HEARING OF THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
SUBJECT: THE SUMMIT OF THE AMERICAS: A NEW BEGINNING FOR U.S. POLICY IN THE REGION?
CHAIRED BY: REP. HOWARD L. BERMAN (D-CA)
WITNESSES: PETER HAKIM, PRESIDENT, THE INTER-AMERICAN DIALOGUE; THOMAS F. "MACK" MCLARTY, PRESIDENT, MCLARTY ASSOCIATES; OTTO J. REICH, PRESIDENT, OTTO REICH ASSOCIATES, LLC (FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WESTERN HEMISPHERE AFFAIRS)
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REP. BERMAN: The committee -- the House Foreign Affairs Committee will come to order. I apologize for the tardiness. We had a breakfast meeting with the secretary general of the United Nations and you know how they -- when you are talking about the whole world it takes a long time. So today we're focusing on one critical part of the world.
A few small housekeeping items; Congressman Smith took a leave of absence from the committee in order to go on the Intelligence Committee and is no longer serving on the African Global Health and Middle East and South Asia Subcommittees. In addition, pursuant to a letter from the ranking member, Mr. Pence is not serving on the Subcommittee for Middle East and South Asia. Without objections, those subcommittee assignments shall be changed to reflect these changes.
And I might add that we would expect that Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey will be -- there were a series of errors which led to her not coming on the committee at the beginning of the year, but she will be taking Mr. Smith's place once the House approves the Democratic Caucus recommendations.
To the subject at hand, from a -- I'd yield myself seven minutes. From a foreign policy perspective, we live in a quiet neighborhood. By and large the countries of our region enjoy a shared set of values. With one notable exception, the Western Hemisphere is made up of elected democracies.
Of our three biggest trading partners, two are on our border. Of our four biggest oil suppliers, three live close by. Our economies are inextricably intertwined and growing more so everyday. Remittance flows from the U.S. to the region reached $54 billion in 2007. Culturally and socially, the region enriches the diversity of the United States everyday and in every way.
We are today one of the biggest Spanish-speaking nations in the world. About a decade ago, at the tail end of the Clinton administration, we set out on a path of inattention to our neighborhood and its problems. Here and there we teased the region by proclaiming, as President Bush did in 2000, that the Americas would be, quote, "a fundamental commitment" of his presidency.
But then grave problems appeared elsewhere, and by the end of the Bush administration, our influence and standing in our comparatively quiet neighborhood was as poor as it has ever been. After spending the '90s doing our best to promote and institutionalize democracy and the rule of law, we tacitly endorsed a coup in Venezuela.
After 9/11, when we should have enlisted our neighborhood friends in a methodical and joint counterterrorism plan, we instead ham- handedly lectured a region that had known terrorism for far longer than we had. From our -- with our country's insatiable appetite for illegal drugs, we fueled a regional drug trade and its attendant violence that is today eating away at the institutions of the region's governments.
And then we spent billions of dollars on a heavy-handed and ineffectual counter-drug policy that we left on autopilot years ago. Drug flows have changed little and our emphasis on forced eradication at the expense of harm reduction has made us few friends.
We aggressively extolled the virtues of trade, and then we played hard to get. And last year, in a region in which our past military involvement should cause us to move with exceeding caution, we reestablished, after 60 years in mothballs, a largely symbolic Fourth Fleet. After the fact, we explained to our concerned neighbors that it was merely an internal Pentagon matter.
On April 17th, President Obama will try to change this regional dynamic when he joins other regional leaders for the Fifth Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago. The good bet is that he will be repaired with open arm -- he will be welcomed with open arms, especially given the fine preparation work of the summit hosts and our Caribbean friends.
But expectations are high. Perhaps too high. There are many questions to resolve -- what can the U.S. deliver at the summit or in the near term to begin to repair our relationship? Should we walk in with a plan, or do we simply listen? Are we putting in the right people to fix this? Should we place -- bring back the special envoy for the Americas?
While our gaze was focused elsewhere, the region created a network of groups and subgroups with one common characteristic -- the United States was not invited to any of them. The premier regional political organization in which we do have permanent membership, the Organization of American States, is struggling. How can we make the OAS part of the solution?
Although I have no intention of making this a hearing about our policy towards Cuba, we would be remiss if we did not try to understand better how our Cuba policy plays in the bigger regional relationship. Bolivia's Morales just announced he's throwing out another one of our diplomats; last year he expelled our ambassador and the Drug Enforcement Agency.
Nicaragua's Ortega has spent two years in office confounding even the most charitable reading of his governance. And Venezuela's Chavez, with his most recent verbal tirade against President Obama, has proven it's not just about -- all about Bush. Are we condemned in the medium term to a cycle of unfriendliness with these countries? And is there any new thinking at all about Haiti and its epic problems?
With President Lula's visit days away, we are properly putting effort into our relationship with regional leader, Brazil. Can Brazil help us with some of the tough issues on our plate? Does Brazil even want to?
And finally, there's Mexico. President Calderon is among our best allies in the region, but a proven and solid relationship does not in itself resolve the big issues that we need to tackle together. It's only the starting point.
Ronald Reagan once said that "status quo" is Latin for "the mess that we're in." I would add that that status quo ante for our relations with our neighbors may well just be "the mess that we were in."
We have a unique voice in this region, and we need to reestablish leadership on the positive things we believe in. But gone are the days when our influence or authority permitted us to raise our voice and get our way. It was easier, but as we look forward, it is neither possible nor wise.
And let's just say it, building a wall on our southern border is not going to make any of the big problems to the south go away. Yes, it's great to be able to come home to our quiet neighborhood. But while we were away, things have changed. I think that's what we should have a conversation about today.
And before I introduce our distinguished panel of witnesses, let me turn to our distinguished Ranking Member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen for any opening comments she wants to make.
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN (R-FL): Thank you so much, Mr. Chairman.
Welcome, witnesses. As the chairman had said, democratic institutions in our hemisphere are under increasing assault from internal and external actors. We must help fight this trend not by engaging with leaders who are demonstrably anti-American and anti- democratic in the hope that they will miraculously change, but instead, by standing firmly with our democratic allies and defending freedom as the central tenant of our policy in our Western Hemisphere.
With Ban Ki-moon, I just had the opportunity to discuss the absurdity of having a human rights abuser like Cuba sit on the U.N. Human Rights Council. In Nicaragua, we saw the November municipal elections that were widely recognized as a fraudulent manipulation of the people's right to fairly elect their leaders. Ortega has stripped the opposition of political space, developed neighborhood councils to spy on the political rights of fellow Nicaraguans, consolidated controls over all four branches of the government. In Venezuela, there have been attacks on property rights and the freedom of the press, to decree rule and explicit threats against opponents.
Chavez is gradually stripping the people of their fundamental rights and his ongoing anti-Semitic incitement is of particular concern to me. Since Venezuela was listed by our State Department as a state sponsor of anti-Semitism in 2008, Chavez has only worked to further stoke the fires of anti-Semitism.
With the support of countries like Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, Bolivia, and Ecuador, a realignment is taking place with rogue regimes such as Iran. Iran is working to expand its influence within the region.
The Argentine government concluded that the 1994 attacks on the AMIA Jewish Community Center was, quote, "decided and organized by the highest leaders of the former government of Iran, whom entrusted its execution to Hezbollah." End quote. The AMIA case demonstrates that the Iranian regime has used its embassies abroad to extend its radical goals.
Defense Secretary Gates said, "I'm concerned about the level of subversive activities that the Iranians are carrying on in a number of places in Latin America. They're opening a lot of offices and a lot of fronts, behind which they interfere in what is going on in some of these countries." End quote.
Bolivia and Ecuador are two recent hosts of Iranian embassies and resumed their baseless accusations against the United States. Blaming dissent on the "interference" of the U.S., Bolivia's Evo Morales has expelled our U.S. ambassador and another American diplomat, kicked out our entire DEA presence, removed some USAID personnel and programs, and forced our Peace Corps Volunteers to pull out.
In Ecuador, last September's constitutional reform not only allowed for Correa to potentially extend his presidency to the year 2017, but also forced the closure of the U.S. Manta base, a crucial post for drug interdiction flights. Correa ordered the expulsion of two U.S. embassy officials and we are also seeing these authoritarian leaders establishing alliances with Iran, with Russia, and China.
Fortunately, the U.S. does have strong partners in the fight against narco-traffickers, extremists, and organized crime. There is no denying Colombia's commitment on these core issues. It has made incredible progress against narco-traffickers and the FARC. It has worked to strengthen civil society and its democratic institutions. Colombia should be recognized for this, including with the adoption of the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.
This agreement will strengthen our bilateral ties, while benefiting consumers in both of our nations. Mexico's drug cartel problems is an imminent threat to our homeland security issues. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, referred to the recent spike in violence as a crisis. Our Justice Department reported that more than 700 people were recently arrested as a part of a crackdown on Mexico drug and smuggling cartels operating inside the United States.
And another country in critical need of support is Haiti. A myriad of challenges have placed Haiti at an extreme disadvantage in finally securing peace, prosperity, and stability for its people. I look forward to working with my colleagues to safeguard and advance critical U.S. interests in the region.
And look at that, Mr. Chairman, with time to spare. I yield back.
REP. BERMAN: The order, we will hear from the chair and ranking members of the relevant subcommittees, and then it is, with one exception, the Chair's intent not to recognize one-minute statements because we are going to -- we have three suspensions from the committee on the floor today. We're going to have votes around 11:45 or 12:00, and I want to try and get the witnesses' testimony and as many members to have questions as possible, because my guess is once we recess for the votes, unless -- I won't be able to come back, and I don't know -- we will see whether the members would.
I now am pleased to recognize for opening statement, the chairman of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, the gentleman from New York, Mr. Engel.
REP. ELIOT L. ENGEL (D-NY): Well, thank you, Chairman Berman. As chairman of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, I very much appreciate your calling today's hearing to discuss the upcoming Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago.
Barack Obama's election was greeted with excitement throughout the hemisphere. When I traveled to Paraguay, Chile, and Peru, immediately after our presidential election, there was a real sense of optimism both among the heads of state and the citizens of these countries.
I'm delighted that President Obama will be in Trinidad for the summit and I believe that the goodwill generated by President Obama's presence at this summit will itself do a great deal to reinvigorate U.S.-Latin American relations. I will be leading a congressional delegation to the summit and I look forward to working with the Obama administration as the summit approaches.
As chairman, I've had the privilege of traveling to the region and getting to know many of the heads of state. I encourage President Obama to develop personal relationships with as many of these leaders as he can. In each of these meetings, it will be important to emphasize that the United States wants to once again work with our counterparts in Latin America in true partnership.
