Thursday, October 29, 2009

Foreign Minister Rodriguez response to Ambassador Rice

Foreign Affairs Minister Rodríguez Parrilla’s reply to the speech given by the U.S. representative

I feel obligated to respond to the speeches given by the United States, the European Union, and Norway.

I should say to the European Union that Cuba recognizes absolutely no moral authority to dictate models or give advice on the matter of democracy. I want to remind it of its complicity in the acts of torture that occurred at Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib and reiterate that as long as it maintains a two-faced and hypocritical position, it will not enjoy any credibility.

Mrs. Rice, who unfortunately is not here in the room at the moment, started out by saying "here we go again." With that phrase she recognized what 17 representatives from the United States have come to do in the past.

I respect her opinions and recognize that her career is totally distinct from that of a neoconservative like Bolton; but she has had the sad task of defending the policy of the blockade here, which began, according to a classified memo, on April 6, 1960 with the professed aim of causing hunger, desperation, and discouragement among the Cuban people.

The only remnant of the Cold War that has been discussed here is precisely the blockade. Lift the blockade and that remnant will disappear.

Mr. President:

Cuba is a democracy that is closer to Lincoln’s principles, with a government of the people, with the people and for the people, than the plutocracy or government of the rich that operates in this country.

Here, the U.S. representative described as dissidents or political prisoners those who in reality are agents of a foreign power, mercenaries paid by the U.S. government. If they want to talk about political prisoners, they should free the five Cuba antiterrorist heroes, subjected to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment in U.S. prisons.

Mr. President:

Mrs. Rice has said that the word genocide is inappropriate for describing the blockade. I quote Article 2, paragraphs b) and c) of the 1948 Geneva Convention against the Crime of Genocide.

Paragraph b) "Genocide is causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group," referring to a human group.

Paragraph c) "Genocide is deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part."

I recommend that the State Department study that Convention better.

The blockade against Cuba is a unilateral and criminal policy that also has to be lifted unilaterally. It is not reasonable, just, or possible to wait for gestures from Cuba for an end to the criminal application of measures against the Cuban people, including its children and elderly, from the examples that I have described here.

The United States should lift the blockade and it should lift it now; first, because Cuba is not blockading the United States or occupying any portion of its territory with a military base, nor is it discriminating against its citizens or businesses; and, in the second place, it should do so because it is in the best interest of the United States itself and the will of U.S. citizens.

A free flow of information was addressed. Lift the ban on U.S. citizens to travel freely to Cuba, respect their right to freedom to travel. Lift the blockade against Cuba in the areas of technology and information; permit better connectivity with our country; export software and information technology to Cuba and there could be advancement in this field.

Mrs. Rice has mentioned constructive advances. It’s true that there have been a few steps in the correct direction, strictly limited to the relations between Cubans that live in the United States and their native country, but they have nothing to do with, nor do they mean or signify, any loosening of the blockade. They are correct steps but extremely limited and insufficient.

The blockade is not a bilateral question. Its extraterritorial application has been clearly shown with the many examples presented.

Mrs. Rice has mentioned the proposal to continue having exchanges and dialogue between the two countries, which had been proposed many years ago by Commander in Chief Fidel Castro and publicly reiterated several times by President Raúl Castro. If that is what the United States desires, it should respond to the proposal of an agenda for bilateral dialogue, presented by Cuba to that government on July 17, 2009.

Mr. President:

Mrs. Susan Rice said in August at New York University that "the United States leads by example, acknowledges mistakes, corrects course when necessary, forges strategies in partnership and treats others with respect."

She also said during that speech: "we are demonstrating that the United States is willing to listen, respect differences, and consider new ideas." It’s deeply surprising to me that Mrs. Rice has had to say the opposite this morning.

Thank you very much.

Translated by Granma International

State Department Spokesman on Embargo Vote

QUESTION: Speaking of the UN, the General Assembly had its annual vote today on the Cuba embargo. You got two people to join you, two countries. Can you remind – (a) remind of what those two countries are, and (b) tell us what you think of the vote?

MR. KELLY: I think one was Palau, Matt. Who was the other one?

QUESTION: I don’t know. I think it – it’s usually, generally, the Solomon Islands.

QUESTION: I thought it was Micronesia.

QUESTION: Or Micronesia.

QUESTION: Or was that about Israel?

MR. KELLY: All right. Well, let me give you the guidance on this. The United States believes it has the sovereign right to conduct economic – its economic relationship with Cuba as determined by U.S. national interests. Sanctions on Cuba are designed to permit humanitarian items to reach the Cuban people, while denying the Cuban Government resources that it could use to repress its citizens.

This yearly exercise at the UN obscures the fact that the United States is a leading source of food and humanitarian relief to Cuba. In 2008, the United States exported $717 million in agricultural products, medical devices, medicine, wood, and humanitarian items to Cuba.

QUESTION: Sorry. Wood?

MR. KELLY: Wood.


MR. KELLY: Sanctions is one part of the United States policy approach to Cuba. In recent months, as you know, we’ve reached out to the Cuban people. We’ve taken steps to promote the free flow of information, we’ve lifted restrictions on family visits, and we’ve expanded the kinds and amounts of humanitarian items that the American people can donate to Cuba. We’ve also taken steps to establish a more constructive dialogue with Cuba. We’ve reestablished dialogues on migration, and we’ve initiated talks to reestablish direct mail service.

We remain focused on the need for improved human rights conditions and respect for fundamental freedoms in Cuba, and we would need to see improvements in those areas before we could normalize relations with Havana.

QUESTION: But, I mean, you have no opinion on the fact that the rest of the world thinks that this is a bad way to go?

MR. KELLY: Well --

QUESTION: That the whole world – I mean, Palau notwithstanding – excuse me.

MR. KELLY: This – it seems to me to be an annual exercise that --

QUESTION: It’s an annual exercise to tell you that the rest of the world thinks --

MR. KELLY: -- seems to be – kind of has inertia from the Cold War. The suggestion that we’re not assisting Cuba is just false. I mean, we are one of the major providers of humanitarian assistance to Cuba. But we don’t believe that we should – while there are repressive measures in place in Cuba, that we should reward the Government of Cuba by lifting the economic sanctions that could assist the Government of Cuba in its repression of its own citizens.

QUESTION: Well, it seems that the rest of the world thinks that, in fact, if you were to lift the embargo, that could help the repression – lift it.

MR. KELLY: Well, we don’t think it’s time to lift that embargo. The – we will consider that when the Government of Cuba starts to make some positive steps towards loosening up its repression of its own people.

QUESTION: Ian, without getting into a philosophical and – especially a lengthy or philosophical debate about this, you said that this, as an annual exercise, is a Cold War remnant.


MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Well, there a lot of people who would argue that the embargo is a Cold War remnant. I mean, this is the first year that this vote has happened, where you’ve been in this tiny minority that you are – that the U.S. is the only country in this hemisphere not to have diplomatic relations with Cuba.

MR. KELLY: Well, I mean, we – our policy in Cuba is designed to try and move Cuba to doing the right thing towards its own people. And they have not taken the kind of steps to show us that they’re willing to open up their society and open up their economy. And until they do these things, we’re not willing to change our policy. Having said that, we also want to have --

QUESTION: Having said that --

MR. KELLY: -- a productive dialogue.

QUESTION: -- how long has the embargo been in place now?

MR. KELLY: I think it’s been in place almost 50 years.

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah.

MR. KELLY: Well, that’s a long time to have a repressive system.

QUESTION: Well, it’s also a long time to have a policy that has produced absolutely no results.

MR. KELLY: Well, we’re – we are looking to try and put our relationship – with Cuba on a more productive path.

Menendez Bringing Cuban American Money to DSCC

Shifting tides around Cuba

By Al Kamen
Washington Post
Monday, October 26, 2009

President Obama heads off to Florida on Monday to meet service members at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville and then proceeds to a heavy-duty fundraiser for House and Senate candidates at the Fontainebleau, a historic hotel in Miami Beach. Those who have given or raised a combined $100,000 will be able to have a few drinks, a picture taken with the POTUS and a table at the VIP dinner. Or it's $30,400 for a couple for everything, and just $500 a person for cocktails only.

There may be some interesting first-time contributions from the largely Republican-leaning Cuban American community. Public Campaign, a nonpartisan campaign finance and watchdog group, says in an upcoming report that a Cuban American financial network, which takes a hard line against any weakening of current trade and travel restrictions on Cuba, has been rapidly increasing its contributions to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

The DSCC raised $26,250 from the pro-embargo network in the 2006 election cycle and $88,800 in the 2008 election cycle, Public Campaign is expected to report. But in the first eight months of 2009, the DSCC raised $145,700 from that network, and the fundraiser in Miami could well raise more. (This surge comes while the DSCC's general fundraising is way down from 2007.)

It could be that there was no great reason for these folks to contribute to the Democrats before, but there's growing concern that Obama and his party might be able to put some serious cracks in the long-standing wall around Cuba. So maybe it's time to shore up pro-embargo Democrats? Some pro-embargo folks are on the host committee, including Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, a hard-liner on Cuba who chairs the DSCC, and two Floridians, Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Another Florida Democrat among the hosts, Rep. Kendrick B. Meek, who's running for the Senate, favors keeping the embargo intact but also supported easing travel for Cuban Americans to the island.

