Sen. Marco Rubio has, over the past four years, been referred to by many insiders in Washington, D.C., as the virtual "Secretary of State for Latin America," after becoming a force behind President Donald Trump's policies in the region, but the Florida Republican says he rejects that designation.
"That implies we don’t have a secretary of state and that’s not accurate,” he told Politico. "If people mean it as a compliment, I don’t mean to turn them off on it. But it’s not like the people I’m working with or providing advice to need to be convinced to do these things.”
Instead, Rubio says he sees his function as being the person to "nudge us in one direction or another" when it comes to hiring and policy decisions.
But still, reports Politico, Trump passed down the instruction to keep Rubio happy when it comes to handling Latin America. The Florida senator, a son of Cuban immigrants, mounted an unsuccessful bid in 2016 for the presidential nomination, but he had already been known for his criticism of regimes in Venezuela and Cuba.
Rubio's stances have kept him popular with Cuban and Venezuelan exiles in Florida, and Trump has viewed keeping him happy as key to winning the state in his reelection bid, sources say.
The senator's growing influence, however, has made him too powerful, according to his critics who say he's quick to push back against any policy that's perceived as being too easy on Cuba and Venezuela, and that's too focused on the two countries and sometimes with Nicaragua.
Vice President Mike Pence has also followed Rubio's calls for actions on Cuba and Venezuela, reported Politico's sources, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo back in 2016 endorsed Rubio during his run for president. The three men have been close since their days together in Congress.
However, Rubio says he's just offering guidance to the Trump administration, as "it's not like" they "need to be convinced" on issues such as rolling back Obama-era Cuba policy.
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