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US Visa Bans Extended to more Venezuelan Officials

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Earlier this month it was announced that more Venezuelan officials, accused of human rights infringements and corruption are to be denied US visas further increasing tensions between the two Countries.

The US and Venezuela have been on bad terms for some time. About a year ago Venezuela expelled three US diplomats from the American Embassy in Venezuela, leaving it understaffed according to US officials. In retaliation the US did the same to Venezuelan diplomats in the US.

Responding to the new visa restrictions, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has accused the US of 'attacking Venezuelan sovereignty.'

The new sanctions follow on from previous restrictions imposed last year amid claims that Venezuelan officials had violated the rights of protestors.

Previously, the ban applied just to officials, but that has been extended to now also include immediate family members.

Human Right Abusers Not Welcome

US state department spokesperson, Jen Psaki, said: "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."

The move has prompted an angry reaction from President Maduro who said that he would be writing a letter to Barack Obama.

Referring to a Venezuelan-born hero of Latin American freedom, Mr Maduro said: "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."

The original sanctions of December 2014, targeted officials involved in stifling anti-government protests that had a profound impact on Venezuela in the early months of 2014.

New Sanctions

New visa restrictions were implemented just 24 hours after President Maduro accused the US Vice-President, Joe Biden, of plotting to overthrow his Socialist regime at an energy summit of Caribbean leaders in Washington on 2 February 2015.

Responding to Maduro's claims, Biden said: "His [Maduro's] comments are totally baseless and patently false. His 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."

Tensions between the two Countries

Ironically, the pair had shaken hands during the inauguration of Brazil's President, Dilma Rousseff, on New Year's Day. However, it would appear things have turned sour with Maduro saying: "Vice President Biden, you looked me in the eyes in Brazil, I gave you my hand. You said this is a new dawn for relations in Latin America, but you chose to conspire against Latin America."

Relations between the US and Venezuela have been tense for several years. Neither nation has welcomed ambassadors of the other in their capital cities since 2010.

The US government said that they will not publicly release the names of the officials sanctioned as this would violate US confidentiality laws. Officials did state that the restrictions have been imposed in accordance with the US Immigration and Nationality Act.

It seems likely that sanctions will be in place for some time to come.