Hunt takes swipe at Corbyn for backing Maduro as president of Venezuela
The foreign secretary has followed the US in declaring Venezuela’sopposition leader the country’s legitimate ruler and condemned Jeremy Corbyn for his support of the socialist government.
Jeremy Hunt said that Juan Guaidó, who is leading protests against President Maduro, was “the right person to take Venezuela forward”. It followed a similar move by the US on Wednesday.
Mr Maduro has led Venezuela, once South America’s richest country, to the brink of economic ruin. Mr Hunt said in Washington: “It is clear that Nicolás Maduro is not the legitimate leader of Venezuela. The election on May 20 was deeply flawed; ballot boxes were stuffed, there were counting irregularities and the opposition was banned.”
After a meeting with Mike Pence, the US vice-president, and Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, he accused the Maduro regime of doing “untold damage” to its people.
Inflation has exceeded 1 million per cent this year and three million Venezuelans, a tenth of the population, have fled the country in the past four years. Millions of those who stayed have no running water. Blackouts are common and food is scarce, with half of the children malnourished.
Mr Maduro was the winner in presidential elections in May with two thirds of the vote. The result was rejected by the US, the EU and the Organisation of American States as illegitimate.
Mr Hunt said: “The United Kingdom believes Juan Guaidó is the right person to take Venezuela forward. We are supporting the US, Canada, Brazil and Argentina to make that happen.”
The worsening crisis in Venezuela
In a thinly veiled attack on Mr Corbyn, he added: “For anyone in the UK who thinks that Venezuela is an example, who thinks that we should be adopting the policies supported by the discredited Maduro regime, they need to look at their TV screens and think again.”
Previously the Labour leader was asked whether he condemned Mr Maduro’s actions. “What I condemn is the violence that’s been done by any side and all sides in this,” he said. “Violence is not going to solve the issues.”
A spokesman for Mr Corbyn said: “[Mr Maduro] is stillthe president of the country. We don’t support outside interference.” He added: “We think that dialogue and a negotiated settlement are needed to overcome the crisis in Venezuela. The future of Venezuela is for Venezuelans.”
Mr Corbyn congratulated Mr Maduro after he became president in 2013. The compliment was repaid by Mr Maduro, who described the Labour leader as “a great friend of Venezuela”.
Graham Jones, the Labour MP and chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on Venezuela, said that his party leader was wrong to accuse the US and others of interference.
“I think he is wrong. This is not a crisis made in Washington. This a crisis that started in Caracas.”
He added: “I would say to people in Labour not to be ignorant of the facts. Please remember that Juan Guaidó is a senior member of our sister party Popular Will, and an ally and a comrade. Maduro’s authoritarian party has corrupt politicians who have lined their pockets to the tune of billions while starving their own people.”
Mr Guaidó, 35, declared himself interim president on Wednesday after the US declared its support for him. He is leader of the opposition-controlled parliament, widely regarded abroad as the only Venezuelan institutionwith a democratic mandate. It came amid mass protests against Mr Maduro with hundreds of thousands on the streets of Caracas, the capital. Yesterday the country’s military pledged allegiance to Mr Maduro, saying “we’ve sworn to die” to protect him.
President Putin sought to bolster Mr Maduro, whose regime owes billions of dollars in loans to Russia. The Kremlin warned that recognition of Mr Guaidó’s presidency was “a direct path to lawlessness and bloodshed”.
Kate Devlin and Catherine Philp