May urges Venezuelan Government to respect democracy after No 10 meeting

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Prime Minister Theresa May has called on the Government of Venezuela to ensure that human rights are respected, after meeting the mother of a detained opposition leader.

Mrs May met Leopoldo Lopez's mother Antonieta at 10 Downing Street just days after the prominent activist's wife Lilian Tintori was blocked by Venezuelan authorities from travelling to Europe on a mission to rally international pressure on President Nicolas Maduro.

Mr Lopez, leader of the Popular Will party, is under house arrest after being released from a jail sentence for leading violent anti-government demonstrations. His wife has now been told she is being probed over the alleged discovery of large amounts of currency in her car.

The Prime Minister dropped in on a meeting with Antonieta Lopez and Julio Borges, the president of the Venezuelan National Assembly, being hosted by Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan at Number 10.

The elected National Assembly has become a focus of protest against the Maduro administration, after it was stripped of its powers earlier this year.

Mrs May later said: "We have been consistent in our condemnation of the actions of the Venezuelan Government and in our unwavering support for the National Assembly as a democratic institution.

"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.

"In particular we are deeply troubled by the detention of political prisoners such as Leopoldo Lopez, whose case we heard at Downing Street today. His continued detention and the actions of the Venezuelan authorities in preventing his wife from travelling to Europe are a matter of great concern.

"I once again urge the Venezuelan Government to ensure that human rights, the rule of law, the separation of powers and the integrity of democratic institutions are respected."

Conservatives have repeatedly sought to put pressure on Jeremy Corbyn over his refusal to disown the left-wing Maduro regime. The Labour leader last month condemned "violence done by all sides" in the Venezuela conflict but stopped short of criticising the socialist President.