The World According to Sen. LeMieux: “Human Rights,” “Democracy,” “Rule of Law” and Other Stuff that Sounds Good
Wouldn’t it be great if LeMieux could meet with these Hondurans to explain how he helped bring “democracy” to their country?
Posted on Sunday, 12.27.09
BY GEORGE LeMIEUX
As a senator from Florida, the gateway to Latin America, it is incumbent upon me to focus on U.S. policy as it relates to the Western Hemisphere. U.S. foreign policy in the hemisphere stands at a critical juncture. Our actions in the region signal to all countries where we stand on our commitment to respecting democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
Our policy in Latin America cannot be transactional. We must insist on human rights and other democratic institutions, including the rule of law. Fortifying democratic institutions and pursuing respect for human rights is the cornerstone of United States’ foreign policy in Latin America.
Because of these concerns I placed a hold on the nomination of Tom Shannon. This allowed more time for me to evaluate Shannon’s record and to ask specific questions of Shannon and State Department officials.
U.S. must be resolute
Two countries that represent the direction of the foreign-policy commitments of the United States are Honduras and Cuba — Honduras, having just emerged from a constitutional process that resulted in the removal of its president and elections, and Cuba, where a dictatorial regime continues to oppress its people and violate their most basic human rights. In these two areas, the United States must be resolute — demonstrating through action our insistence on democracy and respect for the rule of law.
During this process I have discussed my concerns for the region with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. I am grateful for her appreciation of the unique responsibility I have to the region as a senator from Florida. I am confident Clinton shares my concern about a reverse of the progress of democracy and the rise of authoritarian strongmen in Latin America.
I have received sufficient commitments from her that the administration’s policy in Latin America, and specifically in Honduras and Cuba, will take a course that promotes democratic ideals and goals.
As a result of these discussions with the secretary and other State Department officials, I am pleased to report several concrete examples of this commitment.
In Honduras, the United States will continue to normalize relations with that country’s government and President-elect Porfirio Lobo. Counternarcotics cooperation will resume, and visa procedures will be normalized.
In Cuba, the United States will reopen the process for nonprofit organizations to apply for pro-democracy grants and renew the practice of including members of the Cuban pro-democracy movement in events at the U.S. Interests Section, Title IV of the Helms-Burton Act will be enforced and Cuba Democracy Assistance grants will be awarded in a fair and transparent manner. The State Department has memorialized these commitments in the form of a letter reviewed and approved by Clinton.
Ensuring our neighbors in the hemisphere recognize our commitment to democracy, human rights and the rule of law is fundamental. Leaders in nations that seek to destabilize the region are paying close attention to the way in which we carry out our policies in Latin America. I look forward to a continuing dialogue on how we canstrengthen U.S. relations with the nations of the Western Hemisphere.
George LeMieux is a U.S. senator for Florida.