Conservatives and Lib Dems slam Corbyn as Labour leader fails to condemn Venezuelan President Maduro

Catherine Neilan
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Venezuela is in crisis - but Corbyn refuses to condemn President Maduro (Source: Getty)

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has condemned violence "on both sides" in Venezuela - but refused to criticise President Maduro for his part in the crisis.

Speaking at a meeting of Labour members in Crawley today, the Islington North MP he was "very sad that lives have been lost... either those on the streets or security forces that have been attacked by people on the streets".

But asked repeatedly if he condemned the actions of Maduro, who has overseen a descent into chaos following a sham election, with more than a hundred people killed in anti-government protests and hundreds more imprisoned, Corbyn stopped short of outright criticism.

He said: "What I condemn is the violence that has been done by any side, by all sides in this. Violence is not going to solve the issue, the issues in Venezuela are partly structural, because not enough has been done to diversify the economy away from oil. That has to be a priority of the future. We also have to recognise that there have been effective and serious attempts in reducing poverty in Venezuela, improving literacy and improving the lives of many of the poorest people.

"What has happened is the oil price has fallen obviously, and the economy was over-dependent on oil... There has to be an understanding that an economy based on one product is was going to be at risk for any country."

Pressure had been growing on Corbyn to speak out against Maduro, whom he has previously congratulated for becoming Venezuela's leader, and has called for closer ties.

The Conservatives leapt on his words, with Crawley MP Henry Smith claiming Corbyn was "excus[ing] some serious human rights abuses".

Smith added: "Corbyn's failure to condemn Venezuela's strangulation of democracy and descent into chaotic poverty at the hands of his friend President Maduro is appalling... Does he really advocate turning a prosperous nation into terminal decline as a policy model?"

Lib Dem leader Vince Cable added: "Labour have again failed to condemn President Maduro as he slides his country closer to dictatorship. It remains a source of fascination that the far left see what is happening in Venezuela as some kind of role model for British politics.

"The whole idea that Chavez and his successor could serve as a dry run for government in the UK is absolutely horrifying. Venezuela is facing a complete economic collapse with hyperinflation and chronic shortages of basic necessities. This is essentially a rich country slipping into deep poverty, all the while eroding democratic institutions and the rule of law.

"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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