U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, made the following statement regarding President Obama's trip to Mexico and Costa Rica. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:
"It is disappointing that the President once again concludes a visit to Latin America without any coherent strategy on how to advance U.S. interests in the region, promote democracy, and hold accountable those regimes that oppress their own people. During his trip, the President acknowledged the ongoing crisis in Venezuela but failed to offer what actions the U.S. government would take in order to respond to the calls for democracy by the Venezuelan people. At the same time, the President failed to condemn the illegitimate elections in Nicaragua and Daniel Ortega's successful attempts to violate the Nicaraguan constitution multiple times. How can we expect the President to stand firm to Maduro now in Venezuela, when he has no problem sitting at the dinner table with Daniel Ortega who engaged in the same tactics as Maduro and prevented a free, fair, and transparent election from occurring?
"When it comes to security, I have continued to voice my concern that Iran, its proxy Hezbollah, and other foreign terrorist organizations may be joining forces with the drug cartels or the gangs in the region to use narco-trafficking to finance their illicit operations and smuggle weapons and humans closer to our own border. In Mexico and Central America, the issue of narco-terrorism is real and rampant throughout the region and must be met head on by strengthening institutions and providing sufficient security assistance to our allies in the region. According to President Obama, the U.S. has much to apologize for: when the guns are used in Mexico, it the U.S. supplier, not the Mexican consumer, that is at fault; but when the drugs are used in the U.S., it is the U.S. consumer, not the Mexican supplier, that is at fault. The only common element is that when the U.S. is anywhere in a sentence, the U.S. is at fault. Let's stop apologizing to countries, Mr. President.
"I hope this trip helps the Administration recognize the economic importance of our relationship with Latin America which can only improve in an environment of open markets and free societies. Just this week, Bolivia stated plans to expel USAID, the Obama Administration granted a U.S. visa to Raul Castro's daughter and returned to Cuba a convicted spy without having him finish his sentence. The leaders of the ALBA nations in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Nicaragua are constantly working against U.S. and regional democracy and security objectives and from Cuba to Venezuela, millions of innocent people continue to be deprived of their democratic rights and fundamental freedoms."
Note: Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Congressman Albio Sires (D-NJ) introduced bipartisan legislation, HR 1687 - Countering ALBA Act of 2013, urging the President to sanction persons who are officials of or 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. The bill also directs the Secretary of State to transmit a comprehensive strategy to ensure that ALBA governments are democratic governments 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.