The U.S. "will stand with the freedom fighters" arrayed against a trio of Latin American countries the U.S. has accused of widespread rights abuses, National Security Advisor John Bolton said Thursday.
"The troika of tyranny in this Hemisphere — Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua — has finally met its match," Bolton said at Miami's Freedom Tower, according to a copy of his remarks obtained by Anadolu Agency.
"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," he said.
"The people of Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua are fearsome opponents, and if I were [Miguel] Diaz-Canel, [Nicolas] Maduro, or [Daniel] Ortega, I would fear their virtuous power," he added, referring to the presidents of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.
As Bolton made his remarks, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order containing new sanctions on Venezuela, which Bolton called "tough" and said they target the country's "networks operating within corrupt Venezuelan economic sectors and deny them access to stolen wealth."
The order specifically opens the door to sanctions on individuals working in the country’s gold sector, as well as individuals accused of engaging in corruption and deceptive practices in other sectors.
The Treasury Department agency responsible for implementing sanctions said on its website it "expects to use its discretion to target in particular those who operate corruptly in the gold or other identified sectors of the Venezuela economy, and not those who are operating legitimately in such sectors."
Bolton alleged the Venezuelan government has used the country's gold 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," Bolton said.
Returning to the trio of Latin American countries, Bolton said Washington "looks forward to watching each corner of the triangle fall: in Havana, in Caracas, in Managua."
The comments are some of the harshest since Trump refused to rule out military action against Venezuela in August. It was followed by a New York Times report in September that said the U.S. held secret talks with Venezuelan military officials at odds with the government, and Trump insisted that month that "all options are on the table, every one."
Bolton meanwhile embraced a series of right-wing populist politicians who have won recent elections, including incoming Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Colombian President Ivan Duque, describing them as "likeminded leaders."
Their elections, Bolton said, "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."