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United States President Barack Obama told a Spanish-language broadcast journalist this week that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez hasn't been a "serious" threat to national security for some years now.
But Obama's assessment of Chavez's potential danger has received heavy criticism from Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who said the president is "naïve" and has been "living under a rock."
Florida's Rubio is being vetted as a possible running mate on Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's ticket.
Obama's interview with journalist Oscar Haza aired Tuesday on WJAN-Channel 41. When Obama was asked about the alliance between Iran and Venezuela he responded that "we're always concerned about Iran engaging in destabilizing activity around the globe. But overall, my sense is that what Mr. Chavez has done over the last several years has not had a serious national security impact on us."
Obama added that the U.S must still be "vigilant" but that his concern was "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."
There is a strengthening relationship between Venezuela and Iran, who both share disdain for U.S. global influences. The two have economic and trade ties and are reportedly looking at academic opportunities.
"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," Rubio said via a press statement.
Rubio added that Chavez isn't only a threat to Venezuelans' freedom and democracy but that he "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 Chavez circumvents U.S. and EU sanctions to help prop up the Assad regime in Syria," Rubio continued. "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 cyberattacks on the U.S."
According to Rubio, the president "continues to display an alarmingly naïve understanding of the challenges and opportunities we face in the Western Hemisphere."
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