EU condemns envoy expulsion from Venezuela, warns of isolation

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union condemned on Tuesday a decision by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to expel the bloc’s envoy, calling for Caracas to reverse its move and summoning Venezuela’s ambassador to EU headquarters.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during the Venezuela's national award of journalism ceremony in Caracas, Venezuela June 29, 2020. Picture taken June 29, 2020. Miraflores Palace/Handout via REUTERS

Maduro’s decision on Monday to give the EU envoy, Isabel Brilhante Pedrosa, 72 hours to leave the country followed fresh European financial sanctions on 11 Venezuela officials who the bloc accuses of hindering Venezuela’s National Assembly.

“The EU firmly condemns this decision and profoundly regrets the further international isolation that will result,” the 27 governments of the bloc said in a statement. “We call for this decision to be reversed.”

Separately, the EU said it would summon the Venezuelan ambassador in Brussels. The bloc’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said on Twitter that he would take “the usual necessary measure of reciprocity.”

An EU spokeswoman declined to give more details.

While the EU is among Western parties pushing for fresh elections, the dispute is likely to make a negotiated diplomatic solution to Venezuela’s crisis even harder. The EU reiterated on Tuesday that a way out “must be based on credible elections.”

The bloc earlier this month said a decision by the South American nation’s Supreme Court in May to ratify an ally of Maduro as president of the National Assembly was illegitimate.

The EU believes opposition leader Juan Guaido is the rightful congressional president following his election by the majority of members in January, not the court-approved Luis Parra.

In a virtual session of congress on Tuesday, Guaido called Maduro’s Monday decision “an outburst of arrogance” that would further isolate government officials.

Parra was among those named in Monday’s sanctions, along with Franklyn Duarte and Jose Gregorio Noriega, who were named as vice-presidents of the assembly in the May court ruling.

Reporting by Robin Emmott; Additional reporting by Vivian Sequera in Caracas; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall and Marguerita Choy