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No, GOP, Joe Garcia isn't for "cozying up" to Venezuela's regime; he's backing sanctions


Picture_12Blood has spilled in Caracas.  Righteous anger, protests and calls for sanctions abound from Venezuela to Miami-Dade to Washington. 

But it's also election season. And with it comes the temptation to mix blood and politics.

That can be toxic, or at least counterproductive.

And so we come to the Miami-Dade Republican Party's email that says "Our Venezuelan brothers and sisters want and deserve a free and democratic country and the Republican Party stands with them. Unfortunately, Joe Garcia and the Democrats continue a policy of cozying up to America's enemies like Nicolas Maduro and abandoning our freedom-loving allies."

The first sentence is true. Gov. Scott, Sen. Marco Rubio and Lieutenant Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera held a Friday event in Doral that clearly showed the state's GOP leadership supports the cause of Venezuelan liberty and an end to Maduro's reign.

The second sentence is false. Garcia, a Democratic U.S. representative, is not backing "a policy of cozying up" to the government in Caracas.

Garcia actually has signed on to a letter proposed by Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen that asks President Obama to impose sanctinos on Venezuela. The sanctions are nearly identical to the sanctions legislation that Rubio has introduced in the U.S. Senate and that he and Scott touted to cheers from the Venezuelan exiles on Friday. 

“I do think individual sanctions against people who are violating human rights make sense,” Garcia told The Tampa Tribune.

Also, Garcia is a co-sponsor of a Republican resolution that condemns Venezuela's actions and calls on the international community to bring democratic reforms. That resolution passed Friday.

It's an interesting twist to accuse Garcia of sidling up to the regime when he backs a Republican measure to punish it. And consider history as well: when Garcia ran the Cuban American National Foundation, the Venezuelan government under Maduro's predecessor, Hugo Chavez, accused the group of plotting a coup in 2004. And in 1999, Fidel Castro accused CANF of trying to assassinate Chavez.

But those stories were years ago. Garcia's support for Venezuela sanctions happened this week. And it didn't occur in a vacuum. It was reported first, right here on The Naked Politics blog. And Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson has backed Rubio's bill in the Senate.

Also, on Monday, Garcia called on President Obama in a letter to help with the immigration status of Venezuelans. That was in The Miami Herald, too. And, what's more, he had a Tuesday press conference where he reiterated that call. It was covered by The Herald, the Associated Press, Reuters and 10 TV news outlets.

So when the Miami GOP email says "President Obama, Joe Garcia and the Democratic party are nowhere to be seen..." it's just not the case.

At the Republican event Friday in Doral, Venezuelan activists and immigrants praised Rubio and Garcia. They mentioned both politicians of their own accord. At that event, Rubio echoed Garcia's call on immigration. 

It is true that Garcia initially stopped short of calling for sanctions against Venezuela because, at the time, the penalties targeted oil. Rubio didn't support oil sanctions, either. The oil language is all gone.

Can an argument be made that Obama hasn't done enough? Sure. Gov. Scott made that case Friday, as we reported as well. He pointed out that he told the president at a governor's association meeting Monday that the administration should call for sanctions. So far, that hasn't happened. 

And Rubio, certainly according to many nonpartisan Venezuelans, was right to criticize former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for making what the Republican called "muddled remarks" on Venezuela. That, too, was covered.

Can an argument be made that Garcia should have been more vocal in calling for sanctions? Definitely. And he can easily be bashed for backing a president who, in the eyes of many, has said too little about Venezuela.

Garcia's Republican opponent, Miami-Dade School Board member Carlos Curbelo, made an issue of the Venezuela ties of a financial backer of the congressman. We covered that, too.

Garcia's supporters thought that last story was unfair of us because they believed Curbelo's criticism was off base. But that ignores the role of a neutral press. We allow people to make up their own minds when the facts are in dispute. And in our paper and on this blog, we give wide latitude to rhetoric and interpretations of the facts. There is a big margin of hyperbole in politics. And, yes, we often report in a he-said-she-said manner despite the condemnation of partisans and the insufferable ivory-tower elite who call for a new journalism without doing an ounce of real daily work themselves.

But once in a while, one side strays outside the boundaries of hyperbole into the margin of error. That's what's happening here. It's being noted here to explain why this attack won't be reported in a he-said-she-said fashion. It's because the facts are not in dispute. This claim is just wrong.

Garcia is not supportive of cozy relations with Venezuela. It's not true to say he was nowhere to be seen when he was seen. It was seen in the pages of the newspaper, on the computer screen of this blog and on TVs everywhere.

The only way not to know that is to shut your eyes, close your ears and refuse to watch TV or read.

But if partisan critics are going to be deaf and blind, they should at least be mute. Talking without the facts is a dangerous way to campaign. It's bad for our politics.

And it does nothing to advance bipartisan action on Venezuela.