Venezuela gives U.S. 15 days to reduce embassy staff

Story highlights

  • President Maduro has said Americans will need visas to visit Venezuela
  • He also said several Americans were arrested for espionage
  • The State Department called the allegation "baseless"

(CNN)Venezuela has given the U.S. Embassy in Caracas 15 days to downsize its staff from 100 personnel to 17.

"With respect to bringing the number of staff at the U.S. Embassy in Venezuela to 17, a period of 15 days will be given to decide which staff will stay in our country," said Venezuela's Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez on Monday.
    Venezuela's official news agency AVN (Agencia Venezolana de Noticias) said the U.S. Embassy has been asked to reduce its personnel to a staff of 17 to match the number of Venezuelan personnel working in their embassy in the United States.
    Last month, the U.S. government approved a law under which Venezuelan officials allegedly involved in human rights violations are to have their visas revoked and their U.S. assets frozen.
    Following that decision, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced that that Americans will need visas to visit Venezuela.
    Moreover, a group of prominent U.S. officials, current and retired, will be banned from entering Venezuela because of what Maduro said was their involvement in "bombing Iraq, Syria and Vietnam" and other "terrorist" actions. The officials include George W. Bush, former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, former CIA Director George Tenet and several current members of Congress, including Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Bob Menendez and Mario Diaz-Balart.
    On Saturday, Maduro also said an unspecified number of Americans were arrested "a few days ago" for engaging in espionage and recruitment activities.
    The President said they included an American pilot of Latin American origin, arrested in the southwest border state of Táchira.
    He said the pilot was found in possession of "all kinds of documents" and was being interrogated by the authorities, though he did not identify him. The Venezuelan government has made many similar claims in recent years, without ever substantiating them.
    "There have been a lot of anti-American rhetoric again coming out of the Venezuelan Government with a lot of baseless allegations," said U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf on Monday.