During a meeting between members of Congress on the worsening crisis in Venezuela, Sen. Marco Rubio has claimed that the country’s National Assembly leader Diosdado Cabello is the new “Pablo Escobar.”
Cabello, who is the Socialist Party (PSUV) minority leader of the Venezuelan National Assembly and a close advisor to President Nicolás Maduro, has been the subject of numerous corruption allegations, including that he is the head of an international drug trafficking organization. In May this year, Cabello brought a libel lawsuit against News Corp for an article in The Wall Street Journal alleging he was the leader of the Cartel de los Soles.
“There are also very strong allegations made by some people about the role of Diosdado Cabello, an individual who, in my perspective, based on everything I have seen, is not simply a drug-trafficking leader,” Rubio said. “In my opinion, he is the Pablo Escobar of Venezuela.”
Pablo Escobar, who ran the famous Medellín cartel in Colombia, is widely regarded as history’s most famous drug lord, having accrued a net worth of approximately $30 billion before his assassination in 1993.
“I would not say it if I didn’t have full confidence. It’s up to the Justice Department to take action at the right time. … He is a very dangerous man. More than a political figure, he’s a figure of drug trafficking,” Rubio added.
He also warned that Venezuela could soon become like Cuba where poverty is widespread and dissidents are forced to flee the country in fear of political repression.
“Millions of Venezuelans have said, ‘We don’t want to be Cuba,’ for good reason. ‘We don’t want to be a Cuba-style government,'” he said. “How tragic would it be if on July 30 of this month that constitutional order was overthrown and what would take its place is no less than a Cuban style government?”
“It is not an exaggeration to say that. They are basically taking the Cuban model of government and imposing it on Venezuela,” he continued.
On Sunday, Venezuelan’s overwhelmingly rejected the socialist government’s plans to rewrite the country’s constitution by creating a ‘constituent assembly,’ which critics fear will further cement the government’s authoritarian grip on power. The plan, which is referred to in Venezuela as the constituyente, would repeal the power of lawmakers and replace them with local leaders handpicked by the regime.
Rubio, who is the son of Cuban refugees, has been a prominent critic of the Maduro government and has repeatedly called for further sanctions against Venezuela.
In February, Rubio joined President Donald Trump in the White House for a meeting with Lilian Tintori, the wife of Venezuelan opposition leader and prisoner of conscience Leopoldo Lopez in which Trump called for his “immediate release.” This month, López was placed under house arrest.
Following Sunday’s vote, Trump promised that the United States would “not stand by as Venezuela crumbles,” and would impose “strong and swift economic actions” should Maduro push ahead with the creation of the constituent assembly.