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Venezuela Cuts American Embassy Staff, Restricts U.S. Travel

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro waves to supporters during a march in Caracas, Venezuela, on Saturday.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has announced a reduction in U.S. diplomatic staff in the country and restrictions on travel by U.S. citizens there –- as he accused Washington of "gringo" meddling.

The BBC reports:

"The president said that the US government had 100 employees working in Venezuela whereas Venezuela had 17 based in the US.

"Mr Maduro said Venezuela would be charging Americans the same rates for visa as those levied on Venezuelans wishing to visit the United States.

"A list of banned politicians would include George W Bush, Dick Cheney, Bob Menendez and Marco Rubio.

"Mr Maduro said these were all men who had violated human rights and encouraged terrorism, particularly in Iraq and Syria."

According to The Associated Press, Maduro said the new restrictions resulted from the recent detention of several U.S. citizens, including an American pilot, allegedly involved in espionage.

AP says: "The president and other officials gave no specific information on any Americans in custody, and the U.S. Embassy did not respond to a request for comment. Earlier in the day, Venezuela released four missionaries from North Dakota who had been detained several days ago for unknown reasons. They were banned from coming back for two years."

Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, have consistently accused the U.S. of trying to topple their regimes.

As we reported last month, Venezuelan authorities arrested Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma, a major opposition figure, accusing him of planning a coup in league with the U.S.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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