Venezuela has strongly condemned the European Union (EU) for “meddling” in its sovereign affairs by imposing sanctions on 11 Venezuelan officials over alleged rights abuses and irregularities in the re-election of President Nicolas Maduro.
On Monday, Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry said it “categorically rejects the continued aggression and meddling of the European Union, which constitutes clear interference in the sovereign affairs of our country.”
Earlier in the day, the EU banned the travel and froze the assets of 11 Venezuelan officials, including Vice-President Delcy Rodriguez.
“The persons listed are responsible for human rights violations and for undermining democracy and the rule of law in Venezuela,” the European Union said in a statement after its 28 foreign ministers backed the move at a meeting in Luxembourg on Monday.
“The elections held in Venezuela on May 20, 2018 were neither free nor fair and their outcome lacked any credibility as the electoral process did not ensure the necessary guarantees for them to be inclusive and democratic.”
The bloc also urged fresh presidential elections in Venezuela and called for the release of political detainees.
The move came as the bloc vowed last month to “swiftly” punish Caracas with sanctions over the re-election in May of Maduro for a second term in office.
In January, the EU blacklisted seven Venezuelan officials, including the interior minister, the intelligence chief, the attorney general, the head of the body overseeing elections, and the number two in Maduro’s socialist party. The EU sanctions were the first targeting individuals in the Venezuelan government as previous measures had put an embargo on weapons and equipment that could allegedly be used against opponents.
Venezuela has been beset by political and economic crisis since last year.
The oil-rich country, which has a quintuple-digit annual inflation rate, suffers from severe food and medicine shortages, the return of once-controlled diseases, and mass emigration.
The opposition blames Mauro for the economic crisis, but he blames the dire situation on an “economic war” that he says is waged by the United States.