Marco Rubio
Florida Senator Marco Rubio, son of Cuban immigrants, is among the top choices for Trump's VP pick ahead of November elections. AFP

Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who is among Donald Trump's potential vice presidential picks, heavily criticized President Joe Biden's Venezuela policy, saying he's "appeasing" the Maduro government, something that has "completely and predictably backfired."

In an op-ed published in the Miami Herald, Rubio said that over the past six months Maduro "violently suppressed peaceful protesters, threatened war against his neighbors, and hosted terrorist groups but faced no repercussions from the White House."

Instead, he said, Biden "helped create a UN-operated assistance fund for the regime, lifted sanctions from its oil, gas and gold sectors and released a Maduro ally and convicted money laundered, Alex Saab, from U.S. prison."

Rubio argued that Biden is "naïve" for hoping the actions would "convince Maduro to halt his aggressive and criminal policies and permit free and fair elections next month."

The international community is looking on what steps the Maduro government takes as the elections are less than 45 days away. The entire opposition has rallied behind Edmundo González Urrutia, among the few allowed to sign up as a candidate. He has been backed by María Corina Machado, who won a broad primary last year but was banned from competing by the government-friendly Supreme Court. So was her first stand-in candidate, Corina Yoris.

The government has continued cracking down on dissent, again detaining political activists involved with the opposition and even shutting down hotels and restaurants that hosts their rivals.

However, González Urrutia is still allowed to run and the opposition seems determined to make it to the polls, hoping for a win big enough that results can't be contested or annulled by the government. Polls are pointing to that case, with a recent one by ORC Consultores showing the opposition candidate with over 50% of the votes compared to Maduro's 15%.

Some 18% of respondents said they are still undecided, but even if all those votes were to go to the president, he would still be lagging the opposition candidate.

Rubio, nonetheless, said that despite the Biden administration's encouragement for "Maduro to do the right thing," "facts suggest the opposite is likely." He argued that he won't relinquish power to a democratically elected successor because he knows "he would receive no benefits (or U.S. concessions)."

"Moreover, Maduro has so frequently violated his promise to permit free and fair elections that his current commitment to do so is laughable. If anything, we should assume that barring a coup from regime insiders, the narco-dictator has no intention of stepping down," he added.

In another passage of his op-ed, Rubio said that the withdrawal of an invitation to the EU to oversee the elections is another red flag suggesting its reluctance to have a fair contest, and that the "way to pursue that is to demand that international observers supervise the elections and build a coalition of nations to reject the results of a flawed election, as the regime lacks all the mechanisms to be free and fair."

He also argued against giving American money to the government if "he makes the wrong decision," but expressed little hope that will be the case.

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