President Obama has been stumbling on the economy, and this week he added more proof of his weakness on foreign policy. He told a popular Miami TV station that Venezuela’s aggressive President Hugo Chavez “has not had a serious national security impact on us.”
Chavez certainly doesn’t reciprocate Obama’s gentle feelings—in 2009, Chávez proclaimed the U.S. to be the “greatest terrorist nation.”
In fact, Chavez’s strident anti-Americanism directly challenges the security of the United States, and Venezuela should be placed on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.
Obama’s position hasn’t changed in recent years. In 2007, his presidential rival Hillary Clinton called his lack of caution about meeting with Chavez “irresponsible and, frankly, naïve.”
Heritage’s Ray Walser said in 2010:
Far from being merely a populist showman and bully, Hugo Chávez is a reckless leader who collaborates with Colombian narcoterrorists and Islamist terrorists, pals around with brutal Iranian dictator Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is a virulent anti-Semite, and is guided by a relentless anti-Americanism in everything he does. President Obama does not see Venezuela as a threat to U.S. national security. This view is not optimistic—it is dangerous.
Since January 2009, the Obama Administration’s attempts to improve relations with the anti-America Chávez have yielded little more than empty gestures. Meanwhile, Chavez has continued consolidating his own power and cementing ties with the other state sponsors of terrorism—Cuba, Sudan, Syria, and Iran. He has vast resources at his disposal: Venezuela’s oil gives him an economic advantage, and no Congress, court system, independent body, or free media exist to question the dictator’s actions.
As Walser explains, here are just a few of the ways Chavez poses a threat:
- Iran. Venezuela’s military and security relations with Iran show no sign of diminishing; drones, military exchanges, and preparation for asymmetric warfare are a few milestones of the anti-American Axis of Unity.
- Syria. Chavez backs Syria’s murderous Bashar al-Assad to the hilt.
- Cuba. Chavez’s aid to Cuba’s Castro regime exceeds $5 billion annually—more than double the U.S. assistance budget for all of Latin America—and enables the communist regime to survive and repress the Cuban people.
- A terrorist haven. Chavez has rolled out the welcome mat to a host of terrorist organizations, including Hezbollah and the Basque ETA.
- A mafia state. Moises Naim writes that “senior Venezuelan government officials double as the heads of important transnational criminal gangs.” The U.S. described Chavez’s defense minister, General Henry Rangel Silva, as a drug kingpin in 2008.
- Higher gas prices. In OPEC, Chavez is a price hawk; he is mismanaging PDVSA—reducing global supply—and expropriates billions from U.S. companies, raising costs to U.S. consumers.
- Narco-terrorism in Colombia. Chavez identifies with and supports the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, whose leader, Timochenko, is believed to operate from a safe haven in Venezuela. Since 1999, the U.S. has invested $7 billion in Colombian democracy and security; Chavez prefers a Colombia ruled by narco-terrorists.
- Militarizing Venezuela. From Russian arms purchases to arming militias, Chavez militarizes Venezuelan society, threatens civil war, and endangers regional security.
- Corruption. With aid packages, oil deals, and cash-filled suitcases, Chavez corrupts freely and widely.
- Destabilization. Chavez backs left-wing leaders and destabilizes weak democracies, as he did in Honduras in 2009 and in Paraguay in 2012.
The only way the President could say that Chavez does not have a “serious national security impact” is to ignore all of these facts.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) put it succinctly yesterday when he said it appears that “President Obama has been living under a rock” not to recognize this threat.