Sen. Marco Rubio has stepped forward as a leading voice against the government of Venezuela, saying it's time for the United States to crack down on the regime which is suppressing its people in much the same way as Cuba's authoritarian regime.
In a speech on the Senate floor Monday, the Florida Republican and son of Cuban immigrants said it's "shameful" that the United States and Congress haven't done more to denounce or punish Venezuela, The Miami Herald reports.
Rubio added that over the next few days he would propose sanctions that "we should be pursuing against the individuals responsible for these atrocities."
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Unrest in Venezuela intensified Monday night as anti-government demonstrators put up barricades and set fire to trash in Caracas, capping off weeks of protests. A total of 13 people have died, with opposition leaders renewing their calls for nonviolence.
In his speech, Rubio also highlighted the widespread food shortages in the country, triggered by the government's takeover of a number of industries, as evidence for the case against communism.
"They have a shortage of toilet paper and toothpaste. Why? Because they are incompetent. Because communism doesn't work. They look more and more like Cuba economically and politically every single day."
Rubio used a series of photographs of the Venezuelan protests to illustrate his points.
"This gentleman here is the former mayor of a municipality in Caracas. His name is Leopoldo Lopez,"
Rubio said of one of the country's top opposition leaders.
"And this is the National Guard of Venezuela pulling him into an armored truck last week. You know why? Because he's protesting against the government."
Rubio also took to Twitter Sunday to reinforce his message:
In another tweet Monday, Rubio said:
The comments have already caught the attention of Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro, who called Rubio "el loco de los locos," meaning "the craziest of the crazies," The Tampa Bay Times reports.
Last week President Barack Obama urged the Maduro government to release protesters detained in anti-government demonstrations and to address the "legitimate grievances" of its people.
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