WASHINGTON, DC – After several months of calling for U.S. government action to sanction Venezuela’s state run oil company Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA) for doing business with Iran, Chairman of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee Connie Mack (FL-14) welcomed the State Department’s decision to finally sanction Venezuela’s state-owned oil company today by stating:
“The sanctions on PDVSA are an important step in the right direction for U.S. policy toward the region; however, we must acknowledge that PDVSA’s shipments are only one example of Hugo Chavez’s support for the terrorist supporting Iranian regime.”
Reports of Iranian missile bases in Venezuela, the increasing presence of Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, and yesterday’s sanctioning of Venezuelan Military Industries Company show just how dangerous the Venezuela-Iranian relationship has become.
Mack also renewed his call on former Congressman Joe Kennedy to again step aside as pitchman for CITGO, the American subsidiary of PDVSA, a call Mack has made repeatedly since 2007.
“With our own State Department now calling out Joe Kennedy’s bosses in Caracas for doing business with Iranian terrorists, it should be clear to Joe Kennedy and his family’s legacy of public service what the right thing is to do and resign as the pitchman for Hugo Chavez and his terrorist aiding oil company CITGO.”
Mack added: “While the State Department’s actions today are welcome, the slow and inadequate response has been frustrating. The U.S. needs to move quickly to cut off Chavez’s source of revenue, and bring an end to both his influence in Latin America and his dangerous relationship with the terrorist supporting Iranian regime before it’s too late.”
In a March Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, Congressman Mack presented Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with evidence proving Venezuela’s sanctionable activity under the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 (CISADA), which the State Department acknowledged today by sanctioning PDVSA. PDVSA is responsible for close to a third of Venezuelan government revenues yet the Venezuelan people continue to suffer while Hugo Chavez funnels PDVSA profits to corrupt regimes throughout Latin America.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade, made the following statement during today's hearing entitled, "The Future of Al Qaeda":
Today we consider the impact of Osama bin Laden’s death on the al-Qaeda terrorist network and U.S. counterterrorism policy.
For several years before his death, this terror mastermind was out of sight, out of mind. Indeed, Ambassador Daniel Benjamin, the State Department’s top counterterrorism official, didn’t even mention bin Laden’s name at a recent Subcommittee hearing.
Nevertheless, bin Laden "was the symbolic, ideological and strategic core of the al-Qaeda movement," and the "primary source of inspiration and cohesion" for associated groups and individuals acting in his name, according to one expert. His killing is a very significant development in our struggle against al-Qaeda.
With depleted ranks and resources, and its "star waning" in the Middle East, some go so far as to declare that al-Qaeda is "in its death throes." As we'll hear today, that's wishful thinking. Unfortunately, al-Qaeda has proven all too adaptive.
One analyst notes that al-Qaeda operatives weren't driven by loyalty to bin Laden’s personality, but to his twisted ideals. As a 2009 USAID report on violent extremism noted, "we need to acknowledge at the outset the power of ideas…We need to recognize that many violent extremists are moved primarily by an unshakable belief in the superiority of certain values; by a perceived obligation to carry out God’s command; or by an abiding commitment to destroy a system they view as evil and/or oppressive." Bad ideas matter.
Unfortunately a growing number of affiliates and individuals are looking to fulfill bin Laden’s vision. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula – linked to Ft. Hood, the failed "underwear" bomber and cargo plane plots - appears the most energetic part of al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is threatening, with deep roots in North Africa and Europe. An increasing number of European and U.S. citizens have traveled to Somalia to link-up with al-Shabaab.
Bin Laden’s hideout location has raised yet more doubts about Pakistan. Was its intelligence service complicit or just incompetent? ISI has supported militant networks inside Pakistan and Afghanistan that are targeting U.S. soldiers. Nuclear proliferator A.Q. Khan received state support. A terrorism trial in Chicago heard testimony this week that ISI provided "financial and military" assistance to the LeT, the group that killed more than 160 in the Mumbai massacre, including six Americans. In the past ten years, Pakistan has received nearly $20 billion in U.S. aid. Simply put, our Pakistan policy isn’t working.
Assuming connections between bin Laden and the Pakistani military and intelligence services, a former top IAEA official has asked, "What is to say they would not help al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups to gain access to sensitive nuclear materials such as highly enriched uranium or plutonium?" This isn't a far-fetched question.
