Labour MP: US sanctions on Venezuela ‘not right’ – BBC News

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Media captionMaduro or Blair? Newsnight’s Evan Davies challenges Chris Williamson on his political philosophy

A Labour MP has criticised the United States’ decision to impose sanctions on the Venezuelan president, who the US called a “dictator”.

Chris Williamson said it would be “better to facilitate talks” between government and opposition.

Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has faced pressure from some MPs to condemn President Nicolas Maduro, after voicing his support in the past.

The president has held a controversial vote for a constitutional assembly.

Two opposition leaders who boycotted the election – denouncing it as an attempt by the government to strengthen its power – were put in a military prison on Tuesday.

A number of protestors have been killed. Venezuela’s 30 million citizens are suffering shortages of food, basic goods and medicines.

A statement from Labour on Monday called on the government of Venezuela to recognise its responsibilities to protect human rights, free speech and the rule of law.

But speaking to BBC Newsnight on Wednesday, Mr Williamson said: “Clearly it can’t be right can it – in a situation where there is a massive crisis in Venezuela – to impose sanctions on the country.”

Under the sanctions, announced on Monday, US firms and individuals are banned from doing business with President Maduro.

“Surely it would be far better to try and bring the sides together, to facilitate talks and to encourage the right wing opposition to stop these protests on the streets,” Mr Williamson added.

Four months of anti-government protests in the country has left more than 120 people dead.

Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan condemned the “disgraceful regime”, adding: “If the United Nations were to apply sanctions, we would be part of that.”

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Media captionYour video guide to the crisis gripping Venezuela

Mr Corbyn has previously supported the Venezuelan government under both socialist Hugo Chavez and his successor Mr Maduro.

As a backbencher Mr Corbyn attended a 2013 vigil following the death of Mr Chavez, hailing him as an “inspiration to all of us fighting back against austerity and neo-liberal economics in Europe”.

Asked whether his political philosophy was closer to President Maduro’s or Tony Blair’s, Mr Williamson declined to answer but said: “When a government is doing good things, as they certainly were under Hugo Chavez…that’s surely a good thing that we should celebrate.”

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