BERLIN, Germany – Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido called on Europe Thursday, March 7, to intensify financial sanctions against the regime of Nicolas Maduro, a day after Caracas expelled the German ambassador for "interference".
European countries "should strengthen financial sanctions against the regime. The international community must prevent Venezuelan money from being misused to kill opponents of the regime and indigenous peoples," Guaido said in an interview with the German news weekly Der Spiegel.
Guaido, who declared himself interim president in January, strongly condemned the decision by President Maduro to expel the German ambassador to Caracas, and urged the envoy to "remain" in Venezuela.
"Venezuela lives under a dictatorship, and this way of proceeding is a threat to Germany," Guaido said.
"Maduro holds the presidency illegally. It is not legitimate to declare an ambassador undesirable," he added, thanking Germany for humanitarian aid it has provided. (READ: Juan Guaido: the 'kid' taking on Venezuela's Maduro)
"The regime not only threatens the ambassador verbally, his physical integrity is also threatened."
Venezuela expelled Germany's ambassador Wednesday, March 6, hitting out at international support for Guaido. (READ: Venezuela's Guaido tells Maduro pressure 'just beginning')
The foreign ministry gave German envoy Daniel Kriener 48 hours to leave for "interference" in Venezuela's internal affairs.
Kriener was among more than a dozen foreign representatives to welcome Guaido at Caracas airport on his return to the country on Monday -- but so far the only one deemed "persona non grata."
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that kicking Kriener out only "aggravates the situation."
Guaido, recognised as interim president by more than 50 countries, had defied a ban on leaving the country to embark on a 10-day tour of South American allies.
The National Assembly leader remains free despite the threat of arrest by the government.
Washington has continued to tighten the screws on its campaign of sanctions to force Maduro from power, revoking the visas of 77 people linked to the regime, including officials and their families.
However, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said Wednesday that sanctions have worsened Venezuela's crippling economic and political crisis, which has forced 2.7 million people to flee since 2015. – Rappler.com