Venezuela bans Bush, Cheney

Lesotho Times - - International -

CARA­CAS — Venezue­lan Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro plans to limit the US diplo­matic pres­ence in Venezuela and re­quire Amer­i­can tourists to ob­tain visas, in a sign of grow­ing ten­sions be­tween the two coun­tries.

The left­ist pres­i­dent said the mea­sures, an­nounced on Satur­day, aimed to “con­trol” US med­dling in Venezue­lan af­fairs.

Mr Maduro has in­ten­si­fied in re­cent months his al­le­ga­tions of coup and as­sas­si­na­tion plans — of­ten pur­port­edly backed by the United States — as he faces a deep eco­nomic cri­sis and a sharp drop in pop­u­lar­ity.

‘Pro­tect our coun­try’ “In or­der to pro­tect our coun­try... I have de­cided to im­ple­ment a sys­tem of com­pul­sory visas for all Amer­i­cans en­ter­ing Venezuela,” he told sup­port­ers.

Un­der the new mea­sures, Venezuela will start charg­ing tourists the same visa fees the United States asks of Venezue­lans, though it was un­clear when the plan would be im­ple­mented.

But the re­stric­tions could also have an im­pact on busi­ness trav­ellers seek­ing to in­vest in one of the world’s big­gest oil pro­duc­ers.

In his fiery speech out­side the Mi­raflo­res pres­i­den­tial palace, Mr Maduro noted that the Amer­i­cans have 100 diplo­matic staff in Cara­cas, com­pared to 17 Venezue­lan diplo­mats in Wash­ing­ton.

He cited the Vi­enna Con­ven­tion’s prin­ci­ple of the equal­ity of states con­cern­ing the size of re­spec­tive diplo­matic mis­sions in order­ing his For­eign Min­istry to “re­duce, ad­just and limit the num­ber of US of­fi­cials” at the Amer­i­can em­bassy in Cara­cas.

The US State Depart­ment said it had not re­ceived any diplo­matic com­mu­ni­ca­tion re­gard­ing a re­duc­tion in its em­bassy per­son­nel or visas.

How­ever, a se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial em­pha­sised that Cara­cas’s “con­tin­ued al­le­ga­tions that the United States is in­volved in ef­forts to desta­bilise the Venezue­lan gov­ern­ment are base­less and false.” ‘Ter­ror­ists’ in­clud­ing Ge­orge W Bush

banned Ad­di­tion­ally, Mr Maduro sin­gled out sev­eral US po­lit­i­cal fig­ures as be­ing un­able to come to Venezuela be­cause his gov­ern­ment con­sid­ers them “ter­ror­ists”.

“A group of US po­lit­i­cal lead­ers who have vi­o­lated hu­man rights in bomb­ing” coun­tries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan “will not be able to en­ter Venezuela be­cause they are ter­ror­ists,” Mr Maduro said.

Mr Maduro cited for­mer pres­i­dent Ge­orge W Bush and his vice pres­i­dent Dick Cheney, as well as His­panic Amer­i­can law­mak­ers Bob Me­nen­dez, Ileana Ros-le­hti­nen and Marco Ru­bio.

Wash­ing­ton and Cara­cas have been at diplo­matic odds since Mr Maduro’s pre­de­ces­sor Hugo Chavez came to power in 1999, re­peat­edly crit­i­cis­ing US “im­pe­ri­al­ist” pol­icy.

They with­drew their am­bas­sadors from each other’s coun­try in 2010, and Venezuela has ex­pelled sev­eral US diplo­mats un­der Mr Maduro.

In De­cem­ber, the US im­posed sanc­tions on se­nior Venezue­lan of­fi­cials ac­cused of vi­o­lat­ing the rights of pro­test­ers dur­ing anti-gov­ern­ment demon­stra­tions at the start of 2014.

— AFP

Venezuela’s Pres­i­dent ni­co­las Maduro (right) greets sup­port­ers dur­ing a rally on satur­day.

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