In the past several years, we've really been disengaged in the region; we need to be more engaged. If we remain disengaged and others move in to fill the void, we've got no one to blame but ourselves. And by others, I mean the Chavezes of the world, China, Russia, and Iran. We need to be engaged.
Our friends in the region recognize that the U.S. is in a financial crisis and is in a difficult position to immediately promise new aid and trade opportunities. But there are actions that can be announced at the summit that are cause-neutral.
Given the interconnectedness of our economies, everything that happens to the U.S. economy impacts the economies of our neighbors and the Americas. A promise from President Obama to coordinate with heads of state in the Americas as we try to emerge from the financial crisis will be very well received.
In addition, I have spent a great deal of time recently working to curb illegal firearms trafficking from the U.S. to Latin America. A pledge from President Obama that the U.S. will do more to enforce the current ban on imported assault weapons that come into our country and then are trafficked into the Americas, particularly Mexico, would go a long way. Finally, sending the Inter-American Convention Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunitions, Explosives, and Other Related Materials, SIFTA, a 1997 treaty that the U.S. signed, sending that to the Senate for ratification, in advance of the summit will be another opportunity to show our commitment to our neighbors.
Finally, Mr. Chairman, this summit must not be the highpoint of our relationship with Latin America and the Caribbean; rather it must represent a new beginning, where the U.S. shows real respect for our neighbors to the south and pay sustained attention to this important region. In fact, I think, President Obama should bring Secretary Clinton's "reset button" to this summit as a symbolic way of showing that we are ready for a change in how we deal with the region. Again, Mr. Chairman, thank you. I look forward to hearing from our distinguished witnesses.
REP. BERMAN: The time of the gentleman has expired, and now in the absence of the ranking member, I'm pleased to recognize for three minutes, the former chairman of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, the former ranking member of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, the ubiquitous and distinguished Dan Burton for three minutes.
REP. DAN BURTON (R-IN): The former, former -- Mr. Chairman, I hope as many members as possible can join Chairman Engel to go to the Summit of the Americas. I think it's extremely important. Central and South America and the Caribbean are our front door. We've been very concerned about what's going on elsewhere in the world, and I think we should be. But we have some severe problems down there and I think it's extremely important that we participate and be involved more than we have in the past.
We need to get somebody -- a new undersecretary of State for Western Hemisphere, so that they can really get down to work in dealing with some of the crisis that we face down there. Things like in El Salvador, the potential for another leftist leader being elected could cause us more problems in Central America.
We already have Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales, and Daniel Ortega down there, and we don't want that Bolivarian leftist movement to get any more traction than it has in the past. And it is going to cause remittances that go down to those countries to be cut back, I'm afraid, if we continue to see that leftist movement.
We also need to be concerned, I think, Mr. Chairman, about our good friends like Colombia and Mexico. Colombia has been a tremendous ally and President Uribe has done an outstanding job in trying to help us fight in the drug war. And I hope that we will learn from the Summit of the Americas how important it is that we extend our trade agreements to countries with free trade agreements like Colombia because they have been such a stalwart ally in this area.
And finally, I hope that we'll also be able to discuss things like the border issues that we faced with Mexico. Mexico, right now, is a war zone in the northern part, right on our border. And I think it's extremely important that this committee pay more close attention to that and the administration pay more close attention to that. We may even have to send troops down there to protect some of those areas like down around Juarez and -- that border area.
And I think these are issues that we ought to bring up at the Summit of the Americas. There will be almost all of the nations present there and I really think it's important that you have a very strong delegation, Mr. Chairman, and I intend to go with you and try to get other members to go as well. And with that I yield back the balance of my time.
REP. BERMAN: The time of the gentleman has expired. I'm now pleased, as an exception to our minute rule, to recognize my colleague from Arkansas, in order to introduce one of the witnesses, the gentleman from Arkansas, Mr. Ross is recognized for one minute.
REP. MIKE ROSS (D-AR): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I probably won't even take that. I appreciate the opportunity to welcome "Mack" McLarty to our committee. As many people know, former President Bill Clinton, and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, both are from Hope, Arkansas and people are probably tired of Hope, Arkansas. But Mack and I are, and we both graduated high school there and it's good to have him with us today.
As most of you know his career has developed an extensive -- in his career he has developed an extensive knowledge of U.S. foreign and trade policy. In addition to serving as President Clinton's first White House chief of staff, Mack organized the 1994 Summit of the Americas. So it's very appropriate that he be here testifying today; and of course he was later appointed by the president special envoy for the Americas. So as a member of the committee and as an Arkansan and someone that is from Hope, I'm proud to welcome Mack McLarty, my dear friend as one of our witnesses here today.
REP. BERMAN: The time of the gentleman has expired. And now we will introduce the entire panel. Some people, no introduction, but Mack McLarty is going to get two. He is president of the international advisory firm, McLarty Associates, and chairman of the McLarty Companies, a fourth-generation family transportation business.
As the gentleman from Arkansas mentioned, we all know him for his years in the Clinton administration. He served as chief of staff, counsel to the president, and of particular note for our hearing today, the first special envoy for the Americas. He is the recipient of the highest civilian honors of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, and Venezuela.
He is the senior counsel to the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He is senior international fellow to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Our second witness, Peter Hakim, is president of the Inter- American Dialogue, a Washington-based center for policy analysis and exchange for Western Hemisphere affairs. Mr. Hakim previously served as vice president of the Inter-American Foundation, worked for the Ford Foundation in both New York and Latin America.
He has been a regular witness before Congress over a dozen times. He is a regular contributor on hemispheric issues to both American and Latin America news outlets. He sits on a variety of boards and advisory committees and is a member also of the Council on Foreign Relations and he has spent time as a professor at MIT and Columbia.
Ambassador Otto Reich is our third witness today. Ambassador Reich is president of Otto Reich Associates, a consultant firm, which provides international government relations, trade and investment advice to U.S. and multinational clients. In 2001, President George W. Bush selected Ambassador Reich to be the assistant secretary of State for Western Hemisphere affairs where he served until 2002. Ambassador Reich also served as President Bush's special envoy for Western Hemisphere initiatives.
Under President Reagan, Ambassador Reich served as U.S. ambassador to Venezuela for which he was awarded the highest commendations of both the State Department and the Republic of Venezuela. And as special adviser of the secretary of State from 1983 to 1986, he directed the Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America and the Caribbean. From '81 to '83 he was assistant administrator of USAID in charge of U.S. economic assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean.
Thank you for being here today.
Mr. McLarty, why don't you start?
MR. MCLARTY: Okay. Mr. Chairman, Madame Vice Chairman, distinguished members of the committee, I am honored to appear before you today.
Congressman Ross, thank you for your warm words.
I have already submitted my written testimony for the record so today I will talk -- just offer a brief summary. Mr. Chairman, I genuinely feel this hearing is a very timely one, not only as we look out to next month's Summit of the Americas at the Port of Spain, but also to April the 2nd when the G-20 will meet in London, where the United States, Canada, Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico will be participating.
The question that you have put before us is whether our nation has a chance for a new beginning, a new course if you will, for U.S. policy in the hemisphere. I believe we do, and I believe we must seize it not only for the opportunities that it will create, but for the risk we will face if we do not, because the kitchen table issues that affect your constituents, our citizens in our country's daily lives, like the economy, i.e., jobs, energy, the environment, security, can only be managed, at least managed successfully by working directly and concretely with nations in our hemisphere.
While all of the hemispheric leaders are of course familiar with our new president and he has already met personally with Mexican President Calderon, Canadian Prime Minister Harper and will meet this Saturday with President Lula from Brazil, the summit will be President Obama's first formal introduction to most of his hemispheric counterparts. Some have suggested that the president should go to the Port of Spain in a listening mode. I agree, inasmuch as our Latin and Caribbean partners have little interest in hearing a lecture. But for the summit to meet its full potential as a forum, where as Eric Farnsworth of the Council of the Americas has written, serious issues are seriously discussed, he will have to do more than just listen.
The president needs a framework for sustained engagements that treats our neighbors with dignity and respect for their individual and collective concerns. And that shows, as my colleague Peter Hakim has described, that the United States can now be counted on as a dependable partner and a responsible neighbor in achieving common objectives.
So what are the elements of that framework? First, the president needs to get his Western Hemispheric team in place complementing the fine work that Assistant Secretary Tom Shannon has done with ambassadors in place from Ottawa to Buenos Aires to Bridgetown. I think, importantly, he does need to appoint a special envoy for the Americas. President Obama promised to appoint a special envoy for the region. I think it's time to get it done, as a signal to the quality of attention his administration intends to devote.
Second, I believe, the president must direct the rest of his cabinet, not just State and his economic team, but also Homeland Security, Department of Defense, Agriculture, Energy, EPA, and more to engage on a regular basis in ministerial meetings with their regional counterparts. Third, he should have a blueprint for engagement with each country beyond the summit such as regional meetings with the Caribbean countries and Central America, continuing the North American Summit process, regular bilateral consultations with Brazil and Mexico, hemispheric powers in their own right.
And finally, I believe he should call for a bipartisan task force or action group, with members of the executive branch and of Congress, to monitor and encourage summit follow-through and promote collaboration with hemispheric counterparts. He should meet regularly with this group and insist on benchmarks for progress.
At the summit itself the number one priority will be the United States economy. And the most important thing the Obama administration can do for our hemispheric neighbors is to get our own economy going again. Our summit partners want and deserve regular consultation. And frankly, they may have some good ideas to offer.
In particular, they want to be assured the United States will not respond to our domestic challenges by building protectionist walls. Many of the countries in the regions that have implemented sound policies have lifted millions from poverty to the middleclass.
But we should keep in mind the risks that this economic crisis poses for the stability in the region. More than 20 percent of the population in Latin America and the Caribbean lived on less than $2 a day even before the crisis struck. If the economic turmoil leads to social unrest it could put a strain on the region's fragile democratic institutions.
The next item, that's already been noted by a number of distinguished members of the committee has to be the security situation in Mexico and its neighbors in Central America. I want to be clear, I do not believe Mexico is a failed or failing state. But the alarming level of violence needs to be gotten under control for the Mexican people, for the stability and safety of the border region, and to preserve the rule of law. Building on the bipartisan passage of the Merida Initiative, the United States can play a meaningful role by absolutely clamping down on the flow of arms across our border and stepping up prevention and treatment efforts to reduce our own drug demand, and supporting Mexico's efforts to strengthen civilian institutions.
I would respectfully urge President Obama to consider putting Vice President Biden in charge of this vital effort working closely with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. In addition to the vice president's extensive experience in law enforcement and judicial matters, his appointment would signal a U.S. commitment at the highest levels.
