The leader of the opposition Labour Party in Britain, Jeremy Corbyn, has said he is saddened by the violence and loss of life in Venezuela, "either of those on the streets or of the security forces who have been attacked by those on the streets."
"Violence is not going to solve the issues," Corbyn told the BBC and other media, at the end of a local party meeting in the southern English town of Crawley. He said there has to be dialogue and a process that respects Venezuela's institutions, including the independence of the judiciary. He welcomed the backing for dialogue given by the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and suggested this could become a regional initiative.
Corbyn has been under intense pressure in recent days to distance himself from the Bolivarian government, with which he has often expressed solidarity in the past. Members of Parliament on the right of his own party, as well as leaders from other British parties, have all demanded that the Labour leader condemn what they call "the regime" of President Nicolas Maduro.
This pressure comes after opinion polls in mid-July gave Corbyn approval ratings 11 points higher than the British prime minister, Theresa May, and made him the only leader of a major British party with a positive approval score. Before his unexpectedly strong showing in the June general election, Corbyn was repeatedly attacked over his past support for Irish nationalists or the Palestinians.
Corbyn's comments in Crawley were his first response to the latest demands after returning from vacation. He said it was important to recognize "that there have been effective and serious attempts at reducing poverty in Venezuela, improving literacy and improving the lives of many of the poorest people." When asked if he regretted giving his support to Maduro when he came to power, Corbyn answered, "I gave the support of many people around the world for the principle of a government that was dedicated towards reducing inequality and improving the life chances of the poorest people."
Vince Cable, the leader of the centrist Liberal Democrats, who lost many of their seats in Parliament in June's elections, responded to Corbyn's remarks with another attack: “The whole idea that Chavez and his successor could serve as a dry run for government in the U.K. is absolutely horrifying. The leadership of the Labour party must make it abundantly clear that they have ended their infatuation with the Venezuelan regime.”
Jeremy Corbyn has a long history of supporting popular struggles in Latin America, going back to the aftermath of the coup against Salvador Allende in Chile and his participation in labor movement delegations to Central America in the 1980s.
Lord Prescott, a former Labour deputy prime minister said Corbyn does not "run away" from opinions he previously expressed about Venezuela.