Venezuela in Trump’s Travel Ban: An Explainer

Venezuela joining the likes of North Korea and Syria in the U.S. list of risky countries is no surprise. It’s the execution of these promised measures that makes this such a strange case.

President Donald Trump’s inclusion of Venezuela in his new travel ban is a little odd. After a worldwide review, the US government concluded that eight countries (Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen) had “inadequate” identity-management protocols, information-sharing practices and risk factors. For all countries but one Venezuela the U.S. has restricted entry of immigrants.

Trump’s proclamation acknowledges that the Venezuelan government has embraced “many” of the minimum standards required. Still, its justification for Venezuela’s inclusion is threefold. First, a lack of cooperation from the regime in verifying whether its citizens pose national security or public-safety threats. Second, its failure to share public-safety and terrorism-related information adequately. And third, the revolution’s unhelpfulness in receiving Venezuelans subject to deportation from the U.S.

After recognizing that the U.S. government has alternative means to verify the citizenship and identity of Venezuelan nationals, the proclamation only imposes restrictions on government officials “responsible for the inadequacies”. Consequently, it bans entry into the US (starting October 18th) of those officials and their immediate family members as nonimmigrants on business or tourist visas (B1/B2).

The U.S. government could have barred entry of Venezuelan officials without incurring in such a designation.

The proclamation also states that Venezuelan nationals who are visa holders will be subject to additional measures to ensure that traveler information remains current. Although the precise extent of this determination is not yet clear, this could mean that the process through which Venezuelans obtain or renew the U.S. visa will get more cumbersome.

Overall, it is odd that the U.S. included Venezuela in such a “select list, especially when such designation could eventually make travel a lot harder to every person holding a Venezuelan passport. After all, the other countries have “substantial terrorist presence” (Chad, Libya, and Somalia), are the source of significant terrorist threats (Iran, Yemen), sponsor terrorism (Syria), or are threatening nuclear war (North Korea).

Why didn’t the US government expressly point out any links between the Venezuelan regime and terrorism, as it did with other countries? Including Venezuela in the list implies that its government is involved in serious criminal activities that may affect all its citizens. If the purpose was to exert political pressure in response to the ongoing crisis, the U.S. government could have barred entry of Venezuelan officials without incurring in such a designation.

In any case, the decision reveals how Venezuela is increasingly becoming one of the main foreign policy concerns for Donald Trump’s administration. The inclusion in the travel ban exposes the likelihood that the U.S. will continue to use every tool at its disposal to seek a change in Maduro’s regime. Even if doing so can significantly impact all Venezuelans.