Civil Society Groups Warn: Trafalgar Square Concert Gives Implicit Support to Authoritarian Regimes
IPN Press release
LONDON, 1 SEPTEMBER 2006 -- Trafalgar Square today plays host to “London, Caracas; Caracas, London.” This taxpayer-funded boondoggle has been hailed by the Greater London Authority (GLA) as a “free” concert to celebrate the growing links between London and Caracas, and Latin America more generally.
While cultural links between London and Latin America are to be welcomed, the implied support for authoritarian political regimes is disturbing. The concert follows a trip to London earlier this year by Hugo Chavez, the authoritarian president of Venezuela, during which London’s Mayor, Ken Livingstone, extolled the leader’s commitment to democracy and social progress.
Yet not all Londoners agree with the political message of the concert and are urging those who disagree to boycott the concert.
Alec van Gelder, a Latin America specialist at International Policy Network, said:
“Many Latin Americans come to London to escape authoritarian regimes -- seeking economic opportunities and freedoms that they have been denied at home. All freedom-loving Londoners -- especially those from Latin America -- must be outraged that their hard-earned taxes are being used by the Greater London Authority to further an ideological agenda that is antithetical to political, social and economic freedoms. We should boycott this concert.”
Civil-society organisations in Venezuela are prevented from speaking out against Chavez’s regime – making a mockery of the suggestion that Chavez supports democracy and social progress. Because of these restrictions, we asked other representatives of Latin American civil society to comment on the London concert and the current situation in Venezuela.
Andres Mejia-Vergnaud, Executive Director of the Instituto Libertad y Progreso in Bogotá, Colombia said:
“Hugo Chavez has made life immeasurably worse for the majority of Venezuelans. Freedom of expression and freedom of the press are under constant threat. Dissidents have been harassed and imprisoned. The poor are disempowered and reliant on the government’s meagre oil-funded handouts. Sadly, Friday’s concert in London belies these realities.”
Meanwhile, Martin Krause, professor at the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) in Argentina, points out:
“Hugo Chavez rules his country as his own personal estate and is actively trying to disrupt peace, security and economic growth throughout Latin America. Venezuela is a failing petro-state that is supported by nothing more than high oil prices. It is morally offensive that London’s elected representatives are using Londoners’ tax dollars to celebrate Latin America’s most notorious despots.”