Ni­co­las Maduro ex­pels US en­voy amid new sanc­tions

The Miracle - - National & Int - Source: Al-Jazeera

Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro or­dered the ex­pul­sion of the top US diplo­mat in Venezuela fol­low­ing a new round of sanc­tions im­posed by Wash­ing­ton over his re-elec­tion. Maduro an­nounced the move in a na­tion­ally tele­vised speech on Tues­day after be­ing of­fi­cially pro­claimed the win­ner of Sun­day’s elec­tion. “The em­pire doesn’t dom­i­nate us here,” Maduro said, giv­ing charge d’af­faires Todd Robin­son and his deputy Brian Naranjo 48 hours to leave the coun­try. “We’ve had enough of your con­spir­ing.” He ac­cused the pair of try­ing to sab­o­tage Venezuela’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion by pres­sur­ing sev­eral anti-gov­ern­ment pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates not to com­pete in the race. Maduro re­ferred to Naranjo as the head of the CIA in Venezuela. The elec­tion was boy­cotted by the main op­po­si­tion par­ties and widely crit­i­cised by the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. Most op­po­si­tion par­ties de­cided not to par­tic­i­pate after of­fi­cials blocked their most pop­u­lar lead­ers from com­pet­ing. Maduro won 68 per­cent of the vote, but 52 per­cent of vot­ers did not cast bal­lots - a his­toric ab­sten­tion rate. The White House branded the vote a “sham”, and US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is­sued an ex­ec­u­tive or­der lim­it­ing Venezuela’s abil­ity to sell state as­sets, height­en­ing pres­sure on Maduro’s cash-strapped gov­ern­ment. In his speech on Tues­day, Maduro an­grily re­jected the US move say­ing he re­pu­di­ates “all the sanc­tions that are sought against the Bo­li­var­ian Repub­lic of Venezuela, be­cause they harm it, they gen­er­ate suf­fer­ing for the peo­ple of Venezuela”. He added: “We will present ev­i­dence to the coun­try of the con­spir­acy in the mil­i­tary field of the United States charge d’af­faires and his em­bassy, of the con­spir­acy in the eco­nomic field and of the con­spir­acy in the po­lit­i­cal field.” There was no im­me­di­ate re­ac­tion from Robin­son or the US em­bassy in Cara­cas. Wash­ing­ton and Cara­cas have not ex­changed am­bas­sadors since 2010. The lat­est US sanc­tions on Venezuela ap­peared to tar­get in part Citgo, a US-based oil re­finer owned by Venezuela state oil com­pany PDVSA. More ob­sta­cles to PDVSA’s abil­ity to sell oil abroad could re­strict al­ready-dwin­dling for­eign ex­change earn­ings. Venezue­lans are reeling un­der an acute cri­sis with hy­per­in­fla­tion pro­jected by the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund to reach 13,800 per­cent this year and dire short­ages of food and medicine. Hun­dreds of thou­sands have fled the coun­try to es­cape the grow­ing de­pri­va­tion. Ear­lier on Tues­day, Venezuela’s for­eign min­istry called the US sanc­tions “a crime against hu­man­ity”. “Venezuela once again con­demns the sys­tem­atic cam­paign of ag­gres­sion and hos­til­ity by the US regime to pun­ish the Venezue­lan peo­ple for ex­er­cis­ing their right to vote,” the min­istry said in a state­ment. Mean­while, the Euro­pean Union said it will con­sider im­pos­ing new sanc­tions on Venezuela as a re­sult of Sun­day’s vote. Fed­er­ica Mogherini, EU’s for­eign pol­icy chief, said in a state­ment “the EU and its mem­ber states will con­sider the adop­tion of ad­e­quate mea­sures”. The elec­tion took place “with­out com­ply­ing with the min­i­mum in­ter­na­tional stan­dards for a cred­i­ble process, not re­spect­ing po­lit­i­cal plu­ral­ism, democ­racy, trans­parency and rule of law”, it said.

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