(Bloomberg) -- President Nicolas Maduro expelled the European Union’s ambassador to Venezuela in response to the EU’s sanction of high-ranking officials in his government.
Maduro announced the move in a televised address late Monday after the EU Council sanctioned 11 members of the president’s inner circle for undermining the rule of law in Venezuela, including curtailing the powers of the opposition-controlled National Assembly. The EU envoy in Caracas, Isabel Brilhante Pedrosa, was given 72 hours to leave the country.
The Venezuelan strongman’s remarks comes with the South American nation politically isolated following elections in 2018 that the U.S. and its allies said were fraudulent. The country is mired in the seventh year of a crushing recession, worsened by the coronavirus pandemic and plummeting oil production.
“The supremacist EU published a resolution sanctioning Venezuelans who are defending the Constitution,” Maduro said, referring to some of his legislative allies included among the sanctioned.
The EU council condemned the decision and asked Maduro’s regime to reverse it. Venezuela’s crisis “can only be addressed through a peaceful and negotiated solution among Venezuelans” and with credible elections, it said in a statement.
EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, posted on Twitter that the bloc “will take the usual necessary measures of reciprocity.”
Venezuela’s ambassador will be summoned by the bloc on Tuesday, Borrell said, according to the Associated Press.
The opposition-led National Assembly also rejected the expulsion of Brilhante and thanked her for her efforts to collaborate with humanitarian initiatives in the country. “The dictatorship is further isolated. Maduro cannot break democratic relations with anyone, he is not recognized as president,” said legislative head Juan Guaido.
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During his Monday speech, Maduro also lashed out against Spain’s ambassador in Caracas, Jesus Silva, whom the president accused of participating in the failed April 2019 bid to overthrow him led by opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, and a botched raid in May that aimed to capture Maduro.
Maduro characterized Silva’s actions as colluding with Lopez’s “criminal acts.” Venezuela will consider diplomatic options for Silva’s role in the country, Maduro added.
(Updates with statement from EU council in fifth paragraph and National Assembly reaction in seventh paragraph)
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