Fabiola Santiago

Marco Rubio is fearmongering and playing to people’s ignorance about socialism | Opinion

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio hits Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro hard in statement

While the United Nations Security Council debates the world's response to Venezuela's leadership crisis, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio hit Venezuela's Nicolás Maduro hard in a video statement, calling him a dictator.
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While the United Nations Security Council debates the world's response to Venezuela's leadership crisis, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio hit Venezuela's Nicolás Maduro hard in a video statement, calling him a dictator.

Maybe our hemisphere’s would-be savior, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, didn’t pay enough attention in political science class.

He doesn’t seem to know the basic differences between socialism and communism. |

But, more likely, Rubio is simply following the Donald Trump and GOP playbook for 2020, fearmongering and playing to people’s ignorance about socialism. No better place to do that than in his hometown of Miami.

The minute Rubio heard that NBC will host the first Democratic presidential debate of the 2020 election in Miami, the Republican senator from West Miami took to his favorite pulpit, Twitter, to warn us of the great evil coming our way over two nights on June 26 and 27.

“The first Democratic presidential debate will be in Miami. Which means we will have over a dozen candidates for President promoting socialism in a city which is home to hundreds of thousands of victims of socialism in #Cuba #Nicaragua #Venezuela,” he wrote.

That’s one whopper of a red herring, equivalent to race-baiting in this community, and done with the intention to mislead and distract voters from the real issues. (And, no, “president” in the middle of a sentence isn’t capitalized as much as you want the job. It’s a noun. No charge for the grammar lesson.)

So, what’s the goal? Stoke the base to provoke agitated Cuban Trump supporters into staging — in front of national TV cameras — those crazy protests that give Miami a bad name?

More importantly, Senator Rubio, explain this one to your constituents:

The pundits call Trump’s Maduro regime-change policy “the Rubio Doctrine” — and surely, you deserve the credit for putting Venezuela on the radar for Americans.

But here you are, the champion for democracy in Venezuela, trying to preempt the debate of your political opponents by casting Miami as an inappropriate place for it.

It’s not like what I hear from Venezuelan opposition leader/president Juan Guaidó, who has called for unity there and said there’s room in a post-Maduro era for all points of view. It would be infantile to believe a future Venezuela wouldn’t include some version of government subsidies when people are starving and institutions aren’t functioning.

Hypocrisy comes to mind.

Here, too, is the champion of democracy for one-party, totalitarian Cuba lying to subvert the foundation of U.S. pluralism, which calls for different groups of people to voice different opinions and ideas.

There aren’t a dozen Democratic candidates for president “promoting socialism” — just second-time candidate Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator who isn’t even really a Democrat but an independent running as a Democrat. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who likes and spouses similar ideas, is a freshman congresswoman. Other candidates’ positions run the gamut of the Democratic political spectrum.

But, so what if there are more Democrats who want to talk about the happy social democracies of countries like Sweden and Finland? Or even if they want to peddle crappy socialism.

Despite the edicts of authoritarian Trump and his followers, despite the role big money is playing in elections with the blessing of the U.S. Supreme Court, this is still a free country.

People running for office can present their views — whatever they may be — and nothing is off the table. Voters are the ones with the power to decide what they like, what they dislike, what they find offensive, what they find inspiring — and then show it at the ballot box.

Just Google “big tent” and see how the idea of encompassing moderate and left and right of center ideas has become a cliché for both the Democratic Party and the GOP’s efforts to appeal to a wide range of voters. Both parties want the coveted independents to find a spot under their tent — the real reason, Senator Rubio, you are demonizing Democrats instead of debating the issues.

But reality tells a different story.

The efforts to bring peace and democracy to the hemisphere aren’t yours alone. They’re bipartisan, backed by the actions of most Democrats in Congress — including all Democratic House members from South Florida. They have co-sponsored measures and resolutions on Venezuelan issues and are fighting hard for them, as hard or harder than some Republicans because they don’t have your access to the president.

But you’re not interested in telling that story.

Another correction: Many of us in Miami are victims of communism, castroism, chavismo, sandinismo. We’re not victims of anything that Sanders is proposing, like Medicare for all and free college tuition.

For the record, you, born in Miami to immigrant Cuban parents who came before Castro, are not directly one of those victims. Perhaps this is the reason you find it so easy to toy with the sentiments of the real victims of repressive regimes for political gain in U.S elections.

I’m here to tell you it’s plain disgusting chicanery.

The real victims deserve better than political posturing for votes and empty promises of a freedom you can’t deliver.

Award-winning columnist Fabiola Santiago has been writing about all things Miami since 1980, when the Mariel boatlift became her first front-page story. A Cuban refugee child of the Freedom Flights, she’s also the author of essays, short fiction, and the novel “Reclaiming Paris.”