US-Cuba relations continue to deteriorate over Venezuela

Photo Credit: ABC News 

US-Cuba relations are expected to continue to deteriorate following Cuba’s unequivocal backing for the Venezuelan Government, mounting US political attacks on socialism, largely for reasons associated with US domestic politics, and Havana’s assertion that Washington may be secretly moving special forces to Caribbean locations to intervene in Venezuela on the pretext of a humanitarian crisis.

The US’s position is expected to be crystallised in a speech that President Donald Trump will make on the situation in Venezuela and ‘the dangers of socialism’ on Monday 18 February at Florida International University’s main campus in Miami.

Cuba made clear, however, in a ‘Declaration of the Revolutionary Government’ issued on 12 February, that it remains ‘firm and unwavering’ in its “solidarity with the Constitutional President Nicolás Maduro’, and has called for the peaceful resolution of the crisis in Venezuela and the avoidance of the damage that military intervention would cause.

In its declaration, the Cuban Government appeared to suggest that US military intervention of some kind might be imminent. It noted that between 6 and 10 February, military transport aircraft had flown to “the Rafael Miranda Airport (sic) of Puerto Rico, the San Isidro Air Base in the Dominican Republic, and to other strategically located Caribbean islands, probably without knowledge of the governments of those nations’. It said that such flights had originated from American military installations out of which special operations units and the Marine Corps operate, noting that such locations ‘are used for covert actions’.

The Cuban declaration also observed that the US had intensified its international, political and media campaign and ‘unilateral coercive economic measures against Venezuela’ which it said were depriving Venezuela and Venezuelans of income from oil sales and ‘causing serious humanitarian damage and deprivation’.

It went on to allege that Washington ‘intends to create a humanitarian pretext to initiate a military aggression against Venezuela’ with the support of Juan Guaidó, the President of the National Assembly who it described as a ‘usurper’ and as ‘shameless’.

More positively, the declaration called for recognition of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace as adopted by the Heads of State and Government of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in 2014. It also expressed support for the Montevideo Mechanism, agreed by Mexico, Uruguay, CARICOM and Bolivia, which seeks to preserve peace in Venezuela based in part on dialogue between the conflicted parties in Venezuela.

Cuba separately condemned US attempts to promote a UN Security Council resolution that presses Venezuela to accept humanitarian aid.

Subsequent to the Cuban declaration, the Dominican Republic denied that the US was using Dominican airports to organise a military intervention in Venezuela. In a statement its Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied the San Isidro Air Base was being used ‘as part of a supposed act of war against Venezuela’. The Dominican Foreign Minister Miguel Vargas, speaking in Italy, suggested that the notion was “completely removed from reality”, before going on to say that the crisis in Venezuela can only be resolved “through the holding of free elections, with the participation of all Venezuelan political actors and with the accompaniment of the international community”.

Also responding to Cuban comments on the possible use of an air base on the island, the Governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló told the local media that the Commonwealth is part of the United States and believed in democracy, before going on to criticise the Cuban Government for objecting to humanitarian aid being offered to Venezuela. Local media reports indicated that operations to lift humanitarian aid to Colombia may have taken place from the Rafael Hernández airport in Aguadilla, a part of the former Ramey Air Base.

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