Puebla, Mexico, July 12, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – US Senator Marco Rubio took aim at Venezuela Wednesday, hinting of more unilateral sanctions if a constituent assembly tasked with revamping the South American country's constitution goes forward.
A long time critic of President Nicolas Maduro, Rubio took to the Senate floor to claim that “the democratic order in Venezuela has ended”.
“I think it should be abundantly clear to everyone that this government in the United States is prepared to take on additional significant measures if in fact, that Constituent Assembly moves forward at the end of this month,” he said.
The National Constituent Assembly (ANC) is an initiative proposed by Maduro that he says could help the country overcome its current political crisis. Once elected later this month, the ANC will have the power to rewrite Venezuela’s constitution. While left-wing grassroots groups have largely welcomed the ANC as an opportunity to make their voices heard, Venezuela’s opposition has dismissed the proposal as an attempted power grab by Maduro.
Rubio mocked the ANC as the “unconstitutional assembly”, and appeared to suggest President Donald Trump himself may soon advocate for US action on Venezuela.
“I had occasion earlier this morning to speak to the president on this topic for a few minutes,” Rubio said.
He continued, “[Trump] expressed his continued dissatisfaction with the course of events.”
Then taking to Twitter, he issued three demands to the Venezuelan government, including total amnesty for all “all political prisoners”, the cancellation of the ANC and new elections.
“Reconciliation possible in Venezuela if Maduro follows this path. But expect severe U.S. sanctions if 'constituent assembly' happens,” he said.
Shortly later, Maduro fired back, tweeting, “Venezuela is a free, sovereign country and does not allow itself to be threatened by any global empire.”
“No government can come to tell us what can be done,” he stated, before adding, “Venezuela will overcome with the Constituent Assembly process, and imperialism will swallow its words.”
Rubio has long been a hardline advocate of sanctions on Venezuela, a country that’s already struggling to import basic consumer goods ranging from food to medicine due to a collapse in global oil prices – the source of over 90 percent of the nation's export earnings. He is also an ardent supporter of the Cuba blockade.
Rubio was also a signatory to a draft bill leaked in May, which called for new elections under the auspices of the Organisation of American States and the US government itself.