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Last Updated:2/28/03
Statement of Rep. Cass Ballenger (R-North Carolina), hearing of the House Western Hemipshere Subcommittee, February 27, 2003
The Honorable Cass Ballenger

Opening Statement

Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere


"Overview of U.S. Policy Towards the Western Hemisphere"

February 27th, 2:30 p.m., 2172 Rayburn House Office Building

Good afternoon. The Subcommittee will come to order.

I want to thank our witnesses and the Members of the Subcommittee for braving the snowy weather to be with us this afternoon.

I am pleased that Director Walters of the Office of National Drug Control Policy could take time from his schedule to appear before the Subcommittee. I also want to welcome our old friend Adolfo Franco and thank Curt Struble for agreeing to testify this afternoon.

There are some bright spots in the Hemisphere. El Salvador has continued to make steady progress. We have a good partner in the president of Nicaragua, Enrique BolaZos, who is here in town today. President BolaZos has set an example of how to tackle high level corruption.

President Bush deserves credit for extending a hand of friendship to President Lula da Silva of Brazil.

The Bush Administration has stayed engaged in Colombia. Our excellent ambassador in Bogota, Anne Patterson, deserves credit for serving our country with distinction. The same is true in Venezuela where Charles Shapiro has done an superb job.

Adolfo Franco and the men and women of USAID do important work to support democracy and human dignity all over this hemisphere, even in Cuba.

We should take a moment to thank and commend all of the officers from USAID, the State Department and other Federal agencies serving in our embassies in the Western Hemisphere for their hard work. This thanks should also be extended to the many dedicated foreign service nationals who work with our embassies.

I hope that Mexico and Chile, who are now serving on the United Nations Security Council, will recognize that the time has arrived for Iraq to disarm or be disarmed by the civilized world. Supporting President Bush is simply the right thing to do.

Now, all that having been said, the state of the Western Hemisphere is not good. Argentina and other countries are suffering what amounts to a Great Depression. Many people in the Western Hemisphere have lost faith in free market reforms and in democracy itself. Criminals and drug traffickers are deeply entrenched in many places in the Hemisphere. These criminals have corrupted governments at the highest level in Haiti and Guatemala.

There are Middle Eastern terrorist networks in this Hemisphere that represent a real danger to Inter-American security. Indigenous terrorists and other violent elements threaten stability not only in Colombia, but also in Peru and Bolivia.

Venezuela’s economy is shattered. Venezuelan oil production will not return last year’s levels in the foreseeable future. Venezuelans need to act now to resolve their country’s crisis through a negotiated electoral solution. I have tried to help President Hugo Chavez and all Venezuelans. Excesses committed by the opposition do not justify anti-democratic moves by the government. Its time to stop the violent rhetoric, cool down, and find a peaceful and democratic way out of this mess.

U.S. foreign assistance to the Western Hemisphere was not adequate under the Clinton Administration and its not adequate under the Bush Administration.

I am glad the White House has announced that it will nominate Roger Noriega to serve as the next Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs. Ambassador Noriega is the right man for this job and we need to get him nominated and confirmed as soon as possible. But Ambassador Noriega is going to need real, sustained support from higher ups to tackle these problems.

Quite frankly, we’re distracted and we’re not paying attention to what’s happening in our own front yard.

Thank you.

I’d like to recognize our Ranking Member, Mr. Menendez, for an opening statement.

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