|Marlon Espina |||Mar 02, 2015 10:29 PM EST|
(Photo : REUTERS / Miraflores Palace / Handout via Reuters) Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a meeting with governors and ministers at Miraflores Palace in Caracas in this handout photo provided by Miraflores Palace December 22, 2014.
Tensions between Venezuela and the U.S. are gradually increasing after Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro announced the arrest of an American pilot in the western state of Tachira for alleged espionage.
"We have captured some US citizens in undercover activities, espionage, trying to win over people in towns along the Venezuelan coast." Maduro said on national television and radio broadcasts.
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Following the announcement, Maduro also directed trimdown of the U.S. embassy staff in Caracas.
Furthermore, the Venezuelan government is now strictly requiring mandatory visas for U.S. residents. He stressed that the Venezuelan government is barring some Americans from entering the country, including former U.S. President Goerge W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney.
The U.S. government released a statement saying it is fully aware of the inflammatory statement made by Maduro in a broadcast political rally. It also described the allegations as baseless and false.
The U.S. denies the allegations that it is in involved in efforts to destabilize the Venezuelan government.
Last week, four U.S. evangelical missionaries from North Dakota were also reportedly detained in a military camp and questioned for giving out medicines in a coastal area. They were released after several days of detention and have been banned from the country for two years.
A spokesman for their evangelical group said the Venezuelan government "attempted to link" the missionaries to espionage but found no basis for the allegations.
Meanwhile, Pope Francis, in his homily, called for an end to the political violence in Venezuela and urged everyone to respect the dignity of all persons.
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