A week after Rick Scott called for the U.S. military to intervene in Venezuela amid Juan Guaidó’s attempt to oust Nicolás Maduro from power, the U.S. Senate’s biggest hawk on Venezuela is calling for more.
Scott said Wednesday that the U.S. should consider a naval blockade of Cuba to enforce existing sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry, which remains under Maduro’s control. Scott’s announcement is the latest escalation in rhetoric after Guaidó failed to oust Maduro last week.
“It’s clear that the United States needs to consider using naval assets to block the flow of oil between the two dictatorships,” Scott said. “The president has floated the idea of a full embargo on Cuba. I agree with him wholeheartedly. We need to take action NOW to capitalize on Maduro’s weakness and end his brutal regime. Cut off Cuba, and you cut off the political forces supporting genocide in Venezuela.”
Scott said last week that the U.S. should use military assets to break down barriers erected by Maduro at the Venezuelan border, and assist in the distribution of humanitarian aid. He did not characterize his remarks as invading Venezuela, but such an action would pit U.S. troops against the Maduro-controlled military.
He said oil sanctions, announced after the U.S. recognized Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate leader in January, aren’t working.
“It’s clear the sanctions meant to block the flow of oil from Venezuela to Cuba aren’t working,” Scott said. “Cuba is the most powerful force propping up the Maduro regime in Venezuela in large part because of the free oil they’re receiving in return. It’s oil for repression. Cutting off the supply of oil to the Castro regime would be the most effective action we can take to end the brutal regime of Nicolas Maduro.”
The Treasury Department announced a round of sanctions in April on Venezuela’s oil industry and foreign companies that operate oil transport vessels between Venezuela and Cuba.
Scott’s comments came after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. was working with Cuba to establish free and fair elections in Venezuela.
“We are working very diligently to ensure that Maduro leaves and we get free and fair elections in Venezuela,” Pompeo said Sunday during an appearance on the CBS program “Face the Nation.” “That will require the 2,300 Cuban security personnel, frankly the people closest to Maduro who are protecting ... Maduro, they’ve got to leave. We’re working with the Cubans to try and get an outcome that will let the Venezuelans have this opportunity.”
Scott’s calls for intervention in Venezuela have received criticism from some conservatives close to President Donald Trump, though many Venezuelans in South Florida support increased U.S. involvement. And while South Florida lawmakers criticize Russia’s military presence in Venezuela, Trump said Friday that Russian President Vladimir Putin doesn’t want to become involved in Venezuela.
“He is not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela, other than he’d like to see something positive happen for Venezuela,” Trump said.