Emily Thornberry: Labour 'supports pressure' on Venezuela

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Labour supports international pressure being put on Venezuela to have new elections, says Emily Thornberry.

The party had previously said it would "oppose outside interference" in the country, which is in the grip of a worsening humanitarian crisis.

But the shadow foreign secretary said the quote was in response to "extremes", such as invasion threats.

President Donald Trump has told US broadcaster CBS that the use of military force remains "an option".

There has been growing political discontent in Venezuela after hyperinflation skyrocketed. There have also been power cuts and food and medicine shortages.

President Nicolás Maduro has refused to hold new elections despite calls from leaders around the globe - a number of whom have backed the leader of the legislature, Juan Guaidó, after he declared himself acting president.

They were joined by EU countries, including the UK, France and Germany, who recognised Mr Guaidó as interim president after Mr Maduro rejected a deadline they set for Sunday to call fresh elections.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has voiced support for Mr Maduro in the past and last week he condemned the UK's Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, for calling for sanctions on Venezuela.

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Giving a speech at the Institute for Government think tank, Ms Thornberry said that, under a Labour government, there would be "no indulgence of human rights abuses because they are committed by less powerful countries, or by countries who call themselves 'socialist' but who, by their actions, betray every socialist ideal."

Pushed afterwards on whether she was referring to Venezuela, the shadow minister said she was surprised by the amount of coverage of the quotes, as she had "said as much" in the Commons, and called for "negotiation", "mediation" and new elections to take place "in a timely and effective way".

She said: "Our position is there should be no invasion, there should be proper discussion and negotiation, there should be timely elections.

"It is quite clear that the government of Venezuela is, on the face of it, responsible for human rights abuses and it does not have a plan to get themselves out of the situation they are currently in.

"There has to be a change made. We are not pulling our punches on this."

Asked if she would support international pressure to push for this, she added: "Yes, of course. But that doesn't mean invasion."

'This is not the way'

Ms Thornberry claimed members of her party had been "harshly quoted".

"We see photographs with the [US] administration coming out of a building with his notes... saying about the number of troops they were going to be putting... in Colombia in order to invade Venezuela," she said.

"Then we hear Donald Trump saying he doesn't take invasion off the table. This is not the way. The history of American intervention in South America has not been a happy tale.

"Sometimes some of the things that have been harshly quoted that Labour politicians are saying is in response to what the Americans have said, so let's put the whole context in."

On Monday, after EU leaders recognised Mr Guaidó as interim president, a Labour spokesman said: "We oppose outside interference in Venezuela, whether from the US or anywhere else: the future of Venezuela is a matter for Venezuelans.

"There needs to be a peaceful dialogue and a negotiated settlement to overcome the crisis in Venezuela."

Mr Corbyn also tweeted his support for "mediating a negotiated political solution in Venezuela".

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