By María Páez Victor – Dec 29, 2021
Let us count the ways in which the British government is revealing decay, both in its domestic and foreign policies.
The British nation has just gone through a most painful separation from its nearest neighbors with its exit from Europe on the basis that Britain wanted to be free of the influence of other countries, and wanted not to be beholden to any other jurisdictions but its own. It is supremely ironic that in doing so it has jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire, landing in the welcome embrace of the United States. There is no clearer evidence of this than the looting of the Venezuelan gold held in the Bank of England .
The Bank of England, an institution that, up to now, has been considered a pillar of probity, indeed a symbol of the economic order, astonishingly has taken it upon itself to appropriate 31 tons of Venezuelan gold entrusted to their vaults by the Venezuelan Central Bank many years ago. Even more surprising, this suspension of the customary contractual arrangements between two central banks, has been validated by British courts by their refusal to recognise that Nicolás Maduro is the duly elected President of Venezuela. Mr. Maduro’s credentials have been formally recognized by the Assembly of the United Nations and specifically by 177 of its 193 members . He is not some self-declared, unelected pretender with no legitimate claim to the presidency. This was purely political expediency on the part of the courts, not international law nor contractual law. It smacks of sheer piracy, one of the less savory features of British history.
The USA has been waging a hybrid war against the government of Venezuela for many years now. It starts with oil. Venezuela has the largest oil reserves on the planet, and ever since the Venezuelans decided that its natural resources belong to them, not the oil companies, and demanded an equal share, the gloves were off. How dare they? Even more galling to the USA is Venezuela’s declaration that it would build a “socialism of the 21st century” (which in fact has more in common with a social democracy than any communist apparatus). How dare they?
For a long time, both in the USA and Britain, the governing elites have shown an endemic imperialist and racialist discrimination against Latin American nations, considering them inferior players who have no right to any sovereignty that can challenge their interests. In the USA the prevailing thought is that the region is their “backyard” and no socialism of any kind will be tolerated. Every dictator and despot in the region has been backed by the USA. Through the decades they have attacked left leaning or reform-leaning governments in Central and South America and the Caribbean. In the UK, ideology is compounded by ignorance of the region since Latin America is rarely studied in school, and the governing elite of upper class “Eton boys” is steeped in delusions of past imperial glory and the arrogance that goes with it.
After years of the USA’s failed attempts to overthrow the Venezuelan government with coups d’etat, financing the opposition, devastating economic sanctions , promoting targeted assassinations, backing Colombian paramilitary attacks, carrying out cyberattacks to infrastructure, sabotage, fake “humanitarian” invasion, street violence, mercenary invasions, and even an assassination attempt on the president by drones, the USA came upon the idea of not recognizing the legitimate government of the country and launching a completely insignificant member of the legislature as president. Enter Juan Guaidó, venial, uncouth, a friend of the most notorious, butchering paramilitary gang in Colombia, and now a known thief . No election was needed. The USA then stole Venezuelan assets in the USA—counted in the billions—including CITGO, its oil company and handed these assets over to Guaidó.
Yet Britain in its hubris, parrots the USA. Disregarding Venezuelan votes, the Supreme Court declares it must follow the British government’s lead. Whatever happened to the supposed independence of the Judiciary which is now evidently pandering to the political trickery of both Johnson and Biden? What government in their right mind will now entrust the Bank of England with its assets? Britain has sunk very low into the mire through this political trickery!
But this looting of Venezuela’s gold is no isolated incident of one disreputable UK government. Its historical roots are in the Eurocentric prejudices against people of the South, whose territories and resources have been “fair game” to the colonialist mentality and capitalist rapacity of the North. For example, Britain drained India of nearly $45 trillion from 1765 to 1938 . The pirate Sir Francis Drake sailed his warship down Venezuela’s Orinoco River looting and spreading terror along its shores. John Maynard Keynes traced the beginning of European capitalism and British foreign investment to “the treasure which Drake stole from Spain in 1580” (See his Essays in Persuasion, 1963) . And the wealth that Spain extracted from Latin America with widespread, macabre genocide is incalculable. The results are still present in the hubris of alleged superiority and racism in the UK, Europe and North America towards the peoples of the South.