On trade, I think President Obama sent the right message during his visit to Canada last month, when he said that his desire is to grow trade, not contract it. He should make good on this pledge by coming to the summit with the U.S.-Panama FTA in hand, or at least, a clear strategy for passage. And a strong forward lean on the U.S.- Colombia FTA as long as labor and human rights benchmarks are included. On energy, there are many issues to be discussed, not only for the security of our base supply, where over 50 percent of our energy imports comes from our own hemisphere, but also interest in ethanol and integrated grids.
On the environment, the Brookings commission study recommended establishing a regional subgroup for climate change cooperation to coordinate positions in advance of the Copenhagen conference. I think that would increase our influence in that conference, and perhaps achieve a more positive outcome.
Another priority area is the joint efforts of lifting people's lives --- the basic fundamental tenet of any working democracy, through support of education, public health collaboration, continued commitment to the "Millennium Challenge" established by President Bush. The private sector has a role to play too, as do educational changes.
On immigration, I think the time has come to move forward with a comprehensive immigration reform, and the United States will need to work closely with our hemispheric neighbors to succeed. I've recently had the privilege of co-chairing a Council on Foreign Relations Task Force on this topic with former Governor Jeb Bush. Effective immigration policy must begin by securing and safeguarding our borders, but it also must reflect realities and the labor force needs we have in this country and the support of economic development in the migrant-exporting countries.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, there can be no question that North, South, and Central Americas' futures, as well as the Caribbean, are intertwined. The question before us is whether that future will be one of shared peace, prosperity, and progress. I am convinced that a purposeful, pragmatic, respectful U.S. policy toward our neighbors significantly increases our prospects for success. And that's the kind of approach I hope and believe President Obama will bring to the Port of Spain. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. BERMAN: Thank you.
MR. HAKIM: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Madame Vice Chairman, thank you.
It's a great honor really to be here to testify and especially to be on this panel with Mack McLarty and Otto Reich. Let me say that I met Mack McLarty just about 15 years ago as we were preparing for the first Summit of the Americas. And now I'm proud to say, he is also vice chairman of the Inter-American Dialogue. And I must have learned a lot from him because my testimony will tend to reinforce a lot that he's said today.
In any event, the summit is really a very critical opportunity, I think, for the Obama administration, to begin really a new period of, what I would call consistent engagement, consistent over time and consistent in message. And it's also an opportunity for Latin America; a consistent engagement with the United States is not only good for the United States, it's good for Latin America. And I think most Latin Americans want that kind of engagement.
I think we heard some discouraging words about the state of Latin America here. I think that I'm more encouraged by developments in Latin America. I think the region has become a region of countries that are more assertive, more confident of themselves, more independent, and that I think, sets a stronger basis, not a weaker basis for a more robust cooperation, more robust engagement with the region.
Let me say that when I travel through Latin America now and I talk to Latin Americans, I'd find there is a certain strange phenomenon -- you sense an enormous enthusiasm for our new president, Barack Obama. Enormous expectations for what he might accomplish in the United States, globally and in Latin America.
Then you ask about the United States and expectations remain low and there is not much enthusiasm. Now, I think it's very hard to hold those two views for very long -- to be enthusiastic about the leader of a country, but unenthusiastic about the country; high expectations for the leader and low expectations for the country.
So eventually, those two are going to have to merge, either the expectations in the region, the enthusiasm in the region is going to rise to partner with the United States, or the expectations for the president are going to decline. And this is where the summit comes in. It's really a very important opportunity for the president to begin that process of really sort of showing that the United States is ready and able to become a dependable partner to engage in this kind of consistent engagement.
Let me say, I think that the way to go about this -- or let me put it somewhat differently. The spotlight in Port of Spain, when the presidents meet, is going to be on President Obama. There is no question about that. They -- whatever the formal agenda is, whatever items are, the real issue will be taking a measurement of our new president, trying to convince him of their views and trying to listen very hard about what he has to say.
And it is very important, I think Mack emphasized this, for him to listen. But it's also very important for him to come with a real message prepared. No one expects him to come with a well-defined, comprehensive plan for the region, or detailed recommendations, but they do expect to hear something about his ideas, something about his -- the directions he is likely to go.
And I think that this is the time really not to talk about the relationship in the broad. Not a time to think about grand visions, but a time to attack specific items on a very difficult agenda. In many respects, it's an unfinished agenda. Many of the items have been there for quite a while. There are new opportunities and new challenges there as well.
Let me say I agree fully with Mack McLarty, the central item at the summit will be and should be the economic crisis. This has enormous prospect of changing Latin America and changing it in rather devastating ways; I think Mack McLarty identified some of them.
This has been -- the past five or six years have been a period of real progress in Latin America on many, many fronts. You have seen economic growth that has been unprecedented in the past 25 years. You've seen a reduction in poverty across the region. You've seen an increase, I think, in democratic stability, particularly in the most important countries of the region. And you've seen the growth of a middle class. For the first time, Brazil has people in its middle class that it has in poverty. Those were enormous advances and the question is, can they be sustained and the threat is that the economic crisis will put them into reverse.
It's important, I think President Lula echoed what Mack McLarty said, that we fix our economy. That's most important because our economy is so vital to virtually every economy in Latin America, from investment, remittances, trade et cetera. But it's not just fixing our economy. It's how we fix the economy.
And in fixing the economy we have to take account of the region; Mack talked about consulting with the region, that's vital. It's also vital that we avoid the protectionism by putting restraints on imports from Latin America, restraints on investment to Latin America, remittances to Latin America -- think -- and to consistently consult with the region.
I think also -- I'm going on a bit about this, because I do think it is very, very vital that as we work on our economic problems and recognize that the way we go about solving them will have an enormous impact on Latin America and the rest of the world. These -- the rest are in no order of priority. I think all of these are important.
One, I think is important, not everyone will agree, but Cuba. It's -- the question is simply whether the U.S. can begin to work with Latin America on this issue, can it align itself more -- this is the issue that will probably capture the most headlines in Port of Spain, what President Obama has to say about Cuba, or doesn't say about Cuba. But it does seem to me that the time has come to work with Latin America on trying to find ways of bringing back a political and economic opening in Cuba and reintegrating it into the hemisphere. And let me say it's something I'm reminded every night because my wife is a Cuban, so -- born in Cuba.
The other -- the security issue Mack has covered rather skillfully on Mexico. But we should remember, it's not only Mexico that's facing this huge upsurge in crime and violence. There is at least -- well, virtually, every country in Latin America is now facing a burgeoning crime and violence problem and it's a regional issue and we ought to be dealing with it as a regional issue.
Immigration, I agree with what Mack said. We have to sort of move towards some kind of comprehensive reform and we also have to deal with some of the symbolic aspects like defense and the war, like the raids targeted against immigrants.
Trade, I just want to emphasize very clearly. I think we have two trade agreements that we've negotiated in good faith with two close allies of the United States. I think to show our credibility, our dependability, we really have to find a way to move forward with those agreements. Clearly, in the case of Colombia, there are concerns about human rights, but these can be resolved. Colombia is willing to resolve them. And there's no reason not to begin to try and move forward on that.
And let me just suggest -- there are lots of other issues here. And I don't want to take up lots of time. But one is that the Caribbean has always been seen as a neglected, ignored area. They themselves -- this is the first summit that's taking place in the Caribbean. It's really very important that the president have a message to the Caribbean. They have the problems of the economic crisis, the security problems, et cetera. And we want to be able to begin to sort of relate, and particularly at this summit.
Haiti, which is a part of the Caribbean, is a particular issue. We've had enormously good inter-American cooperation on Haiti. It's almost a model with Brazil leading peacekeeping, the Chileans involved, the Argentines involved, Canada has made Haiti a priority. This is something we should build on and recognize that it's going to take a long time.
And finally, the Latin Americans are going to be very interested in what we have to say about global issues. They are a continent that has really emerged. They are playing a global role. They want to hear what the U.S. is doing in the Middle East, how it's resolving its -- the Iraq war, its relations with Iran. I think those should not be ignored. The hemisphere is part of the world and the leaders of the hemisphere will be very interested in what the U.S. is doing globally. Thank you very much.
REP. BERMAN: Thank you.
And Ambassador Reich.
MR. REICH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and Ranking Member Ros- Lehtinen and members of the committee. It's an honor to be back in this room and to talk about something as important as the summit.
In the -- just the three years, listening to you generously relate my experiences, Mr. Chairman, from 2002 to 2004, I personally accompanied the president of the United States to six summits in this hemisphere. One U.N. summit, one APEC Summit, one Summit of the Americas, and three sub-regional summits. Summitry is important. But I would like to restate some obvious facts about summits perhaps form the inside that may or may not have been obvious.
A summit -- a summit meeting of this hemisphere presents opportunities as well as risks for the United States. Not all the countries in this hemisphere are good neighbors. Some undermine democracy at home and abroad and threaten regional peace. The U.S. should actively help the good neighbors, reject the destructive, and persuade the ambivalent to rejoin the community of democracies. But we should not delude ourselves; we must deal with the world the way it is, and work to improve it, not think that all leaders are good for their people.
The summit is an opportunity for our president to listen to our neighbors' concerns, but most importantly, to restate what the United States stands for. A president stands for a nation. And our nation stands for freedom and democracy. And there lies one of the risks.
There is a risk that that the summit may descend into chaos, as it did in Mar del Plata, Argentina in December of 2005 when a small group of undemocratic leaders decided to gratuitously attack the United States. In the best of neighborhoods there are dishonest, abusive, or violent persons. In some neighborhoods, there are drug traffickers, thieves, and murderers.
Why is it that we understand that reality when we lock the doors to our homes at night, but not in our foreign relations? There are leaders in this hemisphere who have aided and abetted drug trafficking, massive corruption, and hideous human rights violations. They know who they are, and several agencies of the U.S. government also know who they are. More than one of them of will be present in Trinidad for this summit.
We should listen to our neighbors when they uphold common values. But we should not listen when they put expediency ahead of principle, when they use a summit to embrace a military dictator, as they did, literally, with Cuban General Raul Castro in the Rio Group meeting in Brazil this past December.
Warning signals of the risks at Trinidad abound. Two weeks ago, Hugo Chavez said he was indifferent about meeting U.S. President Barack Obama at the summit. Chavez said he would go, and I quote, "To defend the integration of the Caribbean and Latin America and demand that the empire that Obama leads lift its blockade of Cuba, abide by U.N. resolutions, and condemn Israel." Unquote.
As a participant at the summit, that is Chavez's prerogative, but it does not augur well for a new beginning in this hemisphere. In Trinidad, Chavez will be reinforced by at least two other anti- Americans, Bolivia's Morales, and Ecuador's Correa, who relish expelling U.S. diplomats, confiscating U.S. companies, harassing private enterprise, and then blaming the U.S. for their lack of economic and social progress. When countries expel another country's diplomats for no good reason, they are usually not interested in genuine dialogue.
