The powerful Venezuelan lawmaker tied to a potential death order against U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio dismissed the notion late Wednesday that he has a personal interest in getting the Florida Republican killed.
“The things we’ve said here about Narco Rubio are responses to his attacks,” Diosdado Cabello said, repeating his preferred slur against the senator. “But from my telling you that, to coming up with a plan to assassinate someone — you don’t know us. We always deal with things head on. We don’t use imperialism’s methods.”
Cabello made the comments on his state-run television program, “Con el Mazo Dando” (Hitting with the Sledgehammer), three days after the Miami Herald revealed that U.S. intelligence linked an unverified death threat against Rubio to Cabello last month. A security detail organized by Capitol Police has been protecting Rubio in Washington and Miami since then.
Rubio’s office declined to comment Thursday on Cabello’s remarks. It has also declined to comment on the security detail and the death threat.
The U.S. believes Cabello, a former military chief, controls all of Venezuela’s security forces. Rubio, a close White House adviser on Latin America, has forcefully advocated for the U.S. to penalize Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s government over the inauguration of a new legislative assembly elected under suspected fraud.
Cabello, a delegate to the new constituent assembly and top leader of the ruling socialist party, spent most of his Wednesday program lashing out at President Donald Trump for saying offhandedly last week that his administration might consider a “military option” against Venezuela. But Cabello also devoted some time to needling Rubio, one of his favorite U.S. targets.
“I’m not the one who has a brother-in-law in prison for drug trafficking, and I’m not the one who as a senator has stuck his hand out to help him,” Cabello said. “That’s you.”
With that statement, Cabello said his slur against the senator refers to Rubio’s brother-in-law, Orlando Cicilia, who in 1989 was convicted of distributing $15 million worth of cocaine as part of a $75 million trafficking ring. Rubio, who was 16 at the time of Cicilia’s 1987 arrest, has denied ever knowing about his relative’s drug dealing, even though Rubio’s family briefly lived in Cicilia’s West Kendall home, where the feds seized some of the cocaine.
In 2002, when he was majority whip of the Florida House, Rubio wrote state regulators recommending that Cicilia — who had been released from prison 20 months earlier — be granted a real-estate license. Rubio did not disclose in the letter that Cicilia was family, so as not to exert “undue pressure” on regulators, his presidential campaign said in 2015.
U.S. law enforcement has investigated Cabello for years for suspected drug-trade connections, an allegation he has vehemently denied. On Wednesday, Cabello lost a U.S. libel suit against the Wall Street Journal for a 2015 story detailing his alleged involvement in cocaine trafficking. Rubio has taken to calling Cabello “the Pablo Escobar of Venezuela.”
Cabello remains unsanctioned by the U.S., which has limited financial transactions and travel for 30 current and former members of the Venezuelan government.
“Marco Rubio, I’d like to look you in the face to clarify what your bad informants tell you,” Cabello railed on Wednesday. “You’re a guy from the extreme right, very rejected in the U.S. for being a descendant of Latinos, you know that. You hate Venezuela because they pay you off. Everything has its price.”
Cabello closed by suggesting that the death order was intelligence planted by other, unspecified interests who do pose a threat to Rubio’s life.
“Beware of those people, because you appear to be expendable in your country,” Cabello warned. “Not because of us. We don’t care about you. Who’s Marco Rubio to us?”