Amb. Rice speech at UN on embargo

Here we go again. I suppose old habits die hard.

The hostile language we have just heard from the Foreign Minister of Cuba seems straight out of the Cold War era and is not conducive to constructive progress. We will not respond in kind to painfully familiar rhetoric that we have heard in years past – rather, I am prepared to acknowledge that there is a new chapter to this old story.

In recent months, since the start of the Obama Administration, the United States has undertaken several steps to reach out to the Cuban people in support of their desire to freely determine their country's future. We have promoted family visits and the free flow of information to and from the Cuban people. The United States lifted restrictions on family visits and remittances and expanded the amounts of humanitarian items that the American people can donate to individuals in Cuba. The United States has enhanced the ability of U.S. telecommunications companies to pursue agreements to provide service to Cuba and has made it easier for U.S. agricultural producers to pursue contracts with Cuban buyers. These are important steps and we hope they can be the starting point for further changes in the relationship.

Mr. President, it is equally important to note that the United States has demonstrated that we are prepared to engage the Government of Cuba on issues that affect the security and well-being of both our peoples. Specifically, we have resumed bilateral discussions on migration, we have initiated talks to re-establish direct mail service between the United States and Cuba, and we stand by to provide assistance should Cuba be ravaged again by hurricanes as it was in 2008. We believe that any resolution commenting on the relationship between Cuba and the United States of American should reflect these constructive developments. Sadly, the resolution under discussion fails in that regard and regrettably, the Government of Cuba has not yet reciprocated these important steps taken by my government.

Mr. President, at the same time, we must point out that the United States of America, like all Member States, has the sovereign right to conduct its economic relationship with another country as it sees fit. The U.S. economic relationship with Cuba is a bilateral issue and part of a broader set of relations. The steps the United States has taken to improve communications and exchanges with the Cuban people are undertaken with a continuing firm commitment to encouraging the Cuban government to respect basic norms embodied in the Inter-American Democratic Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

As we discuss our differences on this subject, we must remember one important commonality - the United States, like most Member States, is firmly committed to supporting the desire of the Cuban people to determine freely their country's future.

Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms are part of this organization's core values. We should not lose sight of that in a stale debate bogged down in the rhetorical arguments of the past. That kind of debate does nothing to help the Cuban people.

Mr. President, I must address two significant distortions in the Cuban position. First, my delegation regrets that the delegation from Cuba continues to label inappropriately and incorrectly U.S. trade restrictions on Cuba as an act of genocide. Such an egregious misuse of the term diminishes the real suffering of victims of genocide elsewhere in the world. Second, it is erroneous to charge that U.S. sanctions are the cause of deprivation among the Cuban people. The U.S. maintains no restriction on humanitarian aid to Cuba. In fact, the U.S. is a major source of humanitarian assistance to the Cuban people and the largest provider of food to Cuba.

In 2008, the United States exported agricultural products, medical devices, medicine, wood, and humanitarian items to Cuba. In agricultural products alone, the United States sold $700.1 million of goods to Cuba. Once again, in 2008, the United States was Cuba's fifth largest trading partner.

As we have sought to reach out to the Cuban people, we have called upon the Cuban government to take steps to respond to the desire of its citizens to enjoy political, social, and economic freedoms. There are many things the Government of Cuba could do to signal its willingness to engage constructively with its own people and with the United States. Positive measures could include liberating the hundreds of prisoners of conscience in Cuban jails, ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, reducing the excessive charges on remittances flowing into the country, demonstrating greater respect for freedom of speech, ending the practice of arresting political opponents on vague and arbitrary charges such as "social dangerousness," and permitting the visit of UN rapporteurs on human rights and torture.

As other delegations consider this resolution, we do hope that they will not lose sight of the undeniable fact that the Cuban government's airtight restrictions on internationally-recognized social, political, and economic freedoms are the main source of deprivation and the primary obstacle to development in Cuba.

Mr. President, because it does not reflect current realities, my delegation will vote against this resolution. At the same time, the United States will continue to work to expand opportunities for the people of Cuba to empower themselves through access to information and resources. We will continue to engage the Government of Cuba on issues of mutual concern and national security. We await a constructive Cuban response to our initiatives. In the meantime, it is high time for this body to move beyond the rhetorical posturing of the past, to recognize the situation in Cuba for what it is today, and to encourage progress towards genuine change.

Thank you Mr. President.

Cuba's response here

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Obama Administration Applies Bush Policy to NY Philharmonic

New York Philharmonic Won't Go to Cuba Without Patrons

By DANIEL J. WAKIN, New York Times October 2, 2009

Violinists, bassoonists and timpanists in Cuba? Fine. A bevy of rich Americans? Sorry.

The New York Philharmonic scratched its trip to Cuba at the end of October because the United States government was barring a group of patrons from going along, the orchestra said on Thursday. Without them and their donations, the Philharmonic said, it could not afford the tour.

About 150 board members and other donors had promised to pay $10,000 each to spend Oct. 30 to Nov. 2 in Havana, where the orchestra was to play two concerts, said Zarin Mehta, its president. The money was to have covered the cost of the proposed trip, which came at the invitation of the Cuban government.

Supporters, both individuals and executives of donor companies, usually tag along with major orchestras when they travel around the world. For some, the travel amounts to high-class tourism, along with a chance to make business connections in foreign capitals. In effect, orchestras would not be able to raise tour money without giving the donors a chance to accompany them.

“The patrons were excited about giving us the money with the opportunity of going to see Havana and be a witness and support their orchestra,” Mr. Mehta said. “This is what’s important to them.” Mr. Mehta said he would not consider taking the patrons’ money while leaving them behind.

“I wouldn’t want to insult them,” he said. “I think it’s most likely they would say, ‘Go another time.’ ” That’s what the orchestra will try to do, he said.

Mr. Mehta said he had hoped that pressure applied by New York elected officials — including Senator Charles E. Schumer and Representatives Steve Israel and Charles B. Rangel, who have supported the trip — would help to have the decision overturned. “They haven’t been successful,” he said. “They’re befuddled.”

The spokesman for the State Department, which guides the Treasury Department in deciding which Americans can go to Cuba, said the reason was simple.

The sanctions on Cuba permit performing artists to enter, said the spokesman, P. J. Crowley, but “there’s no permitted category of travel that would include the Philharmonic patrons. Basically they’re tourists, and we don’t license tourist travel to Cuba under the present circumstances.”

He said there was also an economic component to the decision: the wealthy patrons could spend large amounts of money in Cuba, which would effectively violate economic sanctions.

In response to the Philharmonic’s position that it could not go without the financial supporters, he said, “Perhaps the New York Philharmonic should have checked with the government before announcing the trip.”

The cancellation was an embarrassment and something of a setback in the New York Philharmonic’s effort to cast itself as the nation’s flagship traveling orchestra. It made headlines with a trip to Pyongyang, North Korea, nearly two years ago (no United States government permission for patrons was required) and leaves on Sunday for an Asian tour that will take in another Communist nation, Vietnam.

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control issues licenses to visit Cuba because of the longstanding economic sanctions aimed at the island’s Communist government.

According to the orchestra, the office said informally that the players and staff members would be allowed to go, but not the patrons.

A lawyer for the orchestra has delivered a brief to the licensing office, making its case that the categories are elastic and an exception should be made for the donors. Several board members were allowed to accompany the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra when it visited Havana in 1999.

The trip plans came about amid a warming of relations between Cuba and the United States. The Obama administration has restarted talks about migration and eased limits on remittances and travel by Cuban-Americans to the island to visit relatives. But as a sign of the political thorniness involved in closer ties, the administration extended for a year the law used to impose the trade embargo on Cuba.

Bills pending in both houses of Congress would lift travel restrictions on all Americans to Cuba. The bills have a surprising level of bipartisan support, helped by lobbying by agricultural and business groups eager to expand commercial ties.

“This exposes how arbitrary the rules are governing American citizens’ rights to travel to Cuba,” Julia E. Sweig, an expert on Cuba at the Council on Foreign Relations, said of the Treasury Department’s position. “If you have a family member there, you can go. If you play an instrument or sport, you can go. But if you’re a philanthropist who wants to support arts in Cuba, you can’t?”

J. Christopher Flowers, a Philharmonic trustee, said he was still hoping to go to Cuba with the orchestra someday. “It sounds absolutely fascinating,” he said, but he declined to offer an opinion on the decision. “It’s up to the government to make the rules and for us to follow them,” he added. “It’s not for me to try to figure out our policy with respect to Cuba.”

Mr. Flowers said he did not know whether he would have spent much money in Cuba. “I’ve never been there,” he said.

Mr. Mehta said the next opening for a Cuba trip would probably come in June or July. The orchestra will try to come up with concerts quickly to play at its Avery Fisher home for the time it would have been in Havana.

As for programming on those dates, Mr. Mehta said, Latin American music is a distinct possibility. “The thought has crossed our minds.”

Ginger Thompson and Mark Landler contributed reporting from Washington.

NY Philharmonic cancels trip to Cuba this month
Thu Oct 1, 2009 6:02pm EDT

By Jeff Franks and Michelle Nichols

HAVANA/NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York Philharmonic has put off plans to perform in Cuba for the first time this month because the U.S. government has not allowed its sponsors to travel to the communist-led island.

