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Jo Cox’s widower accuses Corbyn of ‘defending a dictator’ over Venezuela views

Brendan Cox, a former Save the Children executive, spoke out after the Labour leader attacked ‘outside interference’ in the socialist state.

Brendan Cox, widower of murdered Labour MP Jo Cox, questioned Jeremy Corbyn’s views on Venezuela (John Stillwell/PA)
Brendan Cox, widower of murdered Labour MP Jo Cox, questioned Jeremy Corbyn’s views on Venezuela (John Stillwell/PA)

Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of “defending a dictator” over his stance on Venezuela, by the widower of murdered Labour MP Jo Cox.

Brendan Cox, a former chief strategist at Save the Children, spoke out after the opposition leader attacked “outside interference” in the socialist South American country.

Mr Cox attacked the leadership of the country’s president, Nicolas Maduro, which has left the country in the grip of a social and economic collapse that has triggered a humanitarian crisis.

Writing on Twitter on Saturday, Mr Cox said: “The future of Venezuela has been taken out of the hands of Venezuelans by an increasingly corrupt and totalitarian state.

“By all means call for dialogue but if you don’t strongly condemn the subjugation of democracy it sounds like you are defending a dictator.”

Mr Corbyn on Friday criticised Jeremy Hunt, saying the Foreign Secretary was “wrong” to demand sanctions against the Maduro regime.

Mr Hunt spoke on Wednesday to Juan Guaido, the president of the National Assembly of Venezuela, who is trying to oust socialist leader Mr Maduro.

The European Union on Thursday recognised Mr Guaido as interim president in place of Mr Maduro, with Mr Hunt calling for sanctions against the latter. The United States has also recognised his leadership.

But in a Friday tweet, Mr Corbyn said: “The future of Venezuela is a matter for Venezuelans. Jeremy Hunt’s call for more sanctions on Venezuela is wrong.

“We oppose outside interference in Venezuela, whether from the US or anywhere else.

“There needs to be dialogue and a negotiated settlement to overcome the crisis.”

Other senior Labour frontbenchers have also criticised the pressure being put on Mr Maduro, who is widely seen as a dictator, accusing the US of attempting “regime change”.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell, shadow home secretary Diane Abbott and shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon were among a host of left-wing politicians, union leaders and activists who signed a letter to the Observer on Sunday.

It said: “Whatever views people hold on Venezuela, there is no justification for backing the US attempt at regime change under way, which, if successful, could go the way of the disastrous interventions in Iraq and Libya.

“Instead, the way forward is the call for dialogue from the Mexican and Bolivian presidents.”

Mr Cox resigned from Save the Children in September 2015, amid allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards women.

His wife Jo, the MP for Batley and Spen in Yorkshire, was assassinated by neo-Nazi killer Thomas Mair in June 2016.

Responding to Mr Cox’s remarks, Mr McDonnell said: “We condemn abuses of human rights wherever they are but the key issue on Venezuela now is the Pope has made an offer, bringing people together for talks. 18

“So have the presidents of Mexico and Uruguay, who have been independent throughout this period on those issues.

“We’re urging people to get round the table and to actually engage in those talks.

“That, I think, will secure a peaceful resolution – it gives the offer of that.”

Speaking during a visit to Stoke-on-Trent on Saturday, he added: “At the same time what we’ve got to do is make sure everything is done to avoid a civil war and that’s the danger that we have at the moment.

“So I am urging all sides – all sides – to take up the offer from the Pope.” 23

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