EU condemns Venezuela's expulsion of Spanish ambassador

FILE - In this Aug. 1, 2017 file photo, Venezuela's National Assembly President Julio Borges, right, speaks with Mexican Ambassador Sylvia Sevilla, from left, British Ambassador Nicolas Harrocks and Spanish Ambassador Jesus Silva, in Caracas, Venezuela. Venezuela's foreign minister said in a statement Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018, that it is stripping Silva of his diplomatic credentials, accusing the European country of meddling in its affairs. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos, File)

BRUSSELS — The European Union on Friday condemned Venezuela's decision to order Spain's ambassador out of the country in response to the EU slapping sanctions on seven senior Venezuelan officials.

The Spanish government, meanwhile, announced it was expelling the Venezuelan ambassador in a tit-for-tat move.

European Commission spokeswoman Catherine Ray said the decision to impose travel bans and asset freezes on the seven Venezuelan officials accused of human rights abuses or breaching the rule of law was made unanimously the EU's 28 member countries.

The EU is in "full solidarity with Spain," Ray said.

In response, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro called his country's ambassador to Spain, Mario Isea, back to Caracas for consultation.

Spanish government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo told reporters after the weekly Cabinet meeting Friday that Isea was being expelled "in a strict application of the rule of reciprocity."

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza tweeted that "we won't accept aggressions from governments subordinated to U.S. imperialism."

French President Emmanuel Macron said Friday he was "rather favorable" to increasing European sanctions on Venezuela.

Speaking after a meeting with Argentina's president in Paris, Macron denounced what he called "a new shift toward more authoritarianism" from the Venezuelan regime.

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