In a speech in Miami, national security adviser John Bolton condemned the communist and socialist governments of Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua, calling them tyrannical regimes.
On the heels of Bolton’s speech, President Donald Trump issued an executive order blocking the assets of persons who are involved in Venezuela’s gold trade. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro circumvented existing U.S. sanctions by exporting 21 metric tons of gold to Turkey, according to American officials.
Bolton said the State Department, in a matter of days, would add more than two dozen entities controlled by the Cuban military and intelligence services to a list of restricted entities with which transactions by American citizens are prohibited. The goal is to cut off the cash flow to Cuba’s military and intelligence, Bolton added.
The White House also warned Nicaragua’s socialist dictator, Daniel Ortega. More than 300 people have been killed by the authoritarian regime since protests erupted demanding Ortega’s resignation.
“This troika of tyranny, this triangle of terror stretching from Havana to Caracas to Managua, is the cause of immense human suffering, the impetus of enormous regional instability, and the genesis of a sordid cradle of communism in the Western Hemisphere,” Bolton said.
The national security adviser also mocked the leaders of the three regimes as being “The Three Stooges” of socialism.
“These tyrants fancy themselves strongmen and revolutionaries, icons and luminaries,” he said. “In reality, they are clownish, pitiful figures more akin to Larry, Curly, and Moe.”
The sanctions imposed on Nov. 1 are the latest of several rounds of penalties by the Trump administration against the socialist regime in Venezuela.
Socialist policies introduced by Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, have crippled the oil-rich nation in less than two decades. Food and medicine shortages, hyperinflation, and violent crime have driven almost 2 million Venezuelans out of the country since 2015. Thousands now live in south Florida.
Venezuela exported more than 23 tons of gold worth $900 million to Turkey in the first nine months of 2018, compared to zero over the same period last year, according to official Turkish data. The trade pattern illustrates a shift by Venezuela designed to circumvent U.S. measures.
“The Maduro regime has used this sector as a bastion to finance illicit activities, to fill its coffers, and to support criminal groups,” Bolton said.
Bolton spoke at Freedom Tower, a building where Cuban refugees were welcomed in the 1960s following Castro’s communist revolution.
The Trump administration has rolled back parts of Obama’s 2014 move to appease the communist regime. The White House tightened rules on Americans traveling to the Caribbean island and restricted American companies from doing business there.
Bolton accused Cuba of propping up the Venezuelan regime. Nearly 92,700 Cuban communist proxies work in Venezuela’s government apparatus, according to Congressional testimony by a retired Venezuelan military official.
The national security adviser called on other nations in the region to “let the Cuban regime know that it will be held responsible for continued oppression in Venezuela.”
Bolton singled out Nicaragua for criticism over Ortega’s crackdown on political opponents, warning that the United States will follow through with tough sanctions.
Ortega ruled Nicaragua as a communist dictator for more than a decade before he was ousted in 1990. He returned to power after winning an election in 2006. Chavez, Venezuela’s socialist leader at the time, financed Ortega’s campaign.
Ortega’s family established a centralized system in which the government hands out lucrative contracts to his cronies. Despite mass protests, the family appears dead set on staying in power.
“Free, fair, and early elections must be held in Nicaragua, and democracy must be restored to the Nicaraguan people,” Bolton said. “Until then, the Nicaraguan regime, like Venezuela and Cuba, will feel the full weight of America’s robust sanctions regime.”
Socialism and Communism
Trump is a vocal critic of communism and socialism. The president has used Venezuela as a prime example of the failures of socialism. He has also pointed to the stark difference between destitution in North Korea and the prosperity in South Korea as a result of communism’s destruction.
Trump told the U.N. General Assembly last year that “the problem [with Venezuela] is not that socialism has been poorly implemented but that socialism has been faithfully implemented.”
“From the Soviet Union to Cuba to Venezuela, wherever true socialism or communism has been adopted, it has delivered anguish and devastation and failure,” Trump added.
In tandem with the White House’s offensive against communism in South America, the Trump administration has ramped up efforts to challenge socialism in the United States.
In the most recent development, on Oct. 23, the White House released a report titled “The Opportunity Costs of Socialism,” which details the crippling impact of socialist policies on the nations where they have been tried. The report draws a parallel between the “Medicare for All” proposal of current American socialists and the failed systems in Cuba, China, and the Soviet Union.
“The historical evidence suggests that the socialist program for the U.S. would make shortages, or otherwise degrade quality, of whatever product or service is put under a public monopoly,” the report concludes.
“The pace of innovation would slow, and living standards generally would be lower. These are the opportunity costs of socialism from a modern American perspective.”
Reuters contributed to this report.