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By Lord Watson of Wyre Forest
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Senior Labour politicians call for Jeremy Corbyn to personally condemn Venezuelan regime

Agnes Chambre

3 min read

Senior politicians have challenged Jeremy Corbyn to personally condemn Venezuela's government following his historical support for the regime.

Mr Corbyn came under increasing pressure, including from MPs in his own party, to speak out after opposition leaders in the Latin American country were snatched from their homes.

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 – which have seen a food crisis, soaring inflation and rising crime levels – have sparked rioting, and have so far claimed the lives of 122 people.

Mr Corbyn has 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”.

Labour backbencher Angela Smith said she was “appalled” by the “wilful destruction of democratic structures” in Venezuela.

She told The Times: “I hope that my party leadership will as soon as possible condemn what’s happening in the country and call for the release of opposition party political prisoners.”

Labour MP Graham Jones added: “I believe everybody in the Labour party should condemn the Venezuelan regime because the first duty of any state is to look after its citizens. Venezuela has failed.”

Boris Johnson branded the president a “dictator of an evil regime”.

The Foreign Secretary said: “Hundreds have died during protests against Maduro’s actions. Political prisoners must be released and rights, freedoms and democracy respected.

“Maduro is acting like a dictator of an evil regime and has destroyed Venezuelan economy, eroded human rights and imprisoned thousands.”

Tory MP Mark Pritchard also hit out at the Labour leader saying: “His silence on Venezuela is now disappointingly deafening.”

And Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said: “I think a lot of British people would be reassured if the leadership of the Labour party made it clear that they had ended their infatuation with the Venezuelan regime.”

Shadow Foreign Office minister Liz McInnes said on Monday: “The government of Venezuela to recognise its responsibilities to protect human rights, free speech and the rule of law”.

She added: “President Maduro must also respond personally to the legitimate concerns of the international community about the increasingly authoritarian nature of his rule and the growing hardship facing his people.”

A spokesman for Mr Corbyn said Ms McInnes speaks for the party.

Yesterday, former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, who is currently suspended by the Labour party, said the economic decline in the country by a third since 2014 was the fault of establishment figures and US meddling, alongside a fall in oil reserves.

Asked last night by the Times if he supported President Maduro and the nation’s Bolivarian revolution, Mr Livingstone said: “Oh God, yes.”

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