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Venezuela expels EU ambassador in reaction to sanctions

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Venezuela hit back at the European Union on Wednesday by expelling the bloc’s ambassador in response to new EU sanctions on the South American country.

“On a decision by President Nicolás Maduro, we have delivered into the hands of [EU ambassador] Isabel Brilhante Pedrosa … the declaration of persona non grata,” Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza told reporters in Caracas. “She has 72 hours to leave Venezuelan territory.”

Arreaza said the expulsion was a reaction to Monday’s decision by EU foreign ministers to slap sanctions on 19 leading Venezuelan officials — including generals, supreme court judges and politicians — who stand accused of undermining democracy or violating human rights.

The measures, which include travel bans and asset freezes, come on top of other EU sanctions imposed on Venezuela over the past four years.

“We are doing it because the circumstances demand it … They have no moral authority nor legal authority to punish anyone,” Arreaza said. “It’s truly unacceptable.”

The EU “profoundly regrets this decision, which will only lead to further international isolation of Venezuela,” said Nabila Massrali, a European Commission foreign policy spokesperson.

“We call for this decision to be reversed,” Massrali added. “Venezuela will only overcome its ongoing crisis through negotiation and dialogue, to which the EU is fully committed but which this decision undermines directly.”

Maduro had announced he would expel the EU ambassador last June, in response to earlier sanctions, but he later withdrew the decision.

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