Today Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee and Congressman Albio Sires (D-NJ), Ranking Member of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, introduced bipartisan legislation, HR 1687 - Countering ALBA Act of 2013. The Countering ALBA Act is a bill that:
Directs the United States Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States (OAS) to use the voice, vote, and influence of the United States at the OAS to defend, protect, and strengthen the independent Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to advance the protection of human rights throughout the Western Hemisphere.
Urges the President to sanction persons who are officials of ALBA Governments or persons acting on behalf of ALBA Governments, who the President determines are responsible for or complicit in the commission of serious human rights abuses against citizens of ALBA countries. Such sanctions may include: ineligibility for a visa to enter the United States, blocking of property, and prohibition on financial transactions pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.
Calls on the President to transmit to Congress a report on persons that are engaged in censorship or other activities with respect to ALBA countries that prohibit, limit, or penalize the exercise of freedom of expression or assembly by citizens of ALBA countries; or limit access to print or broadcast media.
Directs the Secretary of State to transmit a comprehensive strategy to ensure that ALBA governments are democratic governments that are committed to making constitutional changes that would ensure regular free and fair elections and the full enjoyment of basic civil liberties and human rights by the citizens of ALBA countries; and have made demonstrable progress in establishing independent judiciaries and electoral councils.
Ros-Lehtinen said on the introduction of the bill, "I thank my colleague Congressman Albio Sires for joining me on introducing the Countering ALBA Act. Last month, ALBA leaders failed in their attempt to weaken the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights at the Organization of American States and the latest human rights report from the Department of State illustrates that the regimes in Venezuela, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Bolivia continue to oppress their people and violate human rights. This important bipartisan bill will hold the oppressors accountable by sanctioning those persons who are responsible for or complicit in serious human rights violations and directs the President to defend and protect the independent Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The elections in Venezuela and Nicaragua reminds us that democratic principles continue to be under threat in the Hemisphere. The bill also calls for the Secretary of State to create a comprehensive strategy to ensure that free and fair elections are held and reforms are made to establish real independent judiciaries and electoral councils.
Sires said on the introduction of the bill, " I join my colleague, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, in advocating accountability against persons responsible for human rights violations and calling for strengthening the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. This Act will help advance the principle that democracy, rule of law, and freedoms of expression should be freely exercised by all peoples in the hemisphere."