"The postponement is due to existing U.S. Government restrictions on travel to Cuba which would affect project funders and supporters, without whose financial support the trip is not possible," it said in a statement on Thursday.

Known for groundbreaking musical diplomacy with visits to countries such as reclusive communist North Korea last year, the orchestra had planned to travel to Havana from October 30 to Nov 2 to perform two concerts.

But while the United States appears to be easing its long isolation of Cuba and the orchestra said its trip had the support of U.S. President Barack Obama's administration, the State Department and the Treasury Department, there were problems associated with long-imposed travel restrictions.

About 150 patrons and supporters had pledged to pay about $10,000 each to accompany the orchestra on the trip to Cuba.

The orchestra had applied for a license for the group to accompany it and, while they had not officially been denied, U.S. officials said there was no category that would allow them to go to Cuba under the current travel regulations, New York Philharmonic spokesman Eric Latzky said.

The orchestra will try to travel to Cuba at a later date.

"The New York Philharmonic intends to reschedule these concerts when travel restrictions for project funders are resolved," it said without naming the funders and supporters who would be affected by the restrictions.

Washington and Havana have been at odds since Fidel Castro took control of Cuba 50 years ago in a revolution against a U.S.-backed dictator and steered the island toward communism.

Under a trade embargo enforced against Castro's government since 1962, Americans cannot spend dollars in Cuba without permission from the U.S. Treasury.

Obama eased sanctions this year by lifting restrictions on travel and cash remittances by Cuban Americans in a move to improve ties with Havana, though he has said the trade embargo will stay in place until Cuba undertakes democratic reforms.

When orchestra president Zarin Mehta met with Cuban officials and toured facilities in Havana in July, he said he expected the orchestra to be criticized if went ahead with a visit to the island 90 miles south of Florida.

When the orchestra performed in Pyongyang in February 2008, critics questioned the appropriateness of the visit to North Korea, whose government Washington considers one of the world's most repressive.

The orchestra opened its 2009/10 season in New York City on September 16 and its program includes tours of Asia and Europe with debut performances in Hanoi and Abu Dhabi. The orchestra has performed in at least 418 cities worldwide since 1930.

The New York Philharmonic was founded in 1842 by a group of local musicians and plays about 180 concerts a year. In late 2004, the philharmonic gave its concert number 14,000 -- a milestone unmatched by any other orchestra in the world.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols, editing by Anthony Boadle)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Menendez Role in Removing Non-tourist Travel

Baucus bill portends Dem fight over Cuba
By Alexander Bolton - 05/03/09 08:01 PM ET
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) is set to introduce legislation that would open the door to more agricultural exports to Cuba, taking advantage of President Obama’s pledge to “seek a new beginning” with the island nation.

The bill will likely trigger a fight with Democratic proponents of the Cuba embargo policy, Sen. Robert Menendez (N.J.), chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and Florida Sen. Bill Nelson.

But Democrats from agricultural states, such as North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan, will side with Baucus. American farmers view Cuba as a lucrative, largely untapped market.

A Senate official working on Cuba policy closely informed The Hill that Baucus is expected to drop his bill this week.

Baucus said in an interview that he thought he would do so, but said he was not 100 percent certain.

The Finance panel chairman has introduced legislation aimed at increasing agricultural exports to Cuba in previous years.

In 2007, Baucus pushed the Promoting American Agricultural and Medical Exports to Cuba Act. The Finance Committee held hearings on the bill but it did not receive a vote on the Senate floor.

Dorgan and Democratic Sens. Jeff Bingaman (N.M.), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Tom Harkin (Iowa), Mary Landrieu (La.), Blanche Lincoln (Ark.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) and Ron Wyden (Ore.) signed on as co-sponsors.

The bill would have prohibited the president from restricting payments from Cuban financial institutions and directed the secretary of Agriculture to promote exports to Cuba.

“We expect to introduce something soon,” said Dan Virkstis, a spokesman for Baucus and the Finance Committee. “It will be similar to the chairman's bill last Congress — focused on opening trade and travel markets for U.S. farmers, ranchers and families.”

Congress passed legislation in 2000 allowing Cuba to buy agricultural commodities from the U.S., but farm lobbyists say the Treasury Department curbed exports by interpreting the law to require payment before goods are shipped.

Farm lobbyists see a golden opportunity to change that in the wake of Obama’s directive making it easier for Cuban Americans to travel and send money to Cuba.

Cuba policy has already flared as a controversial subject within the Democratic caucus this year. Menendez and Nelson threatened to vote against a $410 billion omnibus spending bill in March because it contained language they feared would weaken the embargo.

Menendez withdrew his objection after receiving assurances from the Treasury Department that the provision would not impact Cuba policy significantly.

Some Cuba policy watchers suspected that Menendez may have had a behind-the-scenes impact on Obama’s decision not to also allow U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba for cultural, academic and humanitarian purposes. This would have marked a return to the policies in effect at the end of the Clinton administration.

Menendez spoke to Denis McDonough, director of strategic communications at the National Security Council, shortly before Obama announced his Cuba order. McDonough advises the president on Cuba policy.

But one Senate Cuba expert noted that Obama’s directive fulfilled promises he made on the campaign trail and that Obama had not pledged to return entirely to Clinton-era Cuba policies.

Given the likely opposition from Menendez, Nelson and Florida Republican Sen. Mel Martinez, it may take some time before Baucus can move his bill to the floor.

This week, the Senate resumes consideration of housing legislation, a measure that has become less controversial since the Senate voted against an amendment known as cramdown. The proposal, pushed by Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.), would have given bankruptcy judges power to write down mortgages for homeowners in default.

Also this week, members of the Senate Appropriations Committee will continue work on a supplemental spending bill to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A Democratic leadership aide said that bill could reach the floor before the Memorial Day recess or in early June.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said he also wants to take up a railroad antitrust bill and legislation addressing executive compensation.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Summary of legal changes by OFAC and BIS

OFAC and BIS Ease Certain Travel and Trade Restrictions Concerning Cuba

Summary from the law firm of Kelley Drye


The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) made regulatory amendments that relax the trade and travel restrictions involving Cuba. To comply with President Obama’s April 13, 2009 directive, the agencies have eased restrictions regarding family travel and remittances, the sending of gifts, the donation of consumer communications devices, as well as restrictions related to the telecommunications industry.

Some of the major provisions include the following:

Travel and Remittances

OFAC has eased restrictions for U.S. citizens who are either traveling to visit Cuba, or sending remittances to “close relatives” who are nationals of Cuba. A “close relative” includes immediate family members, cousins, and second cousins. Anyone who shares a common dwelling with the U.S. traveler may accompany him/her. There are no limits on the duration or frequency of these visits.

BIS has lifted the 44-pound limit on personal baggage previously in place for travelers to Cuba. OFAC has increased the amount that travelers currently can spend in Cuba to $179 per day.

Persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction may now send remittances (including from inherited blocked accounts) to any close relative who is not a “prohibited official of the Government of Cuba” or a “prohibited member of the Cuban Communist Party.” There are no limits on the amounts of remittances or frequency with which they may be sent. Additionally, authorized travelers may carry up to $3,000 worth of such remittances with them when traveling to Cuba. Restrictions for remittances for emigration purposes still apply. Remittances may be made from depository institutions, and OFAC will now allow such institutions to set up testing arrangements and exchange authenticator keys with Cuban financial officials.


BIS has eased restrictions on gifts sent to Cuba. Generally, donors may send one gift parcel valued at less than $800 to any eligible donee each month. The types of eligible items that can be included in such parcels have also been expanded. Gifts may be sent to individuals, other than certain Cuban Government and Cuban Communist Party officials. They may also be sent to any charitable, educational, or religious organization that is not controlled by or administered by the Cuban Government or Cuban Communist Party.

Consumer Communication Devices

BIS has also created a license exception that authorizes, under certain circumstances, the export or reexport of commodities and software, excluding encryption source code. Such commodities and software must be used to exchange information and facilitate interpersonal communications, must be donated, and must be widely available for retail purchase in the United States. Specifically, the items include mobile phones, SIM cards, personal digital assistants, laptop and desktop computers and peripherals (monitors, keyboards, mice, etc.), internet connectivity devices, satellite-based television and radio receivers, digital music and video players and recorders, personal two-way radios and digital cameras. The exports or reexports may be to anyone except certain Cuban Government or Communist Party officials, or organizations administered by them. The exception imposes no limits upon the frequency or value of these shipments.


OFAC and BIS have eased in several ways the regulations concerning telecommunications transactions and the travel related to those transactions.

First, persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction may now contract with and pay non-Cuban telecommunications services providers to provide services to any Cuban individuals other than certain Cuban Government or Communist Party officials.

Second, telecommunications service providers may now (a) make payments incident to the provision of telecommunications services between the U.S. and Cuba and the provision of satellite radio or satellite television services to Cuba; and (b) enter into and perform under roaming services agreements with telecommunications service providers in Cuba.

Third, transactions incident to establishing facilities to provide telecommunications services linking the U.S. and Cuba are now authorized by license.

In addition to these three changes, travel-related transactions incident to the commercial export of telecommunications-related items and participating in telecommunications-related professional meetings are now permitted, with some restrictions.

