Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro, warned on Tuesday that his government would deny visas to a number of U.S. officials and ordered the U.S. to cut its embassy staff in Caracas.
Those affected include former U. S. President George W. Bush and current Senators Bob Menendez and Marco Rubio.
Mr. Maduro said at an anti U.S. rally, in Caracas that the measures were taken to ease the “imperialist aggression” coming from Washington.
This was in response to U.S. sanctions and restrictions on Venezuelan officials.
The list of officials banned from entering the U.S. has been extended, and now includes family members.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, had said earlier that the ban was a message that ‘human rights abusers, those who profit from public corruption, and their families are not welcome in the United States’.
President Maduro said Washington has 15 days to reduce its 100-strong embassy staff in Caracas by 80 per cent.
“It’s up to Washington to decide which 17 diplomats will remain out of an estimated 100,” he said.
The figure is similar to the size of the embassy staff of the South American nation in Washington.
“Venezuela has 17 staffers in Washington, Maduro said, adding that the embassies should be on par.’’
Mr. Maduro also unveiled a series of tit for tat measures, such as requiring U.S. travelers to apply for visas and drawing up an “anti-terrorist” list that bars certain U.S. officials from entering Venezuela.
He said the measures also require U.S. diplomats to request permission from the Venezuelan government to meet with opposition political groups.
The President said this was keeping with suspicions that U.S. personnel had been actively abetting the country’s right-wing extremists to foment unrest.
“These are decisions I take as head of state, in accordance with the Vienna Convention, our Bolivarian Constitution and the revolutionary conscience of the people of Venezuela.
“I call for a global rebellion against U.S. imperialism,” he said.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Delcy Rodriguez, told reporters after a three-hour meeting with the top U.S. diplomats that the ultimatum, sanctions and restrictions on the officials has become imperative.
“The U.S. government must keep 17 diplomats on our soil and we have given them 15 days to present us a list of those who will remain here,” she said.
U.S. Charge d’Affaires, Lee McClenny, made no statements to the press after the meeting with Ms. Rodriguez, who described the encounter as “cordial.”
Relations between the two countries have been deteriorating lately, with Mr. Maduro accusing Washington of conspiring with opposition groups to launch a coup involving the bombing of the presidential palace.
Washington has called the accusation ‘ridiculous’.
The two nations have not exchanged ambassadors since 2010 although they maintain stable trade relations. (Xinhua/NAN)