U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, released the following statement today on Defense Secretary Panetta's recent comments about the danger of Iran's expanding influence in Latin America. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:
"Merely recognizing that the threat of Iranian activity in Latin America exists is not enough. I am concerned that the further emergence of this threat has caught the Administration flat-footed, and that it does not have a comprehensive policy in place to protect our interests and push back against Iran's encroachment. The President himself didn't even raise this important issue during the recent Summit of the Americas.
"Iran's Ahmadinejad recently concluded his "Tour of Tyrants,' designed to further Tehran's partnerships with the anti-American regimes in Venezuela, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Cuba. At the same time, the Administration's focus in Latin America has not been on increasing security cooperation with our democratic allies, but on accommodating the region's despots and proposing funding increases for regional environmental programs.
"The Obama Administration must develop a comprehensive strategy to address the growing Iranian threat in our Hemisphere to protect the interests and security of our nation and our democratic allies."