MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Republicans have pounced on a comment President Barack Obama made about Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

President Obama was asked by a local Spanish language television station to assess the relationship between Chavez and Iran.

“We’re always concerned about Iran engaging in destabilizing activity around the globe,” Obama told WJAN. “But overall my sense is that what Mr. Chavez has done over the past several years has not had a serious national security impact on us.”

That prompted a surge of criticism from Republicans who are desperately trying to find a way to shake Obama’s stronger foreign policy numbers.

“The idea that this nation, this president, doesn’t pose a national security threat is simply naive and an extraordinary admission on the part of this president to be completely out of touch with what is happening in Latin America,” Romney said of Chavez in an interview Wednesday with Fox News.

Obama said the U.S. will remain vigilant about Venezuela; but said his main concern for the South American country was to make sure, “the Venezuelan people have a voice in their affairs and that you end up ultimately having fair and free elections, which we don’t always see.”

Chavez is hated by most Venezuelans who now live in the United States. Most of the Venezuelans call the Sunshine State home. And in an election that could be razor tight, any swing of 1 or 2 percent of the vote could spell doom for either candidate.


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