Fri, Mar 08, 2019 - Page 7 News List

Caracas expels German envoy, sanctions added

PRESS FREEDOM:A US journalist was detained and sent for deportation, while the US revoked the visas of 77 more people linked to Maduro’s regime

AFP, CARACAS

Venezuela on Wednesday expelled Germany’s ambassador, hitting out at international support for National Assembly President Juan Guaido as the US stepped up sanctions in a bid to force out Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Separately, a US journalist was detained by Venezuelan security services for about 12 hours and due to be deported in an incident condemned by advocacy groups as an attack on free speech.

The Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs gave German Ambassador to Venezuela Daniel Kriener 48 hours to leave for “interference” in the nation’s internal affairs. He had greeted Guaido at Caracas’ Simon Bolivar International Airport on his return to the country on Monday.

Kriener’s expulsion would be seen “as a threat to the free world,” Guaido said.

Kriener was among more than a dozen foreign representatives to welcome the opposition leader — recognized as interim president by more than 50 countries — but so far the only one deemed persona non grata.

Kriener had helped to try to bring humanitarian aid to the country, Guaido said in a speech to opposition lawmakers.

German Minister for Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas said that kicking Kriener out only “aggravates the situation.”

Meanwhile, journalist Cody Weddle, who worked in Venezuela for several years as a correspondent for a variety of US media, “has been released after being detained by Venezuelan authorities,” Miami’s WPLG Local 10 News, for which he reported, said on Twitter.

He was picked up at 8am, his work equipment was confiscated and he was held for more than 12 hours before finally being released and sent to Simon Bolivar International Airport to be deported yesterday, the Venezuelan National Union of Press Workers said.

The union said it had been in contact with Weddle and he is fine.

He has lived in Venezuela since 2014 and worked as a stringer for ABC News, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp, the Miami Herald and the Telegraph.

Washington 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.

The move brings to more than 250 the number of Venezuelans targeted by US visa bans, a US Department of State official said.

The US is also putting foreign financial institutions on notice that they would face sanctions if they facilitate “illegitimate transactions that benefit Nicolas Maduro and his corrupt network,” US National Security Adviser John Bolton said.

However, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said that sanctions have worsened Venezuela’s economic and political crisis.

“Venezuela clearly illustrates the way violations of civil and political rights — including failure to uphold fundamental freedoms and the independence of key institutions — can accentuate a decline of economic and social rights,” Bachelet said.

“This situation has been exacerbated by sanctions,” she said in her annual report to the UN Human Rights Council.

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