İrem UZUN -TDO- Venezuela’s government on Wednesday ordered the expulsion of the chief European Union diplomat in the South American nation following the bloc’s decision to impose sanctions on several Venezuelan officials accused of undermining democracy or violating human rights.  Isabel Brilhante Pedrosa was given 72 hours to leave the troubled country. Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said it was the decision of President Nicolás Maduro. Declaring her persona non grata, he clarified that the decision was taken in retaliation to EU sanctions on 19 top Venezuelan officials.

EU foreign ministers agreed to sanction 19 Venezuelan officials on Tuesday for “undermining democracy” and human rights abuses.  The move brought to 55 the total number of members of Maduro’s regime targeted by asset freezes and travel bans by the bloc.  The EU expanded the list after rejecting a December legislative election that saw Maduro win total control of parliament after an opposition boycott.  The election results were not recognised by the EU, the United States or several Latin American countries. The newly sanctioned officials include two members of the National Assembly, the governor of Zulia state, the commander of the armed forces and three members of Venezuela’s electoral council, including its president.

The EU has demanded Venezuela reconsider the expulsion decision.  "The EU profoundly regrets this decision, which will only lead to further international isolation of Venezuela. We call for this decision to be reversed," EU spokeswoman Nabila Massrali said. "Venezuela will only overcome its ongoing crisis through negotiation and dialogue, to which the EU is fully committed but which this decision undermines directly," Massrali added.

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