Spain to lodge complaint over MEP deportation


Spain said today it was preparing an official complaint against Venezuela's decision to deport a member of the European Parliament (MEP) for criticising the Venezuelan electoral commission.

Luis Herrero, MEP for Spain's conservative PP party, was deported on Friday after Venezuela's CNE electoral commission accused him of questioning its impartiality before a referendum to allow President Hugo Chavez to stand for his post indefinitely.

"They grabbed me and stuck me in a car without giving me any explanation for what was happening," Mr Herrero said in an interview to Spanish television.

Spain's government has requested a meeting with Venezuela's ambassador in Madrid to convey its disapproval of the expulsion of Mr Herrero, a Foreign Office spokesman said.

"This confirms that [Venezuelan president] Hugo Chavez' regime is moving ever further away from the fundamental liberties which should be respected in every democracy," European Popular Party president Joseph Daul said.

Venezuela's relations with Spain hit a low point in 2007 when Chavez threatened to review diplomatic and business ties after being told to "shut up" by Spain's King Juan Carlos when he interrupted the Spanish prime minister during a summit.

The rift was officially repaired in 2008 on Chavez' official visit to Spain, where he shook hands with the King and discussed a multi-million dollar oil-for-investment deal with Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

Spanish businesses, including banks BBVA and Santander and oil company Repsol have an estimated $2.4 billion invested in the country.