This is an opportunity for President Obama to restate U.S. support of democracies, real democracies, not those who claim the title simply because the leader were, at some point, democratically elected. This hemisphere has a long list of democratically elected people who later become drunk with power and stayed on until they had to be removed -- Peron in Argentina, Batista in Cuba, Aristide in Haiti, Fujimori in Peru, and I could go on.
The U.S. has many good friends in Latin America and the Caribbean, such as Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Uruguay, and most of the Caribbean nations and Central American nations. President Obama should make a very public demonstration of support for those nations. Trinidad will allow our new president to show that he knows the difference between despots and democrats, statesmen and demagogues.
The President should embrace Mexico and Colombia, for example. They are under attack by our common enemies, narcotics traffickers, organized crime and terrorists; and now the global financial crisis. Mexico and Colombia are ruled by honest reformers that support civil and political rights, individual freedoms, free enterprise, and free markets.
Recently, we have heard Mexico described as a failing state. I disagree. Mexico today is the Colombia of a decade ago. We need to support Mexico like we supported Colombia, in a bipartisan fashion. Plan Colombia was passed by a Republican Congress and signed by President Clinton.
Not long ago, Colombia was also described as a failed state. It has not only survived, it has thrived, and now capable -- is capable of levels of development unimaginable 10 years ago. With our help, Mexico will do no less.
Colombia deserves to be treated as a friend and partner. In the 10 years that Plan Colombia has been in effect, that nation has made remarkable social, economic, and security progress. Mr. Chairman, it is time to create -- help create decent jobs in the United States and in Colombia and in Panama by approving the long-stalled trade agreements with both those friendly countries.
These hearings ask if there can be a new beginning to US-Latin American relations. We must also ask whether it is possible to establish a relationship of trust with governments that violate human rights, that invite the Russian naval fleet to maneuver in the Caribbean, that allow passengers on flights from Iran to land in their capitals without checking travel documents, that purchase weapons factories to manufacture hundreds of thousands of AK-47 assault rifles, that allow Revolutionary Guards to be assigned to Iranian embassies under diplomatic cover, and whose high officials are accused of conspiracy to abet drug trafficking. The same Hugo Chavez who says he is coming to the summit in Trinidad to demand that the U.S. unilaterally lift sanctions on the Castro dictatorship and condemn Israel, is the leader of a government that just this week saw three senior officials, including a close aide to Chavez, accused by the U.S. State Department of assisting narcotics trafficking from Colombia, in an annual report that describes Venezuela as a quote, "major drug-transit country," unquote.
In conclusion, Mr. President -- President Obama said the following in his inaugural address, and I quote, "To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist." Unquote. We may not know for years if a new beginning in hemispheric relations will be achieved at this summit. But if President Obama reminds our friends, our adversaries, and the ambivalent of those words in his inaugural address, the U.S. will be well-served in Trinidad. Thank you very much.
REP. BERMAN: Well, thank you, Ambassador, and thank all of your witnesses. And I now yield five minutes to the ranking member of the committee, from one of the centers of the Western Hemisphere, Dade County, Florida, the gentlelady, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
REP. ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you so much, Mr. Chairman. And I indeed have a whole host of questions. But I'd like to yield my time, if I may, to Mr. Mack of Florida, the ranking member of that subcommittee. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your generosity.
REP. BERMAN: The gentleman is --
REP. CONNIE MACK (R-FL): Thank you. Thank you, Madame Ranking Member.
REP. BERMAN: -- five minutes.
REP. MACK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I also thank the Ranking Member for the time. And this is a most important hearing I think, Mr. Chairman, as we move forward. We have seen -- I guess I'll start by saying I think I disagree with some of the statements that have been made by the panel.
When I look at Latin America, I see real concerns on the horizon.
You see a continuing influence by Hugo Chavez and others in growing away from freedom and Democracy and liberty, and moving more towards socialist-communist-dictatorship-type of governments. And that is not good for the people of Latin America and it's not good for the United States.
But I do think the summit offers a real opportunity for the United States to show it's -- it is serious about engagement in Latin America. And I think it's critical that as we move forward, we are clear to our neighbors that we want to support those who support us, that we want to strengthen our ties with our allies, that we want to walk hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder with those that believe in freedom, democracy, liberty.
And for those that don't, for those that have turned their backs on the concept of freedom, I think we need to be tough. And I think we need to suggest and tell them that we don't -- you know, I don't know how we can continue to support countries that are looking for every opportunity to turn away from us.
I think the president has a real opportunity in -- at the summit. And I think all of us have talked about what it is, what kind of symbols can the United States or the president take to Latin America or to the summit. And I think the most important one is a sense of fairness and a sense of hope. And that we do so by supporting those that support the United States. And that we show strength in opposing those who do not believe in the idea of freedom and democracy and liberty.
So I'd like to ask one question to the ambassador. You made some serious allegations in your remarks that at least one of the heads of states attending the summit will commit serious crimes or have committed serious crimes. I'd like to know who they are.
And also to Mr. Hakim, you talked about Cuba. And looking at -- and changing the policies, our policy towards Cuba. I would ask you, in changing policies with Cuba, are you suggesting that somehow -- if Castro, the Castro brothers were to somehow get their hands on more money and more prosperity for themselves, that that would somehow move out into the rest of Cuba?
I don't think so. And I don't think, you know, this argument somehow that we are going to start supporting someone with a record like the Castro brothers is crazy to me. They've done nothing to show that they are interested in supporting or enhancing the lives of the people of Cuba. They've done everything to suggest that all they want to do is support their own lives and enhance their own lives through an iron fist mentality that destroys the -- every hope that everybody in Cuba wants to have.
And so this talk that we keep hearing about changing our policy with Cuba, I don't -- I think it's irresponsible to suggest that without backing it up with -- how you think that's going to help the people of Cuba when you have the Castros in charge, who are bound and determined and do not want to see prosperity for the people of Cuba. So with that I would ask for comments from the panel. Thank you
REP. BERMAN: The gentlemen have one second each to --
Under the policies announced at our first hearing, I have to say to the gentleman that his time has expired. The two issues that you've raised, I feel, can be worked in through this hearing through other people.
And I now call on the gentleman form New Jersey, Mr. Payne, and yield him five minutes.
REP. DONALD M. PAYNE (D-NJ): Thank you very much. And I'm sorry I can't be as gracious as the ranking member and yield all of my time to you. But it will be interesting to hear your -- the answers to your questions, although I have them.
You know, I'm wondering if there will really be a real kind of partnership with Latin America. In my opinion, we've never had a real partnership. I think President Kennedy tried the Alliance for Progress and the move in the middle '60s. But in my opinion, the policy towards the Caribbean, Central, and South America has not really been, in my opinion, a fair policy.
We, I think in the past, were pretty exploitive, we controlled the oligarchies and the ruling parties. We supported dictators which we hear people talk about. There are people who have dictatorial tendencies today and we're very critical of them. However, during the '30s, '40s, '50s, and '60s we tended to, and even further on, to be supportive of people who were not very fair to their own constituents.
And I don't know -- I think Ambassador Reich, you seem to have -- certainly have the most experience. Seven presidential appointments under three presidents, and have certainly been involved in Latin America much more, I believe, than probably -- or as much as anyone else here. And I just wonder -- and we don't have much time at these hearings, our chairman has a strong gavel.
But I wonder, if there were some -- you know, the way we hear it now is that these new leaders are -- who are indigenous, some of them feel that perhaps they should move towards socialism. We condemn socialism in Latin America perhaps. Socialism may not be the worst thing for Latin America; leaders are elected. They are elected primarily, I guess, because they are looked at as those who can change the plight of their people. There is abject poverty in Latin America, there is -- the wealthy tend to do pretty well.
And so I'm just wondering, did we ever have a flawed policy in your opinion, I mean, listening to the way you are speaking is that all of this new stuff is wrong. Therefore, I guess, you can logically conclude that what was going on in the past was all good. And I just wonder, you know, like in Venezuela, was it a great government and leadership in Venezuela in the old days, did Bolivia have a very just leader because we hear about the new leader of Venezuela is very bad, the new Bolivian leader is not good for their people.
Of course it's clear that there is a very strong criticism of Castro and he has really kind of ruled with an iron fist and not allowed people to have expression. Is there any way -- I mean, if we go down there with this opinion, is there any way that we can change the policy? Or was the policy in the past good and this new regime of leadership bad? I -- maybe you could, in about the two seconds I have left, if you could say something about it.
REP. BERMAN: Make it in 10 seconds.
MR. REICH: Okay, very quickly, in no way am I going to say that some administrations were all correct and some were all wrong. I think that U.S. governments in the last 50 years, which is I think the period you're looking at, have made mistakes, including those that I have worked for.
However, I think that we learned from the lessons of the '40s, '50s, and '60s that you mentioned. And by the '70s and '80s our bipartisan policy, and although I'm very critical of, say, of former President Carter in some things, I'll give him credit for beginning the human rights policy that President Reagan really picked up and ran with.
When President Reagan came to office in 1981, 90 percent of the population in Latin America lived under military dictatorships. When he left eight years later, 90 percent -- more than 90 percent lived under democracy; they were in perfect democracies. They still are. But that was a very important move in the right direction.
Under President Reagan we tried to help the people of the Caribbean. I'm proud to have been rebuffed by "Baby Doc" Duvalier. He would not receive me when I was the head of USAID for Latin America and the Caribbean because I said that we were not going to give money to a corrupt government that violated human rights.
REP. BERMAN: Ambassador, I'm sorry to interject, but the time has expired. Again, I'm confident you'll have a chance to expand on that.
MR. REICH: Yes, sir.
REP. BERMAN: The gentleman from California, Mr. Rohrabacher, is recognized for five minutes.
REP. DANA ROHRABACHER (R-CA): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
And let me just welcome Ambassador Reich, an old friend and who I've worked with over many years; and just call attention to his last statement and underscore that when President Reagan became president of United States, 90 percent of the people of Latin America lived under dictatorship. Eight years later it would -- 90 percent of the people of Latin America lived in democracies. That was no accident. That was a strategy that we would change -- it was a change in the Cold War strategy of using democracy as a means to promoting something positive, to defeat communism, rather than simply being against communism and supporting caudillos like Somoza and others that had dominated Latin America for so long. And let me just note that Ambassador Reich played an important role in that transition and for that the American people should be very grateful.
Unfortunately, we see what was accomplished during the Reagan years and since seems to be eroding today. We see very dangerous trends in Venezuela of course and Bolivia and even in Nicaragua, where the democratic opposition was split in Nicaragua, and former Marxist authoritarians are now back in power. Those things should be of great concern to us.
For example, this weekend there is an election in El Salvador. The election in El Salvador this weekend should be of great concern to all of us. We have former communist guerrillas, people who would have instituted a communist dictatorship on that country, who now are participating in the democratic process, are running neck and neck with people who are committed to democracy and a broad friendship and progress -- friendship to the United States and progress to their own people.
