Ros-Lehtinen Questions USAID’s Priorities in Western Hemisphere Region



House Foreign Affairs Committee

U.S. House of Representatives

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Chairman

For IMMEDIATE Release – March 20, 2012

Ros-Lehtinen Questions USAID’s Priorities in Western Hemisphere Region

Says Obama Administration Wrongly Focuses on Climate, Not on Democracy

(WASHINGTON) – U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, made the following remarks at a hearing earlier today questioning the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) priorities on U.S. foreign assistance to the Western Hemisphere.  Ros-Lehtinen indicated that USAID funds should be directed more towards counter narco-trafficking efforts, democracy promotion, and security assistance; and not on climate change, environmental programs or Sandinista-related initiatives.  She later questioned USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah specifically on the Administration’s FY 2013 request for U.S. assistance to Haiti and Cuba.

Transcript of opening remarks portion on the Western Hemisphere:

“With limited resources, we must ask if this best meets our U.S. national security interests.  For example, U.S. foreign assistance to the countries of the Western Hemisphere should reflect our main concerns: security and democracy in that area. Under this request, funding for environmental programs to Guatemala increases by $2.5 million, funding that could be put to better use elsewhere for prevention programs that counter narco-trafficking and promote security funding.

“At a time when violent drug cartels are expanding their influence and fundamental freedoms are under assault by the ALBA tyrants, citizen security and democracy assistance must be USAID’s priority.  This priority must be appropriately reflected in the President’s foreign assistance budget request.  The sharp cut in democracy funds for Cuba and Venezuela sends the wrong message to the internal opposition in these countries. Cuban dissidents will question the United States’ commitment to a free Cuba as funding is decreased by $5 million.

“As the ALBA regimes move further down the path of totalitarianism, this proposed budget rewards the dictatorships in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua with an increase of Development Assistance.  In Nicaragua, the proposed budget reveals a $3.1 million boost in funding for Fiscal Year 2013.  Yet, the unconstitutional reelection of Daniel Ortega and his successful power grab demonstrate that USAID funds have not been spent wisely to promote democracy or transparent elections.

“Even more worrisome, our current USAID programs in Nicaragua support a handful of Sandinista mayors at the municipal level.  In Ecuador, Correa continues to intimidate the private media and independent journalists, but the President’s budget request increases funding for Development Assistance to Ecuador by $2 million.”

Transcript of Ros-Lehtinen questioning Dr. Shah on Haiti and Cuba:

Haiti –

“The President’s FY 2013 budget allocates nearly $340 million in new assistance funds for Haiti.  The recent resignation of the Haitian Prime Minister and the absence of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) raise serious concerns about what oversight mechanisms are being employed to guarantee accountability of U.S. taxpayer dollars. If you can respond in written form, what actions is the U.S. government undertaking in order to ensure proper transparency of assistance funds to Haiti?”

Cuba –

“And lastly, the Obama administration’s policy of concessions towards the Castro brothers has not yielded any measureable change for democracy.  And I am deeply concerned about the Department of State’s and USAID’s growing funding for programs that promote the Castro brothers’ sham economic reforms, at the expense of funding for important programs that do support Cuban political prisoners and the growing internal opposition.

“Though this administration likes to point Castro’s so-called economic reforms as a sign of change, the fact remains that 11 million Cubans continue to suffer under the brutally conditions of the oppressive Castro regime. And this new focus on economic reforms will do nothing more than validate the Castro regime and promote their radical anti-American propaganda. How does harnessing U.S. foreign assistance to promote the Castro brothers’ sham ‘economic reforms’ build the capacity for the internal opposition? And how can we prioritize the funding for Cuba to strive for a free and democratic Cuba by again funding the pro-democracy programs on the island?”