CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) – Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has ordered the European Union ambassador to leave the country on Monday, hours after the block pushing for a democratic transition loyally sanctioned several socialist leader officials.
Maduro’s order, given in a speech on state television, follows the severe financial measures that the EU has imposed on eleven Venezuelans, including Luis Parra, who heads a National Assembly rival led by opposition leader Juan Guaidó.
The measures have brought the total number of Venezuelan officials under European sanctions to 36, including a travel ban and asset freezing. EU officials said in a statement that the sanctions target individuals and not the general population.
The Venezuelan Supreme Court, loyal to Maduro, appointed a new election commission earlier this month ahead of the parliamentary vote expected this year. Critics say the committee is full of members loyal to the President. The court also removed two popular opposition parties from their leadership councils and replaced them with their own political leaders.
European leaders said they “will continue to work to promote a peaceful democratic solution in Venezuela through inclusive and credible parliamentary elections.”
Maduro insulted EU officials for supporting Guaidó, and even offered to help the European delegation find a flight out of Venezuela amid the coronavirus pandemic that grounded most air travel.
Isabel Brilhante Pedrosa, head of the European Union delegation to Venezuela, did not immediately respond. Maduro gave the ambassador 72 hours to leave Venezuela.
“If they cannot respect Venezuela, then they must leave it,” said Maduro, rejecting the approval of Guaidó by European leaders as interim president of Venezuela. “They recognize a doll as president.”
Venezuela is a once prosperous oil country experiencing a downturn economic and political crisis that is driving around 5 million people out of the country amid basic commodity shortages, rising inflation and broken hospitals.
While the United States has spearheading Maduro with sanctions, leaders in Europe and Canada have also thrown their support behind Guaidó, in a coalition of nearly 60 countries. However, Maduro remains in power with control of military and international support from allies, including China, Russia, Iran and Cuba.
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