The government of embattled acting President Nicolas Maduro has barred five European parliamentarians from entering the country. They had been invited to visit by Maduro's rival for power, Juan Guaido.
The Venezuelan government on Sunday blocked a group of representatives from the European Parliament from entering the country.
The lawmakers had been invited by Juan Guaido, who appointed himself interim president in early February in a challenge to President Nicolas Maduro, triggering a power crisis.
The visiting EU representatives are members of the conservative European People's Party (PPE) bloc. The European Parliament recognized Guaido as interim president in January.
Blocked by 'irrational regime'
"We are being expelled from Venezuela, our passports have been seized, they have not informed us of the reason for the expulsion," group leader Esteban Gonzalez Pons of Spain said.
The other EU lawmakers expelled alongside Gonzalez included Jose Ignacio Salafranca and Gabriel Mato Adrover of Spain, Esther de Lange of the Netherlands and Paulo Rangel of Portugal.
Guaido wrote on Twitter the lawmakers had been "deported by an isolated and increasingly irrational regime."
Visit a 'provocation'
Citing "official diplomatic channels," Maduro's foreign minister, Jorge Arreaza, wrote on Twitter that the MEP group had been warned in days prior that an attempt to visit Venezuela "with conspiratorial aims" would result in barred entry and called on them to avoid the "provocation."
The MEPs said they had traveled to Venezuela on an official invitation from the National Assembly, which is "an organ recognized internationally and recognized by Maduro himself."
Guaido is the president of the National Assembly, a constitutional body that operates in parallel to the Constituent Assembly, a body Maduro established in 2017 for the purpose of rewriting the Venezuelan Constitution.
Around 50 countries, including some 30 European ones, have recognized the interim presidency of Guaido.
Guaido has rallied supporters behind him to challenge the Maduro government, including its aid blockade
Guaido also said Sunday that he wanted to gather over one million supporters in the next week to challenge the government's blockade of international humanitarian aid, which had been sent to help alleviate critical food and medicine shortages in Venezuela.
In an interview with DW last Tuesday, Guaido said it was imperative that the Venezuelan military allow aid to reach citizens. "If they do not, we regard that as a crime against humanity," he said.
cmb/rt (Reuters, AFP)