Nicolás Maduro, president of Venezuela
The country has been bankrupted by Maduro’s government which has also been accused of political suppression, vote rigging, brutality and torture.
Despite the country’s economic woes Labour has hailed Venezuela as an economic model.
In response to around 55 percent of 18 to 34-year-olds voting for Corbyn and Labour in this month’s election, a 27-year-old Venezuelan woman who fled the Maduro regime has written a warning to young British voters for the Express.
We have agreed to withhold her name because of fear of recriminations against family members still in Venezuela.
Why I fled Corbyn’s favourite foreign country – a Christmas horror story from Venezuela
I am a 27-year-old woman who arrived in London a year ago to start a new life having fled Venezuela a couple of years back, by way of the US. As a third generation Venezuelan this causes me huge sadness, despite my hopes for my new life in the greatest city in the world. I have left my father, grandparents, and the country farm I grew up on and many friends to train for a new career here, relying on my German passport right to do so (from forebears who fled Nazi Germany before the war). In my heart I am now a British-Venezuelan (and British first and foremost by free choice) and as such I beg you not to make the mistakes which made me flee Venezuela with nothing, as have an estimated 5 million others over the last two decades.
Venezuela has become a country with month-long power cuts, lack of food and medicine, a gangster government presiding over massive violent crime, a state without law, safety, or justice which is not for sale. And where the only way to make money is to be in the governing, crooked elite.
In the last months I have worried myself sleepless as it looked possible the UK might elect a Prime Minister, Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, who regards Venezuela as some kind of workers’ paradise.
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the labour party
Mr Corbyn so often seems to hate everything about the UK, in favour of dictators and worse from almost any other country.
The worst of these in my view is President Nicholas Maduro of Venezuela, a vicious communist dictator who is destroying the country of my birth.
Maduro took over in 2012 from Hugo Chavez, a communist leader elected in 1999 who then took special powers to rig all the elections thereafter and secure Maduro as his placeman successor.
I was 7-years-old growing up on a farm when Chavez first took power.
I worked every school holiday in the fields and killed my first snake when I was 12.
My grandparents, who owned the modest farm on the plains of Venezuela worked hard and were so proud of their country, in their youths, their parents having fled Nazism and Soviet Communism in Europe only to find something just as bad in time in their country of refuge.
First we started to hear everywhere that we had many “enemies”.
Nicolas Maduro stands next to a portrait of late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez
The bourgeoisie, the Imperialism, the traitors, the pitiyanquis (a nickname for any liberals who the Americans might like), the oligarchs, the gringos, the Zionists etc; Chavez said that he was going to protect our national sovereignty against all of them, and used this to consolidate his power.
With time he became more aggressive in his speech and in his politics: he changed the constitution, the election system and he started to persecute journalists and anybody that was against him.
Resistance really tended in the attempted of coup and the General Strike of 2002-2003.
The aftermath was terrible.
Chavez remained in power and then took his chance to get rid of all his political enemies with arbitrary arrests, firings and confiscation of goods.
He eliminated all inconvenient people that hold any kind of power and replaced them with people loyal to him; it didn’t matter if they were capable enough or not for their jobs.
At this point, many were abandoning the country, and in an attempt on stopping the capital flight, Chavez forbade any kind of currency exchange that didn’t have the government’s approval, which doomed Venezuela’s economy to the hyperinflation of today of over 10,000 percent!
Former president of Venezuela Hugo Chavez
Corruption and crime had found the perfect breeding ground.
It was an institutionalised in a system in which anybody that belonged to the governing chavista party was virtually untouchable, and anybody that openly opposed the government was punished.
Extortion, robbery, kidnapping, blackmailing and murder were very common.
Armed paramilitary groups called “Colectivos” were backed by the government who use them in addition to the militia to repress in harder ways any community that was being troublesome.
Basic services such as water and electricity increasingly failed due to lack of investment.
Hospitals and roadways were falling apart because the money that was destined to their improvement was ending in the pockets of those who were closest to Chavez.
Oil prices were the highest in history, and yet the country was getting poorer and poorer, with the revenues being invested mainly in buying legitimacy inside the country and abroad.
We allowed a “soft invasion”, giving away our oil to Cuba in exchange of “advisers” and asking Russia and China for loaned money that disappeared into thin air.
Life was getting harder for every Venezuelan.
And even when people were afraid, and punishment was real, some still dared to protest.
But the government had become really good at repressing people.
The opposition parties were incompetent at best, and many said that they were secretly allied with the government.
There were just a few news channels that still were not under the Chavistas’ control that covered what was really happening in the country, and they all gradually were silenced.
The international media didn’t seem to care or know what was really happening in our country, and the government also limited the access to internet.
Then something completely unexpected happened: Chavez died of cancer in 2012.
Many publicly mourned his death, but for most Venezuelans it meant that perhaps there was some hope for change.
Before his death, Chavez named Maduro as his heir and asked the people to give him all their support, but many questioned that decision as Maduro never held any charisma or seemed capable for the charge.
Dissidents are harshly repressed
But as the most loyal follower of Chavez, he became the new “president” of Venezuela and finished the legacy of the “Comandante”: Make everybody equal through 21st Century socialism: that is everybody equally poor.
Maduro’s policies were even harder than those of Chavez.
This led to scarcity and criminality never seen before. Any sign of dissent was cruelly dealt with.
My boyfriend was shot in the eye, my cousin was tortured, raped and hanged, by government operatives.
A school friend died due to lack of basic medication.
I had worked hard at my country high school and managed to get in to university, the Central University of Venezuela, and arrived on campus in 2011.
It was clear that students found the conditions of our country already unbearable and hoped that we could be part of some mass movement to bring about change.
We demonstrated almost continuously, participating in major demos in the capital at least every month, and my clothes smelt of tear gas the whole time.
Some protestors have faced torture from government officials
I left the country in 2015 after my last hope of change was annihilated in the protest of 2014.
I simply walked off the university course I loved in the first year, on a tourist visa to the US, knowing it would reduce my chances of employment in the world greatly.
My view was that anything had to be better than a country made criminal and evil by its leadership and their overseas sponsors from China and Russia.
I am happy now.
I don’t fear for my life and I’m very thankful for the chance to start again.
I have taken professional exams, worked tables to pay for night school, and will be starting in my chosen career in the New Year.
I find I am returned to the continent my grandparents fled from, to a country which now treasures – as it did in their days – perhaps uniquely the traditions which make decent life possible.
I so hope the British people will never elect anyone who thinks that Venezuela is other than a gangster state, not one to be copied by anyone who loves freedom and prosperity.