Intelligence work, including interrogations, was key to tracking down bin Laden. It's notable that outside of Afghanistan and Iraq, there have been no reported U.S. detentions of high-value terrorists under President Obama. For instance, an Indonesian behind the Bali bombings was taken into custody by Pakistani authorities just months before bin Laden's death. Found near Abbottabad, he has been described as an intelligence "gold mine." Yet, the Obama Administration has "made no move to interrogate or seek custody" of him, reports the Los Angeles Times.
Bin Laden’s death comes as the Arab Spring is unfolding. The demise of autocracies is welcome, for sure. But there are legitimate concerns that democracy in these countries may empower parties hostile to the U.S., confounding counterterrorism cooperation.
One witness today will compare al-Qaeda to a "shark in the water that must keep moving forward – no matter how slowly or incrementally – or die." We look to today’s witnesses for answers on how to kill this deadly predator.
WASHINGTON, DC – Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere Connie Mack (FL-14), met with Mexican President Felipe Calderon, Attorney General Marisela Morales and other officials in Mexico City and Ciudad Juarez this past weekend. Mack praised Calderon and his Administration for their unwavering commitment to the war on drugs in Mexico but held firm that more must be done to combat the violence, and that finger pointing will not yield desired results. After touring Ciudad Juarez and speaking with the Mayor, Mack traveled to Laredo, Texas to tour Customs and Border Patrol operations at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Mack stated: "We need a comprehensive and targeted approach in Mexico to ensure that U.S. taxpayer dollars are spent effectively, creating real change that reduces cross-border violence and secures our southern border. It is vital that the U.S. - Mexico relationship continues to increase cooperation to combat the transnational criminal organizations, and fosters judicial reform. The men and women that make up our U.S. Customs and Border Patrol are incredibly brave and work to make the U.S. a safer place; I thank them for their service.”
Congressman Mack led a bi-partisan congressional delegation last week to Colombia, Panama, and Mexico, meeting with President's Santos, Martinelli, and Calderon where he has advocated for increased security cooperation and the ever-important free trade agreements. Many of these allies countries were overlooked by the Obama Administration on the President’s travels to the region.
Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), a senior member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and chairman of the panel that oversees global human rights, today released the following statement in response to President Obama’s speech in which he called for Israel to revert to its 1967 borders.
“President Obama’s insistence that Israel revert to its 1967 borders is bad policy born of moral confusion. Pushing Israel back to borders that existed prior to the Six Day War would seriously jeopardize its security in ways that threaten its very existence. The width of the country would be reduced from an already too narrow 45 miles to nine, about the distance from Trenton, New Jersey to nearby Princeton. Hostile armies, invading from two sides, could easily cut the country into two in a matter of minutes.
“The record will show that since 1967, Israel has repeatedly given up land to entities that have sought its destruction. Yet it has enjoyed not a day of what any reasonable person would call “peace.” The Sinai it returned to Egypt in exchange for Anwar Sadat’s recognition of Israel’s right to exist may once again, under a more radical government than its predecessors, be used as a launching pad for war. Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza, land Egypt did not want back, in 2005. For that gesture of peace, Hamas, its current rulers, rewarded Israel by firing rockets into civilian areas of Israel “proper” (territory Israel controlled before the 1967 war).
“The very idea that Israel would even consider negotiating on the Obama terms and conditions with a Palestinian entity that includes Hamas, which seeks its destruction, is preposterous.
“No one questions the President’s overall desire for a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Yet, he has made that outcome less likely by showing the world that he is willing to reward bad behavior—and in some cases outright terrorism or the tolerance of it—and to turn on an ally that has repeatedly negotiated in good faith. What must they be thinking in Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, and the new democracies that have emerged out of the ashes of what was once an Evil Empire? The effects of this President's misguided policy will reverberate around the world for years to come.”
Miami, Fla.- Congressman David Rivera (FL-25) released the following statement in commemoration of Cuba’s Independence Day:
“One hundred and nine years ago, the decades-long efforts of patriots like Jose Marti and Carlos Manuel de Cespedes came to fruition as Cuba gained its independence and became a sovereign state.
