Saturday 16 December 2017

Sinn Féin attacked over support for 'dictator'

Deaths in Venezuela lead to calls for rethink

Words of warning: Venezuelan protesters Leidy Corredor and Dorielis Perez holding a placard denouncing President Nicolas Maduro at a rally held in the Smithfield area of Dublin last week Photo: Fergal Phillips
Words of warning: Venezuelan protesters Leidy Corredor and Dorielis Perez holding a placard denouncing President Nicolas Maduro at a rally held in the Smithfield area of Dublin last week Photo: Fergal Phillips
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Sinn Fein has been strongly criticised for supporting a "corrupt" and "autocratic" regime after public protests against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro resulted in eight deaths and hundreds of arrests last week.

A 17-year-old boy and 23-year-old woman were among those who died following huge public demonstrations against Mr Maduro's government, which has been described as a dictatorship by opponents.

Sinn Fein has supported Mr Maduro since he succeeded controversial Hugo Chavez following his death in 2013. Sinn Fein has passed motions at party conferences backing Mr Maduro's regime and sent members to oversee disputed elections in the South American country.

Fianna Fail's foreign affairs spokesman, Darragh O'Brien, said Sinn Fein should withdraw its support for Mr Maduro in light of the growing unrest in Venezuela over soaring poverty rates.

"The Maduro regime has overseen a dramatic collapse in the Venezuelan economy, plunging living standards, escalating crime levels and endemic corruption at all levels of the state," Mr O'Brien told the Sunday Independent last night.

"The sheer hypocrisy of passing motions supporting a corrupt autocratic regime while making statements about human rights appears to have been lost on the party.

"The party's elected representatives have also gone so far as to play the part of sham observers in elections which have been subject to overt manipulation by the regime and then ignored."

Mr O'Brien said the regime refused to allow international observers to oversee recent elections and had instead "hand-picked" representatives from favourable organisations.

"While Sinn Fein is clearly comfortable with autocratic rule internally, no Irish political party should be allowed to support such corrupt practices internationally without robust challenge," Mr O'Brien added.

Last week's anti-government protest in Venezuela, which was dubbed the 'mother of all marches', saw hundreds of thousands of citizens take to the streets to demonstrate against food and medicine shortages which have crippled the country.

The protesters were faced down by security forces who fired rubber bullets and tear gas into the crowds, while some demonstrators threw rocks and firebombs at police.

Pro-government protesters also took to the streets and clashed with those demonstrating against Mr Maduro's rule.

The Sunday Independent asked Sinn Fein if it still supported Mr Maduro but the party did not respond to the request for comment.

Sunday Independent

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