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Politics

Bilirakis Pushes Tsipras to Spurn Maduro, Back Democracy for Venezuela

February 3, 2019

Florida Republican Congressman Gus Bilirakis has written Greek Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras urging him to stop supporting Venezuelan strongman President Nicolas Maduro and instead support democracy for that country.

Greece broke with the European Union which demanded new, free and fair elections with Maduro being one of the world leaders most admired by Tsipras, whose idols include other noted Leftist leaders, the late Fidel Castro and rebel Che Guevara.

Bilirakis, who’s been in Congress since 2007 and is Chairman of the Chair of the Hellenic Caucus, told Tsipras “to put Greece at the forefront of Europe’s efforts to help restore democracy in Venezuela”, noting that “any perception that Athens supports the Maduro regime undermines Greece’s reputation in both US and (Latin America),” the letter said, according to Kathimerini.

“I am particularly proud that Greece is democracy’s birthplace and that at a time where countries in Greece’s vicinity are becoming increasingly authoritarian Greece has remained a steadfast western democracy. All this gives Greece both special standing and a particular responsibility to promote democracy worldwide,” Bilirakis wrote.

“I … urge you to put Greece at the forefront of Europe’s efforts to help restore democracy in Venezuela,” Bilirakis stressed although SYRIZA has already strongly aligned itself with Maduro, who’s critics said has become dictatorial and tried to crush protests with violence, causing deaths and injuries and millions to flee to other countries.

As Tsipras is also moving to defuse tensions with Russia and Turkey – both of which support Maduro’s oppressive regime, Bilirakis told him this is an opportunity to be on the right side of history.

“At a time where Greece’s standing in the United States as a steadfast western ally committed to democracy, human rights and the rule of law is at a high, any perception that Athens supports the Maduro regime undermines Greece’s reputation in both the United States and Latin America. Greece has again and again stood on the right side of history, and now is not certainly the time to stand on the same side as Iran, Russia, and Turkey,” he said.

He concluded: “The United States and Greece share democratic values and the same interest in promoting democracy worldwide. I ask you to honor those shared interests and values by calling for free and fair elections in Venezuela.

“The people of Venezuela have suffered enough at the hands of the Maduro regime. To have the birthplace of democracy support their call for true democracy and not merely sham elections will give them a morale boost and help their country’s rebirth, which will stabilize the region,” the letter finished.

While the European Union, United States and a growing list of countries denounced Maduro, Tsipras said he preferred more dialogue as protests raged.

SYRIZA earlier said it recognized Maduro as the legitimate President although he had barred opposition from running against him in elections and as the US said opposition leader Juan Guaido should be declared President.

Alternate Foreign Minister Giorgos Katrougalos declared Greece’s support for democracy – without explaining why Venezuela is a democracy as critics said elections are rigged  – and called for “the restoration of social peace,” also with the help of EU mediation.

“We do not want Venezuela to become yet another Libya in South America,” Katrougalos said.
“We want it to enjoy democracy and prosperity, and for its people to be united and indeed able to exercise their democratic rights within a republic that is exclusively for their own benefit,” he said without mentioning millions have fled to other countries because there isn’t enough food or other essentials.

The Greek Foreign Ministry – Tsipras is also Foreign Minister – said in a statement that, “Greece stands in solidarity with the people of Venezuela, it supports democracy, and endeavors to the restoration of social peace in a very polarized society, in a very polarized political system. And our long-standing belief is that the sole method whereby these differences can be overcome is through political dialogue,” despite ongoing violent protests against Maduro.

Guaido had called on Tsipras and SYRIZA to join with the EU in pressuring Maduro to hold free and fair elections and sad he couldn’t understand why Tsipras keeps backing the Venezuelan leader although the website Politico in 2017 declared the Greek leader one of the strongman’s six die-hard fans.

The Greek government said it had locked arms with Maduro. “SYRIZA expresses its full support and solidarity with the legitimate President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, after … (the) move by opposition leader and President of the National Assembly of the country Juan Guaido, to declare himself the interim President of the country, thus challenging the result of last May’s Presidential election,” said Panos Skourletis, the Secretary of SYRIZA’s central committee

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