March 11 2014 Latest news:
Dominic Gover, Senior reporter
Monday, October 31, 2011
Ken Livingstone could seek to strike a new oil deal with the socialist leader of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, if he beats Boris Johnson in the election next year, Labour’s mayoral candidate has told London24.
Cutting ticket prices for Londoners on public transport would be the aim of any deal with the revolutionary leader by the two-time former mayor.
Mr Livingstone shook hands on a deal with Chavez in 2007, in which City Hall got a discount on the price of fuel for buses. In exchange, the Lieutenant Colonel of Venezuela got expert advice from top London officials about transport policy.
But it was a controversial arrangement with the colourful Chavez, who is best known in the West for his long and rambling TV addresses that can last all day.
Tory rival Boris Johnson said of the deal at the time; “you must be Caracas,” after the capital city of the South American nation.
Mr Livingstone spent time as a transport advisor to Chavez following his defeat to Mr Johnson in the 2008 mayoral race.
This week, Mr Livingstone dismissed to London24 concerns about whether Chavez remained a suitable partner for the capital city. He defended the 2007 deal.
“It was a very good deal for both sides,” he insisted.
“Chavez needed help modernising Caracas and we were sitting on a huge wealth of experience in London. So we could give that free and in exchange we got £14m a year off the bill for our bus fuel.
“It allowed us to halve the fares for people on benefits,” said Mr Livingstone. “It was only controversial if you believe the CIA’s take on Chavez.
“Chavez will be facing re-election in December 2012, so I doubt if meeting me will be top of his list of priorities in that six months.
“But if anyone wants to cut the price of our fuel bill then I would be happy to take it. If they offer to do that, I don’t care if it is Hugo Chavez or George W Bush, I will have a discussion with them about it.”