In an “anti-imperialist” rally on Saturday, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro came out swinging against the United States.
At one point wielding a sword, Maduro announced that some U.S. diplomats will have to hit the road, while tourists from the North American nation will have to apply for a visa and pay the same $160 fee that Venezuelans pay to enter the U.S. He also said that some U.S. politicians and officials will not be allowed to enter Venezuela.
Maduro said the U.S. had 15 days to reduce its diplomatic staff to match the size of Venezuela’s staff in Washington, D.C.
According to Maduro, the move is necessary to “protect” the country from a coup d’état. In addition, he said that his government will retaliate against U.S. sanctions on Chavista officials over human-rights violations. Venezuela will impose counter sanctions of their own — as Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega did in December — barring entry for alleged perpetrators of human-rights violations in Iraq, Syria, and Vietnam.
In his speech, Maduro did not specify how many U.S officials would be subject to the ban. However, to get the ball rolling he named former President George W. Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney, former CIA Director George Tenet, Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Republican Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Díaz-Balart of Florida, both Cuban Americans.
“There can be no entry for terrorists to Venezuela. Get out of here, terrorists!” Maduro said.
The sitting U.S. congressmen have, however, laughed off and dismissed Maduro’s strategy and labels. Ros-Lehtinen is “proud,” and likewise Rubio has said “I want [Venezuela] to have freedom, human rights, and to be banned by a dictator like Nicolas Maduro is a badge of honor.”
U.S. tourists have also not needed paperwork and fees to dissuade them from traveling to Venezuela. Their presence has plummeted in recent years, due to a rising crime rate, consumer shortages and social turmoil.
According to the U.S. State Department, the number of U.S. citizens visiting Venezuela has dropped by 75% since 2010.
Credit: PanAm Post, http://panampost.com