U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio made a direct appeal to Venezuelans, showing his support for the “gente” after a controversial vote that bolstered the power of President Nicolás Maduro.
U.S. President Donald Trump branded Maduro a “dictator,” and his administration imposed financial sanctions on Maduro. The country has been roiled by violence for months, and at least 10 people were killed Sunday, according to reports.
Food shortages have been a major issue for Venezuelans embroiled in what appears to be the makings of a civil war.
Rubio, a Florida Republican, issued a message of solidarity broadcast on Globovisión last night throughout Venezuela, according to a press release distributed by his office this morning.
In it, Rubio, the son of Cuban exiles, uses Venezuela leaders’ physical appearance as proof of a corrupt government.
“Mientras el pueblo lucha cada día para alimentar a sus familias, ¿Ha notado usted, cuántos de sus líderes han engordado?,” Rubio said.
In English, what he said was, “While the people of Venezuela struggle each day to feed their families, have you noticed how many of your leaders have gained weight?”
He also called out spending by Venezuelans in South Florida as evidence of “vast amounts of wealth stolen from you by the families of those in power and those who support them.”
“The vast horse ranches in Wellington, Florida and the mansions in Gables Estates. The private jets at our airports and $10,000 shopping sprees at the Mall at Merrick Place,” Rubio said. “We see them flying into Miami, enjoying luxuries few Americans themselves enjoy, and then return back with a smile on their face. As if to say, we can do anything we want, anywhere we want, and no one can stop us.”
The translation is below the video.
I am speaking to you tonight from Washington, D.C. But I come to you not as a United States Senator, but as someone who was born and raised in a community shaped by the events of our hemisphere.
The over 1 million Cubans forced to flee their homeland because of the Castro dictatorship. The tens of thousands of Nicaraguans forced to begin life in a new country because of the Sandinistas. And now, sadly, the thousands of your fellow countrymen who seek asylum because of recent events.
The exodus of these people to the United States has enriched our country. And it has made the city of my birth and the state I represent here in Washington among the most vibrant in the world.
But it also divided families, killed dreams, and robbed these nations of the talents of its people.
The root cause of all these tragedies is not a battle between the political left and right. For plenty of nations in this hemisphere and around the world have found how to provide a space for both points of view in its political system.
The root cause is tyranny.
Tyranny that unjustly imprisons and even kills those who the tyrants see as a danger to their power.
Tyranny that manipulates the power of government to close off space for those with different points of view.
Tyranny that ultimately concludes it cannot hold on to power if it must submit to free elections and a free press.
A close relative of tyranny is corruption. For with tyranny comes unchecked power. And in the words of the wise British politician Lord Acton, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.
I have seen firsthand the corruption which results from the absolute power now in the hands of a privileged few in Nicolas Maduro’s government.
The vast horse ranches in Wellington, Florida and the mansions in Gables Estates. The private jets at our airports and $10,000 shopping sprees at the Mall at Merrick Place.
Vast amounts of wealth stolen from you by the families of those in power and those who support them.
While the people of Venezuela struggle each day to feed their families, have you noticed how many of your leaders have gained weight?
While many struggle to access basic medicines, when was the last time a relative of someone in power in Venezuela died because they couldn’t get prescription medication?
We see them flying into Miami, enjoying luxuries few Americans themselves enjoy, and then return back with a smile on their face. As if to say, we can do anything we want, anywhere we want, and no one can stop us.
And it was this, as much as anything else, which led me to take up this cause here in Washington.
The United States has its own challenges, both at home and abroad. But as someone raised in a community of so many people who were victims of tyranny and corruption in the nation of their birth, I simply could not and would not stand by silently while history repeated itself in my time.
We have seen undemocratic leaders come to power in our hemisphere by manipulating and even abusing the instruments of democracy before. But yesterday, for the first time in almost four decades, we witnessed an attempt to formally and openly destroy the last remnants of democracy in a neighboring nation.
As tyrants usually do, they seek to cover their failures by blaming their opposition at home and others abroad. Thankfully, the people of Venezuela are too well informed and too sophisticated to fall for their tricks.
There is no U.S. economic blockade on Venezuela. Yet the economy of a rich nation is in shambles, because the Maduro government has given away your oil and much of your sovereignty to Cuba.
Multiple nations and the Catholic church has offered to deliver supplies of food and medicine for your people, but the Maduro government has refused to allow it, because it uses access to food and medicine as a way to punish its opponents and reward those who remain loyal.
And every few months, the Maduro government sells oil to China and Russia for far below market value in exchange for cash. Those in power take a percentage of it for them and use the rest to make interest payments on the old debt, so they can keep borrowing money to do the same all over again.
Now, speaking to you as a Senator of the United States, I state at the outset that it is neither my right nor my intention to interfere in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation. But all nations have a right to determine with whom they seek to have relations and what the nature of those relations should be.
I for one, seek to have peaceful and respectful relations between the United States and Venezuela. But a Venezuela represented by legitimate and elected leaders. Not with leaders who have seized power without the consent of those they claim to represent.
For the United States, or any nation, to accept a legitimate a government which holds on to power through intimidation and brutality, is equivalent to condoning those actions. It would be a betrayal to the principles our nation was founded on. And it would be to abandon the people of Venezuela.
In this struggle, know neither we nor you are alone. Since last night’s fraudulent exercise, Peru, Chile, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Mexico and other nations from across the world have joined in announcing they do not recognize this constituent assembly.
In the days to come, you can expect the President of the United States to impose sanctions against even more individuals who have carried out and benefited from the tragedy that faces your nation.
And yes, it is my hope and my expectation, that the President will impose sanctions on economic sectors of the Maduro regime in a way that does not harm the people, but deprives their corrupt government rulers from continuing to enrich themselves by stealing the treasure of a wealthy nation.
My closing message to you is this. You are not alone.
Your cause is being spoken about here in Washington. At a time of deep divisions in our own politics, both the left and the right here in the United States support the people of Venezuela and condemn the Maduro government. Even those here who sympathized and defended the late Hugo Chavez, condemn the direction Nicolas Maduro has taken your country.
Ultimately, the way out of the tragedy before you is not violence or armed conflict. Venezuela is only a free and fair election away from a better future.
If the Maduro regime is so confident in the support of its people, then why not schedule the free and fair election called for in your constitution? Why not submit yourselves to the people in an election that recognizes the principles of one person and one vote?
Why not free those imprisoned for their political views so they can participate in your national debate?
And why not recognize the power of a National Assembly elected directly by the people?
For Nicolas Maduro, who I am sure is watching, the current path you are on will not end well for you.
Unlike Fidel Castro in 1959, there is no Soviet Union left to subsidize your government for the next 30 years. The loyalty of many around you depends entirely on your ability to continue to provide them with privileges most in Venezuela no longer have. When you can no longer provide them toilet paper, toothpaste and bread, they will no longer have any reason to be with you.
And I assure you, that already, there are those who yesterday wore their red shirt while celebrating the Constituent Assembly on national television, but this morning were already plotting to take your place when the time was right.
There is only one way forward, elections, freedom and peace.
I will continue to pray that God create the space for this to happen.
And we will continue to stand with the brave people of Venezuela until it does.