Leading Republicans are shredding Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) for blaming U.S. policies for the crisis in Venezuela, saying she "doesn't know what she's talking about" and calling her comments "embarrassing" and "unbelievable ignorance."
Omar raised conservative eyebrows by telling Democracy Now! this week that U.S. policies had "helped lead the devastation in Venezuela." The freshman lawmaker, who has graced the cover of Rolling Stone and TIME magazines, accused the U.S. of "bullying" the far-left Nicolas Maduro regime with sanctions. She didn't assign blame to the country's socialist policies for its precipitous economic collapse.
Recent Stories in Politics
"[The] congresswoman doesn't know what she's talking about," Vice President Mike Pence told Fox News. "Nicolas Maduro is a socialist dictator who's taken what was once one of the most prosperous nations in this hemisphere and brought it literally to a level of depravation and oppression and poverty that we have never seen. Nine out of 10 people in Venezuela live in poverty. Three million people have fled Venezuela. That's not a result of U.S. policies."
The Trump administration, along with more than 50 other countries, is backing opposition leader Juan Guaido as the nation's legitimate president, and Guaido has called for Maduro to leave office following his "re-election" that was widely considered a sham. Maduro's security forces have violently cracked on opposition protesters.
As Venezuelans take to the streets to stand for their freedom against an oppressive dictator, Democrat Congresswoman @IlhanMN chooses socialism over freedom. The Trump Administration stands with the freedom-loving people of Venezuela. https://t.co/UYiPLPvKl5
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) May 2, 2019
Once the envy of South America, the oil-rich nation fell apart after Hugo Chavez and his successor Maduro nationalized industry, took a tighter grip on the state-owned oil company, and executed strict price controls. Under a corrupt and mismanaged economy, Venezuela hasn't recovered since the price of oil dropped in 2014, leading to hyperinflation, mass hunger, medical shortages, and violence.
"The United States is not going to stand idly by while the people of Venezuela suffer under oppression and dictatorship and socialism," Pence said, praising President Donald Trump's leadership on recognizing Guaido. "The very idea that the United States is somehow responsible for what's happening in Venezuela is absurd."
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo noted Omar sat on the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee as he reacted to her comments in an interview Thursday on Fox News.
"The nicest thing I can say is it's unbelievable ignorance," he said. "It's just factually wrong. The problems of Venezuela have been years in the making … For a member of Congress, who sits on an important national security committee, to make a statement blaming America first in this way, it's not only ignorant, it's disgusting."
Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), a leading voice on Latin American issues, ripped Omar for her comments in a Fox Business interview on Thursday.
"She has no idea what she's talking about," Rubio said. "She's just making it up. She doesn't even follow this issue … The sanctions that are on Maduro have been in place for two months. She won't find a single Venezuelan other than those in the regimes that would even agree. It's ridiculous. They've stolen the money. They haven't upgraded their electric grid for 25 years."
"I don't even feel like addressing the comment because it's not an informed one," he added. "It's silly. It's ridiculous, and it's actually embarrassing."
— Trish Regan (@trish_regan) May 3, 2019