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Maduro rejection mirrors Manley's defeat in 1980

Published:Wednesday | December 9, 2015 | 12:00 AMDaraine Luton
Gregory Mair
Opposition lawmaker Miguel Pizarro, who was reelected to Congress, greets supporters as he arrives for a news conference in Caracas, Venezuela,on Monday.
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A Jamaican legislator has suggested that the Venezuelans' rejection of the Hugo Chavez-type socialist policies in national elections on Sunday is comparable to Michael Manley's People's National Party (PNP) being booted from state power by Jamaicans in a 1980 landslide.

"What happened in Jamaica in the 1970s under Michael Manley was what was happening in Venezuela," opposition Member of Parliament (MP) Gregory Mair said.

Manley, who led the PNP, had embarked on a programme of democratic socialism between 1972 and 1980, but the policies did not find favour with Jamaicans, who booted his Government from office in October 1980, replacing his administration with the right-wing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), which was led by Edward Seaga.

The JLP won 51 of the 60 seats in the House of Representatives as Manley's democratic socialism was rejected.

"That is what happened [on Sunday] in Venezuela. It was a rejection of failed socialist policies and the need of the people to bring back a free-market economic policy that would create investment, growth, [and] jobs, which would come with freedom," Mair said.

The North East St Catherine MP has more than a passing relationship with Venezuelan politics, having spent a more than two decades in that country between 1967 and 1989.

Mair was, in 2009, forced to resign his seat as MP and renounce his allegiance to Venezuela, and then face the people through a by-election as he was found to have been in breach of the Jamaican Constitution.

"What has happened is that the people of Venezuela have come to recognise that all the populist promises of the [Nicolas] Maduro regime were all a lie and that they have failed totally," Mair said.

"In the '70s, a lot of us had to leave Jamaica because of Michael Manley's regime," Mair said.

 

SOCIALISTS BOOTED

 

The opposition in Venezuela has won a majority of seats in the National Assembly, overturning nearly two decades of dominance by the Socialists.

It is the worst-ever defeat for the leftist movement founded by Chavez in 1999.

Maduro said his government would "recognise these adverse results and accept them".

However, he said the outcome of the election did not mean an end to the Bolivarian revolution he inherited from Chavez, who died in 2013 from cancer.

Maduro said much of the country's woes are the result of an "economic war" being waged against the government by the opposition and the United States, exacerbated by the shrinking price of oil, Venezuela's lifeblood.

"The economic war has won, for now, circumstantially," Maduro said, predicting that the opposition would try to dismantle the gains of the Bolivarian revolution.

Mair, however, insisted that the president was spouting "nonsense", arguing that the policies were unworkable.

"It was always felt that they would win, but for them to win the two-thirds, for them to really be an opposition that could hold a government accountable, I think that was a nice surprise," Mair said.

With two-thirds of the seats in the assembly, the opposition has significant powers that can impact on international treaties and agreements such as the PetroCaribe agreement.

"I would urge our Government to watch closely what is happening there, because my concern is that PetroCaribe would be threatened. I know the opposition has had a problem with PetroCaribe because they feel that the government of Venezuela is giving away income," Mair said.

 

BE PREPARED

 

PetroCaribe is an oil-trade pact that makes it possible for countries in the region to receive a regular supply of petroleum products from Venezuela at highly concessionary terms.

Mair said Jamaica must now seek to prepare itself for the worst, noting that there was always opposition in Venezuela to the PetroCaribe agreement.

"We need to be prepared that, in the event that PetroCaribe

is eventually scrapped, that Jamaica, due to its long history with Venezuela and the fact that we have always fulfilled our agreements under PetroCaribe, they may give special consideration to Jamaica for us to continue a relationship where they would allow us easy payment structures as far as purchasing the oil from Venezuela is concerned," Mair said.

"I hope our foreign ministry will start engaging persons not necessarily in the government but in the opposition. They need to be making the links and get ready so that Jamaica is well positioned in the event of the PetroCaribe programme being scrapped," the opposition MP and former Venezuelan citizen said.

daraine.luton@gleanerjm.com