Spain pushes EU to adopt restrictive measures against Venezuela

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain is pushing for the European Union to adopt restrictive measures against members of the Venezuelan government as a way of encouraging a return to constitutional order in the crisis-hit country, the Spanish foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

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The head of Venezuela’s opposition-led congress, Julio Borges, visited Spain on Tuesday to meet Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy as part of a European tour seeking support against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Maduro’s government has been criticized by the United Nations, Washington and other governments for failing to allow the entry of foreign aid to ease an economic crisis, while it overrides congress and jails hundreds of opponents.

“Against the progressive worsening of the situation in Venezuela, the Spanish government is pushing ... for the adoption of restrictive, individual and selective measures, which don’t hurt the Venezuelan population,” the ministry said in a statement.

The Spanish government was working with its partners in the EU on these measures and was in constant contact with other Latin American countries, the ministry said.

A foreign ministry spokesman did not say what the measures would be.

After the meeting with Borges, the ministry underlined Spain’s support for a peaceful, democratic solution and called for the release of all political prisoners.

Spain’s foreign minister, Alfonso Dastis, also met representatives of human rights activist Lilian Tintori, the wife of Venezuela’s best-known detained political leader, who was barred from flying out of the country to join Borges on the tour.

Venezuela’s foreign minister, Jorge Arreaza, criticized the opposition leaders’ meeting with Rajoy, saying they were unpatriotic in backing sanctions that he said would hurt the Venezuelan economy.

“@marianorajoy assaults Venezuelan dignity, representing the worst colonial past, defeated and expelled by our Liberators,” Arreaza tweeted on Tuesday.

The Venezuelan opposition won control of congress in 2015. But Maduro’s loyalist Supreme Court has tossed out every major law it has passed as the oil-rich country slips deeper into a recession exacerbated by triple-digit inflation and acute shortages of food and medicines.

Maduro has said he faces an “armed insurrection” designed to end socialism in Latin America and let a U.S.-backed business elite get its hands on the OPEC nation’s crude reserves.

Reporting by Angus Berwick; Additional reporting by Andrew J. Cawthorne in Caracas; Editing by Jesús Aguado and Dale Hudson