Jeremy Corbyn declines to single out Maduro regime in Venezuela statement
Jeremy Corbyn has refused to single out the Maduro government for criticism as he finally broke his silence on the turmoil in Venezuela.
The Labour leader condemned the “violence by all sides” and said he was “very sad” about the lives that had been lost in the South American country.
Mr Corbyn came under increasing pressure, including from Labour MPs, to personally condemn Venezuela's government following his historical support for the regime.
President Nicolas Maduro, who has been in power since the death of Hugo Chavez in 2013, claimed victory in a recent election for members of a constituent assembly.
But the vote over the constitutional body was subject to a boycott by millions of Venezuelans, including opposition politicians, who accuse the president of attempting to strengthen his power.
Protests against his regime – prompted by a food crisis, soaring inflation and rising crime levels – have sparked rioting, and have so far claimed the lives of 122 people.
Mr Corbyn had not spoken publicly about Venezuela since 2015 when he said its policies were a “cause for celebration”.
Mr Maduro previously branded Mr Corbyn a “friend of Venezuela”.
Today Mr Corbyn said: “I’m very sad at the lives that have been lost in Venezuela.
“The people who have died, either those on the streets or security forces that have been attacked by people on the street – all of those lives are terrible for the loss of them.
“There has to be a dialogue and a process that respects the independence of the judiciary and respects the human rights of all.”
“What I condemn is the violence that’s been done by any side, by all sides, in all this. Violence is not going to solve the issue.
“The issues in Venezuela are partly structural because not enough has been done to diversify the economy away from oil – that has to be a priority for the future.
“But we also have to recognise that there have been effective and serious attempts at reducing poverty in Venezuela, improving literacy and improving the lives of many of the poorest people.”
Asked whether he regretted the support he gave Mr Maduro when he was elected, he said: “I gave the support of many people around the world for the principle of a government that was dedicated towards reducing inequality and improving the life chances of the poorest people.”
He added: “There has to be respect for the constitution and respect for the independence of the judiciary.”
‘STRANGULATION OF DEMOCRACY’
The Conservatives have seized on Mr Corbyn’s to accuse him of excusing rights abuses allegedly perpetrated by the Government.
Henry Smith, the Tory MP for Crawley, where Mr Corbyn made his comments, said:
“Corbyn’s failure to condemn Venezuela’s strangulation of democracy and descent into chaotic poverty at the hands of his friend, President Maduro, is appalling...
“Does he really advocate turning a prosperous nation into terminal decline as a policy model?”
Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said it was “absolutely horrifying” that Labour would use the policies of the Venezuelan government as a “dry run” for the model they wanted to introduce in Britain.
“Venezuela is facing a complete economic collapse with hyperinflation and chronic shortages of basic necessities,” he said.
“This is essentially a rich country slipping into deep poverty, all the while eroding democratic institutions and the rule of law.
“The leadership of the Labour party must make it abundantly clear that they have ended their infatuation with the Venezuelan regime.”
A Government spokesman said today: “It is a tragedy that so many people have lost their lives in Venezuela. We are clear that urgent action must be taken to stop the situation from getting worse.
“The UK has repeatedly called on the Maduro government to work with the opposition and release political prisoners and to show respect for democracy and human rights. We have condemned their actions in forcing through a constituent assembly that clearly does not represent the view of the Venezuelan people.”
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