A New York Times report prompted a fresh set of attacks on Joe Biden’s Venezuela record from Florida Republicans Friday, including Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, along with recognized Venezuelan leader Juan Guaidó’s former chief of staff.
“Biden advisers say if elected he will abandon Juan Guaidó and start talks with Maduro,” Rubio tweeted on Thursday, linking to the New York Times story. “Read it for yourself here.”
“He’s now talking about negotiating with [the Maduro regime] and giving in to someone that’s committing these atrocities,” Scott said on a call with reporters on Friday night.
And Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart called Biden’s Venezuela policy “irresponsible and dangerous.”
Rubio later tweeted out an often-used photo showing Biden and Maduro smiling at each other during former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s 2015 swearing-in ceremony in Brazil.
The attacks come as President Donald Trump makes a final push to win Florida, a state crucial to his reelection effort. On Friday, Trump announced a late-night rally on Sunday at a Miami airport next to Miami Lakes, a GOP-leaning city with thousands of Latino voters.
Polls suggest that Trump is likely to win more votes from Latinos in South Florida in 2020 than in 2016, and that most of the gains will come from Miami’s Cuban-American community. Venezuelan-Americans are a much smaller voting bloc than Cubans, but both are important components of Trump’s winning Florida coalition and Latin America policy is an important issue for both constituencies.
But the Biden campaign said Friday that a Biden White House would not begin talks with Maduro unless he agrees to major, internationally recognized changes that would lead to free and fair elections in Venezuela.
“If you’re talking about a President Joe Biden or a Vice President Kamala Harris engaging in talks with Maduro, there’s nothing for us to talk about,” said Juan Gonzalez, a Biden campaign advisor on Latin America who worked with Biden when he was vice president. “In 2015, Maduro proposed to have a dialogue with the White House. Biden’s response at the moment was, ‘You don’t need to talk to us, you need to talk to your own people. If you’re serious about doing something you have to release all political prisoners, engage in real dialogue with the opposition and put measures in place to prevent an economic collapse.’”
In the article, the New York Times cited an unnamed senior advisor who said Biden would “would seek to establish negotiations with Mr. Maduro once the date was set for a vote, and pressure him to commit to holding a fair election.” The same story also said Biden advisors “conveyed little faith in continuing to treat Mr. Guaidó...as the country’s de facto leader.”
Gonzalez said it is not accurate to say that Biden isn’t backing Guaidó and noted that Biden was the first Democrat running for president to to support the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate leader in 2019.
“The Republicans have been engaged in an active disinformation strategy targeting the Latino community, including the accusations of socialism, to district from that failures of this administration,” Gonzalez said. “it’s laughable that Marco Rubio would hold up Trump as a champion for Democracy in Venezuela.”
But one former Guaidó official criticized Biden on a Trump campaign call with Scott on Friday evening. Roberto Marrero, Guaidó’s former chief of staff, said Biden didn’t “do anything” to help the Venezuelan opposition during his eight years as vice president.
“Biden did not do anything in eight years for the Venezuelan liberation when he was vice president and now he wants to do everything in one week,” Marrero said. “I don’t believe that.”
Marrero was arrested by the Maduro regime in March 2019 and was released from prison in September ahead of elections in December that most opposition politicians have pledged to boycott, arguing that the outcome will be rigged in favor of Maduro.
For months, Republicans have also accused Biden of being a socialist, an attack that is used nationwide but carries additional weight in South Florida. Biden has said the attack is false.
“I beat the socialist,” Biden said in September, referring to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist who ran against Biden in the Demcoratic primary. “That’s how I got elected. That’s how I got the nomination. Do I look like a socialist? Look at my career — my whole career. I am not a socialist.”