Labour MPs urge Jeremy Corbyn to go further on Venezuela criticism
Labour MPs have urged Jeremy Corbyn to go further in his criticism of the crisis-stricken Venezuelan government after the Labour leader condemned violence on “all sides”.
After sustained pressure - including from Labour MPs - Mr Corbyn finally broke his silence on the turmoil in the South American country yesterday.
He had not spoken publicly about Venezuela since 2015 when he said its policies were a “cause for celebration”.
But protests against the regime of Nicolas Maduro – prompted by a food crisis, soaring inflation and rising crime levels – have sparked rioting, and have so far claimed the lives of 122 people.
A vote over a new constitutional body was subject to a boycott by millions of Venezuelans, including opposition politicians, who accuse the president of attempting to strengthen his power.
Yesterday Mr Corbyn said: “I’m very sad at the lives that have been lost in Venezuela…
“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.”
But Labour MP Angela Smith - who sits on the all-party parliamentary group on Venezuela - said: “It is right that Jeremy should condemn violence on all sides but he needs to go further.
“The important question is whether democracy can survive in Venezuela, given recent actions of Maduro's government. Corbyn needs to make it clear he is on the side of democracy.”
Former minister and long-standing Corbyn critic John Spellar, another member of the all-party group, said Labour should demand the freeing of detained opposition leaders in the country.
“Venezuela has the world's largest oil reserves yet its incompetent regime has created a national catastrophe of rampant hyperinflation and a chronic shortage of basic household necessities, even toilet paper," he said.
“We should be clearly on the side of Venezuelan freedom and should be calling for respect for the clear mandate of the freely elected national assembly and the freeing of all political prisoners. That should be the position of the Labour party.”
And Labour former minister Frank Field said: “Voters in this country expect future prime ministers to be robust in defending the independence of the judiciary, respect for human rights and a parliamentary process.”
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