CHAIRMAN SALMON TO SECRETARY KERRY: "WE NEED A BETTER STRATEGY IN THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE"
House Foreign Affairs Committee
March 13, 2014
As prepared for delivery
“Mr. Secretary, as you know, I have the honor to serve as the Chairman of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee. I am deeply troubled by the lack of clear vision and strategy in the region. Don't get me wrong, you have many skilled diplomats operating throughout the region, but I fear this lack of a coherent strategy and appropriate engagement comes from the top.
Click here to view Chairman Salmon’s Questions and Secretary Kerry’s Remarks.
“In the last year, Cuba has been caught red handed violating UN sanctions and shipping weapons to North Korea through the Panama Canal; Venezuelan opposition leaders and students are being imprisoned without charges and demonstrators are being beaten and even killed by government forces all for opposing Maduro’s failed economic policies and the overall dismal state of their economy; Ecuador and Bolivia have booted our USAID missions and our diplomats are inexplicably walking on eggshells for constant fear of expulsion; drug trafficking and violence through Central America continues to increase; and the Russians have docked a war ship in Havana’s harbor. These are just a few of the events happening in the Western Hemisphere.
“Meanwhile, the Administration’s response to these regional challenges has been muted at best. Attempts to utilize our membership with multilateral organizations to hold these regional bad actors accountable have not been successful. In the case of Venezuela, the Organization of American States, which American taxpayers fund at least 40% of their operating budget, issued a shamefully weak statement on the violence happening in Venezuela and did nothing to oppose the human rights violations happening there or to support the demonstrators’ right to freedom of expression. Given the ineffectiveness of the OAS, I’m not sure I can justify to my constituents continued funding for such a feckless organization.
“Furthermore, the UN has yet to take strong action to punish the Cubans for violating UN sanctions and selling the North Koreans weapons right at our backdoor. I was heartened by the UN report that was recently released on this incident, but I strongly urge you to make sure that the Cuban’s pay a significant price for thumbing their nose at international sanctions.
“Meanwhile, as Central America struggles with increased drug smuggling activity and the corresponding violence, USAID is helping Guatemala by buying them solar panels. Really?
“To wrap up my point Mr. Secretary, we need a better strategy in the Western Hemisphere and a renewed engagement and understanding that our national security is on the line if we don’t start paying attention to our own hemisphere. I hope you will take this on board and then share with us what that vision will look like and how it advances our national security.
“Recently, you gave a speech stating that “climate change is increasingly a national security threat.” With all due respect, Mr. Secretary, given everything that is happening around the globe today, do you really believe that? I would submit to you that around the world liberty and economic freedom are being threatened by tyrants and those yearning for freedom are looking to the US for leadership in defense of liberty – but instead USAID is offering solar panels. This is an affront to the U.S. taxpayer and an insult to those seeking freedom around the world.”
Rep. Matt Salmon (AZ-05) serves on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs as Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere. He is also a member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
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