Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said he plans to propose sanctions the United States should impose against Venezuela in response to the attacks against anti-government protestors there.
Protests against the government and policies of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro have resulted in at least 12 fatalities and hundreds injured. The fatalities have been blamed on police forces acting on the orders of Maduro’s administration.
Rubio’s push for sanctions came during a nearly 15-minute speech on the Senate floor on Monday evening. It was sparked in great part, Rubio said, by the outrage he felt over positive remarks that Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, made about Cuba after a recent visit to the island.
Rubio, whose family left Cuba and who has been highly critical of the Castro regime, characterized Harkin’s praise for Cuba’s health system and literacy rate as naïve.
He said Harkin had taken at face value data that is suspect because it was provided by the Cuban government. In an impassioned speech, which the Miami Herald called “the best oration of his political career,” Rubio said that the Castro regime has not only oppressed its people but also was behind other oppressive governments in Latin America, including Venezuela.
“I wonder if [Cuban authorities] spoke to [Harkin] about the outbreak of cholera that they’ve been unable to control,” Rubio said, “or about the three-tiered system of health care that exists where foreigners and government officials get health care much better than that that’s available to the general population.”
Rubio continued, “I heard about their wonderful literacy rate, how everyone in Cuba knows how to read. That’s fantastic. Here’s the problem: they can only read censored stuff. They’re not allowed access to the Internet. The only newspapers they’re allowed to read are Granma or the ones produced by the government.”
Efforts by Fox News Latino to get a comment from Harkin were unsuccessful.
Rubio then turned to the violent protests in Venezuela and emphasized that the political unrest was happening in this hemisphere, but that it was being treated in the United States with a lack of urgency.
As Rubio went over his points, an aide showed large photos of Venezuelan protestors who have been jailed or killed in the last two weeks.
“This in and of itself deserves attention, what’s happening in Venezuela, in our own hemisphere,” Rubio said. “It is shameful that only three heads of state in this hemisphere have spoken out forcefully against what’s happening. It is shameful that many members of Congress who traveled to Venezuela and were friendly with [late President Hugo] Chávez, some even went to his funeral, sit by saying nothing while this is happening in our own hemisphere.”
Earlier this month, Maduro took aim at Rubio, calling him "el loco de los locos" – the craziest of the crazies – in a video.
Rubio responded by tweeting, "Havanas puppet @NicolasMaduro can attack me but world sees what he is doing to people of #Venezuela #ResistenciaVzla.”
Elizabeth Llorente can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on https://twitter.com/Liz_Llorente