of Rep. Cass Ballenger (R-North Carolina), hearing of the House Western
Hemipshere Subcommittee, February 27, 2003
Honorable Cass Ballenger
Subcommittee on the
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
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.
economy is shattered. Venezuelan oil production will not return last years
levels in the foreseeable future. Venezuelans need to act now to resolve
their countrys 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, were
distracted and were not paying attention to whats happening
in our own front yard.
Id like to
recognize our Ranking Member, Mr. Menendez, for an opening statement.
As of February 28,
2003, this document was also available online at http://www.house.gov/international_relations/108/ball0227.htm