Nicolas Maduro, the president of Venezuela, has ordered the head of the European Union mission in Caracas to leave the country, hours after the bloc announced sanctions against 11 Venezuelan officials loyal to the embattled leader.
In a televised address on Monday, Maduro gave Isabel Brilhante Pedrosa 72 hours to leave Venezuela.
“Who are they to try to impose themselves with threats?” he said.
“Enough, enough. This is why I have decided to give 72 hours to the European Union ambassador in Caracas to leave our country, and we demand respect from the European Union.”
Earlier on Monday, the EU imposed stiff financial sanctions on Venezuelan legislators and a court official, citing their actions against the democratic functioning of the country’s National Assembly.
Among the officials sanctioned is legislator Luis Parra, who is backed by Maduro and is contesting the leadership of the opposition-controlled Parliament. Parra was declared head of the assembly during a chaotic session in January after troops blocked opposition leader Juan Guaido from entering the chamber.
On the same day, Guaido held a rival vote broadcast over the internet, in which 100 legislators identified by name backed him for re-election. The legislature has 167 seats.
But the Supreme Court, which is loyal to Maduro, ratified Parra in May.
The EU called the court’s move illegitimate and said Guaido was the rightful congressional president. On Monday, the bloc sanctioned Franklyn Duarte and Jose Gregorio Noriega, who were named vice-presidents of the assembly in the May court ruling.
Also on the EU sanctions list were Juan Jose Mendoza, president of the Supreme Court’s constitutional chamber, and General Jose Ornelas, head of the National Defense Council.
The EU said the 11 individuals “are particularly responsible for acting against the National Assembly’s democratic functioning, including stripping parliamentary immunity from several of its members”.
“[They have] also initiated politically-motivated prosecutions and created obstacles to a political and democratic solution to the crisis in Venezuela.”
The measures brought to 36 the total number of Venezuelan officials under European sanctions, which include a travel ban and asset freezes.
The political and economic crisis in Venezuela has driven roughly 5 million people from the once-wealthy nation amid shortages of basic goods, soaring inflation and a broken healthcare system.
While the United States has led the push to remove Maduro with sanctions, leaders in Europe and Canada have also thrown their support behind Guaido, in a coalition of nearly 60 nations.
However, Maduro remains in power with control over the military and international support from allies including China, Russia, Iran and Cuba.
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