Labour MP suggests Venezuelan people hit by the economic collapse are not 'genuinely starving'

Chris Williamson says real threat is ‘bloody civil war’ provoked by the west – in which ‘hundreds of thousands of people are genuinely starving’

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Tuesday 29 January 2019 17:53
Comments
Venezuelans are 'not starving'. says Labour MP Chris Williamson

A Labour MP is under fire after suggesting people hit by the economic collapse in Venezuela are not “genuinely starving”.

Charities warn that hyperinflation, power cuts and food shortages have left people begging in the streets and driven millions of others out of the country altogether.

But Chris Williamson warned the real threat was “a bloody civil war” that would be “aided and abetted” by Theresa May and Donald Trump, after they called for socialist president Nicolas Maduro to step down.

“What are they going to say when hundreds of thousands of people are genuinely starving,” he asked on the BBC’s Politics Live programme.

When other guests protested, Mr Williamson, a Jeremy Corbyn ally, added: “That situation will get far worse if there is a civil war in this country.”

The Derby North MP insisted he was not “an apologist for the Venezuelan government” and agreed any government guilty of human rights abuses should be “called to account”.

But he added: “That is not going to happen by the United States getting involved.

“What we are potentially on the precipice of here is a bloody civil war in Venezuela, aided and abetted by the United States and aided and abetted, I have got to say, by the UK government and, seemingly, EU countries.”

Mr Maduro, the protege of Hugo Chavez, was sworn in for a second term this month, but after elections last May that were marred by an opposition boycott and widespread claims of vote rigging.

Last week, Juan Guaido, the head of the opposition-controlled national assembly, claimed “executive powers as acting president”, vowing to lead a transitional government into fresh elections.

The US president urged other nations to follow America in recognising Mr Guaido as Venezuela’s leader and, while insisting he was not considering military action, said “all options are on the table”.

The UK and EU then followed Washington by setting an eight-day deadline for Mr Maduro to call fresh elections.

And Alan Duncan, a foreign office minister, went further in a message delivered personally at the United Nations, saying: “Maduro is no longer the legitimate president of Venezuela.”

The EU has stopped short of recognising Mr Guaido as the legitimate leader, calling for “further actions, including on the issue of recognition of the country’s leadership” if there are no fresh elections.

Some of the bloc’s countries question the US strategy because they fear it could lead to further violence and even support for a military coup.

On the BBC programme, Mr Williamson argued previous elections in Venezuela had been independently recognised as “the safest elections anywhere in the world”.

And he blamed suffering in the country on US sanctions, as well as “elites engaged in an economic boycott”.

“It’s not for the UK, it’s not for the United States, to determine who should be in government in Venezuela,” he added.

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