The US Embassy in Venezuela says it is suspending appointments for new tourist visas amid simmering diplomatic tensions between Washington and Caracas.
On Sunday, the diplomatic mission announced that because of the expulsion of consular staff last month and the delays in approval to bring in new officers, it no longer has sufficient staff to process first-time tourist visa requests for Venezuelans.
“Until further notice, we are able to offer such appointments only in emergency situations,” the embassy said in a statement posted on its website.
Last month, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the expulsion of three US consular officials, for meeting with student protest leaders “under the guise of offering them visas to destabilize the country.”
In response, Washington declared three Venezuelan consular officials personae non grata and told them to leave the US.
On March 14, Maduro accused the US government of trying to overthrow him and warned that such an incident would have dire consequences for all of Latin America.
The Venezuelan leader also said some US politicians are trying to influence President Barack Obama in leading Washington into an extremist foreign policy against Caracas.
The two countries have not exchanged ambassadors since late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez recalled his own ambassador from Washington and expelled the US ambassador from Venezuela in September 2008.
Venezuela has been rocked by a wave of protests since early February. At least 34 people have been killed in the violence since then.
Maduro says the US is backing the opposition to launch a coup d’état in Venezuela.