Agricultural and Medical Sales

Finally, OFAC created a new general license that authorizes, with some conditions, travel-related transactions that are directly incident to the commercial marketing, sales, negotiation, accompanied delivery, or servicing in Cuba of agricultural commodities, medicine, or medical devices that appear to be consistent with BIS’s export or reexport licensing policy. Certain employees may rely upon this general license, which also requires that travelers submit a report regarding those transactions to OFAC at least 14 days before departure for Cuba and within 14 days of return.

For help with applying for any of these new licenses or with questions regarding any of the new regulations, please contact:

Darryl W. Jackson
(202) 342-8478

David H. Laufman
(202) 342-8803

Brian Churney
(202) 342-8434

AP and NY Times on extended visit of US official to Cuba

US, Cuba held unannounced talks


NEW YORK — A senior American diplomat has held unannounced, high-level talks in Havana with the Cuban government, three State Department officials told The Associated Press on Tuesday, raising hopes for a thaw in long-icy relations.

The talks were the first of their kind in years between representatives of the U.S. and Cuban governments, the bitter Cold War rivals among whom trust appears to be gradually building.

Bisa Williams, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, met with Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Dagoberto Rodriguez, visited an area affected by hurricanes in the Western province of Pinar del Rio and toured a government agricultural facility during a six-day trip to Cuba this month, the officials told AP.

The meetings came on the heels of Sept. 17 talks on the possibility of restarting direct mail service between the countries, suspended since 1963. Those discussions had been public, but neither country had previously revealed that Williams remained in Havana for five extra days.

One U.S. official described the talks as "respectful" and said they were more significant for having taken place, than for any substantive breakthroughs between the two sides, which have been at odds since shortly after former Cuban leader Fidel Castro marched into Havana on New Year's Day 1959.

"We were going over ground we haven't gone over for a long time," said the official. "Each side was taking advantage of the opportunity to size each other up."

The official was not authorized to publicly discuss details of Williams' visit and spoke on condition of anonymity. The Cuban government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly confirmed Williams remained in Cuba and met with officials after the postal talks, but offered few details.

"Williams met with host government officials and a wide range of representatives from civil society to gain a full appreciation of the political and economic situation on the ground," he told AP.

Kelly said Williams followed up on ongoing U.S.-Cuba migration talks, the next round of which he said are tentatively scheduled to take place in December. One of the officials said those talks were likely to be held in Havana.

The last time a senior U.S. official traveled to Cuba for talks of any kind was in 2002, but Williams' extended, wide-ranging and unpublicized trip here this month was different.

U.S.-Cuban relations have improved considerably since President Barack Obama took office in January, saying he was ready to extend a hand of friendship to America's traditional foes. In addition to the mail talks, Obama has loosened financial and travel restrictions on Americans with relatives on the island.

The Americans have also made other small but significant gestures — like turning off an electronic sign that had streamed anti-Castro messages from the windows of the U.S. Interests Section, which Washington maintains in Cuba instead of an embassy. The Cubans then took down dozens of large black flags they had set up nearby to block the view.

Cuban President Raul Castro and his brother, Fidel, have both had warm words for the American leader, with Fidel Castro last week praising Obama as courageous for taking on climate change.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said Monday in a speech at the United Nations that the communist government is ready to normalize relations with its larger neighbor and will work with Washington in the meantime on other issues such as fighting drug smuggling.

He said Cuba has sought full diplomatic relations with the U.S. for decades and repeated Raul Castro's offer to sit down with Obama for a "respectful, arm's length dialogue with the United States, without overshadowing our independence, sovereignty and self-determination."

Cuba experts say it remains to be seen whether the diplomacy of small measures is a path to ultimately reaching agreement on core issues, though diplomats on both sides have privately voiced optimism.

Obama has left intact the 47-year trade embargo on the island, and U.S. officials have said for months that they would like to see the single-party state accept some political, economic and social changes.

Associated Press writer Paul Haven reported from Havana, Cuba.


September 30, 2009

U.S. Official Meets With Cuban Authorities


WASHINGTON — In another sign of improving relations between Cuba and the United States, a senior State Department official has talked with high-level Cuban officials in Havana about a variety of issues, including ways to improve cooperation on migration and the fight against drug trafficking.

State Department officials said the main purpose of a trip two weeks ago by the official, Bisa Williams, was to discuss restarting mail service between the United States and the Communist-ruled country.

But a State Department spokesman, Charles Luoma-Overstreet, said Tuesday that Ms. Williams was also able to meet with a senior member of Cuba’s Foreign Ministry for broader talks and was given the opportunity to tour a Cuban agricultural facility and areas affected by hurricanes in the Western province of Pinar del Río.

The talks were first reported by The Associated Press.

Mr. Luoma-Overstreet said Ms. Williams, an acting deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, was the highest-ranking State Department official to visit Cuba since 2002; in 2004, the Bush administration ended twice-a-year migration talks with Havana.

The Obama administration restarted those talks this year, hosting a Cuban delegation in New York. President Obama has also lifted Bush administration limits on remittances and travel for Cuban-Americans with relatives on the island.

Among other small but significant gestures, United States officials turned off an electronic sign that streamed anti-Castro messages on the windows of the United States Interests Section, the diplomatic complex Washington maintains in Havana. In return, Cuban officials lowered dozens of large black flags they had raised to block the view of the sign.

“Look at the momentum; look at the pace of these steps,” said Julia E. Sweig, a Cuba expert at the Council on Foreign Relations. “It’s a departure from many, many years of practice.”

State Department officials offered few details of Ms. Williams’s talks with Cuban authorities. And some played down the significance of the talks, in a nod to the political problems that changes in Cuban relations can create both here and in Havana.

Just before Ms. Williams traveled to Cuba, President Obama signed a one-year extension of the Trading With the Enemy Act, which is the law used to impose a trade embargo against Cuba.

And administration officials have repeatedly said they would not make any moves to ease the embargo until the Cuban government adopted democratic reforms.

“While neither side is saying what was discussed,” said Sarah Stephens, executive director of the Center for Democracy in the Americas, “I believe that the president has authorized these talks because he has a plan for bridging the chasm between Cuba and the United States that has existed for 50 years.

“This did not have to happen,” she added. “These talks are taking place because the president decided it’s the right thing to do.”

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Punishment of Colorado Company for Embargo Violation

Department of Justice Press Release

For Immediate Release
September 17, 2009 United States Attorney's Office
District of Colorado
Contact: (303) 454-0100

Boulder Company Sentenced for "Trading with the Enemy"

DENVER—Platte River Associates, a Boulder company, was sentenced last week by Chief U.S. District Court Judge Wiley Y. Daniel to a fine of $14,500, for trading with the enemy, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the FBI announced. Platte River Associates was also ordered to pay a $400 special assessment to a victims of crime fund. The company had pled guilty through its corporate counsel to the trading with the enemy charge on October 3, 2008. They were originally charged by Information on July 15, 2008. They were sentenced on September 9, 2009.

In an unrelated case, the President of Platte River Associates, Jay E. Leonard, was sentenced to serve 12 months of supervised probation for unauthorized access of a protected computer. Leonard pled guilty on October 2, 2008, and was sentenced on December 16, 2008. He was originally charged with a misdemeanor in a separate Information on July 15, 2008.

According to the Information, as well as the stipulated facts contained in the plea agreements, Platte River Associates (PRA) sells software that aides in oil and gas exploration. On October 13, 1998, federal agents visited the Boulder office of PRA, putting them on notice that dealing either directly or indirectly with embargoed countries, including Cuba, is prohibited.

On August 1, 2000, a Spanish oil company called Repsol purchased PRA software. In October of 2000, a Repsol employee traveled to PRA’s Boulder office for software training. The Repsol representative brought with him data to be used in creating a model for oil and gas exploration on a laptop computer. PRA assigned a geologist to work with the Repsol employee. The Repsol employee told the geologist that the data being used for training was for a Cuban project. During the course of the training the president of PRA, Jay Leonard, learned that the data being used involved Cuban waters. There was no attempt on the part of PRA to stop providing the training. As the Repsol employee was leaving the United States, Customs seized his laptop computer. An analysis of the laptop revealed materials related to a potential Cuban project.

The Information charged the defendant corporation with providing specialized technical computer software and computer training, which was then used to create a model for the potential exploration and development of oil and gas within the territorial waters of Cuba, without first having obtained a license from the Secretary of the Treasury.

According to the Information charging Platte River Associates’ President Jay E. Leonard, as well as the stipulated facts in that plea agreement, on October 30, 2005, Leonard illegally accessed the website of Zetaware, an oil and gas exploration software company that is a direct competitor of Platte River Associates. During the intrusion, Zetaware’s password protected files were downloaded via a wireless computer network in the Houston, Texas International Airport. Subsequent analysis by the FBI confirmed that Leonard used PRA assets and resources to intentionally access Zetaware’s password-protected website without authorization, in an attempt to obtain confidential information.

On November 7, 2008, Leonard chaired a PRA staff meeting where he led a discussion about a tentative plan to exploit and unlawfully utilize the downloaded Zetaware files for economic gain.

The Information charged the defendant with using a wireless network connection to access a password protected computer website.

