WATCH Labour frontbencher Chris Williamson hits out at US 'interference' in Venezuela turmoil
A Labour frontbencher and ally of Jeremy Corbyn has criticised the “shady” US for the current crisis in Venezuela, as he defended the socialist regime in the Latin American country.
Chris Williamson said there was a “one-sided, one-eyed view” of the current turmoil in Venezuela, where president Nicolas Maduro claimed victory in a recent election for members of a constituent assembly.
Opposition leaders, meanwhile, have been taken from their homes and placed under arrest.
But Mr Williamson, the Shadow Fire Minister, said Venezuela had been “chaotic” and suffering from “terrible inequality” before Hugo Chavez, the forerunner to Mr Maduro, rose to power.
And he refused to be drawn on whether he was closer to the politics of the Venezuelan government or the New Labour policies of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
The Labour MP told BBC Newsnight: “That’s an interesting question. I don’t like to characterise these things as left or right; for me it’s right and wrong… When a government is doing good things, as they certainly were under Hugo Chavez – a huge reduction in poverty, investment in healthcare and housing, and really improved the quality of life for ordinary people – that’s surely a good thing that we should celebrate, shouldn’t we.”
Mr Williamson, who is a close supporter of Labour leader Mr Corbyn, pointed the finger at the US, claiming Washington had helped to precipitate the circumstances for the current crisis.
He said: “Circumstances have changed substantially in Venezuela over recent years: the collapse in the oil price and of course these violent protests which have been aided and abetted by the United States of America, who have been funding opposition groups and have a very shady record going back many decades of interfering in Latin America… you’ve had these manufactured shortages, with factory owners stopping production of products to create these shortages in the shops…
“Clearly it can't be right, can it – in a situation where there is a massive crisis in Venezuela – to impose sanctions on the country. Surely it would be far better to try and bring the sides together, to facilitate talks and to encourage the right-wing opposition to stop these protests on the streets.”
Mr Corbyn has faced pressure to speak out personally about the current political disturbances in Venezuela, after protests against the Maduro government – prompted by a food crisis, soaring inflation and rising crime levels – sparked rioting and have so far claimed the lives of more than 120 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”.