Latin America

Trump threatens ‘full and complete embargo’ against Cuba for meddling in Venezuela

As his Cabinet members pledged the administration’s support for Juan Guaidó, President Donald Trump used his favorite bully pulpit to target the Cuban government for its role in Venezuela.

Trump warned of “a full and complete embargo, together with highest-level sanctions” against the Havana government if the Cuban military does not immediately cease operations “for the purpose of causing death and destruction to the Constitution of Venezuela.”

“Hopefully, all Cuban soldiers will promptly and peacefully return to their island!” Trump tweeted Tuesday afternoon.

The sweeping threat by Trump is only the latest way the White House has reshaped Venezuela policy with an eye toward Cuba, or as some put it, the “Cubanization of Venezuela policy.”

Senior administration officials charge Cuban leaders with propping up the embattled Caracas government and say that leader Nicolás Maduro would be out of power if it wasn’t for the Cuban intelligence operatives who have enabled him to control restless Venezuelans and block efforts to replace him.

A senior administration official told McClatchy on Tuesday there has long been a need to strengthen implementation of the Cuban embargo, which had become weakened over the years.

“We haven’t spoken that way about Cuba in a very long time,” the official said. “These recent comments from the president are a very strong pivot against the Communist regime in Havana.”

The official warned they also send a message to Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega for his work backing the Venezuelan regime.

National Security Advisor John Bolton has called the three countries a ”Troika of Tyranny” led by “clowns” and that the United States “looks forward to watching” their governments fall.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Maduro had been preparing to fly to Cuba on Tuesday, but was convinced by Russian officials to remain.

“He had an airplane on the tarmac, he was ready to leave this morning as we understand it, and the Russians indicated that he should stay,” Pompeo told CNN. “He was headed for Havana.”

Franco Ordoñez is a White House correspondent for the McClatchy Washington Bureau with a focus on immigration and foreign affairs. He previously covered Latin American affairs for the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald. He moved to Washington in 2011 after six years at the Charlotte Observer covering immigration and working on investigative projects for The Charlotte Observer.