Cuba dubs Bolton 'pathological liar' over Venezuela troops charge

By Nelson Acosta
Cuba's Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez speaks during a news conference in Havana, Cuba, April 25, 2019. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini

By Nelson Acosta

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba branded U.S. national security adviser John Bolton a "pathological liar" on Thursday for his allegation that it has troops stationed in ally Venezuela and said the latest U.S. sanctions would further hurt but not vanquish the Cuban people.

In a speech last week unveiling a tightening of the decades-old U.S. travel and trade embargo on Cuba, Bolton reiterated his charge that its Communist government is propping up Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro with thousands of security forces.

The longtime Cuba hard-liner has not publicly offered any evidence for the claim.

The Cuban government says Bolton has a history of spinning falsehoods about it. He accused it in 2002 of working to develop biological weapons without publicly presenting compelling evidence, a claim even top U.S. officials cast doubt on.

"This is vulgar calumny. Cuba does not have troops nor military forces nor does it participate in military or security operations of the sister Republic of Venezuela," Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez told a news conference.

U.S. President Donald Trump's administration has imposed sanctions over the last year on the socialist governments of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, in a bid to weaken what Bolton has called a "troika of tyranny".

Some analysts say this is part of Trump's broader attack on socialism as part of his strategy for re-election next year.

Last week, Bolton announced a new cap on remittances to Cubans at $1,000 per person per quarter. Rodriguez said this would ironically severely hurt the fledgling private sector that the United States has said it wants to support.

While many Cubans live off remittances from family on the other side of the Florida Straits, most will not be affected by the new limit, which is higher than what they receive, analysts say. More affected will be those who planned to use sizable sums of foreign capital to set up or run private businesses.

The U.S. State Department also announced last week that it would allow American citizens to file lawsuits against Cuban or foreign companies using properties confiscated by the government after Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution - a move countries around the world including top U.S. allies denounced.

Rodriguez said this would further restrict the island's access to financing, creating "greater difficulties and shortages for our people," although Cuba would not yield to U.S. demands.

Cuba is already suffering growing shortages of even basic goods like chicken as its inefficient centrally planned economy battles with declining aid from Venezuela, weaker exports nearly across the board and tighter U.S. sanctions.

"The defense of sovereignty will prevail and we will find a way to vanquish these measures," Rodriguez said.

(Reporting by Nelson Acosta; Writing by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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