Despite recent efforts between American and Cuban officials to thaw a historically frigid relationship, it seems that the U.S. has no plans to mend such relations with another socialist Latin American nation — and vice versa — as Venezuela announced imposing a limit on U.S. embassy staff and requiring American tourists to apply for visas.
Speaking to a crowd at an anti-imperialism rally in Caracas on Saturday, President Nicolas Maduro said that "gringo" meddling left him with little choice but to adopt a string of restrictive measures against the U.S. to "control" its interference, which included reviewing and curtailing American diplomatic staff in the country, necessitating visas for American tourists and banning a list of politicians from entering Venezuela.
The Associated Press reported that Maduro's reasoning for the tourist visas was due to national security reasons, claiming that Venezuelan authorities had in recent days detained several U.S. citizens, including a pilot, who were suspected of spying — but neither he nor other officials gave specifics on American citizens in Venezuela's custody. Maduro said in his speech:
In order to protect our country... I have decided to implement a system of compulsory visas for all Americans entering Venezuela.
Venezuela now plans to levy at Americans the same tourist visa fees that the U.S. charges Venezuelan tourists. Maduro added that all who applied for the visa would be welcomed, except for the handful of American officials prohibited from entering the country. Its list of banned politicians include former President George W. Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney and GOP Sen. Marco Rubio.
According to the news wire, Maduro pointed out that while the U.S. has 100 diplomatic officials in Caracas, Venezuela, in contrast, had a mere 17 diplomats in Washington D.C. In his fiery delivery, Maduro said his government would not allow certain politicians into the country because of human rights infractions in countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan:
A group of US political leaders who have violated human rights in bombing [in these countries] will not be able to enter Venezuela because they are terrorists.
Relations between the two countries, while traditionally unfriendly, have further deteriorated in the past few months. Maduro has accused the U.S. of being responsible for its economic and social woes, and on Monday called on the "damn Yankees" to respect his country. Secretary of State John Kerry criticized the Venezuelan government for its handling of anti-government protests, saying that the country kept moving in the "wrong direction and making the wrong choices."
The leader also called out President Obama in his speech for "arrogantly" refusing to participate in diplomatic discussions aimed at reconciling both countries. Addressing POTUS directly, Maduro came out harshly:
I'm very sorry, Mr. President, that you have gone down this dead end.
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