Venezuela expels EU ambassador, gives her 72 hours to leave

Venezuela on Wednesday expelled the European Union’s ambassador to Caracas, giving her 72 hours to leave the country, Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said, in a response to new EU sanctions against top officials.

“Today, by decision of President Nicolas Maduro, we presented to Mrs Isabel Brilhante… her declaration as persona non grata,” he told journalists in Caracas.

Venezuela’s National Assembly, controlled by Maduro’s party, called Tuesday for the government to expel the ambassador a day after EU foreign ministers agreed to sanction 19 Venezuelan officials for “undermining democracy” and human rights abuses.

The move brought to 55 the total number of members of Maduro’s regime targeted by asset freezes and travel bans by the bloc.

The EU expanded the list after rejecting a December legislative election that saw Maduro win total control of parliament after an opposition boycott.

The election results were not recognized by the EU, the United States or several Latin American countries.

Among the newly-sanctioned officials are two members of the National Assembly, the governor of Zulia state, the commander of the armed forces and three members of Venezuela’s electoral council, including its president.

Arrazea described the European measures as “illegal”.

“Hopefully there will be reflection in the European Union, hopefully we will be able to rebuild the bridges of understanding, of dialogue, hopefully they will learn to respect,” he said.

On July 29, after a previous round of European sanctions, Maduro had also declared Brilhante Pedrosa persona non grata and gave her 72 hours to leave the country. When the deadline passed, however, the government backed down.