Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has refused to condemn the increasingly authoritarian socialist government of Venezuela, implying pro-democracy protesters are as bad as President Nicolás Maduro.
After finally breaking his silence on the matter, Mr. Corbyn would only speak of “violence on both sides” when asked about the situation, appearing to equate the actions of protestors with the government – who are accused of destroying the economy, fixing an election, and persecuting and attacking opponents.
Poverty, violent crime, child mortality, and inflation have all risen dramatically in the nation, with four in five Venezuelans living in poverty last year. Food is now scarce, and inflation is as high as 700 per cent.
Despite this, Mr. Corbyn said it was important to recognise “effective and serious attempts” to reduce poverty and improve conditions for poor people in the state. Speaking to Sky News, he also praised the “principle of a government committed to reducing inequality and improving the lot of the poorest people”.
MPs and commentators have lined up to criticise the Labour leader, who has a well-documented relationship with former President Hugo Chaves and his successor Nicolás Maduro, praising their socialist government as a “better” model for the West.
This Corbyn statement on Venezuela is despicable. Laments lost lives “of the security forces that have been killed by people on the streets” pic.twitter.com/4rL5ybAvW8
— Yascha Mounk (@Yascha_Mounk) August 7, 2017
Corbyn's stance on Venezuela is why from day one opposing him has been about morality as much as practicality for me. His stance is shameful
— Andrew Gawthorpe (@andygawt) August 7, 2017
Why does Corbyn & Venezuela matter? Because Maduro is his friend, takes his call, and Corbyn could urge him to stop the beatings & killings.
— Greg Hands (@GregHands) August 4, 2017
Speaking in Crawley, West Sussex, where he was attending a meeting of Labour Party members, 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.”
Asked whether he condemned President Maduro’s actions, Mr. Corbyn replied: “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.”
He then said the main problem in the nation was its reliance on oil – again refusing to directly criticize the socialist government’s recent actions.
Leaders from around the world, including the UK Prime Minister and U.S. president, have condemned a contentious vote last month, which effectively set Venezuela on the path to outright dictatorship, and a crack down on dissenters following the vote.
Mr. Corbyn’s Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott, shares his historical support for the hard-left regime in Venezuela and claimed in 2012 that the nation’s electoral system as “less liable to fraud and impersonation” than the UK’s.