On Thursday, U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., spoke at the Atlantic Council on the crisis in Venezuela under Nicolás Maduro and Russia’s the Maduro’s regime. Scott said the following:
Good morning and thank you for being here today. Thank you to the Atlantic Council for hosting this event on such an important topic.
The crisis in Venezuela is a crisis in America. It’s a crisis that threatens the safety and security of our allies in Latin America and of the United States of America.
I’ve been to the Venezuelan border. I’ve seen the starvation, the hunger, the pain. Children are starving to death – children that are the age of my grandsons.
If my 3-year-old grandson was living in Venezuela right now, his mom would have to tell him that there’s no food for him today. That there’s only dirty water. That he can’t get sick because the hospitals won’t be able to treat him.
There’s a genocide happening in Venezuela right now. You know, I’ve actually been criticized for using that word. But I ask my critics, how many children have to die before you call it what it is?
And there is one man responsible for inflicting this genocide on the people of Venezuela: Nicolas Maduro.
He’s intentionally starving his own people. Tens of thousands dead is a genocide in our hemisphere.
The United States and our allies have to do everything we can to get Maduro to step aside. We cannot let this evil continue under our watch.
The sanctions we’ve placed on Venezuela are starting to have an effect. In the last month, we’ve seen oil revenues plummet. We’ve seen Venezuela selling off their gold reserves. We’ve seen the regime default on loans.
And yet, Maduro remains in power. The people of Venezuela continue to suffer. And the influence of Cuba, Russia, China, Iran and international terrorist organizations grows.
We must do more.
If Russia stops propping up the regime in Caracas, I believe that the dominoes will fall and the people of Venezuela will be free from the evil and tyranny of Maduro.
Cuba is certainly the most powerful force supporting Maduro. Without the flow of money from Havana to Caracas in exchange for Venezuelan oil and the 20,000 security forces protecting Maduro and enforcing his terror, the regime would certainly fall.
But Cuba’s goal has always been to poke the United States in the eye and wreak havoc in Latin America. They won’t pull out until they absolutely have to. They will be Maduro’s last ally to slither away.
But if Russia abandons Maduro, the dominoes will fall and the entire house of cards will crumble around him. We saw their influence this year, when Russian officials talked Maduro out of leaving Venezuela.
Right now, President Putin is an active participant in Maduro’s genocide.
Russia has welcomed the Petroleos de Venezuela office to Moscow to strengthen its strategic partnership with Venezuela;
Russia’s oil company, Rosneft, has provided more than $17 billion in loans to the Chavez-Maduro regime in the last ten years;
Russia has taken more than 3 million tons of Venezuelan oil in the past two years; and
Russia has helped Maduro export oil to Asia once U.S. sanctions against Venezuela’s oil threatened to dry up revenues.
Russia is propping up Maduro while draining the natural resources of Venezuela. These resources are the lifeblood of what used to be a vibrant economy.
And it’s not just economic. Russia has provided military support.
Russian mercenaries protect Maduro because he can’t trust his own troops. And the Russian government has provided military advisors and specialists to maintain the Maduro regime’s defenses, including surface to air missile systems.
Russia has also sent nuclear capable bombers to Venezuela, in violation of the Venezuelan Constitution, to intimidate the United States and other countries in the region.
In short, Russia is expanding its military presence in Venezuela to prop up a regime hostile to the United States and create a foothold in the Western Hemisphere.
Not since the Cuban Missile Crisis has Russia taken such aggressive steps to expand their influence in the region.
Let me be clear: the presence of Russia, along with Cuba, China, Iran, Hezbollah and other international terrorist organizations in Venezuela presents a national security threat to the United States of America and to our allies in Latin America.
We cannot allow hostile regimes like Russia, China, and Cuba to continue to train killers, distribute weapons and place military assets in Venezuela.
History has proven that permitting the former Soviet Union to establish a presence in Cuba perpetuated a six-decade totalitarian dictatorship that has exported instability to the region and worked against U.S. national security interests.
Recent reports have revealed that Russia is already moving assets out of Venezuela and pulling back its economic relationship with the Maduro Regime.
This is welcome news.
But we have to keep the pressure on. Russia has to know that their continued support of the thug killing his own citizens and denying basic human rights calls into question their position on the world stage.
If Russia wants to be a serious geopolitical player, they need to continue their withdrawal from Venezuela. The quicker the better.
We need to make Nicolas Maduro a pariah. If we dry up the support coming into Venezuela from Russia, China, Cuba and Iran, Maduro will have no choice but to step aside and let freedom and democracy reign once again.
But more importantly, we will prevent a Syria in our hemisphere. We simply cannot – we cannot – allow our adversaries in Russia, China, Iran or Cuba to gain a foothold in our hemisphere. We cannot allow it, and we must stop it.
All options, including the use of American military assets, must remain on the table.
Sanctions are a part of this strategy and we must continue on that path. But if sanctions alone don’t achieve our goals, we must be ready and willing to do what is necessary to get the job done.
We cannot let evil triumph in Venezuela. It would be a failure of leadership with disastrous consequences for the United States and our allies in Latin America.
Russia must take heed: the United States is committed to protecting our national security and preserving the freedoms and democratic government that the people of Venezuela deserve.
We will remember who is with us, and we will remember who is not.
The United States stands with the patriots of Venezuela fighting to defend their lives, their liberty, and their sacred honor.