BRUSSELS - European leaders on Monday called for a new presidential election in Venezuela, saying they will "swiftly'' levy a new round of sanctions targeting those close to President Nicolas Maduro.
Despite widespread calls for a return to democratic rule, Venezuela's election showed the country was further straying from constitutional order, the European Union's foreign ministers said.
The threat from the EU's foreign ministers drew backlash from Maduro, who said that and any more sanctions will only further hurt Venezuelans.
"This is the European Union that arrogantly wants to put its nose in Venezuela's business,'' Maduro said. "Enough of this old colonialism.''
Maduro won a second, six-year term May 20, which his closest challenger called illegitimate and Venezuela's leading opposition parties boycotted as fraudulent.
The United States and a dozen neighboring Latin American countries also rejected the vote, accusing Maduro's government of banning leading opposition parties from participating and using mass bribery to lure votes from the poor.
Venezuela was once one of Latin America's wealthiest countries, sitting atop the world's largest oil reserves. Mismanagement and a recent drop in global oil prices have left it in a deepening economic and political crisis, marked by shortages of food and medicine and mass migration.
The United States has already sanctioned 70 Venezuela officials, including Maduro, accusing them of turning the once-democratic nation into an authoritarian regime.
European leaders have said that the election over a week ago was fatally flawed and wants to see it redone "in accordance with internationally recognized democratic standards.''
Any new sanctions from Europe will add to those already imposing economic and travel sanctions against Maduro and several of his lieutenants.
The EU's foreign ministers said they will carefully craft sanctions targeting Venezuelan authorities, aimed at easing the plight of everyday Venezuelan people.
"The EU will act swiftly, according to established procedures, with the aim of imposing additional targeted and reversible restrictive measures, that do not harm the Venezuelan population,'' they said.