Panamanian president Juan Carlos Valera announced that effective October 1st, 2017, Venezuelan citizens are required to obtain a visa before traveling to the the country. According to the president, this security measure attempts to protect the people of Panama.
On Tuesday August 22nd, Valera said that the rupture of the democratic order in Venezuela is a situation that endangers the country’s security and economy as well as the sources of jobs for Panamanians. He added that after careful analysis he sees it fit to require the visa for all Venezuelan citizens.
Venezuela did not take the news well and accused Valera of siding with U.S. President, Donald Trump. Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza has declared on Twitter that “Venezuela receives with indignation the anti-integrationist measure of Panama. We will work on reciprocity and reserve [the right] to complementary measures.”
Valera’s decision came a couple days after U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visited Panama, rising suspicion that the U.S. is behind the Panamanian president decision to implement the visa requirement on Venezuelans.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs along with the National Migration Service will have 30 days to coordinate the execution of this decision. Valera has assured that Panama is committed to solidarity and humane treatment, he said, “we will grant immigration status to the 25 thousand Venezuelans who were duly registered until June 30th, 2017.”
All Venezuelan nationals are affected by this decision regardless of their country of residency. This new requirement will have a business impact as employers and Venezuelan employees will have to obtain a visa in advance and might have to reschedule business meetings and travel dates. Venezuelan people traveling to Panama before September 30th will not be affected by this measure.
Tensions between governments impact travelers and visa requirements
Changes in U.S. presidential administrations can have a serious impact on tourist visa policies. Not just for those hoping to travel to the United States, but for U.S. citizens who wish to visit South America. Due to tensions between the Venezuelan government and the United States, in 2015 Maduro imposed a mandatory visa requirement for all Americans who travel to Venezuela. This is seen as a reciprocal measure as Venezuelans have to pay when they apply for a visa to travel to the U.S. Other countries like Bolivia have applied this reciprocal measure too.
In contrast with the current 45th president, President Obama, worked to improve visa processing capacity and increment tourism in the United States. Programs such as the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) and the Electronic Visa Update System (EVUS) have been established to facilitate travel and automate the application process. Although the EVUS is currently available for chinese citizens only it is expected to extend to other countries like Mexico and Colombia.
However, with Trump as the head of the United States government, we’re already seeing significant changes in legislation. It is likely that his presidency will work to strengthen national security by limiting visitor visas. We shall see what is in store.