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US to Boost Pressure on Venezuela, Cuba to Curb Russia, China in Region – Report

© REUTERS / Carlos Garcia Rawlins A woman walks past graffiti which reads "Gringo, respect us!" in Caracas March 10, 2015. President Nicolas Maduro was seeking special decree powers from Venezuela's parliament on Tuesday in response to new U.S. sanctions, drawing opposition protests of a power-grab
A woman walks past graffiti which reads Gringo, respect us! in Caracas March 10, 2015. President Nicolas Maduro was seeking special decree powers from Venezuela's parliament on Tuesday in response to new U.S. sanctions, drawing opposition protests of a power-grab - Sputnik International
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Washington has unleashed a full-blown campaign to force out Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, having reaffirmed its commitment to continue supporting Juan Guaido, the self-proclaimed interim president of the Latin American country.

US attempts to oust Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro mark a new step in implementing the current administration’s plan to reinforce control over the region and curb Russia’s and China’s influence there, The Wall Street Journal reported.

READ MORE: USAID Administrator, Guaido Agree to Work to 'Restore Democracy' in Venezuela

According to the newspaper’s source, the Trump administration has adopted a new strategy towards Latin America, and it’s not just about Venezuela.

A supporter of Venezuelan opposition leader and self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido holds a flag - Sputnik International
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The insider claims that Cuba will likely return to the spotlight, since it’s “an antagonist that has dominated American attention in the region for more than 50 years, as well as recent inroads made by Russia, China and Iran”.

The WSJ writes that even though Washington has long criticised Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, there’s a number of administration officials who believe that Cuba presents a greater threat from the national security perspective.

Those officials have reportedly cited Cuba’s intelligence operations in the US and its attempts to push the anti-American agenda forward in neighbouring Latin American countries.

The publication further elaborates that the Trump administration is seeking to sow discord between Venezuela and Cuba, and to cause the “collapse of the regimes” in both countries.

READ MORE: 'To Steal Their Oil?' WH Roasted for US 'Stands With People of Venezuela' Tweet

In this Tuesday, July 22, 2014, file photo, gold bars are stacked in a vault at the United States Mint, in West Point, N.Y. - Sputnik International
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In light of US attempts to isolate Havana and Caracas, the two countries are intensifying their contacts with Russia, China and Iran, which spurs Washington’s indignation, the WSJ notes.

A potential ouster of Venezuela’s Maduro is likely to have an immense impact on the region as a whole, and Cuba in particular.

The Trump administration has reversed the Obama-era policy towards the island, having imposed a de facto economic blockade on Havana, which depends heavily on Venezuelan oil.

Big Risks

According to the newspaper, the new strategy was developed by Mauricio Claver-Carone, Senior Director of the US National Security Council’s Western Hemisphere Affairs division, while Senator Marco Rubio and Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart significantly influenced the plan.

READ MORE: Colombia Bars Entry to Over 200 Supporters of Venezuela’s Maduro — Reports

The WSJ then alleged that after Venezuela and Cuba, the US will focus on Nicaragua.

Venezuelan opposition leader and self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido accompanied by his wife Fabiana Rosales, speaks to the media after a holy Mass at a local church in Caracas, Venezuela, January 27, 2019 - Sputnik International
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But the strategy bears serious risks: if Washington’s support for Venezuelan opposition figure Juan Guaido fails to force Maduro out of office, or break ties between Caracas and Havana, the situation in Venezuela may further deteriorate, while the US will be mired in the crisis.

Such a setback may strengthen the positions of Beijing, Moscow, and Tehran in the region, the paper alleged.

At the same time, the WSJ suggests that the US is unlikely to involve other nations in its activities against Cuba: Venezuela has long been considered an outcast by many US allies; however some nations, including Canada and France, are interested in Cuba’s business community.

Escalating Political Crisis in Venezuela

Over the past several days, Venezuela has been living through a presidential crisis: on 23 January, the head of the opposition-led National Assembly, Juan Guaido, challenged the legitimately elected Maduro and proclaimed himself the country’s interim president.

READ MORE: Guaido's Envoy Vecchio Asks US Congress Support to End Maduro's Power

Juan Guaido, President of Venezuela's National Assembly, holds a copy of Venezuelan constitution during a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government and to commemorate the 61st anniversary of the end of the dictatorship of Marcos Perez Jimenez in Caracas, Venezuela January 23, 2019 - Sputnik International
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The move was instantly recognised by the United States and a handful of South American countries, with the Trump administration urging Maduro to step down and accept Guaido’s presidency as a fait accompli.

While Maduro has accused Washington of orchestrating a coup in the country, the US has decided to step up the pressure on him and announced that it was slapping sanctions on Venezuela’s state-owned oil and gas giant PDVSA.

Washington blocked all of PDVSA’s assets under its jurisdiction and froze $7 billion worth of the company’s assets, which was blasted by the Venezuelan authorities as a “robbery” that is being accomplished with the help of the “treacherous action of the Venezuelan opposition”.

Shortly after that, the US certified the authority of Guaido to control some assets held by US-insured banks, while the Venezuelan Supreme Court blocked the opposition leader’s bank accounts and financial transactions within the country’s jurisdiction.

READ MORE: Facts to Know About Oil Giant PDVSA as Venezuela Slams US Sanctions as 'Robbery'

It also banned Guaido from leaving the country until an investigation into his activities is completed.

Juan Guaido, President of Venezuela's National Assembly, holds a copy of Venezuelan constitution during a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government and to commemorate the 61st anniversary of the end of the dictatorship of Marcos Perez Jimenez in Caracas, Venezuela January 23, 2019 - Sputnik International
European Parliament Passes Resolution Recognising Guaido as Venezuelan President
US National Security Adviser John Bolton, for his part, has warned Caracas of “serious consequences for those who attempt to subvert democracy and harm Guaido”.

Guaido has been recognised by US key allies, including Canada and Israel, and over a dozen Latin American nations. The EU Parliament is also considering following suit.

Russia, Iran, Turkey, China, Nicaragua, El Salvador and others have, in turn, reaffirmed their support for Maduro as the only legitimate president of Venezuela.

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