The European Union approved sanctions and an arms embargo against Venezuela on Monday in an attempt to deter the country’s rapid descent into dictatorship.

The sanctions will include a weapons ban to prevent the sale of military equipment that can be used for repression or surveillance of Venezuelans, as the regime continues to use excessive force to contain protesters and persecute political dissidents and opposition leaders. They also include freezing assets and travel restrictions on some government officials.

European leaders took the decision primarily as a response to recent fraudulent elections that took place in Venezuela, which created a new lawmaking body known as the “national constituent assembly,” comprised solely of government supporters, as well as rigged regional elections which saw the increasingly unpopular governing socialist party somehow “win” 19 out of 23 state governorships.

However, EU officials remain cautious not to push the country into total collapse, as socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro holds crunch talks with creditors to ensure the country does not default on its crippling $120 billion debt and said that sanctions could be reversed if the regime agreed to open a dialogue.

All 28 EU ministers said in a statement:

The primary responsibility for ending the crisis in Venezuela lies in the country. The EU calls upon the government to urgently restore democratic legitimacy, including through free and fair elections, and on the opposition to continue engaging in a united manner towards a negotiated solution to the current tensions, in the interest of the country.

The statement also said:

The measures can be reversed depending on the evolution of the situation in the country, in particular, the holding of credible and meaningful negotiations, the respect for democratic institutions, the adoption of a full electoral calendar and the liberation of all political prisoners.

“Everything we do is aimed at seeking dialogue between the government and the opposition to find a democratic and peaceful solution,” Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis added on Monday.

A September report conducted by the United Nations found that the government had engaged in “extensive” and widespread repression of rights across Venezuela amid a political, economic, and humanitarian crisis that has left millions starving and thousands dead.

The report said:

OHCHR’s [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights] findings detailed in this report point to an increasingly critical human rights situation since the protests began, with mounting levels of repression of political dissent by national security forces, and increasing stigmatization and persecution of people perceived as opposing the Government of President Maduro.

The decision follows multiple sanctions imposed by the Trump administration, which include economic sanctions against Venezuela’s state-run oil company, as well as travel bans and the freezing of assets against a number of senior government officials.

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