WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, delivered the following remarks earlier today on the latest series of crackdowns perpetrated by the Cuban regime against Cuban dissidents in Havana just days ahead of Pope Benedict XVI’s March 26-28 visit to the island.
Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:
“Mr. Speaker, in the last year, we have witnessed dramatic changes in the Middle East and North Africa. There was vast media coverage in detailing the brutality of oppressors like Assad in Syria.
“Yet, very little has been said about the escalation of violence against Cuba’s internal opposition, a peaceful group who are being attacked by the Castro tyrants and their agents of terror, [who] operate just 90 miles off U.S. shores. But there is an opportunity to correct this wrong, to join forces and shed light on the systematic abuses against freedom-loving Cubans, and to call on Pope Benedict XVI, as he prepares to visit the island gulag, to publicly support the aspirations of the enslaved Cuban people to exercise their God-given rights.
“The Cuban dictatorship has ramped up its use of short-term detentions in order to intimidate and silence the voices of these brave Cubans standing up against tyranny and oppression. The Castro regime has continued its assault on fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of religion and freedom of speech.
“The Cuban people are reminded daily that no dissent is allowed as they live under constant threat and surveillance by Cuban State Security forces. Regime sympathizers and security forces have barred opposition leaders from leaving their homes and have violently attacked other peaceful pro-democracy protestors on the streets.
“Just 48 hours ago, the Castro regime detained about 70 members of the peaceful Ladies in White movement, including 18 women who were arrested in Havana on their way to mass. Berta Soler, an important leader of the Ladies in White, was detained during the crackdown.
“The Ladies in White [is] a peaceful group, founded by wives, mothers, and daughters of political prisoners who suffered in Castro’s gulags. These Ladies are advocates of freedom, and by silently marching through the streets they convey a powerful message of peace and a voice for all [of] the oppressed. The Ladies in White have expressed their interest in meeting with the Pope during his visit next week but have not been able to confirm that meeting.
“A few days ago, 13 members of Cuba’s opposition staged a peaceful sit-in at a Catholic Church in Havana to call attention to their request for Pope Benedict XVI to meet with pro-democracy advocates during his visit to the island. Reports indicate that Castro agents forcibly removed these human rights defenders from the Church, detained them, and subjected them to severe interrogation.
“It is my hope that Pope Benedict will meet with these brave dissidents and shine a light on the struggles of the Cuban people who are living under the rule of the oppressive Castro brothers. I urge the Catholic Church to express its support and solidarity with the internal peaceful opposition and hear the voices of the dissidents who are yearning for freedom.
“The passionate struggle of the internal opposition will not be deterred by the abuses that are occurring daily at the hands of the Castro regime. These recent crackdowns by the regime illustrate its fear, its paranoia, [and] its concern that the Cuban people are no longer afraid of the regime and are demanding a democratic change on the island.
“The citizens of Cuba are denied basic human rights by the Castro regime, including the freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and due process of law. These fundamental freedoms should not be reserved for the citizens of some countries, while denied to those in other nations.
“I urge free nations—responsible nations—to condemn the recent actions by the Castro brothers, to speak out against the atrocities that are committed daily in Cuba, and to reaffirm unconditional support for the Cuban people who seek to break free from the shackles of the Castro tyranny.”
Washington, D.C.— The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights and Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere will hold a joint hearing tomorrow, Thursday, February 16, 2012 titled, “Further Human Rights Violations in Castro’s Cuba: the Continued Abuse of Political Prisoners.” The hearing will examine the ongoing human rights violations against those who speak out against the ruthless Castro dictatorship. The Subcommittees will discuss the Castro regime’s prosecution of prisoners of conscience beginning at the time of their arrest, the conditions of their incarceration, and the terms surrounding any release. The Subcommittees will receive testimony from former Cuban political prisoners as well as U.S. Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), coauthor of the Helms-Burton Act.
TOMORROW - Thursday, February 16, 2012
2172 Rayburn House Office Building
The Honorable Dan Burton
Member of Congress
To be announced
Human Rights Advocate Former Cuban political prisoner
Mr. Normando Hernández González Independent journalist Former Political Prisoner – Group of 75
Hearings held in Room 2200 of the Rayburn H.O.B. are available via live video through the Committee’s website at http://www.foreignaffairs.house.gov/. TV and Radio outlets must register with the House Radio-TV Gallery on Wednesday, February 15, 2012 after 4pm. Please call 202-225-5214 to register. Print reporters may contact Andrew Lee to reserve a seat at the press table.