And let me just note, Mr. Chairman, you stated there are $54 billion in remittances that go from Latin America to the United States every year. If we end up with left-wing caudillos which are replacing those former right-wing Somoza-type caudillos that dominated Latin America, we should not be expected to have the same policies toward those governments as we do towards democratic governments.
Specifically, if countries like El Salvador decide to turn to the left and to anti-American regimes, like the FMLN, then they should not expect to have a policy that permits the $4 billion of remittances that come from the United States to El Salvador. That should be true of other countries as well.
Ambassador Reich, what I'm getting at is we should -- the people of Latin America who decide to go with democracy and decide to be friends with United States should be treated differently than those governments that become hostile to us. Would you agree with that as a fundamental proposition in dealing with Latin America?
MR. REICH: May I? Yes, Congressman Rohrabacher. I do agree. The United States simply doesn't have the resources to be equally generous, let's say, or open with every country in the world. When a country, a government, decides that it's not going to be a friend of the United States, when it decides to undermine our interests, whether it be on the international scene, or even domestically. For example, by violating the rights that we consider important or by kicking out our DEA officers that we consider important, or by throwing out a military base as in Manta in Ecuador, that helps the entire region in surveillance of antinarcotics, or when they confiscate U.S. properties, or expel U.S. diplomats, I think they are sending a signal that they don't want to be our friends.
Now, that doesn't mean we should break relations. It means we should certainly not subsidize them.
REP. ROHRABACHER: Right.
MR. REICH: I have said when I was a government official that we should not have normal economic relations with countries that are hostile to the United States. I don't know that that's a very radical --
REP. ROHRABACHER: I think when the people of El Salvador and other countries go to the polls, they are determining the government they will have and they are also determining their relationship with the United States. They should know that if they choose a hostile government to the United States, like the (MFMLN?) down there in El Salvador, then that will be -- determine the policies we have on things like remittances and other economic cooperation.
REP. BERMAN: Thank you. The time of the gentleman has expired. The -- to abuse the privileges of the chair, the $54 billion that I referred to was not foreign assistance appropriated from taxpayer's funds. It was a -- the size of the individual remittances to this hemisphere made by individuals and their own freedom of choice. And I just --
REP. ROHRABACHER: That we permit them do that.
REP. BERMAN: Right.
REP. ROHRABACHER: We'll permit those remits.
REP. BERMAN: I thought we were against takings, but well, never mind. (Laughs.)
The gentleman from New Jersey, Mr. Sires, is recognized for five minutes.
REP. ALBIO SIRES (D-NJ): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for holding this very important hearing today. You know, one of the challenges facing the Obama administration is how to best deal with the current foreign relations with countries such as Nicaragua and Bolivia. How do we move forward in light of blatant hypocrisy regarding fair elections and dismissal of U.S. diplomats? And do you anticipate any confrontation from these countries at the summit, either one of you?
MR. MCLARTY: I think you're raising a very fair question. I think we have to be very thoughtful in how we approach some of the relationships that you note and where there have been positions taken that are clearly either not in our interest, or more specifically, disrespectful of our government. I think we have to be very firm and clear in that regard.
Having said that, I think we need to be very careful not to work against our own interest by overreacting or making a bad situation worst by complicating it with unnecessary statements or positions. So I think we need to be very measured, very careful but when there is a specific situation that we need to firmly speak out on or reject, we need to do that, whether it's at the summit or in the ordinary course of our diplomatic business, or some of the other business that the Congress undertakes in terms of trade preferences and other programs authorized by the Congress.
It's hard to predict how any summit meeting of this type will go with 34 heads of state. My sense is in talking to leaders around the region, that it is likely that those who might be confrontational or disruptive will feel an increasing sense of isolation and an increasing sense of not to be disruptive or destructive in their discussions. So that is my hope, and that's my belief and how I think this summit will go.
REP. SIRES: You know, I just sometimes think that some of these countries, in order to cater favors with other countries, let's say Venezuela, may go to the summit and really be aggressive and really be confrontational because they'll get favored status, let's say, with oil. I mean, oil is a very powerful tool to make countries to be confrontational and have someone upfront do the confrontation.
Mr. Hakim, would you address that?
MR. HAKIM: Let me say, and I think there is a sort of a problem with sort of the framework that there is somehow countries that are our adversaries and countries that are our friends. We are talking about a continent with 34 other countries.
Some really are adversaries and enemies. But this is 34 countries that are very different. They have different histories, some have very turbulent histories, some are richer countries, some are more stable with institutions. One would expect a great variety of governments in these countries.
And it seems to me that we ought to not be looking at sort of the short run, the immediate, to punish this leader or that leader. We are sort of a country that has a 200-year history of democracy. Our job ought to be to sort of assist those countries that are moving toward democracy, to try to persuade those that aren't.
There is no good reason to sort of for the United States, for example, to pick a fight with Bolivia. I mean, Bolivia is a small tiny country. Now, what we should do is continually try to find ways to wean it away from the influence of Venezuela.
Our ending of trade sanctions to Colombia -- to Bolivia, it seemed like a reasonable response to having our ambassador expelled, to having the DEA expelled, no question. On the other hand, there is somewhat 100,000 jobs, coworkers that will suffer. It doesn't help, it pushes Bolivia closer to Venezuela. It seems to me that it doesn't serve the purpose that we want to serve over the longer term.
And let me just bring in the Cuba question, you said that I could work it in. And I want to be very, very --
REP. BERMAN: In your 25 seconds.
MR. HAKIM: -- very, very specific on --
REP. SIRES: I do want to work it in myself but -- (laughs.)
MR. HAKIM: You know, Brazil has promised to invest something like $1 billion in Cuba. Now, you can say that that's not going to help the average Cuban person and that it's going to largely go to the government. I can't answer, I don't have the data to answer that question.
But I do know I'd rather have Brazil investing in Cuba than having only Venezuela there. And I think it's -- you know, Brazil is going to go there with a commercial relationship in mind, a democratic government. And I think it's much healthier than simply leaving it to the Chinas and the Venezuelans.
REP. BERMAN: The time of the gentleman has expired.
The gentleman from California, Mr. Gallegly.
REP. ELTON GALLEGLY (R-CA): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and I want to comment you for being my kind of a Chairman with the way you run the trains on time.
Welcome to all of our witnesses. Mr. McLarty, good to see you back. We worked together many years ago when you had a different hat on and great respect for the challenges that you faced during those times.
I'm going to try to be as brief as I can so that we can have a chance to -- have a couple of answers on a couple of questions but one that really kind of has been a long-term issue that I've associated myself with is the issue of immigration that we have and the challenges that we face. You mentioned the word "comprehensive" immigration reform and now is probably the time.
Now, reasonable minds can differ on the definition of comprehensive immigration reform but it would be very hard in a one- on-one to debate or argue that it is not de facto amnesty. We talk about how many folks we have illegally in the country today. No one really knows. Some say 12 million, some say 20 million. We do know that the 12 million figure was used seven, eight, nine years ago. It will be hard to argue that that number has not increased. I think, probably, in my own mind that number is probably closer to 20 (million) or maybe even greater.
Can you tell me how you believe that from a political standpoint, our current majority here can aggressively try to persuade the American people that de facto amnesty, comprehensive immigration reform, the time is correct when we're facing over 10 percent unemployment? When we take a look in many states like California, when we take a look at the challenges on education, health care, and the criminal justice system with almost a third of our jails and county jails, city jails, state and federal penitentiaries, with populations by, principally, about a third that are illegally in the country having committed a crime, not an immigration violation. How can you tell me that you really think, without taking many members off the political cliff, that this agenda can move forward?
MR. MCLARTY: I don't think there are very many persuasions on the left or the right that feel our current immigration program and system is working in a satisfactory manner. I would start from that that premise. And I don't think you can argue persuasively that the current policies we have reflect the realities that you outlined in your comments.
So I think that calls for a serious addressing of the issue, and hopefully, hopefully the ability to achieve some type of consensus and reform. I don't think you can persuade the American people to have outright amnesty, even though there may have been reasons for those people coming here that were very personal, very family-oriented, but nevertheless, they did not follow the law.
So there has to be some way to address the realities of the 12 or 20 million people that are here and how we deal with that. And I would suggest that from a security standpoint, and for many more reasons, it is essential that we try to address that problem.
I think you have to have a very comprehensive program to have some restitution of those people who are here, if they are going to earn citizenship. I think that has to be done. But I would start with even a more basic premise. And that is we have to start with securing our borders first and then work toward comprehensive immigration.
I think, finally, I think you can make the case from the American people's standpoint -- I realize the economic situation in our country. I understand your point, you had made it very clearly and with great sincerity. But I would suggest that our economy is strengthened if we can get our immigration laws in much better order than they are today, not detracted from. And therefore, I think the wellbeing of all of our citizens would be enhanced with the proper type of reforms that's got to be done on a bipartisan basis. That's what Governor Bush and I are working to try to come with proposals --
REP. GALLEGLY: I certainly can't disagree with a great deal that you said but all too often around here the devil is in the detail, and if we can collectively work on it, maybe we'll be able to move ahead and find us the way. I wanted to talk about Iran but I see my time is down to one second, and out of consideration from my Chairman, who I admire greatly, I yield back.
REP. BERMAN: I appreciate that. And given the subject you talked about, I will refrain from abusing the privileges of the chair.
Gentleman from Texas, Mr. Green is recognized for five minutes.
REP. GENE GREEN (D-TX): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I ask unanimous consent to have my statement placed into the record.
REP. BERMAN: Without objection, that will be the order.
REP. GREEN: Coming from Texas, obviously, Latin America is very important to us and particularly in energy. Many argue that the energy security is an area where there is broad consensus in the hemisphere and it should serve as a launching point for cooperation. In fact, this is one of the three main themes of the upcoming summit.
And additionally, in May of 2008, in a campaign speech, President Obama proposed an energy partnership of the Americas. Having traveled with our Western Hemisphere Subcommittee to Bolivia, and their problems in energy are really not with the United States. It's actually with their neighbors. And a good example -- although Ecuador and obviously Venezuela is a different situation.
Now, how do you all recommend that President Obama approach the topic of energy security at the summit, and then our policy with Latin America more broadly on energy, both in Latin America but also for our own citizens? Mack?
MR. MCLARTY: Well, Congressman Green, I think we've had discussion and dialogue this morning about the proverbial glass being half-full or half-empty. And we've appropriately, I think, discussed some of the concerns and -- deep concerns, problems, and emotional issues that we all feel about the region. Energy is clearly the glass is half-full.
This is a area of enormous opportunity and logical cooperation. And I think it certainly goes to our economic and security in the United States.
