Miami Dade College
November 2, 2018
Thank you very much. It’s a great pleasure, a great honor, to be here today in Miami, and to be with all of you. I can’t thank Ileana Ros-Lehtinen enough. As she said, we’ve known each other many years. We’ve fought a lot of battles together against common opponents. She’s somebody who I think has been a model representative in Congress, and we’re going to miss her in the halls of the House of Representatives, but we’re not going to miss her in Washington because I know she’s not going to leave these issues she cares about so much alone—I just know she’ll be up there constantly. But, what a wonderful representation of the American Dream she has been.
And I also want to thank Dr. Lenore Rodicio for her invitation and for all of the hospitality here at Miami Dade. It’s really been wonderful to go through Freedom Tower and feel the history here, which I know all of you feel as well.
I’m here on behalf of the President because we’ve got some important policy concerns to address with respect to Latin America, and I couldn’t think of a better place really to try and discuss them and try to answer a few of your questions. When I’m finished, I’m looking forward to that.
This really is a subject of utmost importance to the President, to me, and to the entire administration, and that’s U.S. policy toward Latin America.
Across our administration, we are working hard to strengthen bonds and deepen ties with several responsible governments throughout the region.
The United States is thrilled to be partnering with nations such as Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina and many others to advance the rule of law and increase security and prosperity for our people.
The recent elections of likeminded leaders in key countries, including Ivan Duque in Colombia, and last weekend Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, are positive signs for the future of the region, and demonstrate a growing regional commitment to free-market principles, and open, transparent, and accountable governance.
Yet today, in this Hemisphere, we are also confronted once again with the destructive forces of oppression, socialism, and totalitarianism.
In Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, we see the perils of poisonous ideologies left unchecked, and the dangers of domination and suppression.
This afternoon, I am here to deliver a clear message from the President of the United States on our policy toward these three regimes.
Under this administration, we will no longer appease dictators and despots near our shores.
We will not reward firing squads, torturers, and murderers.
We will champion the independence and liberty of our neighbors.
And this President, and his entire administration, will stand with the freedom fighters.
The Troika of Tyranny in this Hemisphere—Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua—has finally met its match.
And as I say, there is no better place to deliver this message than right here in Miami, at the Freedom Tower.
Miami is home to countless Americans, who fled the prisons and death squads of the Castro regime in Cuba, the murderous dictatorships of Chavez and Maduro in Venezuela, and the horrific violence of the 1980s and today under the brutal reign of the Ortegas in Nicaragua.
In every corner of Miami, you will find someone who has endured years in Castro’s infamous Combinado del Este political prison, or has been tortured in Maduro’s Helicoide prison, or has a loved one still languishing in Ortega’s El Chipote prison.
Others who call Miami home have escaped anti-semitism and prejudice that has unfortunately existed in the region.
Anti-Semitism has no place in the United States, or anywhere in the world. We all have a responsibility to confront this heinous hatred, whether it occurs in Pittsburgh, Caracas, or in any other city.
And you know on that score, nobody has done more than Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, including her leadership and the bill she has introduced to allow Holocaust survivors the opportunity to bring their cases to court. Thank you, Ile.
Many of you in the audience today have personally suffered unspeakable horrors at the hands of the regimes in Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, only to survive, fight back, conquer, and overcome.
You breathe the free air of this beautiful city. Your children have experienced the possibilities of liberty. And your grandchildren will never know the firsthand heartache of repression.
Your descendants can be anything, and achieve anything.
They can attend this great institution, Miami Dade College, or even run for the presidency of the United States.
And as they grow and flourish in America, they will carry with them your history, your sacrifice, and the memories of your incredible triumph. Their success will be your enduring legacy.
In the United States, we frequently hear the stories of Americans who came to our country for a better life, and pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, through hard work and sacrifice.
Today, I would ask that when you think of the American Dream, and this iconic imagery, you also envision something else.
Generations of Americans have been inspired to thrive in liberty and freedom not only because of the rewards of hard work, dedication, and sacrifice, but also because of the inalienable rights bestowed on every American and enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.
These fundamental liberties are represented forever by the red, white, and blue of our Old Glory, and defended from harm by the greatest military on the face of the earth.
