JEREMY Corbyn has been criticised for condemning “violence on all sides” in Venezuela rather than the increasingly dictatorial socialist regime of President Nicolas Maduro.

Returning from holiday, the Labour leader broke his silence on the crisis in Venezuela, where the leader he previously supported is now accused of election rigging and despotism.

More than 120 people have been killed amid food shortages and 700 per cent inflation in recent months, with President Maduro now cracking down on opposition forces as his newly elected constitutional assembly prepares to rewrite the country’s constitution.

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The Foreign Office has advised UK nationals to leave the state, which was once a beacon for the British Left, its leadership previously praised by Mr Corbyn and his allies.

Ignoring calls from some of his MPs to condemn President Maduro, Mr Corbyn called instead for “dialogue and a process” to improve the situation, and said it was important to recognise the "effective and serious attempts" to reduce poverty, improve literacy and the lives of the poorest.

He said: “I'm very sad at the lives that have been lost in Venezuela. The people who have died, either those on the streets or security forces that have been attacked by people on the street - all of those lives are terrible for the loss of them."

Asked if condemned Mr Maduro's actions, he said: "What I condemn is the violence that's been done by any side, by all sides, in all this. Violence is not going to solve the issue.

"The issues in Venezuela are partly structural because not enough has been done to diversify the economy away from oil - that has to be a priority for the future.”

Pressed on whether he regretted supporting Mr Maduro when he was elected in 2013, he said: "I gave the support of many people around the world for the principle of a government that was dedicated towards reducing inequality and improving the life chances of the poorest people."

Tory MP Henry Smith said: “Mr Corbyn’s failure to condemn Venezuela’s strangulation of democracy and descent into chaotic poverty at the hands of his friend is appalling.”

Veteran Labour MP Frank Field said Mr Corbyn faced a “crucial” test over Venezuela, with many more voters now judging him as a potential Prime Minister since the general election.

He told BBC Radio 4's Westminster Hour: “One of the worries that people may have is 'do we believe in parliamentary government or not?’” I think how he responds on this is crucial and I think what's going on in Venezuela is desperate."