U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, delivered remarks tonight during the official launch of the Latino-Jewish Congressional Caucus. Ros-Lehtinen is a co-founder and co-chair of the Caucus, which will help bring Members together to advance shared priorities such as promoting religious freedom, fighting anti-Semitism, and countering the growing influence of Iran and its proxies in the Western Hemisphere. Ros-Lehtinen's statement follows, or you may click below to view the video.
"The launching of this Caucus symbolizes the close ties which exist between the Hispanic and Jewish communities. I am confident that the Latino-Jewish Congressional Caucus will help to build an even stronger relationship between our two communities and highlight our shared foreign policy priorities.
"We are very concerned that the Iranian regime and its proxies, like Hezbollah and Hamas, are increasing their influence and activities in countries in the Western Hemisphere. These developments are negative for the U.S., negative for Israel, and negative for the freedom-loving people who live in Latin American countries.
"In addition, we must hold accountable those governments in the region that are constantly attacking religious communities and intimidating their leaders. A recent report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom confirms that, under Hugo Chavez, there has been a steady increase in government rhetoric and action against the Jewish and Catholic communities in Venezuela, leaving these institutions and leaders increasingly vulnerable to attack. Similarly, the courage of the religious communities in Nicaragua to speak up against Daniel Ortega's authoritarian rule has made them a target of his ire.
"The Latino-Jewish Congressional Caucus will have an important voice and be an important forum for policymakers to join together to take action against acts of anti-Semitism, no matter where they may take place. It will also be a venue to discuss policy issues that are of vital interest to both groups, such as the advancement of democracy, protection of freedom of expression, and defense of human rights.
"As Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, I am particularly interested in how our Caucus will enable Hispanic and Jewish communities to bring attention to items that tend to be ignored in the Western Hemisphere. The strong ties between the Latino and Jewish communities make this Caucus a perfect fit for the productive exchange of views on matters of shared interest.
"I am honored to serve as co-chair of the Latino-Jewish Congressional Caucus and look forward to working with my colleagues through this forum to further advance our shared commitment to democratic freedoms and human rights around the globe."