CARACAS – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Saturday ordered the United States, whose government he accuses of conspiring against him, to immediately reduce the staff of its Caracas embassy from approximately 100 to a level similar to the 20 that his government has in Washington.
And as it is authorized by the Vienna Convention, which regulates diplomatic relations, he ordered that notice must be given about any meeting planned by U.S. diplomats, which must then be “expressly authorized by the government of Venezuela.”
Meanwhile, the Venezuelan opposition continued Saturday in the eastern area of Caracas garnering signatures for the “National Accord for the Transition,” a document slammed by the Nicolas Maduro government as proof that a coup d’etat is in the works.
Citizens opposed to Maduro “are being mobilized up and down Venezuela to sign without fear this project for political transition, which is specifically aimed at changing the course of Venezuelan politics and changing this government that is harming the entire country,” lawmaker Richard Blanco said.
The legislator, acting president of the Alianza Bravo Pueblo (ABP) party, took part in a small meeting held on the capital’s east side, because Maduro followers had taken over the plaza where the opposition meeting was scheduled to take place.
The ABP is headed by the recently jailed mayor of metropolitan Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, also accused of plotting to overthrow Maduro, in collaboration with a military group that was similarly discovered and arrested. The coup was supposed to take place on Feb. 12, according to the government.
“The nation demands that we save it and I say get ready because soon, very soon we’ll take not only the populous Caracas municipality of Libertador (governed by Maduro’s PSUV party) but the streets of all Venezuela,” the lawmaker and also journalist Blanco said in a speech Saturday before a crowd of demonstrators.
The “National Accord for the Transition” was published Feb. 11 in the Caracas daily El Nacional, and was signed by Ledezma, by opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez who has been imprisoned for a year, and by deposed lawmaker Maria Corina Machado.
Machado chose to take part Saturday in an opposition march in the western part of the country, where last Tuesday a 14-year-old boy was shot in the head and killed by the Bolivarian National Police, or PNB, during an anti-government protest.
Machado, Ledezma and Lopez proposed in the “National Accord for the Transition” a program of “concrete actions” to “begin the recovery of the country.”
The communique was criticized by Maduro, who said the publication of the document was a sign that the coup-plotting military were waiting to begin airstrikes in Caracas against government targets, including the place where he would be.
The daily El Nacional, which has Richard Blanco on its editorial staff, said on its front page Saturday that as of Friday some 50,000 Venezuelans had signed the “National Accord for the Transition.”
Maduro also said visas would now be required for all U.S. visitors.
Maduro also said that 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.