And I think many of the major countries in the region are very receptive and have already demonstrated that, particularly Brazil. The fact that we're holding this meeting in Trinidad and Tobago, I think one of our largest natural gas producers to the United States.
I mentioned in my testimony, Mr. Chairman, that 50 percent of energy comes from this hemisphere. So it's a very logical area for us to deepen our relationships and partnerships, and particularly in the renewable energy side. You have Brazil as one of the few countries in the world that is truly energy-independent because of their very skillful use of ethanol and their bountiful blessings of sugarcane in their country.
But they've been very, very skilled in that regard. So I think there is a lot of areas we can work together. Obviously, with the state of Texas, it's a natural you'll have some major private sector players that will understand that. And we would be foolish not to take advantage of that in the Summit of the Americas. And not only to discuss at the summit, but have an ongoing effort with our secretary of Energy and other key cabinet members.
REP. GREEN: Any other responses --
MR. REICH: Yes. Just quickly. Probably Mr. Delahunt may think that I'm picking on Venezuela a little too much. But part of our energy problem, frankly, relates to the fact that Venezuela's oil production has dropped by one-third since Mr. Chavez has come to office. We are far too dependent on oil from other sources from outside our borders as President Obama has said and other presidents of the United States.
And I think it's particularly important, especially at a time like this where the price of oil is relatively low. Certainly, relative to where it was six months ago was -- nine months ago, $147. At $45 we should take advantage of that and begin to end our dependence on unstable countries led by unstable leaders such as Venezuela and others. Not just picking on Venezuela, but other countries, so -- and develop our own resources.
REP. GREEN: Thank you. Let me -- I only have time for one more question. Because this committee held a number of hearings last Congress and I'm a supporter of the Merida Initiative -- and what's happening in Mexico -- again, having a lot of friends and spending time in Mexico real often myself, seeing the tragedy of what's happening in Northern Mexico in -- my concern right now, in fact, there was a meeting in Texas Delegation, bipartisan, today on moving the equipment. It was made, all of these decisions made to there. And to the extent what do you believe that United States needs to review its counter-narcotics efforts and what recommendations do you have in this area?
And do you expect the drug policies to come up at the summit, and additionally what can we do on our side of the border to help reduce the violence? We had hearings on trying to get -- control the firearms that come to the United States and particularly Texas, to Mexico. And some folks have heard it, and Mack, you understand it.
In Texas, we think I've got the right to own every firearm there is, so we don't want to export them to Mexico. But we also know that we have to deal with it on that side of the border but also the technology and the help that we want to give to Mexican authorities.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. BERMAN: The time of the gentleman has expired.
The gentleman from Arkansas, Mr. Boozman, is recognized for five minutes.
REP. JOHN BOOZMAN (R-AR): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I want to welcome all of you, but especially Mr. McLarty. He is a native son of Arkansas. We're very, very proud of him and the way that he served his country and state in a variety of different ways.
One of the things I'd like to ask, you know, that's certainly related. I grew up in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and through the years we've seen a number of different situations where because of economic plight we had a number of refugees, you know, pass through there.
And I guess, you know, because of the economy, you know, the dire straits in the economy, looking forward, can you predict if you see many -- most of these people were fleeing not to -- not for freedom or political things, they were just literally starving to death. Can you look forward, and kind of give us a prediction if you see -- not naming countries, but just what are the chances of that?
And then again, can you give us some advice as far as planning for the future, you know, to make arrangements if those kind of situations occur? It seems to me like it would be, you know, the responsible thing to do now rather than in a situation in the future where we just have to react.
MR. REICH: Anybody in particular?
MR. HAKIM: Now, let me just say that --
REP. BOOZMAN: Any or all.
MR. HAKIM: -- clearly the -- if there is one country that is sort of most in danger, it's Haiti. I mean, this is a very small island close to 10 million people living at levels of a -- an African country in the midst of a civil war, very different from almost any other country in the hemisphere. And clearly this is an unstable situation, and it's going to be there for many years.
I think the solution, the first solution is what we're trying to do now with many other countries to begin to provide Haiti with the basic elements for development. And I think that that's the absolutely crucial. I think Haitians in this country -- and there is a large population, the vice chairman knows that, in this country.
And they are providing a lot of income to Haiti through remittances. I don't think there's any magic wand on this. I think if war breaks out anywhere -- we have the large Central American population in Washington and throughout the country, in part because of the wars in Central America.
There is lots of different reasons for migration. Some of it is economy, some of it is political, some of it is security reasons. And the one country that's, I think, obviously in most danger right now is Haiti, and it probably will be for the next 15, 20 years.
MR. REICH: Sir, the U.S. has provided the equivalent of two Marshall Plans to Latin America in the postwar era, the equivalent in dollars. We should continue our aid programs, but we should also recognize that the main problem in Latin America in development, there's a question -- the answer to your question is economic development.
If people have decent jobs, they'll stay in those villages, whether they be Haiti or Mexico or any other country that sends emigrants to the United States. The main problem, in my experience, I ran our aid programs for Latin America -- it's where I studied in graduate school -- is corruption.
The money that has gone, particularly from governments and ODA, Official Development Assistance, has not been put to good use either because it's been stolen, outright stolen, or been wasted, a lot of it. A lot of it has done good. I can tell you in Central America back to in the Reagan administration, the Central America that we saw in 1981-'82 is totally different from what it is now.
And now, unfortunately, it has -- I think it has the potential to revert if we don't do something, and that what we can do, frankly, is continue to open our markets. This is why the last administration put so much emphasis on trade, because we don't have other resources. We don't have huge pots of money to provide to a country like, say, Mexico with 100 million people, Brazil with over 180 million people -- 53 million of them live on $2 a day.
Those are -- that's the equivalent of an entire country. But the issue is corruption and goes back to Congressman Mack's question about the crime. The crime that I'm referring to is the crime of, for example, that you see in Bolivia where a private oil company owner on his way to give a bribe of several hundred thousand dollars in a suitcase to the head of the oil company is murdered and the money is stolen.
Now, who did it? That should be investigated. The crime in Venezuela, an investigator, the prosecutor by name of Danilo Anderson investigating government corruption is murdered. The investigation stops.
REP. BERMAN: The time that gentleman -- has expired. The chairman of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, Mr. Engel, is recognized for five minutes.
REP. ENGEL: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And let me say Mr. Hakim, Mr. McLarty, it was good having dinner with you last night. And I wanted to just make a couple of statements and then ask anybody to comment on them.
First, let me say, Mr. McLarty, you were President Clinton's special envoy for the Americas. And in my opinion, you were extremely effective, and I think in part because of a combination of your knowledge and your ability to get things done, but because of your relationship with President Clinton.
The Bush administration eliminated the special envoy position. I thought that was unfortunate. But President Obama has said that he will bring that position back to the White House, so I'm happy about that. And I want to know if anybody might want to comment on that.
Let me also say, Mr. McLarty, you had mentioned about President Lula in Brazil saying that the best way for the U.S. to help is to swiftly revive our own economy. In light of that, what specifically could President Obama promise at the summit that would help our neighbors in the Americas as they deal with the financial crisis?
And let me throw out a few things. Would it be useful for us to increase U.S. funding for the International Monetary Fund to help countries in the region deal with the crisis, or increasing funding for developing banks like the Inter-American Developmental Bank and the World Bank? Let me ask that.
And let me also say that in my opening remarks I talked about a few actions that President Obama could take in the hemisphere that would be cost-neutral, but symbolically important.
One of the things I think might be a greater commitment to combating illegal firearms trafficking from the U.S. to Latin America, which I think could in part be shown by sending the Inter-American Convention against the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in the firearms, ammunition, explosives, and other related materials -- we call SIFTA -- sending that treaty to the Senate for ramification.
Anybody would like to comment on any of the things that I've mentioned? Thank you.
MR. MCLARTY: I'll try to comment very quickly. Number one, I do think the envoy position should be reestablished, and President Obama during the campaign, promised that. I think it can be quite an effective coordinating position if done properly. And of course, you've already seen other special envoys appointed to other regions of the world. So I think it would be a particular mistake not to have a special envoy for the region.
Number two, in terms of the overall U.S. economy, I think the first step is for President Obama to really engage in serious consultations with major trading partners within the region and also other important relationships in the region. It would be the proximity as well as trading relationships.
Thirdly, I think there is a case to be made for increased support of the agencies as you noted, but there has to be -- and I'm sure you would fully agree -- strong accountability if any additional funding is put forward. Those would be the three comments I would make. And I would refer to my other colleagues to finish your question. Thank you very much for your gracious hospitality last night.
REP. ENGEL: Thank you.
MR. HAKIM: On the specific items -- I think that somebody mentioned early on in the crisis last fall that U.S. did make available $30 billion in currency swaps to four countries, two of them in this hemisphere, Mexico and Brazil. This was very important, and it didn't cost the United States anything.
A sort of a financial arrangement, but it did reassure investors in the two countries and prevented a real collapse of the currency potentially in Mexico and Brazil, or an inflation.
REP. ENGEL: And those two countries, I think, are very -- the most important in terms of our bilateral relationships with them.
MR. HAKIM: I think that that's also correct. With regard to the international financial institutions, the numbers are huge when we reckon what the countries might mean. The estimates of the World Bank president were somewhere between, for all developing countries, something like ($)300 billion to ($)700 billion to just make up sort of the kinds of resources that would be lost.
And for Latin America, I've seen estimates between about ($)70 billion to ($)250 billion. So the institutions do need more resources. There are some imaginative ways to get at those resources. I've been writing about them in various places, the Special Drawing Rights.
There are ways to increase the ability of the IMF particularly, which is the one that handles the large amounts of money. But also the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank, the Indian development corporation, these are all organizations that have --
REP. ENGEL: Well, --
MR. HAKIM: -- really good records.
REP. ENGEL: Let me just say since my time is up. As chairman of the subcommittee, I will be at the meeting in Trinidad. I hope that we can raise some of these things because it's really, really important.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. BERMAN: And your time is up.
The gentlelady, the Ranking Member Ms. Ros-Lehtinen is recognized for five minutes --
REP. ROS-LEHTINEN: (Off mike) -- so much, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you for the excellent testimony, gentlemen. Would you all agree that failing to move forward with the Colombia FTA sends a negative message to our allies that the United States cannot be relied upon, and that cuts and spending for Mexico that were included in the Omnibus tells the Mexican people and those fighting the drug lords that they should not count on the full support of the United States?
And Mr. Hakim, on Cuba -- first of all, condolences, a Cuban wife, you can commiserate with my husband Dexter on your plight.
MR. HAKIM: (Off mike.)
