Trump threatens 'full' embargo on Cuba over Venezuela security support

President Donald Trump. (DoD photo)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump threatened on Tuesday to impose a "full and complete embargo" and further sanctions on Cuba if its Communist leadership does not immediately end its military support for Venezuela's socialist president, Nicolas Maduro.

Trump issued his ultimatum to Havana in a message on Twitter as his administration threw its support behind opposition leader Juan Guaido's strongest call yet for the military to help him oust Maduro during a day of upheaval in the South American country.

Also on Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Maduro had been prepared to leave the country on Tuesday morning, headed for Havana in the face of anti-government protests, but reversed his plan after Russia intervened.

"They had an airplane on the tarmac. He was ready to leave this morning, as we understand it. Russians indicated he should stay," Pompeo said in an interview with CNN.

Several dozen armed troops accompanying Guaido clashed with soldiers supporting Maduro at a rally outside the La Carlota air base in Caracas early on Tuesday, but the incident fizzled out and did not appear to be part of an immediate attempt by the opposition to take power through military force.

Trump's threat against Cuba marked an intensification of a U.S. campaign in recent weeks to pressure Cuba over its role in Venezuela, although some experts and former U.S. officials say Trump and his aides have overstated Cuban involvement in the Venezuelan crisis.

"If Cuban Troops and Militia do not immediately CEASE military and other operations for the purpose of causing death and destruction to the Constitution of Venezuela, a full and complete embargo, together with highest-level sanctions, will be placed on the island of Cuba," Trump said on Twitter.

"Hopefully, all Cuban soldiers will promptly and peacefully return to their island!" he wrote.

Cuba has stood by its ally Maduro and has denied U.S. accusations that it has military and intelligence operatives, which Washington estimates at 20,000 to 25,000 personnel - in Venezuela propping him up.

Trump has rolled back parts of predecessor Barack Obama's historic rapprochement with Cuba and returned to Cold War-style rhetoric. But he has not broken off diplomatic relations, which Obama restored in 2015 after decades of enmity.

A six-decade U.S. economic embargo on Cuba has also remained officially intact, even though Obama chipped away at many of the U.S. trade and travel restrictions.

(Reporting by Matt Spetalnick and Eric Beech; Editing by David Alexander and Peter Cooney)

WATCH: President Trump presents the Medal of Honor to Staff Sgt. Travis Adkins

U.S. Army Astronaut Lt. Col. Anne McClain is captured in this photo during a media opportunity while serving as backup crew for NASA Expedition 56 to the International Space Station May, 2018, at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. (NASA photo)

NASA is reportedly investigating one of its astronauts in a case that appears to involve the first allegations of criminal activity from space.

Read More Show Less
New York National Guard Soldiers and Airmen of the 24th Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team (CST) and 106th Rescue Wing prepare to identify and classify several hazardous chemical and biological materials during a collective training event at the Plum Island Animal Disease Research Facility, New York, May 2, 2018. (U.S. Army/Sgt. Harley Jelis)

The Department of Homeland Security stored sensitive data from the nation's bioterrorism defense program on an insecure website where it was vulnerable to attacks by hackers for over a decade, according to government documents reviewed by The Los Angeles Times.

The data included the locations of at least some BioWatch air samplers, which are installed at subway stations and other public locations in more than 30 U.S. cities and are designed to detect anthrax or other airborne biological weapons, Homeland Security officials confirmed. It also included the results of tests for possible pathogens, a list of biological agents that could be detected and response plans that would be put in place in the event of an attack.

The information — housed on a dot-org website run by a private contractor — has been moved behind a secure federal government firewall, and the website was shut down in May. But Homeland Security officials acknowledge they do not know whether hackers ever gained access to the data.

Read More Show Less
A U.S. Marine with Task Force Southwest observes Afghan National Army (ANA) 215th Corps soldiers move to the rally point to begin their training during a live-fire range at Camp Shorabak. (U.S. Marine Corps/Sgt. Luke Hoogendam)

By law, the United States is required to promote "human rights and fundamental freedoms" when it trains foreign militaries. So it makes sense that if the U.S. government is going to spend billions on foreign security assistance every year, it should probably systematically track whether that human rights training is actually having an impact or not, right?

Apparently not. According to a new audit from the Government Accountability Office, both the Departments of Defense and State "have not assessed the effectiveness of human rights training for foreign security forces" — and while the Pentagon agreed to establish a process to do so, State simply can't be bothered.

Read More Show Less
The Topeka Veterans Affairs Medical Center (Public domain)

The Kansas City VA Medical Center is still dealing with the fallout of a violent confrontation last year between one of its police officers and a patient, with the Kansas City Police Department launching a homicide investigation.

And now Topeka's VA hospital is dealing with an internal dispute between leaders of its Veterans Affairs police force that raises new questions about how the agency nationwide treats patients — and the officers who report misconduct by colleagues.

Read More Show Less
Jeannine Willard (Valencia County Detention Center)

A New Mexico woman was charged Friday in the robbery and homicide of a Marine Corps veteran from Belen late last month after allegedly watching her boyfriend kill the man and torch his car to hide evidence.

Read More Show Less