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Venezuela President Maduro imposes mandatory visas for US citizens

Caracas has announced mandatory visas for US citizens wanting to enter Venezuela. The new system is a method to "control" US interference, the government said.

President Nicolas Maduro announced on Saturday that his government was implementing a new visa system for all US citizens.

"In order to protect our country… I have decided to implement a system of compulsory visas for all Americans entering Venezuela," Maduro said, adding that there would be a review and reduction of US diplomatic staff in Caracas.

Maduro did not specify when the changes for tourist visas would take place, but said his country would charge the same amount as the US charges for Venezuelan citizens.

Speaking at the Miraflores presidential palace in the capital, Caracas, Maduro said that there were only 17 diplomats from his country in the US, while the Americans had about 100 working in Venezuela. The leader addressed US President Barack Obama directly, saying he had "arrogantly" refused talks to resolve issues.

"I am very sorry, Mr. President, that you have gone down this dead end," Maduro said.

Mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, participates in a march called by opposition protesters

Ledezma: accused of treason

Relations steadily worsening

He also announced an embargo for certain US politicians. Maduro called former US President George W. Bush, his vice president Dick Cheney, Democrat Senator Bob Menendez and Republic Marco Rubio "terrorists," and said they would not be allowed into his country because of "violating human rights in bombing" countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.

Relations between the US and Venezuela have been steadily deteriorating ever since Maduro took over as the country's president after Hugo Chavez's death. Early last year, the US imposed sanctions on senior Caracas officials accused of violating protesters' rights during anti-government demonstrations.

In February this year, Maduro accused the US of working with some opposition groups to stage a coup. Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma was also arrested on charges of conspiring to work with the US in the coup plot.

mg/bk (AP, AFP)

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