In an ironic twist, The Guardian has revealed that the British government have been selling millions of pounds worth of military equipment to Venezuela over the last decade.
The news follows frequent demands from Conservative MPs that Jeremy Corbyn condemn Nicolás Maduro and the Venezuelan state over the last month. Yet it turns out these Conservative MPs are part of a government that is currently arming Maduro to the teeth. No, really.
Since 2008, over £2.5m worth of military equipment has been sold to Venezuela, including crowd-control devices, weapon sights, and military aircraft engines. Although the specific items are not known, crowd-control weapons are often used to disperse protests. These could be stun grenades, baton rounds, rubber bullets, water cannons or even tear gas. If Maduro is oppressing Venezuelan citizens and disregarding the human rights of protesters like Theresa May’s government has insinuated, then surely, they are more responsible for deaths and instability in the region than Jeremy Corbyn ever will be. In short, this simply reeks of double standards.
Conservative MPs have repeatedly slammed the Venezuelan government for their alleged human rights abuses – and have criticised Jeremy Corbyn for his statement condemning the violence on both sides of the conflict as opposed to the Maduro government specifically. Apparently, taking a rational and reasonable approach to the crisis like Jeremy Corbyn has done is far too complex for the Conservatives to comprehend. The so-called ‘pro-democracy’ opposition in Venezuela are notoriously violent, and reports of their bombing campaigns against law-enforcement and pro-Maduro supporters are often conveniently ignored by Western critics of the Venezuelan government.
Andrew Smith of the pressure group Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) said:
“These licences should never have been agreed in the first place, particularly not considering Venezuela is on the UK government’s own countries of concern list for human rights and democracy.”
CAAT pointed to a higher total of £4.1bn of military equipment going to 22 of the 30 countries on the human rights list of concern since the Conservative government came to power in 2015.
A spokeswoman for the Department for International Trade said:
“The government takes its export control responsibilities extremely seriously and operates one of the most robust defence export control regimes in the world.
“We rigorously examine every application on a case-by-case basis against the consolidated EU and national arms export licensing criteria and a licence will not be issued, to any destination, if to do so would be inconsistent with this criteria.
“Our export licensing system allows us to respond quickly to changing facts on the ground. We have suspended or revoked licences when the level of risk changes and we constantly review local situations.”
Meanwhile, social media users have used the revelation to mock the Conservative government. Their attacks on Jeremy Corbyn over Venezuela have not struck a chord with anybody outside of their own party or the Labour right. It’s been clear to all outside of the Westminster bubble that they’ve been using the crisis to try and score political points against a resurgent and reinvigorated Corbyn. The news that the Conservatives have been shipping masses of weapons to Venezuela? It just doesn’t get more ironic than this.
I give up https://t.co/VehtVtqIOL
— Matt Turner (@MattTurner4L) August 11, 2017
The Venezuela Double Standard
Corbyn: I condemn violence on both sides
May: I'm selling weapons to Maduro!
— Kerry-Anne Mendoza (@TheMendozaWoman) August 11, 2017
Corbyn on Venezuelan crisis: 'I condemn violence on both sides'
Conservatives sell arms to Venezuela… *tumbleweed* https://t.co/YNStfs9snh
— George Aylett (@GeorgeAylett) August 11, 2017
Conservatives criticising Corbyn over lack of criticism for Venezuela whilst still exporting arms is an awkward position to put yourself in
— Felicity Morse (@FelicityMorse) August 11, 2017
Tory hypocrisy at its worst – criticise Corbyn for not condemning Venezuelan govt, while selling arms to that govt https://t.co/65z5kcLLeI
— Kevin Pascoe (@KevinPascoe) August 11, 2017
Will the right-wing media hacks and the plethora of MPs who have been attacking Corbyn for weeks come out and condemn this with equal vigour? Something tells me that they won’t.
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