The socialist regime of dictator Nicolás Maduro declared Spanish Ambassador to Venezuela Jesús Silva Fernández persona non grata on Thursday and has given him 72 hours to leave the country.
Spain—along with the United States, Colombia, and much of the free Western world—had condemned Maduro’s call for a snap presidential election before April 30 in which most opposition parties and candidates could not participate.
In an official declaration, the socialist Bolivarian Government of Venezuela stated that Silva faced immediate expulsion “in recognition of the continued aggression and recurring acts of interference in the internal affairs of our country.” The statement identified comments by Spanish President Mariano Rajoy in response to Maduro’s call for fraudulent elections as triggering the severance of diplomatic ties. During a visit to the United States, Rajoy said he “wished for the Venezuelans what he wishes for the Spaniards,” enough of an insult, Caracas argues, to expel the ambassador.
The European Union also recently voted in favor of a new round of sanctions against Venezuela in response to Maduro’s elections.
“We will keep raising our voices, taking concrete action to defend the fundamental rights and sacred independence of the Venezuelan people … without interference by imperialist, supremacist powers,” the Venezuelan statement concludes.
On Friday evening local time, Rajoy announced that he had reciprocated the action, and Venezuela’s ambassador to Spain would face the same three-day deadline to withdraw willingly from the country. Maduro had already called Ambassador Mario Isea back to Caracas, however, making Spain’s move largely symbolic, though Isea will not be allowed to return to Madrid.
In announcing presidential elections this week, Maduro insisted they were necessary to prevent an “imperialist threat” against Venezuela by the greater West.
“Imperialism and the right were plotting to take over the economy,” he said on state television. “Let’s get over with this, win the presidential poll and put an end to the imperialist threat.”
“Donald Trump is not the boss of Venezuela!” he declared, citing the election as a way to prove this to the world.
Maduro spent much of late 2016 and early 2017 attempting to court Trump, stating on television that he hoped for “respectful relations” with the United States despite years of levying vitriol against his neighbor to the north. Maduro even attempted to attract Trump’s favorability with a message in English: “Open your hair. Don’t let them got to you.”
Trump largely disregarded these overtures, repeatedly blasting socialism as a “failed ideology” and meeting with Venezuelan dissidents at the White House. By September, Maduro was threatening war with the United States again.
The State Department has rejected Maduro’s latest election, expected to be the latest in a long string of fraudulent votes under socialism in Venezuela. “The decision by the illegitimate constituent assembly to convene snap elections,” a senior State Department official told reporters this week, “Even as negotiations on—between the opposition and the Maduro regime were underway, undermines those talks, undermines the ability for the Venezuelan people themselves to meaningfully participate in addressing the multiple crises that have been caused by the Maduro regime.”
“These elections will be illegitimate, the results of which will be—will not be recognized, and the government needs to enact meaningful electoral reforms that allow for a truly free, fair, transparent, and credible election,” the official stated.
American Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley also condemned the call to a vote, asserting that, given the illegitimate nature of the current state of the government, elections will be neither “free nor fair.” Conservative Senator Marco Rubio and Democratic colleague Robert Menendez have called for more pressure on the Venezuelan regime, as well, urging the Trump administration to use all available resources in defense of the Venezuelan people.