EU Threatens Venezuela With New Sanctions in Absence of Progress

(Bloomberg) -- The European Union said it will consider hitting Venezuela with a new round of targeted sanctions if the crisis-struck country doesn’t take immediate steps toward a fair democratic process.

The aggressive posture complements the creation of a so-called international contact group made up of the EU and Latin American and European countries. The association will seek, over 90 days, to enable a peaceful outcome to the political and humanitarian turmoil in Venezuela.

EU Threatens Venezuela With New Sanctions in Absence of Progress

The U.S. and more than a dozen other nations have recognized National Assembly President Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate leader and are pressuring President Nicolas Maduro to step down, accusing him of rigging his re-election last year and leading the once-rich country into ruinous poverty. Spain, Germany and France on Jan. 26 pledged to recognize Guaido if elections aren’t called within eight days.

“The presidential elections that were held last May in Venezuela were lacking democratic legitimacy,” Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign policy chief, told reporters in Bucharest on Thursday in announcing the new set of EU measures. “Sanctions might be considered by the ministers in the coming days if we would not see positive developments.”

Contact Group

The newly formed contact group will include the EU and member countries France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, the Netherlands and the U.K. Ecuador, Costa Rica, Uruguay and Bolivia will also be part of the group, according to Mogherini. The first meeting is expected to be next week.

The EU last week called for a move “over the next few days” toward elections in the South American country, where Maduro and Guaido both claim to be the legitimate leader. The EU has had sanctions in place against Venezuela since November 2017, which include an embargo on arms as well as a travel ban and asset freeze on 18 officials responsible for human-rights violations.

“The group will help to build trust and create the conditions that are necessary for a credible process to emerge in line with the relevant provisions of the constitution of Venezuela enabling Venezuelans to determine their own future through the holding of new elections with all guarantees for a free and fair electoral process that can be supervised by international independent observers,” Mogherini said.

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