The present UK government, led by a very privileged upper-class elite, has been described by reputable journalists as full of “arrogance, incompetence and bad judgment” as chaos and scandal seem a daily occurrence . Another author states that, “Boris Johnson’s own record of duplicity in word and deed is… unrivalled in British politics.” 
Does Britain’s own record justify it in judging the democratic credentials and performance of another country such as, for example, Venezuela? Let us then consider the British government in relation to some following seminal issues.
Pandemic in Britain
It is universally accepted that the most important duty of a State is to protect its people. Although the pandemic is not an armed invasion, it is an external force, and it kills. The British government will be judged, now or later, but with certainty History will judge it on this account, on how it has dealt with the pandemic. It does not look good. A major report of the British Parliament by a cross-party committee has concluded that the UK government’s failure to contain the pandemic is “one of the most important public health failures in British history”. The government was late in introducing lockdowns and other needed restrictions, its vaccine rollout was slow, uncertain, often chaotic, it did not recognize the lack of capacity of its health system, and thus “many thousands of deaths could have been avoided in care homes.”  Up to now (31 December 2021), there have been 12,748,050 million cases in the UK 12,748,050 million cases, with 148,421 deaths, and the daily caseload is 189,213. 
Contrary to Britain, Venezuela carried out exemplary public health measures from the very start of the pandemic. These measures were especially significant because even medicines, medical equipment and vaccines were denied the country through the US imposed sanctions. Nonetheless, with the international solidarity of countries such as Cuba, Russia and China, Venezuela has been able to fully vaccinate 87% of its population (28 December 2021) with results that put the UK, a rich country to shame. 
Poverty in the UK
Britain, as a member of the OECD, is among the richest countries in the world yet there were 4.3 million children living in poverty in 2019-20, that is 31% of its children—this is 200,00 more children than last year . Low wages, increasing cost of living, and a social system that has failed to keep up has contributed to this situation . There can be very little justification for Britain having any poverty whatsoever, let alone child poverty.
The Legatum Institute found that during the pandemic almost 700,000 more people were driven into poverty which includes 120,000 children. “The predicted long-term effects of the pandemic include high unemployment that pushes many families into poverty at a scale 10 times greater than the 2008 financial crisis.”  And a recent report indicates that the poorest half of families are worse off since Boris Johnson came to power while the richest have seen their incomes boom .
Endemic inequality and racial bias are evident in the UK in that 46% of children of black and minority ethnic groups are poor compared to 26% of white children. 75% of children growing up in poverty live in a household where at least one person has a job, which is proof of the poor working conditions and low wages. Two main costs that are the hardest on the poor are childcare and housing.
It is truly outstanding that Venezuela, often accused of being a “failed state,” many times less wealthy than Britain, by 2010 had reduced inequality by 54% and poverty by 44%, having lifted more than 20 million people out of poverty and for 19 years now has had free public childcare throughout its territory . Poverty levels have today increased due to the criminal economic embargo of the USA and its allies including the UK . And as for housing, Venezuela is perhaps unique in the world in providing public housing. In the last seven years it has built over 3.9 million homes despite the economic sanctions against it .
Britain’s Democratic Deficit
The rich: Britain is becoming a plutocracy, where riches matter more than citizens’ votes. The super-rich and their corporations have given over 18 million pounds to the Conservative Party over the past 10 years. This allows the very wealthy easy access to the corridors of power where they lobby for privatizing public services especially in education and health. Because of this funding travesty “the UK is a democracy only in the weakest and shallowest sense.” 
While other governments, including Venezuela and even the USA, have increased social welfare support during the pandemic, the British government has cut welfare payments by 20 pounds per week, which is enough to tip many into poverty . “This savagery occurs in the same week that the Pandora Papers revealed the UK is not simply implicated in the system of offshore havens (which allow the wealthy and powerful to hide their assets…) but is in fact, situated at the very heart of the global tax avoidance scandal.” 
