WASHINGTON – Congressman Connie Mack (FL-14), the Ranking Republican of the House Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, denounced the re-election of Secretary General José Insulza as the head of the Organization of American States (OAS) today, saying his actions have not upheld the organization’s Democratic Charter and threaten the freedom, security, and prosperity of the entire hemisphere.
“For the last several years, Secretary General José Insulza has allowed Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez and other Latin American thugocrats to hijack the OAS and undermine democracy – the very institution that Insulza has sworn to uphold within the Inter-American Democratic Charter.
“From his refusal to criticize Hugo Chavez for his continued abuses of power; to his interference with the situation in Honduras by fighting for Honduras’ expulsion from the OAS; to his refusal to recognize the FARC as a terrorist organization; and to leading the charge to allow the Castros’ authoritarian dictatorship in Cuba back into the OAS, Insulza has proven that he is anything but a friend of freedom and democracy.
“With Insulza at the helm, the OAS has lost its effectiveness as an arbiter of freedom. The United States should withhold funding for this organization until we have an organization that has the teeth to enforce its Democratic Charter and stand up to the thugocrats of the hemisphere.”
Last year, Mack introduced legislation to withhold U.S. funding to the OAS if the organization readmitted Cuba as a member.
WASHINGTON – Congressman Connie Mack (FL-14), the Ranking Republican of the House Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, issued the following statement today on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s delegation trip to Mexico to discuss anti-drug trafficking efforts with the Mexican government.
“The recent tragedy in Juárez, where three Americans were killed, proves that drug violence isn’t just a problem for Mexico, it’s also a problem for the United States. In fact, this year alone, there have been more than 1,000 deaths related to drug trafficking violence in Mexico.
“These numbers, and the growing strength and audacity of the cartels, means that now, more than ever, Congress and the Obama Administration must stand with our allies in Mexico and support full funding for the Mérida Initiative. The Mérida Initiative is an essential tool in the fight against escalating drug trafficking and organized crime, and I’m encouraged by the fact that the Obama Administration has made this a priority.
“Some have said that with the increased violence in Juárez and along the border, we should give up and abandon our efforts to stop the drug cartels. But now is not the time to retreat and lose Mexico to violent thugs, murderers and gangs.
“The United States must continue to stand with Mexican President Felipe Calderón and support his efforts to defeat these dangerous cartels. Strengthening the Mérida Initiative and ensuring full funding of this policy is vital not just to our security, but the security of the entire hemisphere.”
U.S. Representative John Boozman (R-AR) issued the following statement on increased tensions between the U.S. and Israel and what needs to be done to defuse the tensions:
“The Administration has lost focus on what has been the cornerstone of our foreign policy in the Middle East. We have an unbreakable bond with Israel, but the Administration is systematically eroding that relationship. The lack of clear objective and strategy by the Administration challenges and poses a security threat both in the Middle East as well as to our national security.”
WASHINGTON – Congressman Connie Mack (FL-14), the Ranking Republican of the House Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, called the Obama Administration’s recent comments about Israel troubling and urged President Obama and his advisers to work with Israeli leaders on advancing peace in the region.
“The Administration’s approach to U.S. foreign policy has, so far, been disconcerting. Instead of embracing our allies and standing with them against terrorism and tyranny, the Administration has chummed it up with Latin American thugocrats like Hugo Chavez and failed to speak out against the atrocities of Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after he won the Iranian presidential “election.”
“Israel is our strongest friend and ally in the Middle East, and they are our partners in the war against terrorism. The Administration should work with Israeli leaders to stand against Iran, which is moving at an alarming pace to acquire nuclear capabilities and spread its hatred and vitriol around the world, including Latin America.
“The Administration’s careless rhetoric and actions diminish our relationship with Israel and threaten our national security. As a beacon of freedom and opportunity, the United States must stand with our allies, not alienate them.”
U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis (R-SC) opposed a Democratic resolution on the House Floor Wednesday that calls for the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan within 30 days of enactment.
“I just returned from a trip to Afghanistan and saw the amazing work being done on the ground there,” Inglis said. “To immediately withdraw our troops from the ground in Afghanistan would be a catastrophic move in the midst of fighting the war of terror. Especially after the President just announced and is currently implementing a troop surge right now.”
H. Con. Res. 248, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), would direct the President to remove United States Armed Forces from Afghanistan thirty days after enactment of the resolution if passed.