The Platte River Associates case was investigated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The Jay Leonard case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

“Trading with the enemy is a serious crime, and in this case, a Colorado company has been rightfully held accountable for committing that crime,” said United States Attorney David Gaouette.

“Preventing sensitive technologies and information from being exported to prohibited countries is a primary mission area for ICE,” said Jeffrey Copp, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Denver. “ICE uses its unique customs law enforcement authorities and investigation skills to ensure that these sensitive technologies don’t fall into the wrong hands.” Copp oversees a four-state area, which includes Colorado.

Both cases were prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Bob Mydans.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

New Mexico governor makes "intriguing" Cuba visit

Mon Aug 24, 2009 8:11pm EDT

By Esteban Israel

HAVANA (Reuters) - New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who has a history of diplomatic troubleshooting, may try to push U.S.-Cuba relations forward on what one expert called an "intriguing" visit to Cuba this week.

A spokeswoman in Santa Fe, New Mexico, said Richardson was to arrive in Havana on Monday and return home on Friday on a trip officially billed as a trade mission for New Mexico farm products.

A statement said the governor, who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination last year, would be accompanied by several New Mexican officials whose primary aim is increasing the state's agricultural sales to the communist-led island.

Richardson, who was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and energy secretary under President Bill Clinton, served as a special envoy on diplomatic missions to countries such as North Korea, Myanmar and Cuba.

In 1996, he met with then-Cuban leader Fidel Castro and negotiated the release of three political prisoners.

"His visit is intriguing because he has a record as a diplomatic troubleshooter. He knows Cuba, and he could play the same role for the Obama administration as President Clinton just played in North Korea," said Cuba expert Phil Peters of the Lexington Institute in Washington.

Earlier this month, Clinton went to North Korea on what was called a private humanitarian trip and procured the release of two U.S. journalists jailed on charges they entered the country illegally.

U.S. President Barack Obama has said he wants to "restart" long-hostile U.S.-Cuba relations and has eased the 47-year-old U.S. trade embargo against the island.

But he has said further lifting of the embargo will occur only if Cuba makes progress on political prisoners and human rights.

Cuba has said it is willing to discuss everything with the United States, but will make no unilateral concessions.

U.S. farm products are exempt from the embargo, which was imposed in 1962 in an attempt to undermine Castro, who transformed Cuba into a communist state after taking power in a 1959 revolution.

The New Mexico press release did not say with whom the delegation would meet. Richardson, it said, is paying his own expenses during the trip.

(Additional reporting by Jeff Franks; editing by Jeff Franks)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bureaucractic Changes in Licenses and Visas

After long ban, some Cubans sample tourism luxury

Fri Aug 14, 2009 By Esteban Israel

VARADERO, Cuba (Reuters) - Floating, cocktail drink in hand, in the pool of a five-star hotel in Cuba, Alexis basks in a holiday experience that for years was out of reach for him in his own homeland.

The pastel-colored hotel buildings, the well-ordered gardens, the turquoise waters and the perpetually smiling waiters -- all just 84 miles east of his home in Havana. So near, and yet for many years, so far away.

Until last year, Cuba's communist government prevented its citizens from entering hotels reserved for hard currency-paying foreign tourists. It argued that tourism was a strategic revenue sector and that widening access would create inequalities in a socialist society, where most earn inconvertible Cuban pesos.

The tourist hotels, whose services, shops and restaurants are a world away from the hardships and shortages experienced by most Cubans, remained largely out of bounds for ordinary citizens. This prohibition angered most Cubans, who considered it made them second-class citizens in their own homeland.

But when President Raul Castro took over from his ailing older brother Fidel Castro last year, one of his first acts was to end the ban and open all facilities to Cubans. The change was widely popular even though most islanders still can not afford to stay at the tourist hotels.

"Let me tell you, this is great," said Alexis, an employee of a state-run Havana hard currency store who declined to give his full name, as his girlfriend returned from the bar with more "mojito" cocktails -- a tropical mix of lime juice, Cuban rum, and mint leaves.

In the years immediately following the 1959 revolution, Cuban workers were allowed into the island's premier resorts, yet the need to earn much-needed hard currency led to the development again of a more exclusive foreign tourism sector, especially over the last 15 years.

But the global financial crisis has taken a big bite out of Cuba's international tourism, so the Cuban travel industry, seeking to boost occupation in half-empty hotels, has begun offering reduced-price package deals to Cubans.

At $70 a night for an all-inclusive hotel in Varadero, Cuba's premier beach resort, prices are well below what foreigners pay, but still out of reach for most Cubans struggling to make ends meet on state salaries that average less than $20 a month.

According to Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero, Cubans have accounted for 10 percent of occupancy at Cuba's high-end hotels this summer.


The opening of a domestic market is giving more visibility to an emerging class of wealthier Cubans who have hard currency in their pockets and are eager to sport the colored wristbands of the fancy all-inclusive hotels.

The new Cuban internal tourists are professionals, technicians working for foreign joint ventures and people receiving dollar remittances from relatives living abroad.

"Before a foreigner would ask us about Varadero and we did not know what to say," recalls Roberto Garcia, a 43-year-old engineer who arrived from Havana with his family of six.

"Now, if you have the money, you can do it."

Without precise official figures on revenue from internal Cuban tourism, it is difficult to gauge just how much of a boost this new access is giving to the cash-strapped economy.

But to the extent that Cuban tourist spending increases the flow of dollars to the island -- by, for example, family members in Miami financing a trip to Varadero for their Cuban relatives -- it is helpful, said Cuba expert Paolo Spadoni.

"Financing from abroad might also play quite an important role," said Spadoni, a post-doctoral fellow at Tulane University's Center for Inter-American Policy and Research.

Some Cubans interviewed on a recent trip to Varadero said expenses were paid by relatives visiting from the United States, a flow which is up 20 percent since U.S. President Barack Obama lifted travel restrictions in April on Cuban-Americans visiting the island.

But Obama has made clear he will keep a 47-year-old U.S. trade embargo on Cuba in place for the moment to press Cuban leaders to improve human rights and political freedoms. Havana, while agreeing to talks on migration and other issues, has said it will not make "concessions" for improved ties.

With the help of foreign investors, Cuba reluctantly developed its tourism industry in the mid-1990s in response to the deep economic crisis that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, its chief benefactor and ally for decades.

"All the money made here is for the people," proclaims a banner at the entrance to Varadero, a 12-mile-long peninsula of white-sand beaches lined with big hotels.

This slogan reflects the long-used government argument that tourism revenues are employed to benefit all of Cuba's people by helping to pay for free health care and education.

Cuba has some 55,000 hotel rooms managed by the state, many in association with foreign hotel heavyweights such as Sol Melia of Spain, the French firm Accor or Jamaica's Sandals Resorts.

Attracted by its beaches and enduring revolutionary mystique, 2.3 million foreign tourists, mostly from U.S. allies Canada and in Europe, visited Cuba last year, which brought the island $2.5 billion in revenues and made tourism one of Cuba's main sources of hard currency.

President Raul Castro said in a speech earlier this month that the number of international tourists is up, but revenues are down compared to last year.

Both numbers are expected to grow if the U.S. Congress approves a proposed bill that would allow all Americans to freely visit Cuba, currently prohibited by the U.S. embargo against the island 90 miles from Key West, Florida.

But for now, Cuba is looking to Cubans to keep its hotels humming, and people like Alexis are happy to help.

"This is just fantasy. Real life starts again on Monday when we get back to Havana," he said between sips of a last "mojito" as the sun set over Varadero.

(Editing by Jeff Franks and Pascal Fletcher)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Embargo Still Expanding

GE Buckles to Helms-Burton

Posted By the editor On August 10, 2009 @ 7:21 pm

Business transactions with Cuba are constantly persecuted by the US government. Photo: Caridad

By Circles Robinson

HAVANA TIMES, August 10 - The huge US conglomerate General Electric (GE) has told its sub-subsidiary Banco de America Central (BAC) that it can no longer carry out transactions with Cuba or Cubans.

Without any public announcement, BAC blocked the use of its credit and debit cards in Cuba as of July 1, 2009. The cards had been used by many families of medical students for sending money, as well as by tourists and people making family visits.

So why has BAC, -headquartered in Central America- changed its policy on transactions involving Cuba?

The bank explains to inquiring customers that since US-based GE Money acquired a majority interest in BAC, it is now subject to the extra-territorial US Helms Burton Act (1996), a pillar of stepped up enforcement of Washington’s nearly half century blockade of Cuba.

The law is geared to punish the Cuban government for having taken an independent course from US corporate interests since 1959. It seeks to block Cuban business transactions not only with US companies but also with those in third countries which have US investment, partial US ownership, or have US components in their products or sell to companies in the US.

Cuba has taken its case against the US economic blockade to the United Nations General Assembly each year since 1992. In 2008, only Israel and Palau joined the US, while 185 countries told Washington that enough’s enough and to end the economic hostility against an under-developed island nation of 11.2 million people.

