US Tightens Pressure on Cuba Amid Crackdown on Maduro in Venezuela

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks about the Trump administration's Cuba policy during a press briefing at the US Department of State

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks about the Trump administration's Cuba policy during a press briefing at the US Department of State

"The sanctions included new limits on remittances to Cuba and its access to foreign currency, as well as new sanctions on the Central Bank of Venezuela that prohibit its access to US dollars".

The major policy shift, which the State Department said could draw hundreds of thousands of legal claims worth tens of billions of dollars, appears meant to intensify pressure on Havana at a time Washington is demanding that it end its support for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Observers say that with the United States presidential election looming next year, the Trump administration is trying to appeal to Hispanic voters who have fled anti-US governments in Latin America.

"The world has told John Bolton and the USA government to eliminate the criminal blockade against Cuba and the Helms-Burton Act", Johana Tablada, Cuba's deputy director of US affairs, said on Twitter.

The Kremlin has rejected USA calls for Moscow to withdraw its military specialists from Venezuela.

The OFAC on the same day blacklisted Laureano Ortega Murillo, the son of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo, as well as a Nicaraguan bank Banco Corporativo SA.

"Following U.S. condemnation of the exchange, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that troops would remain in the country as "for as long as needed" and accused the U.S. of trying to "stage a coup" in the country through the threat of military action".

One of those sanctioned was Vice President Rosario Murillo.

The Trump administration is stepping up its crackdown again Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

In addition, the United States also announced new limits on the amount of money Cuban Americans can send to relatives on the island at Dollars 1,000 per person.

He said of Venezuela's social and economic crisis, "The walls are closing in".

Pompeo called the move a "chance at justice" for Cuban-Americans and urged anyone doing business in Cuba to examine whether they were "abetting" the regime.

Wednesday's announcement coincided with the 58th anniversary of the failed USA -backed invasion at Cuba's Bay of Pigs.

U.S. citizens sending remittances to Cuba will be limited t $1,000 per person per quarter, Bolton said on Wednesday. The Obama administration had lifted all limits on such remittances.

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The State Department official conceded that the European Union and other countries were strongly opposed to the change, but insisted that "there is no targeting of any countries...it is about targeting the Cuban regime". The United States has enforced a trade embargo against Cuba since the early 1960s.

Washington also moved to restrict "non-family travel" after a broad loosening of so-called purposeful visits under Obama led to soaring numbers of American trips for cultural and educational exchanges. She said the only way companies will be safe from litigation would be to ensure that they are not doing business on expropriated properties.

"This doesn't punish the Cuban government; it lets them off the hook", said James Williams, president of Engage Cuba, a coalition of private companies and organizations that lobbies for the end of the USA embargo of Cuba.

Freeland said the government has regularly met with USA officials since January when the issue first surfaced.

Bolton's remarks come just hours after President Trump allowed American citizens to sue companies operating at properties previously seized by Cuba's Castro regime.

"The EU reiterates a strong opposition to the extraterritorial application of unilateral restrictive measures which is considers contrary to worldwide law", a spokesman for the EU executive told a briefing in Brussels.

Canada's Foreign Affairs minister Chrystia Freeland said that her country was "deeply disappointed" and would be "reviewing all options in response to this U.S. decision".

Mogherini and Freeland say in a joint statement issued Wednesday they're "determined to work together to protect the interests" of their companies.

The complete lifting of the ban could allow billions of dollars in legal claims to move forward in USA courts and likely antagonize Canada and Europe, whose companies have significant business holdings in Cuba.

Earlier on Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the USA would no longer suspend Title III of the Helms-Burton Act. The decision is a blow to Havana's efforts to draw foreign investment to the island.

However, the Trump administration will reportedly do away with the waivers, potentially opening foreign businesses including those from Europe to lawsuits.

On Wednesday, Washington imposed new sanctions and other punitive measures on Cuba and Venezuela, seeking to ratchet up pressure on Havana to end its support for Venezuela's socialist president, Nicolas Maduro.

The LIBERTAD Act, which became effective in 1996, is a USA federal law which aims to strengthen the embargo against Cuba.

During a speech in Miami, Florida, before participants in the failed mercenary invasion of Cuba that began on April 17, 1961, the advisor to the Republican president noted that five names will also be added to the list of Cuban entities banned from United States citizens.

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