The Trump administration announced fresh sanctions Wednesday against Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, further rolling back ties with Havana established by President Obama and saying the U.S. won’t rest until its pressure topples the “troika” of socialist regimes.
White House National Security Adviser John R. Bolton outlined the new actions during a speech in Miami to veterans of the U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, including a first-ever move allowing U.S. citizens to sue over property stolen during the 1959 communist revolution.
Mr. Bolton also announced that the U.S. will impose new limits on non-family related travel to Cuba, calling it “veiled tourism,” and will restrict family remittances from the U.S. to $1,000 per person per quarter to relatives in Cuba.
Mr. Bolton said too much of the U.S.-Cuba commerce reopened with fanfare by Mr. Obama in 2015 has aided Cuba’s repressive government and allowed Havana to prop up a failing puppet state in Venezuela under embattled leader Nicolas Maduro.
“Tragically, the Obama administration’s misguided Cuba policy provided the Cuban regime with the necessary political cover to expand its malign influence and ideological imperialism across the region,” Mr. Bolton said. “We are correcting the mistakes and undoing the damage.”
Democrats and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce criticized the administration’s decision to allow lawsuits over confiscated property in Cuba under the 1996 Helms-Burton Act. Presidents since Bill Clinton had suspended the provision, arguing that it would harm alliances with U.S. trading partners who conduct business in Cuba.
House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel, New York Democrat, called the administration’s move “cowboy diplomacy.”
Mr. Engel said the action won’t help resolve U.S. property claims in Cuba, but will “damage our partnerships with key allies, including Canada and the European Union, by opening up another front in the Trump trade war as it opens the United States to litigation in the [World Trade Organization].”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said the administration’s action threatens to disrupt trade with Canada, the European Union and Latin America.
“Six decades of trying to isolate Cuba has failed to bring change to the island, and today’s move only doubles down on this strategy,” the business group said in a statement.
In conjunction with Mr. Bolton’s announcements, the Treasury Department imposed new sanctions on the Central Bank of Venezuela and one of its directors “to prevent it from being used as a tool of the illegitimate Maduro regime.” Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said the move “illustrates the Trump administration’s resolve to prevent the Maduro regime from gaining access to the U.S. financial system.”
Treasury also imposed sanctions on the Nicaraguan bank BanCorp; Laureano Ortega Murillo, the son of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, and Vice President Rosario Murillo, to penalize what it called “corrupt financial operations and Ortega regime support networks.”
Mr. Bolton also issued a warning to Russia, a key ally of Venezuela, to stop actions such as recent military flights that delivered tons of cargo and 100 military personnel to Caracas.
“The destinies of our nations will not be dictated by foreign powers; they will be shaped by the people who call this hemisphere home,” Mr. Bolton said. “Today, we proudly proclaim for all to hear: the Monroe Doctrine is alive and well.”
He said of Venezuela’s social and economic crisis, “The walls are closing in. There is no turning back. The people will prevail. And when they do, we know that Cuba will be next.”
“And soon after, we pray, the third member of the Troika, Nicaragua, will also, at last, be free,” he said.
The European Union and Canada joined forces to protect their companies from lawsuits against firms operating on properties Cuba seized from Americans.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said the U.S. move “to renege on its longstanding commitment” to avert such legal action “is regrettable.”
They said in a joint statement Wednesday that they’re “determined to work together to protect the interests” of their companies. They warned that EU and Canadian laws allow counter-claims against any U.S. lawsuits “so the U.S. decision to allow suits against foreign companies can only lead to an unnecessary spiral of legal actions.”
Spain also criticized the administration’s decision to open the door for lawsuits against foreign companies operating on properties Cuba seized from Americans. The Spanish government said Washington’s move damages relations between Europe and the United States and will lead to lawsuits and counterclaims.
⦁ The article based in part on wire reports.