Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), one of the biggest critics in Congress of Venezuelan strongman Nicolás Maduro, sent out a graphic and cryptic tweet on Sunday showing a before-and-after photo of the Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
Gaddafi, who antagonized the U.S. for decades, was deposed in a 2011 Western military intervention. In the ensuing conflict, Libyan rebels found Gaddafi and brutally murdered him in public. A still from a video of that spectacle was one of the images in Rubio’s post.
Rubio’s tweet was widely interpreted as a message to Maduro, setting off furor on Twitter among critics who saw it as a thinly-veiled threat of U.S. military intervention in Venezuela.
Rubio has not explicitly endorsed military action to force out Maduro, but he has hinted at it in the past and has generally agreed with the stance of President Donald Trump that “all options” should be on the table to achieve a regime change in Venezuela. (Rubio’s office did not immediately respond to request for comment on the tweet.)
The tweet came on the heels of a bloody Saturday in Venezuela, where at least four people were killed by pro-government forces trying to break up a shipment of aid supplies from neighboring Colombia. Rubio, along with Trump and his administration, has recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the legitimate head of the Venezuelan government.
Rubio, who is Cuban-American, is among the more hawkish members of the Senate, and has typically led the charge on Capitol Hill in organizing pressure campaigns against leftist strongmen in Latin America, particularly in Venezuela and Cuba.
Back in 2011, Rubio cheered Gaddafi’s death, even criticizing President Barack Obama for not going far enough in his military intervention there. “If you’re an enemy of the United States and we have a chance to take a shot at you in a way that doesn’t hurt us, and has a chance of being successful, we’re probably going to take it,” Rubio said of the time about Gaddafi. “There’s a price to pay for being an enemy of the United States.”
Rubio’s traditionally right-wing foreign policy has put him at odds with President Trump, whom the Florida Republican has cultivated as an ally. Rubio has criticized Trump’s plans to reduce the U.S. military footprint in Syria, and has been a proponent of active U.S. involvement in forcing out dictator Bashar al-Assad. He has also criticized his olive branches to Russian President Vladimir Putin and expressed skepticism over outreach to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.