Venezuela expelled the head of the European Union delegation to Caracas, Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said on Wednesday, in response to news punishments imposed by the EU.
Speaking on Venezuelan national television, Arreaza said Isabel Brilhante had 72 hours to leave the country.
“Today, by decision of President Nicolas Maduro, we have handed over to Isabel Brilhante, who in recent years was at the head of the European Union delegation in Venezuela, the declaration of“ person non grata ” “, did he declare.
“According to the Vienna Convention, concerning diplomatic relations, she was granted a period of 72 hours to leave Venezuelan territory.”
On Monday, the EU imposed sanctions on 19 Venezuelan officials it accused of “undermining the electoral rights of the opposition” and “serious human rights violations” in the country, after allies de Maduro won legislative elections in December that the Venezuelan opposition, along with several other countries, declared to be fraudulent.
The EU said the measures are reversible and are not meant to affect the Venezuelan population.
“These targeted measures are designed not to have negative humanitarian effects or unintended consequences for the Venezuelan population, and can be reversed,” the EU council said in a statement.
The sanctions froze assets and imposed travel bans on the 19 officials “in view of the deterioration of the situation in Venezuela after the December 2020 elections,” the statement said.
The EU has said it maintains sanctions against a total of 55 people in Venezuela.
Images broadcast on Venezuelan national television showed Arreaza presenting Brilhante – a Portuguese national – with a document which he said formally declares the decision that she is no longer welcome in Venezuela.
“We did it because there are 55 decisions, what they call in the European Union or the American system, sanctions, as if they had moral authority,” Arreaza said.
“They don’t have legal status either. [authority] to impose punishments of any kind whatsoever on the citizens of any other nation that is not part of the European Union, let alone in Venezuela, ”he declared.
The EU said the move undermined the Union’s efforts to support negotiations and dialogue in the country in crisis.
“The EU deeply regrets the decision of the Venezuelan authorities to declare the head of the EU delegation to the country as persona non grata,” said Nabila Massrali, EU spokesperson for foreign affairs and politics security in a declaration. “This will only lead to further international isolation of Venezuela.”
“We ask that this decision be overturned,” she said.
Venezuela: EU deeply regrets and calls for annulment of decision to declare EU Ambassador @AmbassadeurUECCS as persona non grata. Only leads to greater international isolation of 🇻🇪 and undermines efforts to overcome the crisis through negotiation and dialogue. https://t.co/vA4GMIFxBj
– Nabila Massrali (@NabilaEUspox) February 24, 2021
Opposition leader Juan Guaido, who declared himself interim president of Venezuela in 2019, boycotted legislative elections, saying they were never going to be a free and fair race. Final results showed Maduro’s allies were winning by an overwhelming margin, giving them majority control of the country’s National Assembly.
The United States, under the Trump administration, recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate leader. President Joe Biden, who took office on January 20, reaffirmed this recognition. But the EU, earlier in January, abandoned its recognition of Guaido as interim president after the vote, which led to Guaido losing his post as head of the National Assembly.
Several other Western countries continue to recognize Guaido as the legitimate leader of the nation which suffers from a long-standing political and economic crisis. Venezuela is also plagued by hyperinflation and a lack of essential supplies, such as clean water, food and energy.