Rubio tweets bloodied Gaddafi photo as he calls for Maduro to step down in Venezuela

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio shared an image Sunday showing a bloodied Muammar Gaddafi, the former authoritarian leader of Libya, in the moments before he was killed — drawing criticism from some who read the Florida lawmaker’s message as one of support for United States-led regime change in Venezuela.

Rubio’s tweet had no text. It simply contrasted one picture of the authoritarian Libyan leader smiling in a white jacket and sunglasses, alongside another image showing Gaddafi being killed in public after rebels caught him following a U.S.-backed intervention in 2011, the Daily Beast reports.

Within hours, both “Libya” and “Marco Rubio” were trending on the social network.

Earlier in the day, Rubio had been tweeting about Venezuela leader Nicolás Maduro’s oppressive government, which has faced a new challenge recently from Juan Guaidó, president of the country’s National Assembly, who declared himself interim president and was recognized by the U.S. and other countries across Latin America.

“Devastating headlines around the world today for the #MaduroCrimeFamily,” Rubio wrote early Sunday. “Their international isolation will grow, the routes for evading sanctions will shrink & the willingness of many nations to support stronger multilateral actions to dislodge them has increased dramatically.”

The New York Times has dubbed Rubio the U.S.’s “ouster in chief” when it comes to the South American country. A longtime critic of the regimes in both Cuba and Venezuela, Rubio’s tweet came just days after Rubio visited Colombia to see U.S. humanitarian aid headed to Venezuela, which included food and medicine.

“The narcoterrorist tyranny of Nicolás Maduro continues to block critical humanitarian relief for those who continue to suffer under his regime,” Rubio said in a statement announcing the trip.

But government troops blocked that aid from coming into the country over the weekend, leaving a handful of people dead and dozens more wounded, McClatchy reported.

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Rubio posted a similarly cryptic tweet of another ousted leader on Saturday — this one showing Manuel Noriega, the former dictator of Panama, in a mugshot taken by U.S. marshals in Miami next to a photo of the leader standing at a podium wielding a machete, according to Bloomberg.

Democratic politicians and alumni of the Obama administration criticized Rubio’s Gaddafi tweet.

Others on social media suggested Libya didn’t work out so well.

A spokesperson for Rubio’s Senate office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Sunday afternoon.

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.