A day after Latin American officials met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to show their support for him, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez denounced their action.

“The house-call by the foreign ministers of Venezuela, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Bolivia represents an endorsement of autocracy, oppression, and tyranny,” said Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, in a statement.

Syria has been waging a campaign against its opposition, which recently formed an umbrella group called the Syrian National Council. Syrian government officials have warned other nations not to recognize the group, vowing to retaliate against against any foreign government that does so, according to press reports.

Assad has been assailed by many world leaders for cracking down violently against anti-government protesters – a move that has left hundreds dead.

“Nearly 3,000 Syrians have lost their lives at the hands of the Assad dictatorship in recent weeks as they’ve sought to exchange tyranny for democracy,” said Menendez, whose late parents were from Cuba. 

“The visit also underscores these nations belief in authoritarianism as a legitimate form of government at home and justifies their use of the authoritarian tools of oppression, tyranny, and fear against their own people,” he added.

U.S. officials have expressed concern over the growing, open ties between leaders of countries such as Cuba and Venezuela, and leaders of other nations, such as Iran, who have expressed hostility towards the United States. 

Earlier this year, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican from Florida who also is of Cuban descent, said the United States needed to pay more attention to such alliances.

“It’s in our national security interest to have a stable hemisphere,” Ros-Lehtinen recently told Fox News Latino, noting Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s close ties to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

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