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US imposes new visa restrictions on Venezuela officials


The US has expanded visa restrictions on unnamed Venezuelan officials it accuses of human rights violations and corruption.

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro said the measures were an attempt to violate Venezuelan sovereignty.

They build on sanctions imposed last year on officials alleged to have violated the rights of protesters.

The list of officials banned from entering the US has been extended, and now includes family members.

“We are sending a clear message that human rights abusers, those who profit from public corruption, and their families are not welcome in the United States,” said US state department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

Nicolas Maduro reacted angrily and said he would write a letter to President Barack Obama.

“We can’t let an empire that has been eyeing all of us pretend or think it has the right to sanction the country of [Simon] Bolivar,” Nicolas Maduro said, making reference to the Venezuela-born hero of Latin American liberation.Nicolas Maduro and Joe Biden in Brazil

The sanctions imposed in December were aimed at officials accused over their role in suppressing anti-government protests that shook Venezuela in the first six months of 2014.

The new visa restrictions were announced a day after Nicolas Maduro accused Vice-President Joe Biden of plotting a coup against his Socialist government during an energy summit of Caribbean leaders in Washington.

Joe Biden’s office called the allegation “baseless and patently false”.

“President Maduro’s accusations are clearly part of an effort to distract from the concerning situation in Venezuela, which includes repeated violations of freedom of speech, assembly, and due process,” read a statement.

Joe Biden and Nicolas Maduro had shaken hands in Brazil during Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s inauguration ceremony on January 1.

“Vice-President Biden: Look me in the eyes. I saw you in Brazil, I gave you my hand,” said Nicolas Maduro in a televised address on February 1.

“You, who said this is a new era for relations in Latin America, were going to conspire against Venezuela,” he added.

Relations between the US and Venezuela have been tense for many years. They last had ambassadors in each other’s capitals in 2010.