Trump’s man for South America has promised robust measures against Venezuela but refused to give details in a White House briefing Tuesday.
Fernando Cutz, the director for South America of Donald Trump’s National Security Council, told journalists that no decision has yet been taken on new sanctions against Venezuela, so he was not prepared to discuss specific actions or the names of individuals or entities that might be targeted. Cutz was answering questions from the media in a telephone briefing after President Trump threatened to take “strong and swift economic action” if the Venezuelan government continues with elections for a Constituent Assembly on July 30.
However, Cutz said the White House was clear about the direction it was heading, was working on a robust list of possible actions and targets, and absolutely reserves the right to take unilateral measures ahead of the July 30 election. Earlier Reuters and other media had reported that the U.S. government was about to announce targeted sanctions against several more senior members of the Venezuelan government, possibly as early as Tuesday.
Cutz said President Donald Trump has been working actively on Venezuela, talking to over a dozen leaders in the region, because he is “very troubled about the well-being of the Venezuelan people” and “the incredible erosion of democracy there.” Trump, he added, sees Venezuela as a “disaster,” with a bad leader who is “moving in the direction of becoming a dictator,” and who has destroyed “a prosperous, middle-class country” through corruption and narco-trafficking.”
He repeated that the United States is working multilaterally with many countries all around the world on possible new sanctions or other measures. He mentioned a common effort with the European Union to prevent “the full dictatorship model that Maduro is striving for.” But when asked whether the Colombian president, Juan Manuel Santos, had taken a message to Cuba when he visited Havana on Monday, or whether the administration had been in conversations with China about Venezuela, he refused to confirm or deny.
Cutz was also asked about a possible suspension of oil imports from Venezuela, which supplies about 10 percent of U.S. oil sold to the U.S., and about possible sanctions on the Venezuelan state oil company, PDVSA. He again refused to confirm or deny, saying only that “all options remain on the table.” However, he did indicate that the administration would take into account any likely impact of such measures on U.S. jobs and consumers.
He said the United States is not currently considering a Haiti type solution, presumably referring to some kind of multilateral military intervention, but again stated that if the circumstances demanded, all options were possible.