The Trump administration instituted a new travel ban in late September expanding travel restrictions beyond the Middle East to two non-Muslim majority countries, North Korea and Venezuela.
On Tuesday, a federal judge temporarily blocked the new travel ban for all affected countries except Venezuela and North Korea. Therefore, as of today, certain Venezuelan government officials and their immediate family members will be prohibited from entering the U.S., a decision that has strained the already tense relationship with the Latin American country.
According to Gerardo Luis Munck, an International Relations professor at the University of Southern California, the Trump administration's Venezuela sanction is part of a pattern, as the U.S. has denied Venezuelan government officials access to U.S. funds before.
"The justification with the ban for middle eastern countries is potential terrorists may come from those countries," Munck said. "But Venezuelan justification is different, it fits this pattern of the U.S putting sanctions on government officials to put pressure them to change their policies."
The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry recognized the sanction as an effort by the United States to force political change in Venezuela, and condemned Trump's travel ban, calling it "psychological terrorism." However, Munck said he thought that term was going a step too far.
"Terrorism is when innocent people are being terrorized," he said. "In this case, the sanction is directed at people who did negative actions, which sort of says 'coming to the U.S is a privilege, you don't have this privilege.'"
However, Nicolle Gonzáles, a Venezuelan student at USC, agreed with her government in that the term strains the relationship with Venezuela and the rest of the world, and it will automatically affect Venezuelan citizens who want to travel in and out of their country.
"This negative light that gets imposed on millions of innocent people through this ban is where terrorism comes into place," she said. "It makes the rest of the world think of us psychologically in line with those other countries that pose an actual terrorist threat, [but] we can barely deal with ourselves, the last thing we will do is attack any other nation."
Jessica Duque, another Venezuelan native, working in Washington D.C. at the moment, said the Venezuelan government referring to the ban as terrorism is just another example of the general rhetoric they have used against the United States.
"Once again, the government is trying to blame the U.S. for the country's own problems and the problems they created," she said.
This is not the first time Venezuela and the U.S. are at odds. Relations between Venezuela and the U.S have been deteriorating since the 1990s, following the 1998 election of Hugo Chávez as president. According to Munck, the relationship has been "diplomatically tense" since Chávez turned Venezuela into a socialist country and broke off diplomatic relations with the U.S. in 2008.
Chávez died in 2013 and was succeeded by Nicolás Maduro, a former bus driver whose leadership caused a major revolt among civilians. As protests escalated, law enforcement started using force against civilians, causing protests to become violent and, often, deadly.
Samuel Pérez, a Venezuelan native who joined the protests in 2013, describes the revolt as "brutal," but necessary for change.
"I have some friends that actually got arrested and hit in the streets for protesting," he said. "That does not happen in a country that isn't a dictatorship. Even if the travel ban gives a negative reputation to Venezuela, it's a price I'm willing to pay to improve the country."
According to Munck, Maduro's government became a dictatorship after the controversial elections for Congress in 2016. Even though the opposition won a majority of seats in Parliament, Maduro managed to retain power from them, raising corruption questions. Since then, Maduro has continued removing authority rights from the opposition. In 2016, he refused to hold regional elections.
The Trump administration has deemed the Venezuelan government officials uncooperative, and decided to ban them from entering the United States. If the travel ban proves unsuccessful, the Trump administration has considered "military options," which Munck said would transform Venezuela into a victim.
"If the U.S makes statements about a military intervention, Latin American countries would support Venezuela against the U.S imperialism," Munck said. "Latin American leaders want more of a dialogue negotiation than military force."
The travel ban goes into effect today, but it's too soon to tell whether or not the Trump administration will intervene further.