U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that she opposed the Administration's proposed increase in U.S. assistance to Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Ecuador in the Fiscal Year 2013 budget request. Ros-Lehtinen also criticized the Administration for cutting democracy assistance to those standing up for democracy in Cuba and Venezuela. Ros-Lehtinen made the remarks during a Committee hearing titled "Assessing U.S. Foreign Policy Priorities Amidst Economic Challenges: The Foreign Relations Budget for Fiscal Year 2013," during which the Committee received testimony from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:
"The budget for the Western Hemisphere -- which is not mentioned in [your] prepared testimony -- is another example of misplaced priorities. The Administration has requested an increase in funding for the general budget of the Organization of American States (OAS), yet you cut U.S. contributions to the OAS Fund for Strengthening Democracy by almost 2 million dollars.
"The Administration is proposing increased financial assistance to Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Ecuador -- three governments that continue to undermine U.S. security interests in the Hemisphere, disregard human rights, and ignore the rule of law. There can be no justification for such an increase in funds to these countries.
"In Nicaragua, State has spent millions to promote free, fair, and transparent elections. That money was not used wisely, as the elections in Nicaragua were fraudulent and ran afoul of the Nicaraguan constitution. We must not repeat last year's performance in Ecuador or Bolivia, where State spent more money on environmental programs than counter-narcotics operations or good governance.
"This budget fails to hold abusers of democracy in the region accountable, and cuts support for democracy. Instead of standing in solidarity with the Cuban and Venezuelan people in their time of need, this budget turns its back on them. Repression continues unabated in Cuba. The Castro regime orders its state security forces to beat members of the Ladies in White as they leave church services on Sundays. Prisoners of conscience die, while many worldwide turn a blind eye to their plight. In Venezuela, the Chavez regime has demolished the authority of the National Assembly, and intimidated the opposition by leveraging control over the judicial system."