From his perch on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., had a busy weekend, hitting the national airwaves to back President Donald Trump’s opposition to the Maduro regime in Venezuela.
Rubio appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” and NBC’s “Meet the Press” to praise Trump’s handling of Venezuela, even as opposition to the Maduro regime continues to grow.
On CNN, Rubio pushed back against claims that the U.S. was responsible for the opposition to Maduro.
“This is not a U.S.-backed anything,” Rubio said. “I didn’t see any Americans in the street in Venezuela, when hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Venezuelans took to the streets on the 23rd. This is Juan Guaido and the National Assembly, which was lawfully elected under the Constitution of Venezuela. By the way, the Constitution put in place by Hugo Chavez. They followed the Constitution that said the swearing-in in January was invalid because the election that Maduro there was invalid. When there’s a vacancy in the presidency, the president of the National Assembly, which happens to be Juan Guadio, becomes the interim president, and in the next thirty days to forty five days, he has to call for new elections. That was all their law, they followed that. The U.S. simply supported the democratic institutions, along with, by the way, sixteen countries in the region. This is not the U.S. This is Honduras, this is Guatemala, this is Canada, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, et cetera. So this is not a U.S.-sponsored anything. This is us supporting the people of Venezuela who want their Constitution and democracy followed. That’s a fact, and when people choose to ignore it because they don’t like Donald Trump, that’s silly.”
Rubio also dismissed the idea that the U.S. would use military intervention in Venezuela.
“I don’t know of anyone who is calling for military intervention,” Rubio said. “What I’m calling for is for the Constitution to be followed, for military officials in Venezuela and uphold the Constitution they swore allegiance to, for Juan Guaido to be able to act as interim president until we have a new valid election so we can support that new democratic government. That’s what I’m calling for. The United States always retains the right, always, anywhere in the world, in any instance, to protect its national security, so I’m not going to justify military intervention because I don’t know who is calling for that. What I have said is everything is an option, because we always have an option of defending our national security in cases where it’s threatened. Why we should care about Venezuela is a different topic. It is in our national interest to care. Why? They allow the ELN and other drug trafficking networks to flood our country with cocaine and drugs. They have invited the Russians repeatedly to open military installations in our own hemisphere, and they are destabilizing the entire region. Six, seven hundred thousand migrants in Peru, over a million and a half to two million in Colombia. This is a regional catastrophe. Another two million Venezuelans this year could go into different countries, further destabilizing these nations who happen to be allies and key partners in the anti-war, counter-drug effort. So, this is in our national interest to care about what’s happening there , and it’s always in our national interest to support people, especially in our hemisphere, who are putting their lives on the line for democracy.”
Rubio weighed in on the same themes when he appeared on “Meet the Press” on Sunday.
“Number one, I’m not the ouster in chief or anything like it,” Rubio said on NBC. “First of all, the credit belongs to the Venezuelan people who have taken to the streets. This is their movement, this is about them, and they’re the ones who are courageous facing the threat of imprisonment. Number two, the decider here is the President who has never needed any convincing when it comes to Venezuela. Do I offer ideas? Yes, sure. He’s got a great team around him, but ultimately he has never needed convincing and frankly he has raised it with me — the issue of Venezuela — more than I’ve raised it with him. I haven’t had to raise it with him, he cares about this. As far as these analysts saying that there’s no plan behind, how would they know? The Trump Administration is not going to publish a plan, here is what we’re going to do to keep our folks safe. I can tell you I’ve been in contact with the State Department and the people who are in charge and they do have a plan and they have several contingencies to plan on. And the most important of it is, no harm should ever come to these diplomats. Mike Pompeo was very clear about it yesterday, if it does there will be severe consequences. As far as the military option, I don’t know who’s calling for that, I can only tell you and this applies to Venezuela and anywhere in the world: the United States has always had the right to defend its national security and national interests with the use of force if necessary. I’m not saying that’s what’s going to happen here, I’m not specifying anything. That’s not my decision to make. I’m telling you, the preferred outcome here is that Maduro leaves and that in 30 or 45 days they call an election and they elect someone democratically and Venezuela returns to constitutional order. That’s what I want.”
On Friday, Rubio, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Global Women’s Issues, cheered the news that Trump tapped Elliott Abrams as U.S. Special Envoy for Venezuela.
“I strongly support the naming of Elliott Abrams as U.S. Special Envoy for Venezuela. While the road to Venezuela’s full reconstruction will contain challenges for all of us, Abrams is a tough and experienced foreign policy expert with knowledge of the region and a long history supporting democracy, human rights, and the national interest of the United States,” Rubio said on Friday.
Kevin Derby can be reached at Kevin.Derby@floridadaily.com.