Caracas, July 31st 2014 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Accusing the Venezuelan government of committing human rights abuses during anti-government protests earlier this year, the U.S. State Department issued a press release on Wednesday barring 24 Venezuelan officials from travel to the United States. The statement did not identify the 24 individuals due to confidentiality requirements.
“We have seen repeated efforts to repress legitimate expression of dissent through judicial intimidation, to limit freedom of the press, and to silence members of the political opposition,” read the statement, published by Deputy Department Spokesperson Marie Harf.
The communication continued, “The Secretary of State has decided to impose restrictions on travel to the United States by a number of Venezuelan government officials who have been responsible for or complicit in such human rights abuses.”
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elías Jaua rejected such claims.
“We understand these attacks as a desperate cry from those who know the world is changing, and who have no way of relating to it without imperial arrogance and outrage," Jaua said in a press conference. “If the purpose of this anger is to accuse Venezuela of fighting for a united Latin America, a developing Latin America, then we welcome it.”
Earlier today during her weekly radio program, Venezuelan Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz gave an assessment of those arrested during the deadly protests, noting that “only 77 people remain incarcerated, 14 of whom are law enforcement officials, and only three are students.”
She added that of the 43 citizens killed during the protests, seven died attempting to avoid opposition street barricades, along with 25 others who died “under similar circumstances.”
The State Department’s move comes on the heels of two points of conflict between the U.S. and Venezuela. The first occurred a week ago, when former Venezuelan intelligence chief Hugo Carvajal was arrested in Aruba on drug trafficking charges at the State Department’s request. The Dutch government ruled that the arrest violated international rules on diplomatic immunity.
The Venezuelan government had named Carvajal as its consul general in Aruba, though Aruban officials claimed they had not yet accepted his appointment. He returned to Venezuela on July 28, where he was received by President Nicolas Maduro at the Third Congress of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).
The second point of conflict emerged following an Associated Press report detailing the contributions of the US State Department and National Endowment for Democracy to opposition groups in Venezuela. The amount budgeted by the two groups last year, $7.6 million USD, represented a 15 percent increase from 2009, when the Venezuelan National Assembly passed a law attempting to bar these contributions.
The travel ban also comes less than a month after the two countries took a step towards normalising relations, naming charge de affairs to each other’s capitals. They have been without ambassadors since 2010.