The Trump administration is reimposing limits on the amount of money Cuban Americans can send to relatives on the island and ordering new restrictions on U.S. citizen, nonfamily travel to Cuba, national security adviser John Bolton said Wednesday.
The new measures, outlined by Bolton in a Miami speech, follow an announcement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the administration will lift restraints that have prevented lawsuits from U.S. citizens seeking compensation for property expropriated by the Cuban revolutionary government that seized power there six decades ago.
Bolton also announced new sanctions against Venezuela and Nicaragua that will bar parts of their banking systems from U.S. dollar transactions.
The actions are the latest move in President Trump’s efforts to roll back the Obama administration’s openings to Havana, and to punish Cuba for its support for the Venezuelan government of President Nicolás Maduro.
Trump, with the support of most governments in Latin America, has recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate interim president and charged that tens of thousands of Cuban military and intelligence agents are enabling Maduro to stay in power.
New sanctions against Venezuela’s Central Bank, Bolton said, should be a “strong warning to all external actors, including Russia,” which has provided financial support to Venezuela, sold military equipment to its government, and last month deployed about 100 military personnel there.
“The United States will consider such provocative actions a threat to international peace and security in the region,” he said.
In a fiery speech to the Bay of Pigs veterans group, on the anniversary of the failed CIA-orchestrated invasion of the island in 1961, Bolton said, “Today, we proudly proclaim for all to hear: the Monroe Doctrine is alive and well.” The 1823 doctrine holds that the United States will not tolerate foreign intrusions anywhere in the Western Hemisphere.
“The walls are closing in,” Bolton said of pressure against Maduro. “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.”
In a Miami speech last November, just before the U.S. midterm elections, Bolton referred to the three countries as the “Troika of Tyranny.” On Wednesday, he called them “the three stooges of socialism.”
Quoting Trump, who has made accusations of Democratic “socialism” a key component of his 2020 reelection campaign, Bolton said “the twilight hour of socialism has arrived in our hemisphere.”
The new Cuba restrictions are likely to provoke a strong reaction from Cuban Americans, which polls indicate are divided between those who support the Trump crackdown and those who advocate widening the Obama opening.
Pompeo announced earlier Wednesday that the administration will end waivers, activated by five presidents over the past 20 years, of a 1996 law allowing compensation lawsuits by U.S. citizens against any entity or person “trafficking” in confiscated property in Cuba. The expansive legislation includes foreign companies and persons, and plans to remove the waiver have already brought sharp criticism and threats of countermeasures from the European Union and Canada, which have extensive investments in Cuba.
In a joint statement, the E.U. and Canada said they “consider the extraterritorial application of unilateral Cuba-related measures contrary to international law.” The measure also permits the United States to deny and revoke U.S. visas to any person deemed to be utilizing confiscated property, and their family members.
About 6,000 potential lawsuits, by both native-born Americans and naturalized Cuban Americans, have already been certified as valid by U.S. government and can proceed to litigation. Administration officials estimated that claims eventually could total tens of billions of dollars.
Correction: An earlier version of this story gave the incorrect year for the Bay of Pigs invasion. It was in 1961.