Congress

GOP Rep. says Russia has nuclear weapons in Venezuela but offers no evidence

Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart made the comments in a Fox News segment with host Tucker Carlson

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., claimed in a Fox News segment Tuesday that Russia may have nuclear missiles stationed in Venezuela. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart asserted Tuesday that Russia might already have nuclear missiles stationed in Venezuela as that country’s political turmoil continues to churn in the wake of a disputed presidential election.

Díaz-Balart, a longtime Florida Republican, provided no evidence to support his claim.

In a Tuesday segment on Fox News, host Tucker Carlson pressed Díaz-Balart on whether he thought the Chinese, Russian and Iranian military personnel presence in South America meant those countries might eventually invade the U.S.

Díaz-Balart demurred but invoked the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 where U.S. President John F. Kennedy and Soviet Union leader Nikita Khrushchev pushed each other to the brink of a nuclear war.

“The United States, the closest we ever came to nuclear war was because the Russians put missiles — right — nuclear missiles in Cuba,” Díaz-Balart said.

“Are you saying the Russians will put nuclear missiles in Venezuela?” Carlson asked in a follow-up question.

“What I am suggesting is that they are already there,” Diaz-Balart said. The Florida congressman did not provide any evidence to support that suggestion.

The Russian military flew and landed a nuclear-capable bomber in Venezuela in 2018, but there have been no reports or claims that they have outfitted such aircraft with nuclear bombs or transported nuclear missiles to the country.

The Trump administration has sided with opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who is serving as president of the National Assembly in Venezuela until new, fair elections can be held to determine a full-time president.

Guaidó and his supporters have accused longtime Venezuela leader Nicolás Maduro, who has been president since 2013, of stealing the 2019 presidential election through fraudulent means.

In March, the Trump slapped new economic sanctions on Maduro’s government in retaliation for Maduro “starving” his people via a “smash-and-grab” operation, the White House announced.

Trump administration officials have painted a dismal picture of corruption and intimidation in Venezuela, saying the Maduro government has been cutting off food aid to neighborhoods determined to be voting against the strongman president and his political party.

In short, Maduro has forced his people to make a decision: “You vote for the regime or you explain to your family why there’s no food on the table,” an administration official said in March.

More than 3 million Venezuelans have fled the country under Maduro due to humanitarian concerns, according to figures from the United Nations.

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