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U.S. restricts travel by Venezuelan government officials

Source: Reuters - Wed, 30 Jul 2014 14:03 GMT
Author: Reuters
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(Adds background on protests, press freedoms)

WASHINGTON, July 30 (Reuters) - The United States imposed travel restrictions on Wednesday on a number of Venezuelan government officials the State Department linked to human rights abuses in a government crackdown on protest and dissent.

People participating in large demonstrations over worsening economic and political conditions in Venezuela have been subjected to arbitrary detentions, excessive force and judicial intimidation, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement.

As a result, she said, the State Department decided to impose travel restrictions on "a number of Venezuelan government officials who have been responsible for or complicit in such human rights abuses."

She did not say how many Venezuelan officials were affected.

"While we will not publicly identify these individuals because of visa record confidentiality, our message is clear: those who commit such abuses will not be welcome in the United States," Harf said.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who replaced the late Hugo Chavez last year, has been seeking to quell dissidents who say he is failing to fix the economy or end graft.

Hard-line leaders in Venezuela's opposition parties earlier this year spurred three months of street protests that led to 43 deaths in daily clashes between demonstrators, government supporters and security forces. The unrest shook but failed to topple the government.

Tense relations between Caracas and Washington flared this week when the United States accused Venezuela of using economic pressure, including a reported threat to close an oil refinery, to apply pressure on the Netherlands not to extradite an official Washington wants to face drugs charges. (Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Bill Trott)

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