(WASHINGTON) - U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, will host a congressional briefing on TUESDAY, July 12, with Reina Loina Tamayo, the mother of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a Cuban political prisoner who died in February 2010 after enduring a months-long hunger strike while incarcerated in Castro’s jails. Reina will discuss her efforts, as well as her son’s efforts, to speak out against the regime’s human rights abuses, and the harassment they both faced at the hand of the regime. Senator Marco Rubio also invited Reina to speak before his colleagues in the Senate and she will do so after the House briefing. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:
“Mario, Albio, David and I are thrilled that Reina has agreed to come to Washington and brief House and Senate members. The House will host its briefing from 12:00 noon to 1:00 p.m. and then Senator Rubio will walk us over to the Senate so Reina can speak there.
“The Cuban regime killed Reina’s son, Orlando Zapata Tamayo. I salute Reina and her family for their courage in speaking with others about the pain and abuse they have suffered at the hand of the Cuban dictatorship.
“The actions that the Castro brothers and their hateful mobs took against Reina following Orlando’s death show the true nature and cowardice of the Havana tyranny.
“I look forward to welcoming Reina to Washington, D.C. and hosting her for this important briefing.”
What: Briefing with Reina Loina Tamayo
When: Tuesday, July 12, at 12:00 p.m.
Where: 2200 Rayburn House Office Building.
Press: This briefing will be OPEN to press. Please contact Andeliz Castillo with the House Foreign Affairs Committee press office (202-225-5021) to register. Cameras please arrive at least 15 minutes early for set-up.
Miami, Fla.- Congressman David Rivera (FL-25) released the following statement in response to President Barack Obama’s comments regarding the free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea today.
“During a press conference today, President Obama said that the three free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea are pending before Congress right now, and listed them among the job creating projects that have been ‘tied up in Congress for some time’. That’s disingenuous.
“The President has not sent a finalized version of the free trade agreements to Congress for a vote and it seems that each time he is close to doing so, he moves the goal post instead, implementing a new set of conditions for approval.
“The three pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea would eliminate trade barriers and increase demand for American goods abroad which would increase U.S. GDP and exports by billions of dollars, and create thousands of jobs in the United States as a result.
“The President and Senate Democrats have to stop bending to labor union pressures, either by requiring labor improvements from Colombia—which our Latin American ally has met time and again—or by making passage of the free trade agreements contingent upon the extension of the Trade Adjustment Act.
“Four weeks away from the August recess, we are no closer to approving these free trade agreements that have been pending for years. The free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea would be good for the American economy and job creation. Will the White House recognize that and send the free trade agreements to Congress before the August recess, or continue to let them languish by piling on additional conditions?”
WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Connie Mack (R-FL), Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, made the following opening statement today at a hearing entitled “Holding Honduras Hostage: Revoked Visas and U.S. Policy:”
“The real coup that this Administration has failed to address is the coup attempted by former President Zelaya with the support of Hugo Chavez. Zelaya attempted to change the Honduran constitution by all means possible, including use of the military.
“On May 2009, President Zelaya, working with his friend Hugo Chavez, ordered a referendum to take place on November 29, 2009, that would have removed presidential term limits. The Honduran Constitution specifically prohibits this, and thus Zelaya violated Article 239 of the Honduran Constitution.
“The ALBA playbook, led by Hugo Chavez was followed closely, we have seen it in Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador but the courageous Honduran people stood firmly behind their constitution.
“The intent of Zelaya, under Chavez’ guidance was to become President for life.
“Next, on May 29, 2009, the Attorney General recommended that the Honduran courts uphold that Zelaya’s referendum was illegal and unconstitutional. Then, in late June, the Supreme Court ordered the Honduran forces not to provide support for the referendum.
“Zelaya continued to utilize the resources of his friend Chavez who printed the ballots and flew them to a military base in Honduras. On June 27, in opposition to the Supreme Court order, Zelaya led a violent mob to seize and distribute the ballots for the referendum; and on June 28, the Supreme Court issued an arrest order for Zelaya and removed him as president.
