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Corbyn ally ‘backing the wrong side’ in Venezuela crisis, Labour MP says

Row in Labour Party over approach to South American country.

A Jeremy Corbyn ally has been accused of “backing the wrong side” in Venezuela, amid Labour tensions over its leadership’s response to the crisis in the South American state.

Labour MP Graham Jones raised concerns after shadow Home Office minister Chris Williamson criticised the United States for its “very shady record” of interference in Latin America, including funding opposition groups in Venezuela.

Mr Williamson added it “can’t be right” for the US to pursue financial sanctions against Venezuela when there is a “massive crisis” in the country, while he also sidestepped questions over whether his political philosophy is closer to Tony Blair or Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro and his predecessor Hugh Chavez.

Mr Jones questioned the Labour frontbencher’s response, noting: “You don’t have to be a supporter of Tony Blair to know that the answer is Tony Blair.

“Low inflation, growing economy, huge investment in public services versus Venezuela – rampant corruption, inflation at 720%, public services collapsing. It’s not a difficult question if you’re a Blair supporter or not.”

MPs, including party colleagues, have called on Labour leader Mr Corbyn to personally condemn the Venezuelan regime, given his previous support for it.

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Liz Mcinnes called on Mr Maduro to respect human rights (Peter Byrne/PA Archive/PA Images)

As a backbencher, Mr Corbyn hailed Mr Chavez as an “inspiration to all of us fighting back against austerity and neo-liberal economics in Europe” and supported parliamentary motions linked to the country, including one which congratulated Mr Maduro on his election as president and called for closer ties between Venezuela and the UK.

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

Mr Jones said shadow Foreign Office minister Liz McInnes had made a “strong statement” – endorsed by Mr Corbyn’s office – about the need for Mr Maduro’s government to respect the rule of law and human rights.

The chairman of the new all-party parliamentary group on Venezuela also told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think Jeremy at some point will have to make a statement, but it’s down to each individual what they say and when they say it.

“As far as the party is concerned, Liz has made a statement – I think it was published in all the press.

“I would have gone further and I think more needs to be taken. I think we need to reflect on, and part of the I suppose critique of Chris’s argument is he’s backing the wrong side.”

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