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'Terrorists' including George W Bush banned

by AFP
01 Mar 2015 at 18:22hrs | Views
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.

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, 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, 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," Maduro said.

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 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 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.

Source - AFP