“The brave Honduran military was also placed in a difficult position, forced to stand up to their President in order to support the constitution. On June 28, the Honduran Military, acting on a warrant from the Honduran Supreme Court, removed Zelaya from power. He was later put on a plane out of the country for his own protection, as well as other security reasons.
“This was followed by President Obama’s statement on June 28 calling the removal of Zelaya illegal and a coup.
“Later, the Honduran Congress, pursuant to the Honduran Constitution, voted Roberto Micheletti in as president. (Micheletti was constitutionally next in line for succession and assumed the presidency on an interim basis.) The Military was never in control of Honduras! President Micheletti never interfered with the ongoing presidential campaign nor interfered with the previously planned November 29th presidential election.
“On November 29, 2009 Hondurans voted in the presidential election. Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo won with 56 percent of the vote. On December 2, in accordance with the San Jose/Tegucigalpa Accord, the Honduran Congress voted 111-14 to not reinstate ousted President Zelaya. The Supreme Court and Attorney General also recommended this outcome.
“Finally, on January 27, President Micheletti stepped down from power, in accordance with the Constitution, and handed over power peacefully to democratically-elected President-elect Pepe Lobo.
“What was the U.S. response to these actions?
“After rashly labeling the situation a coup, the State Department cut funding to Honduran military and law enforcement programs. Since then, the homicide rate in Honduras has become one of the highest in the world.
“Now, where are we today?
“Zelaya is back in the country, we capitulated to Chavez’ demands when accepting Honduras back into the OAS- a flawed and ineffective institution that has failed to uphold its own democratic charter, and brave Hondurans heroes are still being punished by this Administration.
“In a hearing before this Subcommittee on February 15, 2011, Assistant Secretary Valenzuela said that the State Department was, and I quote: “looking into how the visas that were taken away will be restored.” It’s been four months since this statement, fifteen months since the U.S. Government recognized the new President of Honduras, and almost two years since the first visas were revoked.
“As Assistant Secretary Valenzuela, Ambassador Llorens, and the Obama Administration continue a policy of meddling in Honduran affairs, it is time we hear from the Hondurans themselves. It is important that everyone understands the degree to which U.S. policies have negatively impacted the country of Honduras and the region.
“It is time for the U.S. Administration to move on; in particular Ambassador Llorens who, through abuse of power, has manipulated and intimidated the Honduran people. This is not the role of the U.S. diplomatic community. Honduras deserves to move forward without the counterproductive interference from this State Department. It deserves to have every one of the revoked visas reinstated, to have a second MCC compact, and an Assistant Secretary in the U.S. State Department who believes in providing the same kind of assistance the United States provides other free countries.
“In a Hemisphere dangerously influenced by anti-democratic forces, Honduras deserves to have the kind of ally that will allow it to determine its own secure and prosperous future.
“I want to conclude by saying this: I was in Panama a couple weeks ago where I met with President Martinelli. During the meeting, completely unprovoked, the President of Panama requested our help in getting the good Honduran people their visas back.
“This is a serious issue, this is a regional issue, and this is an issue that must be solved without further delay.
“I look forward to hearing the witnesses’ testimony.”
(WASHINGTON) U.S. Rep. Don Manzullo (R-IL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, issued the following statement today congratulating the people of the Philippines as they celebrate the 113th Anniversary of their Independence Day.
“On behalf of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, I would like to offer my congratulations to the people of the Republic of the Philippines as you celebrate the 113th anniversary of your declaration of independence this June 12, 2011.
“The United States and the Republic of the Philippines enjoy a long history of cooperation in the economic, strategic, and cultural arenas. We share common goals in ensuring economic growth, peace, and stability in the Asia/Pacific region. The United States remains the Philippines’ largest trading partner, and the Philippines remains an attractive export market for U.S. goods and services.
“Our trade relationship is only strengthened by the cultural and familial ties that bind us. An estimated four million Filipino-Americans call the United States home and approximately 250,000 Americans live in the Philippines. The people-to-people links contribute to the strength of our relationship and add dynamism to the economic and cultural fabric of both our societies.
“Let me take this opportunity to send my best wishes to the people of the Republic of the Philippines as you celebrate this joyous day.”
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, 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.