Spain kicks out Venezuela ambassador in tit-for-tat move

The Spanish Embassy building in Caracas, Venezuela.
The Spanish Embassy building in Caracas, Venezuela.PHOTO: REUTERS

MADRID (AFP) - Spain on Friday (Jan 26) ordered Venezuela's ambassador to leave in a tit-for-tat move, escalating a row a day after its top diplomat was kicked out by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's regime.

"The government responds proportionally, and therefore has decided in the principle of reciprocity, to declare 'persona non grata' Venezuela's ambassador to Spain," government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo told a news conference.

Venezuela's ambassador to Spain, Mario Isea, was on Wednesday summoned for consultations by his government and is not in Spain, he added.

Spain and Venezuela have had tense diplomatic ties since the late Socialist leader Hugo Chavez came to power in 1999. He was succeeded on his death in 2013 by Mr Maduro.

Venezuela on Thursday declared Spain's ambassador to Caracas, Jesus Silva, persona non grata and accused Madrid of masterminding recent European Union sanctions on seven of Maduro's key allies.

The move came a day after Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy defended the sanctions, saying in a radio interview they were "well deserved" given the "brutal decisions" and "the understanding of democracy that Mr Maduro has".

The European Union on Friday condemned Venezuela's move and urged the Latin American country to reverse its decision.

 

Spain was a colonial power in Latin American and remains a major trading partner. Thousands of Venezuelans fled to Spain during Venezuela's deepening economic and political crisis.