UK

Venezuelan Politician Hits Out At Jeremy Corbyn Over 'Violence On All Sides' Comments

'He really has to know what is going on in our country to be able to make at statement.'

08/08/2017 10:26 BST | Updated 08/08/2017 13:34 BST

A Venezuelan politician has hit out at Jeremy Corbyn after the Labour leader condemned violence on “all sides” in the south America conflict. 

Speaking to BBC Newsnight on Monday, Juan Andrés Mejía said the families of those killed in the protests could let Corbyn know “what the real situation has been”.

His comments come after Corbyn failed to condemn the actions of the government, led by President Maduro, in cracking down on protests.

PA Wire/PA Images
A Venezuelan politician has hit out at Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Mejía told Evan Davis: 

“What I would say to Jeremy Corbyn is that he really has to know what is going on in our country to be able to make at statement.

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

“They have armed paramilitary groups that have taken the lives of hundreds of people in Venezuela.

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

Venezuela has been gripped by hunger, inflation and violent demonstrations, yet the Labour leader has in the past expressed support the socialist government previously led by Hugo Chavez.

Maduro has faced international condemnation for his efforts to assume nearly unlimited powers and the apparent detention of leading Venezuelan opposition figures. 

 Mejía added: 

“What has happened in the last four months in our country is that you have had the majority of Venezuelans protesting, demanding change, demanding free and fair elections and they have been received by the national guard and police with tear gas, with rubber bullets and sometimes too with regular bullets, with shotguns.

“More than 120 people have been killed and according to the Attorney General... more than 90% of those who have been killed were opposition protestors, especially young people between the ages of 20 and 30. So there has been violence in Venezuela, we condemn al violence.

“But I don’t think it’s fair to say it’s been on both sides.

“There is one side which has consistently protested peacefully and that every time the police or national guard appears it ends with people being killed.”

Corbyn said on Monday: “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.”

Asked if he condemned the actions of the government in cracking down on protests, he said: “What I condemn is the violence that has been done by any side, by all sides, in this.”

He added that under Chavez and Maduro “serious attempts at reducing poverty, improving literacy and improving the lives of many of the poorest people” had been made.

“I gave the support of many people around the world for the principle of a government that was dedicated to reducing inequality and improving the life chances of the poorest people.”

Earlier today, Theresa May’s spokesman said “urgent action” should be taken to “stop the situation getting worse” in Venezuela. “It is a tragedy that so many people have lost their lives in protests,” he said.

“The UK has repeatedly called on the Maduro government to work with the opposition, release political prisoners and show respect for democracy and human rights.”

Corbyn had been challenged by backbench Labour MP Frank Field to make clear his position on the situation in Venezuela.

“I do think one of the worries that people may have is, do we believe in parliamentary government or not?” he told BBC Radio 4′s Westminster Hour on Sunday evening. “I think how he responds on this is crucial. And I think what’s going on in Venezuela is desperate.”