The Resolution allows the President to postpone the withdrawal date to a later date, up to December 31, 2010, should the President determine it’s not safe to remove all military personnel before the end of the 30 days.
Inglis said after his three-day trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan that he is committed to seeing U.S. forces achieve clear strategic goals.
“I’m committed to confining their mission to achievable objectives and to the protection of America’s national security interest.”
In a speech on the House Floor upon returning to Washington last night, Inglis pressed for clarity in America’s role in Afghanistan:
While we’re hunting down terrorists, we’re going to give the Afghan people the opportunity to reject al Qaeda outsiders and to build a future free of the Taliban. The Afghan people should seize the opportunity as it will not last indefinitely. At present more of America’s best are arriving in Afghanistan. They’re there to kill terrorists. They’re there to facilitate the work of an army of American civil servants and contractors who can show a way forward to a stable constitutional republic. They are there to serve America’s national security interest by draining a terrorist cesspool.
But there will come a day when the brave men and women of America’s armed forces will have completed their work—not that they will have taken out every terrorist, for that would be impossible. But there will come a day when we will have destroyed enough of the terrorist networks in Afghanistan that America will be reasonably safe from murderous plotting—at least from within Afghanistan’s borders. Until then, we fight on. Committed to finishing the job. Clear-eyed and determined to avoid mission creep.
WASHINGTON – At a hearing of the House Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere this afternoon, Congressman Connie Mack (FL-14), the Ranking Republican, questioned Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Arturo Valenzuela about the United States’ efforts to combat Hugo Chavez’s growing influence in the Western Hemisphere. Mack also addressed the troubling relationships that Latin American leaders are cultivating with Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and stressed the need to pass his bipartisan legislation calling on Venezuela to be named a state sponsor of terrorism (H.Res. 872).
Mack’s opening statement at the hearing, as prepared, follows:
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for holding this important hearing today.
“Before we begin, I want to speak on the tragedies in both Haiti and Chile. Although these two earthquakes were very different, both ended the lives of so many, and I want the people of Chile and Haiti to know that our thoughts and prayers are with them.
“Ensuring the greatest freedom, security and prosperity in Latin America is my ultimate goal as the Ranking Member of this subcommittee. During this hearing, I want to get the thoughts of our witnesses on three specific areas: freedom, security, and prosperity in Latin America.
“In Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Cuba, the struggle for freedom and democracy continues.
“In the past several years, we have seen thugocrats in the hemisphere alter their constitutions so that they can remain leaders for life.
“We have seen elections stolen in Nicaragua and Venezuela.
“And in the streets of Caracas, we see democracy being stolen in plain daylight.
“I firmly believe that Hugo Chavez is turning Venezuela into a dictatorship, and has made Venezuela a country who Simon Bolivar himself would be ashamed of.
“Whether it is quashing free and independent media outlets like RCTV, or threatening his political opponents with violence and imprisonment, Hugo Chavez epitomizes what it means to be a thugocrat.
“His actions threaten the freedom, security and prosperity of the entire hemisphere, and we cannot continue to let this stand.
“I also believe that populism is the worst enemy of prosperity in Latin America.
“Without fail, every time one of these so-called “revolutionaries” or “populists” comes to power, the few generating industries or resources that the country has are targeted. They are either nationalized, confiscated, or stolen – and history proves that these populist leaders rarely, if ever, return any wealth to their people.
“Mr. Chairman, I have introduced legislation which supports President Obama and his agenda to strengthen U.S. trade relations with key partners like South Korea, Panama, and Colombia. I cannot think of a better way to fight populism and to bring greater prosperity to these countries than by passing these free trade agreements.
“These trade agreements will create jobs, grow our economy, and level the playing field for American manufacturers and businesses.
“Finally, Mr. Chairman, one cannot have prosperity without security.
“Hugo Chavez is intent on making Venezuela the launching point for terrorism in the hemisphere. He has become Iranian leader Ahmadinejad’s best friend, allowing terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas to enter the hemisphere and infiltrate the capitals of the region.
“In the resolution which I introduced with my good friend, Congressman Ron Klein, Venezuela would be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism. This is a resolution which I hope this Committee will consider this year.
“We all have seen the reports: unchecked flights from Iran to Venezuela; easy access to Venezuelan passports; lax security at Venezuelan airports; and Iranian banks working with Venezuelan banks to avoid sanctions and fund terrorists.
