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Tue, 14 July 2020

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The House Live All
By Sarah Champion MP and Pauline Latham MP
Press releases

Emily Thornberry risks Labour row with swipe at Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro

Emily Thornberry risks Labour row with swipe at Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro
4 min read

Venezuelan president Nicolas Naduro has "betrayed every socialist ideal" by overseeing the economic collapse of the crisis-torn country, according to Emily Thornberry.

In comments likely to anger Jeremy Corbyn, the Shadow Foreign Secretary will insist that a Labour government will not turn a blind eye to left-wing regimes which abuse human rights.

Venezuela has been plunged into chaos amid an economic crisis which has led to hundreds of thousands of anti-Maduro protesters taking to the streets. 

Mr Maduro was sworn in for a second term last month following disputed elections, leading to clashes between his supporters and those of opposition leader Juan Guaidó, the head of Venezuela's National Assembly.

Mr Guaidó has been recognised by several countries, including the UK and America, as Venezuela's rightful leader until fresh elections are held.

But Mr Corbyn - who has spoken in the past of his admiration for Mr Maduro and his left-wing predecessor Hugo Chavez - has remained tight-lipped about the situation in the poverty-stricken country.

A Labour spokesperson said: “We oppose outside interference in Venezuela, whether from the US or anywhere else: the future of Venezuela is a matter for Venezuelans.

“There needs to be a peaceful dialogue and a negotiated settlement to overcome the crisis in Venezuela.”

But in a major speech on Wednesday, Ms Thornberry will launch a thinly-veiled attack on the Maduro regime, insisting that under her, the Foreign Office would condemn any country breaking international law, regardless of its size or political make-up.

She will say: "For too long, and this was as true of the past Labour government as it is true of this Conservative one, there has been a grave tendency to patronise and punish those nations with whom our trade links and strategic alliances are less important – because their human rights abuses are safe to criticise and their breaches of international law are easy to support UN resolutions against – while the stronger countries have had their own abuses and crimes ignored and indulged.

"Well, kick-down and kiss-up has never been my personal style, and it would not be my policy as Foreign Secretary. But nor will we ever lurch in the other direction: the point is not to turn the tables, but to treat both sides the same.

"So, under a Labour Foreign Office, I can also guarantee there will be no indulgence of human rights abuses because they are committed by less powerful countries, or by governments who call themselves ‘socialist’ but who, by their actions, betray every socialist ideal."


Elsewhere in her speech, Ms Thornberry also accuses Tony Blair of having a "misguided ideological fixation" with "re-shaping the Middle East", which she says led him to follow George W Bush into Iraq.

And she will claim that under the Conservatives, the Foreign Office has "lost its purpose" as the Government focusses all its attention on dealing with Brexit.

She will say: "It has become a disturbing mantra in the last two decades that the maintenance of our strategic alliances – other than with Europe of course – is the consideration allowed to subsume all others.

"We can trace that back to Tony Blair and his commitment to George W Bush that he would be 'with you, whatever' on Iraq. But bring it back to the present day, and Theresa May doesn’t even have the misguided ideological fixation that Tony Blair had on re-shaping the Middle East, just an instinctive panicked reaction to Brexit, which says this is not the time to lose friends elsewhere, no matter who those friends are or whether they behave as friends should.

"But Labour government would, I guarantee, be different. Simply by applying the principle I have spelt out that above, our alliances above the protection and pursuit of our commercial and security interests, there must be certain values and rules, which we take to be inviolable and that we will apply with consistency."


Foreign affairs