Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced a new mandatory visa requirement for all Americans visiting the country. The leader also called to review and downsize the number of US embassy staff in Caracas.
“In order to protect our country…I have decided to implement a system of compulsory visas for all Americans entering Venezuela,” Maduro said in a speech on Saturday.
This is a reciprocal measure and now all Americans will have to pay tourist visa fees equal to what “a Venezuelan pays to travel to the US.”
When announcing the new regulations for US tourists, Maduro said that Venezuela apprehended American citizens who were involved in “espionage activities.”
“We have captured some US citizens in undercover activities, espionage, trying to win over people in towns along the Venezuelan coast,” he said.
A group of four missionaries had been called in for questioning after participating in a medical assistance campaign in the coastal town of Ocumare de la Costa, the head of a Venezuelan evangelical organization said on Friday.
The four had reportedly left the country for Aruba after having been questioned.
Maduro also said that Venezuela captured a US pilot of Latin American descent in the western state of Tachira, who he claims was also conducting “covert” espionage activities.
At the same time, Maduro asked to review and reduce the number of US diplomatic staff in the country, after allegations of “conspiratorial meetings” against Venezuela.
“I’ve thought about it…First I have ordered the Foreign Ministry…to proceed immediately, to review…[and] limit the number of officials at the [US] embassy in Venezuela,” Maduro said. “They have 100 staff, we have 17.”
He added that former US President George W. Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney, and Republican Congress members Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Robert Menendez, and Marco Rubio will be denied visas into the country, labeling Bush and Cheney as “terrorists.”
The visa bans, Maduro said, target those who “violated human rights and bombed villages as in Iraq, Syria and Vietnam.”
From now on, US diplomats will be required to seek approval from the Foreign Ministry for meetings they conduct in Venezuela.
The new law is designed to help “control” US interference, the president stressed.
Tense relations between Venezuela and the US reached a new level of intensity earlier in February, when Maduro accused America of being behind the attempted coup in Venezuela.
“The northern imperial power has entered a dangerous phase of desperation, going to talk to the continent’s governments to announce the overthrow of my government. And I accuse Vice President Joe Biden of this,” Maduro said.
The allegations were made amid widespread protests in the country in the first half of 2014, triggered by high levels of inflation, mass power cuts, and a lack of basic goods. Demonstrators demanded Maduro’s resignation amid an economic crisis that was hitting the food sector the most.
Later in February, Venezuela’s leader announced that the country successfully defeated an alleged US-sponsored coup, adding that a plot involved an attack on the presidential palace or another top target, Maduro said.
Prior to that, Maduro claimed at the end of 2014 that there were “recordings” disclosing the US plan to bribe and corrupt Venezuelan authorities.
Washington and Caracas have been at odds with each other since Venezuela’s iconic former leader Hugo Chavez came to power in 2000. Previously, the US had been accused of trying to undermine the Venezuelan government in 2002, when a coup saw Chavez ousted from office for 47 hours before order was restored.
A related article from RT
Maduro accuses Joe Biden of ‘bloody coup’ in Venezuela
The US is behind the attempted coup in Venezuela – that is the accusation President Nicolas Maduro has leveled amid widespread protests back home. And it’s none other than Vice-president Joe Biden who’s behind the entire operation, Maduro alleges.
This is the first time a direct accusation of this gravity was made in front of thousands of cheering spectators and the world at large, despite an earlier Friday statement, when Maduro struck out at several US federal agencies for allegedly plotting against Venezuela.
“The northern imperial power has entered a dangerous phase of desperation, going to talk to the continent’s governments to announce the overthrow of my government. And I accuse Vice-president Joe Biden of this,” the head of state said, addressing the people at the 198th anniversary of the birth of a Venezuelan hero general Zamora in Cua, Miranda state.
He also questioned US President Barack Obama publically, whether he was “aware of these plans to promote violence and a coup in Venezuela” and “appealed to his consciousness.”
“There are US diplomats in Venezuela contracting military officials to betray their country, looking to influence socialist political leaders, public opinion leaders and entrepreneurs to provoke a coup,” the head of state went on.
The President addressed the nation on Sunday in order to strengthen its resolve in times of what he called “a bloody coup”, as demonstrators flooded the streets demanding his resignation amid an economic crisis that is hitting the food sector first, just as the voices of thousands of others could be heard cheering him on, as they smiled and waved flags.
But according to Maduro, this is no ordinary crisis. “I appeal to the people and the patriots among the officials who are on high alert, as a bloody coup is underway in Venezuela.”
“The people must be prepared to rescue their democracy, the Constitution and their revolution” at times like these, the head of state warned.
Only a few days prior to the occasion, the leader had appealed to his fellow countrymen to burn their US visas to send a message to the “imperialist Yankees”, but the accusations of a coup had before only dealt with members of the political opposition at home and their being influenced by other unfriendlies in the region.
The New York Times pointed out on January 2 that an unnamed official had said Maduro was interested in improving his relationship with Biden, and the Venezuelan leader said after the meet that he “told Vice-president Biden, and have said it 1,000 times in public and in private, we want respectful relations, nothing more.”
But as the price of oil – which accounts for 95 percent of its export earnings – begins to plunge, so do Maduro’s public ratings, which are now at little more than 20 percent, according to local media.
With the situation changing, Maduro said that it’s difficult to imagine, despite earlier promises, how to maintain diplomatic relations with the US, in light of its constant attempts to subvert the Venezuelan leadership and sink the country into a crisis.
“They [the opposition] say that the revolution is over, that the people no longer support it. They say they will overthrow the people and the revolutionary government that I chair. But I say to the conspirators – stay out of Venezuela, let us live in peace.”
Washington and Caracas have been at odds regularly after iconic former leader Hugo Chavez had come to power in 2000. The US had already been accused of trying to undermine the Venezuelan government in 2002, when a coup saw Chavez ousted from office for 47 hours, before order was restored.