International News

Venezuela decides to expel Brazil, Canada top diplomats

The Venezuelan government has decided to expel the top diplomats of Brazil and Canada over accusations of meddling in Venezuela’s domestic affairs.
Venezuela’s Constituent Assembly decided to expel Brazil’s Ambassador Ruy Pereira and Canadian charge d’affaires, Craig Kowalik, on Saturday, declaring them “personae non gratae.”
“We have decided to declare persona non grata the Brazilian ambassador until such time as constitutional order is restored in the neighboring country,” said Delcy Rodriguez, the head of the powerful pro-government body, referring to the government of Brazilian President Michel Temer, who replaced leftist Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff after she was impeached.
Last week, Brazil had urged Venezuela — which has been sidelined from the regional trading bloc Mercosur — to improve its human rights record. Temer said he would welcome Caracas back into Mercosur when Venezuela returned to democracy.
Kowalik of Canada has been carrying out “nagging, constant rude and offensive interference in Venezuela’s domestic affairs,” Rodriguez added.
She said the Canadian Embassy in Caracas had in a tweet described the Constituent Assembly as a threat to Venezuelans’ ability to elect their leaders, including their next president.
Ottawa and Brasilia, alongside Washington, have been increasingly critical of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government, accusing him of seeking to consolidate power and to isolate the opposition ahead of next year’s presidential election.
Following the expulsion of its envoy, the Canadian government, which has imposed sanctions on Maduro’s administration, said it would not back down from pressuring “the anti-democratic Maduro regime” in Venezuela.
In a stern response, Brazil’s Foreign Ministry also promised reciprocal measures against the move.
“If confirmed, the Venezuelan government’s decision to declare Brazil’s ambassador persona non grata shows once more the authoritarian stance of Nicolas Maduro’s administration and its lack of willingness to engage in any dialog,” it said.
The Brazilian government had not yet received official notification from Venezuela.
Venezuela has been gripped by political bickering in recent months. There has also been political violence in the country. At least 125 people from both the government and the opposition camps have been killed and hundreds of others injured in the unrest.
Most recently, tensions spiked when the Constituent Assembly said the opposition parties that had boycotted recent mayoral elections would have to reapply for legal status, potentially blocking them from presidential elections next year.
Venezuela frees dozens of jailed protesters
In a separate development, on Saturday, Venezuelan authorities began releasing some 80 people who had been arrested during demonstrations against Maduro’s government.
The move was prompted after opposition leaders in the Latin American country asked Maduro earlier this week to free political prisoners before Christmas as a gesture of goodwill.
Caracas says the detainees were held for acts of violence, conspiracy, or treason, and not as political prisoners.