“As we celebrate this momentous occasion in Cuba’s history, we do so mindful of the fact that for the past 52 years Cuba has been held captive by a brutal terrorist regime; its people oppressed by a dictatorship more concerned with self-preservation and power than with human rights and civil liberties.
“Recently we have seen the Castro regime’s ongoing crackdowns on individuals who threaten their position and embody the spirit of Cuba’s original freedom fighters. Whether it be Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who succumbed to a hunger strike protesting the dictatorship while in prison, or Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia, who was beaten to death by Castro’s henchmen during a peaceful protest, there is evidence that the regime continues its tyranny in the face of increasing opposition.
“We live in a world that is no longer standing by and letting oppression and totalitarianism perpetuate itself. We must continue to be vigilant of the situation in Cuba and lend our support to dissidents who are fighting for liberty, not give concessions to the Castro regime.
“The cause for a free and democratic Cuba must never die, and on the anniversary of Cuba’s independence I take special care to remember the importance of that cause and why we must continue fighting for it.”
Miami, Fla.- Foreign Affairs Committee Member, Congressman David Rivera (FL-25) released the following statement regarding President Barack Obama’s Middle East and North Africa speech:
“The United States and Israel share many common ideals. Both of our countries emphasize a respect for human life, personal dignity and individual freedom. This mutual commitment to democracy and independence has fostered a unique bond between the two nations.
“In Israel’s short and turbulent history, the Jewish state has stood as a beacon of freedom in the Middle East where liberty is especially stifled, and has shown its willingness to take risks for peace. However, Palestine has not been as accommodating. While Israelis have withdrawn from the Gaza strip and made bold concessions to entice Palestine to negotiate, the Palestinian Authority has responded with terrorist attacks and refuses to even deal directly with Israel.
“It is unfortunate that President Obama chose to use his speech on North Africa and the Middle East not to reject Palestine’s bid before the UN to be a recognized state, or to pressure Palestine to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, or to encourage Palestine to make any other concessions to Israel. Instead, by pressuring Israel to give up their occupation of the West Bank, President Obama effectively rewarded the Palestinian Authority which has not only sought condemnation of Israel before the UN, but has also reconciled with the Hamas terrorist organization, without asking for anything in return.
“The United States needs Israel as an ally in the region and the war on terror. Israel not only has experience in dealing with the jihadist threats that America is facing, but it provides us with tools developed over decades of confronting these dangers. Israel has also been a staunch partner in the global war on terror. As our only democratic ally in an otherwise hostile region we cannot afford to lose their counsel and support. We must show our support and appreciation to Israel, and avoid strengthening Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran and terrorist groups worldwide. President Obama should know better.”
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Representative Mike Kelly (PA-03) issued the following statement on President Obama’s recent remarks on the Israeli border and U.S. policy in the Middle East:
“While I welcome President Obama’s reaffirmation of U.S. support for our close friend and democratic ally, Israel, some of his comments, such as his call for Israel to make further concessions on its borders, are troubling and difficult to square with his stated goal of upholding Israel’s right and ability to defend itself.
“We must continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Israel, especially in light of recent negative developments such as the Palestinian leadership’s alliance with the terrorist group Hamas and the Palestinian leadership’s attempts to obtain UN recognition of a Palestinian state without first coming to a peaceful resolution with Israel.
“I urge the President to take these sobering realities into account in his continued dialogue with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”
Contact – (202) 225-2536
PANAMA CITY, PANAMA – Congressman Connie Mack (FL-14) met with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli along with several business and labor leaders. Mack commended the notable progress and leadership by both President Santos and President Martinelli and the continued commitment and cooperation from the business and labor community in addressing labor and human rights concerns. Threats to security in the region were also addressed with key goals outlined by each of the countries.
Mack stated: "I am optimistic that the Colombian Action Plan exceedingly satisfies the concerns related to labor and human rights in Colombia. I firmly stand behind the progress and efforts being made by our Colombian and Panamanian partners and again call upon President Obama to send forward the important Free Trade Agreements."
Mack, Chairman of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, is leading a bi-partisan Congressional Delegation this week to Colombia, Panama, and Mexico to address the increasingly violent threats to security across the region and the very important pending trade agreements in Colombia and Panama.
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