With Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson up for re-election next year, the National Republican Senatorial Committee is weighing in with a Spanish-language radio ad that accuses Nelson of being soft on communist dictators in Cuba and Venezuela.
With encouragement from President Donald Trump and other Republicans, Florida Gov. Rick Scott is expected to challenge Nelson next year but hasn’t opened a campaign.
The new NRSC ad, which will air in Miami, notes Nelson’s support for President Barack Obama’s normalizing of relations with Cuba and a visit Nelson made to Venezuela in 2005 in which he and other senators met with the late communist strongman Hugo Chavez.
In an English translation of the ad provided by the NRSC, the narrator says “Our government in Washington has to stop (Nicolas) Maduro and his accomplices” in Venezuela.
“What has our Senator Bill Nelson done? In the past, he has aligned himself with communists and dictators. Look at him with Cuba. He supported Obama when he negotiated with the other terrorists, the Castro brothers. When Nelson supports the Castros, that only reinforces and encourages others, like it did with Chavez and now with Maduro. In 2005, Bill Nelson even visited Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Here it says Nelson went to Venezuela to admire Chavez’s revolution. If Bill Nelson supports murderers, I can’t support Bill Nelson.”
Nelson supported Obama’s opening of a U.S. embassy in Cuba, saying in 2015: “I still distrust Castro, but we have to get that regime to open up, stop human rights abuses, and give the Cuban people their basic freedoms. I think reopening the embassies is a necessary step in the long process toward achieving that goal.”
Nelson and former Sens. Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I., and Chris Dodd, D-Conn., visited Venezuela in 2005. In a column about the trip shortly afterward, Nelson was critical of Chavez but said it was important to establish dialogue with Venezuela.
“During my meeting with President Chávez he said he was working with Colombia to return suspected terrorists. But a day after our meeting news reports indicated he had been harboring a major terrorist leader from Colombia in his own country,” Nelson wrote in 2005.
“While we cannot accept Chávez’s duplicity, his anti-democratic consolidation of power or his ties to Cuba, dialogue between the United States and Venezuela is needed to help avoid the real possibility of a disruption in the relationship with our fourth-largest oil supplier — a possibility that prompted Sen. Richard Lugar to request that the nonpartisan investigative agency of Congress examine our preparedness to deal with just such an event.”
Nelson’s 2006 Republican challenger, Katherine Harris, criticized Nelson for the Venezuela trip during her campaign.
Nelson has been critical of the Maduro regime, calling the recent elections there “illegal” and “rigged.”