Venezuela, Spain Expel Ambassadors

Spain and Venezuela have expelled each other’s ambassadors in the wake of new European sanctions.

By Ryan Mallett Outtrim
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Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy (L) and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (R) have traded barbs over recent EU sanctions on officials in Caracas. (AFP)
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy (L) and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (R) have traded barbs over recent EU sanctions on officials in Caracas. (AFP)

Puebla, Mexico, January 28, 2018 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Spain expelled Venezuela’s ambassador Friday, after its diplomat was ordered to leave Caracas a day earlier.

Speaking at a press conference, Spanish government spokesperson Inigo Mendez de Vigo said Venezuelan ambassador Mario Isea was currently abroad, but wouldn’t be welcome back in Madrid.

"The government responds proportionally, and therefore has decided in the principle of reciprocity, to declare 'persona non grata' Venezuela's ambassador to Spain," he said.

Spanish foreign minister Alfonso Dastis said the decision was regrettable.

“All we have done from the beginning was help the process,” he said, referring to Venezuela’s internal political dialogue between the Maduro administration and opposition.

"We have led in the EU efforts to identify effective pressure mechanisms to get effective negotiations under way in Venezuela," he added.

Isea’s expulsion came a day after Venezuela ordered Spanish ambassador Jesus Silva Fernandez to leave the South American country by Sunday.

Venezuela alleged the Spanish diplomat was responsible for interfering in Venezuela’s internal affairs. President Nicolas Maduro has also accused Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of taking orders from US President Donald Trump to push for European sanctions on Venezuela.

"The most corrupt government … in the history of Spain is led by Mariano Rajoy,” Maduro said earlier this week.

A staunch critic of Maduro, Rajoy has been an outspoken supporter of sanctions on Venezuela. During a radio interview on Wednesday, Rajoy said new European Union sanctions on Venezuela were “well deserved”, and accused Maduro of imposing “brutal” rule.

The comments followed the EU’s decision to sanction seven top Venezuelan officials on Monday. The individuals subject to the new sanctions included Interior Minister Nestor Reverol, the head of the Supreme Court Maikel Moreno, Attorney General Tarek William Saab, National Bolivarian Intelligence Director Gustavo Lopez, electoral authority head Tibisay Lucena, former National Guard commander Antonio Benavides Torres, and the ruling socialist party’s Vice President, Diosdado Cabello.

The European Union (EU) said the officials were all “involved in the non-respect of democratic principles or the rule of law as well as in the violation of human rights”.

On Friday, the EU responded to the diplomatic tit-for-tat between Madrid and Caracas, arguing for “the need to keep diplomatic channels open”.

“The EU firmly condemns the decision by the Venezuelan authorities to declare the Spanish ambassador in Caracas a persona non grata,” a European Commission spokesperson told a press conference, according to Reuters.

Seemingly responding to Venezuelan accusations Spain played a leading role in promoting sanctions, the spokesperson said, “We recall that the decisions taken by the EU in matters of foreign affairs are taken unanimously by all member states.”