EU ambassador expelled as ​Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro clings to power

Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro has ordered the European Union's ambassador to leave the country within 72 hours.

Isabel Brilhante Pedrosa's expulsion came hours after the EU placed sanctions on eleven Venezuelan officials. They were sanctioned for acting against the national assembly headed by opposition leader Juan Guaidó.

Mr Guaidó declared himself interim president last year but has failed to remove Mr Maduro.

In his announcement on Monday broadcast on state television, speaking of the EU, Mr Maduro said: "If they can't respect Venezuela, then they should leave it."

He added: "We will sort it out in 72 hours... she will be given a plane to leave, but we will arrange our things with the European Union."

Earlier on Monday, the European Council said the officials were added to the sanctions list "because of their role in acts and decisions undermining democracy and the rule of law in Venezuela".

There are now 36 Venezuelan officials who have been placed under EU sanctions, it said.

Those newly-added to the list include Luis Parra, who in January declared that he, not Mr Guaidó, was the rightful Speaker of the assembly.

Guaido used his position as head of parliament to challenge Maduro's authority in January 2019 by declaring himself acting president after the National Assembly deemed the socialist leader a usurper over his controversial re-election in 2018 in a poll widely branded fraudulent.

Guaido is recognized as his country's interim president by more than 50 nations, including the United States and much of the European Union.

Speaking on Monday, Mr Maduro said the EU "recognises a puppet as president".

Some four million people have fled Venezuela since 2015, according to the United Nations, amid a severe years-long political and economic crisis. The oil-rich country suffers from high unemployment and shortages of food and medicine, and hundreds of thousands of people are said to be in need of humanitarian aid.

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