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Tensions Grow Between U.S. And Venezuela

 / Updated 
Patrons line up on a supermarket parking lot in San Cristobal, Venezuela, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015. The combination of shortages and spiraling inflation have shaken support for President Nicolas Maduro even among the poor who rely on the social programs launched by his mentor, the late President Hugo Chavez. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)Fernando Llano / AP

Relations between the United States and Venezuela took on a hostile tone as the U.S. announced new visa restrictions on Venezuelan officials and the Venezuelan president accused Vice President Joe Biden of involvement in a plot to overthrow him.

The State Department announced restrictions on current and former Venezuelan officials believed to be linked to human rights abuses.

The U.S. said claims by President Nicolas Maduro of a plot by Biden were "ludicrous."

The tensions come amid escalating shortages in Venezuela and worries about its worsening economy. Over the weekend the Venezuelan government held two executives from the country's largest drugstore chain Farmatodo in an investigation over whether illegal practices were contributing to shortages while Maduro said retail owners were waging "economic war." The company disputed the allegations, saying its actions were transparent.

Economists and critics of Maduro's government blame rigid price and currency controls for the situation and warn against a takeover of companies like Farmatodo.

"We're talking about ending what little is left" of private enterprise in the economy, former presidential candidate and opposition leader Henrique Capriles said on Twitter.

Reuters reports that at least 40 major U.S. companies - all members of the S&P 500 - could be forced to take billions of dollars of write downs due to exposure to the Venezuelan currency, the bolivar, on their books.


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--The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.


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