Article printed from Havana

URL to article:

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Valenzuela, Pascual, and Shannon confirmation hearing

July 8, 2009 Wednesday



SEN. DODD: The committee will come to order. And let me welcome our nominees this morning, and my congratulations to all of you. At the appropriate time, I'll ask you to introduce your families and others.
We have a good crowd here this morning to welcome our nominees. Let me congratulate all of you, by the way, on your willingness to serve our country. And a number of you have done that for a long time. So you're not strangers to this process at all.
But I want to commend President Obama for making the choices he has. Almost all of these nominees I know personally very, very well and I've worked with over the years, and have a high regard for their abilities and talents and the expertise and knowledge they bring to these positions.
And so we -- at a very -- at an important time -- obviously the president is traveling in Europe and then in Russia ; now in Italy . But the events in our own neighborhood are compelling and requiring of our immediate and consistent attention.
And the nominees that we have before us today come to these nominations tremendously well-prepared for these challenges. And so the country ought to have a heightened sense of optimism that good people are going to be handling these matters for us.
Let me make some opening comments if I can. And then we'll get to our specific nominees. We'll be dealing first of all on panel one with Arturo Valenzuela, to be assistant secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs.
My good friend and colleague from New Jersey , Bob Menendez, is here. When Bob gets here, I'll interrupt and stop my own comments to give Bob a chance to make an introduction. And after some questions for Arturo, we'll move to the second panel. And I'll introduce them at an appropriate time. But let me share some opening comments, if I can, with our nominees this morning.
First of all, I'm delighted to preside over this morning's important hearing, to consider the nominations for the assistant secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs and the ambassadors to three key nations in this hemisphere: Mexico , Brazil and Haiti .
I applaud President Obama for assembling such a strong team to articulate our national interest and develop and carry out our policies in this very, very important region.
The Western Hemisphere is not a distant land with distant interests. It's not our backyard, either. But instead it's our neighborhood, and our partnership in it should be as deep as our interdependence and as durable as our shared values. We, Canada and Latin America are bound by history, culture and a rich web of mutual interests more far-ranging than we have anywhere else in the world. Our two-way trade with our neighbors is more than $1.3 trillion a year, accounting for a third of all U.S. exports --$618 billion in goods and services purchased from the United States each year. And though many Americans don't realize it, the Western Hemisphere provides fully half of our imported energy. We also share ecosystems, and we are bound to address the challenges to our environment together.
Our relationship with Canada is solid as a rock, and our shared border, like our border with Mexico, has brought our governments to ever higher levels of cooperation, not just on security, immigration and traditional cross-border issues, but also on economic issues, the environment, and our partnership as NATO allies as far away as Afghanistan.
Our shared interests with Mexico also go far beyond the border. As Secretary Clinton said during her recent visit there, the U.S.- Mexico relationship -- and I quote her -- is "one of the most important relationships between two countries -- any two countries in the world," end of quote.
Just as we admire Mexico 's progress, we also regret its challenges, including the ongoing surge in drug-related violence. And we have a duty to help address the underlying causes, including U.S. consumption of illegal narcotics and the southbound flow of thousands of weapons and crates of bulk cash that fuel the violence affecting -- afflicting Mexico , the Mexico nation.
And when we have disputes on trade issues, we must faithfully use the resolution mechanisms built into NAFTA to resolve them.
I am among the optimists about developments in Latin America over the past 20 years, and its continued progress in the future. Whereas the United States optic in the region in the past was defined by East- West struggles, military dictatorships and the lack of basic human rights, today is the region dominated by the consolidated democracies searching for creative solutions to economic inequality and public security, and willing and ready for partnership among themselves and with us in addressing regional and hemispheric challenges.
The international financial crisis tempers expectations in the short term. Its shock waves throughout the region will surely hamper progress. But the region has already proven that no challenge is insurmountable. Recent developments in Honduras and occasional digressions elsewhere signal that challenges in the internationalization of democracy remain, but the region's unanimous condemnation of the coup, embodied in the OAS resolution passed on July 1, underscores the historic progress the hemisphere has made towards protecting our hemisphere, values of democracy and the rule of law.
In the same vein, a new positive framework for our relations with the region, our neighbors and partners, is emerging. It is a relationship based on consultation, on understanding each other's history and interests and on those shared values. President Obama and Secretary Clinton's direct and effective engagement with the hemisphere's leaders at the Summit of the Americas in April highlighted the administration's commitment, in my view, to this renewed relationship.
Our friends in the region are ready to lead, as well. The consolidated democracies of Mexico , Brazil and Chile , among others, have a profound leadership role to play, developing and expanding models to address economic and energy challenges. And the United States should support them in playing just such a role.
Despite the solid progress, our new assistant secretary for the Western Hemisphere and our ambassadors throughout the region face serious challenges. Honduras is but one example of the countries in which autocratic tendencies by government leaders as well as military forces are just beneath the surface. Chronic political tensions in Venezuela and Bolivia serve no useful purpose, squandering democratic energies, in my view. The "false positives" scandal in Colombia , the extrajudicial execution of innocent boys and men, poses the challenges of a democratic nation that has seen tremendous progress but experiences lapses in human rights.
The task of refashioning U.S. policy toward Cuba to effect peaceful democratic change remains important. The potential challenge of helping Haiti overcome its legacy of poverty and weak institutions, however difficult, must be addressed.
In today's testimony, I look forward to hearing Dr. Valenzuela's vision for building on this dynamic evolution as assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs. Dr. Valenzuela has an extraordinary grasp of the issues at hand and previous policy experience at the State Department and National Security Council, and I warmly applaud this nomination. Not only do I respect his background and his abilities, but he also happens to be a very good friend. And I'm excited for you, Arturo.
I also look forward to the insights of our ambassadorial nominees. In Mexico , Ambassador Pascual will put his broad and deep experience -- expertise, and his experience marshalling U.S. government resources to address challenges, to work. Assistant Secretary Tom Shannon is extraordinarily well prepared to represent our great nation in Brasilia . And Foreign Service Officer Ken Merten, with years of experience working on Haiti , strong Creole language skills, which is going to be tremendously valuable, will bring unique expertise as ambassador in Port-au-Prince . And I again welcome that nomination, as well.
After my distinguished colleague, Chairman Lugar -- if he joins us here, as I hope he does -- offers his remarks, we'll proceed with the two panels.
But first I want to recognize my colleague from New Jersey , who's walked in. And I thank you, Bob, for being here this morning, a member of our panel, to introduce Arturo Valenzuela. So Bob, the floor is yours.
SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D-NJ): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I enjoyed your exposition of the landscape, so -- which I basically share, of what's happening in the hemisphere.
I'm honored to have the opportunity to introduce Dr. Arturo Valenzuela to the committee today, which I wholeheartedly endorse in terms of his nomination. I have known Dr. Valenzuela for many years, and I'm pleased that he is sitting where he is today.
Dr. Valenzuela grew up in Chile , the son of missionaries. He spent his formative years in the greatest state in the union, the garden state of New Jersey --
SEN. DODD: Ah. (Inaudible.) (Laughs.)
SEN. MENENDEZ: -- where he graduated summa cum -- (laughs) -- where he graduated -- you have to come visit, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. DODD: Yes, I -- (inaudible). (Laughter.) We all drive through frequently, (I can tell you ?). (Laughs/laughter.)
SEN. MENENDEZ: And that is exactly the problem.
SEN. DODD: (Inaudible.)
SEN. MENENDEZ: You have to stop. Beautiful Delaware River , rolling mountains, Battle of Trenton --
SEN. DODD: Arturo -- (inaudible). (Laughter, laughs.)
SEN. MENENDEZ: In that great state, he graduated summa cum laude from Drew University in Madison , New Jersey . During those years, Dr. Valenzuela developed his keen interest in public affairs and became heavily involved in the civil rights movement. He continues to have strong ties to New Jersey and he continues to stay involved with Drew University , where he currently serves on the board of trustees. In fact, Dr. Valenzuela and I have shared the stage at several events, including at Drew University , on more than one occasion, and for me, this particular one is an honor.
Dr. Valenzuela has a resume that couldn't be more right for this job. He earned his masters and Ph.D. in political science from Columbia University . He has been a visiting scholar at Oxford University , the University of Sussex , the University of Florence , the University of Chile and the Catholic University of Chile, and a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
He is fluent in English, French and Spanish. He is a specialist on the origins and consolidation of democracy, electoral systems, civil-military relations, political parties, regime transitions and U.S.-Latin American relations, and the author or co-author of nine books. He serves on the editorial boards of the Foreign Policy Bulletin, the Journal of Democracy, Current History, the Third World Quarterly, and he's a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
In government, he has served as deputy assistant secretary of State, as a special assistant to the presi-dent for National Security Affairs and as senior director for Inter-American Affairs at the National Security Council. He is currently sharing his knowledge and experience as a professor of government and director of the Center for Latin American Studies in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University .
In addition to his top-notch academic credentials and experience and senior positions in government, Dr. Valenzuela has a personal history and a life rooted in personal experiences that I think that will add dimensions of understanding and nuance to his service as assistant secretary of State.
In addition to his ties with the Western Hemisphere, he has ties with Hispanic communities in the United States . Dr. Valenzuela's a member of the executive committee of the board of directors of the National Council of La Raza, a board member of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs and a former board member of the Hispanic Council for International Relations. It's rare that one person can embody such a combination of personal, professional and cultural ties to a region, and the U.S. government is fortunate when it can benefit from this experience to advance U.S. foreign policy.
