Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro today announced his government is implementing a new $160 visa for all U.S. citizens who want to visit his country, and ordered his foreign ministry to “revise, reduce and adjust” the number of U.S. personnel working at the U.S. embassy in Caracas.
Maduro did not say how many U.S. embassy posts he wants eliminated, but said the U.S. currently has more than 100 employees in its diplomatic mission, while Venezuela has only 17 in Washington, D.C.
The president also ordered the U.S. embassy to notify his government about all meetings it has with members of Venezuela’s opposition.
Maduro said the new visa policy for all other U.S. citizens visiting Venezuela will be a quid pro quo for “the same price that they charge Venezuelans at the U.S. embassy,” according to Telesur. The U.S. charges Venezuelans $160 for non-immigrant visas.
Furthermore, the Venezuelan leader said, his government will deny entry to U.S. politicians who “violate human rights.” The Venezuelan president specifically named George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Bob Menéndez, Marco Rubio, Ileana Ross-Lethinen, George Tenet and Mario Díaz Balart — none of whom have responded yet. Nicaragua recently issued a similar ban for certain U.S. politicians, journalists and NGO workers identified as unfriendly to the government.
Sen. Rubio yesterday blasted Maduro's government on the floor of the U.S. Senate, calling Venezuela a "horrifying human-rights catastrophe" and repeating his call for the Obama administration to take stronger action against a "government that's losing control."
Maduro’s announcement, which comes amid a growing crackdown against the opposition and only days after reports that his government detained four U.S missionaries from North Dakota, was delivered at the conclusion of today's pro-government "Great Anti-Imperialist March of the Venezuelan People."
The U.S. government this week confirmed it was aware of the reports of the detained missionaries but offered no further comment due to privacy considerations.