Venezuela suspends Panamanian businesses, airline

Venezuela suspends Panamanian businesses, airline
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro waves to supporters during an event marking 50 years since the assassination of Martin Luther King, at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, April 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela has temporarily banned a group of Panamanian businesses from operating within its borders as tensions rise between the two countries.

Venezuelan officials said Thursday the ban protects the country’s economy even as it spirals deeper into crisis.

Last week, Panama put Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and several high-ranking officials on a watch-list as being at high risk for laundering money.

Venezuela’s ban targets Panama’s President Juan Carlos Varela and Copa, one of the few airlines still operating within Venezuela.

Venezuela’s 90-day ban restricts 22 business leaders and 46 companies in the neighboring Central American country.

For its part, Panama has identified 16 Venezuelan companies and 55 individuals suspected of money laundering.

Panama’s list also includes Venezuela’s vice president, socialist party leader Diosdado Cabello and Attorney General Tarek William Saab.