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Jo Swinson criticises govt over sales of military equipment to Venezuela

by Steve Beasant on 11 August, 2017

Britain has sold military equipment worth millions of pounds to Venezuela in the last decade, it has emerged, prompting calls for Theresa May to suspend controlled export licences while the country in is the grip of violent clashes between police and protesters.

Government figures show military equipment was approved for sale from UK-based companies to Venezuela’s armed forces as recently as September last year, despite the Foreign Office listing the country as “of concern” regarding human rights.

Overall, £2.5m of military goods have been sold to the country since 2008, including components for military radar, weapon sights and military aircraft engines. In the last year of figures, to March 2016, licences for goods worth more than £80,000 were approved, including equipment for crowd control to be used by law enforcement agencies.

Jo Swinson, the Liberal Democrats deputy leader, said it

“smacks of double standards for the Tories to attack the Labour leadership for supporting Venezuela whilst selling arms and security equipment to dictators and regimes with even worse human rights records.

“The Conservatives have rightly hailed the importance of supporting human rights and democracy in Venezuela. But they seem to find it irrelevant when it comes to selling billions of pounds of weapons to Saudi Arabia, which executed 153 people by beheading in 2016 and is indiscriminately bombing civilians in Yemen. In the past two years, the Conservative government has even continued selling security equipment to Venezuela.

“Both parties should stop playing politics with human rights and realise that these values are universal. I hope all MPs will support our call for presumption of denial, meaning a blanket ban on licences to countries which abuse human rights unless there is explicit ministerial sign-off.”

The Lib Dems highlighted £1.2bn of sales of UK military equipment to entities in countries on the government’s human rights concern list in the last year, including £300m to Saudi Arabia, £250m to China, £191m to Russia, £8.8m to Egypt and £3.6m to Turkmenistan.

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