Jeremy Corbyn under fire for failing to condemn Venezuela's Maduro

Max Burman
Corbyn called in live to a Venezuelan television channel in 2014 to congratulate Maduro on his election victory (REUTERS/Victoria Jones)

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is facing renewed criticism over his stance on the unrest in Venezuela, after he denounced violence by “all sides” in his first public comments on the subject but stopped short of condemning the country’s embattled socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

Speaking on Newsnight, the leader of the centre-left Popular Will party Juan Andres Mejia questioned Corbyn’s understanding of the situation and suggested he should ask “the mothers and fathers of those who have been killed” what’s really going on.

“What I would say to Jeremy Corbyn is that he really has to know what’s going on in our country to make a statement”, Mejia said.

“Violence has not been done by both sides. Violence has been promoted by the government”.

He continued: “And maybe the mothers and fathers of those who have been killed would be willing to speak to Jeremy Corbyn to explain and to tell him what the real situation has been”.

Juan Andres Mejia’s social democratic Popular Will party hold 14 out of 167 seats in the National Assembly (EFE/CRISTIAN HERNÁNDEZ)

Some 120 people have been killed during four months of anti-government protests and Maduro has faced global pressure over recent elections condemned as an undemocratic power grab. Two opposition leaders were recently seized from their homes following their calls to protest the vote, which granted Maduro’s government sweeping powers to overhaul the country’s political system.

Corbyn — a vociferous supporter of Maduro and his late predecessor Hugo Chavez in the past — had been under increasing pressure from opponents and some within his own party to speak out about the situation in the South American nation amid international criticism of Maduro, who once described the Labour leader as “a great friend of Venezuela”.

Pressed on whether he regretted his public support for Maduro when elected in 2014, Corbyn explained that he “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”.

The recent unrest has been driven in part by Venezuela’s ailing economy, with the country facing inflation at 2,500 per cent, widespread malnutrition and a collapse in healthcare services.

Observers have warned the situation in Venezuela could descend into civil war (AFP)

Domestic political rivals were quick to criticize Corbyn’s comments.”

Despite the destitution and the depravity of Maduro’s government, Corbyn fails to criticise Maduro”, said International Development Secretary Priti Patel. “What will it take for Corbyn to finally urge Maduro to stop the violence, the human rights abuses, the poverty and the killings?”

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable went even further.

“The whole idea that Chávez and his successor could serve as a dry run for government in the UK is absolutely horrifying”, he said. “The leadership of the Labour party must make it abundantly clear that they have ended their infatuation with the Venezuelan regime”.

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As the international community looks to help offer a solution to the crisis, Corbyn expressed his support for French president Emmanuel Macron’s call for a dialogue, and said it “should be regionally based to improve the situation there”.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May said on Monday that urgent action must be taken to stop the situation in Venezuela getting worse and called on the government to respect democracy and human rights.

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