EU to sanction more Venezuelan officials, call for new vote

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union is considering imposing economic sanctions on 11 Venezuelan officials in June following President Nicolas Maduro’s re-election which the bloc said was not free or fair, EU diplomats said on Friday.

The travel bans and asset freezes would be on top of the seven senior Venezuela officials that the bloc sanctioned in January, but are not expected to target Maduro, mainly because the EU wants to pressure those around him to change course.

“We are working on a list that might include 11 more individuals,” an EU official said. “This might be approved (by EU foreign ministers) in June.”

The European Union, Venezuela’s third-largest trading partner after the United States and China, is seeking to isolate Caracas and to help end what it sees as Maduro’s authoritarian regime that is ruining the economy, provoking food shortages.

The European Union imposed an arms embargo in November.

EU foreign ministers will also issue a joint statement on Monday condemning last weekend’s election in Venezuela, which the bloc, the United States and other Western governments see as a farce that does not meet democratic norms.

Venezuela’s mainstream opposition boycotted the election because two of its most popular leaders were barred, authorities banned several political parties, and the election board is run by Maduro loyalists.

“The EU calls for the holding of fresh presidential elections in accordance with internationally recognized democratic standards,” EU foreign ministers will say, according to a draft seen by Reuters.

“The election and its outcome lacked any credibility,” they will say, also warning of sanctions in the statement by saying: “The EU will act swiftly...with the aim of imposing additional targeted and reversible restrictive measures.

However, with no special EU envoy to Venezuela and unwilling at this stage to impose an oil embargo, the EU expects the impact of new sanctions to be limited, one bloc official said.

Experts say broader U.S. sanctions, while providing strong symbolism, have had little or no impact on Maduro’s policies so far and that oil sector and financial sanctions may be the only way to force the Venezuelan government to change.

Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Mark Heinrich