Obama: Chavez No Serious Threat, Romney: `Stunning, Shocking’

Photograph by Miraflores Palace via Bloomberg

ranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, left, and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, right, in Iran.

President Barack Obama’s dismissal of Hugo Chavez is sounding Republicans alarms.

In an interview broadcast last night on Miami’s Spanish-language station television WJAN, Obama said the Venezuelan president, who has decried “Yankee intervention” in Latin America, “has not had a serious national security impact on us.”

To Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, that was “a stunning and shocking comment by the president.”

Romney cited Chavez’s overtures to Iran, support for terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and his alliance with the Castro brothers in Cuba.

The Republican National Committee sent out a release accusing Obama of ignoring “the damaging impact of the Chavez regime on its Latin American neighbors and around the world.”

Chavez might not agree that Obama is looking the other way, since he and Cuba’s Fidel Castro have accused the U.S. president of trying to bring down Chavez’s government.

While the subject is foreign policy, the target audience for both Obama and Romney is at home: Hispanic voters in Florida, the richest electoral prize among the swing states that will decide the presidential election. Latinos make up 23 percent of Florida’s population.

The episode has provided fodder for Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, offering a few comments on his Twitter account:

“‪#chavez‬ admits ‪#Venezuela‬ making Iranian drones yet @barackobama says he is no threat…. Chavez & Iran’s Ahmadinejad joke about ‘big atomic bomb’ yet @barackobama says he poses no threat to security… ‪ #Chavez‬ Sends ‪#Oil‬ to Syria to Fuel Assad’s Crackdown yet @barackobama says he is no threat to ‪#security.”‬

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