Chavez and Livingstone: a tawdry alliance

More reports today than Hugo Chavez has an eye on yet another TV station that he doesn’t like. It leaves a nasty taste in the mouth, watching someone pulling the switch on such foundations of democracy as free speech.

But here in London of course, Mr Chavez is our great friend, since the deal done by our Mayor, Mr Livingstone with Mr Chavez back in February for cheap oil to fuel our buses. Yes, Venezuela, a developing country is helping to subsidise the travel of one of the most prosperous cities in the world.

So, what’s in it for Venezuela? Apparently part of the deal is that we are giving them advice on recycling and waste management! Us! In that case one might expect that we are a best practice City for recycling; but we’re not. In fact our recycling figures in London are some of the worst in the world, far behind such cities as Berlin, San Francisco or Seattle.

Not only that, but recycling isn’t even within Ken’s powers at the GLA. He has failed to get his own Government to include in the GLA bill provisions for a pan London waste authority. So presumably Ken is providing advice on the basis of what he’s like to be doing as opposed to what is actually happening in London.

A raw deal for Mr Chavez, perhaps? For Venezuela, maybe; for their increasingly despotic leader, no.

Because what Mr Chavez gets are signed contracts with one of the greatest cities in the world, which he can tout around other countries just like service organisations provide in their sales pitches their list of blue chip clients. London’s business is in effect a loss leader for Mr Chavez.

What Mr Livingstone has given him is an air of respectability that he does not deserve.


Tom Papworth said...
29 May 2007, 17:15:00

Is there no depth to which Ken won’t sink; no despot he won’t cosy up to. I’m waiting for him to invite Kim Jong Il over for a goodwill visit, or fly off on a junket to meet President Ahmadinejad.

The oil deal gives Chavez an air of respectability and lets both him and Ken thumb their noses at George Bush and Tony Blair. We get a sense of embarrassment, and the Venezuelans lose the opportunity to sell fuel on the open market and spend the money on such fripperies as schools and hospitals.

Mind you, they’ll never know. The only thing on TV in Venezuela is three-hour-long chats with President Hugo.

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