Feb. 26 (UPI) — Member states of the European Union agreed on Thursday to expel the Venezuela ambassador from the intergovernmental body in retaliation for the South American nation declaring the bloc’s delegation no longer welcome within its borders over newly imposed EU sanctions.
The EU declared Claudia Salerno Caldera, Venezuela’s ambassador, persona non grata, it said in a statement a day after Venezuela imposed the same label upon the bloc’s Isabel Brilhante Pedrosa.
“The EU considers this declaration as wholly unwarranted and contrary to the EU’s objective of developing relations and building partnerships in third countries,” the statement said.
Salerno Caldera tweeted shortly after her declaration was announced that she defended Venezuela with sobriety and respect “but the independence and sovereignty of our country are not negotiated.”
Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza thanked her in a statement for her work, calling her “an example of the Bolivarian Diplomacy of Peace.”
Salerno Caldera’s expulsion came after Arreaza announced Wednesday that Brilhante Pedrosa had 72 hours to leave the country.
The move was made at the direction of President Nicolas Maduro, according to the foreign ministry, and in response to the EU blacklisting 19 Venezuelan officials on Monday for undermining democracy and the rule of law in the South American nation.
After Arreaza’s declaration was announced, the EU urged it to reconsider, stating it would only lead to further international isolation of Venezuela.
“Venezuela will only overcome its ongoing crisis through negotiation and dialogue, to which the EU is fully committed but which this decision undermines directly,” it said in a statement.
The EU imposed sanctions Monday against the officials after it adopted a resolution in January to target those responsible for the “deteriorating situation” in the country following parliamentary elections a month earlier that have been rejected by many Western nations.
“Singling out honorable citizens with false arguments, as a reaction to the frustration of a group of EU member states over the clear ineffectiveness of their actions to force a change of government by force in Venezuela , is nothing more than another clumsy decision, whose only intention is to negatively affect the political dialogue taking place in the country,” he said.
Since January, the bloc has blacklisted 55 Venezuelan officials.
Germany’s foreign ministry derided Venezuela over its expulsion of Brilhante Pedrosa, calling it unacceptable.
“The Maduro-regime is closing important channels of communication instead of solving the crisis looming in the country and improving the dire human rights situation,” the office warned in a statement.
Arreaza responded via Twitter with accusations that Germany has supported and participated in “coercive measures” and the systematic interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela as well as with those who plan coups.
Ned Price, the U.S. State Department spokesman, told reporters Thursday the socialist Maduro regime was only further isolating itself from a world united in calling for democracy in Venezuela.
“Maduro knows, of course that his record can’t stand up to scrutiny,” he said. “And so he’s expelled Europe’s ambassador.”