Venezuela Announces New Restrictions On Americans, Shrinks Embassy Staff After Detaining U.S. Citizens For Espionage

Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro announced he would be shrinking the size of the U.S. embassy, require visas for visiting Americans, and his government’s prior approval for meetings by U.S. diplomats.

The announcement of Venezuelan restrictions, made Saturday at a rally dubbed the Great Anti-Imperialist March, in Caracas, was designed to regulate imperialist aggression Mr. Maduro said.

“The meetings for conspiracy are over for those officials,” Mr. Maduro told a large crowd, reported the Wall Street Journal. “Every meeting must be approved.”

The Venezuelan President said “gringo” meddling had forced him to make these restrictions.

Americans wishing to visit Venezuela will now have to pay a visa fee of $160, the same the United States charges those wishing to come here. It was enacted as a security feature, according to Mr. Maduro who accuses the U.S. of trying to topple his government.

American diplomats will also have to seek approval from the Foreign Ministry before conducting meetings in the country under the new Venezuelan restrictions.

Mr. Maduro also banned a number of American officials from entering Venezuela, accusing them of human rights abuses and terrorist actions in Syria and Vietnam along with others for being critical of his government.

The list includes George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, ex-C.I.A. chief George Tenet, Senator Robert Menendez, and Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart, according to The New York Times.

The country also released four American missionaries Saturday after accusing them of espionage and holding them for several days, according to Fox News. The group was captured Wednesday in the coastal town of Ocumare de la Costa after providing medical assistance there.

Venezuela apparently continues to hold captive a pilot captured in the border state of Tachira.

The announcement of restrictions comes as Venezuela faces criticism from the U.S. over alleged human rights abuses. The American government also recently banned certain Venezuelan officials from entering the country.

Venezuela, an OPEC country and major supplier of U.S. oil has been suffering through a recession, high inflation and critical shortages of basic necessities.

The U.S. State Department was unable to comment on the new Venezuelan restrictions saying it hadn’t been officially informed of the changes by the Venezuelan government.

“We are aware of reports that President Maduro repeated a number of inflammatory statements about the United States during a televised political rally today. The continued allegations that the United States is involved in efforts to destabilize the Venezuelan government are baseless and false,” said the statement, which was emailed by an official who was not authorized to be quoted by name, reported ABC News.