The votes: The Electoral Commission with very little power, is only able to fine up to 20,000 pounds for electoral fraud. A bagatelle. But the most undemocratic aspect of Britain’s democracy is its out-dated system of electing the first candidate in a riding that gets the most votes. The result is that the representation of the parties in the vaunted House of Commons is not proportional to the votes cast and the share of seats in the House can bear very little relation to the distribution of votes cast . Boris Johnson became Prime Minister even though his party received just 43.6% of the popular vote. A majority of British voters didn’t choose him to lead the country. Compare that with Venezuela’s May 2018 elections, overseen by hundreds of international observers, when Nicolás Maduro was elected President with 67.8% of the votes. His standing increases the more the economic woes of the country are rightly understood as attacks by the USA and its allies on the Venezuelan people.
Disregard of conventions: Much of the governing of Britain is not written in law, but depends on a system of precedent, usage, tradition, and convention. Recent prime ministers have been able to assume powers they really do not have, even usurping powers of the Monarch and of Parliament. Boris Johnson has been quite expert in disregarding conventions, bypassing Parliament and granting increased powers to unelected advisors (his chums). As well, there is also no formal way in which public participation can function within his government. “Despite a vast array of new democratic techniques, pioneered in other countries, there has been a total failure to balance our supposedly representative system with participatory democracy.”  Journalist George Monbiot concludes, “Our political system has the outward appearance of democracy, but it is largely controlled by undemocratic forces.” 
Crushing dissent: The British government has just passed one of the most oppressive pieces of legislation ever passed in Britain which in effect bans protests in roads, railways, ports, airports, oil refineries, and printing presses. It is an assault on the human right to free speech and protest. Sentences have increased and also costs that have to be paid to the court. Greater powers are given to the police who can now stop and search anyone without having firm grounds for suspicion. Carrying banners and posters can also land a person in jail. Outrageously, these laws “contain new powers to ban named people from protesting, abolishing their right to freedom of speech, which is extraordinary, in a nation that claims to be democratic.” 
David Boyd, the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights and the Environment, has said that these laws run counter to “the right to the freedom of assembly, association and expression… the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is 75 years old and it’s troubling when a country as wealthy and powerful as the UK is not moving in this direction.” 
Xenophobia: The Brexit campaign was run, and won, on a vicious web of xenophobia—Britons were told the country would be overrun by Syrian and Libyan refugees and that Romanians and Polish people would continue to “rob” them of their jobs. This opened the door to hate crimes and racial biases. It became “OK” to say terrible things about other groups and nations. The pandemic has not helped at all. Since its inception hate crimes in Britain have increased by 9%. More than 124,000 hate crimes have been reported and 76% of these were racially motivated . This huge spike has not been addressed in any effective way by the government.
A government that is deceitful to its own people, that does not respect their human rights of association, speech and protest, that has damaged its own democracy, that has failed to provide for basic needs of its population even in a pandemic, has no credibility whatsoever judging or casting doubt upon another country’s legitimate laws, elections, and government. When it comes to domestic and foreign policy, Britain’s are tightly connected through the anti-values of its privileged governing elite. It has no right to judge or deny Venezuela’s sovereignty, its democracy, or to seize gold deposited in good faith in its Central Bank.
In denying the legitimacy of the votes of millions of Venezuelans who freely elected their own government in a transparent and orderly fashion, in violating its contractual obligation to return the property of the Venezuelan State and intending to hand it over to an unelected individual with no legal or other credentials but the backing of the corrupt elites of Washington, the British people have been very badly served by their government, their courts and their Central Bank. History will not be kind, and Venezuelans, indeed the Latin American region, will never forget such British arrogance and duplicity, especially in view of Britain’s democratic failings and decay in their own values.
The moral of the story
Venezuela is on the right path in doing its best never again to fall into the power of any country of the North as these disrespect international and contractual laws when it suits them and disregard the sovereignty of other nations. Venezuela’s international friends and allies lie elsewhere.
Britain is on the path to subservience to the waning empire of the United States, and unless it changes course, it will not end well for the British people. The country has no “special relationship” with the USA, because, as John Foster Dulles, renowned US Secretary of State many years ago said: the United States has no friends, only interests.
Britain beware: it may be your gold and more that may be denied you in the future.
