Venezuela's president tightens restrictions for Americans

Americans now required to obtain visa before entering Venezuela

MIAMI – The recently released rules requiring Americans to apply for visas and shrinking the number of U.S. diplomats in Venezuela, some argue, is only a diversion to the bigger problems in the South American country.

"This is a joke, simply a joke," said Ernesto Ackerman, president of the Independent Venezuelan American Citizens. 

The new rules will only hurt Venezuelans, Ackerman said. 

"What's really happening here is that they are afraid of all these sanctions that will really penalize them...he [President Nicolas Maduro] and his crooks that are now in the government in Venezuela," Ackerman said. 

"This is spiraling out of control," said Frank Mora, director at FIU's Latin American and Caribbean Center. 

Mora said Maduro's actions were predictable.

With a deepening economic crisis, Maduro is looking to shift the focus from the internal hardships to tensions with U.S. 

"He is really trying to provoke the United States," Mora said. "His declaration makes it seem like the United States is dying, when in fact, it has little impact."

Already American travel to Venezuela is low. Only about 50,000 Americans went to Venezuela compared to the 500,000 who went to Colombia last year, Mora said. 

"This is an old script that has been taught to Maduro and to Chavez by the Cubans," he added.

Protests continue in Venezuela and those closely following the conflict fear it may get worse.

"I am very concerned about the levels of violence that will increase leading to a potential implosion of Venezuela," Mora said. 

Talls Pinango, who works in sales in Venezuela, is in Miami on vacation. 

Of the rules, she said: "It's bad for our country. We need the people from the United States to go to Venezuela to spend your money over there."

She said the economic crisis is only getting worse. 

Prior to traveling, she went to a pharmacy in Venezuela where things as simple as vitamin C is scarce. 

"Usually, when you have a list of 10 items, you're lucky if you find one," she said.

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