The Trump administration’s nominee for defense secretary said “Cuba’s conduct must change dramatically before any normal type of military-to-military engagement is established” with Cuban Armed Forces.
Mark T. Esper, who was named acting defense secretary in June, said he considered Cuba and Russia to be “destabilizing influences in the Western Hemisphere. They support regimes unfriendly to the United States, and encourage autocratic governments that allow illicit activities that further harm economic potential in the region.”
Esper testified Tuesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Asked if he would intervene militarily in Venezuela, Esper said in a document filed with the committee:
DoD continues to support the whole-of-government effort to encourage a peaceful transition of power in Venezuela. The Venezuelan crisis must be resolved by the Venezuelans with the support of the international community.
The illegitimate regime of Nicolas Maduro is dependent on the financial and military support of actors like Russia, Cuba, and China. Russia provides technical and military training and support, while Cuba provides direct intelligence and security support to Maduro’s repressive practices targeting the political opposition, military, and others. China provides financial support, as well as other support like communications technology to the Maduro regime. Together, these external actors enable the Maduro regime to remain in power against the wishes of the Venezuelan people.
The Cuban regime continues to suppress its people’s rights and freedoms and export non-democratic ideals throughout the region, including interference in Venezuela. Aside from limited contacts at longstanding, practical meetings regarding routine issues at the Guantanamo Naval Station and between the U.S. Coast Guard and its Cuban counterparts, Cuba’s conduct must change dramatically before any normal type of military-to-military engagement is established.
Long-term detention would be appropriate in those cases where an enemy cannot be prosecuted but continues to pose a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States.