Three Florida congressmen banded together Friday to blast the Maduro regime, promising more sanctions against the South American country if the government proceeds with a plan to create a new constitution and promote a dictatorship.
Flanked by U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio vilified the Maduro regime in a news conference held Friday morning.
At the heart of the press conference was a discussion over an upcoming election in Venezuela in which President Nicolas Maduro is aiming to select new members of a constituent assembly.
Critics like Rubio fear, however, that Maduro’s true motive is to hold a vote to dissolve Congress, push through a new constitution and keep himself in total power of the already impoverished nation where soaring inflation and high crime run rampant.
"To see [Venezuela's] erosion is tragic,” Rubio said Friday. “if this goes forward on Sunday this will be the first time we have lost a democracy in the Western Hemisphere.”
Rubio has worked closely with President Donald Trump’s administration on South American issues and has frequently lambasted the Maduro regime’s corruption, which he says has resulted in a suffering economy, malnutrition and substantial increases in poverty.
Diaz-Balart said Maduro’s rule and oppressive policies were dangerous for the future of the country.
“This is very simple,” he said. “What you have in Venezuela is a regime that continues, every day, to become more violent, more aggressive, more anti-Democratic.”
Venezuelan leaders, in turn, have accused Rubio and the CIA of trying to topple Venezuela’s government to put their own leaders with U.S. interests in charge of the country.
“What this group is trying to do with Venezuela is basically divide the government, recognize other leaders and foment a conflict with the Venezuelans,” Carlos Ron, chargé d'affaires of the Embassy of Venezuela said earlier this week. “This is absolutely unacceptable.”
Julio Borges, leader of Venezuela's opposition-led National Assembly legislature, phoned into the news conference to discuss the upcoming vote.
“We will spearhead a new stage where along with our citizens we do not abandon the street until we can restore democracy in Venezuela,” he said this week.
Florida politicians have routinely led the way on pushback and sanctions against the Maduro regime. Last summer, Rubio and Ros-Lehtinen worked in tandem to extend sanctions on Venezuela for another three years.
In spite of his criticisms, Rubio still believes there is hope of a better future for Venezuela.
“It's possible to restore democracy & reconciliation in Venezuela,” Rubio tweeted earlier this month. “But if @NicolasMaduro moves forward with fraudulent vote on 30th, expect a VERY strong response to #Venezuela govt from @POTUS.”
But on Friday, Rubio said further sanctioning would be on its way if Maduro follows through on the “sham” elections.
"You can expect more,” Rubio said.