“I must ask, Mr. Secretary, what is the Administration doing to curb the terrorism coming out of Venezuela, which could eventually find itself on our very shores?
“As we address these very important issues, I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today.”
WASHINGTON – As a follow-up to the agenda laid out in the President’s State of the Union Address last month, Congressman Connie Mack (FL-14) introduced a resolution (H.Res.1124) in the House of Representatives late last week supporting the President’s call to enact the pending free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea.
Mack, the Ranking Republican of the House Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, said:
“In his State of the Union address, President Obama called upon Congress to pass the pending free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea. I couldn’t agree more.
“These trade agreements will create jobs, grow our economy, and level the playing field for American manufacturers and businesses. These three countries are among America’s strongest friends, and we should build upon our good relationships with our allies in Latin America and East Asia. In particular, free trade agreements with Panama and Colombia will help to thwart the increasing influence of Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez and other thugocrats in the hemisphere.
“The President has called for more bipartisanship. This is an opportunity for President Obama and Speaker Pelosi to prove that this wasn’t just another political calculation, but a real attempt to move forward in a bipartisan manner on these widely-supported agreements. I encourage him to submit them to Congress quickly so we can pass them without delay.”
The text of Mack’s resolution is below:
Supporting President Obama and his agenda to strengthen United States trade relations in Asia and with key partners like South Korea, Panama, and Colombia.
Whereas, on November 22, 2006, the United States and Colombia signed the United States–Colombia Free Trade Agreement;
Whereas, on June 28, 2007, the United States and Panama signed the United States–Panama Free Trade Agreement;
Whereas, on June 30, 2007, the United States and South Korea signed the United States–Korea Free Trade Agreement;
Whereas during the State of the Union on January 27, 2010, President Obama declared that the “more products we make and sell to other countries, the more jobs we support right here in America.”;
Whereas the United States International Trade Commission (USITC) has concluded that the United States–Panama Free Trade Agreement would significantly increase United States exports to Panama;
Whereas 88 percent of United States commercial and industrial exports to Panama would become duty-free upon implementation of the United States–Panama Free Trade Agreement, and approximately 50 percent of United States farm exports to Panama would achieve immediate duty-free status;
Whereas the USITC has concluded that a free trade agreement with Colombia would significantly increase market access for United States goods and services in Colombia;
Whereas currently more than 90 percent of Colombian exports to the United States enter duty-free, while United States exports to Colombia face duties of up to 20 percent;
Whereas the United States–Colombia Free Trade Agreement would immediately eliminate duties on 80 percent of United States exports of consumer and industrial products to Colombia;
Whereas the USITC has concluded that United States gross domestic product would increase by $10 billion to $12 billion annually once the United States–Korea Free Trade Agreement is fully implemented;
Whereas under the United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement, almost 95 percent of trade in consumer and industrial products would become duty free within three years, with most remaining tariffs eliminated within 10 years.
Whereas during the State of the Union, President Obama also said that “[w]e have to seek new markets aggressively, just as our competitors are. If America sits on the sidelines while other nations sign trade deals, we will lose the chance to create jobs on our shores.”;
Whereas Colombia has concluded free trade trade agreements with Canada and countries throughout Latin America and is currently negotiating a free trade agreement with the European Union;
Whereas Panama has negotiated free trade agreements with Canada, Singapore, Taiwan, Chile, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Honduras;
Whereas, on October 15, 2009, the European Union and South Korea signed the world’s biggest free trade agreement since 1994;
Whereas United States competitors continue to expand their presence in regions where the United States has traditionally been the principle trade partner, as exemplified by the tenfold increase in China’s trade with Latin America from 2000 to 2007, which reached $142 billion in 2008; and
Whereas during his State of the Union, President Obama declared that “we will strengthen our trade relations in Asia and with key partners like South Korea and Panama and Colombia.”: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the House of Representatives—
(1) strongly supports President Obama and his agenda to strengthen United States trade relations in Asia and with key partners like South Korea, Panama, and Colombia;
(2) remains concerned that the United States risks losing markets in Colombia, Panama, and South Korea to its competitors due to its inaction as these and other countries continue to move forward with their respective free trade agreements; and
(3) calls on President Obama to submit to Congress the trade agreements the United States has signed with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea and work to ensure that they secure passage as quickly as possible.