The American Dream depends on hard work and self-sufficiency, yes, but even more so on the knowledge of what freedom makes possible: the awareness that you can chart your own destiny, the cognizance that you are free to speak, to think, to write, to pray, to live.
Everyone here today understands this fundamental truth. There is no glamor in gulags and labor camps, in death squads and propaganda machines, in mass executions and the sound of terrorizing screams from the depths of the world’s most notorious prisons.
These are the true consequences of socialism and communism. This is the price of freedom’s extinguished flame.
As the President has said, the problems we see in Latin America today have not emerged because socialism has been implemented poorly. On the contrary, the Cuban, Venezuelan, and Nicaraguan people suffer in misery because socialism has been implemented effectively.
In Cuba, a brutal dictatorship under the façade of a new figurehead continues to frustrate democratic aspirations, and jail and torture opponents.
In Venezuela and Nicaragua, desperate autocratic leaders, hell-bent on maintaining their grip on power, have joined their Cuban counterparts in the same oppressive behavior of unjust imprisonment, torture, and murder.
This Troika of Tyranny, this triangle of terror stretching from Havana to Caracas to Managua, is the cause of immense human suffering, the impetus of enormous regional instability, and the genesis of a sordid cradle of communism in the Western Hemisphere.
Under President Trump, the United States is taking direct action against all three regimes to defend the rule of law, liberty, and basic human decency in our region.
As the President has repeatedly made clear, America’s security and prosperity benefits when freedom thrives near our shores.
In Cuba, we continue to stand firmly with the Cuban people, and we share their aspirations for real, democratic change.
Members of this administration will never take a picture in front of an image of Che Guevara, as Barack Obama did.
An image of Che Guevara that was plastered over the Cuban ministry that runs the National Revolutionary Police force: the agent of oppression of the Cuban people.
This oppression of dissidents and suppressing every kind of freedom known to man is what typifies the regime in Havana.
We will not glamorize Marxist guerillas to promote a delusion of our own glory.Our concern is with sanctions, not selfies.
Under this administration, there will no longer be secret channels of communication between Cuba and the United States.
Our policy is transparent for the American people and the world to see.
It is encapsulated in National Security Presidential Memorandum-5, entitled “Strengthening the Policy of the United States Toward Cuba.”
And, in June of last year, President Trump came right here to Miami to outline this administration’s new policy and to announce the cancellation of the last administration’s one-sided and misguided deal with the Cuban regime.
As the President said then, the United States will not prop up a military monopoly that abuses the citizens of Cuba.
Under our approach, the United States is enforcing U.S. law to maintain sanctions until, among other things, all political prisoners are freed, freedoms of assembly and expression are respected, all political parties are legalized, and free and internationally supervised elections are scheduled.
Importantly, our policy includes concrete actions to prevent American dollars from reaching the Cuban military, security, and intelligence services.
Today, I want to emphasize that that national security directive was just the beginning of our effort to pressure the Cuban regime.
Since its release, we have been tightening sanctions against the Cuban military and intelligence services, including their holding companies, and closing loopholes in our sanctions resolutions.
In this respect, I believe that within days the administration will add over two dozen additional entities owned or controlled by the Cuban military and intelligence services to the restricted list of entities with which financial transactions by U.S. persons are prohibited.
And I believe even more will come as well.
The Cuban military and intelligence agencies must not profit from the United States, its people, its travelers, or its businesses.
Moreover, I pledge to you further that the National Security Council will intensively review progress on President Trump’s commitments regarding Cuba made last year to ensure that all of them are fully implemented.
In response to the vicious attacks on Embassy Havana, we have also scaled back our embassy personnel in Cuba.
This President will not allow our diplomats to be targeted with impunity. And we will not excuse those who harm our highest representatives abroad by falsely invoking videos, or concocting some other absurd pretext for their suffering.
The United States will stand up for our citizens, our allies, and our friends, whether they frequent our new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, chant for reform in Tehran, or fight for freedom in the streets of Havana.
We will only engage with a Cuban government that is willing to undertake necessary and tangible reforms—a government that respects the interests of the Cuban people.
