Organization of American States Revitalization and Reform Act of 2013

Floor Speech

By:  Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Date: Sept. 17, 2013
Location: Washington, DC


Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I thank our esteemed chairman for this privilege to speak about an important bill before us.

I would like to commend Senator Bob Menendez, my dear friend from New Jersey, for introducing this pivotal bill, an important bipartisan bill, to bring desperately needed reforms to this failed Organization of American States.

I remain deeply disappointed, Mr. Speaker, that the OAS continues to fail to live up to the principles of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. The OAS should be, but is not, an important regional body that stands up for democratic principles, that promotes the rule of law and condemns human rights violations.

However, the OAS has strayed. This bill is a positive step forward to bring it back onto the right path.

Throughout the region, Mr. Speaker, we have seen ALBA nations continue to ignore their own constitution and deprive their people of the most basic human rights.

Has the OAS spoken out against the illegitimate elections in Venezuela? How about the illegitimate elections in Nicaragua? Or what about the continued human rights abuses against the people of Cuba?

Just this past Sunday, Mr. Speaker, more than 30 pro-democracy advocates who were peacefully gathering in Cuba were detained and beaten by agents of the regime--for doing nothing. But the OAS remains silent on all of these important topics, and in doing so it fails to hold accountable the authoritarian regimes that oppress millions in our own hemisphere.

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That is why real and concrete reforms are needed at the OAS. I fully support this legislation because it strengthens our mission at the OAS, and it ensures that U.S. taxpayer dollars are used well and no longer go to waste as they are at the OAS right now.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.


Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, in closing, I want to thank our esteemed chairman, Mr. Ed Royce of California, and our committee's ranking member, Mr. ELIOT ENGEL of New York, for their work on this bipartisan-bicameral effort to take one step--just the first step--at deep OAS reform.

I want to thank Senator Bob Menendez, the author of the bill, who has been a longtime supporter and a leader in favor of human rights, the rule of law and democracy, especially in our hemisphere. All of us and our committee look forward to working with Senator Menendez and with all of our Members and the other body, as well, as we move forward to enact this bill and make sure that we have true, meaningful reforms and that we endeavor to get the OAS, once again, focused back on their core mission, which should be and remains promoting democracy and human rights in the Americas, a mission from which it has strayed far too often, including up to today.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.


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