Fifteen countries have banned 29 Venezuelans – including the country’s President Nicolas Maduro and his close allies – from travelling within their borders as part of diplomatic efforts to push him to step down.
A meeting that took place on Tuesday in Colombia included representatives from Argentina, Brazil, the United States, Chile and Peru, all signatories of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR), an accord that promises mutual defence among members of the Organization of American States (OAS).
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The group in September approved the identification, sanctioning and extradition of leading members of Venezuela’s government who it said were linked with activities related to money laundering, drug trafficking and terrorism.
The list of people banned from travelling to the 15 countries included top Maduro allies such as Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino, Vice President Delcy Rodriguez and Diosdado Cabello, number two in the ruling Socialist Party (PSUV).
Maduro dismissed the move and called it a strategy to divert attention from other issues, including in Colombia under President Ivan Duque.
“The TIAR meeting has failed, nobody messes with Venezuela,” Maduro said.
“Ivan Duque has an 80-percent disapproval rating in Colombia and now he wants to divert attention from the immense political, economic, and social crisis that Colombians are experiencing,” he added.
Cabello also rejected the accusations and asked the countries to stay away from Venezuela.
“I reject the imperialist attempt and the attempts of these North American allies to come and involve themselves in Venezuela’s internal matters. Venezuela demands respect,” Cabello said following a march in Caracas against the OAS meeting.
Some 500 people linked to Maduro have already been targeted by various sanctions, said Julio Borges, who attended the meeting as a representative of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido.
Guaido argues that Maduro’s 2018 re-election was illegitimate and invoked the constitution this year to declare himself the interim president of Venezuela. Most Western countries have backed him as head of state.
Maduro has said Guaido is a puppet of the US.
The countries at Tuesday’s meeting discussed new measures to support the re-establishment of democracy and respect for human rights in Venezuela as part of a strategy to stem migration flowing from the country, said Colombia’s Foreign Minister Claudia Blum.
“At this meeting, there are no unilateral decisions nor invitations to use force,” Duque said. “There is only an open invitation to strengthen diplomatic pressure so that every time it is more effective.”
Colombia is the principal destination for Venezuelan migrants fleeing widespread shortages of food and medicine. Nearly 1.5 million Venezuelans currently reside in the Andean nation.