In addition, it doesn't happen frequently enough that we see nominees come forward we have all the -- who have all the expected professional credentials as well as that represents the diversity of this country. New Jersey is one of the largest and most diverse Hispanic-American populations in the country. We serve on the front lines in defense of the nation. And it also should be true that we can serve on the front lines of the diplomacy of this country.
So let me close, Mr. Chairman, by saying Dr. Valenzuela and I share a unique connection with Latin America , a connection that over 40 million Americans share along with us. We have ties to the region that go beyond an interest in foreign policy, go beyond an interest in regional cooperation, beyond a connection with language and culture. But all of it comes forward in a powerful opportunity to represent the best interests of the United States . And I think you have the best person here to be able to do that for us in this Western Hemisphere .
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. DODD: Well, I thank you very much, Bob. And that's a wonderful introduction. And very grateful, too, for your leadership and participation.
Arturo, welcome to the committee. And let me just say to all of our witnesses, to all of our nominees this morning, your full statements will be included as part of the record. And any supporting documents or other materials you'd like to share with the committee will be included as well. And that will apply to everybody who we have here before us this morning.
But we're prepared to receive your opening statement, Arturo.
MR. VALENZUELA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It's an honor and a privilege for me to appear to you today as President Obama's nominee to be the assistant secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere .
I'm deeply grateful for the trust and confidence President Obama and Secretary Clinton have placed in me to serve our country at this critical moment in the relationships between the United States and the countries of the Americas . I'm also very grateful to Senator Menendez, who agreed to introduce me, and for his service to our country and his commitment to the Hispanic community here, and also for all the work that he's done in Latin America , including his initiatives on the social progress fund, investment fund, and other initiatives that he's undertaken at this particular time.
As you noted, I planted my first roots in this country in the great state of New Jersey , where, at the age of 17, I attended Drew University .
I also must say, Mr. Chairman, that those of us who have devoted our lives to improving relations be-tween the United States and the other countries in these Americas owe a great debt of gratitude to your commitment and your leadership to the same cause.
Finally, I want to thank you and the distinguished members of this committee for the vital role it plays in addressing the numerous challenges the United States faces in today's world.
At her confirmation hearing, the secretary said consultation is not a catchword for her but a firm commitment. I want to second that sentiment, and I assure you that if confirmed, I will make it a top priority to maintain open and frequent lines of communication with members of this committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee, as well as the many senators and congressmen who have strong interests in the hemisphere.
Before I proceed, I'd like to introduce my wife, Katie Much (ph). My children, Mark and Jenny (sp), were unable to be with me today, but they're rooting from me from afar.
I see this as a very promising moment in the Americas , Mr. Chairman. In that sense, I echo your opening remarks. With challenges, for sure, but also with many opportunities. It's easy to forget that in the recent past, many of the countries of the region were governed by military dictatorships and that Central America was in the throes of open civil conflicts, or that changes of government often came through military coups rather than through the peaceful accession to office by elections.
Indeed, from the 1930s through the 1970s, 38 percent of all transfers of power in Latin America were through unconstitutional means. That pattern was extremely damaging to the prospect for democratic consolidation. Every time the military, always backed by disgruntled civilian sectors, would step in to solve a political crisis or reverse the mandate of the electorate, it undermined the prospect for strengthening the rule of law and the institutions of democratic governance. Resorting to unconstitutional and undemocratic solutions cannot solve the problems of democracy; they must be solved within democracy in accord with constitutional precepts.
The end of the Cold War and the discrediting of military regimes that failed to bring about promised economic and political reforms ushered in an unprecedented era of constitutional governance in America . Never before in history did so many leaders make their way as elected -- you know, through elected succession, in all countries save Cuba . The peaceful and democratic transfer of power on June 1 of this year between parties that fought each other in El Salvador 's civil conflict is particularly noteworthy.
This new pattern would not have been possible without the determined effort of the nations of this hemisphere, acting through the Organization of American states, to make clear that the interruption of democracy would violate the fundamental norms of the Inter-American system.
President Obama has taken some steps, in the direction of reforming U.S.-Cuba policy, mainly regarding travel for Cuban- Americans, remittances and migration. But much more needs to be done.
A broader dialogue with Cuba , in areas ranging from human rights and democracy to energy and com-mercial issues, would benefit the standing of the United States in the region.
Haiti represents another opportunity to foster inter-American cooperation and establish a long-term, multilateral approach to aiding the poorest country in the Americas . I appreciate the deep experience Mr. Merten would bring to the Haiti ambassadorship.
MR. VALENZZUELA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for that question. I thought a lot about these problems over the years, and let me suggest sort of five general principles I think are important for us to follow in dealing with the region now.
I think the first would be that we need to avoid a Manichaean view of the world that divides the countries or leaders in good guys and bad guys, but rather understand the complexities and the challenges that stem from the individual histories of individual countries. And I see the individual realities of certain countries as far more different than what many view as similarities. So we need to avoid lumping countries into certain kinds of baskets. Even if maybe they themselves self-define themselves as being lumped in a certain kind of basket, we run the risk of engaging in a serious self- fulfilling prophecy if we do that.
And so I think that there's no question that we -- by understanding clearly the histories of each one of the various countries, we need to engage them on their own merits and on their own grounds. And I'm confident, Mr. Chairman, that despite the difficulties -- and I am perfectly aware of the fact that there is going to be times when the United States is going to disagree with events that are going on in particular countries, and we'll make that very clear, but we need to work with individual countries to see where our common interests are and to encourage the proper direction. That's -- the first point, then, is to avoid a Manichaean view of the world.
The second is to avoid a foreign policy that's simply based on rhetorical blasts when we disapprove of particular developments. It should be a policy of engagement, one that is -- that is not shy in raising differences and concerns in pursuit of our own interests. And I think the president's speech in Cairo , for example, underscores very clearly that our concern for the strengthening of democratic governance and a respect for human rights are core principles that we must adhere to.
But then the third, you know, fits in with the broad approach that I think that we need to strengthen, and that is that we have to strengthen our partnerships to work collectively. This is an extraordinary region of the world. You know, it's one of the few regions in the world where we don't have the threat of irredentist politics; that is, a politics where ethnic, linguistic or religious nationalisms are driving a force towards -- to create a separate nation-state. You know, we don't face those kinds of problems, but we face other kinds of problems. And the best way to address those is through collective work.
And we have to work in supportive initiatives emerging from the hemisphere. We should not worry so much about efforts, for example, within the region to set up sub-regional agreements for cooperation and integration. Rather, we should encourage them. They can also help to mobilize a will to work together to resolve problems.
And then, very brief -- very quickly, I think the fourth is that we need to be cognizant not only of our common challenges and opportunities, but also of the great diversity in the region. You know, we can't make the mistake that cookie-cutter approaches need to apply to this region. There are some countries that are very consolidated democracies. There are some countries that are very successful economically. There are some countries that are at the bottom of the list, really, in terms of these various different sorts of criteria. Brazil and Mexico are among the two largest economies in the world. So we need to be aware of the differentiations in the region.
And then finally, let me say this. I am very encouraged by what's happening -- been happening recently in the strengthening of the inter-American system; beginning in Trinidad and Tobago, where the presidents met and decided that we're going to try to have a different approach to our relationships, then that was followed by the general assembly in Honduras. And in Honduras, the Organization of American States agreed to discontinue the effects of the 1962 resolution excluding Cuba, but at the same time underscored that Cuba would have to request readmission, followed by a process of dialogue that would ensure that Cuba accept core practices and purposes -- above all, the principles of the OAS. And I think that the process now having to do with Honduras is actually, Mr. Chairman, a strengthening of the inter- American system.
So those are the core principles, I think, that we need to follow in working with this hemisphere.
SEN. DODD: Let me -- I appreciate that obviously this is a complicated question. Let me quickly jump to Cuba, because you've just mentioned it in passing and talked about the OAS resolution -- ironically, in Tegucigalpa -- and obviously, the efforts that were made there to try and achieve some results.
I think all of us, I presume, would agree that a peaceful, democratic transition in Cuba is the most desirable result and believe that our approach over the past -- at least I believe that our approach over the past 50 years has been counterproductive. The best evidence I offer is we're still where we were this many years later with the present situation in Cuba . It failed to achieve the objectives of a peaceful, democratic Cuba.
President Obama in April, I think, took a positive step in lifting the limitations on family travel and remittances, limiting it to Cuban-Americans being able to engage. It's short of policies that were earlier articulated in the Clinton administration. It moved more to expand that to a larger population.
Let me just ask you a couple of quick questions. In your consultations in preparation for this hearing and nomination, have you undertaken any commitments regarding your perspective on Cuban policy? I'd like to know that.
And secondly, the State Department has variously informed this committee that it's undertaking a policy review towards Cuba , and then we're sort of led to believe it's not. I'm not clear where we are in this. If we are taking a policy review, I'd like to know that. And if we're not, I'd like to know that, as well. So would you respond, if you could, to those observations and also two questions.
MR. VALENZUELA: Okay. I'll answer your question directly on -- I have certainly made no commitments.
And Mr. Chairman, I am not aware of any policy review that's going on. At least I haven't been informed of that. The situation of a nominee is a delicate one because you're not a member of the administration; you're going to, presumably, come into the administration if the Senate confirms the nomination. So I have not, in fact, been privy to discussions along these lines.
