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Exclusive Ruth Davidson called to condemn Scottish Tory MP over links to coup-backing lobby group

Andrew Bowie took sponsorship from International Republican Institute accused of links to coups in Honduras and Haiti

SCOTTISH TORY leader Ruth Davidson is facing calls to condemn one of her MPs, after he met with a US lobby group linked to a series of coups d’etat.

West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine MP Andrew Bowie was sponsored by the International Republican Institute (IRI) on a two-day junket to Paris worth £450, the Morning Star can exclusively reveal.

The Tory politician told parliamentary authorities that the purpose of the January trip was “to discuss from a British perspective the response to populism and the changing political landscape in the West.”

The IRI has been linked to the failed 2002 coup against Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

It has also been accused of playing a role in the successful removal of Haitian leader Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004, and of Honduran president Manuel Zelaya in 2009.

Labour’s Holyrood shadow Brexit minister Neil Findlay said: “The Scottish Conservatives have tried to distance themselves from the more extreme elements in the Conservative Party.

"And yet here we see one of their MPs working hand-in-glove with an organisation that is implicated in the undermining of democracy and sovereign states.”

Mr Findlay said Scottish Tory leader Ms Davidson “should condemn and distance herself from the actions of this MP.”

The IRI is one of several organisations funded by the National Endowment for Democracy, which was established by the US Congress in 1983 after US president Ronald Reagan’s seminal speech at Westminster calling for an international alliance “to foster the infrastructure of democracy.”

It received a US government grant of $339,998 (over £230,000 at the time) for “political party building” in Venezuela prior to the short-lived 2002 coup.

On the day Mr Chavez was temporarily ousted, IRI president George A Folsom said Venezuelans “rose up to defend democracy.”

Stanley Lucas, institute boss in Haiti, was accused by former US ambassador Brian Dean Curran of behaviour which “risked us being accused of attempting to destabilise the government.”

Mr Lucas was an avowed opponent of president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and counselled the opposition to refuse to work with the social democrat government in order to cripple it, according to the New York Times.

In 2004 a group of right-wing military chiefs ousted the Aristide government in a coup.

In 2009 Mr Zelaya was ousted as Honduran leader in another military coup.

The IRI said the sham election which followed was “free of violence and overt acts of intimidation” and appeared credible.

SNP MP Chris Stephens told the Star: “This revelation demonstrates that the Scottish Tories, far from being centrist, are hard-line rightwingers, whose views on domestic and international issues continue to alienate the electorate.

“Ruth Davidson should distance herself from Bowie. The extremist views held by the Scottish Tories are the reason they have lost 21 elections in a row in Scotland.”

The Scottish Conservatives said the trip was “nothing to do with Ruth whatsoever” and it was “laughable that these quotees [Mr Findlay and Mr Stephens] are trying to involve her here.”

Mr Bowie, a parliamentary private secretary in the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport department, said: “The International Republican Institute is an internationally respected pro-democracy organisation.

“It has supported democratic movements around the world for decades. They, and I, will continue to do so.”

Conrad Landin is Morning Star Scotland editor.

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