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Last Updated:10/24/03
Statement of Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Cass Ballenger (R-North Carolina), Hearing of the House International Relaions Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, October 21, 2003

Rep. Cass Ballenger
Opening Statement
Western Hemisphere Subcommittee
Hearing on “Challenges and Opportunities for U.S. Policy in the Western Hemisphere”
Tuesday, October 21, 2003, 1:30 p.m., Room 2200, Rayburn House Office Building

The Subcommittee will come to order. This afternoon we will explore “Challenges and Opportunities for U.S. Policy in the Western Hemisphere.”

It is a pleasure to welcome our first panel of witnesses from the Bush Administration, including—at last—a Senate-confirmed Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs. We are also pleased to have a second panel that will feature Dr. Robert Pastor, a former senior policy maker and a scholar of U.S. relations with the Americas.

Assistant Secretary Roger Noriega and USAID Assistant Administrator Adolfo Franco are well known to me and Members of our International Relations Committee and need little introduction. In my considered opinion, President Bush has signaled his commitment to the Western Hemisphere by appointing these two very capable gentlemen.

Events just last week in Bolivia remind us that there are nations in the Western Hemisphere that face grave challenges. We are all appalled by the violence in Bolivia. We all urge Bolivians to reject violence and respect democratic institutions and constitutional order.

The euphoria of the 1990s has dissipated in the Western Hemisphere. Incomplete economic reforms have collided with a world-wide recession and the implosion, in some countries, of traditional political parties.

The truth is that some governments in this Hemisphere have not been able to extend education and economic opportunities to poor communities. Endemic corruption saps money from real priorities. In some countries, there are political parties and political movements led by demagogues that use violence as a political tool and even shield criminals and terrorists.

There is good news too. Democracy is firm in the English-speaking Caribbean.

President Uribe, with our help, is giving Colombia’s democracy a real chance to survive and prosper. Soon, the Colombian people will again vote in municipal elections despite threats and attacks by terrorist groups like the FARC.

Brazil is a stable democracy that can exercise positive influence in South America.

Mexico’s President, Vicente Fox, has made real progress in going after major drug traffickers and criminals.

Chile has demonstrated that sustained economic reform and adherence to democracy benefits ordinary people.

El Salvador continues to demonstrate that sustained engagement by the U.S. coupled with political will from a country’s leaders creates real reforms.

Now is the time for leaders in this Hemisphere who believe in democracy and the liberating power of private sector economics to stand up and work together. We must not let lesser matters divide us.

I believe it is time that Congress and the Administration rethink the focus and scope of our foreign assistance programs in the Hemisphere. It is not just that we aren’t providing the kind of money we should. We must also engage our friends and neighbors with new, entrepreneurial approaches to create wealth for their people and for our own people.

I know that our witnesses understand the challenges our nation and our friends and neighbors in this Hemisphere face. I also believe that your testimony today can help identify the opportunities that will allow us all to move forward in positive ways.

I would like to recognize our Ranking Democratic Member, Mr. Menendez, for an opening statement.

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