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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – In Venezuela, we are witnessing the arrests of political prisoners, suppressed freedoms and now a dictatorship.
For Cuban-Americans in South Florida, it sounds like their native country’s past and present. It’s leading some to ask: is Venezuela the new Cuba?
Venezuelan security agents forced the former mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, out of his house, overnight, in his pajamas.
Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez was also taken from his home overnight.
The arrests come just two days after a controversial vote which could give President Nicolas Maduro’s government unlimited powers and let him rewrite the constitution.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio posted a video on his website Tuesday day. In it, he addresses Maduro directly.
“For Nicolas Maduro, who I am sure is watching, the current path you are on will not end well for you,” said Rubio. “Unlike Fidel Castro in 1959, there is no Soviet Union left to subsidize your government for the next 30 years.”
But according to University of Miami’s Institute of Cuban-American Studies Director Jaime Suchlicky, Maduro does have help from other countries.
“It has some backing from the Iranians from China and some from Russia but I’m not sure the regime will collapse,” Suchlicky said.
Just as Fidel Castro helped former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, Raul Castro is now using his resources to help Maduro.
“We estimate that there are 5,000 military and security people from Cuba in Venezuela propping the Venezuelan military supporting the security,” Suchlicky said.
But their rise to dictatorship is different, says Suchlicky.
“When Fidel Castro came to power he inherited a system that was collapsing all the institutions had collapsed. He was able to transform Cuba in to a communist country in a matter of 12-16 months. Chavez and now Maduro have been moving a little slower.”
Just as in Cuba, in response to Sunday’s election in Venezuela, the U.S. hit the country with sanctions.
Beginning on Monday, all of Maduro’s assets that are subject to U.S. jurisdiction will be frozen.
All U.S. citizens are also barred from dealing with him.