Powerful Venezuelan lawmaker may have issued death order against Rubio
One of Venezuela’s most powerful leaders may have put out an order to kill Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a fervent critic of the South American country’s government, according to intelligence obtained by the U.S. last month.
Though federal authorities couldn’t be sure at the time if the uncorroborated threat was real, they took it seriously enough that Rubio has been guarded by a security detail for several weeks in both Washington and Miami.
Believed to be behind the order: Diosdado Cabello, the influential former military chief and lawmaker from the ruling socialist party who has publicly feuded with Rubio.
At a July 19 Senate hearing, the same day he was first spotted with more security, Rubio repeated his line that Cabello — who has long been suspected by U.S. authorities of drug trafficking — is “the Pablo Escobar of Venezuela.” A week ago on Twitter, Cabello dubbed the senator “Narco Rubio.”
The death threat was outlined in a memo to several law enforcement agencies disseminated last month by the Department of Homeland Security. The memo, designated “law enforcement sensitive” but not classified, was obtained by the Miami Herald.
The memo revealed an “order to have Senator Rubio assassinated,” though it also warned that “no specific information regarding an assassination plot against Senator Rubio has been garnered thus far” and that the U.S. had not been able to verify the threat. That Cabello has been a vocal Rubio critic in Venezuelan media was also noted, a sign federal authorities are well aware of the political bluster complicating the situation.
According to the memo, Cabello might have gone as far as to contact “unspecified Mexican nationals” in connection with his plan to harm Rubio.
The U.S. believes Cabello controls all of Venezuela’s security forces. Rubio, a Republican, has President Donald Trump’s ear on U.S. policy toward Venezuela.
The Venezuelan Embassy in Washington declined to comment Saturday. Venezuela’s Ministry of Communication and Information said Sunday it could not respond to media queries until Monday. Messages sent to some of Cabello’s email addresses were not immediately returned.
Rubio declined comment through a spokeswoman. His office had previously sent reporters’ questions about the security detail to Capitol Police, which did not respond Saturday but has in the past also declined comment.
Capitol Police “is responsible for the security of members of Congress,” Homeland Security spokesman David Lapan said in a statement. “It would be inappropriate for DHS to comment on the seriousness of the threat.”
Lawmakers have been on heightened alert since a June 14 shooting in Virginia targeted Republican members of Congress practicing baseball. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of California was critically injured. He was protected by Capitol Police officers — who ultimately killed the shooter — only because he is a member of congressional leadership.
Capitol reporters first noticed police officers trailing Rubio almost a month ago. When he was interviewed last week by Herald news partner WFOR-CBS 4, Rubio’s security included at least one Miami-Dade County Police officer. MDPD was one of the law-enforcement agencies asked to help protect Rubio.