REP. ROS-LEHTINEN: All right. You refer in your written testimony to the need for an end to the Cuban embargo, but you add whether justified or not. So are you suggesting that we ignore the conditions present in the U.S. law about freedom for political prisoners, free elections, multiparty system, labor unions should be established simply for reasons to send a message of change into the hemisphere?
And thank you to all three of you. Whoever cares to answer would be fine. Thank you.
MR. MCLARTY: I'll take the first two very quickly and then refer Peter to you and Ambassador Reich.
Number one, on the Colombia Free Trade Agreement, I've already said in my written testimony I think President Obama should go to the summit either with the passage of the Panama FTA -- which I think is first in the queue or at least a clear strategy to get it passed -- and with a strong forward lean toward the Colombia FTA. I do think you have to have very specific measures regarding human and labor rights.
But I'm on record supporting that agreement, Madame Vice Chairman. As far as the support to Mexico, I've been -- I've tried to be very strong and clear in my position, in my remarks regarding our support of Mexico. I don't think it simply is a matter of just more money. I think it is active engagement and focus.
And going back to an earlier question in terms of Chairman Engel's comments about the trafficking of guns, in no way does this get into any of the gun issues. We feel just like --
REP. ROS-LEHTINEN: Thanks, Mack. I'm going to cut you off.
MR. HAKIM: First, let me just -- on the Colombia issue, I would like to put it in the positive way that if we were able to move ahead with this, if we were able to sort of approve this agreement in Congress, I think it would mean a good deal to our relationships, it would increase our credibility across Latin America.
So I agree with you, but I think the positive is better than the negative on that one. On Cuba, yeah, I probably should commiserate -- (laughs) -- with your husband. But let me say, I think we're all after the same thing.
If you've read the false (ph) item under Cuba in there, I think Obama should not only go to Cuba with some idea that there is going to be some opening, but that he should make clear that he expects the other countries in Latin America to worry about political and economic opening, to worry about democracy in Cuba as well.
In other words, that shouldn't be just the United States' interest, it should be the Hemisphere's. And right now, it's impossible to work with the rest of the Hemisphere because our policy is so far at a line with everybody else in the Hemisphere. I think we would move much more quickly, much more steadily toward a democratic opening in Cuba, frankly.
My view if, in fact, we were able to work with countries like Spain and Brazil and Canada -- all have rather extensive relations with the countries. And I much rather have them have the relationship than the Venezuelas, the Irans, or the Chinas, frankly.
REP. ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you.
And Ambassador Reich, what do you think of this concept of lifting the embargo on Cuba with no preconditions and yet for Colombia, oh, let's whack them with all of these conditions?
MR. REICH: I have never seen in my years in government, a government more determined to negotiate with itself. The Cubans have yielded absolutely nothing in this debate. All the concessions are unilateral on the part of the -- whether it's a Carnegie Endowment Report, whether it's Senator Lugar's staff report, they say, you know, just lift the embargo, lift the embargo.
And after 50 years, Fidel Castro will immediately release political prisoners, allow free trade unions, you know, do all the things that he's never done. I mean, I don't know what they are importing, frankly, from Latin America.
REP. ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you very much, gentlemen.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. BERMAN: Gentlelady has yielded back her time.
The gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Connolly, is recognized for five minutes.
REP. GERALD E. CONNOLLY (D-VA): I thank the Chair.
And I want to say hello to Peter Hakim. You may recall we used to work together 20 years ago when I was in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It's fun to be back, and you're still here.
MR. HAKIM: (Off mike.)
REP. CONNOLLY: Let me ask a question. I'm someone who believes that focus often helps. When we look at the summit in the CRS report prepared for today's hearing, they point out that there are 600 initiatives that have been introduced through the summit process. What constructively can really be accomplished with that kind of diffused lack of focus?
And how do we monitor progress on such initiatives? And frankly, is the summit the most useful of platforms for the United States in the pursuit of diplomacy in the region?
MR. HAKIM: Let me -- because I'm going to just plagiarize from what something Mack McLarty said yesterday. So if I let him talk he'll say it, and then I won't have something to say. But the idea of the summit initially was not to sort of come up with mandates for the hemisphere, to come up with huge plans, but really to change the tone and texture of relations among the countries of the hemisphere.
There hadn't been a meeting of the heads of states since 1967, almost 25 -- yeah, more than 25 years since there had been a meeting. Just the very fact that the U.S. called the meeting, asked the heads of states, suggested that there was something of a community of nations, probably a loose community at best, but still that there was something that binds the hemisphere together.
I frankly have never thought the -- working through this list of deliverables, this list of mandates, initiatives, is terribly helpful. I think what the most important thing is to get the leaders together, to talk at this summit. Particularly, I think the formal agenda will be less important than the open discussions among the presidents, and obviously with the spotlight on our President Barack Obama.
REP. CONNOLLY: Mr. McLarty?
MR. MCLARTY: Well, first of all, thank you for bringing us back to the real world and underscoring some accountability in the process and the bottom line, that is well resolved, what kind of programs really help people or help strengthen Democracies? I think you're right on point. Obviously, 600 is far too many.
I agree with Peter in terms of the overall framework of the summit, the tone, the relationships, but I do think you can have a measured number of specific initiatives. I think you can have more than one or two, because you have the full cabinet who are anxious to engage in the region for the most part, and have common interest or common problems.
And I think on a couple of the much higher level priorities like security in Mexico, you need to have a strong engagement by the executive branch on that. So I think that's how the process should be broken down. I tried to suggest some, at least, ways to pursue that in my testimony. Thank you.
REP. CONNOLLY: Ambassador Reich.
MR. REICH: Yeah, on democracy, I think we need to be very clear that democracy is more than just an election. A lot of the -- I refer to what I said in my prepared remarks -- a lot of them -- the heads of states that are going to the summit and go to other summits are democratically elected leaders.
And a lot of people say as long as they're democratically elected, we have to respect what they do. I disagree. To be a democrat, a small "d" democrat, you have to rule democratically. It's not sufficient -- it's essential to be democratically elected, but it's not enough. You have to respect the rights of the people, provide opportunities. We can help provide those opportunities.
And I agree with my colleagues as to some of the things that we can do. I'll give you a specific example with Brazil. When President Lula came in -- and it refers a little bit also to Mr. Payne's question about whether we reach out to governments that we don't certainly agree with. When President Lula was elected in Brazil, I was the assistant secretary of state.
He was -- he had been a far left radical in Brazil. But we recognize the fact that he was also a small "d" democrat, had run for president three times, had lost, had never become violent, never become a terrorist like some of his colleagues. And we made a decision to work with him.
President Bush reached out to him, set up a series of bilateral cabinet-level working groups across the economic and social spectrum that assisted enormously in some of the gains that Peter Hakim mentioned earlier that Brazil has achieved in the last few years under President Lula. We can do this with left-of-center Democrats, with right -of-center Democrats, we just can't work with extremists.
REP. CONNOLLY: Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. BERMAN: Time of the gentleman has expired.
The gentleman from New Jersey, Mr. Smith.
REP. CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH (R-NJ): Chairman, thank you very much.
You know, on that question of working with President Lula, he will be in town, as you know, this week. The House has a resolution on the floor later on today, H. RES. 125 that speaks to a very serious problem of child abduction.
There is a man in my district -- just outside of my district, David Goldman, who had not seen his son for four-and-a-half years, utterly frustrated by the abductors, the kidnappers -- his wife is dead. So there's no mother involved. She died last August. And we have been trying very hard to get the Lula government to step in.
I do believe that there are people within this government who get it, who understand it, that they have an obligation under The Hague child abduction treaty. But you know, words are good, sentiments are good, but we need actions and deeds. And our hope is -- and you might want to speak to this one, any of our panelists. You know, there are 51 cases arising out of Brazil, several hundred in Mexico.
The number is 2,800 children worldwide who seem to fall into the category of Hague, you know, where they should be returned home to their habitual residence and to the left-behind parents and have not been. It seems to me the summit offers an opportunity to accelerate the training of judges or the call for the training of judges.
Many of the judges were not Hague-literate, particularly at the lower court levels who were dealing with this case. And again, he had not seen his son for four-and-a-half years. I was there when they had their reunion. And it was a moving experience. The son recognized him. By an hour's time, playing -- they were actually playing around the world basketball and laughing and joking just like dads do. And yet he's still separated from father and son.
Secondly, Frank Wolf and I tried to get into Cuba a month ago to meet with Dr. Biscet to (raise?) political prisoners who are today being tortured and mistreated in the Cuban gulags. It seems to me that we need to say to our president, if you're going to make any move whatsoever into the Congress, absolutely the precondition has to be the unfettered release of these brave, noble, the best and the brightest and the bravest of Cuba, who suffered for democracy and for human rights.
They are the Vaclav Havels, the Lech Walesas, the Harry Wu, the Wei Jingshengs of Cuba. They are great people, and today they languish and are so mistreated. So if you could speak to those too.
MR. REICH: Mr. Smith, I am a little bit familiar with the Goldman case. I think what it points to, frankly, is the need for one of those elements that is inherent in this entire hearing, the importance of the rule of law. And we haven't specifically mentioned it implicitly, but it's been (explicited ?).
It is an essential element to economic development which in turn affects terrorism, immigration, and everything we've been talking about. And I would really hope that the Brazilian authority would recognize the human tragedy inherent in this case, and you know, return the child to his natural father. But I'm not a lawyer, I mean I don't have -- I don't represent anybody in this case.
As far as Cuba, I agree with you completely. What I understand -- also you mentioned, I'm glad you mentioned the case of Biscet. A doctor, Afro-Cuban, who's been in jail because he opposes the government's forced abortion policies, for example. I mean, moral -- this is a moral case. And yet, Castro despises him personally because -- among other things, because he is Afro-Cuban.
And Castro believes that all Afro-Cubans should be very happy with him, because he told them that he had liberated him. In fact, that's one of the most racist government structures in the world. There are very few members of Cuban minorities in the Castro government. I'll yield the balance of my time.
MR. HAKIM: I can't really speak for the Brazil case. But let me just say, I'm always concerned about preconditions. I would like to see all the prisoners released, no question. I sit on the advisory committees of several human rights groups and the like. But the question is how do you get it done. And that would be the question, and I would want somebody who is a professional negotiator to be involved.
I think the pressure from other Latin American countries, from European countries would be helpful. As long as Latin American countries see us as sort of their adversary on the issue of Cuba, they're not going to be helpful on many of the issues we want.
It seems to me that the outcome in a year, six months better, three months ever better, are beginning to get these prisoners out of jail and back to good health and back to good nutrition is crucial. But the question is to make it a precondition may, in fact, lengthen their time there in jail.
REP. SMITH: To make it --
REP. BERMAN: The time of the gentleman has expired.
The gentleman from New York, Mr. Meeks, is recognized for five minutes.
