John Bolton, the US President’s national security adviser, has said in a speech delivered in Miami that more than two dozen Cuban companies are to be added to the list of those with which US citizens and companies are forbidden to do business.
In response Cuba said that new sanctions would prove futile, would not change its policies and would isolate Washington internationally.
Speaking at Miami Dade College on 1 November, Ambassador Bolton attacked Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua accusing them of being a part of a “Troika of Tyranny” in the hemisphere.
In his remarks Bolton said that US policy towards Latin America was now “of utmost importance to the President, to me, and to the entire administration,” and that the US government was “working hard to strengthen bonds and deepen ties with several responsible governments throughout the region”. In noting this, he referred specifically to Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, and Argentina.
Observing that the Hemisphere was in his view “confronted once again with the destructive forces of oppression, socialism, and totalitarianism”, he went on to say that “in Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, we see the perils of poisonous ideologies left unchecked, and the dangers of domination and suppression”.
I am here, he said, “to deliver a clear message from the President of the United States on our policy toward these three regimes. Under this administration, we will no longer appease dictators and despots near our shores.”
In an aggressive and inflammatory speech high on hyperbole and conservative rhetoric, Bolton went on to allege in relation to Cuba that “a brutal dictatorship under the façade of a new figurehead continues to frustrate democratic aspirations, and jail and torture opponents”.
On Cuba, he said that the US approach would be to enforce US law to maintain sanctions until “among other things, all political prisoners are freed, freedoms of assembly and expression are respected, all political parties are legalised, and free and internationally supervised elections are scheduled”.
Noting that President Trump’s national security directive of June 2017 (Cuba Briefing June 19, 2017) was just the beginning of the administration’s effort to pressure Cuba, Bolton said that “within days” the administration “will add over two dozen additional entities owned or controlled by the Cuban military and intelligence services” to the restricted list which prohibits US persons from making financial transactions with them. The Ambassador then went on to add, “and I believe even more will come as well”.
In an apparent reference to concerns about sanctions that have been expressed by some US officials, Bolton said that the National Security Council will intensively review progress on President Trump’s commitments regarding Cuba “to ensure that all of them are fully implemented”.
Regarding dialogue with Cuba, Bolton said that Washington “will only engage with a Cuban government that is willing to undertake necessary and tangible reforms”.
Responding to the speech, Carlos Fernández de Cossío, the Director General for the United States in Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Minrex) described Bolton’s comments as “vulgar and disrespectful”. The new measures announced, he told a press conference, “will not take us away from our truths and objectives.” The US, he said “will not be able to break the will of the Cubans to build their own and independent future.” He however recognised that the measures would further impact negatively Cuba’s economy and the country’s development.
Fernández de Cossío also noted that changing US government policy would not alter Cuba’s commitment to solidarity with other nations, “nor with the revolutionary and progressive processes that are taking place in Latin America and the Caribbean today”.
However, he said “Cuba is willing to have a frank, official, and respectful dialogue with the United States, and is also open to discussing any issue as long as there is no interference in the internal affairs of either of the two countries.”
In his comments Fernández de Cossío linked the new US policy to the Trump administration’s attempts to improve its possibilities in the midterm elections.
At the time of publication, no new list or regulations have been issued on Cuba by either by the US Treasury or the Department of Commerce.