Mitt Romney: Venezuela’s Chavez is “Threat to National Security”
|Photo from VenezuelaAnalysis/WHTC|
The former Massachusetts’s governor was responding to comments made by President Obama, who had stated that Chavez did not pose a “serious threat” to the US on Tuesday. Speaking to Fox news channel the following day, Romney said that he had been “shocked and stunned” by Obama’s statements and branded them “naive”.
“This is Chavez who has invited Iran in, who has invited Hezbollah in... This is Chavez who supports FARC [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia] and other terrorist activity in nations like Colombia, who are friends,” said Romney.
The Republican candidate went on to criticise Obama for not paying enough attention to the continent South of its borders.
“Latin America is critical to America, the United States of America, and the president needs to focus on what is happening there. What Chavez is doing, what the Castros are doing. These are people who call for terrible acts against America,” he added.
Romney made the comments just a few hours after US legislator and Republican, Marco Rubio, who Fox news states is currently tipped to be Romney’s running mate, also criticised President Obama’s comments. Rubio, a Senator from Florida, accused the US head of state of “living under a rock when it comes to recognizing the national security threat posed by Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez” and of ignoring the possible “opportunities” for the US in the region. He also stated that the Venezuelan president was a threat to both “the Venezuelan people's freedom and democratic aspirations” and US security.
Democratically elected President Chavez has come increasingly under fire from high ranking US politicians this month, with both Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney questioning Venezuelan democracy on the country’s national Independence Day last week.
Whilst Clinton refrained from making reference to Chavez himself, she told Venezuelans that “holding free and fair elections” was the best way for US and Venezuelan citizens to “pay tribute to their founders”. Meanwhile, Romney stated that Chavez had “failed to honour the spirit of freedom with which Venezuela was established” and accused him of “promoting ideas in Venezuela and other Latin American countries that run counter to freedom, prevent prosperity and expand tyranny”.
Although Obama said he did not classify the Chavez government as dangerous to the US, he did state that his main concern in the country was seeing “the Venezuelan people have a voice in their affairs” and “having fair and free elections, which we don't always see”.
The Venezuelan government has not responded directly to any of the comments, however, Chavez criticised Hillary Clinton earlier this week for “threatening” Russia and China over their stance towards the conflict in Syria. Clinton had earlier attended a “Friends of the Syrian People” meeting in Paris on July 6th, where she urged other governments to “make Russia and China pay” for their decision to block military intervention against the Assad government at the United Nations (UN) Security Council.
“We have seen the Secretary of State, Mrs Clinton, threatening Russia and China. They are going to pay for not doing what they (the US) want. You see? That is open and declared madness, from those who believe that they are the owners of the world... They ought to concentrate on solving the many problems of their own country,” said Chavez.
Polls suggest that the Venezuelan leader is set to take the presidential elections by a wide margin this coming October, with the results of a Hinterlaces survey released at the end of June showing that 66% of Venezuelans view Chavez’s administration positively. The government’s success has been widely attributed to policies aimed at opening up the Venezuelan electorate’s role in decision making processes, implementing new forms of local participatory democracy, and a broad range of social programs.
The government has always denied accusations that it has links to terrorist organisations, maintaining that the allegations are unsubstantiated and politically motivated.