U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, released the following statement today regarding the current situation in Venezuela after the death of Hugo Chavez. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:
"It speaks volumes about the kind of dangerous tyrant Chavez was when tribute is paid by an entire gallery of enemies of freedom including the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Castro brothers, Evo Morales, Daniel Ortega, and Vladimir Putin. Their endless praise for Chavez, even calling him a martyr and saying he will rise like Jesus, is ludicrous given that he led the people of Venezuela into a long era of fear, intimidation, and tyranny whose apparatus will not soon go away.
While the Venezuelan people continue to suffer of food shortages and high unemployment, reports have surfaced that Chavez allegedly accumulated massive amounts of wealth during his fourteen year rule. If true, Chavez filled his own coffer while the people of Venezuela languished in poverty and suffering.
The Obama Administration must make clear that that the U.S. is on the side of the Venezuelan people, but so far they are sending all the wrong signals. U.S. officials have announced they intend to send a delegation to attend Chavez's funeral alongside the most heinous regimes in the world, including Iranian leader Ahmadinejad himself. This decision for the U.S. to attend the funeral days after the new leadership in Venezuela expelled two American diplomats is weak and irresponsible.
The Administration sends entirely the wrong message to democracy loving Venezuelans, who want the U.S. to unequivocally denounce the oppression of the Chavez regime and stand by them as they seek to usher in a new era of respect for democracy and human rights. The U.S. should make good on our commitment to democratic ideals and liberty not only for the people of Venezuela, but for the region and the world."