The crisis in Venezuela has exposed divisions in Britain’s Labour Party amid calls from some of its MPs and other leaders to strongly condemn President Nicolas Maduro and the recent Constituent Assembly vote. The party’s stance is seen as particularly relevant as leader Jeremy Corbyn has in the past — while a backbench MP — stressed his support for late President Hugo Chavez, as well as Mr. Maduro. “Now that he is the leader of the Labour Party we have an absolute right to know if now regrets what he said or recants it,” a former Labour MP Tom Harris told the BBC’s Newsnight programme late on Wednesday. Angela Smith, a long-term critic of Mr. Corbyn, told The Times she was “appalled” at the events in Venezuela and called on Mr. Corbyn to condemn the events as soon as possible, as well as call for the release of political prisoners. Mr. Corbyn, who is on holiday, is yet to speak out on recent developments in Venezuela.
Earlier this week, the party issued a statement, urging the government to “recognise its responsibilities to protect human rights, free speech, and the rule of law,” and called for the President to personally respond to “legitimate” concerns internationally about the “increasing authoritarian nature of his rule and the growing hardship facing his people”.
However, some within the Cabinet have been critical of the U.S.-imposed sanctions, suggesting it would be far better to facilitate talks between the two sides, putting it in the context of the historic relationship between the U.S. and Latin America.
Chris Williamson, a Labour shadow home office minister, told Newsnight that while circumstances had changed “substantially” in the years since Mr. Corbyn had spoken out in favour of the Venezuelan government, the violent protests taking place had been “aided and abetted by the United States,” who had been funding opposition groups in the country.
“They have a shady record going back many decades of interfering in Latin America right back to Chile,” he said. “We’ve had these manufactured shortages with factory owners stopping production to create these shortages in shops... and it’s the same tactics used against Allende in 1973,” he said, referring to the bloody military coup that deposed socialist Chilean President Salvador Allende.
Mr. Williamson is not the first Labour politician to have drawn parallels between Venezuela and Chile. During a rally in solidarity with Venezuela two years ago, Mr. Corbyn attacked U.S. efforts to undermine and discredit Venezuela. “When we celebrate the achievements of Venezuela… in jobs, in housing, in health, in education, but above its role in the whole world as a different place we recognise what they achieved and how they are trying to achieve,” he said at the time, warning that there were “powerful forces trying to destroy all of that”.