Latino group: Ted Cruz blocked nomination based on ‘outright lie’
Hispanic advocates slammed Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz for blocking President Biden’s nomination of Leopoldo Martínez Nucete as United States executive director of the Inter-American Development Bank because of alleged past associations with the Venezuelan regime.
“Senator Ted Cruz’s mischaracterization of Leopoldo Martinez is nothing but an outright lie. As a Venezuelan-American, I am deeply appalled and offended by his remarks on the Senate floor yesterday,” said Nathalie Rayes, president and CEO of the Latino Victory Fund.
In a Senate floor speech blocking Martínez’s nomination Wednesday, Cruz alluded to the Venezuela-born lawyer’s political past in his home country.
“Mr. Martínez Nucete is a man of the left, a man of the hard left,” said Cruz.
“He has been a hard partisan his entire life and even farther than that — and this is really quite remarkable — Mr. Martínez Nucete was actually a socialist congressman in Venezuela, under Hugo Chávez,” said Cruz.
Cruz said Martínez was “a man of the anti-American hard left,” adding that Biden’s nomination was “astonishingly ill-advised.”
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, responded on Twitter, saying “this is a lie.””
Menendez added that Martínez had to flee Venezuela because of his anti-regime positions.
Cruz’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Martínez was a member of the Venezuelan assembly from 2000 to 2005, initially as a member of the Democratic Action Party, a mainstream center-left party that opposed the Venezuelan dictatorship in the 1950s, rose to power during the democratic period from 1958 to 1999. The party opposed former President Hugo Chávez and currently opposes President Nicolás Maduro.
Martínez served part of his time in office as an independent, in part because he was tapped to serve in the would-be government preparing to take over after a failed coup d’etat against Chávez in 2002.
“Leopoldo and his family fled Venezuela to escape the Chavez regime and political persecution by the Venezuelan government. He is a man of principle who is not afraid to defend the same democratic values we hold dear in the United States,” said Rayes.
Martínez, who as a U.S. citizen has served various positions in the Democratic National Committee, the Virginia state government and on the boards of the University of Mary Washington and the Sorensen Institute at the University of Virginia, is a well-known quantity in Latino political circles.
He has written extensively in opposition to the Maduro regime, often publishing opinion columns on Fox News.
Martínez is also a founding board member of the Latino Victory Project, a group dedicated to increasing Hispanic representation in U.S. government.
The Inter-American Development Bank is a hemispheric development bank that’s owned by 48 countries around the world, including the United States, although only its 26 Caribbean and Latin American members can borrow funds from the bank.
Martínez is nominated to take the U.S. seat at the bank’s board of executive directors, a position that controls 30 percent of the institution’s voting shares.
“Leopoldo is a decent, outstanding American who has done more to strengthen the United States’ democracy than pro-insurrection Cruz ever will. By blocking Leopoldo’s confirmation to lead the Inter-American Bank, Senator Cruz is weakening the United States’ ability to maintain a strong relationship with Latin America, which is completely unacceptable,” said Rayes.