Rubio Blasts Obama for Downplaying Venezuelan Leader's Impact on Region

U.S. Senator Marco blasted President Barack Obama over his comments Monday to a Spanish-language TV station in Miami that downplayed Venezuela president Hugo Chavez's rule as a threat to the United States' interests in South America.

"It’s now disturbingly clear that President Obama has been living under a rock when it comes to recognizing the national security threat posed by Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez," Rubio, a Florida Republican, said in a statement to Fox News.

"President Obama continues to display an alarmingly naïve understanding of the challenges and opportunities we face in the Western Hemisphere," Rubio said.

"We're always concerned about Iran engaging in destabilizing activity around the globe, "Obama said in an interview that aired Tuesday on the Spanish-language channel América TeVe. "But overall my sense is that what Mr. Chavez has done over the last several years has not had a serious national security impact on us."

Rubio, who has been vetted by the Mitt Romney presidential campaign as a potential running mate, said that Chavez was a destabilizing force in his nation as well as far beyond Venezuela's borders.

"Hugo Chavez is not only a threat to the Venezuelan people's freedom and democratic aspirations," Rubio also stated Wednesday, "He has also supported Iran's regime in its attempts to expand its intelligence network throughout the hemisphere, facilitated money laundering activities that finance state sponsors of terrorism and provided a safe haven for FARC narco-terrorists."

The junior senator also listed Chavez's ties to the Assad regime in Syria as an area of concern.

The Socialist leader is in the midst of his own presidential campaign in which he is facing Venezuelan opposition candidate Henrique Capriles . The South American country will hold its election on October 7th. Chavez has been battling cancer for 13 months, but told reporters at a press conference Tuesday that he is now completely "free" from the disease.