Bogota, September 8, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Downing Street has released an official communique condemning the Venezuelan government after British Prime Minister Theresa May met with prominent opposition figure Julio Borges on Thursday.
Borges is president of the Venezuelan National Assembly and also one of the leading figures of the centre-right Justice First party. He began a political tour of Europe earlier this week alongside radical opposition politician Freddy Guevara of the right-wing Popular Will party.
“Today’s meeting is an unambiguous signal that the UK will continue to work with our international partners to put pressure on the authorities to decrease tension in Venezuela and prevent the country from being taken further away from democracy,” reads the statement.
Downing Street also expressed the UK government’s support for Venezuela's opposition-controlled parliament, and said it was “deeply troubled” by the continued house arrest of ultra-right politician Leopoldo Lopez.
The Popular Will party leader was handed down a 13 year nine month sentence in 2015 for leading violent anti-government protests which led to 43 deaths the previous year. Lopez’s mother Antonieta Lopez was also present at the meeting with May, after Lopez’s wife Lilian Tintori was banned from traveling by Venezuelan authorities. Less than ten days ago, Tintori was found with a large quantity of cash amounting to more than USD$10,000 at the black market rate in her car. She is currently under investigation by authorities.
Since embarking on his tour, Borges has met with European leaders such as Spanish President Mariano Rajoy, French President Emmanuel Macron, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Though opposition leaders state the trip is aimed at highlighting the political and economic challenges facing Venezuela, government supporters say that Borges is trying to negotiate support from Europe for potential economic sanctions against the South American country.
At the end of August, the US Trump administration branded Venezuela a dictatorship and approved a series of financial sanctions that could potentially do serious damage to the crisis-hit Venezuelan economy. The move was welcomed by the country’s right-wing opposition, including Borges and Guevara.
Thursday’s controversial meeting and Downing Street’s subsequent statement have received a hostile reaction both in Venezuela and the UK, with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza accusing London of adopting a “biased position” which “favours those who reject dialogue and peace in Venezuela”.
“We lament the isolationist policy of the British government. It not only distances it from EU countries, but also from Venezuela,” said Arreaza on Twitter.
— Jorge Arreaza M (@jaarreaza) September 7, 2017
Inside the UK, international solidarity groups such as Hands Off Venezuela have opposed Borges and Guevara’s visit. The organization labeled them “coup plotters and terrorist abettors” due to their role in a short-lived coup against the Chavista government in 2002 and recent violent anti-government protests that have resulted in more than 100 fatalities. Meanwhile, UK political activists have accused the UK government of using the visit to weaken the leader of the Labour opposition party Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn has been a longtime supporter of the Bolivarian revolution but has recently come under intense pressure from the tabloid press and even members of his own party to distance himself from the Nicolas Maduro government.
In comments to Venezuelanalysis, British-Chilean documentary film maker Pablo Navarrete said the issue of Venezuela was being “weaponised” to further an anti-Corbyn agenda in the UK.