Wednesday 13 November 2019 4:11 am

Jeremy Corbyn’s support for authoritarianism abroad makes him unfit to be Prime Minister

If you’ve managed to tear your eyes away from the flood of General Election coverage recently, you may have read about the political turmoil currently racking Bolivia. 

Following a narrow and contested election victory for incumbent Evo Morales in late October, protests broke out across the country in response to the President’s alleged cheating, culminating in his dramatic military-backed resignation on Sunday night.

Jeremy Corbyn was quick off the mark. The Labour leader condemned Morales’ departure as a “coup against the Bolivian people”, and promised to stand with them “for democracy, social justice and independence”. 

This message was echoed by other prominent figures in Corbyn’s inner circle, including shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon, and the left-wing journalist and activist Owen Jones, who warned that “democracy will continue to die everywhere… if we let the right-wing military coup in Bolivia succeed”.


Yet the reality is  more complex than Corbyn and his team care to admit.

Bolivians had good reason to question the legitimacy of the result. Morales only avoided a second-round run-off against rival Carlos Mesa by 0.56 per cent of votes cast, while an unexplained 24-hour pause in reporting ended with a sudden boost in votes for the President. An audit carried out by the Organisation of American States and backed by the EU, the UN, and the US among others found “clear manipulations” and called for the election result to be annulled. 

So much for those on the left standing for democracy.

Morales’ democratic abuses are not new. In a 2016 referendum, Bolivians voted against allowing the President to run for a fourth term, yet he chose to ignore them and ran regardless, citing a favourable ruling from a Constitutional Court packed with loyalists. 

According to international NGO Human Rights Watch, Morales has consistently undermined judicial independence and “created a hostile environment for human rights defenders that undermines their ability to work independently”.

As for the military’s involvement in Bolivia, there are promising signs  that this will be of a limited nature. 

Jeanine Añez, who is not a general but a member of the Senate, is set to be appointed interim President in line with the constitution, and has promised fresh elections within months. 


In other words, this does not seem to be the right-wing coup Corbyn is insisting it as.

But Corbyn has a long track record of defending supposedly “progressive” regimes that are in fact guilty of serious democratic and human rights abuses. He was a passionate advocate of Hugo Chavez’s destructive policies in Venezuela, and has refused to criticise his successor Nicolas Maduro, despite his descent into authoritarianism and the grave humanitarian crisis that he is presiding over. 

The Labour leader’s bizarre reluctance to blame Russia for the Salisbury attacks (despite the assessment of all credible experts) and abject failure to root out antisemitism from his own party can also be traced back to this same twisted “anti-imperialist” ideology, with severe implications for Britain’s standing on the world stage were he to become Prime Minister.

A Corbyn-led government would turn Britain — a member of Nato and the UN Security Council — from a major political player into a glorified apologist for socialist dictators, reducing our influence and damaging our credibility as a defender of liberal and democratic values. One need only observe Donald Trump’s public fondness for right-wing despots to see how this might look in practice.

More insidiously, Corbyn’s willingness to excuse authoritarian behaviour if it is committed by the “good guys” does not bode well for this country’s own democracy either. 

As the UK heads to the polls once again, we can’t afford to forget this. Corbyn’s blind support for ostensibly left-wing governments — regardless of how  often they break the rules or how they actually treat their people — makes him unfit to be Prime Minister.

Main image credit: Getty

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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