Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is calling for sanctions against one of Venezuela’s most powerful leaders.
Rubio, one of the most outspoken critics of the Caracas regime, is pressing President Donald Trump to hold Diosdado Cabello accountable for human rights abuses and undermining democracy in Venezuela. Rubio’s call comes after the European Union included the former leader of Venezuela’s National Assembly in sanctions against seven senior Venezuelan officials.
"While the United States has imposed its own sanctions against almost all of these senior officials in the Venezuelan government, it has not yet designated Cabello," Rubio wrote in a letter to Trump Tuesday. "I therefore respectfully urge your Administration to join the European Union in imposing sanctions against Diosdado Cabello."
The United States has slapped sanctions against more than 20 current and former Venezuelan government officials in recent months, including President Nicolas Maduro. The White House has prohibited U.S. banks from purchasing new Venezuelan debt, a deep blow to the country’s finances.
But, so far, Washington has stopped short of issuing sanctions against Cabello, a former military chief, who maintains strong influence over the Venezuelan military. Cabello, 54, a longtime ally of late President Hugo Chavez and a leader within the ruling Socialist party, is often referred to as Maduro’s second in command.
Rubio, who clearly has the ear of the President Trump, has played an influential role in the administration’s Latin America policy. At Rubio’s urging, the Trump administration has ratcheted up the pressure on Caracas in a bid to force the Venezuelan government to restore democratic institutions after Maduro engineered a vote to allow a new constituent assembly to change the Venezuelan constitution and strip current lawmakers of power.
The Florida lawmaker has publicly feuded with Cabello. Rubio has also been forced to take extra security precautions after receiving death threats that may have come from Cabello, according to intelligence obtained by the Miami Herald.
In his letter to Trump, Rubio cited Cabello’s "long, extensive, and publicly-available record" of criminal activity, including international narco-trafficking, money laundering, and human rights abuses against the Venezuelan people.
"I believe your Administration can — and should — take stronger actions to support the Venezuelan people’s struggle to reclaim their democracy from the Maduro regime’s dictatorship and restore their country’s constitutional order."