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Trump Administration Announces Measures Aimed At Ending Maduro's Rule In Venezuela


The Trump Administration announced new measures today aimed at both ending the rule of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and finishing off Cuba's communist regime. The announcement came on the 58th anniversary of the Bay of Pigs invasion. That was the failed Cold War attempt at a counterrevolution that left 13,000 CIA-backed Cuban exiles either killed or captured. NPR's David Welna has the story.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: At a luncheon this afternoon put on by Bay of Pigs veterans in the Miami suburb of Coral Gables, the keynote speaker was White House national security adviser John Bolton. His message - that the end is near for the Maduro regime in Venezuela.


JOHN BOLTON: The walls are closing in. There is no turning back. The people will prevail. And when they do, we know that Cuba will be next.


WELNA: Bolton announced new sanctions against Venezuela's Central Bank aimed at cutting off its access to dollars. But he also had a message for Russia, which recently sent a hundred members of its military and 35 tons of unknown cargo to Caracas - keep out.


BOLTON: These steps against Venezuela's Central Bank should be a strong warning to all external actors, including Russia, against deploying military assets to Venezuela to prop up the Maduro regime.

WELNA: But most of the sanctions, Bolton unveiled, had to do with Cuba, including a provision of the 1996 Helms-Burton Act that no other president has enforced.


BOLTON: Anyone who traffics in property stolen from Americans will not be issued a visa to the United States. They are not welcome here.


WELNA: And there was more - new prohibitions on direct financial transactions with Cuba's security services, new restrictions on non-family travel to Cuba and limiting how much money can be sent to Cuba to no more than $4,000 a year. Meanwhile, this morning in Washington, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made another announcement that the U.S. would allow American citizens, including those born in Cuba, to sue the Cuban government.


MIKE POMPEO: For the first time, claimants were able to bring lawsuits against person's trafficking property that was confiscated by the Cuban regime.

WELNA: Any person or company doing business in Cuba, Pompeo added, should heed this announcement.


POMPEO: Those doing business in Cuba should fully investigate whether they are connected to property stolen in service of a failed communist experiment.

WELNA: That will likely trigger an avalanche of lawsuits against the Cuban government according to Robert Muse, a Washington attorney who's an expert on Cuban expropriations.

ROBERT MUSE: It puts virtually every commercial enterprise on the island in question at this point and subject to a lawsuit.

WELNA: And it's also likely a big setback for settling the claims of some 6,000 Americans whose demands Cuba has recognized as legitimate by opening the door to hundreds of thousands of lawsuits seeking hundreds of billions of dollars from Cuba. John Kavulich advises on Cuban trade and investment. He says the Trump administration seems more interested in winning votes in South Florida than it is in settling those certified claims.

JOHN KAVULICH: You can get everyone in a conference room and negotiate a settlement in an afternoon, and they never made that effort. Therefore, it leaves one reason left. And that reason is the presidential election in 2020.

WELNA: Today's enthusiastic response in South Florida could indeed bode well for the president next year. David Welna, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF FOXYGEN'S "STAR POWER I: OVERTURE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Welna is NPR's national security correspondent.