Venezuela: Trump Imposes Travel Ban, Putin Backs Dialogue

US officials and the Venezuelan opposition have also lobbied the EU to impose harsher sanctions against Caracas.

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Donald Trump held a meeting with regional allies and representatives of self-proclaimed "Interim President" Juan Guaido. (Youtube Screenshot / White House)
Donald Trump held a meeting with regional allies and representatives of self-proclaimed "Interim President" Juan Guaido. (Youtube Screenshot / White House)
By Ricardo Vaz
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Caracas, September 26, 2019 (venezuelanalysis.com) - The Trump administration has imposed a travel ban on Venezuelan officials following a meeting with an opposition delegation.

All officials with the rank of vice-minister and above, all military officers with the rank of colonel and above, as well as all members of the National Constituent Assembly are now banned from entering US territory. The ban extends to the officials’ immediate family members as well as anyone deemed to act “on behalf or in support” of the government.

Washington had previously imposed a travel ban against government officials from the Interior and Foreign Ministries, as well as a number of other public institutions. The latest measures cover all ministries and the armed forces.

Trump held a meeting with representatives from the Venezuelan opposition and regional allies on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Wednesday afternoon.

"We will stand with the Venezuelan people every single day until they are finally freed from this horrible and brutal oppression," he said, telling those present they were part of a “historic coalition.”

US officials reiterated support for self-proclaimed “Interim President” Juan Guaido during the yearly UN meeting. The opposition leader has unsuccessfully attempted to oust the Maduro government on several occasions, most recently via a failed military putsch on April 30.

For its part, the Trump administration has imposed successive rounds of punitive sanctions against Venezuela, targeting vital economic sectors such as oil and imposing obstacles for food and medicine imports. The Treasury measures were upgraded to a comprehensive embargo in August, alongside threats of secondary sanctions against countries and companies that deal with Venezuela.

The US and regional allies recently invoked the TIAR mutual defence military pact, also known as the Rio Treaty. While stressing that a military intervention is off the table, the 16 TIAR member countries approved sanctions freezing the assets of Venezuelan officials alleged to be involved in drug trafficking, human rights violations, and other offences.

Washington and the Venezuelan opposition also used the UNGA to pressure the European Union to impose harsher sanctions against Venezuela. Despite recognizing Guaido following his self-proclamation, European countries have backed dialogue efforts.

“The end of Venezuela’s crisis should result from a peaceful and negotiated path,” Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said during a meeting between European and Latin American countries on the sidelines of the UNGA on Wednesday afternoon.

The EU has imposed sanctions against several high-ranking officials but has stopped short of targeting sectors of the Venezuelan economy. On Thursday, EU diplomats revealed that sanctions would be imposed against a further seven individuals. While their identities were not disclosed, the persons are purportedly linked to the arrest of retired Navy Officer Rafael Acosta. Acosta died in state custody on June 29, having allegedly been subjected to torture. He had been accused of involvement in a coup plot.

Rebutting the US position, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed support for negotiations between the Venezuelan government and minority sectors of the opposition during a meeting with his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro in Moscow on Wednesday.

“Of course we support the dialogue that the Venezuelan government is conducting with opposition forces,” Putin told reporters.

According to reports, the topics discussed during the bilateral meeting included doubling cereal exports to Venezuela in 2019, investment in mining projects, the sale of 1.5 million flu vaccines, as well as military cooperation. Interfax reported that a group of Russian specialists arrived in Venezuela on Thursday to service military equipment.