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U.S. bars Venezuelan officials

FILE - In this Feb. 28, 2014 file photo, surrounded by mask-wearing supporters of Venezuela's opposition, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, center, speaks to the media in Doral, Fla. Rubio and Gov. Rick Scott called for sanctions against Venezuela, as opponents of President Nicolas Maduro were staging countrywide protests. (AP Photo/Javier Galeano, File)

WASHINGTON/CARACAS: Washington barred a group of Venezuelan officials, including ministers and presidential advisers, from the United States Wednesday after accusing them of abuses in a crackdown on protests against President Nicolas Maduro this spring. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf, citing visa record confidentiality, did not identify those who would be denied entry.

Months of demonstrations led by hard-line opposition and student leaders led to violence that killed 43 people in the South American OPEC member nation’s worst unrest for a decade.

Demonstrators said they were protesting economic hardships and dictatorial government, but Maduro, who replaced the late Hugo Chavez last year, called them a cover for a U.S.-backed “coup” attempt against him.

Protesters were subjected to arbitrary detentions, excessive force and judicial intimidation, Harf said in a statement, echoing local opposition and rights’ groups accusations against the government.

The Venezuelans barred from entry included government ministers, presidential advisers, judicial officials and law enforcement and military officials, a State Department spokesperson said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 31, 2014, on page 11.

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