For Immediate Release – Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Contact – Stephanie DuBois, (202) 225-2536 ; [email protected]
Mack: A New Direction For Latin America
Calls for an end to the free reign Chavez has had in bullying and manipulating the region
WASHINGTON – Congressman Connie Mack (FL-14), the Ranking Republican of the House Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, spoke at an Americas Forum last week about the need for a renewed commitment to Latin America and improving relationships with our allies in the region.
The forum, entitled “Danger in the Andes: Threats to Democracy, Human Rights, and Inter-American Security” was sponsored by the Americas Forum, Secure Free Society, the Hudson Institute, the Inter-American Institute for Democracy, the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Center for Security Policy, and FUNDAPREFC (International Assistance for the World, Inc.).
“We should be building off the shared values and beliefs among the citizens of the United States and the people of Latin America such as family and human rights, and the opportunity for our children and our grandchildren to have a good education and quality health care.
“However, these shared values stop at the point that leaders threaten their nations by attacking human rights, supporting terrorism and narco-trafficking, and restricting freedom of speech and freedom of religion. As a result, I don’t see how we, as the U.S., can continue to fight for freedom and democracy around the world without addressing our relationship with leaders such as Hugo Chavez who systematically work against the freedom and democratic opportunities of their people and threaten the security of an entire region.
“I commit to working within Washington to once again raise the profile of Latin America in our foreign policy and re-establish a clear relationship with our allies. Chavez’s free reign of bullying and manipulating relationships in Latin America is over.”
A copy of Mack’s speech from last week’s forum:
“Thank you, Otto.
“The fight for freedom is the core of all human progress. If we start every discussion with that in mind – that the fight for freedom is the core of all human progress – we can make tremendous strides and gains in Latin America.
“I want to talk about a few observations. For the last six years as a Member of this Congress, I’ve watched both Administrations, Democratic and Republican, frankly take their eyes off the ball in Latin America. We owe it to our friends and allies in Latin America to stand with them, shoulder to shoulder in the fight for freedom and democracy. Hopefully now moving forward we can do that.
“So when you look around the region, what are the threats? First of all, we haven’t engaged with our allies, we haven’t engaged well enough with those that support the United States and the ideals of freedom and democracy.
“For example, the free trade agreements between Colombia and Panama – which was hugely important – our government has failed to act on. This failure sends a message to the region that we might not be serious with our friends in Latin America. We need to take care of that immediately. We need to move quickly with the free trade agreements between Colombia and Panama.
“Second, I think this idea that both Administrations have had, as it relates with Hugo Chavez, is almost “hands off” and “let us sit back and let him be on his own,” or maybe that Hugo Chavez is crazy. I don’t buy into either notion, I don’t think he’s crazy and I don’t think an approach to “leaving him be” is going to work.
“Hugo Chavez is a threat to freedom and democracy in Latin America and around the world. He’s a threat when it comes to human rights, terrorism, narco-trafficking, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion. So, I don’t see how we, as the U.S., can continue to fight for freedom and democracy around the world and not take Hugo Chavez head on.
“I would hope as we go into the next majority, and as the chair of the subcommittee, that we would do just that, and take Chavez on, because it’s not good for anybody to support narco-trafficking, to support the destruction of the freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and it’s not good for terrorist organizations that are going to be moving into our hemisphere with an open slate through Venezuela. This is a threat all of us understand, and I hope the American people understand more and more as we move forward.
“I wanted to highlight two things that are happening right now that I think are pretty important. One, I want to reflect back to Honduras. We all watched as a small country and ally of ours struggled for a fight for their freedom and democracy, and they did so by following their constitution and their rule of law. And this Administration’s actions were reckless. How could we call it a military coup? When you have a country like Honduras, a small country, who is willing to fight for their freedom and democracy with the rule of law, we should be standing on their side instead of turning and calling it a military coup.
“So you have the [Honduran] Supreme Court, the Attorney General, and Congress all telling the President that it’s unconstitutional to extend your term limits. The country decides that we’re going to follow the rule of law so they have them removed, as it is said in their constitution that they must do. And our Administration calls it a military coup.
“It’s extremely disappointing, and to this day, we are still punishing Honduras for doing what we would hope all countries in Latin America would do: stand up for their constitution, stand up for freedom and democracy. As long as I’m here in Washington, I’m going to continue to point out the fact that our Administration appears to want to reach its hand out to our enemies while turning its back on our allies.
“The next issue I want to highlight, which I think is very timely, is about the drug kingpin who was recently captured in Colombia. It’s a huge problem for me and I’m sure for all of you. The idea that someone who is placed on many lists in the United States as a drug narco-trafficker, one of the top cocaine dealers that was working out of Venezuela, who was talking to officials and others about the bribes and corruption and connections with the Venezuelan government, and we aren’t in the fight to bring him here to the United States?
“Now, I’ve had conversations with both the Administration and some officials from Colombia, and I think the important question here for us to get to the bottom of is, when did Colombia contact the United States [regarding Makled-Garcia] and when did the United States ask for Makled-Garcia to be brought to the United States? Right now, my feeling is that Colombia asked the United States almost immediately after his capture – by the way, our DEA was involved in that capture.
“Also, my opinion from conversations that I’ve had is that the United States government was not interested at the time and didn’t become interested [in his extradition] until maybe a few weeks ago. So from August until November, there was almost no interest in a guy who was on list after list for known narco-trafficking and cocaine dealing through Venezuela. This is unacceptable and it should be unacceptable to you.
“Our government should stand up and fight and bring him to justice here in the United States. One, so he stands at justice here, and two, so we can gather information that will help us in our fight against narco-trafficking in Latin America and our fight against those in Chavez’s government who are corrupt and trying to destroy the freedoms and hopes of the people in Latin America. Those are two of the pressing issues that I think we are facing today.
“To turn on a positive note, there are shared values and beliefs among the citizens of the United States and the people of Latin America. We believe in family and human rights. We believe as individuals that we all want an opportunity for our children and our grandchildren to have a good education and quality health care. These are things that are shared between Americans and the people of Latin America.
“And I think if we focus on those goals to improve the quality of the lives of our citizens throughout the hemisphere, we will go a long way in snuffing out leaders like Hugo Chavez that believe in the destruction of hopes and dreams. We will support the ideas and uplift the people in Latin America who believe in freedom, democracy, and the rule of law.
“Thank you so much for your time. God bless you.”
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