Rubio Slams Obama Comment: Chavez Not a Serious National Security Threat

Photo: White House

President Barack Obama was featured in an interview with well-known, Miami-based, Spanish-language broadcast journalist Oscar Haza for “A Mano Limpia.” The segment, which aired Tuesday night, has been causing quite a stir. In the interview, Obama says that, over the past few years, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has not posed a “serious” national security threat to the United States.

The Miami Herald reports on the president’s comments to Haza on Cuba and Venezuela:

“I believe that there should be a way for us to resolve this 50-year conflict with Cuba, but it involves recognizing liberty and, you know, releasing political prisoners and showing movement inside of Cuba,” he said. “We’ve shown flexibility in remittances and lifting parts of the travel ban for family members, and I think that was the right hting to do. And my hope is that the Cuban government begins to recognize that their system is no longer working.”

Haza then mentioned detained American Alan Gross and stepped-up repression on the island.

“We’re not going to see big moves or major improvement in the U.S.-Cuba relationship if the Cuban leadership continues to do the same thing over and over again,” Obama said.

Then, Haza asked about the alliance between Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and Iran.

“We’re always concerned about Iran engaging in destabilizing activity around the globe. But overall my sense is that what Mr. Chávez has done over the last several years has not had a serious national security impact on us,” Obama said. “We have to vigilant. 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.”

President Obama’s remarks towards the socialist South American leader has drawn some sharp criticism in the U.S. Take, for instance, prominent Florida Republican senator and Intelligence Committee Member Marco Rubio. In a statement released following the president’s remarks on Chavez, he said:

“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.”

The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that Chávez and his state-oil company are providing vital energy support to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and conducting business with Syrian firms blacklisted by Washington and Brussels.

(H/T: Morning Score)