I am thankful this Topical Issue matter has been selected for discussion because this issue has been ongoing for a while in international foreign affairs. It has not, however, been aired at all in this House.
The Minister of State, Deputy Kehoe, will be aware that the disgraced President of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, was re-elected for a six-year term in May 2018. The opposition parties boycotted the election. At the time the European Union described the presidential and regional polls as having gone ahead without a national agreement on an electoral calendar and complying with the minimum international standards for a credible process, in not respecting political pluralism, democracy, transparency and the rule of law. It reiterated recently that the presidential elections in Venezuela last May had not been free, fair or credible and lacked democratic legitimacy. It also stated the country urgently needed a government that truly represented the will of the Venezuelan people. My party and I subscribe to that statement. Mr. Maduro's socialist policies and those of his predecessors are supported by the Sinn Féin Party. Many Irish people were completely disgusted by the stance taken by that party when it sent representatives to the recent presidential inauguration in Venezuela to cheer on and fete the now discredited Nicolás Maduro.
The muzzling of parliamentary democracy and the economic policies introduced have brought the once middle income country to the brink of collapse. There is hyper inflation and shortages of medicines and food. Venezuela is also now a security basket case, with rioting on the streets. The country is disintegrating before the eyes of the international community. There is, however, a viable alternative in Juan Guaidó who has now been subjected to sanctions. It is only right and proper that the international community has responded with an expression of support and solidarity for him.
It is notable which countries have declared their positions on the situation in Venezuela. The countries supporting Nicolás Maduro include Russia, China, Cuba and Bolivia. We have, unfortunately, seen a pretty slow response from the European Union and the Government. We only received the Government's response at 12.30 p.m. today. Why did it take it so long to take a definitive position on the situation in Venezuela? I ask because we have seen what is clearly an abject breakdown of law and order and any form of decent rule by civil society. The Government should be called out for being so slow in its response. It is particularly the case given that some of our major partners in the European Union, including France and Germany, have taken the lead in stating a position on Venezuela. Others within the European Union, of course, have sat on the fence. I am referring to Belgium, Finland and Sweden. As a result, there has been a disjointed and disconnected approach by the European Union. I ask the Minister of State to address the reason the Government took so long to come to a stated position on such a corrupt regime. If fresh elections are not forthcoming, what further action will the European Union take? What position will Ireland take within the European Union in advocating for and seeking fresh open, free and transparent elections? That is the key to resolving the issue. Has the Government taken any decision or had any discussion on providing humanitarian aid for the people of Venezuela?
Germany recently pledged €5 million when Angela Merkel announced Germany's position in support of Juan Guaidó. Will the Government definitively outline its position on humanitarian aid?
In summary, why did it take the Government so long to arrive at its position? What will we do to ensure that there will be fair, free and transparent elections? What is the position on humanitarian aid?