Venezuela
September 25, 2019

White House Bans Venezuelan, Iranian Officials

By Samuel Rubenfeld

The White House late Wednesday issued proclamations banning top Venezuelan and Iranian officials from entering the U.S., citing the conditions of each country.

Millions of Venezuelans have fled amid an ongoing humanitarian and economic crisis, according to the United Nations. The U.S. considers Iran a leading state sponsor of terrorism and a contributor to humanitarian crises, as well as a threat to its neighbors, international shipping. It also conducts destructive cyberattacks, the U.S said.

The Venezuela ban covers all officials of the Nicolas Maduro administration with the rank of vice minister, or the equivalent, and above. It also bans all officers of the Venezuelan security forces above the rank of colonel, or the equivalent; all members of the pro-Maduro National Constituent Assembly; those who benefit financially from Maduro; and their immediate family members. 

“This suspension is not intended to apply to those...who take concrete steps to help return Venezuela to a functioning, democratic country,” the proclamation said.

The U.S. and more than 50 other countries do not recognize Maduro as Venezuela’s legitimate leader. Many of the top officials covered by the ban, including Maduro and his family, are subject to U.S. sanctions. Some already were subject to U.S. State Department visa bans. 

The U.S. has lifted sanctions on a former top Venezuelan intelligence official after he split ties with Maduro; he has traveled to the U.S. and given several interviews to The Washington Post in the time since he was delisted.

The ban on Iran covers senior officials of the Iranian government and their immediate family members. It follows sanctions imposed earlier Wednesday on Chinese companies helping transport Iranian crude and a counterterrorism designation last week of Iran’s central bank.

The bans come during the week of the United Nations General Assembly, held in New York City. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke there Wednesday; Maduro traveled to Moscow and met with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

President Donald Trump met Wednesday morning with Venezuelan opposition leaders at a U.N. side event, during which he castigated Maduro and his associates, saying they don’t care about the Venezuelan people. “They care about their own power. It’s what they want...power and money,” Trump said. “We will stand with the Venezuelan people every single day until they are finally freed from this horrible and brutal oppression.” 

Later Wednesday, the State Department announced an additional $119 million for humanitarian assistance, with nearly $35 million earmarked for aid inside Venezuela.  The funding also includes aid to 16 other countries in the region that have provided services to refugees and internally displaced persons, such as food, shelter, medicine and legal assistance. 

Trump, at a press conference, referred to the aid when answering a question from a Venezuelan reporter, saying the U.S. had to provide it because people are dying there. “They have no food. They have no water. They have no nothing.  They’re dying. No medicine. Their hospitals are closed or — or don’t even have electricity. It’s so sad to see,” he said.