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The Latest: US sanctions on Venezuelan bank aimed at Maduro

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on the Trump administration's position on Cuba (all times local): 2:15 p.m. The U.S. says it's imposing sanctions on the Central Bank of Venezuela. The Trump administration says the bank has been instrumental in propping up the government of Venezuela's president, Nicolas Maduro.

President Donald Trump's national security adviser John Bolton says the move is aimed at restricting U.S. transactions with the bank and cutting off the bank's access to U.S. currency. Bolton says the action is meant to be a warning to others, including Russia, against deploying military assets to Venezuela to help Maduro stay in power.

The Kremlin has rejected U.S. calls for Moscow to withdraw its military specialists from Venezuela. Russia says they are there to honor obligations under previous arms contracts. Bolton says Russia has conducted several military flights to Venezuela carrying 35 tons of unknown cargo and 100 military personnel.

2:12 p.m.

The United States says it's levying more penalties against Bancorp. in Nicaragua — claiming the bank is a "slush fund" for the country's president, Daniel Ortega. The bank already has been sanctioned by the United States for its links to Venezuela's state-owned oil company.

President Donald Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, says Trump issued an executive order in November targeting the Ortega government and its supporters for allegedly engaging in corruption, human rights abuses and exploiting citizens and public resources.

One of those sanctioned was Vice President Rosario Murillo.

Bolton says the U.S. is now imposing additional sanctions now on Bancorp as well as Laureano Ortega, one of Daniel Ortega's son.

Bolton says the younger Ortega is being "groomed as a successor" to the current president and Bolton's is accusing the son of being involved in "vast corruption under the guise of leading Nicaragua's investment agency."

2:10 p.m.

The Trump administration is stepping up its crackdown again Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

White House national security adviser John Bolton says there's a new cap on the amount of money that families in the United States can send to relatives in Cuba.

He's also announcing additional economic penalties that target Cuba, as well as outlining new moves against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.

And he's calling those countries the "three stooges of socialism."

Bolton is giving a speech in Florida on the 58th anniversary of the United States' failed 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, an attempt to overthrow the Havana government.

2:05 p.m.

The Trump administration is announcing new limits on the amount of money that families in the United States can send to relatives in Cuba.

National security adviser John Bolton says the new limit is $1,000 a person, per quarter. The Obama administration had lifted all limits on such remittances.

Cuba has an extensive social security system that provides free health care and education, but its economy is struggling. The Cuban economy is largely dependent on tourism, payments for Cuban doctors and other specialists who work in other countries and remittances from Cubans living abroad.

The State Department reports that remittances to Cuba from the United States amounted to $3 billion in 2016.

2 p.m.

The United States says it's restricting some travel to Cuba that's not related to family visits.

The White House national security adviser, John Bolton, says that some nonfamily trips to Cuba are portrayed as tourism, but they aren't really for sightseeing. He says the new measures will help steer U.S. dollars away from the Cuban government, its military or its security services.

Bolton says the U.S. Treasury Department also is ending transactions that allow the Cuban government to circumvent sanctions and get access hard currency and the U.S. banking system.

12:10 p.m.

Spain is criticizing the Trump administration's decision to open the door for lawsuits against foreign companies operating on properties Cuba seized from Americans after the 1959 revolution.

The Spanish government says Washington's move damages relations between Europe and the United States and will lead to lawsuits and counterclaims.

Spain contends that the U.S. action runs counter to international law, and says European Union countries are preparing to fight it.

Spanish companies are among Cuba's main foreign investors

10:55 a.m.

The European Union and Canada are joining forces to protect their companies after the U.S opened the door for lawsuits against foreign firms operating on properties Cuba seized from Americans.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini (feh-deh-REE'-kah moh-gehr-EE'-nee) and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland say the U.S. move "to renege on its longstanding commitment" to avert such legal action "is regrettable."

Mogherini and Freeland say in a joint statement issued Wednesday they're "determined to work together to protect the interests" of their companies.

They warn that EU and Canadian laws allow counter-claims against any U.S. lawsuits "so the U.S. decision to allow suits against foreign companies can only lead to an unnecessary spiral of legal actions."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (pahm-PAY'-oh) says the U.S. won't renew a bar on litigation in place for two decades. The decision is a blow to Havana's efforts to draw foreign investment to the island.

9:35 a.m.

The Trump administration is opening the door for lawsuits against foreign firms operating on properties Cuba seized from Americans after the 1959 revolution.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (pahm-PAY'-oh) said Wednesday he won't renew a bar on litigation in place for two decades. The decision is a blow to Havana's efforts to draw foreign investment to the island.

President Donald Trump is stepping up pressure to isolate embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who is holding power with help from other countries, including Cuba, China and Russia.

Pompeo's decision gives Americans the right to sue companies that operate out of hotels, tobacco factories, distilleries and other properties Cuba nationalized after Fidel Castro took power. It allows lawsuits by Cubans who became U.S. citizens years after their properties were taken.

Pompeo says, "Those citizens' opportunities for justice have been put out of reach for two decades."

Word of the move prompted stern responses from Canada and Europe, which have vowed to protect their businesses from lawsuits.

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