The U.S. flirtation with Cuba was incredibly short-lived, with the Trump Administration unleashing new measures against the country this week for its support of Venezuela’s Maduro regime.
On Wednesday, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton announced a series of new sanctions and penalties targeting, along with Venezuela and Nicaragua, referring to them as the “troika of tyranny” in a wonderfully alliterative campaign coup.
Bolton also noted that the new measures would “end the glamorization of socialism and communism”.
For Cuba, the measures will hit hard at its tourism sector. When Obama relaxed restrictions on Cuba, the country saw a sudden influx in tourism, which has already been on the wane since the Trump administration started undoing that earlier easing of restrictions.
While further details of the new restrictions will come out shortly, Bolton noted that there will be a new cap on remittances of $1,000 per per, per quarter, and that U.S. citizens will be restricted from visiting Cuba with the exception of family-visits. U.S. remittances to Cuba hit $3 billion in 2016, and the country depends quite heavily on these.
Another restriction is related to Cuban companies and banking transactions. Under Obama, Cuban companies were allowed to perform transactions through third countries, which passed through the U.S. banking system indirectly, according to the Miami Herald, citing the U.S. Treasury Department. Bolton said this set-up made it possible for the Cuban government to evade sanctions. Five Cuban companies have also been added to the restricted-entities list including a group of tourism companies that happen to be controlled by the Cuban armed forces.
For Venezuela, new sanctions target the country’s central bank and its director, and for Nicaragua, sanctions have been slapped on what Washington calls Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s “slush fund”.
Hype and alliteration aside, though, the crux of the issue is that Washington is pushing for the international community to recognize opposition, self-declared ‘president-in-charge’ Juan Juan Guaidó as the country’s legitimate interim president.
Cuba and Nicaragua aren’t playing ball here, and Washington has promised additional sanctions, with Bolton saying “this is just the beginning”.
“As long as the people of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua stand for freedom, the United States will stand with them,” the national security advisor stated.
The move has caused uproar in Europe, with the European Union particularly criticizing Washington’s reversal of a 20-year-old policy that prevented U.S. citizens from filing lawsuits against foreign companies doing business in Cuba and “trafficking” in property confiscated after the Cuban revolution.
Europe is threatening to sue the U.S. at the World Trade Organization over this and other sanctions measures, which the bloc fears could harm European companies operating in Cuba.
Essentially, what Washington has done is forced companies to either trade with the U.S. or Cuba, and not both.
“If a U.S. hotel chain with a certified claim sued an EU hotel chain in a U.S. court under Title III for alleged trafficking in U.S. property, the EU hotel chain would be able to counterclaim for damages from the EU-based assets of the same U.S. hotel chain in an EU court,” EU officials wrote the secretary of state.
There is no indication that Washington plans to backtrack on any of this, either. As Bolton said: “In no uncertain terms, the Obama administration’s policies toward Cuba have enabled the Cuban colonization of Venezuela today.” He added that it’s time to reverse “the disastrous Obama-era policies, and finally end the glamorization of socialism and communism,” he added.
By Charles Benavidez for conil.me