Ruling NCP in controversy again as youth wing hosts Venezuela team

Published On: July 16, 2019 06:57 AM NPT By: Kosh Raj Koirala  | @KoshRKoirala

KATHMANDU, July 16: Nearly five months after a controversial statement issued by one of its top leaders in favor of Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro, the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) has once again courted controversy with its sister organization hosting a Venezuelan youth delegation of the ruling party that includes Maduro junior.

A 15-member Venezuelan delegation including Nicolas Ernesto Maduro Guerra is currently in Nepal on a four-day visit that began Saturday. The delegation held meetings with lawmakers and other key NCP leaders, purportedly to build solidarity. The visit, which has been largely hush-hush in Nepal, is widely seen as an attempt of the embattled Venezuelan leader to broaden his alliances against the US.

The younger Maduro is considered a key ally of his father as the regime faces mounting pressure from an opposition party backed by the US and other Western powers. Also a member of the National Constituent Assembly, the 29-year old Maduro junior was designated by his father as director of the Inspectors Corps of the Presidency.

Youth Association of Nepal (YAN), which has been been acting as liaison for the visit, said it is part of a youth exchange program. “We had visited Venezuela some one and half months ago. It was during that visit that we had extended an open invitation to a Venezuelan youth delegation. This is just a reciprocal visit,” said YAN Coordinator Ram Prasad Sapkota aka Dipshikha. 

Stating that they have had decade-long party-to-party relations, Sapkota said the head of the youth association of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, the ruling party of the Latin American country, is also part of the delegation. The delegation likewise includes a minister for education and culture in the Venezuelan government. Sapkota, however, declined to give further details about the delegation. 

Sources said the visiting delegation has already held meetings with senior NCP leaders including Co-Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Party Secretariat Members Bamdev Gautam and Narayan Kaji Shrestha and a number of central level leaders. 

The delegation participated in an interaction organized by YAN in the capital on Sunday. Party Secretariat Member and former prime minister Jhalanath Khanal and Foreign Relations Department Member Yuvaraj Chaulagain were among those participating in the interaction organized at Hotel Yak and Yeti. The delegation later held a separate meeting with Khanal. 

Later in the evening, the delegation attended a dinner hosted by All Nepal National Free Students Union (ANNFSU) at Summit Hotel in Lalitpur. The delegation also held a separate meeting with NCP leader Shrestha.

Similarly, the delegation held a meeting with senior NCP leader Bamdev Gautam at his residence at Bhainsepati. NCP Central Committee Member Balaram Banskota, Co-Coordinator of the party’s Peasants Federation Chitra Bahadur Shrestha, former agriculture minister Hari Parajuli and senior leader Keshav Lal Shrestha were among those present at the meeting. 

NCP Central Committee Member Banskota said the delegation held a separate meeting with a group of NCP lawmakers from 11 am to 12:30 pm at the parliament building at New Baneshwar on Monday. The youth delegation, which also visited Chandragiri and Nagarkot, is scheduled to return home on Tuesday. 

Sources close to Prime Minister KP Oli said the visit, which was organised without the knowledge of the government, has caused some discomfort within the ruling party. “There are no meetings scheduled with government officials,” said a source close to the prime minister. “Please do not link this visit with the government. The government has nothing to do with it.” 

Back in February, a controversial statement issued by NCP Co-Chairman Dahal in support of Maduro and against the US at a time when Prime Minister Oli was out of the country had put the government in a difficult situation. 

In his statement, Dahal had termed moves by the “US and its allies” in support of a rival party leader in Venezuela as “unacceptable intrusion in internal affairs and an attempt at an imperialist coup”. Angered by such “strong-worded statement”, the US had sought clarifications from top leaders of Nepal’s ruling party as to whether it reflected the position of the government. They also inquired about this at the State Department with Nepal’s ambassador to Washington DC, Arjun Karki.

Although the Ministry of Foreign Affairs later issued a statement which tried to distance itself from Dahal’s statement, it failed to impress the US. US officials then described Dahal’s statement on the Venezuela crisis as “unfair”, “ill-advised” and “does not serve Nepal’s interests”. Interestingly, YAN Coordinator Sapkota is a leader of the erstwhile CPN(Maoist Center) led by Dahal. Those holding meetings with the visiting Venezuela delegation include individuals close to Dahal and senior leader Gautam, the latter a close ally of Dahal within the NCP.

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