No 10 calls for urgent action over Venezuelan crisis | Politics

Theresa May’s official spokesman has called on Venezuela’s government to release political prisoners and show respect for democracy and human rights, after weeks of violence in the country.

No 10 said Britain had condemned the government of President Nicolás Maduro for forcing through a constituent assembly that clearly did not represent the will of the Venezuelan people.

“It is a tragedy that so many people have lost their lives in protests in Venezuela. We’re clear that urgent action must be taken to stop the situation getting worse,” the prime minister’s spokesman said.

“The UK has repeatedly called on the Maduro government to work with the opposition, release political prisoners and show respect for democracy and human rights.”

The situation in Venezuela has worsened since the government was granted sweeping powers to overhaul the country’s political system in a disputed recent poll that was boycotted by the opposition.

Security agents seized two opposition leaders from their homes after they called for protests against the vote. Widespread protests against the government of the oil-producing South American country have been going since April amid spiralling prices for food and medicine because of low oil prices, with more than 120 people killed in the unrest.

Labour has also called for the Maduro government to respect human rights and democracy, but some MPs have called on Jeremy Corbyn to make a personal statement on Venezuela given his past support for its socialist government.

The Labour leader has returned from holiday and spent Monday morning visiting a GP surgery in Southall, west London, where he told reporters he would comment on Venezuela later in the day.

Corbyn was a longtime admirer of Venezuela under its late socialist leader Hugo Chávez, saying in 2013 he was “an inspiration to all of us fighting back against austerity and neoliberal economics in Europe”.

The Labour leader has also previously given his backing to Maduro, Chávez’s successor. In 2014, he rang to congratulate the new president live on a Venezuelan television channel, where Maduro introduced the Corbyn, then a backbencher, as a “friend of Venezuela”.

Liz McInnes, a shadow foreign minister, has said Labour urged all sides to end the bloodshed. “In particular, we urge the government of Venezuela to recognise its responsibilities to protect human rights, free speech and the rule of law,” she said.

“If he [Maduro] believes those concerns are misplaced, it is up to him to prove them wrong, not through his words, but through his deeds.”

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