PANAMA CITY, (Reuters) – Panama’s government said yesterday that from October Venezuelans wishing to enter the country would need a visa, accusing the administration of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro of undermining democracy at home and security abroad.
Speaking a few days after a visit to Panama by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, the country’s president Juan Carlos Varela said the visa requirement would take effect on Oct. 1 and remain in place until “democratic order” was restored in Venezuela.
“Given the break in the democratic order in Venezuela, a situation that puts at risk our security, our economy … and after a careful analysis, I’ve taken the decision to demand visas from Venezuelan citizens wanting to travel to Panama,” Varela said in a brief televised message to the nation.
Varela said the situation in Venezuela had deteriorated since the government decided to press ahead with a 545-member constituent assembly in the face of strong criticism from around the Americas, including the United States and Mexico.
On Friday, the assembly granted itself lawmaking powers, dealing a new blow to the opposition-controlled congress, whose decisions have been nullified by the pro-government Supreme Court.
Large numbers of Venezuelans have left their country due to economic and political turmoil. According to Varela, some 60,000 Venezuelans have moved to Panama in the last six years.