Venezuela rejects EU plea to reconsider expulsion of German ambassador

German ambassdor Daniel Kriener [Twitter]

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s government ruled out a change of heart on its expulsion of the German ambassador Thursday (7 March) after the European Union urged it to reconsider.

Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza wrote on Twitter that Daniel Kriener “has been declared persona non grata in strict adherence (to) the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.”

His rebuke came after the EU spoke of its hopes Venezuela would change its mind.

“We regret the fact that the German ambassador to Venezuela is pressed to leave the country in spite of a tense and complex political context,” said Maja Kocijancic, spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

“The European Union has been keen to maintain lines of communication with all key parties in Venezuela including the government of Mr. Maduro.”

Maduro’s government on Wednesday gave Kriener 48 hours to leave the country over “interference” in its internal affairs. He had greeted returning opposition leader Juan Guaidó at Caracas airport on Monday.

Guaidó, who is recognized as interim president by more than 50 countries, has launched a challenge to Maduro’s authority and is trying to force out the socialist leader to set up a transitional government ahead of new elections.

“Venezuela expects the European Union will rediscover BALANCE and RECONSIDER its position of permanent interference in our internal affairs, it’s clear alignment Washington’s aggressive strategy and its support for the unconstitutional actions of the extremist opposition,” said Arreaza.

Kriener was among more than a dozen foreign representatives who welcomed National Assembly leader Guaidó when he returned to Caracas following a 10-day tour of South American allies, flouting a government travel ban to do so.

So far, though, Kriener is the only one to have been deemed “persona non grata.”

Kriener had tried to help bring humanitarian aid to the country, Guaidó said in a speech to opposition lawmakers, adding: “It seems that the Maduro regime does not forgive anyone who wants to help Venezuela.”

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that kicking Kriener out only “aggravates the situation.”

Guaidó posted a photo of him meeting Kriener at the National Assembly on Thursday morning and said he was rejecting “the threats from the usurper’s regime,” in a reference to Maduro.

He and the opposition-controlled legislature consider Maduro illegitimate over his controversial re-election last May in polls boycotted by the opposition.

“We remain strongly committed to a peaceful and democratic solution to the current crisis in Venezuela,” Kocijancic told a press conference in Brussels.

She recalled the EU’s leading role in setting up the international contact group, where she said Germany plays an “active” role.

Guaidó said Kriener’s expulsion will be seen “as a threat to the free world.”

The European Union last month condemned Caracas for its use of armed supporters and violence to prevent the entry of humanitarian aid into Venezuela.

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