The former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper revealed during an interview with ABC News’s 60 minutes that Trump wanted to invade Venezuela and conduct a blockade against Cuba but that he and other officials from the administration prevented him to do so. Esper, who served as Secretary of Defense between 2019 and 2020, made the interview as he prepares the launch of his new book A Sacred Oath this month.
The claims over Trump’s interest in using the U.S. military in Venezuela and the blockade of Cuba are just the latest episode of the public spat between Trump and his former employee, who was sacked via a tweet in November 2020. Esper has also claimed that Trump allegedly asked the military if the U.S. could launch missile strikes against Mexican cartels, that Trump asked if protesters could be shot in the leg during the 2020 BLM protests, and that the President was considering sending 10,000 troops to quell the unrest at the capital.
The former President has denied almost all of these allegations, saying in a press release that he never invoked the Insurrection Act, that he never asked if demonstrators could be shot in the legs, and that he did not want to send thousands of troops during the BLM protests, but on January 6th to provide security during the protests that were expected that day. The president decided not to comment on the allegations that he wanted to authorize missile strikes against Mexican Cartels.
Trump’s policy toward Venezuela and Cuba, explained
While he did not elaborate with specific details, Esper claimed that “At various times, certainly during the last year of the administration folks in the White House were proposing to take military action against Venezuela, to strike Iran” and that he and General Milley, the chairman of the chiefs of staff, had to “swat them (the ideas) down.” Esper is not the first Trump official who has said the former President wanted to use the military to depose the Maduro government, as former National Security Advisor John Bolton made similar claims in his 2020 book “the room where it happened.”
Trump’s willingness to consider using the military against the Chavista regime is no secret. During his years in office, President Trump made several public hints at deploying the U.S. military in Venezuela to oust the Maduro regime. Back in 2017, just a few months after being inaugurated, Trump said to a group of reporters that he could not rule out a “military option” in Venezuela, and in 2019, in the midst of the Venezuelan presidential crisis, the President and members of his administration (including now-estranged John Bolton) made public comments arguing that Washington thought “all options are on the table” in Venezuela.
Evidently, the Trump White House did not use military action against the Maduro regime in Caracas. However, his administration did impose many sanctions targeted at crippling the state’s oil company PDVSA and blocking the Chavista regime from the international financial markets.
Trump also took a hawkish position regarding Cuba and Iran during his four years in office, reversing many of the concessions President Obama gave to La Habana and Teheran during his tenure. The Trump administration withdrew the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal that was negotiated by the Obama White House, he also added Cuba as a state that sponsors terrorism after reversing almost all of the decisions Obama made during the negotiations that led to the restoration of diplomatic relations between Washington and La Habana.
The former President’s tough rhetoric on Cuba and Venezuela was seen by many political analysts as a key reason for his success with the Hispanic vote in South Florida, especially in Miami-Dade county, where Trump improved his electoral performance by more than 20 points in comparison with 2016.