By Congressman Connie Mack (FL)
Earlier this week The Miami Herald editorial page pointed to recent "deft diplomacy' pursed by President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia in response to Cuba and concluded: "It pays to have friends in the region." And "the United States must send a message to its allies in the region that they are not alone."
In preparation for the Summit of the Americas, we must set our expectations.
It is our allies who bolster our economy and our security. The problem we face is that it takes leadership to send this message to our allies in the region, and while the U.S. lacks leadership from President Obama, our allies are finding new friends in the region.
President Obama has not shown leadership with our neighboring allies, and unfortunately, I do not expect to see it arise at the summit.
Colombian President Santos was a frustrated ally when the Obama Administration dragged its feet year-after-year on discharging the Colombia Free Trade Agreement to Congress. In late 2010, Santos referred to Henry Kissinger's axiom: "To be an enemy of the United States is bad, but to be a friend is fatal."
In addition to Colombia, President Obama damaged the U.S. relationship with Canada by overturning a three-year review process that supported constructing a Canadian pipeline. The cancelled pipeline emulates an existing Canadian pipeline constructed in the U.S. Meanwhile, Canada is the United State's largest trading partner, representing a very important ally that our economy and security relies upon.
Meanwhile, the Obama Administration favors buying heavy crude oil from Venezuelan Dictator Hugo Chavez, a man who has devastated democracy in his country during his more than 12-year reign and prides himself on his anti-American stance. Obama is supporting another anti-American leader who violated his own constitution to run for a third consecutive term by requesting an increase in foreign aid for Daniel Ortega's Nicaragua.
It appears that Kissinger's adage should be updated. Now, to be an enemy of the United States is beneficial thanks to the Obama Administration, yet to be a friend is still fatal.
It is time we replace this dangerous precedent with a policy identifying our allies as central to our relationship with the Hemisphere. Supporting those who stand with us is the only way to protect the interests of American citizens, the hard-fought principles of freedom, and the stability of reliable democracies in our region.
As I lead a large, diverse delegation to the Summit of the Americas this weekend, it is important that two points are crystal clear: First, the strengthening of our economy and the durability of our national security starts right here, with the powerful economies in our region and at our borders. Second, Obama has failed to show resolute leadership in these areas, so leadership will continue to originate from Congress.
I have introduced legislation on Mexico, the Organization of American States, and the Keystone XL Pipeline in an effort to bolster our allies and fill the vacuum of U.S. leadership in the region.
This weekend I will lead meetings with the presidents and prime ministers of allied countries in the region. I will relay a clear message to each head of state with which we meet: the U.S. will continue to partner with allies and enhance shared interests while closely monitoring government-led actions in the region that jeopardize a relationship with the United States. A partnership will not prevail if key principles of freedom, democracy and rule of law are not shared.
Leadership is fundamental to establishing prosperous partnerships. So far the U.S. Administration is failing where we have no option but to succeed.
Expectations for U.S. leadership are low. Now is the time to use the Summit of the Americas to demonstrate that to be a friend of the United States is rewarding and to be an enemy is fatal.
On Friday, Congressman Mack will lead a bipartisan congressional delegation to the Summit of the Americas to press for stronger ties with our American allies in the region.