Jeremy Corbyn has condemned the violence in committed by “all sides” in Venezuela but praised the government led by President Maduro for having improved the lives of the poor.
The Labour leader has in the past expressed support the socialist government previously led by Hugo Chavez.
However as the country has been gripped by hunger, inflation and violent demonstrations Corbyn has been under pressure to speak out.
Maduro has faced international condemnation for his efforts to assume nearly unlimited powers and the apparent detention of leading Venezuelan opposition figures.
London-based Smartmatic, which provided the technology for Venezuela’s voting system, said turnout in the controversial vote to overhaul the country’s political system was overstated by “at least one million votes”.
The Labour leader said today: “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.”