U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said today that she is "disappointed" that President Obama's budget for Fiscal Year 2013 cuts democracy assistance to the opposition in Cuba and Venezuela while increasing development assistance to the oppressive government of Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua compared to the Fiscal Year 2012 budget. In addition, the Organization of American States (OAS) will receive a $1.5 million funding increase. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:
"The President's policy towards Latin America has largely sought to make concessions to the region's dictators, and this budget puts that in ink for all to see. I am disappointed that this Administration continues to downplay the threats posed to democracy and human rights by the Western Hemisphere's despots.
"The U.S. should stand in solidarity with the people of Cuba and Venezuela, who are in desperate need of democracy assistance. It is regrettable that the President's budget turns its back against pro-democracy advocates who are seeking freedom from the shackles of tyranny. Cutting funds for democracy support while increasing aid to rogue regimes signifies that the Obama Administration is out of touch with priorities in the region.
"The Morales, Correa and Ortega regimes have aggressively attacked basic democratic principles and should not receive an increase of U.S. funds this year, as proposed by the President.
"It is also disappointing that the President deemed the OAS worthy of more U.S. taxpayer dollars, even though the organization fails to follow the tenets of its Inter-American Charter and has proven itself unwilling or unable to stand up to the region's dictators.
"This budget shows that the Administration is taking the wrong side. Tyrants like Ortega, Morales and Correa do not deserve more U.S. assistance, and the freedom-loving people of Cuba and Venezuela do not deserve reductions. This budget sends the wrong message to oppressed people and dictators alike."
NOTE: The President's budget cuts democracy assistance to the people of Cuba by $5 million and to Venezuela by $2 million. The budget also provides increases in development assistance to the governments of Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua by $1 million, $2 million, and $3.1 million respectively.