President Trump has started preparing new sanctions on Cuba as a result of its support for Maduro’s regime in Caracas, which Washington has attempted to undermine since recognising Juan Guaido as President in January. Trump has dealt an onslaught of sanctions on Venezuela over the last year in an attempt to pressure socialist dictator Nicolas Maduro into submission, however some nations have come to his aid. Cuba has trade deals with Venezuela for oil, Russian President Putin has granted generous loans and weaponry to Caracas while China has also pledged public and economic support for the Maduro regime. The US special envoy on Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, told Reuters that Washington are “always looking to ways to squeeze (Cuba) because we do not see any improvement in their conduct either with respect to Venezuela or human rights internally”.
The new sanctions under consideration for communist Cuba, expected “in the weeks ahead,” would likely target the island’s tourism sector as well as Venezuela’s cut-rate oil delivered to Havana, building on the US blacklisting of tankers used to transport the supplies, the senior official told Reuters.
The Trump administration has also expressed a need to target Moscow influence in Latin America, but Abrams was more cagey in how Washington plans to combat Putin’s efforts.
Abrams told Reuters that the US were simply “taking a closer look at the ways in which Russia is sustaining the regime”.
Havana has been crippled by US sanctions intended to stop third parties from doing business with the Caribbean island or shipping fuel to the country amid the crisis.
However, Trump’s hard-handed approach has seen Moscow swoop in on the crisis stricken countries in Latin America and assert diplomatic control.
Recently, with Cuba in a desperate situation, depleted of oil and struggling to power the country, Putin has agreed a nuclear pact and new trade ties with Havana in an effort to further undermine Trump.
A statement from the Russian government last week signalled that the countries will sign accords and commercial agreements.
Any US attempts to target Russia would likely be based heavily on Moscow’s financial support of Caracas.
In early August, the Trump administration froze US assets of the Venezuelan government and threatened “secondary sanctions” on any company doing business with it, an escalation of pressure on Maduro.
The move was widely seen as opening the door to putting sanctions on Rosneft, which in recent months has taken around half of Venezuela’s crude exports.
As of now, Putin has established a degree of control, but Trump’s latest round of economic threats shows Washington has no intentions of folding under Moscow pressure.