Tyrants Looming: Obama and the Dictators of South America
President Obama once again has shown through his words that foreign policy is not his strength. He continues to allow dictators such as Hugo Chávez and the Castro Brothers to be seen as non-threats. Remember in April 2009 that he patted Chávez on the shoulder, smiled, and reached out to the dictator as the two shook hands.
This past July, President Obama stated in an interview with a Miami Spanish-language TV show, "And my hope is that the Cuban government begins to recognize that their system is no longer working." He also answered a question about Venezuela, responding, "... but overall, my sense is that what Mr. Chávez has done over the last several years has not had a serious national security impact on us." After being criticized by Mitt Romney, Obama's campaign spokesman responded, "It's baffling that Mitt Romney is so scared of a leader like Chávez, whose power is fading[.] ... Chávez has become increasingly marginalized, and his influence has waned." That is certainly not the impression of those interviewed by American Thinker. In fact, their view is quite the opposite.
The director for Latin America of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Sergio Widder, disagrees vehemently, calling Chávez very dangerous and someone who should be feared, since "Venezuela is supporting state-sponsored anti-Semitism, which has not happened in the Western world since WWII." President Obama should take notice that, according to Widder, half of the Jewish community has left because of Chávez's policies. What he has done is to silence them through a hostile environment, which includes monitoring devices and making those who support Israel personae non gratae. Throughout his presidency, there are numerous examples, such as Chávez's 2005 Christmas speech calling Jews murderers of Jesus Christ, expelling the Israeli ambassador in 2009, and the current desecration of Jewish synagogues. Perhaps President Obama and his campaign should take note of Widder's comment that "the world does not consider this form of anti-Semitism on the top of their agenda."
Michael Hayden, the former CIA director, does not think anyone can argue that Venezuela has been neutralized. He regards the Chávez regime as being able to "throw [its] money around and one of the few countries that seem to have relations with Iran today. If the Iranians have reason to do us harm, their relationship with Venezuela is at least an embryonic platform into the western hemisphere. Perhaps they will begin to work with the Lebanese Diaspora Community in Latin America and Hezbollah, which we suspect has a presence there, to move into the U.S."
According to Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), chairperson of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Chávez has attacked human rights and democracy by closing media outlets that criticize him, removing judges who rule against him, and stripping opposition office-holders of power and budgets. She told American Thinker, "[S]aying Chávez does not pose a real threat to the security of the U.S. means that President Obama is not paying attention to what Chávez has done since Obama has been president: busy becoming closer buddies with the regimes in Iran and Syria, best buds with Gaddafi, building great relations with the Castro brothers, the drug cartels, and many extremist groups that are threats to the U.S. In addition, he closed the Venezuelan Miami Consular General Office, forcing the large exile population to go to New Orleans if they want to vote in the October 7th Venezuelan presidential election. With this election, I do not think we have to wait to see if fraud has been committed. I think fraud is already at hand."
Regarding Iran, Ros-Lehtinen is very worried that the Iranians are using Latin America as a gateway into the western hemisphere. In July, they announced the possibility of sending warships into the Atlantic. They also launched a Spanish-speaking TV network a few months ago to promote their propaganda to a Western-hemisphere audience. Even though there are mixed reports as to whether the network is operational, the congresswoman regards this as an attempt to gain a foothold there. Besides this, Iran has opened cultural centers and embassies in Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Colombia, Chile, Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, and Cuba. Ros-Lehtinen sees these diplomatic missions as fronts for Iran to carry out its extremist platforms.
In citing these examples, the congresswoman believes that the president and his campaign just do not understand that "Chávez leads the way for bilateral relations between Iran and the dictators in the hemisphere. Ahmadinejad in recent months has made two trips to Latin America to visit his fellow tyrants, the Castro brothers and Chávez. Iran has worked tirelessly to promote its extremist ideology and to support efforts to undermine the Democratic governments throughout the region." Just last week, Cuba was to attend a meeting in the Palestinian West Bank and then in Iran to show solidarity with the Palestinians and to undermine America's ally, Israel.
Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen thinks that the Obama policy toward Cuba is equally dangerous. Recently, the Obama administration failed to achieve the release of U.S. citizen Alan Gross, has allowed more U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba, gave visas to Cuban regime officials, and has assisted a Spanish firm drilling for oil off the coast of Cuba. Ros-Lehtinen is worried that in doing all of this, the Obama administration is giving Cuba an economic lifeline.
What really upsets her is Obama's statement that the Cuban form of government "no longer" works. She told American Thinker, "When did it ever work? We have a president who thinks that the Cuban model may have worked before but no longer works now. It never worked. This is a model based on firing squads and depriving people of human rights."
Ros-Lehtinen has two suggestions on how to deal with these regimes. The congresswoman has authored the Western Hemisphere Security Cooperation Act of 2012 to provide a comprehensive approach to the threats to the U.S. in the western hemisphere, including Iran, drug cartels, and regional tyrants. The bill also mandates the State Department to reach out to federal law enforcement officials to certify that Cuban officials traveling to the U.S. are not a threat to American national security interests.
The other suggestion is to make sure that President Obama is not re-elected. Ros-Lehtinen stated, "His policy toward this hemisphere has not been positive. I am worried if Obama gets re-elected that it will open all kinds of relations with the Chávez and Castro regimes. There will be the continual feeling by the people of Cuba that they have been neglected, ignored, and pushed aside. We need to give the struggling people in Cuba a voice. We have to help the dissidents and let them know they are not forgotten."
By making these recent statements in Florida, it is obvious that the president has blinders on and is not willing to implement a strategy to confront these regimes. As Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen summarizes, "President Obama has buried his head in the sand. His policy is to ignore Chávez and the Castro brothers. Cuba is a horrid example of what can happen to freedom and democracy. Chávez thinks that is the perfect model. I am very worried that this administration continues to refuse to wake up and take any action."