01:38 GMT19 April 2021
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    On Monday, the Council of the European Union added 19 Venezuelan officials to a sanctions list over their alleged role in "undermining democracy and rule of law" in the Latin American nation.

    Isabel Brilhante Pedrosa, the European Union's ambassador to Venezuela, was declared "persona non grata" and given 72 hours to leave the country.

    Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, who announced the change of status on Wednesday, personally handed Pedrosa notice to leave Venezuela on President Nicolas Maduro's orders.

    Venezuelan Foreign Ministry tweet on the decision reads: "On the instructions of President @NicolasMaduro, the ambassador of the European Union in our country, Isabel Brilhante Pedrosa, is declared persona non grata; she has 72 hours to leave #Venezuela, reports Foreign Minister @jaarreaza."

    The tit-for-tat move follows the Council of the European Union's decision on Monday to add 19 Venezuelan officials to a sanctions list on the basis of their alleged crimes against democracy and human rights. The additions increased the total number of Venezuelan officials sanctioned by the EU to 55, with the restrictions including asset freezes and travel bans.

    Later Wednesday, an EU spokeswoman called on Venezuela to reverse its decision to expel its envoy immediately.

    "The EU profoundly regrets this decision, which will only lead to further international isolation of Venezuela. We call for this decision to be reversed," the spokeswoman 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," she added.

    In a statement on Monday's sanctions, Caracas indicated that it "categorically rejects" the EU's action, and accused Brussels of "arbitrarily imposing unilateral coercive measures" against "honourable citizens with false arguments in reaction to the frustration" of some members' over their failure to bring about regime change in the country.

    "Venezuela...denounces the arbitrary nature of these sanctions, which have no legal basis in the shared norms of international law. These erratic decisions also reveal the inability of the European Bloc to understand, accept, and respect the will of the Venezuelan people and reveal, once again, its interventionist policy toward Venezuela," Caracas said.

    In January, the European Union announced that it no longer considers opposition figure Juan Guaido as the country's "interim president," downgrading his status to "privileged interlocutor." The change in status did not follow with any easing of pressure against Caracas by the bloc, however. The EU continues to stand in solidarity with its US allies in applying sanctions against Venezuelan companies, entities and persons, and tens of billions of Venezuelan assets are thought to remain frozen in European banks.

    Earlier this month, President Maduro accused Spain of harbouring terrorists preparing attacks against Venezuela.

    Following the change of power in Washington last month, the new administration has committed to continue recognising Guaido as the country's interim leader.

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