Rubio: Crisis in Nicaragua could lead to civil war

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioRubio unloads on Turkish chef for 'feasting' Venezuela's Maduro: 'I got pissed' For Poland, a time for justice Judiciary Democrat calls for additional witnesses to testify on Kavanaugh MORE (R-Fla.) on Sunday voiced concerns about ongoing violence in Nicaragua, warning that tensions within the country could escalate into a civil war.

Rubio appeared on CNN's "State of the Union," where he chastised Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and his administration for undermining democratic norms in the country and for deciding to "soak their hands in blood."

"My biggest fear about Nicaragua is, unlike Venezuela, the possibility of arms — of a civil war in Nicaragua is real," Rubio said. "It would trigger a migratory crisis. It would undermine our anti-drug efforts in the region."

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"There is a direct national security interest for the United States in seeing democracy and stability in Nicaragua," he added. 

Hundreds of people have died in Nicaragua amid growing protests in recent months against Ortega's rule. The United Nations has expressed concerns about the use of paramilitary forces against protesters.

Ortega first led Nicaragua from 1979-1990 after the Sandinista Revolution. He returned to power in 2007, and has since eliminated term limits.

Rubio tweeted Saturday that Ortega and his wife, who serves as vice president, will pay a "big price for their crimes against their own people."

On Sunday, the senator ripped Ortega as an "old" and "dying man," and called his wife a "lunatic."

He suggested the U.S. will look to impose additional sanctions against "individuals and entities in Nicaragua that have empowered this."