Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza decried the U.S. travel ban on its officials and their families, saying the measure is the latest attempt by the Trump administration to force regime change in the South American nation.
Venezuela has been “threatened directly by the president of the United States,” Arreaza told the United Nation’s General Assembly on Monday in New York, called the U.S. as the world’s “major human rights violator” and saying that Trump acted “as if he were the world’s emperor.”
Following his speech, Arreaza told reporters that President Nicolas Maduro was open to holding talks with his U.S. counterpart, but reserved the right to defend his country from foreign aggression. “We’re open to dialogue, but can respond to attacks,” he said.
On Sunday, President Donald Trump restricted or suspended travel to the U.S. from eight countries, including Venezuela, in order to “protect the security and interests of the United States and its people,” according to the order’s proclamation.
The decree says the Venezuelan government “fails to share public-safety and terrorism-related information adequately” and has not been “fully cooperative” in receiving deportees.
The Venezuelan portion of the ban, which goes into effect Oct. 18, targets officials and their families “involved in screening and vetting procedures” — specifically immigration and foreign ministries as well as investigative and intelligence police forces. The order says current visa holders “should be subject to appropriate additional measures to ensure traveler information remains current.”
The measure follows the imposition of targeted sanctions against top-ranking Venezuelan officials by both the Trump and Obama administrations, which included freezing their U.S. assets and revoking their visas. Rather than bar regular citizens’ from to the U.S., the travel ban seeks to further isolate Venezuela’s ruling socialists says, Gregory Weeks, a professor of political science at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
“It’s part of an overall policy to squeeze the Venezuelan government,” said Weeks. “It doesn’t really substantively change much at all.”
The Trump administration has sought to punish Maduro and his government for what U.S. officials say is a slide toward dictatorship. Last month, the Treasury Department barred trading of new debt by the government and state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA. The move is having broader consequences, as the added scrutiny has banks seeking to avoid running afoul of the regulations. Other rounds of sanctions have targeted senior individuals in Maduro’s administration including Vice President Tareck El Aissami and PDVSA Chief Financial Officer Simon Zerpa Delgado.
Arreaza said that Trump’s recent efforts to isolate the country ultimately sought to “make Venezuelan people suffer and to force an undemocratic change in government.”
Sunday’s travel restrictions could also further deepen divisions between Trump and other Latin American leaders. At a dinner in New York last week with the presidents of Brazil, Colombia and Panama, Trump praised the good relationship between the U.S. and Latin America and enlisted the region to keep pressure on Maduro, calling his rule “disastrous.”
Trump in August had said that the U.S. has “many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option” to address the crisis in Venezuela, which drew rebukes from some of the U.S.’s strongest allies in the region.
(c) 2017, Bloomberg · Andrew Rosati, Vivianne Rodrigues