Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, a lifelong Euroskeptic, reportedly told Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro that EU institutions are bad for the poor.
The Daily Mail – which calls the democratically-elected Maduro Corbyn’s “dictator pal” – says the Labour leader made the comments in 2014, a year before he was elected party chief.
The paper claims that a recording of a meeting between the two reveals Corbyn telling the Latin American leader that European Central Bank (ECB) policies are “detrimental to the poor of Britain and other countries” and that the EU is a barrier to “building socialism and the fight against capitalism.”
His political mentor, the late socialist Labour MP Tony Benn, was very much of the same stripe when it came to the EU.
Corbyn reportedly referred to Benn during the interview, telling Maduro he had been “a leader in the struggle against the economic policies of the European Bank and others, which were detrimental to the poor of Britain and other countries.”
“During his life we discussed many times the problems for building socialism and the fight against capitalism,” Corbyn said.
Questions remain about how much of a revelation the comments really are.
Corbyn was a well-known left-wing Euroskeptic for decades before he became party leader in 2015.
However, he campaigned for Remain during the EU Referendum according to the democratic decision of his party, one of a series of concessions he made to try to unite Labour during his tumultuous period in charge.
Labour sources told the Mail on Wednesday that the party leader was criticizing “the suffering inflicted on southern European countries, especially Greece, through austerity.”
More than 100 people are estimated to have lost their lives in violent clashes between supporters of Maduro’s government and opposition activists over the past four months.
The opposition has ramped up its protest activity in the run-up to the election of the National Constituent Assembly (ANC), scheduled for July 30, announcing a week of protests and launching a two-day nationwide strike that kicked off on Wednesday.
Maduro has blamed the US for trying to deliberately destabilize the country.