Summit of Americas Hearing

Latin America and the Caribbean

On March 11th, 2009, the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs held a hearing to discuss U.S. policy in the region at the upcoming 5th annual Summit of Americas in Trinidad and Tobago. With the recent surge of violence in Mexico and the expulsion of additional U.S. officials from Bolivia, Latin America has become a focus of many hearings in Washington. The hearing was attended by many Committee members, all of whom had a lot to say. Below are a few of my favorite comments, paraphrased:

Summit of Americas must not be high point of relationship between Latin America and the United States, but rather a new beginning, said Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Western Hemisphere Subcommittee.

Dan Burton (R-IN) expressed his concern about the possible outcome of this weekend’s elections in El Salvador and stated that the U.S. should cut remittances of funds from Salvadorans living in the United States if the FMLN wins, and that the “Bolivarian Revolution” needs to be stopped. Dana Rohrbacher (R-CA) continued the concern with the possible outcome of the election when he stated that when the people of El Salvador go to the polls they are essentially choosing their country’s relationship, or lack thereof, with the United States. Bill Delahunt (D-MA) boldly stated, “Chairman, I thought the Cold War was over”. (See the Washington Office on Latin America’s statement on these comments.)

Peter Hakim of the Inter-American Dialogue, who testified before the Committee, recommended that the United States not look at the region as friends vs. adversaries. Delahunt agreed and said that this policy did not get us very far the past 8 years, and brought much resentment from the region and that it is time to move on. On the contrary, many members were concerned with anti-U.S. rhetoric coming from several leaders in Latin America and their influence throughout the region. Ranking member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) stated that the U.S. should stand firmly with our allies, not leaders with anti-U.S. rhetoric.