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Bob Neill on Chavez's visit: "Livingstone does not speak for London"

By Aleksander Boyd

London 12.05.06 | With regards to Mr. Neill's stance I must say that I am pleasantly surprised to see that someone would actually put democratic principles before political agendas. The Leader of the Conservative Group of London's Assembly is quite right in his perception of the Chavez's authoritarian persona. In that light I asked him two questions that perhaps could help Londoners gain a better understanding of the nature of the Bolivarian revolution spearheaded by Seņor Chavez.

Question by A. Boyd: Mr. Neill, you contend in your reply to Mayor Livingstone's invitation to the private luncheon with President Chavez that he is an "obstacle to good relations with ordinary Venezuelans rather than an assistance" (sic), concluding that you "do not believe that London will profit from this visit" (sic).

You also state, rightly so, that "President Chavez is well documented as having undermined pluralistic democracy, intimidated political opponents, rigged elections to congress and packed the supreme court with his own supporters" (sic). What would you make of Mayor Livingstone's amity with a man whose regime chronically and sistematically violates human and civil rights of ordinary Venezuelans?

BOB NEILL'S ANSWER: Ken Livingstone is becoming increasingly extreme especially in his self appointed foreign policy role. He recently said "there are many areas where we can benefit from the Venezuelan experience" and especially in the field of "democratic participation." I disagree: I believe we cannot learn anything positive from the Chavez regime.

Livingstone's main interest is in promoting radical anti-Western politics around the world and he cares little about the freedom and liberty that is crushed in its pursuit. We only need to look at the example of Yusef Al-Qaradawi - an islamic fundamentalist he entertained at City Hall - who called for gay people to be executed and encouraged men to beat their wives.

My fear is that, following this visit, ordinary Venezuelans will think that Londoners oppose their struggle for democratic freedom. I want to send a clear message that Livingstone does not speak for London on this issue. END OF BOB NEILL'S ANSWER

Question by A. Boyd: And secondly, in light of the cosy relationship that the Venezuelan caudillo has with Iranian extremists -supporting their nuclear programme; Colombian narco terrorists and Zimbabwean and Cuban dictators, do you not consider objectionable that Londoners have to foot the bill for the misuse of public resources and employees of the Mayor's Public Affairs Office to entertain a man with such disreputable credentials?

BOB NEILS ANSWER: Let's be absolutely clear, I am appalled that Londoners are paying to entertain this dictator. I believe that this man should be shunned by every moderate regime in the world, not wined and dined like a legitimate world leader.

London is a great mix of all cultures and national groups, I would never countenance anything that might undermine that. END OF BOB NEILL'S ANSWER.

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