By Keith Johnson, The Tico Times
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Top U.S. lawmakers from both parties are urging the Obama administration to take a tougher line on Venezuela, which is violently cracking down on popular protests against the government of Nicolás Maduro. For some on Capitol Hill, though, the real target is Cuba.
These leading Republicans and Democrats are pushing back at a country that has been a constant thorn in the side of U.S. interests in Latin America in recent years.
Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R., Fla., and Eliot Engel, D., N.Y., have both called for the Organization of American States, which meets this week, to take a tougher line on the Maduro government’s treatment of peaceful protesters. Sen. Marco Rubio, R., Fla., has floated the idea of U.S. sanctions against Venezuelan officials involved in the crackdown, and even against the Venezuelan government itself.
But Venezuela hawks such as Rubio are making a second argument: tougher action against Venezuela represents a chance to undermine one of the key lifelines of the communist regime in Cuba, whose economy relies on heavily subsidized oil and other gifts from Caracas.
“The Cubans get free and cheap oil from the Venezuelans. So their interest is keeping this regime in place because they’re their benefactors,” Rubio told CNN this week. “And Cuba is clearly involved in assisting the Venezuelan government with both personnel and training and equipment to carry out these repressive activities,” he added.
Feature continues here: The Link Between Venezuela and Cuba