I do share, of course, the fact that, you know, our fundamental starting point must be a return of Cuba to the concert of nations as a viable democracy respecting fundamental human rights. And I think that the administration has moved in the right direction by shifting the policies with the two sets of measures that you described.
The president has also made it clear that he does not think that the relationship is going to be -- that's been frozen for 50 years, as you point out, is going to necessarily change overnight, nor does he expect Cuba to send out signs of liberalization quickly. You know, certainly our approach to Cuba policy should be to find ways to encourage how Cuba can become more respectful of the rights of its people -- permit political participation, free speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom to travel, and so on. And it's a policy that is open to engagement, I think, in a way that is not heavy-handed and where there's going to be a discussion of matters that are vital to U.S. interests.
Mr. Chairman, from my own studies, if I might throw this out, of transitions from authoritarianism and totalitarianism in other contexts, it's quite clear to me that change often takes place when there are elements within regimes that begin to liberalize -- sort of the tension between softliners and hardliners. And a smart U.S. policy is one that finds ways to try to encourage that kind of process.
But I -- but as I say, this is a policy that I'm not privy to and that I will be engaging with. And as I've stated before, this is one of those areas where there is disagreement and where I think that we ought to move forward and engage with you and with this committee in a process of consultation with members and staff to see how, indeed, we might be able to move forward in what is one of the greatest challenges, really, for our policy in the years ahead.
SEN. DODD: Well, let me -- just quickly, on this -- I've taken a long time; I apologize. But first of all, I commend the administration in Honduras for the handling of that resolution. I think it was very deft, and I think it was very smart and worked out, I think, in a good way.
And obviously, as you point out, now the -- in a sense, the president's invited Cuba to respond. And they've got to decide whether or not they want to be a part of this organization and meet the criteria of getting in. I thought it was very well handled.
And the only point of difference I'd take, when you talk about a return to democracy in Cuba , I would make a case that there really wasn't much of a democracy in Cuba . I'm not applauding the present situation in the slightest, but to suggest that the predecessor government was a democratic institution would be an exaggeration, to put it mildly. I know you share that view.
MR. VALENZUELA: No, I agree. If Prio Socarras hadn't been overthrown, Mr. Chairman, maybe Cuban history would have been different.
SEN. DODD: Very different, I think as well.
SEN. WEBB: p; Very quickly, because my time is limited here, I'd like to also follow on with the question that Chairman Dodd asked about Cuba . I spent a good bit of time working on the situation in Vietnam, when we had sanctions and a -- and, quite frankly, a much more difficult situation for the country, following a war where 58,000 people had been killed, 300,000 had been wounded, and a communist regime had taken over a government that we -- most of us believed in.
But over the process of several years, it became very clear to me that the best way to resolve these sorts of antagonisms in a constructive way is to do something very similar to what you just said, and that is, bring the people from the midlevels of these governments out, let them see the rest of the world, allow people to come in so the average citizen can get a different look at what's going on, and it would seem to me that logic would have some application with respect to Cuba. What would you say about that?
MR. VALENZUELA: I would agree with that, Senator. I think that it's important for us to be clear that we need to pursue our interests. But a the same time, that does not exclude a form of engagement in order to advance those interests. And I think that this is where this whole issue of smart power comes in, Senator, if I might say. We really need to understand the dynamics of change that are taking place in some of these contexts, as well.
One of the things that's important about this time regarding Cuba is that we're facing a significant evolution of the situation internally. We don't quite understand fully, I don't think -- at least I haven't been able to understand fully -- what the ramifications and the implications of that are. But certainly there must be an -- there is an opportunity there. There are too many other examples, as you point out, not only in Vietnam but also the experience that we went through in the transformations in Eastern Europe, that suggest that there are ways of engaging in a smart way in order to be able to bring about fundamental change.
SEN. WEBB: And by the way, just to add another perspective to your comment, when you said that if you have more moderate elements in a regime who would argue for change and create a different dynamic inside a regime -- the other reality is that when you take this excuse away from a regime, the entire regime has to become accountable to its people in a different manner, which is very much, I think, what happened in Vietnam.
My time is up. But thank you.
MR. VALENZUELA: If I might just add, we don't want to -- we want to make sure we don't reify the hardliners in a policy of this kind.
SEN. WEBB: We agree.
SEN. MENENDEZ: Yeah. So here's why concern -- why I raised these series of questions. I ob-viously have -- and for the record, since it seems in my absence it was asked whether the previous witness had given me any guarantees of anything as it relates to Cuba policy, I've never asked for -- anyone for guarantees on Cuba policy, and certainly no one at this table has given me any.
But let me now move to -- I have different views than some of my colleagues here. I see in the case of Mexico and Brazil two countries that are vying for their view of leadership in the hemisphere. And in that context, they have a much different role. So they have their own interests. Brazilians have engineering companies that they want to have a lot of infrastructure or offshore drilling. The Mexicans have tourism. The Spaniards have tobacco industry, as well as tourism. So there's a lot of economic interest here.
And despite their statements about they don't like our policy, they do absolutely nothing about promoting human rights and democracy in Cuba . Millions of visitors from Mexico , Canada , Latin America, Europe have produced absolutely nothing except to give the regime large amounts of money. And there are more people in prison, there's less political freedom, and so I marvel at how that is going to suddenly change the process when those millions of visitors from all over the hemisphere and the country have not -- of these other countries have not.
So my question is -- you know, I read Ambassador Pascual, some of the writings that you have had at Brookings. And one of them is where you say we too closely embrace Cuba 's brave dissidents, and in doing so, we have an excuse to denounce their legitimate effort to build a more open society. That's what we did with Vaclav Havel, Lech Walesa, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and others. That's what we're doing in some parts of this hemisphere.
How does that reconcile itself? How does it reconcile itself to say that our unilateral actions -- that we should act unilaterally without any expectation of the Cuban regime doing things in reciprocity. And I raise these questions only in these cases because the two countries that you will be representing us in are major players as it relates to the future of possible democracy inside of Cuba, and your interlocutors -- what they hear from you is going to be very important.
And so that is my concern. That is my concern. So I'd like to hear from you on the record some res-ponses to those questions.
MR. PASCUAL: Senator, thank you very much for raising and continuing to draw attention on these issues, particularly related to Cuba .
I would say, first of all, and just underscore, as we had an opportunity to discuss in your office, my primary responsibility would be, if confirmed by the committee, to ambassador to Mexico and to focus on U.S.-Mexico relations. And any issues related to Cuba that I dealt with would be based on the guidance that I received from the department on how to address those questions. And I know you had questions about that, and I think it's important, and I'm very happy to continue the dialogue on these issues.
On the issues of reciprocity, let me just say simply I agree with you on the principle of reciprocity. The question that arises with Cuba is whether it's written down or not. There's an absence of trust in the relationship between the United States and Cuba , and we know, in a sense, that anything that's written down as a condition for Cuban actions, Cuba simply will not take those actions. So in some cases we have to make unilateral judgments about whether or not the reciprocity is in fact actually being pursued, and it was in that spirit that those words were actually written in the report.
On the question of human rights, I agree again with you completely. We should never be apologetic for our defense and support of human rights. The question becomes at some times whether governments might actually use our support and embrace of certain human rights groups and organizations as an excuse to crack down on them. And then the question becomes, are there other mechanisms that can be brought into play to create better -- greater space for those human rights activists to be able to operate in an environment?
So in some cases, it may be a question of tactic, but never a question of principle. I firmly and truly believe that the United States should always be a supporter and an advocate for human rights. And it's something which I am personally very dedicated to.
MR. SHANNON: And sir, in regard to our relationship with Brazil , we do have an active discussion with Brazil on Cuba , and part of that is the issue of human rights. The United States and Brazil understand this from different points of view, but that doesn't limit the way in which we pursue those goals; quite the contrary. We believe, as President Obama has noted, that the liberty and freedom of the Cuban people are the touchstone of our policy in regard to Cuba, and that as we work with countries around the region in fashioning our own Cuba policy but also understanding how they engage that our advocacy for that liberty and freedom and for a peaceful transition to democracy has to be a key component of our engagement and a powerful part of our message.
And in that regard, we all have personal experiences that affect how we understand the problem and how we engage. My own are several. To begin with, throughout the -- my foreign-service career, I have worked in countries that have been in transition -- democratic transition, economic transition. And it has always been my goal to operate in a way in which we can bring the promise of democracy to those countries and to those relationships.
I was the chief U.S. negotiator for the Inter-American Democratic Charter. The line in the first article of that charter which reads that the -- that democracy is a right, that the peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy and their governments have an obligation to promote and defend it, is my language.
I was the one who put the democracy clause into the Quebec City summit in 2001 that made democracy a key component of our -- of the summit process and a requirement for participation in the summit process.
And previously I served four years in South Africa as a labor attache, in which I worked exclusively in the townships with the variety of groups in the townships, attempting to find a way to address the legacy of apartheid and create a multi-party system based on elections.
I'm proud of that action. These have been fundamental, formative aspects in my career. And I bring them to my work, wherever that is. And it is -- that has certainly been brought to my work in regard to ( Cuba ?).
SEN. MENENDEZ: Well, I appreciate your answer. Mr. Chairman, I have a series of questions for these nominees, and I'll submit them for the record and look forward to your written answers.