way U.S. strategy must be to help Venezuela accomplish peaceful change"
this year. It is clear that there are extreme right-wing forces in the American Administration that will not tolerate the direction of travel of the Venezuelan Government and the international linkages that they are bringing about.
My hon. Friend the Member for Elmet referred to the Washington consensus. I think it is true that one can perceive a world view coming out of the neo-conservative establishment. Many such neo-conservatives are closely associated with George Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and their colleagues. The Washington consensus implies a world in which the trade is so-called "free", capital markets are entirely liberalised, property rights are secured, there is market deregulation, there is a major transfer of assets from the public to the private sectors, the state has a minimal role, and the international alliances that are created are grouped around a Washington hegemonic presence—a unipolar world. It has been explicitly stated that that is what America aspires to create. The Washington consensus also implies that America has the right to impose what it would describe as a pax Americana on the world—that it has the right to conduct unilateral and pre-emptive wars, should that be necessary. In respect of building a foreign policy on Venezuela, the question is whether our Government want to construct a set of bilateral relations that are built on the Washington consensus, or whether they will develop, with the European Union and others, a more nuanced approach.
One problem with what Washington wants to impose on the world is that it produces an extremely divided form of development for those in what we call the third world—the developing countries. In Latin America, the richest 10 per cent. control 48 per cent. of the income, and the poorest 10 per cent. share 1.6 per cent. of the income. The Washington consensus—the neo-liberal project—produces the most divided societies imaginable. Chavez has attempted to demonstrate that there is an alternative model for development that can tackle poverty, and which, through microcredits and other detailed Government initiatives, can begin to share the wealth. In doing that, Venezuela has been able to take advantage of its oil wealth, but it has also begun to develop a set of international alliances that do not easily fit into the Washington model of a world grouped around a single pole of power—American power, based on Republican Administration. Washington regards that as particularly threatening, and that explains the bellicose statements that have come out of elements of the Administration.
Chavez and the Venezuelan Government are demonstrating that it is possible to develop a set of international relationships that do not fit into the Washington consensus. What will the UK Government and the EU do? How will they respond to that? I hope that the UK Government are able to establish a line that does not simply support the idea of an unipolar world—of a single economic and military interest—and that instead they will develop a much more complex approach to Venezuela and the Latin American continent. I hope that we can play a positive role by sitting alongside Venezuela and the other nations in that region that are following a different strategy for developing and spreading out the wealth than the one that Washington seeks to impose on the world.
I notice that I have been speaking for six minutes and 18 seconds, so I shall now sit down.