MEPs barred from entering Venezuela

This incident is the latest point of tension between the international community and country's President Nicolas Maduro

Esteban Gonzalez Pons, EPP member

Venezuela denied a group of European Parliament deputies entry into the country on Sunday, arguing they had 'conspiratorial motives' for flying to Caracas in the throes of a political crisis.  According to a statement from the group, which consisted of members of the conservative European People's Party (PPE), all of their passports had been "seized" and they were being "expelled" in a rude matter without any explanation given. 

"They have not informed us of the reason for the expulsion," Spanish MEP Esteban Gonzalez Pons, who led the group, said in a video.

He was reportedly flying into the Venezuelan capital to meet with interim leader Juan Guaido along with compatriots Jose Ignacio Salafranca and Gabriel Mato Adrover, as well as Esther de Lange of the Netherlands and Paulo Rangel of Portugal, who all received an invitation from the National Assembly.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza however insisted on Twitter that the European lawmakers had been already warned several days ago they wouldn't be allowed entry into the South American country, despite the invitation.

"Venezuela would not permit the European extreme right to disturb the peace and stability of the country with another of its rude, interventionist actions,” he wrote.

Later on Pons confirmed that MEPs were in fact informed during a stopover en route to Venezuela that they would either be "retained or expelled," despite having an invitation.

The incident is the latest point of tension between the international community and Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, who is in the grip of a power struggle with Guaido, the head of the National Assembly who proclaimed himself interim president last month. Currently Guaido has the backing of more than 50 countries including 30 in Europe. Maduro, however, insists he is the victim of a coup and denies stepping down or organising free elections. Most recently, he even instructed military to not let the international humantiarian aid pass, claiming its just "crumbs" and "rotten and contaminated food" in comparison to what his people have because of him. According to Maduro six million families had benefited from subsidized food boxes and he claimed to have bought 933 tons of medicines and medical supplies from China, Cuba and Russia, his main international allies.

Guaido has given next Saturday - one month to the day after he proclaimed himself acting president - as the date for a showdown with Maduro over the aid. 

"Our principal task is to reach a million volunteers by February 23," Guaido said in a message to the 600,000 supporters who have signed up so far for the push to bring aid in.

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