Venezuela's parliament asks government to expel EU ambassador

Photo: EPA Venezuelan deputies vote in the parliament, Caracas, 23 February.

Venezuela's National Assembly called on Tuesday for the government to expel the European Union's ambassador to Caracas, in response to new EU sanctions against 19 Venezuelan officials, AFP reported.

The Assembly, which is controlled by President Nicolas Maduro's party, approved a "rejection agreement" of the sanctions and plans to "urge" the head of state to "declare persona non grata the head of the diplomatic delegation" from the EU, Isabel Brilhante Pedrosa, in order to proceed with her "expulsion." The text, unanimously approved by the deputies, also calls for a revision of the agreement on the EU's presence in Caracas. "I vote with both hands for the European Union representative to be declared persona non grata," Assembly Speaker Jorge Rodriguez said before calling for the vote.

The Venezuelan government said on Tuesday that Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza will meet with Brilhante Pedrosa on Wednesday, along with ambassadors and diplomatic representatives from France, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands.

EU foreign ministers agreed on Monday to sanction 19 Venezuelan officials for "undermining democracy" and human rights abuses. The move brings to 55 the total number of members of Maduro's regime to be slapped with 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 nor 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 the Electoral Council, including its president.

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

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