Venezuela expels German ambassador for ‘meddling’

Venezuela expels German ambassador for ‘meddling’

CARACAS - Reuters
Venezuela expels German ambassador for ‘meddling’

Venezuela's government expelled the German ambassador Daniel Kriener on March 6 two days after he and diplomats from other embassies welcomed home opposition leader Juan Guaido at the Caracas airport.

The government declared Kriener persona non grata and gave him 48 hours to leave the country, accusing him of meddling in internal affairs, although it did not give specific details. 

"Venezuela considers it unacceptable that a foreign diplomat carries out in its territory a public role closer to that of a political leader aligned with the conspiratorial agenda of extremist sectors of the Venezuelan opposition," the government said in a statement.

Most Western countries, including Germany, recognize Guaido as Venezuela's legitimate head of state and back his plan to install a transition government ahead of free elections. Guaido denounces Maduro as a usurper whose re-election last year resulted from a sham vote. Maduro says he is victim of an attempted coup.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said European support for Guaido was "unwavering."

"This is an incomprehensible decision, which escalates the situation instead of easing tensions," Maas said in a statement.

Guaido said in an interview that the expulsion of the German ambassador was a threat against Germany, Der Spiegel magazine reported on March 7.

"This action represents a threat against Germany," Guaido was quoted as saying.

Guaido had risked arrest on his return to Venezuela for flouting a court-imposed travel ban to visit other Latin American countries.

To try to hasten Maduro's exit, the United States placed sanctions on the OPEC nation's oil industry in late January, and last month attempted to ship humanitarian aid into Venezuela despite Maduro's opposition, in the hopes it would prompt the military to flip its loyalty to Guaido.

The bid was ultimately unsuccessful, and Maduro retains the support of the armed forces and control of state functions. The United States ratcheted up the pressure on March 6, with National Security Advisor John Bolton warning foreign banks that they could face sanctions if they participate in transactions benefiting Maduro.

The United States will also revoke the visas of 77 people associated with Maduro, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said, adding to a list of 49 others whose visas were revoked last week.