Obama Says Hugo Chavez Doesn't Present Serious National Security Concern; Rubio and Republicans Jump to Attack
América TeVe, the little Spanish-language, Hialeah Gardens-based scored a big interview with President Barack Obama, and it's causing a major controversy.
Obama told reporter Oscar Haza that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has not posed a "serious national security impact" to America in the past few year. Prominent Republicans including Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney have jumped at the chance to criticize the President's remarks.
"We're always concerned about Iran engaging in destabilizing activity around the globe," Obama told Haza. "But overall my sense is that what Mr. Chavez has done over the last several years has not had a serious national security impact on us."
"We have to vigilant," he continued. "My main concern when it comes to Venezuela is having the Venezuelan people have a voice in their affairs, and that you end up ultimately having fair and free elections, which we don't always see."
The remarks didn't sit well with the GOP, who have long been fearful of threats posed by Iran and its ties to leftist regimes in Latin America.
Rubio released the following statement:
"It's now disturbingly clear that President Obama has been living under a rock when it comes to recognizing the national security threat posed by Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.
"Hugo Chavez is not only a threat to the Venezuelan people's freedom and democratic aspirations, he has also supported Iran's regime in its attempts to expand its intelligence network throughout the hemisphere, facilitated money laundering activities that finance state sponsors of terrorism and provided a safe haven for FARC narco-terrorists, among many other actions. Just yesterday, the Wall Street Journal detailed how Hugo Chavez circumvents U.S. and EU sanctions to help prop up the Assad regime in Syria. And even Obama's own State Department belatedly but rightly expelled Chavez's consul general in Miami for her ties to a plan to wage cyber-attacks on the U.S.
"President Obama continues to display an alarmingly naïve understanding of the challenges and opportunities we face in the Western Hemisphere."
Romney also seized on the opportunity draw distinctions between his international agenda and that of Obama's with the following statement:
"This is a stunning and shocking comment by the President. It is disturbing to see him downplaying the threat posed to U.S. interests by a regime that openly wishes us ill. Hugo Chavez has provided safe haven to drug kingpins, encouraged regional terrorist organizations that threaten our allies like Colombia, has strengthened military ties with Iran and helped it evade sanctions, and has allowed a Hezbollah presence within his country's borders. And he is seeking to lead -- together with the Castros -- a destabilizing, anti-democratic, and anti-American 'Bolivarian Revolution' across Latin America. President Obama's remarks continue a pattern of weakness in his foreign policy, one that has emboldened adversaries and diminished U.S. influence in every region of the world. As president, I will speak clearly and resolutely on the challenges we face so that both our allies and our adversaries will know where we stand."
Of course, it's important to point out that President Obama did not totally dismiss the possibility that Iran or Venezuela could pose a threat, but rather that Venezuela has not in the past few years.
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