In Venezuela, the United States is acting against the dictator Maduro, who uses the same oppressive tactics that have been employed in Cuba for decades.
He has installed an illegitimate Constituent Assembly, debased the currency for political gain, and forced his people to sign up for a corrupt food distribution service or force certain starvation.
These actions have created damaging ripple effects throughout the region. The crisis in Venezuela has led to a massive humanitarian disaster and the largest mass migration in the Hemisphere. More than 2 million desperate Venezuelans have fled Maduro’s oppressive rule since 2015.
Sadly, this human tragedy was entirely preventable. Maduro and his cronies are the sole cause of all of this suffering.
The Venezuelan regime’s repression is of course enabled by the Cuban dictatorship. The United States calls on all nations in the region to face this obvious truth, and let the Cuban regime know that it will be held responsible for the continued oppression in Venezuela.
From the U.S. perspective, our demands are simple and straightforward. We call for the immediate release of all Venezuelan political prisoners; acceptance of international humanitarian assistance; free, fair, and credible elections; and legitimate steps to restore democratic institutions and the rule of law in Venezuela.
Since taking office, President Trump has signed four Executive Orders targeting corruption and the looting of the Venezuelan economy. The administration has sanctioned over 70 Venezuelan individuals and entities, including the President and his wife, along with senior members of his regime. And, we have levied a Kingpin drug-trafficking designation on a member of Maduro’s inner circle.
We have also condemned the regime’s involvement in the death earlier this month of a Venezuelan opposition councilman in the custody of the intelligence services, and we have likewise spoken out against the apparent-August torture of yet another opposition councilman.
Today, I am proud to share that President Trump has signed an Executive Order to impose tough, new sanctions against Venezuela.
The new sanctions will target networks operating within corrupt Venezuelan economic sectors and deny them access to stolen wealth. Most immediately, the new sanctions will prevent U.S. persons from engaging with actors and networks complicit in corrupt or deceptive transactions in the Venezuelan gold sector. The Maduro regime has used this sector as a bastion to finance illicit activities, to fill its coffers, and to support criminal groups.
The United States will not tolerate Maduro’s undermining of democratic institutions and ruthless violence against innocent civilians.
Finally, in Nicaragua, the United States continues to condemn the Ortega regime’s violence and repression against its citizens and opposition members. Ortega and his allies have completely eroded democratic institutions, stifled free speech, and imposed a policy of jail, exile, or death for political opponents.
The government continues to illegally detain protestors and manipulate laws to target innocent civilians. Earlier this month, a student protestor was detained unlawfully, and to this day, his whereabouts remain unknown to his family.
This behavior is unacceptable anywhere, and especially in the Western Hemisphere. Free, fair, and early elections must be held in Nicaragua, and democracy must be restored to the Nicaraguan people.
Until then, the Nicaraguan regime, like Venezuela and Cuba, will feel the full weight of America’s robust sanctions regime.
The Troika of Tyranny in this Hemisphere will not endure forever. Like all oppressive regimes and ideologies, they too will meet their demise. The people of Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua are fearsome opponents, and if I were Diaz-Canel, Maduro, or Ortega, I would fear their virtuous power.
These tyrants fancy themselves strongmen and revolutionaries, icons and luminaries. In reality, they are clownish, pitiful figures more akin to Larry, Curly, and Moe. The three stooges of socialism are true believers, but they worship a false God.
We know their day of reckoning awaits. We see its origins in the brave Ladies in White, who courageously take to the streets to defend their families and all of Cuba. We feel its shiver in the crowd around the flag-draped coffin of fifteen-year-old Orlando Cordoba, killed in a peaceful protest in Nicaragua. We hear its echo in the piercing chants outside of a Venezuelan military base: “Libertad! Libertad! Libertad!”
The United States now looks forward to watching each corner of the triangle fall: in Havana, in Caracas, in Managua.
While we await that fateful day, the people of the region can be assured that the United States stands with them against the forces of oppression, totalitarianism, and domination.
Look to the North; look to our flag; look to your own. The Troika will crumble. The people will triumph. And, the righteous flame of freedom will burn brightly again in this Hemisphere.
Thank you very much.