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Thornberry calls for dialogue over future of Venezuela’s Maduro

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry called for timely elections but declined to recognise Venezuela’s opposition leader as interim president.

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry speaking at the Fabian Society new year conference at Friends House in London.
Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry speaking at the Fabian Society new year conference at Friends House in London.

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry has refused to recognise Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s interim president despite the “desperate” situation in the country.

But in a break with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Ms Thornberry backed the use of targeted sanctions and “whatever means necessary” short of a military invasion to bring about change.

Her comments came after Mr Corbyn hit out at interference in the country’s politics following Western pressure on president Nicolas Maduro to quit.

Setting out her approach to foreign policy, Ms Thornberry said a Labour government’s foreign policy would put respect for human rights and international law above other considerations.

She said: “Under a Labour Foreign Office, I can also guarantee there will be no indulgence of human rights abuses because they are committed by less powerful countries, or by governments who call themselves ‘socialist’ but who, by their actions, betray every socialist ideal.”

The UK, US and European powers including France and Germany have recognised Mr Guaido as the interim president.

But Ms Thornberry told an event at the Institute for Government in London on Wednesday: “What I am saying is that we begin with dialogue.

“That offer has been made, internally and externally we need to ensure that happens.”

She added: “That’s the best way to proceed rather than somebody saying ‘that’s it, we’ve had enough, we recognise X, we don’t recognise Y any more’.

“That’s not the way to treat another country, even a country in as desperate a situation as Venezuela.”

Ms Thornberry said she was a “great believer in sanctions” as a way of using foreign policy muscle “that doesn’t involve killing people”.

She said there should be “timely and effective” new elections in Venezuela but “there should be no invasion, there should be proper discussion and negotiation”.

The move by the UK and its allies followed the failure of the embattled incumbent Mr Maduro to call new presidential elections as demanded by the Europeans and other foreign countries.

Mr Corbyn was an admirer of Mr Maduro’s socialist predecessor Hugo Chavez and has condemned interference in Venezuelan politics.

In response to Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s call for sanctions earlier this month Mr Corbyn said: “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.”

In a speech setting out her plans for government, Ms Thornberry echoed the “ethical foreign policy” championed by former foreign secretary Robin Cook.

“Our values will never again be sacrificed on the altar of commercial interests,” she said.

The Tony Blair government “ultimately failed to strike the right balance or square that circle”, she said.

But Ms Thornberry vowed to be “idealistic about our ends and realistic about the means”.

PA

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