As Russian Troops Land in Caracas, Menendez Pushes Review of Potential Russia Sanctions Violations in Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua
WASHINGTON — Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging him to determine if the governments of Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua should face mandatory U.S. sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) for conducting significant transactions with the Russian defense and intelligence sectors.
With Russian planes and troops landing in Caracas, Venezuela over the weekend, the Senator’s request comes after the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) submitted to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee an unclassified report required under the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019. The unclassified DIA report outlines Russian military equipment sales, maintenance support, training initiatives, naval and air deployments, and likely intelligence cooperation.
“The report indicates that Russia is the primary security partner for Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela,” wrote Senator Menendez. “I request that you share your overall assessment of whether any sanctionable transactions have taken place, in classified form if necessary, between the Russian Federation and these three countries.”
The letter specifically lists three transactions between Russia and the three Latin American countries for agreements to purchase and deliver Russian military hardware and parts, armored personnel carriers, tanks, transport aircraft, and attack helicopters. The Senator’s inquiry comes days after multiple press reports over the weekend confirmed two Russian aircraft filled with 100 military officials landed in Venezuela as part of the enduring military cooperation between the Maduro regime and the government of Vladimir Putin.
Congress overwhelmingly passed CAATSA’s wide-ranging mandatory sanctions measures in 2017 to hold Russia accountable for their destabilizing activities against our country and nations around the world. Senator Menendez has led the charge in calling out the Trump Administration for refusing to implement several mandatory provisions of the law, despite strong evidence that actions taken by or on behalf of the Russian government are in violation of the CAATSA sanctions law.
A copy of the letter can be found here and below.
The Honorable Mike Pompeo
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20520
Dear Mr. Secretary:
On February 7, 2019, the Defense Intelligence Agency submitted to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee an unclassified report required under the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (P.L. 115-232). The report describes security cooperation between the Russian Federation and Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. I am writing for your assessment as to whether any of the transactions described in the report trigger the mandatory sanctions under Section 231 of the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (P.L. 115-44).
Specifically, I request your assessment as to whether the following three transactions would trigger sanctions under section 231 of CAATSA:
- Cuba: The report states that Russia and Cuba signed a $50 million loan agreement in 2018 for the purchase of Russian military hardware and replacement parts.
- Nicaragua: The report chronicles the delivery by Russia of 15 BTR-70M armored personnel carriers, 50 T-72 tanks and two AN-26 transport aircraft.
- Venezuela: The report says that Russia provided Venezuela with 10 refurbished Mi-35M2 attack helicopters in 2017.
The report indicates that Russia is the primary security partner for Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, “a trend that is likely to continue through the duration of the current regimes.” In addition to your assessment as to whether any of the transactions in the report, including the specific transactions highlighted above, would be sanctionable under CAATSA, I request that you share your overall assessment of whether any sanctionable transactions have taken place, in classified form if necessary, between the Russian Federation and these three countries.
Juan Pachon 202-224-4651
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