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.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Migration Talks

Troubled waters
US and Cuba look for a bridge, but there's a lot of water between them.

By Nick Miroff
Published: July 2, 2009 14:38 ET
Updated: July 9, 2009 18:01 ET
HAVANA — In their diplomatic relations, the U.S. and Cuba are like a bitterly divorced couple, whose shared history is so marred by grudges and recriminations it's hard to figure out how to start talking again.
So with the Obama administration offering a fresh start and an open hand, and Cuba welcoming the overtures, the two sides are preparing to meet for talks on a topic of common concern: migration. The discussions are widely viewed as potential building blocks for a broader dialogue between the two countries.
And yet, as icebreakers go, Cuban migration to the U.S. is not exactly the stuff of small talk. In some ways, the issue is at the core of the two nations' 50-year standoff, and several long-held tenets of American policy are likely to come under renewed scrutiny if the Obama administration actually engages with Cuban grievances.
"In the context of economic warfare against the Cuban Revolution," reads a statement from Cuba's Foreign Ministry, "the migratory policy of the United States has constituted one of the most important instruments of American hostility toward the island, designed to destabilize Cuban society, discredit its political system, drain Cuba of human capital and lay the groundwork for counter-revolutionary movements tasked with carrying out terrorist attacks and aggressive acts against the Cuban people as they strive to build a new nation."
In other words, there's some history here.
Central to Havana's ire is the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act, the U.S. law allowing most Cuban migrants who reach American soil to become permanent residents and receive government assistance — a privilege, in the words of a recent U.S. congressional report, "that no other group or nationality has." According to the report, some 50,000 Cubans became permanent U.S. residents in the 2008 government fiscal year, making the island the fifth-largest source of legal permanent residents to the U.S., after Mexico, China, India, and the Philippines.
Some Cuban migrants make the 90-mile journey in smugglers' speedboats or homemade rafts. But an increasing number arrive at U.S. entry points via Mexico, with nearly 10,000 Cubans entering through the Laredo border crossing in the 2008 fiscal year. While migrants from other countries try to sneak in, the Cuban Adjustment Act allows Cubans to come into the country right through the front door, regardless of whether or not they have a visa.
That special privilege, according to the Cuban government, has resulted in a powerful and insidious incentive for its citizens to leave the island, often at great personal risk. On the one hand, Havana argues, the U.S. tries to squeeze the island economically with trade sanctions, while on the other, it bestows favored treatment upon Cuban migrants seeking to escape the island's poverty.

Cuba calls the policy "the killer law," blaming it for the deaths of Cuban rafters who disappear in the Florida Straits each year or drown — like the mother of Elian Gonzalez, the boy who returned to the island with his father after a massive custody dispute partly fueled by the peculiarities of U.S.-Cuba migration rules.
U.S. officials maintain that Cuban migrants are refugees from the island's communist system and failed state-run economy, and the differing vision has periodically resulted in crisis. During the Mariel boat lift of 1980, 125,000 Cubans arrived en masse in Florida, and another 40,000 came during the 1994 rafter crisis, an event that shaped key parts of the current migratory agreement between the two countries.
As part of that arrangement, Cubans who are intercepted at sea by U.S. authorities are returned to Cuba, while those who successfully reach U.S. soil are allowed to stay under the terms of the Cuban Adjustment Act. The policy is known as "wet foot/dry foot," and the Cuban government says it increases the riskiness of the crossing, benefiting smugglers, who can charge $10,000 or more for the harrowing midnight speedboat ride to Florida.
Since 1995, the number of Cuban migrants picked up at sea by the U.S. Coast Guard has soared, according to U.S. government data, reaching an all-time high of 2,868 during the 2007 fiscal year.
Both the U.S. and Cuba would rather migrants use a visa program called the Special Cuban Migration Lottery, known on the streets of Havana as "el Bombo," that was also set up following the 1994 rafter crisis.
Visa recipients are said to have "won" the Bombo if chosen, and each year, the U.S. is supposed to grant 20,000 immigration visas through its Havana-based consular offices, though the actual number has routinely fallen short of that (for which each side blames the other). During the last registration period, in 1998, some 541,000 Cubans submitted their names for the lottery system, according to U.S. officials — roughly 5 percent of the the island's entire population of 11 million.
The 1994 agreements also established that the two countries would meet semi-annually in the interest of safe, orderly and legal migration. But in 2004, those meetings were broken off by the Bush administration.
Now those talks are expected to provide the framework for wider engagement. Acting on an Obama campaign pledge to reach out to Cuba, the U.S. administration announced earlier this month that it would resume the migration talks. Cuba has accepted a proposal to discuss the resumption of direct mail service as well, and asked to expand the discussions to include matters of mutual interest like anti-narcotics enforcement, hurricane preparedness, and counter-terrorism efforts.
"President Obama and I are committed to a new approach," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at the time. "We believe we have made more progress in four months than has been made in a number of years."
No date for the meetings has been set, but State Department officials said they are close to finalizing an agreement.