Relations between Venezuela and the European Union have become extremely tense. Official Caracas declared EU Ambassador to Venezuela Isabel Brilhante persona non grata and gave her 72 hours to leave that country's territory. The move came as a response to EU sanctions against 55 senior government officials and members of the Venezuelan parliament.
The EU has suggested that Venezuela reconsider its decision so as not to deepen the country's isolation. But Venezuela does not seem to be going to back off in the face of pressure exerted by the "civilized" Europe. At the same time, the Foreign Minister of Venezuela handed a note of protest to the ambassadors of Spain, France, Germany and the Netherlands. Venezuela does not accept these countries' interference in its internal affairs.
The whole story began in the run-up to the Venezuelan National Assembly election, which took place on December 6 last year. Summarizing its results, the Great Patriotic Pole bloc, which includes President Nicolas Maduro's United Socialist Party of Venezuela, came out sweepingly victorious and regained control of the parliament. This was preceded by a demarche on the part of the European Union, which urged that the Venezuelan authorities postpone the date of the vote, because, according to the EU, there was no reasonable assurance for a fair contest. Official Caracas rejected this demand, having mentioned that the election dates were set as specified by the Venezuelan Constitution, and the vote was valid. In response, the EU did not recognize the vote's results (the United States took a similar stance) and imposed sanctions against 19 Venezuelan officials, freezing their bank accounts and banning their entry into the EU.
After a couple of months of reflection, Brussels widened the circle of "sanctioned" Venezuelans, bringing the score to 55 people. Among them are National Assembly deputies, members of the Central Election Commission, senior army and police officials, and some governors. The new sanctions even affected representatives of those opposition parties that fought the election and got parliamentary seats. This should be naturally regarded as a EU message to other Venezuelan oppositionists to refrain from engaging in a legal political struggle and electoral processes. The purpose is to isolate Maduro and create an illegitimacy halo around the Venezuelan authorities.
The initiative to expel the EU ambassador from Venezuela belongs to the country's parliament. A plenary meeting saw Parliament Speaker Jorge Rodriguez ask Maduro to expel Ambassador Brilhante and shut down the EU mission in Caracas. And the president did take heed. The Venezuelan deputies even ventured to poke fun chief EU diplomat Josep Borrel, addressing him a proposal to add all the members of Venezuela's parliament to the EU sanctions list. "It would be an honor for us," Rodriguez said.
To make the picture complete, it should be noted that the decision to expel the EU ambassador is part of measures taken by Venezuela's official authorities to protect the country from external interference. The local opposition leader, so-called "interim president" Juan Guaidó is a brainchild of the United States, directed and financed by them. And this is blindingly obvious to everyone. Recently, the General Control Chamber of Venezuela overseeing state property management, banned Guaidó and 27 other former National Assembly deputies from holding government jobs on a 15-year-long basis over their refusal to file asset declarations after leaving their posts on January 5, as required by the law. Guaidó formally headed the parliament from January 2019 after the December 2018 parliamentary election until January 5 this year (the parliament was all along controlled by the opposition and sabotaged the work of both the president and the government). For this very reason Guaidó was singled out by the Americans as the one able to replace Maduro as president if the latter quits. But Maduro did not leave. And Guaidó turned out an utter failure, which even former US President Trump admitted. Now, even if the Biden administration conceives an idea of going on to regard Guaidó as its "inside man in Caracas," he doesn't have a single ground to claim the presidential chair.
According to the European press, the EU's decision to strengthen sanctions against Venezuela comes at a time when the Venezuelan government is seeking to lift or ease sanctions imposed by the Trump administration, especially those that affect Venezuelan oil exports. However, many have already noticed that the new US president takes his time to change the dynamic and explicitly comment on his Caracas policy. Spain's EL País, for instance, suggests that a decision concerning new US sanctions or abolition of the old ones may be adopted by the White House head in the context of a new dialogue attempt between the Venezuelan regime and the opposition, aimed to convene the electoral process with guarantees at hand, in such a way that the election outcome is recognized by all the parties.
Meanwhile, the United States is known to recognize the results of only those elections that are beneficial to them, regardless of their real compliance with the norms of democracy and the law. As for Venezuela, the entire world saw how the American democrats who came to power handled the most recent electoral process in the United States itself and how they interpret its results. One can hardly hope that Biden's policy towards Venezuela will be a far cry from that of Donald Trump. The primary focus of the United States is to remove the Maduro regime and change Venezuela's socio-political model to get Venezuelan oil back to US control. The latter purpose is unalterable under any American president.
Besides, we should make no mistake about the European Union's independent course in relation to Venezuela. The US and the EU are attacking Venezuela concertedly and in close tandem. And the fact that Washington seems to be silent as regards European sanctions is not the equivalent of asserting that it steers clear. At the very least, Washington creates a favorable negotiating capacity for itself, if one can say that the United States with its new president intends to foster dialogue with Maduro. And by and large, the White House is seeking and exploring different pressure tracks on Venezuela, expecting Maduro suddenly lose his nerve and back off.
To the great American disgust, President Maduro proved not easily scared. He faced up to the numerous neutralization attempts, the US-orchestrated coup endeavors and the local opposition also guided by the Americans. Maduro has the army, the police and, more importantly, most Venezuelans with him. He controls the situation in the country and can therefore safely expel the EU ambassador, who indulges in imposing her mindset on a sovereign country.