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Are Rick Scott and other Jan. 6 toadies more harm than help on Venezuela?

Cowardice vs. Credibility: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (left) and a pro-Trump rioter at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Ariana Cubillos (left), Manuel Balce Ceneta (right)
Cowardice vs. Credibility: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (left) and a pro-Trump rioter at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

COMMENTARY U.S. pols like Florida Sen. Rick Scott no doubt show the commitment to restoring democracy in Venezuela — but because of their democracy-trashing actions Jan. 6, they lack the credibility.

For sheer political hypocrisy if not absurdity, the only thing that rivaled the Venezuelan regime’s attack this week on the opposition’s presidential primary election was Florida Sen. Rick Scott’s attack on the attack.

I don’t doubt the Senator’s commitment to the cause of restoring democracy in dictatorship-choked Venezuela. Any Venezuelan expat here will tell you Scott shows up in that regard — to the point that he’s noticeably improved his once noticeably awful Spanish.

What I do question, unfortunately, is Scott’s credibility on the issue — which he trashed along with 146 other Republican members of Congress 22 months ago, on Jan. 6, 2021.

Which is a shame, because we do need as many U.S. politicos of Scott’s rank as possible who can credibly — credibly — pressure Venezuelan President/dictator Nicolás Maduro to keep his word and allow a fair and transparent presidential election next year.

READ MORE: Latin America's 'troika of tyranny' applauds South Florida's 'troika of treason'

At the moment, Maduro’s word looks to be worth about as much as Venezuela’s currency on the black market (meaning: garbage). This week everyone was chagrined, but no one was surprised, when Maduro’s lapdog Supreme Court suspended the results of last week’s opposition primary. Conservative former Congresswoman María Corina Machado won that vote with 93% of the 2.5 million ballots cast inside and outside Venezuela, including South Florida.

Venezuela’s high court ordered a review of the election because the regime said it suspects “fraud.” That, of course, is just Maduro’s way of saying he’s scared as hell of facing Machado next year — that he’s as much a coward as he is a caudillo.

And a liar. Earlier last month Maduro signed an agreement pledging electoral reforms to make the 2024 contest more trustworthy than the illegitimate farce he conducted to win re-election in 2018. One of the pact’s points was that the opposition would have a free hand in choosing its candidate to challenge Maduro.

As he read Scott's tweet, I can imagine Maduro laughing incredulously over his morning arepa at what surely sounded like a brazenly two-faced yanqui lecture.

That should mean that a) the regime has no say whatsoever in the opposition primary and that b) Maduro lifts the arbitrary ban on Machado his regime imposed earlier this year to keep her from running. Instead, he’s concocting an excuse — that she won a “tainted” primary — to keep her off the ballot.

If he does, the Biden Administration is threatening to re-impose oil sanctions on Venezuela that it lifted last month in response to the electoral agreement. So it certainly should. And so should every U.S. political leader back that message — as Scott admittedly did this week.

“Maduro’s efforts to invalidate the Venezuelan primaries…are a clear sign of [his] true intentions to never give up his power or allow freedom to return to Venezuela,” Scott tweeted on Tuesday.

Dysfunctional travesty

Fine. Great. But here’s the problem.

Then Florida Gov. Rick Scott at a pro-democracy rally with Venezuelan expats in Doral in 2017.
Tim Padgett
Then Florida Gov. Rick Scott (second from right) at a pro-democracy rally with Venezuelan expats in Doral in 2017.

On the infamous Jan. 6, Scott was one of 147 GOP House members and senators who voted to block legally validated Electoral College votes that confirmed Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election. Fortunately, they failed. But their spineless capitulation to then President Trump’s intentions to never give up power — and yep, I just quoted Scott’s tweet making the same charge against Maduro — helped stoke the violent, insurrectionist pro-Trump riots that ransacked the Capitol and left U.S. democracy looking like a dysfunctional travesty.

That is, more like Venezuela. A country ranked last on the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index.

True, Scott has since conceded Biden won the election. Still, as much as I’d like to applaud Scott for condemning Maduro, a big part of me wishes he’d never hit his X send button this week. That’s because I could only imagine Maduro and his minions laughing incredulously over their morning arepas as they read what must have sounded like a brazenly two-faced yanqui lecture.

They must have kept snorting when they scrolled down their feed and saw Miami Congressmen Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Gimenez — who were also among the 147 Trump toadies on Jan. 6 — blasting Maduro, too. Factor in their votes last week that helped make right-wing Louisiana Congressman Mike Johnson the new House Speaker— even though he’s a hardcore 2020 election denier and one of the Jan. 6 ringleaders — and you’ve given Venezuela’s regime, and regimes like it, a reason to flip their middle finger at Uncle Sam.

Even cowards like Maduro can discern credibility.

Tim Padgett is the Americas Editor for WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida. Contact Tim at tpadgett@wlrnnews.org
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