1 One could also add Britain’s deplorable treatment of Assange as another example of its kowtowing to the USA
2 At the UN General Assembly, 177 out of 193 UN member nations recognize Nicolás Maduro as the president of Venezuela, https://www.nodal.am/2021/12/venezuela-177-de-193-paises-votaron-en-la-onu-reconociendo-al-gobierno-de-maduro-como-unico-representante-legitimo-del-pais/
3 USAID has declared that it does not know what Guaidó has done with the millions it has given him, https://www.telesurenglish.net/news/Humanitarian-Aid-for-Venezuela-Was-Used-Fraudulently-USAID-20210716-0006.html
4 Jason Hickley, “How Britian stole $45 trillion from India,” Aljazeera, 19 December 2021
5 John Maynard Keynes, Essays in Persuasion, 1963
6 The Economist, “Behind the chaos and scandal of Boris Johnson’s government lies stasis,” the Economist, 11 December 2021
7 Patrick Cockburn, “In the Great tradition of Populist Leaders, Boris Johnson can no longer tell truth from falsehood,” Counterpunch, https://www.counterpunch.org/2021/12/21/in-the-great-tradition-of-populist-leaders-boris-johnson-can-no-longer-tell-truth-from-falsehood/
8 New Statesman, “How Badly did Boris Johnson’s government handle the Covid-19 pandemic?”, 12 October 2021
9 Worldometer, (John Hopkins data), https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/uk/
10 Venezuela reaches 87% of vaccination, https://www.nodal.am/2021/12/venezuela-alcanza-el-87-de-su-poblacion-vacunada-contra-la-covid-19/
11 Polly Toynbee, ‘Whatever Johnson’s” leveling up” means, it isn’t about Britain’s shocking poverty levels”, The Guardian, 28 May 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/may/28/johnson-levelling-up-poverty-levels
12 IPPR, “Poverty rates among working households in UK is highest ever,” https://www.theguardian.com/society/2021/may/26/poverty-rate-among-working-households-in-uk-is-highest-ever
13 Child Poverty Action Group, https://cpag.org.uk/child-poverty/child-poverty-facts-and-figures
Quaker Social Action, https://quakersocialaction.org.uk/taking-social-action/poverty-uk-0
14 Rob Merrick, The Independent, 13 December 2021
15 Carles Muntaner, Joan Benach, Maria Páez Victor, “Los Logros de Hugo Chávez y la revolucion Bolivariana,” https://www.albasud.org/noticia/es/369/los-logros-de-hugo-ch-vez-y-la-revoluci-n-bolivariana
16 Pascualina Curcio, “The Impact of the Economic war on Venezuela,” 18July 2020, https://cpcml.ca/Tmlw2020/Articles/W5002612.HTM
17 Últimas Noticias, “Gobierno Nacional entrega la Vivienda 3.9 m,” https://ultimasnoticias.com.ve/noticias/mas-vida/gobierno-nacional-entrega-la-vivienda-3-900-000-a-traves-de-la-gmvv/
TELESUR, “Venezuela delivered 3.5 million homes despite US sanctions,” 19 March 2021, https://www.telesurenglish.net/news/Venezuela-Delivered-3500000-Homes-Despite-US-Sanctions-20210319-0013.html
18 George Monbiot, “Britain’s Claim to being a functioning democracy are only skin deep,”The Guardian, 3 June 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jun/03/britain-democracy-tories-coronavirus-public-power
20 Darren McGarvey, “Boris Johnson and the Tories can’t tackle poverty because they don’t understand it,” Daily Record, https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/boris-johnson-tories-cant-tackle-25164653
21 Electoral Reform Society, https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/campaigns/electoral-reform/
22 George Monbiot, op. cit.
23 George Monbiot, op. cit.
24 George Monbiot, “A Tyrant’s Power”, the Guardian, 5 December 2021
25 Jo Griffin, “UK introducing three laws that threaten human rights, says UN expert”, The Guardian, 24 June 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/law/2021/jun/24/uk-introducing-three-laws-that-threaten-human-rights-says-un-expert
26 Rajee Syal, The Guardian, 12 October 2021
Featured image: Demonstrators in London protest in front of the Bank of England against the expropriation of Venezuelan assets, February 23, 2019. Photo: Venezuela Solidarity Campaign