Mario Diaz-Balart

10/15/2020 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 10/15/2020 07:47

Diaz-Balart in Miami Herald: A Consistent Foreign Policy Toward Dictatorships in our Hemisphere

A Consistent Foreign Policy Toward Dictatorships in our Hemisphere

Miami Herald

Op-Ed: Mario Diaz-Balart

October 14, 2020

The brutal regimes in Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua pose a grave threat to our country's national security interests. We must continue to consistently deny funds to these regimes, which work together to oppress their people, wreak havoc in our hemisphere and oppose U.S. interests.

The Trump administration has responded effectively to this reality, marginalizing these intertwined dictatorships while supporting humanitarian and pro-democracy efforts for the populations they oppress.

These regimes are a dangerous malignancy. They support each other in a variety of ways, such as exchanging Venezuelan oil for Cuban intelligence agents and doctors. Such arrangements simultaneously provide a potent means of suppressing dissent, sustaining the regimes and helping the dictatorships cling to power.

These dictatorships maintain ties with U.S. adversaries, pariah states, and terrorist organizations including Russia, Communist China, Iran and the FARC and ELN in Colombia. These regimes' tentacles also extend well beyond their borders. For example, Russia has sent billions in military equipment, and has shipped military 'advisors,' to help Nicolas Maduro cling to power. Likewise, Communist China has invested almost $70 billion in Venezuela since 2007, while Iran has provided over $1.6 billion in loans to Cuba since 2005. Iran's terrorist proxy organization, Hezbollah, has established cells in Venezuela and a regional base in Cuba. Iran continues to ship food and oil to sustain the Maduro regime, for which the Trump administration placed additional sanctions on the vessels' Iranian captains.

The Trump administration has imposed tough sanctions on these brutal regimes for their corruption, crime and human-rights abuses. It has sanctioned more than 100 Venezuelan or Venezuelan-connected individuals, taking the unusual step of sanctioning Maduro himself, his wife and his son. The Trump administration also indicted Maduro, his cronies and members of the FARC for crimes related to corruption, drug trafficking, and narco-terrorism. Trump was the first to recognize Venezuela's democratically elected constitutional leader of the National Assembly, interim President Juan Guaidó. Fifty-seven countries quickly followed suit.

In regard to Cuba, the Trump administration imposed tough sanctions on more than 200 military-run companies, cutting off revenue to the Cuban military. The administration has limited commercial flights, ended cruises to Cuba, prohibited stays in regime-controlled hotels, and other unlawful tourist activities that directly fund the Cuban regime. It prohibited the import of alcohol and tobacco products. Additionally, in a historic decision, the Trump administration allowed U.S. victims to sue companies trafficking in property stolen by the Castro regime.

In addition, Trump signed into law the Nicaragua Human Rights and Anticorruption Act of 2018 to block access to new multilateral lending to the Ortega regime. Additionally, the administration has imposed sanctions against more than a dozen individuals for human-rights abuses and corruption, including Ortega's wife, sons, and their front companies, while providing millions in humanitarian and democracy assistance to the region.

In contrast, the Obama administration sanctioned only a handful of Maduro operatives, all the while continuing to recognize the illegitimate Maduro regime. Its haphazard policy toward Venezuela was undermined by its nonsensical actions in regard to Cuba. Instead of imposing tough sanctions on the dictatorship there, which is Maduro's chief supporter and oppresses the Cuban people, the previous administration rewarded it with diplomatic relations, a propagandized presidential trip to Havana and weakened sanctions.

President Obama repeatedly called for the unilateral lifting of U.S. sanctions on the Cuban dictatorship by Congress, for which he was publicly thanked by Cuban dictator Raul Castro. It imposed no conditions or required progress on human rights in exchange. As a result, any sanctions that it imposed on the Maduro regime were undermined by its appeasement policy toward the Cuban kleptocracy.

The Trump administration appreciates that the inextricably symbiotic relationship among these dictatorial regimes requires a foreign policy guided by that reality. Their malevolence is not limited to their own borders, and they threaten the security and stability of the entire region. For these reasons, it is patently absurd, as some seem to maintain, to oppose sanctions against the Cuban dictatorship yet support sanctions against the Maduro regime.

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