REP. GREGORY W. MEEKS (D-NY): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
So much to say, so little time. Let me just try to get some points out first before we run out of time. From my point of view, one of the things that is most important that we do do is -- I'll deal with the trade agreements first. Two negotiated trade agreements that we have with the hemisphere that I think that the world is looking at to see what we do.
It is important that we pass Colombia and Panama, because wherever I go in Western Hemisphere or in South America, those are the questions that are asked of me, whether or not we're going to pass it. And when you look at what Colombia has done, as I think stated here, if you could look at Colombia now as opposed to 10 years ago, there's no question of the tremendous progress they've made and continue to make.
If you look at it from a selfish point of view, you know, as far as whether or not there is a bilateral trade deal, whether or not we are accepting goods into our country and they're accepting our goods into theirs, it is -- no question about it.
So to me, it sends -- and it would be important for the president of the United States to send a signal to the rest of the region that, yes, those trade agreements that we've negotiated with both Colombia and Panama that we are going to pass that. I think that's tremendously important.
I think that it is also important that we realize and talk about what we can do in the region as opposed to pointing fingers at anyone else, understanding that a lot of the countries that people are pointing at and others, there's abject poverty.
And I think we would be more constructive if we were talking about how the United States could be more facilitating or an inclusion in the region for poverty reduction and social inclusion. That's also with reference to the Caribbean, who has to be an integral part of this conversation. Because when you talk about these areas and we point fingers and you try to put people down, the question -- the fact of the matter is -- and this is the good thing -- that democracy is alive and well.
And I think sometimes people forget what democracy is. Democracy means that the people go and they vote and they choose the way that they live. Now I've been to Venezuela. I've seen some of the elections there. And I've got to tell you that people have come out to vote. Same thing in Bolivia. Bolivia for the first time has an individual who is indigenous to the country.
And therefore just as the president of this country go to their populous who they support -- who supported them, that is what's happening with some of those presidents there. It is called democracy. Now democracy -- you know, we call it democracy in the United States. Yet 50 years ago -- and this shows you how long we've come -- 50 years ago in the United States, my father couldn't vote in the south, but we still called it democracy.
And we said if any country looked bad at us or called us names, even then we said shame on you, who are you. And now we come back. And we've made great progress in this country to go to these same countries and try to tell them who are you, when we wouldn't want it happen to us. We should first look at the mirror -- in the mirror, to determine the man in the mirror before we start going and criticizing everybody and say we're going to divide this hemisphere up.
The hemisphere itself in South America, they're trying to come together. But yet we're trying to divide them and make them choose if you want to be with us you got to be against them. What good is that? So what is the role that the United States is going to play with Unisa (ph) who's trying to come together so they can have regional security which, if that happened, that helps us?
You're talking about, you know, if you want to prevent it; if there's regional security, that benefits us. So why aren't we talking about how we can properly interact with Unisa, so that we can make sure that we're now working well on the entire hemisphere for the benefit of all?
I mean part of this hearing I'm hoping -- I wished that it wasn't all televised, because I think the people are laughing all over the place saying, what's going on here? And we call ourselves the United States of America who wants to promote democracy when we are -- you know, it's almost hypocritical, and that's the problem.
Sometimes people are looking at us as hypocrites. This conference will give the president of the United States to show the change that he was talking about not only domestically, but foreign -- with foreign policies also. And so I think that there is great opportunity to happen in Trinidad, but we've got to talk with people, respect people, and understand our own history.
REP. BERMAN: The time of the gentleman has expired.
The cherry on the Charlotte russe might be Mr. Delahunt, because we do have votes. And the real question is do people want to come back, do people who want to come back afterwards. I have three suspension bills from the committee on the floor and the ranking member does as well. We need a presiding officer.
But in any event, Mr. Delahunt is now recognized for five minutes. Every member has gone around once, so --
REP. BILL DELAHUNT (D-MA): I'll be happy to return, Mr. Chairman. I'll take the gavel.
REP. BERMAN: You'll take the gavel? By the way, you get the five minutes.
REP. DELAHUNT: You get the 10, 15 minutes when you take the gavel.
REP. BERMAN: Do you want him -- do you want to come back?
REP. DELAHUNT: No, I don't want to hold our witnesses up. I'll just echo the comments by my friend from New York. But I'll do it in a more moderate tone. I think what I've heard here today, first, it's of concern, because I think Mr. Meeks is correct. What I hear is words and rhetoric that would divide our policy in very simplistic terms into good guys and bad guys. And we've been through that. You know, that famous where -- you're with us or you're against us.
I really think that we have to move on, because we saw and have witnessed over the past eight years what that achieved for us. And at least what it achieved in Latin America was resentment. I'm reminded of the poll by John Zogby which pose a very simple question -- how would you grade the United States government handling of our relationships with Latin America.
And it was 86 percent negative and 13 percent positive and I guess 1 percent was undecided. So we didn't do too well during the Bush administration in terms of Latin America, no matter how many summits were held. Clearly there was resentment, because we were perceived to be, as Mr. Meeks said, telling them what they had to do. That era should be over.
I'm really disturbed when I hear that somehow we're going to hold up remittances to El Salvador if they dare vote in an election for a government that we might not like. I thought we won the Cold War, Mr. Chairman. And I'm presuming -- at least my information is that the FMLN is no longer considered a terrorist organization much like the IRA and the Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland morphed into mainstream Irish politics and democracy.
So I think it's very, very dangerous not to be labeling all of them. You know, the ambassador mentioned in the earlier reference to Venezuela and that he was picking on me. I don't think you're picking on me, Mr. Ambassador, we've had disagreements about your policy vis- à-vis Venezuela.
And you know, you mentioned in your remarks that it was important that President Obama send a signal that he knows the difference between despots and democrats. Let me assure you he does. I have no doubt. I have full confidence in President Obama. He'll know that distinction.
And I daresay in the case of Venezuela, he would not have made an effort to support tacitly the coup. He would not have attempted to influence other ambassadors in other nations in Latin America to confer legitimacy to the Carmona government, which as you know, Ambassador Reich, because you were part of that effort.
When Pedro Carmona swore himself in in Venezuela, his first act was to abolish the national assembly, to abolish the judiciary, and I don't know what other democratic institution was abolished under Mr. Carmona, but I dare say that prompted the return of Hugo Chavez.
So I don't think that President Obama would have made the mistake of tacitly supporting a coup and then conferring or tempting to confer some legitimacy on a government that clearly was undemocratic --
MR. REICH: Neither did we, sir --
REP. DELAHUNT: No.
MR. REICH: -- and I'm afraid I'm not going to have time to respond, but I have to respond --
REP. DELAHUNT: Well, you know what? You know, we have these rules here. I have the floor. You're not yielding the time. I have the floor. And I'll yield back.
REP. BERMAN: The time of the gentleman has been yielded back.
The -- do you want second rounds? I mean, we have six minutes to get to the floor for votes. Do you want to chair it? Well, first of all, a word to the witnesses.
Did you plan to have lunch today?
MR. REICH: I would be very interested, Mr. Chairman, if I could, in responding to what -- to Mr. Delahunt's allegations, because they're serious allegations.
REP. BERMAN: Well, I'll tell you what. I will take the time, which I haven't taken yet on this round, and give you a minute to respond. How's that?
MR. REICH: Very quickly, sir. I was the assistant secretary of State when those events took place. I personally ordered --
REP. BERMAN: I thought you weren't. I thought you would -- were you assistant? I guess you would know, but I was told you --
I guess I was told that you were no longer --
MR. REICH: To the best of my recollection, sir, I was the assistant secretary of State on April 11, 2002. I instructed Ambassador Charles Shapiro to find Mr. Carmona and tell him that if he swore himself in -- this, by the way, is a matter of the record of the State Department and it's in the investigation of the inspector general that followed these events -- just to make sure we're all telling the truth. The State Department inspector general was doing his job.
I instructed Ambassador Shapiro to tell Mr. Carmona that if he swore himself him in violating Chavez's own Constitution, that he could not count on the support of the United States government, and we would have to impose economic sanctions, number one. So, Mr. Delahunt, I'm happy to --
REP. DELAHUNT: The gentleman would yield, okay?
MR. REICH: Yes.
REP. DELAHUNT: I will yield. I thank the Chair.
You did not convene a meeting of Latin American ambassadors in the State Department --
MR. REICH: Certainly.
REP. DELAHUNT: -- to urge them to recognize the Carmona government?
MR. REICH: The Latin American ambassadors requested a meeting with us to find out --
REP. DELAHUNT: Did you urge them to --
MR. REICH: No.
REP. DELAHUNT: You did not?
MR. REICH: I did not.
REP. DELAHUNT: That's your testimony here right now in front of this committee? Okay.
MR. REICH: The --
REP. DELAHUNT: I'll accept that. Is that your answer?
MR. REICH: That's -- well --
REP. DELAHUNT: Is that your answer, Ambassador?
MR. REICH: My answer is that we told the Latin American ambassadors what we believed was taking place in Venezuela at the time. But I'm telling you that we did not tacitly endorse a coup --
REP. DELAHUNT: What I'm asking you is, did you urge?
MR. REICH: No, I did not urge.
REP. DELAHUNT: You did not urge the Latin American ambassadors to recognize the Carmona government --
MR. REICH: No.
REP. DELAHUNT: -- in the State Department.
MR. REICH: I do not -- you know, I do -- the events of that week, by the way, where nobody in the State Department got much sleep. The events of that week are compressed. I do remember the meeting that was -- that my deputy came to me and said, the Latin American ambassadors want -- are asking for a meeting.
They want to know what's going on in Venezuela. I said, I want to know what's going on in Venezuela too. I don't know, because our ambassador, Charles Shapiro, could not find out what was going on. And that's when I told him --
REP. DELAHUNT: He was on the scene in Caracas at the time.
MR. REICH: He was on the scene in Caracas at the time.
REP. DELAHUNT: Right.
MR. REICH: We did not --
REP. DELAHUNT: Where was the Rio Group on 11th and 12th? They took action. Do you remember that?
MR. REICH: Yeah, the Rio Group was meeting, I think, in Panama. And they condemned the -- I don't know, 11th and 12th. It was actually a little later, if I'm not mistaken. It was that weekend. The events for April 11th, a Thursday -- and I think the Rio Group was meeting in Panama Saturday.
Saturday night was the night that the Venezuela military brought Chavez back, because -- you are correct -- because Mr. Carmona violated the Constitution, swore himself in, in spite of everything that the United States government, in my person and the ambassador of the United States, Shapiro, told him we were going to have to do.
REP. DELAHUNT: Well, thank you.
REP. BERMAN: This is exciting. This is wonderful. This is what I came for, but I got to go vote, so --
The committee hearing is adjourned. I thank all our witnesses very much. We touched on a lot of important issues. And I appreciate it.