U.S. to announce tough policy on businesses in Cuba - POLITICO

National security adviser John Bolton will travel to Miami today to give a speech on actions that the United States is taking to address the situation in Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, countries he has called the “troika of tyranny.”

“[I am] Pleased to announce that I will be joining the Bay of Pigs Veterans Association on April 17 in Miami to deliver remarks on the important steps being taken by the Administration to confront security threats related to Cuba, Venezuela, and the democratic crisis in Nicaragua,” Bolton tweeted on Friday.

Also on Friday, the Treasury Department announced more sanctions against nine vessels that have carried oil from Venezuela to Cuba. Bolton is expected to announce more sanctions related to Cuba during the speech, a source familiar with details of the trip told the Miami Herald.

According to John Kavulich, president of the U.S. Cuba Trade and Economic Council, the Trump administration has a wide range of options to increase pressure on the Cuban government, which the U.S. has accused of giving intelligence support to Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro.

Among the policy options being floated are returning Cuba to the list of countries that sponsor terrorism, reinstating per diem spending rates for travelers to Cuba, sanctioning Cuban government officials who are supporting Maduro in Venezuela and requiring American companies with businesses on the island to pay salaries directly to their Cuban workers.

This last measure would have an immediate impact on the operations of airlines, cruise ships and companies like Marriott and Starwood that manage hotels on the island.

The State Department said Friday that the U.S. “will continue to do all we can to stand up against Cuba’s support for the former Maduro regime and its hostility to the Venezuelan people’s aspiration to a peaceful, prosperous, democratic future.” The Trump administration and more than 50 other nations no longer recognize Maduro as the legitimate president of Venezuela, recognizing instead interim President Juan Guaidó.

As it relates to Cuba, the administration must decide by next week whether to fully implement Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, which would allow Americans to file lawsuits to seek compensation for properties that were confiscated after Fidel Castro seized power in Cuba in 1959. The administration has already allowed lawsuits against Cuban companies that control some of these confiscated properties. But a full implementation would also pave the way for lawsuits against foreign and American companies that have businesses in Cuba on those same properties.

The date chosen for Bolton’s speech in Miami carries a special symbolism for Cuban exiles, who mostly supported President Donald Trump in the 2016 elections.

Once Marxist Maduro Is Gone, Communist Cuba Is Next

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Once Marxist Maduro Is Gone, Communist Cuba Is Next

Photo of Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro: AP Images


Communist regimes cannot support themselves, but must rely on outside assistance. Less than a month after communist Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba in 1959 he went to Caracas, Venezuela, hat in hand. He needed Venezuela’s oil and Venezuela’s then-dictator Romulo Betancourt welcomed Castro’s exchange deal: Cuban “assistance” to help stabilize Betancourt tyranny. That assistance came in the form of military and intelligence advisors.

Today those Cuban advisors helping Maduro remain in power number more than 20,000: teachers, coaches, sports trainers, and a large contingent of spies who have infiltrated Maduro’s military and removed dissidents.

When Maduro took over following Hugo Chávez’s death in 2013, he ramped up the deal: 100,000 barrels of crude to Cuba in exchange for continued “assistance.” Socialists and communists have to stay together in order to remain in power.

But now, thanks to Maduro’s meddling in Venezuela’s economy, that flow of oil to Cuba is now down to 40,000 barrels a day, and likely to shrink to zero if Juan Guaidó replaces Maduro, and if he keeps his word. Those 40,000 barrels represent almost a third of Cuba’s oil needs, and their loss would put additional pressure on Cuba’s struggling regime.

Just as the Trump administration planned. Back in early November when the president issued an executive order adding sanctions against Venezuela’s gold sector, there were also sanctionsagainst two dozen entities owned or controlled by the Cuban military and intelligence services. These were added to a list of nearly 200 Cuban agencies, companies, and hotels that were already on the White House list.

Last Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made clear who the sanctions targeted: “We’re aimed at a singular mission: ensuring that the Venezuelan people get the democracy that they so richly deserve and that the Cubans and Russians, who have been driving this country into the ground for years and years, no longer hold sway.”

The Wall Street Journal said that the policy of replacing Maduro with a friendly Guaidó who would then shut down his country’s flow of crude to Cuba was intentional:

[Trump’s foreign policy advisors] have long believed Cuba to be the more serious national-security threat. They cite Cuba’s intelligence operations in the U.S., and its efforts to spread anti-American views to other Latin American countries….

After Venezuela and Cuba, U.S. officials are eyeing Nicaragua.

Trump’s national security advisor, John Bolton, made Trump’s South American intentions clear in a speech last November: “The United States looks forward to watching each corner of the triangle fall: In Havana, in Caracas, in Managua … [this] Troika of tyranny … will crumble.”

As Ted Henken, an expert on Cuba at Baruch College in New York, explained: “Cuba has limped along for the past 15 years thanks … to its relationship with Venezuela.”

Severing that relationship by severing the flow of crude is part of the plan to reshape South American politics more to the Trump administration’s liking. The “reshaping” is going to get a big assist once the administration reinstates Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism.

The plan looks good on paper, but there are many obstacles in its way. First, since the Obama administration opened up Cuba for business, companies in Canada and Mexico have established economic connections there. Additionally, U.S. sanctions against Cuba since the arrival of Castro have failed to dislodge that communist regime. Instead, it has had the opposite effect of driving Cuba into the willing arms of Russia and China, who seek an increasingly influential role in South America.

As libertarian Jacob Hornberger, president of the Future of Freedom Foundation, warned:

The Founding Fathers warned us against empire, militarism, standing armies, and war. They pointed out that among all the enemies of liberty and prosperity, these were the greatest. That’s why they stood for a limited-government republic, one in which the federal government lacked the power and the means to go abroad “in search of monsters to destroy.”

Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua are the “monsters” currently in the White House’s crosshairs.

An Ivy League graduate and former investment advisor, Bob is a regular contributor to The New American magazine and writes primarily on economics and politics. He can be reached at badelmann@thenewamerican.com.



Bay of Pigs Infographic


April 17 marks another anniversary of the 1961 failed Bay of Pigs invasion, an attempt by Cuban exiles — trained by the U.S. government — to defeat Castro and regain power on the island.