In reaction to the expulsion of the European Union’s ambassador to Venezuela, the bloc declared on Thursday (25) the representative of the South American country, Claudia Salerno, persona non grata.
In a note, the Europeans claim to have viewed the decision of the Nicolás Maduro regime as unjustified and “contrary to the EU’s objective of developing relations and creating associations with other countries”. According to the note, the proposal for an equivalent measure was made by the bloc’s foreign minister, Josep Borrell.
The statement, however, does not have the same effect as that of Venezuela, which gave Isabel Pedrosa 72 hours to leave the country. In the case of the EU, only the country where Salerno is located, Belgium, can make such a decision. Thus, the memo makes no mention of expulsion.
Salerno is also the Venezuelan Ambassador to Belgium and Luxembourg. In his Twitter, the diplomat said he defended Venezuela “maintaining relations with the EU with sobriety and respect”. “But the independence and sovereignty of our homeland are not negotiable,” he added.
The escalation of tensions between the South American country and the European bloc began with the sanction by the EU of 19 officials of the Maduro regime, including Remigio Ceballos, one of the country’s main military leaders, Indira Alfonzo, president of the National Electoral Council, and two members of Congress.
On Wednesday (24), the Maduro regime then classified the EU ambassador in Caracas as persona non grata. The dictator also issued an ultimatum to the EU. “Or correct yourself [as sanções] or you don’t agree.
Shortly after the announcement of Pedrosa’s expulsion, the Chancellor of Venezuela, Jorge Arreaza, delivered letters of protest to the Ambassador of France, Romain Nadal, and to representatives of Germany, Spain and the Netherlands, urging their governments to reassess their position on the southern regime. He also called European sanctions illegal and unacceptable.
The sanctioned officials are accused of undermining democracy after the December 6 legislative elections – boycotted and considered fraudulent by the regime’s largest political parties.
Without recognition from the United States, the EU and several Latin American countries, the election gave the governing party and its allies 256 of the 277 seats in parliament, giving Maduro control of the only power that was between the hands of the opposition.
It was this Assembly which asked the dictator on Tuesday (23) to expel Pedrosa and to revise the operating agreement for the representation of the European bloc in Caracas.
It was not the first time that the Venezuelan regime declared Brilhante persona non grata in the country. In June 2020, after another package of European sanctions, Maduro made the same announcement and also gave the representative 72 hours to leave the country. Negotiations with the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, however, reversed the measure.
In 2017, Venezuela became the first Latin American country to be sanctioned by the EU, which has since approved measures against 55 regime officials, ranging from a travel ban on European territory to an asset freeze.
The Maduro government still faces strong US sanctions, including an oil embargo, which aims to overthrow the dictator. James Story, the US ambassador to Venezuela, based in Bogotá, said the regime is increasingly isolating itself.