- By José R. CárdenasJose R. Cardenas was acting assistant administrator for Latin America at the U.S. Agency for International Development in the George W. Bush administration.
The top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, last week expressed her concern over a number of troubling developments in Latin America and indicated that she will make threats to inter-American security a priority should she, as expected, take over the Committee’s chairmanship in the 112th Congress.
In a prepared statement to a Capitol Hill conference "Danger in the Andes: Threats to Democracy, Human Rights, and Inter-American Security," Rep. Ros-Lehtinen said;
"Over the past few years, we have seen a concerted effort by several in the region — like Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, and Rafael Correa in Ecuador — to consolidate their power at any cost necessary," and that their destructive behavior "draws a clear picture of the undeniable linkage between the decline of democratic freedoms and human rights and the rise of tangible security risks to our region." […]
"The implications of this reality demand that the United States carry out a responsible and effective policy toward the Hemisphere that will advance U.S. interests."
She also singled out the particularly pernicious influence of Iran, which has made common cause with Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua and is aiding and abetting their respective anti-American agendas, while expanding economic and diplomatic ties in the region.
"Not only is Iran enabling and empowering these regional rulers to continue their repressive aims," she said, "but the access the Iranian regime receives through these alliances also gives it ample opportunity to bypass strict U.S. and UN sanctions against it."
She called for "a cohesive and coordinated approach with our democratic allies" in the region to respond to threats to inter-American security, including Congressional approval of the free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama, ensuring that Mexico succeeds in its war against powerful drug cartels, and assisting other friendly countries confront the fall-out from U.S. counter-narcotics efforts.
She also expressed her intention to reintroduce her Western Hemisphere Counterterrorism and Nonproliferation bill in the next Congress, legislation that seeks to develop regional capacity and collaboration to strengthen counter-extremism, counter-narcotics and nonproliferation efforts throughout the region.
Friends of democratic development in the Western Hemisphere have every reason to be excited about the prospects for a House Foreign Affairs Committee led by Ros-Lehtinen. Left-wing radical populists have for too long been allowed to evade international scrutiny of their actions by their claims to represent the will of formally marginalized sectors of their societies. But that should hardly offer any protection for their anti-democratic actions and alliances with international rogues. Ros-Lehtinen will no doubt bring a single standard in promoting democracy and security in our neighborhood, and the peoples of the region will be better off for it.