By Bruce Zagaris
On April 17, 2019, the United States government announced new sanctions against Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.
In a Miami speech, National Security Advisor John Bolton announced the Trump administration is reimposing limits on the amount of money Cuban Americans can send to relatives in Cuba and ordering new restrictions on U.S. citizen, nonfamily travel to Cuba. In a Miami speech last November, Bolton referred to the three countries as the “Troika of Tyranny.” in his new speech, Bolton called them “the three stooges of socialism.”
Also on April 17, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the administration will remove restrictions that have prevented lawsuits from U.S. citizens seeking compensation for property expropriated by the Cuban governments when it came to power in 1958.
OFAC designated Banco Central de Venezuela, or the Central Bank of Venezuela, pursuant to E.O. 13850, as amended, for operating in the financial sector of the Venezuelan economy. Additionally, OFAC designated Josefa Ruzza Terán (Ruzza), pursuant to E.O. 13692, as amended, who is determined to be a current or former official of the Government of Venezuela. Multiple OFAC-designated individuals currently hold leadership positions with the Banco Central de Venezuela, including Simon Alejandro Zerpa Delgado and William Antonio Contreras, both of whom are Directors of the bank and were designated by OFAC pursuant to E.O. 13692 in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
Ruzza Terán is a Director of Banco Central de Venezuela. Additionally, Ruzza was appointed in July 2018 as a Director on the Board of Directors for the Venezuelan Department of Foreign Commerce, also known as CORPOVEX In May 2018, he was appointed the Vice President of Finance of Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A., which was designated on January 28, 2019, pursuant to E.O. 13850.
On April 17, OFAC also designated Laureano Ortega Murillo, the son of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo, as well as Nicaraguan bank Banco Corporativo SA (BanCorp). Taken pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13851, the sanctions target corrupt financial operations and Ortega regime support networks. OFAC explained the individual and entity designated support a regime that, since April 2018, has cracked down on political opposition, leading to the death of 325 persons, the injury of more than 2,000, the imprisonment of hundreds of political and civil society actors, and over 42,000 Nicaraguans seeking refuge in Costa Rica.
Pompeo explained the Trump administration will end waivers, activated by five presidents over the past 20 years, of Title III of Helms-Burton, enacted in 1996, permitting compensation lawsuits by U.S. citizens against any entity or person “trafficking” in confiscated property in Cuba. The law includes foreign companies and persons.
On April 17, 2019, a joint statement by Federica Mogherini, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada Chrystia Freeland and EU Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström said “the EU and Canada consider the extraterritorial application of unilateral Cuba-related measures contrary to international law. We are determined to work together to protect the interests of our companies in the context of the WTO and by banning the enforcement or recognition of foreign judgements based on Title III, both in the EU and Canada.” They said their laws allow counter-claims, so the decision will lead to an unnecessary spiral of legal claims.
In a briefing the Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Kimberly Breier characterized the activation of the Title III suits and reimposition of sanctions as supporting the Cuban people and denying resources to the regime, especially to the security services in Cuba. Yet, especially the travel restrictions will undermine the small amount of economic activity due to U.S. travel, much of which benefits Cubans who have operate their own bed and breakfast places, restaurants, and other Cubans that participate in the tourism sector.
The potentially challenging aspects of the new sanctions will be how to keep the support for U.S. action in Venezuela while reimposing sanctions on Cuba and allow suits under Title III of Helms-Burton, which will hurt Canada and the EU.
The next issue of the IELR will discuss in more detail these developments.