Minister warns Venezuela’s Maduro over US visa-toting officials

Publish: 8:16 PM, April 12, 2019 | Update: 8:16:PM, April 12, 2019

CARACAS – Venezuela’s prisons minister called on President Nicolas Maduro on Thursday to dismiss officials who hold US visas, warning him there are “traitors” in his entourage.

“I ask the president to be careful of whoever has an American visa,” Iris Varela told crisis-worn Venezuela’s state television. “A person who has an American visa at this stage of the game is not trustworthy enough to be at Comandante Nicolas Maduro’s side,” she said.

The prisons minister has a reputation for incendiary comments that have earned her the nickname “Fosforito” or “little match” from Maduro, who as well as being president, is commander of the armed forces.

Maduro has blamed his country’s crippling economic woes on US sanctions. He accuses Washington of plotting a coup along with opposition leader Juan Guaido — recognized as interim president by the US and around 50 other

Varela said she was making her comments because of what she said was an anticipated Maduro cabinet reshuffle.

“What I always ask the president of the republic is: be careful,” said the minister. “There are traitors, there are people who have their price,” she warned.

Guaido and the United States have repeatedly called on Venezuela’s powerful military brass, still loyal to Maduro, to defect. In January, Varela threatened to arrest Guaido after the National Assembly speaker declared himself interim leader under the constitution.

On Twitter she wrote: “Guaido, I’ve prepared you a cell, with a uniform, I’m waiting for you to appoint your cabinet to know who will join you, Mister Speaker”.